UCI Pro Tour Teams and Grand Tour Preview

05.10.2007 | 7:32 am

A Note from Fatty: Did you know that Al Maviva can type 90 words per minute? It’s true. Which means it only took him 35 hours to write this entry. It’s long, but it’s hilarious. Budget two lunch breaks for it.

One of the cool things about this site, is that it’s a gathering place for a lot of different kinds of riders – we have serious roadies, tourers, RAAM loonies, mountain bike racers, free riders, crossers, probably BMX’ers, and even a boozehound trackie or two. But if you aren’t indoctrinated into roadracing, i.e. totally geeked on shaved legs, power charts, performance enhancing drugs, and willing to part with about $60 per year for Velo News, you probably aren’t up on which team does what. Non-racing friends always ask me what the team names mean, what the businesses are behind the teams, which riders to look for, and so forth. This is relevant because we’re about to get into 24/7 television coverage of the three enormous events of the year, the grand tours. Or at least we would be, if we lived in Italy, Belgium or France. Here we’ll see a little bit, and maybe the box scores page in the sports section of your local fishwrap will have a weekly recap of the races. It ain’t enough.

So I decided it was time to give a brief overview of the teams, partially just to enlighten you poor benighted hairy-legged heathens, and partially to give you some insight into Top Fuel Roadracing. Keep this blog entry handy, and if you happen to be at somebody’s house catching the Giro d’Italia on RAI or the TdF on Versus, or the Vuelta on pirated Eurosport Sattelite TV, and you are asked about a team, just run into the bathroom, whip it out (this blog entry, you sick beastard), read up on the team in question, then run back out. If the host asks you any questions about your frequent bathroom trips, just explain you are a road racer, and they’ll assume you are doping and the steroids are making you pee a lot. They’ll understand, and think you are a genius. So here goes, the straight dope, the unvarnished truth, about the UCI ProTour teams.

1. Ag2r Prevoyance (Ag2R). Key Riders: Christophe Moreau, Sylvain Calzatti. Calzatti is best known for an Italian pizza-like food named in his honor, the Calzone. His nickname should be “fortune cookie” because he crumbles instantly when subjected to any pressure, leaving behind only little dried out bits, and cliches. He is more of a hair products model than a bicycle rider. In addition to being a former French National Champion, Dr. Christophe Moreau runs an island stocked with fiendish half-human, half-beast hybrids during the off-season, such as bear/man Magnus Backstadt and the fast moving, parasitic feral weasel/boy, Robbie McEwen. The corporate backer Ag2R is Agricultural Group Rothschild & Rothschild, a small hog farm run by Murray and Abe Rothschild, poorer second cousins of the shadowy international financier, the Third Marquis Rothschild. Ag2r is predicted to crap out in the Giro, serve as peleton fodder in the Tour de France, and is presently slated to disappoint in the Vuelta de Espana, though some oddsmakers are betting on the team to “collapse in spectacular fashion” instead. They are a sure bet to not come through.

2. Astana. Key Riders: Andreas Kloden, Paolo Salvodeli, and Maxim Iglinsky, along with Alexander Vinokourov. Kloden’s parents named him after a classic dark green Bavarian woolen coat line at Kaufhof, Die Klassiker Loden (thus KLoden), memorializing where he was conceived, in the women’s dressing room of that ubiquitous German department store. One-hit wonder Salvodeli won the Giro about a hundred years ago, is a great descender, and is nicknamed “il Falco,” which is the name he used when recording his only musical hit, “Rock Me, Amadeus.” Maxim Iglinskiy, of course, invented the Maxim machine gun, which was responsible for the death of millions in World War I. He will not be popular during the Tour prologue stage in London, and will be riding in a large glass enclosure resembling the “Pope-mobile” when the Tour de France starts from London this year. It is not expected to slow him down much, however, since he’s not very fast to begin with. Vinokourov is known for being from Kazakhstan. The sponsor, Astana, is a coalition of the major companies in the capital of Kazakhstan, including trash collection, construction, providing physical security for union representatives, hanging out and the Bada Bing Club, and operating the informal off-line gaming industry. Astana, formerly known as Youse Guys on Da Bikes team, is predicted to “defy the odds” in the major tours this year. For more information on Team Astana, see the collected works of the noted professional journalist Borat Sagdiyev, a respected Kazakh journalist considered by many to be “the true face of Kazakhstan.”

3. Bouygues Telecom. Key Riders: Yoann Le Boulanger, Thomas Voeckler. Boulanger is, of course, a delightfully tasty bread roll that goes well with a Provencal white bean soup. In spite of having no legs, being 3 inches in diameter and having a crust that melts if the peloton glides into a rainstorm, Boulanger performs better than many other top French pro riders, and under pressure, he simply compresses a bit, unlike most of the top French pro riders, who prefer to crumble under pressure. The grand tour outlook for Bouygues Telecom this year is not bright. As a French government corporation, its employees (including the race team) will take nine weeks of vacation this summer. Unfortunately for the fans, these vacation periods will coincide, as they do every year, with the Giro, the Tour de, and the Vuelta. So while Bouygues Telecom will definitely show up in Tuscany, the South of France, and in sunny Spain, don’t expect them to do much work. They will be chasing hot chicks, however, and downing Sangria, Grappa, or Bordeaux by the gallon, as is geographically appropriate.

