Friday, May 30, 2008

Back on the pace in Terengganu

Phew!! What a tiring six days its been.

While Alberto Contador got about doing his thing, and will most definitely step above the rest of the world on the podium in the Giro d'Italia on Sunday, I've missed every stage since arriving here in Terengganu. The hotel doesn't subscribe to Eurosport, and unlike KL, not all makan shops here subscribe to Astro.

Got a few invitations from friends to view the Giro at their homes, but wasn't entirely free to do so.. So, well.. Work was kinda tough for Devinder Singh and myself. Nothing for the Malaysia Games here was set up, not much info on everything. The athletes started trickling in slower than the pace of life here. In the meantime, virtually every facility for the Games was in a mess when we arrived last Monday.

We've basically been scrapping for stories, finding anything we can just to get by. Finally, today, it seems like we've made a breakthrough. Or maybe, the Malaysia Games has finally arrived. We would be able to finish our daily duties with ease today.

With that in mind, last night we headed out to sea with Pak Aziz, a former cyclist who spent a year building his own boat out of scrap aircraft body shells. It was a bumpy ride, which was enjoyable at first, but we ended up getting intoxicated by the fumes when Pak Aziz turned on the diesel generator to light up the spotlights to begin squid jigging. Devinder told me at least five times that he was about to throw up, but luckily he did not! By midnight, we were done with half a 'tong' of squid, and headed to one of Pak Aziz's regular spots to fish for groupers. I recommended that Pak Aziz used car batteries to light up instead of the noisy, smoky old diesel generator!

I baited my line a few times, made a few casts, but found the swaying boat, touched by the cool, sweet Terengganu breeze and a million stars in clear view right above us too comfortable. Secured my baited favourite rod and reel (Lemax Grand Tournament 8'6', arguably the best popping rod ever made in Malaysia, and Shimano Navi 8000si) to the boat and laid down to enjoy a short nap, before Pak Aziz called out "balik doh 'wok?!" (time to go home?).

Devinder, his guts still crying for help, was quickest off the blocks, "Ye, Ye, lagipun esok nak keje"... It was 3.15am in the middle of sea... We never realised it was that late....

Got back and Devinder decided, it was an experience never to be forgotten, although not much of a catch... We got up about 11 today and were off doing what we do best.. And it isn't fishing.

Back to the media centre, where we pass the 'spaceship', which a few days ago was announced by some friends as the one that will take the Malaysia Games volunteers on a space tour after the Games as a gesture of thanks from the Government. In actual fact, it is the indoor stadium at the Terengganu State Sports Complex, which includes the very well designed, but unpreparedd Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium. For a state that has lost out on billions in oil money, Terengganu does have some cheerfully creative ideas.. Like this Bas Bandar, which looks like a kampung house on wheels..

More on Terengganu coming soon.....

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Contador all the way

I'd be damned if I don't say the man in the picture, Alberto Contador, isn't going to win this Giro d'Italia.
Finally woke up from the dreamland of Manchester United completing the double. Plus the past two stages of the Giro, weren't too apetising for me to jot down. But Stage 14 last night, the first of the really high mountains, an Italian Alpine stage that went over 195km from Verona to Alpe di Pampeago in Val di Fiemme, was when the real protagonists came into the picture.
At the end of the Godforsaken mountain stage, CSF-Navigare had bagged their third stage win of the Giro, through Emanuele Sella who rode solo for almost 50km. Tinkoff's Vasil Kiriyenka, Belarus' most famous sportsman, tried a follow-up attack, but had to be satisfied with second.
What was most important at the end of the night was the picture painted by the general classification. Gabriele Bosisio of LPR added time in the maglia rosa he inherited from the leader over the past eight stages - Giovanni Visconti. But Bosisio is not going to win the Giro.
Just five seconds adrift in the standings is the powerful picture of 2007 Tour de France winner Contador and a bunch of fired up Astana teammates behind him. A minute and two seconds behind in fourth is Saunier Duval's Ricardo Ricco and Serramenti Diquigiovanni have parked two-time winner Gilberto Simoni at a still comfortable one minute and 31 seconds, in eighth. This is how the game is going to be, although Lampre might have something up their sleeves with Marzio Bruseghin, winner of the first time trial of the Giro, at 28s in third.
It is gonna be between those four or five, if LPR's defending champion Danilo di Luca, in fifth at one minute 07, gets it going. Or six, because Rabobank's Denis Menchov is also close. In seventh at 1.18s.
From now to the final stage. This is when stage racing gets me biting my fingernails. But I've named the winner already. It is gonna be Alberto Contador.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Woooops, here we go again....

Portuguese police have today raided the home of Portuguese pro continental team LA MSS, according to the International Herald Tribune report here.
LA-MSS could be the first of the Portuguese teams going down in a doping scandal that is reminiscent of the Spanish Fuentes scandal that pulverised the Liberty Seguros-Wurth, Comunidad Valenciana and a host of other teams in 2006. In the Opreacion Puerto-styled raid, Constantino Zaballa, the team's Spanish rider who'd had links in the Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes scandal, is also reported to be in deep *h*t... again..

Thank you Chelsissies!

