Blazin' Saddles

Farcical finale

Blazin' Saddles

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There can be no gripes with the cycling, but didn't race organisers make a complete hash of Saturday's supposed queen stage in the Giro?

First, they spend weeks (and loads of money) ensuring that the controversial Monte Crostis descent is made safe by fitting it with ski netting and the like - only to decide (correctly, it has to be said) that it was just too dangerous (something Saddles could have told them for free 12 months ago).

So the Crostis was scrapped at the 11th hour on Friday night - but then so too was the replacement mountain, the second-category Taulis; although not until about 10 minutes before the riders were about to hit its slopes.

As such, a stage which had 35km left too run all of a sudden was whittled down to 15km. This, of course, posed a problem for the peloton had let a three-man breakaway ride 12 minutes further up the road.

Cue some frantic pace setting by Liquigas who split the pack before the final ascent of the Zoncolan had already started.

Talk about a farce. Forget talk of failing to pull off a p*ss up in a brewery - it seems you could throw the Giro organisers into a US Postal team bus and they wouldn't even be able to organise a big (alleged) EPO fest with a load of (alleged) testosterone shooters and (alleged) PED pick-me-ups.

The small fish didn't exactly crown themselves in glory either: at one point, a steward in charge of directing team cars off the road made a complete balls-up of his job and sent John Gadret the wrong way.

Realising his mistake, the bald Frenchman had to do an about-turn before sprinting to get back in touch with the peloton. Hardly an ideal way to start what is largely viewed as the race's most arduous challenge!

A few kilometres later, one of the race motorbikes broke down, the overheated heap of metal billowing smoke as Igor Anton fought to keep his rivals at bay on his way to sealing the biggest victory of his career atop the vertiginous slope.

And what of the Italian 'tifosi'? It has to be said, they hardly fared much better. Granted, there were no lunatics running alongside riders in Viking hats or Borat-style mankinis, but the Italian fans certainly wore their colours on their sleeves, giving home favourite Michele Scarponi a push up the hill on one occasion, and booing heavily when Alberto Contador crossed the line to make it a Spanish one-two.

Although some people are claiming that the fans weren't booing so much as mooing. If this is the case, then Saddles applauds their originality - as he does to the people who rather ingeniously attached pink balloons around the necks of a herd of cattle.

On that note, Saddles will call it a day. After all, it's approaching 6pm and didn't some crackpot American evangelist predict the end of the world to begin quite precisely at the moment?

Of course, for some Americans the end of the world came a day earlier after they found themselves reportedly stabbed in the back - or Shincapped, if you will - by one of their most trusted allies and friends.

But Et tu, George? is an entirely different story - and one for another day.

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