4. Caisse d’Epargne. Key Riders: Arroyo-Duran, Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Perreiro. Oscar Perreiro is favored to win ‘some race or another, probably accidentally or by some weird happenstance, like the UCI decides to start enforcing anti-doping rules again briefly and for no apparent reason.’ He is known as a rider who is an okay sprinter, but not very good; a decent climber, but not really much of a climber at all; and a strong man rouleur who is really kind of weak when you get right down to it. He is the really, really poor man’s Jens Voigt, except with none of the testicular fortitude, about 75% of the strength, and about 1000% more luck. For his part, the excellent Valverde is expected to appear in a large number of magazine advertisements that give off a slightly gay vibe, not that there’s anything wrong with that. He’s a sure-footed time trialist, our Alejandro, and canny about when to attack on the hills, and he has a bushy head of hair and is not balding at all. Arroyo-Duran is actually a prize fight occurring this weekend on pay-per-view, and I have no idea how it wound up on a Protour race team, but it could probably beat most of the French riders in any riding discipline, with the exception of BMX. I suspect that the Directeur Sportiff did not have adequate money in the budget to buy the fight, so he made up the name of a rider and put him “on the payroll,” hoping the sponsor would be none the wiser. Why not – the team has maybe twenty riders with hyphenated latino names, including Jose Vincente Garcia-Acosta and Jose Evan Guttierrez-Palacios, whose names actually weigh more than either of those climbing specialists. Other “riders” on the team’s roster include Ruben Mayweather-De La Hoya, and Luis The Undertaker-Triple H, and the Senior UCI Tour Caisse d’Epargne team, CE Classico, features Roberto Ali-Frazier. It isn’t surprising the DS can put one over on the team ownership. Caisse d’Epargne, pronounced “casa de pain” translates to “House of Pain,” reflecting the team’s ownership by Irish-American rapper, Everlast. The team is expected to get out of their seats and jump around, jump around, jump around, jump up jump up and get down, but is not expected to win anything.

5. Cofidis, le Credit Par Telephone. Key Riders: David Moncoutié, Nick Nuyens and Tyler Farrar. Moncoutie is coming off a tough season, following last year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege-Maastricht-Venlo-Bastogne-Liege semi-pseudo-classic, where the ever playful Eddie Mercyx declared in a rasta accent, “David’s got the Moncouties,” after which nobody in the pro peloton would touch him, and did everything it could to isolate him. In fact, during the World Championships, the peloton made Moncoutie ride 25 yards back, between the neutral wheel support vehicle and the first team car – “Just to make sure nobody else gets the Moncouties.” Nobody laughed harder at this joke based on an unfortunate name than WADA chief Dick Pound. Moncoutie is hoping to fare better this year, and has been studying social etiquette, “to make sure the other kids understand me better, and stop making fun of me and taking my lunch money and my EPO and [Ed. Shut up, David… nobody likes a cry baby]…” Nick Nuyens, a classics specialist, was signed to be the protected rider in grand tours and to be a climber. Some question the team’s choice, but do not find it shocking. The team represents the leading telemarketing company in Europe, and when Directeur Sportiff Harry Spalmlicker called around asking for advice on potential rider signings, nobody would pick up the phone. Discovery Team Director Johann Bruyneel is rumored to have actually told Spalmlicker, “Sod off. I’m eating… never call me when I’m eating, you Dutch wanker!” Spalmlicker is actually Belgian, so this was considered a mortal insult, and the Cofidis riders are now sworn to hurt any Team Discovery rider they come across, which they certainly will if only Cofidis can keep from being dropped in the very early stages of every race. Consistent with the sponsor’s status as a telemarketer, everybody expects the team to attack relentlessly, but always at the wrong time, typically when the remainder of the peloton is in the feed zone or trying to take a nature break. They are rather unpopular. Meanwhile, semi-rookie Yank Beast-on-a-Bike Tyler Farrar, who has only been in the big leagues for a year or so is expected to ride really hard, and to do quite well, as soon as he “can figure out how these brake shifter things work. Hey, why do I have to shave my legs? Anybody got a spare rear wheel? I left mine at Langkawi last week.” [Update: Farrar crashed a couple weeks ago at Ghent-Wevelgem, pronounced “Here to there,” breaking his leg. He went down on the Kemmelberg. Ever the fanboy, he didn’t have to crash, but went off the bike to pick up a Team CSC water bottle that Jens Voigt had discarded when Jens crashed on that famous climb. Farrar was disappointed that his leg is broken, but added, “Hey, look, it’s not like I can get one of Jens’s water bottles every day. Check it out, bro…”