I'd mistakenly thought the Chelsissies would be forgotten by the time I wake up and get down to writing this posting today, but honestly their team has to be thanked for realising who they are and what they're supposed to be this year, which is no better than second best.
And Sir Alex Ferguson shouldn't be celebrating too much, because now we don't want to wait another eight or nine years between our European titles, as was the case with the Cup Winners' Cup and the European Cup in '99 and the one we won in Moscow this morning.
Johanna Terry and Nicole Anelka became our Santas this morning, but we must learn to kill off these small teams when we have the chance to do as as was the case in the earlier part of the first half when the Chelsissies were pinned back. In honesty, it should have been 3-0 at half-time. Maybe we do need a Karim Benzema upfront and a Samir Nasri in midfield to add some punch to a somewhat ageing but still classy engine room.
We knew the title would be ours, but we could do without the drama. 6-5 on penalties, with an ageing Edwin van der Sar the hero against a team of nothing, is something that should give us a wake up call. The Chelsissies are nothing but a team bumped up with lots of Russian roubles, expensive players and a bunch of loudmouth, big-talking fans. But we made them look good in Moscow. Even their equaliser by Francine Lampard was a gift.
Well, anyway, that's done and over with. It can't always be the ideal victory and I bet as usual the Chelsissie fans are up to their usual screwed up normalities comprising one-sided refereeing, Ronaldo's acting, linesmen in United's favour...etc. bla bla bla.. quack quack quack..
Now get over it quick and start the plan for the fourth European Cup going! Another treble maybe?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No problem at all

The hours tick by and the great United look confident.
Sir Alex Ferguson just sort of figured out his line-up to start the Slaughter of Moscow.
Looks like the great Ryan Giggs is gonna start on the bench, along with Owen Hargreaves and Anderson. But Paul Scholes will get to drive the engine room in a partnership with Michael Carrick. Cristiano Ronaldo on the left flank and Nani on the right, the Chelsissies are gonna taste only what they didn't want to taste. Rooney up front alone should be enough cos the shots will be going in from everywhere, with also Tevez backing him up.
At the back its gonna be pretty much like I said before - Vidic, Ferdinand in the middle, Evra on the left, Brown on the right. And of course the giant van der Sar between the posts. For the Chelsissies' line-up, ask their loudmouth fans.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


YEAH. That says it all. A little more than 24 hours to go and for the third time in history, United will be crowned champions of Europe. That's three stars on the official kit from now on, while the Chelsissies need a couple of billion more to come closer to reality.
Two great players will start - Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. Two who've played their lives out at one team. the greatest team of all. The frontline that Abramovich can't buy is gonna read Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo, two soon-to-be-immortalised young players who are born to be with United. You got the great Edwin van der Sar who the Chelsissies, even as their Dogbarks up front, can only dream of beating. The set-for-greatness rock-solid centre of defence of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic won't be broken, even if Patrice Evra and the great Wes Brown chose to muscle their way up (and probably score a goal or two) while keeping the back water-tight. You got the trickery of Nani, then Michael Carrick to also contend with you Chelsissies.
I won't even bother to write a word on your line-up. On Thursday morning, when I have my breakfast, you'll be as forgotten as the waste I flushed down the toilet last Monday.

Monday, May 19, 2008

WADA-Heck!! Do you see the difference?

The pictures speak a thousand words.
Another priceless gem from my collection of books and magazines - this one from the 2006 Livre d'Or du Cyclisme (Golden Book of Cycling) written by my friend Jean Francois Quenet or Jeff, who also has the Malay name of Jaafar Qonet given to him, having been a regular visitor of Malaysia the past 13 years.

The 51st page of the book shows what Jeff describes as a "decomposed" Charly Gaul (on top) hosted by the finish atop the Monte Bondone, one of the Dolomites, in the 1956 Giro. The bottom pic shows, 50 years later up the same Dolomite, an Ivan Basso looking "fresh as a roach" getting onto the podium.

Now, maybe Gaul had the wrong kinda pasta for breakfast on June 8, 1956. Maybe his bike was a couple of kilos heavier than Basso's Cervelo.
But 14 months later, Basso's exit in shame on June 30, 2006 when while preparing as the main favourite to succeed Lance Armstrong as winner of cycling's greatest race kind of provided some explanations. Tour de France organisers the ASO had announced a list of riders not welcome to start the Tour that year and Basso was one of them. Later his admission that he "had attempted to dope" to win the Tour de France, handed him a two-year suspension, which has since been exhausted.
Look back 50 years and the cyclists doped as well. But the dope they used were amphetamines, caffeine and cocaine. Maybe some other easily available stuff as well. And 50 years from Gaul's era, doping has become a multi-million euro business for willing sports doctors.
The World Anti-Doping Agency running out of funds fighting the battle in the courts like they're doing here ?
Long live the doctors, cos Basso never really tested positive. He just had relations with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. But his forced admission that he had contacted a doctor specialising in blood doping was enough to get him banned. So, how does the WADA really catch the dopers? How many Dr. Fuentes' are out there?

One more kickass makan site!

This one is a bit classy. But still, where better to spend your hard earned cash than on good makan everyday!!
Check it out here


Rest day in the Giro today and it comes on the back of a string of doubles.

