The Passion of the Ullrich, Old Racers, Flanders Fever

Apr 4 2007

Can you believe the German press? Ripping into Ullrich like a moldy piñata? Please. If they should be punching anyone in the nuts, it’s themselves. “Ohh, vee never thought Ullrich was cheating!” “Jah, he only won zee Tour de France a year before zee biggest drug bust in zee history of zee sport!” “He is such a liar, jah?” You’d think the German media’s license for wide-eyed naiveté would have expired after 1933. The fact that other Puerto suspects are not likely to face a similar public thrashing no doubt further salts Der Kaiser’s wounds; in fact, somewhat ironically, Jan’s late-exposed guilt puts a serious dent in the case against Lance Armstrong.

At least one German won’t be claiming he’s “just following orders”, though – Petacchi’s been benched for Flanders, leaving the ageless Erik Zabel to ride for himself. It’s reflective of a trend, really; racing seems to have more than its share of dangerous old farts this April. 38-year-old Lars Michaelsen’s last hurrah will be in at Roubaix, while 36-year-old Nico Eeckhout walked away from this to contest today’s DePanne sprint with a broken rib. While 20-something Daniele Benatti still won, it’s doubtful he’ll be a serious a contender as old Rambo come Sunday. If Eeckhout does manage to cross the line first in that Belgian champ’s jersey, I imagine the church bells will be rung extra hard.

Despite the fact we’re only two days into DePanne, the Ronde already dominates headlines – English and otherwise. Personally, I’d be content with tagging along at DePanne and grabbing up little tidbits of Flandrian news (for example, that Predictor-Lotto must use their high-end Noahs at Paris-Roubaix), but people are already trying guess from where Sunday’s decisive attack will be launched. Yes, everyone has Flanders Fever – everyone, that is, except RoadCycling.com, who still seems to think it’s last weekend. “Cycling info as it should be” my foot.

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