6. Credit Agricole. Key Riders: Thor Hushovd, Sebastien Hinault. Hushovd claims his goal for the season is “to not get killed by foam fingers, guys who paint their bodies to go to sporting events, or small felt pennants, which are surprisingly sharp at the pointy end.” Sebastien Hinault has been compared to former multiple TdF winner Bernard Hinault, and the comparisons are uniformly unfavorable. American Saul Raisin is still carried on the team roster as he recovers from a severe brain injury, and the Directeur Sportiff is “‘appy to brag, zat even wiz zee brain eenjury, zee Saul ees steel smarter zan zee Daveed Mon-Couties. Ha ha ha.” Credit Agricole used to be known as the Nancy-Bouyes First Farmers Bank, but former French President Jacques Chirac ordered the team to give itself a more French sounding name. The team isn’t expected to do anything much except watch Thor ride to the front in races, steal other sprinters’ leadout trains, mainly Petacchi’s, and win an occasional sprint, at least when he isn’t being mowed down in freak accidents.

7. Discovery Pro Cycling. Key Riders: Ivan Basso, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie. Basso was brought on to Discovery to be the first Discovery rider to be caught doping. Team Director Johann Bruyneel explains: “What with our ability to dope smarter than the other teams, and all the Tour de France and classics wins, people were getting jealous. So we wanted to bring ourselves down a notch, and we thought signing Ivan would be a good first step in that direction. Team Director Johann Bruyneel states, “it was our plan all along to sign Basso Levi, get everybody worried about him, and then spring another rider in the grand tours for a surprise win. George Hincapie Vladi Gusev Levi Brajkavic Jaroslav Popovich is that guy. We’re considering throwing the Tour de France again this year, and that may help a bit with the public relations; nobody likes a team that wins too much. Then next year when nobody expects it, BAM, we’ll swoop in for the win.” Levi Leipheimer signed up with the team because he believes it is strong enough to carry him to a TdF win, and because “I just couldn’t let George Hincapie, that permanent second fiddle, take over this team.” Asked about Leipheimer’s comments, Hincapie said, “yeah, whatever Levi says is probably true. No, definitely true. If he says it, it’s definitely true. I trust him implicitly and am glad to have another guy on the team who looks after my interests the way Lance always did.” Discovery is expected to win at least one of the grand tours, probably the Vuelta, and may place strong in the Giro with tough all-rounders such as Jaroslav Popovich, Janez Brajkavic, and Tom Danielson. The sponsor, Discovery Television, is a network that is primarily concerned with soap operas about motorcycles, soap operas about fisherman, and soap operas about a very funny guy who goes around cleaning up other people’s ordure.

8. Euskaltel – Euskadi. Key Riders: Who cares? We don’t. Really.

9. Française Des Jeux. Key Riders: Thomas Lövkvist, and Sandy Casar. Lövkvist, the Swede Who Feels a Need For Speed, will not fail to disappoint, in spite of his youth and enormous potential. Casar is well known for his performance in short, flat first stage prologues to the grand tours, which means he can ride really hard for like 3 or 4 minutes, and he’s not good for much else. The name Française Des Jeux, which means “French Pleasuring,” signifies the team’s primary sponsor, an enormous brothel on the outskirts of Marseille which is typically frequented by sailors, lonely shepherds, and degenerate Hollywood actors on their way to do some poverty gawking in Africa following the Cannes film festival. The team is thought to have signed Lövkvist strictly because his name translates as “love kissed,” and manager Ingomar “Frenchy” Poliching believed “this has a lot of synchronicitie… good co-marketing potential.” Perhaps as a reflection of the team’s sponsor and character, most of the Française Des Jeux riders are thought to be incorrigible perverts, and when the team trains in the off season near Girona, Catholic schools lock their students (mail and female) into the nearest church with sturdy doors. The team is expected to ride rather poorly in any stage that matters, but to have good success at bedding groupies, teenage girls, the wives of fellow ProTour riders, and the occasional schismatic nun. Riding on Française Des Jeux is not exactly considered an honor, but it is thought to be one of the more enjoyable teams to roll with. Like Predictor-Lotto, the name sponsor does not provide cash but offers payment-in-kind to the team. Consequently, although most of the riders are homeless, starving, and suffering from syphilis, theirs is one of the happiest teams on the ProTour.

