Blazin' Saddles

Not in Cav’s dreams

Blazin' Saddles

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Sprint king Mark Cavendish confirmed this week what we all had suspected: he does not dream of Riccardo Ricco (pictured).

Lying in his no-doubt gold-plated four-poster bed - underneath a vast ceiling mirror - after a hard day's training on the undulating roads of Tuscany, Cav has more important things to worry about than the impending return of slimy unrepentant Italian EPO cheat Ricco.

Talking to reporters as Columbia-HTC launched their 2010 team in Mallorca, the Manxman admitted: "I don't lie in bed at night and think about Riccardo Ricco."

Don't get Saddles wrong - this quote did not come out of the blue; it was not as if Cav suddenly felt the urge to set the record straight just in case people began to accuse him of raunchy Ricco reverie. That would be weird.

No, Cav was simply elaborating after a characteristic outburst saw him lambast Ricco, labelling the self-styled Cobra a "parasite".

"He's like a parasite coming back," snapped Cav when probed about the 26-year-old's return to racing with Pro Continental team Ceramica Flaminia later this season.

"It's not just the fact of what he's done, because everyone can make mistakes, it's that he's not even sorry about it," Cavendish added. "It's the lack of regret for all the damage that he's done, that's what upsets me."

Cav has a point. When Ricco, who won two mountain stages in the 2008 Tour before being jack-knifed for CERA, was first arrested, he simply said he was "bitter" for having to spend the night in a police station.

Later, when Ricco admitted to doping, no apology ensued; instead, he admitted he had "made a mistake" but tempered that with the claim that, despite the drugs, he had still "always won with my own legs".

He also said he was "very disappointed and bitter" with the decision to ban him for two years, stressing that he'd "be back better than before".

That ban was reduced to 20 months, no doubt transferring the bitter taste from Ricco to that of his fellow professionals, who would have to put up with the Italian's antics for four extra months than anticipated.

Cav also accused Ricco of "not giving a s---" about cycling. "It's incredibly demoralising to have to compete against people like that," he rasped. "What upsets me is the lack of regret for everybody and everything [Ricco's] damaged."

Not that Cav thinks about it in bed or anything. No, besides Footon-Servetto-Fuji's frightful new gold kit and black capes, the only thing in Cav's head as he tucks himself into his 10-tog duck down duvet is the coveted Tour de France green jersey.

"The team will be totally dedicated to it," Cav confirmed after a deep night's sleep as Ricco-free as last year's Tour.

Indeed, Columbia-HTC seem so up for it, they've added two thin triangles of green on the front of their new kit, running alongside both collarbones.

Cav's logic is unquestionable: he is the best sprinter so he should win the sprinters' jersey. But it remains to be seen how the once legendary Columbia lead-out train will chug along in the absence of its key engines, the departed George Hincapie and Edvald Boasson Hagen, and the ill Mark Renshaw.

The answer could be found in the form - and character - of Andre Greipel, Cav's Austrian understudy, who rode to 20 victories last year. If the 'Gorilla' is prepared to ride for someone else and put his own ambitions at bay, Cav should remain the man to beat this season.

Either way, the conundrum should give Cav something to think about when in bed at night.

FACT OF THE WEEK: Garmin-Transitions have ordered 200 tubes of David Zabriskie's special DZ Nuts chamois cream to fight saddle sore in the coming season. Jonathan Vaughters's outfit have also ordered 30,000 Clif chocolate bars.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "He has the Bahamas, France, Mexico and now Australia [stamped in his passport] - and he's only seven months old." Lance Armstrong talks to reporters Down Under about his son Max.

POST: JANUARY 13

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