And now, with the most recent UCI news update (since the first UCI race starts in two days...in Australia) Lampre is basically just being embarrassed in public like a kid who didn’t get his homework in on time. I do not doubt that the paperwork was not properly completed (this is bike racing in Europe after all) but that does not change the fact that this stuff should have been addressed and finalized months ago. It is ridiculous for the UCI to have to hold their hands during the licensing process or make concessions to teams that cannot step up to their end of the organizational bargain.
I know that this is just bike racing, and not global finance or high technology but it would be nice if there was more than a hint of professionalism within the top-tier of this sport. Perhaps the cycling world would be better off if slacking, disorganized and marginally qualified teams were punished for being so. But then I guess the UCI wouldn’t get that big chunk of money for the Pro Tour license so…it makes sense that they are being lenient. It still makes everyone look bad though. Especially everyone wearing that ridiculous pink and blue Lampre kit.
Finally, the UCI website has switched the Sky name around a few times but, as mentioned earlier, still does not have Wiggie Smalls on the roster. They seem to be going back and forth between Team Sky and Sky Professional Cycling Team, with the latter being the most recent entry. But it was Team Sky when I started this thing, so I’m keeping them that way. Same with Saxo Bank, which is now listed as Team Saxo Bank. Good grief, it would be nice if this stuff was worked out before mid-January.
Now, from the Department of Redundancy Department, please find the "Team" teams listed below.
• Team HTC-Columbia (USA)
Team HTC-Columbia was sadly misnamed Team Columbia-HTC until very recently on the UCI website. However, I would like to give the UCI folks the benefit of the doubt and just hope that they are dyslexic instead of lazy. At this point, I would kind of like to see them get creative and put something like "Team THC-Colombia" up there, just to see if anyone notices. Now that would make for some great High Road jokes. If you can't have a sense of humor at the UCI headquarters...it's going to be pretty bumpy ride.
As for Bob Stapleton's crew, they basically got raided by Team Sky but were able to hang on to Mark Cavendish for at least one more year, which had to have been the only real goal this past offseason. As Wiggie Smalls proved, contracts can be broken when Rupert F-ing Murdoch is paying for your lawyers, so it was good to see Cavendish stay loyal. It says a lot about the relationship between Captain Cavman and Big Money Bob, who I still think is one of the best owners in professional sports.
As a result of the recent British Invasion and subsequent Pillaging, Team THC-Colombia (just checking if you're still paying attention) is noticeably thinner in the ranks than 2009. But the squad is still positioned to get some decent individual results and keep Cavendish where he needs to be in order to win another 20-30 races, as Andre Greipel gets more and more frustrated by only winning 10-20.
In addition to the leadout train, hopefully they will also help Cavendish think up some new finish line post-up moves. The "DZ Nuts" salute in Paso Robles was pretty creative/obscene but I have a feeling that he is still kicking himself for fumbling with his glasses a little bit in the Tour. He could have popped a wheelie on the Champs Elysees last year, so I am hoping that he starts upping the degree of difficulty somehow. Maybe take a foot out of the pedals like he did with Cipo in the Tour of California a few years ago. I still can't believe he did that, but somehow it adds to the legend in a strangely positive way. Far more positive than say...pointing at your junk in white shorts, for example.
Besides Marky Mark and his Funky Bunch sprints, it will be interesting to watch the progression of Greipel and Tony Martin in 2010. I'm still not sure what kind of rider Martin is or will be, but he has Rolf Aldag in his corner and could give German cycling fans a bit of GC hope after some painful years. For some reason I feel better about watching him and The Gorilla race than I ever did with Michael Stoolmacher.
• Team Katusha (RUS)
I must admit that I did a double-take when Cycle Sport listed Katusha as the top team in one-day races for 2009. I guess it makes sense, considering Sergei Ivanov's win at Amstel Gold and Pipo Pozzato's Springtime wheelsucking but the scientist in me wants to come up with a better formula. Not to be critical, but it seems like Quick Step taking both Flanders and Roubaix, as well as Sylvia Chavanel's impressively consistent mediocrity, would have put them on top. I don't know, maybe I need to crunch the numbers a bit before I tick off any Russian dudes (or Cycle Sport for that matter).
In a perfect world, 2010 will mark the triumphant return of Robbie McEwen as a sprinting threat against youngsters like Cavendish and Farrar. At the very least, I would like to see more head-butting and profanity in the peloton, and Robbie Mac is the best at that kind of stuff. When I mentioned how Saxo Bank had some tough guys their team preview, I neglected to explain that Australians are actually in a separate class by themselves. Seriously, even Cadel Evans is kind of scary in a weird, unpredictable way but can you imagine having the King of Australian Badassery hollering at you?