10. Gerolsteiner. Key Riders: Stefan Schumacher, Davide Rebellin. Rebellin is well known as a strong classics rider and he had a great spring, winning the Amstel Gold Race. He was not expected to win, but the big Italian told his primarily German team that the reason it was called “Amstel Gold” was because the winners get to swim in a pool filled with beer at the end of the race. The team responded as expected, and carried him to a runaway victory. They were disappointed to find out that the pool was only filled with pretzels and leberkaese, but dove right in anyhow. Stefan Schumacher is one of the faster riders on the tour, preferring to drive his Ferrari F-1 car instead of the team issue Cannondale System Six. This is somewhat controversial, but Schumacher gets away with it, as he is greatly respected for having won the F-1 World Championship several times over the past few years. The sponsor, Gerolsteiner, is a German maker of fizzy mineral water, making this one of the few teams on the ProTour that is not sponsored by drug vendors, brothels, gambling houses, or media organizations with a stake in and conflict of interest in the outcome of races. Being relatively clean and generally drug-free makes them highly suspect on the ProTour, and riders from most of the other teams are convinced Gerolsteiner is up to something. The team is expect to do well in the grand tours, at least until each tour moves into the serious climbing stages, where the team rule regarding sports drinks (“Gerolsteiner only”) is expected to slow the team down. It turns out that swilling gallons of fizzy mineral water on hot days causes severe belching, farting and oozing poops, which in turn makes it hard to settle into a good climbing rhythm, especially if you are riding behind their paceline. Theme song: Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Oooh, That Smell.”

11. Lampre Fondital. Key Riders: Allesandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego, Danielle Benatti. Cunego is one of the hot young Italian riders on the ProTour, and he will be protected on the grand tours by Ballan, a strong classics rider and rouleur and fine looking young man, and Danielle Benatti, another strong classics rider known as the Italian Stallion. This is just a strong team all around, and the fact that most of them look like Eurotrash, only adds to the intimidating effect. Sponsor Lampre is a steel manufacturer, and one wonders how the steelworkers feel about being represented by a bunch of tiny dudes, many of whom should be on the classic Eurovision game show, “European, or Gay?” in which befuddled American tourists from Iowa are asked to tell whether the panel members are European, or gay dudes. In fact, I’m feeling like I have a not entirely wholesome man-crush on the whole team, and frankly, I’m ashamed of these feelings. I may need to Tivo the Giro. Lampre is predicted to show up for the grand tours, and to look simply fabulous doing it.

12. Liquigas. Key riders: Danilo DiLuca, Filippo Pozatto, Magnus Backstadt. DiLuca and Pozzato are strong classics and one-day racers. They are basically indistinguishable from each other and are thought to be cloned from some spit that Greg LeMond hacked out on Lance Armstrong after gate crashing a Cheryl Crow concert a couple years ago. Eufemanio Fuentes and Dr. Christophe Moreau are believed to have been involved in the cloning process, which is illegal in Europe except when attempting to raise sheep, or track sprinters. Magnus Backstadt is 6’5” and 220 pounds. He recently took a year off from racing, after he was told by engineers that he is simply too large to be a decent bicycle racer. The 2005 Paris-Roubaix winner consulted with honeybees during his time off, to try to figure out how they overcame the same engineering group’s conclusion that, aerodynamically speaking, bees cannot fly. After a while, the big dumb lug forgot what the question was, and returned to racing pretty well, none the wiser for his sabbatical, thank goodness. Nevertheless, Maggy’s meanderings explain why all the American bees have disappeared… they were all working as consultants for Backstadt. The sponsor is a manufacturer of sanitary pads for men, and consumers of Mexican food, for those occasions when one’s trust and belief that an impending fart will be dry, gaseous, and not containing any solids or liquids, has been sadly misplaced. Their slogan is “Liquigas… for leakyriders.” Team Gerolsteiner is rumored to use Liquigas Sanitarie Paddes for Hommes, but insist that they only use Gerolsteiner Sprudel bottle caps to accomplish the same, ahem, ends. I’m not sure which product would be more disgusting in that usage. The team is expected to field a lot of riders for various pro races, unlike Tinkoff, most of whose riders should be suspended or under arrest by the time this goes to press.

13. Predictor-Lotto. Key Riders: The riders’ wives and girlfriends. All of them. Sponsor Predictor is a pregnancy test, and recently inked an innovative long term sponsorship deal in an attempt to evade punitive European Union taxes. In the unique barter agreement, Belgium-based Predictor-Lotto agreed to wear Predictor’s name, in exchange for an unlimited supply of Predictor kits. According to Mrs. Robbie McEwen, “We’re not very happy about the pay cut, but I have to say I’m very satisfied with the sponsor. Robbie is determined to get his money’s worth out of Predictor, so we’ve been… well, I really would rather not get into it.” A flushed Mrs. McEwen said that Mrs. Leif Hoste was also happy, especially in light of the fact that the Spring Classics season is now over, and Mr. Hoste, a classics specialist, can now do all the things that are forbidden by his Belgian coach, like showering (“makes the legs heavy”), eating grilled cheese sandwiches (“the cheese doubles or triples in calories if you melt it”) and having… um, doing the thing that makes you use lots of Predictor kits (“destroys a rider’s mojo.”) Mrs. Cadel Evans, meanwhile, agrees it was a great pickup, and she’ll be willing to try it “once Cadel’s wedding tackle has recovered from the beating inflicted on it by the cobblestones of the Arenberg.” Predictor has also agreed to put American rider Chris Horner on the cover of its kits, but declined an offer from fellow American “Fast Freddy” Rodriquez, indicating his image “probably shouldn’t be associated with products geared toward improving one’s love life. If he was “Slow and Easy Freddy” or “Hot Freddy” we might consider it.’ As for the other sponsor, Lotto, that is a new venture in the European housing market, selling lots ready for the installation of trailer park homes. Sometime name sponsor, sometime FDA investigation subject Davitamon is a maker of vitamin supplements said to enhance one’s reggae funk by “at least 70%. Try Davita, mon…” George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic are rumored to be the powers that be what it is, behind Davitamon. The team is believed to be unhappy about having to live in a trailer park in between races, with Robbie McEwen asking, “what if one of those filthy tornadoes takes us out, mate?”

