Was LBL that Great? More Puerto News.

Apr 30 2007

Was the finish of this year’s Liege that good? Truth be told, I didn’t watch it live because 50 bucks (it was 36 or so last year – damn weak dollar) seemed a bit steep for two weekends’ worth of races. Pez seemed fairly psyched about the quality of the event, but post-race chatter and certainly a few of yesterday’s commenters thought otherwise. I’d like to believe Liege was somewhat harder fought, since you had riders like Horner and Schumi going all-in on unsuccessful attacks. Sure, there were late moves at Fleche, but they featured favorites who still podiumed, leading me to believe the effort might have been a bit couched.

Anyway, plenty of explanations are being floated for these suddenly crowded final kilometers. Some folks blame the weather, others are going back after it with banning the radios. I’m the sort that’ll chalk it up to the advent of the ProTour; it stocks the start line with more riders who are good enough to keep up, but not determined enough to attack, and forces the smaller squads out. Small name teams are willing to try crazy things for high-viz camera time, the hope of future invitations, and that one-in-a-million shot to win. Euskaltel, on the other hand, whose sponsors are 500 miles away, and who are guaranteed TV time at every big race of the year, could probably give a shake about how they do in Belgium.

Then there’s that most popular of explanations – drugs. Strangely, no one’s suggested it’s the reason for this less-than-selective racing – yet. But at the rate new doping allegations are coming out? Operation Puerto now has 107 riders involved in it. And is also 6000 pages long. And these new revelations come suspiciously close to the Giro for my taste, especially given that it’s the Gazetta dello Sport that’s releasing the latest news.

I mean, last week, Ivan Basso was a Giro contender – now he’s [been forced to] quit his team, while similarly accused riders on team Tinkoff remain unfettered by the recent developments. I’d be upset that all this political machination were molding the composition of the peloton, except that cases based off actual positive tests are similarly farcical.

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