Well, the 2010 Tour wrapped up with no more surprises and now we have made an early entry into what is known as "the silly season". Teams are forbidden by the UCI from announcing until September 1 the signing of riders currently under contract to other teams, but.... as usual, it's all over the news.
Alberto Contador is going to SaxoBank: This rates as a surprise in that as late as half way through the Tour, he was still showing the love for Astana and seemed ready to sign on for a couple of more years. Love is fickle, as is Alberto, apparently. Maybe he feigned the romance through the race because he feared attacks from Vino, who behaved admirably as an able lieutenant, or perhaps he just didn't want to risk riding another Tour with the drama of a divided team. Probably as big a surprise as Alberto's defection is that SaxoBank has elected to remain as a ProTour sponsor for another year. It was widely rumored that Specialized would be the new team sponsor, a notion that was reinforced by Astana's complaints that Specialized had driven the deal to put Contador on the team of Bjarne Riis. In addition to serving as team bike sponsor for both Astansa and Saxo Bank, Specialized has a personal sponsorship deal with Contador, so wherever he went, the team would likely be on Specialized equipment.
Frank and Andy Schleck are going...well, somewhere: likely the announced new Luxembourg based team being run with the help of Saxo refugee, Kim Anderson. The team sponsors have not yet been announced and there is some speculation that the deal will not come together in time for the 2011 season, which would be VERY interesting. That unlikely prospect would leave the Schlecks looking for a team for a single season. Radio Shack has shown great interest, and even a one year deal could be attractive. With the great competition between Contador and Andy Schleck, it would be a hell of a lot of fun and would give Lance Armsrtong and Johan Bruyneel another shot at dethroning Contador.Everybody's favorite toughest nice guy, Jens Voigt, is going along with the Schlecks. It looks like strong man Fabian Cancellara is staying put with Riis.
It appears that Michael Rasmussan, aka "The Chicken" and Ricardo Ricco are poised to return to the ProTour ranks after suspensions and stints with lower tier teams. Ramussan, as you may recall, was dismissed by Rabobank while wearing the yellow jersey for not properly reporting his whereabouts prior to the Tour. He never tested positive, but skated testing procedures with his shenanigans. Ricco was plain old busted. The Italian is an exciting climber with an attacking style, but is a bit of an ass.
U.S. Postal probe continues. There are many more notable transfers and team announcements to be made, but this silly season is young! Unfortunately, the bigger headlines are likely to be made by the ongoing investigation of the US Postal Team in which Lance Armstrong once again will be the star. I'd rather the whole thing just go away, but we know it will not.
I have to ask: If Armstrong is stripped of his Tour titles, who won?
My question is, if it is proven that Armstrong doped, who becomes the winner? Let's look at every podium finisher in the Lance Era. Jan Ulrich? Nope, doper. Ivan Basso? Nope, doper. Andreas Kloden? Teammate of both Ulrich and Armstrong. Probably guilty if they are. Joseba Beloki? linked to Operacion Puerto. Vinokourov? Doper. 2002 3rd place finisher Raimondos Rumsas, a Lithuanian rider who obviously made a splash, but that Im not familiar with? His wife was jailed in France in August of 2002, charged with arranging and supplying doping products. Unlikely that he would pass the test? The only podium finishers between 1999 and 2005 for whom I found no doping connection are from 1999, 2nd place finisher Alex Zulle and 3rd place Fernando Escartin. My research was cursory, so they could easily have slipped through my investigative net. In the years immediately prior to Armstrong's string of victories, the winners were Marco Pantani in 1999, doper, Jan Ulrich in 1998, doper, and Bjarne Riis in 1996, who admitted in 1997 that he had used EPO to win the Tour. I don't want to piss off the Spanish by picking on Miguel Induran, who won five in a row from 1991-1995, but Greg Lemond thinks everybody but him was doping from 1990 onward. The only part about that assumption that is suspicious is that LeMond was above it all. He points to average speeds and rates of ascent as proof of doping, yet he still holds the Tour de France speed record for individual time trials over 20K in length (Versailles-Paris, 1989, 54.361 kph). And he did that with some tri-bars stuck onto a road bike and an aero helmet- none of the advanced TT specific gear and bikes that riders enjoy today. You can decide about LeMond, but folks like Fabian Cancellara have never beaten his speed and Cancellara has been accused of having an electric motor!
If we want to keep digging, it was revealed that the 1984 US Olympic Cycling Team engaged in blood transfusions....
My point in pulling up all of this muck is that much harm can be done and little real good by going after a select few high profile folks and imposing the standards of today upon actions taken years ago. Sometimes the absolutes of right and wrong are not so absolute and it's just time to move on.