14. Quickstep-Innergetic. Key Riders: Paoli Bettini, Big Tom Boonen, and Juan Manuel Garate. Bettini is a good one day racer and fair sprinter, and indistinguishable in most respects from almost all the other Italian riders on the ProTour, but especially DiLuca and Pozzato. Except he’s an unfailingly nice guy, totally unlike every single other Italian on the circuit. Big Tom Boonen isn’t a gay pornstar, though that’s what his name sounds like. He is actually a former world championship road race winner, just like Bettini. Boonen is known for saying the first thing that comes to mind, or more often, the first thing that comes to his mouth, usually without ever having passed through his tiny, dinosaur-like brain. Hence his quote upon dropping out of last year’s Tour de France, “the promoters want us to ride without drugs, yet they schedule three straight days in the mountains… absurd.” Juan Manual Garate isn’t much of a rider, he’s only included on this list because Phil Ligget positively adores his name. Moreover, it’s the only name that Ligget can consistently match with the rider; ordinarily, Ligget identifies the riders using other ProTour riders’ names, generated at random by a computer. Quickstep is expected to get a lot of attention from Phil Ligget in the grand tours, because Phil just loves Big Tom Boonen and Juan Manuel Garate, and finding them to be ‘in a spot of bother,’ but the team isn’t expected to do much other than compete for a few sprints, and make everybody wonder if Phil doesn’t have just a bit too much of a man-crush on some of the riders. Which is amazing because the team is primarily Belgian, and the Belgies aren’t exactly known for their model-like good looks.

15. Rabobank. Key Riders: Michael Boogerd, Juan Antonio Flecha Giannone, Oscar Freire, Denis Menchov, Michael Rasmussen. This team is actually comprised of professional criminals whose choice of activity is, you guessed it, robbing banks. Hence the name, which is pronounced, ‘rob a bank.’ Michael Boogerd (pronounced ‘bogart’) is so-named for his propensity to overindulge in a reefer frenzy in the team bus, and this makes him quite unpopular with his teammates, who generally make him attack on long hills just to be rid of him until he blows up, usually about two or three minutes. Juan Antonio Flecha Giannone is a significant rider only because he will be mentioned three hundred times during the Tour de France by Phil Ligget, even if he’s not riding in it. He is not to be confused with Juan Antonio Flecha, another Spaniard. Bobby Julich, Fred Rodriguez, and most of the riders on Astana will be called “Juan Antonio Flecha” by Phil Ligget prior to the end of the TdF, but it will be hard to tell which Juan Antonio Flecha Phil is referring to – don Giannone, or non-don-Giannone. Oscar Freire is included because he sprints as if he were fleeing police, which is often the case. Denis Menchov is included because nobody knows whether his name is pronounced “Dennis” as in Dennis the Menace, or “Denny’s” as in “Denny’s didn’t serve breakfast to those black people, and we’re not surprised.” Michael Rasmussen is included because he is a concentration camp survivor, and if you don’t believe this, google his name until you find a picture of him with his shirt off. He is a walking testimony to man’s inhumanity to himself.