Saunier Duval's Ricardo Ricco had registered his second stage win in the Giro on Saturday. Last night Daniele Bennati (pic) took his second stage win and world champion Paolo Bettini came close two stages in a row, and was denied on the line, first by Ricco on Stage Eight from Rivisondoli to Tivoli, covering 208 km. Ricco's first win was on Stage Two.
Stage Nine last night turned out to be the first real big bunch sprint, albeit through dangerously slim and winding roads leading to the end of the longest stage of the Giro thus far (218km) in San Vicenzo.
There was Milram in the picture, pulling their train for Erik Zabel, High Road was there for Mark Cavensih, Gerolsteiner was there for Robert Forster, Danilo Hondo was led-out by Serramenti Diquigiovanni teammate Rafaele Iliano, albeit to no avail. Tinkoff Credit Systems had shown a slight hint that they were gonna put one exciting young sprinter Nikolai Trusov in the picture, but that too didn't work out. CSF-Group Navigare were not in the picture, but sprinter Tiziano Dall'antonia did do enough damage with his shoulders and arms to stop Cavendish from registering his second win.

But young Cavendish must learn to keep focus and not start venting his frustrations by pointing fingers at Dall'antonia, or any adversary for that matter, 10 metres from the finish line when the bunch is pushing in at break-neck speed!! Watch the finish on TV and you'll see.
Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti holds on to the maglia rosa with a 34s advantage over first chaser Matthias Russ of Gerolsteiner and the main contenders are led by Liquigas' defending champion Danilo di Luca at seven minutes adrift. A chunk of that time, I expect, will be eaten up in the first of the time trials over 34 km from Pesaro to Urbino tomorrow. Although Visconti will have to fare really bad to lose the maglia rosa to one of the main contenders (di Luca, Ricco, Contador, Simoni) tomorrow.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jom Makan!!

Honestly, I have never met these guys. Don't know who they are. But their blog rocks!!

Check it out!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Giro really started tonight

For the record, seven stages of the present Giro d'Italia, the second biggest race in the world (second most important, according to which doctrine you read from), have passed and only two stage victories have been registered by Pro Tour teams - High Road's Mark Cavendish on Stage Five and Liquigas' Daniele Bennati the previous stage.
So, the battle or rather debate in that area (Pro Tour of the UCI vs Grand Tour organisers) is being won by the ASO and RCS significantly as they can now tell the UCI and the rest of their backers, including expensive race consultants from countries where bike racing hardly exists, "See, I told you."
The UCI's debate was strengthened only tonight. When inside 10 kilometres to go in the 180km Stage Seven from Vasto to Pescocostanzo when, what I would call the attack that's gonna win the Giro happened.
In my mind I'd been saying,"Wake up Astana, wake up Astana". But Astana didn't wake up. It was only Alberto Contador who woke up, thanks to an attack by Saunier Duval's Ricardo Ricco, which was marked by defending champion Danilo di Luca (LPR) and effectively triggering what kept Contador awake. Up ahead, about three minutes ahead, was a group of five with eventual stage winner Gabriele Bosisio (LPR), Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff), Emanuele Sella (CSF-Navigare), Felix Cardenas (Barloworld) and a fading Fortunato Baliani (CSF-Navigare) a little down the road. Leonardo Piepoli, another possible maglia rosa contender from Saunier Duval, had attacked earlier, then waited for the favourites' group to help teammate Ricco, which I thought would be an "insurance" move by the Spanish team with two GC men close to each other. It turned out so, but I had announced to friends I was watching the stage with - Cardenas, the guy on the green Bianchi. That's the stage winner. Didn't happen again.
Bosisio took the win, and Quickstep's Italian champion Giovanni Visconti retained the maglia rosa, by very little this time, but the stage has already been set.
My earlier predictions that the story would also include Serramenti Diquigiovanni's two-time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni is yet to materialise as he too failed to wake up.
So, just go back to the top of the post and look at those three pictures - (from left to right) Danilo di Luca, Ricardo Ricco, Alberto Contador. The Giro's winner is one of those three.
But with 14 days to go, you wouldn't yet bet your last dollar on it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Brutt force!

That's a picture of Pavel Brutt after the finish of Stage Nine of Le Tour de Langkawi in Seremban in 2007. That was his team's first ever stage win in an international race.
Last night, after Slipstream's David Millar threw his bike over the barricades having a broken chain in the final three kilometres, the 26-year old Russian, in similar fashion to which he won that stage in Seremban a year ago, ditched breakaway partners Johannes Frohlinger, Luis Felipe Laverde and Francisco Perez to register Tinkoff Credit Systems' first ever Grand Tour stage win in Stage Five of the Giro d'Italia - over 203km from Belvedere Marittimo to Contursi Terme.
It was those four, plus Millar who'd made the decisive break and maintained a gap which at a point reached almost six minutes over the main bunch. The final 10 kilometres provided an undulating terrain soaked by what was left of an earlier downpour, which in some sense I think, gave an advantage to the breakaway.
It was the first uphill finish, although the final three kilometres saw a rise of about 3 to 4 percent gradient.
French journalist, and that country's media officer for the Olympic Games, Jean Francois Quenet had indicated that Laverde is used to winning stages under those circumstances, as he watched the race with me. Funny that he was also the one most happy with Brutt's win.
As usual, I'd also made the wrong assumption. I'd thought the bunch would catch up and world champion Paolo Bettini would have won it. Instead, he won the sprint for fifth spot.

Goodbye Juju

For a spunky teenager, Justine Henin had the most explosive of entrances into the world of pro tennis. At 16, nine years ago, she won her WTA debut tournament, the Belgian Open. She retired last night, aged 25, just weeks before the French Open, which she'd won four times.
It took a defeat to Serena Williams in the quarters of the Sony Ericsson Open, a retirement due to knee injury in the Family Circle Cup and then a first ever defeat to Dinara Safina in the German Open for Justine to decide to pull the plug. The knee was never gonna get better.
Sad day for tennis, but I can't remember when a player ever retired while ranked number one in the world.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Will Justine pull the plug?

