Blazin' Saddles

  • Johnny collared?

    Vacansoleil-DCM are rumoured to be considering sports psychology sessions for their anxiety-ridden rider Johnny Hoogerland, who is set to sit out the first waffle of Belgian classics while he cobbles together a plan to beat the demons in his head and maybe, just maybe, one day stand on top of the podium for anything other than a Most Combative Rider award or a token KOM jersey.

    Inside sources have disclosed to Saddles (ie. this bit has partially been made up) that Vacansoleil-RunDMC team management have given the 28-year-old compulsive live-wire a series of questions for him to ponder over

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  • Cavarotti

    There's more to Cav than a Page 3 birdHe's full of surprises is that Mark Cavendish. Who would have thought someone so tough and macho would not only be into ballroom dancing but also have a penchant for opera?

    A video interview with Cavendish and his Sky team-mate-slash-human-zimmer-frame Bernard Eisel on the popular sharing website YouTube sees the world champion compare this weekend's Milan-San Remo race to an opera.

    "Milan-San Remo is the perfect example of an Italian-style race," he started ominously, prompting Saddles to think of examples of non-Italian-style races held in Italy.

    In a fabulous piece of erudite analogy, Cav

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  • Nicolas Roche Q&A

    Saddles teamed up with his pal Joe Papp to interview Ag2r all-rounder Nico Roche ahead of this week's Paris-Nice. The 27-year-old, who lives in Switzerland when not racing around Europe (and Beijing), is currently trying his best to secure a maiden European ProTour stage win at Paris-Nice, a race very dear to his heart.

    AG2R La Mondiale's Nicolas Roche

    Top of the morning, Nico. Or should that be bonjour?

    No! I see myself as 100 percent Irish. I'm very attached to my Irish roots and it's worrying to see what's going on at home. I preferred it when the Celtic tiger was alive and kicking rather than the recession.

    To be sure,

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  • Marauding Mariani

    Consumed, but by what? Read the book...This week, Saddles has mostly been reading about the trials and tribulations of stellar Eastern European rouleur Romain Mariani of the Gazin-Regus PMP team.

    There's a good reason why you've never heard of him: Mariani is pure fiction — the leading character in a gothic cycling novel coming out later this summer.

    Entitled 'Consumed', the first 10 chapters of the book will be available to download in June while 200 limited edition illustrated copies will be up for grabs in a deluxe musette-style package.

    The novel is set mostly within the World Tour and follows the 26-year-old Mariani's

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  • Index system in dreamland

    Scarponi: The dream of a diseased mind (Imago)Saddles had a dream last night. Reading the latest gossip on fastfoodnews.com, your favourite cycling doodler came across a rum story which said Pizza Hut had climbed up the PIG Healthy Fast Food Index at the expense of McDonald's (which had been disqualified following concerns about the quality of its cuts of beef).

    In this peculiarly vivid dream, Saddles remembering being wryly amused by the irony of such a situation — and then the dream took on another mind-boggling direction.

    Dressed in the pink and blue of Lampre and coughing his guts up while trying perform a capella alongside Frank

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  • Not so classic Belgian

    Every now and then one of your rivals does something so spectacularly brilliant that you have to put up your hands in admiration and pat them on the back.

    Usually this scenario co-exists with someone else, as a direct result of the brilliance, making an absolute howler; and more often than not, it is this abject floundering that makes the initial piece of play so much more delightful.

    Take, for example, Alberto Contador's attack on the Col de Manse in stage 16 of the Tour de France last year, which split up the pack and led to utterly madcap scenes during a fast descent into Gap, during which

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  • Hero to zero (comma) zero zero…

    Contador contemplates another veal solomillo

    The dust has finally settled on the shock decision to give high-flying Alberto Contador the same punishment for having clenbuterol in his system as that Chinese bloke no one had heard of.

    To help get your head around the complicated case, Saddles now presents an alternative Contador Q&A with questions coming from an imaginary inquisitive fan (a.k.a. Saddles' niece Stabi Lisa).

    Q. Thanks for the introduction, Uncle Saddles. You say it was the same outcome as that previous case, but it wasn't really, was it?

    Well, not entirely. The Chinese rider in question, Li Fuyu, was sacked by his team, was

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  • Smile for the camera

    The Lampre team presentation (Lampre)

    Little Matt Lloyd pouts while pulling a "who's your daddy" pose, slapping away at an imaginary backside with his right hand while pointing to the heavens with his left.

    Not, this wasn't Saddles' nightmare from last night — it's the grim reality of Lampre-ISD's new season kit photos.

    Yes, it's that time of year again as riders line up for their official team presentations before goofing around in front of the camera for some cringeworthy staged shots.

    The Lampre pictures were quite extraordinary. Australian Lloyd looked more Italian than the rest of the team — which isn't surprising, given

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  • Bunged-up Bozic opens up

    Boruz Bozic talking with SaddlesLast week at the Tour Down Under, Slovenian sprinter Boruz Bozic took some time out before a post-race massage to chat with Blazin' Saddles.

    A sweltering day on the road saw a sick Bozic struggle to keep up with the peloton, the new Astana rider finishing the undulating stage to Stirling more than 13 minutes down on solo winner Will Clarke of Tasmania.

    BS: What happened today?

    BB: It's simple, I'm not good enough [laughs]. I've been a bit sick since the first training camp and I'm a little bit behind with everything. In the first race, if you're not ready you feel it more.

    What happened with

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  • Kangaroo Kenny

    Kenny van Hummel's kangaroo braceletKenny van Hummel really wants to see a kangaroo. The Tour Down Under is over half way through but still Kenny's waiting to see that elusive hopping musette marsupial.

    The Dutch sprinter won't settle for the two tame baby joeys the race organisers bring out at the start of each stage; nor does a sighting of Heinrich Haussler — the German Kangaroo — count.

    It has to be a proper roo, out in the open bouncing around amid mother nature's most stunning scenery (such as Andre Greipel's thighs or the delightful Santos podium girls, for instance).

    "I still haven't seen a kangaroo in the wild yet,"

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