16. Saunier-Duval… IS PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

17. Team CSC. Key Riders: Carlos Sastre, Jens Voigt, David Zabriskie. CSC is the Computer Sciences Corporation. Consequently, most of the riders on the team are actually cyborgs, similar to the Jug Band at Disney World, only capable of better bike handling. Sastre is known as “My Man Sastre, the Mastre of Disastre.” Well, no, he isn’t actually, but he could be because he is basically a blank slate onto which any personality or ability could be projected. The most unknown of the team leaders for the grand tours, Sastre is expected to start each race. Jens Voigt has legs of steel, and a mind made of silly putty. He is probably strong enough a rider to win one of the grand tours one of these years, but cannot resist attacking. That’s actually true. You can etch it in stone. As for David Zabriskie… he’s frickin’ crazy squirelly. But his sister is totally hot and just got engaged to Saul Raisin, who has only half of a brain after a tragic crash. So compared to Dave, he’s probably pretty bright. Team CSC is known in part for its innovative “boot camp” approach to team training, in which Director Bjarne Riijs puts the team through very tough survival training, to help the riders bond and to toughen them up. The approach takes its toll, however. For instance, contrary to popular opinion, Jan Ulrich did not retire from roadracing. He actually signed with CSC early in the season, and attended survival camp with them. They were dropped off on an isolated, barren North Atlantic Island for a week, and told by Rijjs they needed to find a way to survive. Things were going fine and the team was preparing to start base training within a few days, however teammate Dave Zabriskie had forgotten to pack food. Faced with few other options, hardman Jens Voigt slaughtered Ulrich by making him give chase all over the island, and then when Ulrich got too tired, by using a dull rock to dash out Ulrich’s dope-addled brains. Ulrich was picked out because he was by far the fattest member of the team. The rest of the team then feasted on Ulrich’s muscular, but surprisingly well marbled flesh. Upon returning via team helicopter a couple days later, Bjarne Riijs snacked on the leftovers, and swore the remaining team members to never speak of this again. He felt that cannibalism and a solid conspiracy to obstruct justice would be a good exercise in team bonding. In the grand tours, Team CSC is predicted to Make Your Individuality Part of Its Own… Resistance is Futile.

18. Milram. Key Riders: Alessandro Pettachi. Erik Zabel. Alessandro Petacchi is the greatest sprinter in the world with a non-functioning knee. Functionally speaking, he is about as fast as the guy who gets dropped in technical corners in the local C training crit series. But Milram just signed him to an enormous contract, they built the entire team around him, and he has a really cool nickname (“Allie-Jet”) so they don’t feel they can deviate from the plan, it would screw up jersey sales, you know? Consequently, they picked up sometime-sprinter Erik Zabel to help out with the fabled Milram leadout train. Zabel is well known for being a good sprinter, and a thoroughly disruptive presence on any team with another star. J.D. Drew and Team Cancer Gary Sheffield are generally compared favorably to Zabel’s affect on a team. Milram typically rolls into the final 10 kilometers of any race in an impressive eight man long leadout train. As if a single unit, they push the speed to unthinkable levels, dragging their protected sprinter (Allie Jet) to within 200 meters of the line, shedding riders out the back of the peloton like a meth freak shedding teeth. They grind the other teams down, and in a perfectly timed maneuver, the Milram leadout men peel off to the side one at a time, totally blown out, but satisfied in having done a perfect job of controlling the pack, pushing the pace, and delivering their star sprinter to the moment of truth. At that point, Robbie McEwen typically pops out from behind Petacchi and sprints to the line for the win. That too, is the God’s honest truth. Sad, but there it is. Sponsor Milram (“Military Ram”) produces a line of woolen products for NATO military forces, such as goatswool body armor, cashmere artillery shells, and cable-knit bayonets. Some criticize these woolen weapons as inferior to modern weaponry constructed from C-4 explosive, steel, copper, and titanium, but as anybody who has used wool will tell you, it is superior to this new school garbage. Besides, when wool body armor gets wet, it still keeps you quite warm, unlike that modern, supposedly superior Kevlar stuff. It’s far better – even if it does make your nipples bleed on long rides. Milram is picked to ride pretty impressively in all stages of the grand tours, right up to about 200 meters from the finish. They are also predicted to be quite warm, albeit a little smelly and itchy, regardless of the weather.

19. T-Mobile. I can write about this team, but only at off-peak hours, and on weekends. Since I’m in a two-year deal to keep rates low, I can’t renegotiate the deal to write about them now. Matter of fact, that’s 53 seconds of writing, and I had better stop now or I will be charged roaming fees. Michael Barry rides for T-Mobile, and he had a pretty good humor column and a TV show for a couple years there. Or am I thinking Marion Barry?

20. Unibet. Key Riders: Minnesota Watts, Fast Eddie Felson, Big John. Okay, let me get this straight. Lotto is a gambling house. Francais des Jeaux is sponsored by the French national lottery. Astana is owned by Kazakhstanis. Rabobank and Credit Agricole are investment banks among other things, and Bouyges Telecom and T-Mobile are telecom monopolists. Fifty riders are believed to be implicated heavily in Eufemiano’s little doping operation, and the French lab charged with testing riders for dope appears to be more crooked than your average machine politician. But the Pro Tour has a problem with Unibet because its primary line of business involves gambling, and that would give cycling an unsavory image? Mmmmmkay…

Did you people read this far? Okay, fine. The Team: Fatty’s Friends. Key Riders: All of you knuckleheads. While Fatty’s friends are not predicted to do much in the upcoming grand tours, they have generally been singled out by most commentators as solid supporting riders, willing to carry a load even if their protected rider isn’t always capable of sharing his burdens with the team. They are predicted to do just fine, although as fat cyclists, they are expected to ‘get in a spot of bother’ in the climbing stages.


  1. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 05.10.2007 | 7:36 am

    I suddenly became very depressed.