The UK's Daily Star has it here that Justine Henin is to announce her retirement from pro tennis today, albeit while still occupying world number one spot. The nagging knee injury has got the better of her. She's 25.

WOOOOPS! It isn't just Ronaldo...

From News of the World..

Hehehe... They're all into the ladyboys these days. First it was Ronaldo refusing to pay, now its the Liverpoodle Steven Gerrard... And in the presence of his wife! Sick buggers.

Here's the News of the World report

By Keith Gladdis
PASSING: Stevie and Alex HANDS, REF! England ace Steven Gerrard tries some man-to-tran marking as he grabs a gender bender's fake boobs.
The Liverpool star made his play for transvestite Martine McClutchbag's twin strikers as he passed "her" outside a gay bar on a night out with wife Alex Curran.
The scene was caught on video as the grinning midfielder glided up to Martine, 24, in her blonde wig and fishnets tights and said "Hi sexy"—before completing his saucy one-two.
The thrilled tranny—who DJs at Liverpool's Pink bar —said: "I was outside having a dance when I saw Stevie coming down the street.
"I'm a Liverpool fan so I was a bit giddy hoping he'd come in the club. As he walked past he reached out and squeezed my inflatable boobs." Gerrard, 27, told her "Pretty in pink, makes the boys wink" before heading off with Alex giggling beside him.
LIFE'S A DRAG: Tranny Martine Martine—real name Matthew Swain—then ran into the club and screamed down the mike: "I s*** you not, Steven Gerrard has just squeezed my t**s."
She added: "I was really made up. Everyone cheered. If him and Alex want to come to Pink they're more than welcome."

Story and pics here

Woops! Cavendish?

Who's won Stage Four of the Giro d'Italia?
Well, I guess the Eurosport channel's English language commentators deserve some cheers after covering thebig races for so long without much British glory to bark about. Yes, several years ago there was David Millar at the top of his game (before he got busted), but now Mark Cavendish is up there in the history books with his first ever Giro d'Italia stage win.

So much for my predictions. Well, the bunch sprints are unpredictable, as much as you would like to think you know who the main guys are gonna be. Its good for the High Road team to have a Grand Tour stage win in the bag. But I'd thought about anybody but Cavendish all along. Come to think of it, who'd have had this 21-year old on his GT debut on their list of possibilities. Just two years ago, if I remember correctly, he was in Le Tour de Langkawi with the British national team.

This proves something though. If you want to win a stage in the Giro, you've got to prepare by winning a stage in the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland two weeks earlier. Cavendish won the opening prologue stage of that race, while the Giro's Stage Three winner Daniele Bennati had won the final stage.

Tonight, Cavendish beat Gerolsteiner's Robert Forster and Bennati in his smart final move. I saw Astana's Assan Basayev up there and was gunning for him to get it. Always nice when an Asian rider bags a GT stage. But the Kazakh only got fourth.

Also, we saw a bit of Robbie McEwen in there tonight, but he only managed seventh. For Silence-Lotto's Australian, a stage win in May is always a bonus. Just watch him go in July.

Still three stages before the GC comes under attack in the first of the real mountains and Franco Pellizotti still in the maglia rosa, albeit by a second from Christian Van de Velde. that makes two jerseys on Liquigas shoulders with Bennati in the cilamino (points jersey). Can't predict Stage Five. Just let it happen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

One nice Giro happening right now

One rider I really like, Daniele Bennati, won Stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia on yesterday night.
I was on the edge of my seat as the final 10 kilometres of the stage from Catania to Milazzo, the last of three opening stages on the Mafia island of Sicily, unfolded before my eyes on Eurosport. The Giro always offers a different stage set-up for a different sort of rider and a different kind of sprinter took the win on that tricky stage, right when the SmSes were flowing in - "Zabel! Zabel! Zabel!" or "Hondo! Hondo!" .. You see, nobody, including me, thought of Bennati, especially when Zabel was the only seriously big sprinter in the picture in the final dash. But if you remember, Bennati is hot. Just two weeks ago, he closed the Tour de Romandie with a big bunch sprint win. Zabel was stuck on his wheel, but it wasn't truly flat, and Bennati had an edge, including much more power!

Honestly, I'd thought the finish of the stage with so many undulations, even some little tricky climbs in the last 70km or so, was made for a juicy Paolo Bettini-Danilo Hondo-Davide Rebellin showdown. But it seemed, as the final 10km unfolded, that the Serramenti Diquigiovanni team had left Hondo to fend for himself, Rebellin was just nowhere. But probably it was also just my imagination an faulty judgement. The finish looked a bit more flat than I'd expected.

I'd even thought the attack of Antonio Colom from Astana was going to succeed at one point, but he sort of turned off when Lilian Jegou (FdJ) took off in pursuit. It is rather hard for a Frenchman to win stages in Italy as history will show, but not so hard for an Italian to win in the Tour de France, as the late Marco Pantani and world champion Bettini showed.

But at least, after the opening team time trial that had Slipstream win and Christian van de Velde in the maglia rosa, the second stage onwards gave some credibility to my sort of preview of the Giro posted earlier.

