Saturday, July 01, 2006

Weltschale and la Grande Boucle

I suppse it happens every quadrennium: World Cup frenzy reaches a peak as Tour de France frenzy begins. The latter is more intense early on than is usual because on the eve of the race a bunch of top riders were dropped having been implicated in a Spanish doping scandal. Who's favored to win? makes a pretty good case for the American, Levi Leipheimer, who rides for the German Gerolsteiner Team. The article also contains a quick-read overview of this year's race. There's some description of the evidence gathered by Spanish authorities on the ProCylcling site.

The riders come from Europe and all over. Jukka Vastaranta from Finland. Ian McLeod from South Africa. Three from Ireland: Scanlon, Deignan, and -- renowned surname -- a Roche (Stephen Roche was a leading rider of the '80s; I've a poster of him on my wall). The rider whose name will probably trip up announcers the most is Unai Etxebarria; he's from Venezuela.

One of my favorite of the non-Euro racers is the New Zealander, Julian Dean, who writes an engaging online diary. I like that he isn't afraid to use down-underisms, as in: "Finally the day ended after a visit from old mate, Blick, from Oakley who hooked us up good and proper. Even gave me a dope pair of eyewear for little mate. He loves kicking around the house wearing mine so no doubt he’ll be fizzing when he gets his very own pair … " (his ellipsis). I also like his rambling on about family affairs, including the "little mate" who is his son Tanner (pictured here). And finally, he's refreshingly forthright about his own capabilities: "I’m feeling a lot of pressure from the team to perform because I’ve had such crap season to date, it’s just part of what I have to cope with at times like this. A lot of the time I’ve been made to feel like I’m lucky to be here. Which is kinda funny….Haven’t felt lucky all year!!! Bottom line is though that they know what I’m capable of and that’s why I’m here. Even though I'm a little under done, I will be better than I have been up to now. Of that I am sure.

That said, I'm sure you're all wondering why I haven't gotten right down to the most important question about this year's Grand Boucle: who are the Nederlanders? As usual, you'll probably see a few of them off the front to gain some camera time during relatively flat stages, but are unlikely to see them on the podium on any day at all. They're too oriented toward the Spring Classics, those (generally) cold and wet one-day races that Northern Europeans love. Nederlanders don't shine in the extremes of heat, mountainous terrain, and three-week slogging of the big national tours.

So here's the list. Most ride for Rabobank, the Dutch team, or Quick Step, the Belgian one. Dates of birth are shown.

Michael Boogerd (28/05/1972)
Jan Boven (28/02/1972)
Bram De Groot (18/12/1974)
Erik Dekker (21/08/1970)
Theo Elting (27/11/1981)
Joost Posthuma (08/03/1981)
Niels Scheuneman (21/12/1983)
Roy Sentjens (15/12/1980)
Thorwald Veneberg (16/10/1977)
Pieter Weening (05/04/1981)
Addy Engels (16/06/1977)
Servais Knaven (06/03/1971)
Bram Tankink (03/12/1978)
Remmert Wielinga (27/04/1978)
Maarten Den Bakker (26/01/1969)
Max Van Heeswijk (03/02/1973)
Leon Van Bon (28/01/1972)
Tristan Hoffman (01/01/1970)
Karsten Kroon (29/01/1976)
Tristan Hoffman (01/01/1970)
Michiel Elijzen (31/08/1982)
Mathieu Heijboer (04/02/1982)
Stef Clement (24/09/1982)

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