Cipo: leading by example
Remember when Mario Cipollini said he was making a comeback and was a chance of riding this year's Giro d'Italia? It never came to pass, but the Giro's loss has been journalism's gain.
Cipollini's daily columns in La Gazzetta dello Sport are proving one of the consistent performers of this year's race.
Last week, when the race meandered between sprint stages and the low mountains, Cipo found time for asides like: "Sexuality exists. I was young, strong, healthy and I took liberties". La Gazzetta's editors, regrettably, missed the opportunity to illustrate this particular column with this picture of 1991 Cipo.
In the past few days a good portion of Cipollini's column inches have been spent needling Mark Cavendish and his team. After one sprint, Cavendish received a metaphorical Cipo bidon in the ribcage for failing to hold his position in the final kilometres.
The morning after Cavendish took his third stage win and 10th Giro win overall, in Cervere, Cipollini directed a backhander at Sky, writing: "I've got great admiration for Cavendish, who proved once again to be the best, notwithstanding Sky's errors".
And when Cavendish replied that he was riding well and he was pleased with his form in the mountains, Cipollini retorted in a press conference that "the real mountains are yet to come".
Cavendish responded by defending his record, and it's a fair point. Even the casual student of cycling history will note that Cipollini baiting Cavendish in this way is like a pot taking aim at a notably whiter kettle.
Cavendish, still midway through his career, has won one world championship, one Milan-San Remo, 20 stages at the Tour de France and 10 at the Giro. He is also earning a reputation for toughness, having already won the points classification at the Tour and the Vuelta. On Wednesday he underlined his intention to finish this year's Giro by hauling himself over the 2236m Passo Giau.
Cipollini also won one world championship and one Milan-San Remo, plus 42 stages at the Giro and 12 at the Tour de France – where he was otherwise famous for wearing a zebra suit and not once coming remotely close to finishing the race. Perhaps he saw those real mountains he speaks of on TV.
The week in ...
Two wins in two days prevented AG2R acquiring an unwanted record: the worst start to a season in the seven years since the UCI formed the ProTour. That honour remains with Saunier Duval, who went until May 19 in the 2005 season before finally winning a race.
It was a near thing. Sebastien Hinault ended AG2R's long 2012 duck last Friday, May 18. Hinault won the Circuit de Lorraine Professionel, only hours before teammate Sylvain Georges proved that race wins are like London buses by soloing to a stage win in the Tour of California.
The sudden flurry of victories allowed the French squad to escape ignominy by 24 hours.
Or did they? As podcaster @IrishPeloton pointed out on Twitter, 2012 is a leap year and 2005 was not.
Factor in February's extra day and AG2R and Saunier Duval went winless for the same number of days this year, vaulting them both onto the top step of the podium for losingest losers, where the teams would perhaps be slapped by podium girls with wet fishes.
But should Saunier Duval still be saddled with the record at all? As further Twitter debate established, 2005's Tour Down Under began on January 18, whereas this year's TDU began on January 15. That allowed Saunier Duval only 119 days since the official start of the season in which to achieve a win, whereas AG2R, counting the leap day, had the luxury of a full 123.
The Broom Wagon enjoys and also cares deeply about this sort of thing, but it should be noted that this view appears not to be shared by the teams themselves. Here is the video shot from the AG2R team car during Georges' win at Big Bear Lake.
"Tour of Norway keeps getting better," David Millar reported after this week's stage race, won by Edvald Boasson Hagen and, you hope, raucously celebrated by this man:
"Organisation was supposed to have a bus at the finish to take us to the airport," Millar continued. "They forgot."
Finding themselves stranded with their flight time fast approaching, Millar and his Garmin-Barracuda teammates arranged a bus themselves.
The second bus ran out of petrol, and while Millar cheerfully documented proceedings with his smartphone, teammate Thomas Dekker resorted to hitchhiking.
"So far two cars have stopped." Millar twattled. "They asked Thomas, 'What about your friends?' He said, 'I don't give a shit, I have to get to the airport'."
"This is brilliant," Millar continued, tweeting a pic of Dekker clambering into a stranger's car.
Finnish journalist Marcus Lundqvist eventually rescued the remaining castaways who, presumably to Millar's slight disappointment, made it to the airport on time.
"That was the most fun I've had all week," Millar said.
Vaulting over the line between lovably eccentric and dangerously insane: Turkish New Yorker Aydin Irmak. The 46-year-old wants to become the first person to summit Mt Everest with a bike, but is being thwarted because of local officials' unaccountable reluctance to issue him or his steel single-speeder with a permit to go all the way to the top.
Irmak is currently at base camp at the foot of the mountain, where four climbers died on the weekend even without voluntarily burdening themselves with a surplus 15kg of metal.
He is acclimatising while hoping to have his permits granted, having already won access to Everest's lower slopes by paying a personal visit to the bureaucrat in question and threatening to "go get gas and burn myself."
As for why he is attempting the mission in the first place, Irmak says he headed for the Himalayas after feeling unfulfilled by a previous adventure. After successfully riding his bike to the North Pole he asked himself: "Why the f-ck did I come here? Could I live here? No."
Dispatches from the Twitterverse
Thought UCI was at my door at 7am, but no its the crazy landlord telling me rent is going up 2%. ?7am #WhatsWrongWithThatGuy— Danny Pate (@TheDPate) May 22, 2012
Tonight we are staying at a hotel in Bene Vagienna. I couldn't make this up.— Peter Stetina (@peterstetina) May 18, 2012
You know it's going to be a hard day when you select your race food based on how much it weighs in your pocket...— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) May 20, 2012
Marco Pantani, the last man to win the Giro-Tour double, has featured heavily in this year's race. He is one of the previous winners at Friday's summit finish. And on Saturday the race hits the highest finish in grand tour history at Passo dello Stelvio, where Pantani rode to a huge win in 1994. The Pirate, of course, rode mainly in the 1990s, a decade known for its impeccable style in music and clothing. In this clip from 1996 Pantani captures both as effortlessly as climbing a mountain. He also raps.