Of my ranked dark horses: Ricardo Ricco, the Cobra, struck early with a stage win on day 2, which gave Liquigas' Franco Pellizotti in the maglia rosa quite early. So, not too bad for this Malaysian so called cycling journalist huh?

Tonight's fourth stage, covering 183km from Pizzo Calabro, through Catanzaro and ending in Lungomare, sees the first moderate climb (Passo di Pietra Spada) but still ends in tricky sort of terrain like last night. I think Bettini looks like he needs a couple or more stages to really get going, but I guess he might go for the mountains points tonight. Then the stage win? Probably, the first big bunch sprint battle should happen now. Let's see the Milram, Liquigas, Lampre, Gerolsteiner battle royale!

Monday, May 12, 2008

WADA Heck!!! (1)

Now, here's the first take on the World Anti-Doping Agency or WADA, more so about their biggest failure - curbing doping practices in sport.

Most blatantly visible of all, if you check out the World Anti-Doping code available in their website , is the failure of it to effectively catch and punish the cheats.

A significant amount of WADA's budget is spent on fighting legal battles. So, how effective can you say the World Anti-Doping Code is? WADA is good at coming up with lists of banned substances. Their former president Richard William Duncan Pound, or just plain Dick Pound, was famous as a crusader, catching those alleged to be dopers. But what use is there if the Code leaves so many grey areas which those with the clout and finances can exploit, challenge or manipulate? They catch and ban the athlete, but then find themselves running out of cash when the athlete decides to take it all the way in court.

WADA appoints Government Ministers from third world countries to sit in their council. But for what? It isn't like these Ministers, who themselves are ignorant, are going to help in any way. All they do is self-promote, about being part of the crusade. Of course, they can catch the small fries, the athletes from third world countries without the financial muscle to challenge the Code. They sure can't effectively nail the big boys. Or are the big boys innocent in the first place? Let's review the bloody CODE!!!

Here's's latest take on the Floyd Landis case:

Landis case costing WADA $1.3 million
The appeal by Floyd Landis to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has so far cost the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) nearly $1.3 million dollars (840,000 euros). Chairman of the WADA Finance Committee, Sir Craig Readie, told AFP that WADA had asked the UCI for financial assistance but none was forthcoming. "WADA could not help but get involved with the Landis case by default," said Readie.
WADA's legal director Oliver Niggli explained that the sheer complexity of the Landis case was the reason for such exorbitant legal costs. "The Landis case involves 400 pages of testimony, 6000 documents and five days of hearing," he said.
Niggli said that of WADA's $25 million annual budget, $1.7 million had been spent in the past 18 months on cycling-related doping cases. In contrast, the average cost of litigation for each WADA case is around $10,000.
Suspended for two years in September 2007, Landis presented his appeal to CAS in late March at a hearing in New York. The CAS ruling is expected to be known in June. According to AFP, Landis is expected to have spent approximately two million dollars on his own defence.
The OperaciĆ³n Puerto case has also cost WADA a lot of money, but Niggli said there was little hope of bringing the case to a close in the near future. "In the Puerto case, the Spanish judge has refused to give us access to the blood bags," he said. "We have spent a lot of money without much progress."
At a meeting of its Executive Committee on Saturday, WADA decided to establish a reserve fund of $1.5 million to finance proceedings against athletes convicted of doping.
Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case
March 12, 2007 - Landis' judgment day nearsOctober 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CASOctober 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis caseThursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CASSaturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issuesFriday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied Sunday, September 16 - Arbitrators close Landis case Sunday, September 2 - Landis decision expected this monthFriday, August 31 - Landis decision due? Thursday, July 12 - Easy money for Landis? Tuesday, July 10 - Landis on book tour Thursday, July 5 - Landis will know verdict Friday Thursday, May 24 - It's science versus as Landis' fate hangs in the balance.

Sad record for humanity

New York Times carries this, one of the saddest stories I've ever read, on the state of Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis.
I can't even bring myself to explain. Click the link:

Sweet, sweet, SWEEEEEEET 17!

This is the crest of the greatest football club on earth.
Just minutes ago the 17th English League title was in the bag after a 2-0 triumph at Wigan. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a 33rd minute penalty and the great Ryan Giggs had the final word in the 80th minute.
To top it all, Santa Claus came dressed in blue tonight as the Chelsissies were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Bolton, so much for their hopes of stealing the title through the backdoor. The posers Manchester Shitty were hammered 8-1 at Middlesborough.
Power on to Moscow, United. Champions League final next. Business is far from over. The double is on. Bring on the Chelsissies in Moscow now!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Divorce of convenience?

A piece by The Scribbler in Sports Pro kind of hints of a game played by McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who in February divorced his wife Lisa, who in turn is said to have packed off to the US leaving Ron and their kids in England.

Apparently, Dennis anticipates lawsuits to follow the USD$100 million fine on McLaren by the FIA after the team were found guilty in the Spygate issue, of possession of classified Ferrari technical data.

The 61-year old Dennis is said to have transferred assets of about USD$300 million to Lisa last year, prior to the divorce. Scribbler says his sources reveal this might be due to impending lawsuits by Ferrari and his own shareholders following the Spygate scandal and this was done to save the money from legal predators.

