This week Alberto Contador went to great lengths to rebuild his slightly tarnished reputation amongst cycling purists by claiming that, bueno, he wanted dopers out of the sport.
'Come on Bert,' thought Saddles. 'Things may be on the line with the whole Saxo WorldTour tightrope but isn't threatening to retire from cycling a bit over the top?'
Talk about shooting oneself in the foot. It's a bit like hearing that Roberto Ferrari has joined an active alliance against swerving sprinters — or Thomas Voeckler has signed a Stephen Roche-inspired petition to force all riders to keep their shirts zipped up at all times.
"For cycling, it should be zero tolerance," stressed Contador while channelling his inner Dave Brailsford. "It's clear that there is no place for cheaters," he added, perhaps pre-empting the rise of hands in the UCI office next week when Pat McQuaid takes to the stage and says, "Well now — all those in favour of Argos-Shimano?"
Taking the rest of the Spaniard's interview with French TV into consideration, it becomes very clear that Contador — much akin to the likes of Lance Armstrong and Alexandre Vinokourov before him — is still in complete denial about his previous misdemeanours.
His 2010 Tour disqualification was "an injustice", said Contador between games of topless football and beach volleyball on Saxo-Tinkoff's training camp in Gran Canaria.
With Bertie clearly eager to get the world off his chest, his French interviewers smelt blood. What about his claim earlier in the autumn that Armstrong was a legend of the sport, that he would be sorely missed from cycling, and that he was being "humiliated and lynched" by the whole world purely because some former doping cheat had teamed up with a honey-tongued sports writer to pen an award-winning fabrication of blood-soaked lies?
"My words were misinterpreted," Contador replied, his face suddenly downcast as if it were rain on his wedding day.
"I was just being ironic when I said he would be missed," he said, desperately fishing for a knife in a drawer of ten thousand spoons.
"If Armstrong is judged, and is considered guilty, then he should be punished."
Now, Alberto, Saddles will tell you what is really ironic: and that is someone who himself was judged, considered guilty, and duly punished, coming out with all this zero tolerance guff for the cameras, while at the same time stringently reiterating his innocence, before drawing the sword on the same man who continues to toe precisely the same misplaced line about being innocent. Unless he was actually being ironic, which wouldn't make it ironic at all. Just rather tragic.
Another thing that's ironic: Contador all of a sudden coming over all holier than thou when his directeur sportif continues to put his head in the sand and refuse to either confirm or deny the raft of allegations levelled against him in various doping confessions made by recent riders, including the award-winning novelist — sorry, non-fiction sports writer — Tyler Hamilton.
In a world of Sky-styled zero tolerance, figures like Bjarne Riis would have no place in the sport; but it's Riis to whom Contador owes the salvaging of his career following his Clenbuterol positive. And it's thus Riis who Contador seems to have indirectly sought to oust. Now that's fairly ironic.
Even more so when you consider the fact that Riis is a man who has done so much for Danish cycling — but whose actions now (according to a Danish UCI official) is "very damaging to the sport and its credibility".
"It is high time that Bjarne Riis comes out," added Peder Pedersen, adding yet another delicious layer of irony, when considering Riis's obvious masculinity in the face of being surrounded by testosterone-fuelled Lycra-clad tyros for most of his working day.
Like Blazin' Saddles, Saxo-Tinkoff co-owner Oleg Tinkov clearly saw the funny side of all these permutations stemming from his star rider's seemingly off-hand claim that he was merely being ironic.
For on Thursday, Mr Tinkov, unprompted and apparently apropos of nothing, tweeted to his followers: "Top Tracks for Alanis Morissette" followed by a link to the video of the singer's hit … 'Ironic'.
For those who don't remember, 'Ironic' was the song (from the album Jagged Little Cortisone Red Pill) that was filled with lyrics that weren't in fact ironic at all — just merely coincidental and bad luck. Making all this so much more ironic.
Not wanting to miss out on this irony-fest, Johan Bruyneel got in on the act with a snide tweet in relation to the Change Cycling Now lobby, a newly-formed group dedicated to cleansing the sport and restoring its image, which is gathering for its inaugural meeting in London this weekend.
Showing his true colours, Bruyneel tweeted: "A bunch of douches r gonna meet in London 2 change cycling. But why is @vaughters not on the list? He should be leading that group...".
Well, irony of ironies: at the very same time that Bruyneel was living up to his claim that this battle "is not over yet", Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters was boarding a plane from the States to the UK to attend the same meeting, where he will join co-douches Greg Lemond, former Cofidis manager Eric Boyer, and confessed doper Jorg Jaksche. Armstrong's former masseuse (and key witness in the USASA investigation) Emma O'Reilly will attend the conference, as will group founder Jaimie Fuller and former world champion Gianni Bugno.
By Saddles' reckoning that makes 7 key figures. So they just have to plus TWO and that = 13 douches, eh, Johan?
And on that note, Saddles will bid you farewell. He's stuck in a traffic jam and already late. The bus driver offered a free ride, but it's already been paid. As for Bruyneel: 'Shut up' is the good advice that you just didn't take.
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- Alberto Contador
- Bjarne Riis