Blazin' Saddles

  • Saddles Down Under

    Alejandro Valverde at the Tour Down UnderThe first race of the 2012 season gets underway next week — and it marks the return of fallen hero Alejandro "I didn't do it" Valverde.

    The presence of The Green Bullet is but one sub-plot of a race that is shaping up to be a real humdinger of a Tour Down Under. Lucky for Yahoo-Eurosport! readers then that Saddles himself will be following the race live — in a series of team cars, with the fans on Old Willunga Hill, and up in the air in one of the official race helicopters. Ah, it's a hard life Down Under...

    Valverde aside, the biggest story is clearly GreenEDGE's maiden WorldTour performance

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  • Grey matter

    Last year the Schlecks sunk sartorial substratum with those naff neckerchiefs — but this year's grey cardigans at the RadioShack-Nissan launch plummeted fresh depths of fashion foibles.

    Never must it have crossed Johan Bruyneel's mind, while he was winning those seven consecutive Tours with Lance Armstrong, that one day he'd become a music mogul dressed head to toe in all black, Simon Cowell-style, on the Boulevard du Rock 'n Roll in Luxembourg's second (!) town of Esch-sur-Alzette - famed for its miniature railway - and surrounded by a boy band dressed in white V-neck T-shirts and grey

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  • Looking ahead to 2012

    With 2012 fast approaching, Saddles tries to answer the five questions that could define the coming season.

    Will Alberto Contador be cleared to ride?

    When Bertie was flagged up for having beef in his blood a year and a half ago, no one thought his case would still be unsettled going into 2012. As it is, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will finally issue its ruling in the middle of January — and the drip-down affect is something that will run through the peloton quicker than a FDJ rider swept up after another futile breakaway.

    Should Contador be cleared, then there's every reason to believe

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  • 2011 remembered

    Omega Pharma-Lotto rider Philippe Gilbert and BMC Racing Team rider Cadel Evans

    As the new year fast approaches, Blazin' Saddles takes a look back at the key moments of the 2011 season.

    With 2012 set to be the year of the super-team, it's perhaps fitting that three of the main protagonists of the past 12 months will all be riding at the same team next year. So, what better way to get this 2011 review underway than through this BMC trident?

    Cadel Evans took universal plaudits in July when he became the first Australian to win a Grand Tour, leaving it late — the penultimate stage, in fact — to seize the Tour de France yellow jersey from the frail shoulders of Andy Schleck

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  • Head in the Sky, feet on the ground

    Mark CavendishWhen Sky first entered the professional peloton as the sponsor of Dave Brailsford's British-based cycling team it put Sky Sports News in a bit of a quandary.

    You see, the 24-hour rolling sports news channel renowned for sturdy smidgens of sensationalism struggles at the best of times when promoting mainstream sports from an unbiased point of view.

    But the sponsorship deal between Sky and a cycling team meant that - all of a sudden - Sky Sports News was on terra incognita. Seeing their blonde totty and cheesy male presenters grapple with a sport that wasn't football, golf or cricket was a

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  • Best of British

    It's typical that on a day Britain secured its
    best ever results in a Grand Tour, the armchair critics get their knives out to
    dissect the Woome.

    On an historic occasion for both Britain and Team Sky, Chris Froome and Bradley
    Wiggins stood either side of Vuelta winner Juan Jose Cobo in Madrid - the first
    time two British riders have made the podium in one of cycling's three biggest
    events.

    But as the remaining 167 riders zipped through the streets of Madrid, you can
    bet fickle British cycling fans wholly devoid of any stage-race sense were
    complaining about a lack of attack from Team Sky.

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  • Vuelta wrap

    If you were to order a "Vuelta wrap" from
    your local sandwich shop you'd probably expect something with a rather tired
    and dry filling.

    It would be made with the remnants of the kitchen
    cupboard, throwing in bits from the back of the fridge together with some
    ingredients which had clearly seen better days, alongside others that were
    undeniably tasty - but unproven in the sandwich wrap stakes.

    The whole thing would be a totally maverick operation
    - the chef would be making things up as he went along, while the waitering
    staff would often change orders at the last minute depending on who was on

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  • Sentences and suspense

    If ever there was an advertisement highlighting the folly of doping, it was the live internet podcast with Floyd Landis and Joe Papp that took place last Sunday evening.

    The two convicted dopers - both of whom have recently received suspended sentences for subsequent doping-related misdemeanours - were guests on the weekly Tour Chats discussion forum, hosted by affable US cycling journalist Neil Browne.

    Sporting a blue lumberjack shirt ("Two dollars from a sales rack in Gap") and long shaggy locks ("Obviously, I have a personal hair stylist"), Landis was up first.

    Looking a shadow of the man

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  • Accountant marries fisherman

    Saddles learnt this week - albeit from the unlikely source
    of the Katusha Facebook page - of the recent nuptials of Alberto Contador and
    his childhood sweetheart.

    Translating the story (already itself pranged haphazardly
    from Spanish into Russian) via a popular online language altering device made
    for a startling discovery.

    Indeed, it first seemed that not only had Bertie given up
    cycling for accountancy, he had taken his anti-meat stance to new alarming
    levels by marrying a fisherman while singing the Bayside Boys remix of the Los
    del Rio hit song, Macarena.

    Of course, this was just a false

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  • Vaughters’s Sugar daddy

    With Jonathan Vaughters desperately seeking a new
    sponsor, could Sir Alan Sugar of Amstrad and UK Apprentice fame become Garmin's
    new big mate?

    It's been a tricky start to the off-season for
    Vaughter's Garmin-Cervelo outfit. A couple of weeks back, they had reached an
    estimated $5 million agreement with French building material distributor BigMat
    to clamber aboard as the team's co-sponsor for the 2012 season.

    Then, with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders combined -
    no doubt - with a pensive 'bof', BigMat reneged on their letter of intent just
    hours before the team were required to submit the

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