I wonder if ex-Ferrari boss Datuk Seri Jean Todt can be expected to be among the suitors. The money could do well to boost the economy of Terengganu.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Press Freedom Day and marijuana

It was a kind of 'interested' feeling that ran through me as I rushed from an interview back to the office today, to catch the final hour of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) forum on Press Freedom in commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day.
What interested me most was the presence of the celebrity blogger Mr. Ahirudin Attan or Rocky, a familiar face, and R. Nadeswaran or Citizen Nades of The Sun, who were among five speakers. The PM's son-in-law Mr. Khairy Jamaluddin had officiated the event earlier. According to Khairy had surprised by backing the call for Press freedom in opening the forum.
Moderating it was University of Malaya Media Studies Head of Department Prof Dr Azizah Hamzah, with Hanafiah Man of Agenda Daily and YB Tien Chua completing the line-up.

I entered the quarter-full theathrette at Balai Berita just as the Q&A session had began, and sure enough my guess was almost right. Except that everything about Press Freedom centred around what happened before, during and after the March 8 general elections.
To a question, or rather a remark, by Star senior writer Shahanaz Habeeb, about the boycott of the mainstream media as called for by a number of blogs not working, Rocky completed his reply by stating the bloggers will be calling for journalists to march for their freedom, failing which the bloggers will march calling for the journalists to do so.
This came on the back of a somewhat silently unanimous agreement on the call for mainstream media to be free of political ownership. Bla Bla Bla...
But seriously, if the journalists themselves were interested in this fight, the presence in the theathrette today would have been more than the 20-odd persons, which included some university students.
Personally, my simple mind kind of (forgive me) draws similarities in this whole issue of Press freedom and freedom of speech in Malaysia in general, to let's say the taboo subject of the legalisation of marijuana.
Yup, people just didn't talk about it (freedom of speech) seriously enough prior to this. They just talked (or wrote) until they realised they weren't allowed to talk (or write) about everything and anything. Then it led to an age of protest like in America during the Vietnam War. When they didn't agree with their Government, the youth resorted to smoking pot and screwing each other freely. Some got caught, some didn't.
The same here, when people suddenly don't agree with the Government, and they realise that their speech (or writing) may be hindered (politically or lawfully), they turn to blogging and they use blogs to screw each other too. But they also screw the Press, and the Press try to screw them back. Some did manage to get themselves caught as well, while others weren't caught but sued, cautioned or hauled in for questioning.
Then the West graduated to an age of liberal understanding in the nineties where the minds were open enough to call for, fight for and complete the legalisation of (or so called liberalisation of laws governing) marijuana, even if only for therapeutic use. The battle took a decade in Holland, much more than that in California.
In Malaysia, the time between the realisation that the new media were playing a role in politics, the opening up of minds to the realisation, understanding and control of this newfound ticket (or shortcut) to the freedom of speech, has all been crammed into a significant period of two months, three days and counting.
Interestingly, it is the freedom of speech that allowed people, just like us, to address something initially thought as so bad, so dirty, so sinful and so immoral as marijuana. And turned it into something acceptable, something controllable, something that probably even MPs could smoke at tea breaks. The users co-exist with those who despise them in one happy country.
Now, with senior politicians and newspaper editors also counting themselves as bloggers, the new media has found its way along the same path in Malaysia hasn't it?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

WADA Heck!!

This is the logo of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The biggest failure in the war against doping in sport, after the International Cycling Union (UCI). And I want to find out and tell you why.
This is the website of WADA:
Go in there and get a hang of it. Read all you can from that impressive array of thesis that they put before you. We'll look into it together as the days and weeks progress. The first of the Grand Tours of cycling, the Giro d'Italia, starts shortly on Saturday, May 10. And so will the drug-bust season...

And then the Giro comes along...

Pro cycling at its highest level, as it has been in the past year, was something many just want to forget.
From the Fuentes scandal in 2006, Operacion Puerto as it happened, to the folding up of teams like Discovery Channel, Wiesenhoff, T-Mobile...etc. Then, the admissions of celebrated champions like Bjarne Riis and Erik Zabel that they had doped. Of course, we'll never forget Michael Rasmussen being sacked by the Rabobank team while wearing the maillot jaune and gearing up towards victory in last year's Tour de France. That came after the disgrace of the Astana team pulling out after Alexandre Vinokourov and his long-time lieutenant Andrey Kashechkin tested positive for EPO. That resulted in a revamp of the entire Astana set-up.
Even before that Tour started, we'd lost 1997 winner Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso prior to that. At least Rasmussen was spared the honour of rising on the podium with the grand boucle before be thrown into shame like Floyd Landis was the year before. All that resulted in records showing Caisse d'Epargne's Oscar Perreiro as the 2006 Tour winner, and Alberto Contador kept the title in Spain for a second consecutive year. We can go on and on about doping over the past 12 months alone, let alone the past decade.
Cycling has not had it so bad, ever.
We try to turn a new leaf, forget about it all... Until the next drug bust comes along.
Directors of major races these days, like the Giro d'Italia's Angelo Zomegnan, starts off the build-up towards his race by announcing hopes of a drug-free, scandal free race. How much sadder can it get?
The 2008 Giro d'Italia starts on Saturday with a defending champion who's not entirely free of taint. Danilo di Luca's two brushes with doping allegations - first with the Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) allegations of plasma injections following a 2007 stage and a three-month suspension he served for relations to the Oil for Drugs scandal. Still, starting with the LPR team after leaving Liquigas, Di Luca starts among the favourites in a team that includes 2006 Giro winner Paolo Savoldelli.
But the romantics, particularly those in Malaysia, will be gunning for a victory by Gilberto Simoni from the Gianni Savio team Serramenti PVC Diquigi0vanni-Androni Gioccatoli, the team with the longest name in cycling. The two-time Giro winner heads to Italy with a team that includes Le Tour de Langkawi 2008 winner Ruslan Ivanov along with Colombian climber Jose Serpa, veteran Gabriele Missaglia and young Venezuelan Carlos Jose Ochoa, whom I think might be in the running for the young riders' jersey.