  2. Comment by cheapie | 05.10.2007 | 7:39 am

    it will be very, very interesting to see who is actually left riding by the Giro and TDF.

  3. Comment by dug | 05.10.2007 | 8:14 am

    i’m in a spot of bother. it’s not as bad as you’d think.

  4. Comment by Lurch | 05.10.2007 | 8:34 am

    T-T-T-T-Too Much Time On My Hands, I’ve got too much time on my hands….

  5. Comment by bikemike | 05.10.2007 | 8:35 am


  6. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 05.10.2007 | 9:26 am

    Totally worth reading.

    Al, you’re a freak of nature. Great stuff.

  7. Comment by monkeywebb | 05.10.2007 | 9:47 am

    Prolific too be sure, but I need more. Since there’s a greater likelyhood that I’ll see some of the domestic teams (or already have), how ’bouts a rundown of a few of those? I’d like to hear your take on the categories of team sponsors, namely food (Slipstream-Chipotle, Jelly Belly, Colavita/Sutter Home) and insurance companies (Priority Health, Healthnet, Navigators). I don’t think you need to review Toyota-United. Those comments aren’t appropriate for a family-friendly blog.

  8. Comment by DOM | 05.10.2007 | 10:42 am

    This might be the funniest thing I’ve read since the open letter to Assos.

  9. Comment by MAJ Mike | 05.10.2007 | 11:10 am

    How did I miss the open letter to Assos?
    Perhaps I was too busy imagining myself with a luxory body, or perhaps inventing reasons to use the term “luxory body.”

    Hysterical, Al. Put yourself in for a 4 day pass.

  10. Comment by mark | 05.10.2007 | 11:58 am

    My lunch break is about to end, and I only made it through Euskatel-Euskadi. I’ll have to come back and finish later.

    BTW, Al, I finally figured out what your name means. And to think that I briefly wondered why you were the only one using first and last name. Silly me.

  11. Comment by fatty | 05.10.2007 | 12:36 pm

    “Harry Spalmlicker”

    “My Man Sastre, the Mastre of Disastre.”


    “greatest sprinter in the world with a non-functioning knee.”

    Al, this is a work of art. Thanks for putting it in my blog.

  12. Comment by Al Maviva | 05.10.2007 | 12:40 pm

    Botched, don’t be depressed. Someday, you too will learn to read and these long posts with “words” and “punctuation” won’t bother you.

    Dug, I would be disappointed if you weren’t in a spot of bother. More to the point, I expect you to be the botherer.

    Maj Mike, thanks. I’m going to print that comment and take the rest of the week off. I’m pretty sure my boss will accept it.

    Mark, AlMa viva means “lively spirit” or “spirit of life.” It’s also the name of one of my favorite characters from various comic operas’ themed around Seville / Figaro – Count Almaviva is the always-frustrated, overly aggressive fool, who has a great time being foolish, inadvertantly exposing the truth and helping others learn to enjoy what they have, fall in love, or to dance around the room singing ridiculously pleasant Italian lyrics. It seemed to fit.

    Botched – seriously, don’t be bummed. The dope is bad, the grand tours are up in the air, but we have a lot of special one-day racers working right now, Bettini, DiLuca, Boonen, Cancellara, too many very good ones to name. Appreciate it the game for what it is, and don’t be troubled by the meta-problems, which will surely shake out. They always do.

  13. Comment by Brewinman | 05.10.2007 | 12:54 pm

    My eyeballs hurt…

  14. Comment by Byrdbth | 05.10.2007 | 1:22 pm

    Well, that made my day…

  15. Comment by TimK | 05.10.2007 | 1:33 pm

    I think that we should have a team EPO Nima consisting of the “alleged” dopers riding doped without denying it. (imagine an all-stars team if you will – Floyd, Jan, Tyler, Ivan – all on the same team) And hell we could add a couple of non-cyclist celebrities willing to put crazy crap into their bodies, team captain Keith Richards with a damned camelbak IV and a smoke in his mouth leading the break away up the hills.

  16. Comment by The Neil | 05.10.2007 | 2:43 pm

    Total time this window was open: 6.5 hours
    How many times co-workers caught me looking at it: 11
    Number of times I thought “Oh Geez, everyone needs to read this!”, and then realized that only cyclists would think it was funny: 4
    Number of times my boss caught me reading this: 3
    Number of times I LOL’ed (“laughed out loud”-for the common person): 4.5

    What this is worth: Friggin Priceless!!!

    Nice work Al

    (amount of times I thought while writing this reply that it was in fact “descending like a stone”: 2)

  17. Comment by aussie kev | 05.10.2007 | 2:49 pm

    “shedding riders out the back of the peloton like a meth freak shedding teeth” for the Milram team – awesome phrase !!!

  18. Comment by Tg | 05.10.2007 | 3:09 pm

    Al-an insightful masterpiece!

