Blazin' Saddles

Blanco go Commando

Blazin' Saddles

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Somewhere, somehow, someone's going to pay. That was the tagline for the 1985 American action-comedy Commando – and if reports are to be believed, that's very much what's going down behind the scenes at Blanco Pro Cycling.

In the cult classic film, retired Delta Force operative Colonal John Matrix (played with flat-top Teutonic gusto by Arnold Schwarzenegger) finds himself and his family under attack by a group of Hispanic mercenaries led by an ex-member of Matrix's team.

Arnie's daughter is kidnapped and the man himself captured in a bid to force him to bring about a military coup by carrying out a political assassination in the fictional country of – funnily enough – Val Verde. But when our movie star escapes, carnage ensues; because no-one – especially baddies during the action movie business of the 80s and 90s – f***s with Arnie.

Blanco, it seems, have gone down this route.

Earlier in the week, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that the team formerly known as Rabobank had employed an ex-military commando to intimidate its riders and interrogate them in the team's internal anti-doping investigation.

Clearly thinking that Team Sky's notorious zero-tolerance approach was small fry, Blanco have gone out for full warfare: you sign the document and tell us the truth or we set up a Homeland-style interrogation with a burly former paratrooper called – wait for it – Eelco Wisman.

Try saying that name in an Arnie accent without s***ing a brick.

The Dutch media had a field day, reporting that this ex-forces soldier was also a specialist in hypnosis and advanced interrogation techniques who, no doubt, carried around a case of truth serum at all times.

An anonymous (which usually means 'made up' when it comes to the media nowadays) rider was quoted as saying: "His presence is intimidating. He observes and asks questions. Some interviews lasted more than an hour. It feels like we are treated like criminals."

On the day the Telegraaf article was published, Blanco riders and staff broke their silence about the ordeals they had been put through.

"The waterboarding was indeed not so good," tweeted Theo Bos, his form in Malaysia evidently going downhill once reminded about his grilling by the fierce commando.

"Can someone please help? I'm hanging upside down with jump cables attached to my nipples and a hollow funnel strapped to my mouth," implored directeur sportif Michiel Elijzen.

"You're lucky – yesterday they cut off my big toe," replied mechanic Joost Hoetelmans.

For his part, Robert Gesink complained that he had "spend a week tied to a chair and forced to watch re-runs of Bassie & Adriaan" – with reference to a TV-friendly Dutch circus duo from the 80s. To be fair to Gesink, watching him ride the last few Grand Tours has been much like seeing the circus come to town – so his time in the hands of Wisman couldn't have been too traumatic.

Blanco team manager Richard Plugge was quick to dispel some of the rumours. Far from being a former SAS operative, Eelco Wisman was in fact merely a mental coach and independent observer.

"Yes, maybe 20 years ago he was a commando," Plugge told Cyclingnews, "but after that he was a sports instructor for the commandos."

In one fell swoop, Wisman had gone from being Arnold Schwarzenegger to Emilio Estevez. The guy's nothing but a glorified P.E. teacher acting as a third party during interviews. Far from being a Commando, he's effectively the coach of the Mighty Ducks.

Plugge confirmed this to Cyclingnews, saying Wisman had been sitting in during the interview and questioning process as "an independent individual who can help me or the other party on the side of the table as well".

"It can be emotional," added Plugge – adding 'agony uncle' alongside 'sports instructor' and 'former commando' to Wisman's impressively expanding CV.

Blanco rider Maarten Wynants confirmed that everything has been blown out of proportion. "I was shocked when I read in De Telegraaf about the 'prisoner' techniques being employed," the Belgian said. "My experience of the man was totally different. It was a constructive conversation that lasted about ten minutes. I have nothing to hide and the chat was led by team manager Richard Plugge anyway."

Blanco have enjoyed a fine season so far, picking up ten wins since a turbulent winter saw them lose their longstanding main sponsor Rabobank in the wake of a series of lurid doping revelations involving the likes of Thomas Dekker, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen and Michael Boogerd.

All three Dutch World Tour teams are said to be putting on a united front in the quest to fight doping. Under an agreement with the Dutch Anti-Doping Authority and the Dutch cycling federation, any riders at Blanco, Argos-Shimano and Vacansoleil-DCM who admit to a past doping infringement during the years 1993 to 2008 will be given a shortened six-month ban in a bid to encourage certain figures to come forward.

Kenny Van Hummel's apparent absence from the peloton for what appears to be well over six months now is said to be entirely unrelated to these measures.

It is rumoured that Vacansoleil-DCM are interested in luring a Rambo-style figure to sit in on their own internal investigations. Meanwhile, Bruce Willis's publicist has confirmed that Argos-Shimano have been in touch regarding his client's availability.

An online video showing two Blanco youth riders "bidon boarding" a team-mate has been removed from the internet. It has also been remarked that Mr Wisman dabbles as a nutritionist and has been employed as a cook for serving commandos.

And finally, Blanco has confirmed that the addition of a commando in their ranks will not alter the team's dress code for the coming season; that's to say, shorts will continue to be worn even once the weather improves. Anyone who doesn't adhere to this will be slapped across the buttocks with a six-month ban.

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