May 18 2007
Could the Landis trial get any weirder? The all-black outfit, the shocking revelation, the implicit admission, the sudden dismissal, VeloNews using citebite (wonder where they learned that?), the sorrowful repentance – when a Podium Cafe poster referred to the Landis case as “the cycling equivalent of the OJ trial”, they weren’t joking. Future generations will look back on this event as the defining moment when sports arbitration evolved and took up all the verve and drama of the criminal justice world. Verve and drama that, somewhat anticlimactically, involves a lengthy appeal process – one that has proven unfriendly to accused dopers thus far.
Strange to think, but without all this extracurricular drama, we’d probably be overlooking another big Robert Forster win to watch experts waffle over the Petacchi-Richeze tiff (though I’m hesitant to trust Mario Cipollini as an arbitrator of anything – except, of course, a beauty pageant). He’s an interesting champion, that Petacchi – silent and unapproachable when he’s 100%, vocal and emotional when things go wrong, prone to fits of fury and periods of self-doubt – a uniquely human hero. At least we can stop picking at the alleged inter-squad strife between Gasparatto and DiLuca – Liquigas finally relinquished its grasp on pink, leaving T-Mobile’s Marco Pinotti to take it up, after hanging tough in the break with Panaria’s stage winner Luis Felipe Laverde.
So what other drama could will we see in the coming days? Well, don’t expect any from CSC – those “abnormal” test results from a few days ago were apparently the kind that aren’t abnormal. Former CSC hero Tyler Hamilton might steal a few lines of newsprint, though – his new employers at Tinkoff seem to be trying to “disappear” him. Alejandro Valverde’s bosses, however, are valiantly defending their star rider from Operacion Puerto allegations, while teammate Oscar Pereiro insists he’s not connected, and threatens to quit if anyone tries to prove his innocence. Hopefully the ludicrous finishing circuits and undulating terrain of the next two Giro stages will make it so our next batch of headlines comes from the press box instead of the courthouse.