There is no real frame of reference for this but for some reason, I have a recurring nightmare about Robbie McEwen yelling at me and using weird Aussie words that I don't really understand…although I can infer that they are not complimentary. Trust me, it's a bad dream but somehow I feel tougher for having it.
• Team Milram (GER)
For the record, I have never been a fan of the team kits that actually try to portray something about the sponsor. For example, the old Castorama overalls (similar version worn here by the one and only Laurent Brochard) were far more embarrassing for Laurent Fignon than his loss to LeMond in the '89 Tour and despite their popularity and my appreciation for Danny Van Haute's crew, the Jelly Belly kits have never been kind to my eye. Therefore, I just cannot imagine how the giant milk stains on the Milram (a dairy company) jerseys were authorized in the first place, let alone repeated in 2010. In fact, I'm not even sure if they are milk stains or if they are trying to make the riders look like skinny blue Holstein cows. At least they don't have big white splotches on the shorts too. That would be REALLY bad.
Despite the jerseys, Milram is a decent squad that will get a number of medium-to-high quality top-5 finishes with guys like Gerald Ciolek and Fabian "The Other Fabian" Wegmann. I will always think Wegmann is cool because he won the final San Francisco Grand Prix, which is my favorite event of all time. It really was a great race but I still can’t reconcile how Charles Dionne won 40% of the times it was held. Regardless, Wegmann could win something big someday and Ciolek will probably continue to have crazy head spasms which keep him from the top step. Seriously, watch him sprint with Cavendish and notice how one looks low and fast while the other looks like he may be having an epileptic seizure. It’s hard to look at sometimes.
Anyway, I have been trying to think of a clever pun about crying over spilt milk or something in an effort to make my G-Pa and Dad proud but I can’t seem to conjure up anything fit for print. Sorry guys, I feel like I let the family down.
• Team RadioShack (USA)
I really don’t know much about this team or any of its riders but I guess there are some guys who used to be on other teams, one dude who used to be an actor, and the director is a motivational book author from Belgium or something. I don’t know, it’s been hard to get much information on this organization or how they even managed to raise enough awareness and money to warrant a Pro Tour license. I mean…it’s not like they’re trying to cure cancer or something, right?
Even though I can’t say much about Team RadioShack (yet), I would like to take this opportunity to tell the primary sponsor that I still think it was messed up to charge me $36 for a new cell phone charger in 2005. That was wrong, and I will never forgive you for asking for my number and then ripping me off on the charger so that I could use my phone - which you then apparently wanted to call me on. It’s kind of funny in retrospect but I will always hold a grudge against The Shack for taking advantage of me like that. I literally felt dirty when I walked out of the strip mall.
But with that said…thanks for sponsoring this poor little bike racing team full of starry-eyed, hopeful youngsters. Really, thank you. Dare I say it’s…Shacktastic?
• Team Sky (GBR)
Team Sky is another team that seems to be having some trouble getting in the news and promoting itself lately. Either that or I have trouble understanding British people...or digesting anything from the Murdoch Empire other than The Simpsons. Actually, Arrested Development was great but Rupert’s henchmen put a premature end to that so…yeah, not too excited about Fox-related stuff on a few levels. I am aware that the News Corporation only has a 39% stake in British Sky Broadcasting but that is still a little too close to the Bill O’Reilly Zone for my conscience. Does this mean that Glenn Beck is going to start talking about bike racing? I need to stop thinking about this.
In somewhat Imperialistic, cut-throat fashion, the new British team (that we’ve known about for years) went about nabbing riders like Bradley Wiggins, Edvald Boasson-Hagen, Thomas Lovkvist, and just about any other English speaking guys they could get their money-laden hands on. The Wiggins project was particularly awkward but actually made me think that bike racing is becoming a little more like a real professional sport, replete with contract disputes, lawyers and blatant lies in the media. Then again, that may not be as nice as it sounds.
So…basically, Team Sky poached a number of big name riders from American teams and is rapidly embodying the somewhat fancy, pompous reputation developed by most of the British people I know. I’m not sure what it is about the Brits, but these guys are not making a ton of friends in the peloton and they haven’t even raced yet. Perhaps George Bluth Sr. from Arrested Development was on to something when he warned Michael, “Sure, they’re polite and the men all sound gay, but they will rip your heart out, and their breath…”
Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to see how Team Sky and all of the other Pro Tour squads (which Lampre may join eventually) fare in 2010 because the season is just about to get underway in Australia at the Tour Down Under. I can’t think of many better places to kick off the rust and sweat through some new team clothing, although I hope nobody makes Robbie McEwen or any of the other natives mad. Even the new World Champion (who is not riding for a Pro Tour team, in case you didn't hear my consternation the first time) has proven to be pretty tough. Like I said before, mess with Australians at your own risk. Just ask the management at Omega Pharma-Lotto. D'oh.