If there was any rider who'd have more reason to win this Giro, it would be Alberto Contador and his Astana team who earned a last-minute call-up by organisers RCS, after initially being rejected from all three grand tours. And watch out for this Astana team - they're determined to win every race they enter and have even stated an intention of winning every single-stage of the Dauphine Libere, the traditional warm-up to the Tour de France, although the ASO still remain adamant on leaving the team of the defending Tour de France champion, out of their race. Contador has said in his press release that he's prepared this season just like he'll be racing in the big event.

Contador will have a strong team with American Levi Leipheimer and German Andreas Kloden as his main lieutenants. I'd think the main battle for the overall will be between these three teams - LPR, Serramenti Diquigiovanni and Astana.

Other contenders will rise from this following group:

Saunier Duval's Ricardo Ricco, nicknamed the Cobra

Don't be surprised if any one of these three suddenly come into the picture - Euskaltel-Euskadi's Inigo Landaluze, Liquigas' Franco Pelizotti or Caisse d'Epargne's Jose Rujano.

Of course, an exciting team to watch, I believe, will be the Tinkoff Credit Systems with Evgeni Petrov, Pavel Brutt and Mikael Ignatiev in there....

For a more detailed build-up, look here:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The demise of Super Aguri and one interesting read

Yesterday, May 6, 2008 saw the first demise of an F1 team since the popular British Arrows team closed shop forever in 2002.
But unlike Arrows, who spent two decades gracing the F1 grid, while famously introducing some interesting designs into the sport, including their brave attempt at running an independent in-house engine programme towards the end of the team's life, Super Aguri lasted just two and a half years.
And those two years were spent struggling to line up on the starting grid.The team ceased all F1 operations effective yesterday and owner Aguri Suzuki was quoted by, explaining, among others the relation of a breach of contract by sponsors, oil and gas company SS United, to the reasons why the team had run into financial difficulties since last year.
That is despite being backed, and infamously branded by critics as the Honda b-team.How contrasting fortunes can be in F1.

The Super Aguri demise comes days after I got my hands on the June, 2008 inaugural
edition of the Sports Pro magazine, a new monthly sports financial magazine published in the UK.
Besides an insight into the success of Nike founder Phil Knight, which was the cover story on the man who is unrivalled as the richest man in sport, having amassed a fortune of over USD$10 billion, there is a special report on finances in F1.

Interestingly, the report carries a rather detailed breakdown into the 2008 budgets of all 11 F1 teams, concluding that the depreciation of 1.4 percent in the total budgets of teams alone, from USD$3.139 billion in 2007 to just USD$3.096 billion this year, as projecting F1 into "as uncertain a state as it has ever been".
That's a drop of USD$46 million. Honda, Super Aguri's so-called big brother, has replaced McLaren as the team with the biggest budget, no thanks to the spygate scandal that resulted in the latter being fined USD$100 million. Honda's total budget, for your information is a whalloping USD$422.35 million! That's 13.64% of the overall budget of teams put together. Interestingly too, the magazine's report seemed to reflect on Super Aguri's demise as impending, rather than speculation and described the team's budget for the year (well below USD$100 million) as negligible.

Also, if you'd have thought world champions Ferrari or McLaren would be second and third with Honda occupying the top budget ranking, you'd have been so wrong.

BMW-Sauber's USD$412 million, of which USD$356 million is in cold, hard cash, is second highest, thanks also to national oil company Petronas' ranking as the highest paying non-title sponsor or team owner in the sport with a USD$42 million contribution.
BMW-Sauber's budget is 97.55% of Honda's, with BMW being the biggest contributor with USD$220 million. Even that, only ranks the team owner as the fourth biggest of the 192 sponsors associated with teams in the sport, after Honda (USD$340m), Toyota Motor Corp. (USD$315m) and Red Bull (USD$279m).
Petronas' USD$42 million makes them the 11th biggest sponsor in the sport.

Air Asia's USD$2.75 million deal with the Williams team ranks them joint-60th with sports attire company Fila, who support Honda, and global courier service FedEx, who have their logo on the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Heiki Kovalainen.

My poor favourite team Renault has only the sixth biggest budget in F1 with a measley USD$189.5 million, according to the Sports Pro special report. Super Aguri was not even featured individually in the team-by-team budget analysis.

A significant change F1 had, if I read the report right, was the entrance of India's colourful billionaire Vijay Mallya as team owner. His USD$46 million, channeled via three of his companies - Kingfisher (USD$40m), The Dalmore (USD$3m) and Royal Challenge (USD$3m) saved the former Spyker team from collapse and eventually developed into an Indian national project, aptly renamed the Force India F1 Team.

A similar change, or rather one that mirrors the BMW takeover at Sauber and Honda's buying out of David Richards' BAR team several years ago, is said to be in the pipeline, and McLaren is at the centre of it with Mercedes looking to take over Ron Dennis' 15% stake and the equal amount held by Saudi tycoon Mansour Ojjeh.