  19. Comment by FliesOnly | 05.10.2007 | 4:35 pm

    …”Cadel’s wedding tackle”…

    I spit a mouthful of chocolate shake all over my keyboard.

  20. Comment by Born4Lycra | 05.10.2007 | 7:40 pm

    Regards Euskaltel I care and where’s the mention of our man O’Grady at CSC.
    It’s still brilliant tho.

  21. Comment by Argentius | 05.10.2007 | 11:10 pm

    There is absolutely no way I’m getting through all that…

    Still, cheers. There were some funny bits from what I skimmed.

    Apparently I have been reading too many british magazines, as well.

  22. Comment by Weean | 05.11.2007 | 1:15 am

    Euskatel are a purely Basque team that ride in orange in a tribute to the people of the Ukraine, who have also been historically ruled by people linguistically, culturally and ethnically different from themselves. They ride a bike model called the Orca, again in tribute to one who was long under communist rule (Jan Ullrich). Their main man for the grand tours is Iban Mayo, who wears a different coloured jersey from the rest of the team because he rides for Saunier-Duval.

    Hope that helped, born4!

  23. Comment by flossy | 05.11.2007 | 1:51 am

    Thanks Al, I have had a crap day. Sat down to read this with a large glass of red. My equilibrium is restored!

  24. Comment by Pista Largo | 05.11.2007 | 4:54 am

    It’s nice to finally find out what’s REALLY going on.

  25. Comment by Uncadan8 | 05.11.2007 | 5:09 am

    Brilliant! (And I just realized that sounded like that blasted gum commercial.) Worth reading every word. As always.

  26. Comment by gian | 05.11.2007 | 6:03 am

    im already “on the rivet”.

  27. Comment by Boz | 05.11.2007 | 7:02 am

    Al – I don’t believe you are actually real. No one human besides myself could come up with the brilliant writings that you routinely publish in such a short period of time. Are you really several bored idiot- savants hooked on cycling and K-mart underwear, sitting in mom’s basement and typing while looking at porn on another screen? BTW, Al also writes brilliant social commentary over at Cold Fury ( those that didn’t know already). This was another classic contibution, please keep it up. Writing, that is.

  28. Comment by LeMyke | 05.11.2007 | 7:52 am

    Al must have a long commute to work on his bike. I have an hour ride each way and I have some really interesting conversations with myself. I should blog them each day.

  29. Comment by Lowrydr | 05.11.2007 | 9:57 am

    Al, machine politicians, now that I can relate to here in the Bread basket of the U.S. We have to put up with them all the time. And thanks for this one. My boss heard me laughing and handed me another big stack of paperwork. So much for getting out of here early on a Friday. Just THANK-YOU Al. It was great reading.

  30. Comment by Clydesteve | 05.11.2007 | 1:36 pm

    Alma viva? And all this time, I have been reading it as Al Mal Viva – “AL – bad life” huunh.

    Great writeup. I sniffed when Fatty suggested it would take 2 lunch hours, but the reality, with interruptions, was that I did have to take pats of 2 different days to finish it.

    The name Française Des Jeux, which means “French Pleasuring,”

    Heh! I actually started making up fake translations for the teams last year during the 2006 TdF. This is pretty close to my translation, which is probably not printable. Credit Agricole translation: the French Bank of Coleslaw.


  31. Comment by Mrs. Coach | 05.11.2007 | 2:56 pm

    Holy crap (yes, I’m from UT) Al, how do you come up with this stuff?

    I really did need two lunch hours to read it.

  32. Comment by LanterneRouge | 05.12.2007 | 1:11 pm

    I gotta say that the best looking uniforms in the Giro d’Italia Team TT on Saturday belonged to Caisse d’Epargne. The uniforms were a good match to Al’s loose name translation “House of Pain”. Sure they finished 9th, but what do you expect, they are a french team. cyclingnews.com has some great pictures of all the teams.

  33. Comment by Tim D | 05.12.2007 | 1:54 pm

    Just finished watching. The real House of Pain has to be Euskatel. That guy really slid. I don’t think I need an Italian lip reading expert to tell me what di Luca was yelling at the lead chap.

  34. Comment by barry1021 | 05.13.2007 | 3:25 am

    Mon dieu, I have wet myself again….


  35. Comment by Al Maviva | 05.13.2007 | 4:56 pm

    Mrs. Coach, I take more drugs than Barry 1021. That’s how I come up with it.

    TimD – indeed, Euskatel is the Real House of Pain. God forbid you ever had to ride a mile in their shoes. Cause then you really might know what it’s like to sing the blues.

    Barry – I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. You need to stop drinking a fifth of 151 and two quarts of milk before you take your afternoon nap. Trust me on this one – it worked for me. Like magic.

  36. Comment by redfrogs | 05.13.2007 | 7:49 pm

    You picked it exactly! text from this mornings paper:

    Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi, who was set up for the sprint by his team-mates, was overtaken in the last 100 metres by McEwen after he had tucked in behind Petacchi’s back wheel.


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