The outlook for F1, according to the report, seems bleak as the sport faces an impending financial crisis brought about by an overall mixture of sponsorship downturn and a fluctuating and unstable US dollar.

Which probably substantiates further the sport's powerbrokers' - the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone's - intentions of introducing budget caps, which initally were thought as mere efforts to level the playing field. But those familiar with the Max and Bernie combination, would tend to believe that the sport's future isn't too much in danger. Not as much as that of small-budget teams like Toro Rosso and Mallya's Force India, as Aguri Suzuki may attest to. I believe that soon even the likes of Williams will come under pressure.

In case nobody realised, F1 is already well and truly THE big boys' game. It isn't anymore a game for teams run mainly on passion and desire. It is no longer a game for those without the backing of manufacturers, or teams that aren't owned by manufacturers. Even McLaren is going down, so is Williams. It is inevitable. It isn't good and neither is it bad. It's just happening.

I'd like to note down more on this... soon..

Note - Current exchange rate: USD$1 = RM3.15

Monday, May 5, 2008

Looking back at an empty season from Brands Hatch

This (left) was a picture I just spontaneously took as I stumbled upon A1 Team Malaysia drivers Fairuz Fauzy (left) and Aaron Lim sharing an intimate moment together at the back of the team tent during the weekend of the final round of the series in Brands Hatch recently.

Wonder what they were whispering to each other. It had been and turned out to be a really bad season for the team.After finishing fifth in 2006 and sixth last year, this year we were 15th in the championship.
Later, as Fairuz sat in the car in the pit, preparing for the practice session prior to qualifying on Saturday, guess what was on the screen in the pits? Man Utd v West Ham! Of course the Great Devils whacked the Hammers 4-2. And now we know how racing drivers take their minds off shambolic seasons.

But later, when the screen was placed right in front of Fairuz's face, you could just sense that it was serious business.

Seeing that things weren't going so well for A1 Team Malaysia, I crept over to the Team Brazil pits for some time and there was Emerson Fittipaldi (left), the F1 World champion in 1972 and 1974. He's great in more ways than one. He was world champion in the year I was born.

Right now, Emerson is busy polishing the talents of a 16-year old Brazilian teenage sensation Felipe Guimaraes... You should remember that name. This kid is going to drive the A1 Team Brazil car next season... Or so Emerson says...

This next little girl, Rahel Frey, you people better remember. At 19, she's already done rookie sessions for A1 Team Switzerland (and clocked fastest times), finished on the podium in Formula Renault Euroseries and is currently competing in the German F3 Championship. This little girl from Solothurn in Switzerland, everybody, is going to be the first woman F1 driver.
Well, I think highly of Rahel and she looks like a real strong character. Always meaning business. No wonder Malaysian national oil company Petronas is backing her career in F3, much to the dismay of a host of promising drivers from their own country.

It is also interesting that some girls surprise their parents by choosing racing as a career path, while others, more famously, choose just to remain pretty. Like some of those I caught with my little white Nikon Coolpix L2 in Brands Hatch.

The major distractions at Brands Hatch though, were these following beauties. The ones I'd marry and live happily ever after with....

But you know, one of the things I realised over the weekend was that Fairuz, having spent the last decade establishing his racing career in Britain, has a really good fanbase over in Europe, more than he has in Malaysia. All weekend, people were stopping him asking for autographs. Most came with pictures of him in GP2 or the Formula Renault 3.5 World Series.

This grid girl named Tami came looking for Fairuz after the race, seeking autographs on two A1 Team Malaysia posters. "One's for me, the other is for my sort of nephew," she said. Sorry Tami, Fairuz is happily married, with a kid who, most famously, appears in the first ever photograph snapped of him, dressed in a racing suit!!

Like father like son, you may say. And that precedent was set by Tuan Haji Mohd Fauzy Abdul Hamid, Fairuz's motorsport mad father. I shared a few moments in Brands Hatch with Tuan Haji. I must tell you that on many most enjoyable occasions, I've spent hours after Press conferences or interviews, just chatting with Haji Fauzy about racing. This old man can go on for hours talking about his favourite subject!
Here's me with one of Malaysian motorsport's most famous father-and-son combinations after the DNF in the feature race, that happened due to ignition failure just when Fairuz was looking good for a sixth place finish.
You know, as I've written in the New Straits Times long ago when people took my stories a little more seriously, I've always liked these old circuits. Just look at the way they're set up for fans. Try as Hermann Tilke may, he's only distancing the fans from the action. Circuits he designed like Sepang, Bahrain and Shanghai, if they are to be the way of the future, are simply too safe, too faraway, to big. Look at Brands Hatch and Suzuka, or the old defunct Shah Alam Circuit. They're all just comfortably friendly, with action right in your face, not a mile away from where you sit that even the sound feels distanced. Tilke should look at how racing should be for the fans.

In all, it was a nice weekend for the NST's almost forgotten sportswriter (right) and columnist. Yes, Fairuz's column, 'On the Grid with Fairuz Fauzy' appears in the NST sports pages every race day of the F1 World Championship calendar, as it has since the 2006 season.

Thanks to these two guys... A1 Team Malaysia CEO Jack Cunningham (right) and commercial director Owen Leed for making the great trip happen.