Thursday, July 31, 2008

That catchy sign

There's something about signs that people put up to attract attention that attracts me to them.
But this one at the car wash in SS14, Subang Jaya has attracted an almost endless line of customers, right through the night. It is conveniently located less than half a kilometre from my home so I sometimes utilise the facility. At RM8 for a wash and vaccum, it is within the reasonable range.
But read the sign. HEHEHEHE.......

They don't have to be in the Queen's English to be attractive do they?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A view on Negri

Spent last week covering the Tour of Negri Sembilan, which for the first time ever was part of the UCI Asia Tour calendar as a 2.2 grade event.

I'd have to say I reserve my comments on the grandeur of the event, because the Negri Sembilan Cycling Association (NSCA) had persevered to first create and establish races in the past five years and now have moved to upgrade the level of their Tour, and I'd been one of those who've pushed them to do so.
Only a day before the event, NSCA deputy president Yunus Ibrahim informed me that this was the best they could do without sponsors. So, we must respect the association for putting in the effort.
Still, you have to bear with them. Somebody should have a look at cycling in this state. There's a bunch of people who are really trying to raise the level of the sport, but nobody else seems bothered.
Thus, you end up with sights of Mr. Ninja rushing to put the final touches to a haphazardly arranged finish line as you can see below.

I was told that this was done because... Well, as the peloton sped home about 30km from the finish a pair of black vehicles - a Toyota Wish and a Toyota Land Cruiser (number plate KJ10Q) - arrived on the scene and out came Rembau member of Parliament Mr. Khairy Jamaluddin.
Hmmm.. politics aside, those two upright structures that marked the finish weren't even up until half an hour before the finish.

Which was when we saw Uzbekistan's Vadim Shaekov cross the line ahead of Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS)-Plan B rider Ben King to take his first Asia Tour win of the season, one that would last to the finish two days later.
And of course, as with everything else, Negri folk have a funny way of pronouncing everything.. They've taken it a level higher with their indegenous spelling as seen on the Uzbek team car above.
Our national team did okay on that opening day with top 10 finishes by Faris Abdul Razak, Rauf Nor Misbah and Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi.

Here are my buddies Fauzan (left) and Loh Sea Keong cooling off after the hot stage. In the back ground at the front passenger door is Hafiz Rozli.
Two days later, the third and final stage of the Tour of Negri Sembilan was a criterium in Seremban 2, held in a campus area of a private college.

The buildings you see on the right of the picture are student hostels. You'll see later how significant those are...
The race went quiet for a while when Anuar Manan (above) crashed heavily in the approach for the first of three intermediate sprints. It was a horrific sight as the pile-up all seemed to happen on top of him as he laid helpless on the ground. But also remember that little Kancil you see behind Anuar, because it is also significant to this story.

Luckily for the Le Tua team, Anuar's lead-out man Ahmad Haidar Anuawar was smart enough, strong enough and good enough to take the stage win helped by Sayuti Zahit, Amin Saryana and the team's surprisingly strong and promising 19-year old Singaporean Low Ji Wen.
So, the stage was over and I was ready to head back to the hotel to do my work, but I just had to do Le Tua coach Johari Nayan a favour. His Kancil could not fit all the bikes and riders, so I was asked if I could wait for Anuar Manan and give him a lift to the hotel since he had to go and get an injection from the race medics for his open wounds. Okay, I did.

After a quick bite and teh tarik with race director Maniam Manikkam, Yunus and Sabah Ca president Raijas Anang, I proceeded to look for Anuar who was sitting by himself at the roadside. I told him: "Come on, let's go. I've got work to do and its getting late." His reply:"Hang on a little while, I have to wait for treatment." I said:"What fuckin treatment? The medics are gone!".... Anuar:"Waitlah a little while."

I sensed something wrong. What was it? I turned around and my eyes almost shot out of my head. In each floor of the hostel on the opposite side, were a host of college girls waving their hands. Sensing I'd realised, they all started to shout: "Anuar Manan! Anuar Manan!"

Shit! I knew Anuar Manan was quite a famous cyclist, but I never realised the depth of it!

Of course some of the girls ran away from the window when I sat behind Anuar and tried to capture the moment.

Then I said to Anuar:"Okay look, they've all run away. Let's go.." So, we walked to my car and then heard some cries behind us. Anuar told me:"Well, okay. Just wait. They just want autographs." So we did......

Well, that was that. So, we headed back to the Allson Klana Nilai..

Where a very important message was left for all cyclists...... Hehehe...
Oh yes, as I walked to the lobby, met up with my cycling guru, national hero and my all-time favourite superhero Pak Daud Ibrahim, Malaysian cycling's only living legend. "You better be there and take my picture in the veterans race tomorrow!" Pak Daud is always at his best whenever he's around cycling. The next day was the start of the Royal Pilah Challenge, where a veteran race featuring stars of yesteryear like Nor Effandy Rosli, Pak Din or Jamaluddin Omar and Ng Joo Ngan, was to take place. Pak Daud and Pak Din (both riding for Johor veterans) were spotted together numerous times, charting out their 'strategy'... hehehe.. These old men, always up to mischief..
Well, I told Pak Daud: "No problem. We'll take a picture now." So, this is me with the great Daud Ibrahim, his futuristic Zipp bike and all..
Who needs the drug-tainted Tour de France when you're having so much fun, where everybody knows your name, down in Nogori!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

A sport torn apart

This is a quote from Rolf Aldag, directeur sportif of Team Columbia, as carried in Aldag, was not too happy. "This is really disappointing. There have been a lot of rumours about him in the last few days but this a step back as he's a big fish and he's from a different generation. It was supposed to be a young and new breed but they need to know that they risk more than their careers. They risk the whole sport of cycling. He's caused a lot of damage to the Tour."

He was commenting right after Saunier Duval rider Ricardo Ricco's positive test for CERA before last Thursday's Stage 12 of the Tour de France.

Already Barloworld announced they will end their sponsorship in cycling right after this Tour de France following Moises Duenas' positive test that followed Liquigas' Manuel Beltran's opening positive test five days before Ricco's. Saunier Duval had earlier halted all their activities, until further notice.

Then this came from Prof. Michel Audran, an anti-doping expert who acts as consultant:

"It's a delayed-action EPO, which has a different molecular mass from EPO. It's only been commercially available since the start of the year. We can tell when someone's used it but we can't declare them positive. In that respect it's like Dynepo, another EPO-like product. We know that Micera was being used on the Giro, so I'm not surprised that it's also turned up at the Tour. But I would be very surprised if they AFLD had declared Riccò positive for Micera, for the reasons I've just mentioned. Maybe they searched Riccò's room and found the product itself..."

About CERA - Quote from L'Equipe report:

"one of the climber's urine samples collected by the French Anti-Doping Agency AFLD showed traces of a third generation EPO called CERA (Continuous Erythropoietin Receptor Activator)."

Here's the latest sensational Spanish doctor, after Eufemiano Fuentes. He's known as Jesus. Jesus Losa.
Here's Piepoli spilling the beans:

First Edition Cycling News, July 20, 2008
Edited by Laura Weislo
Dueñas, Piepoli confessed

Two riders who have withdrawn from the Tour de France confessed to using EPO, the Spanish daily El Pais reported Saturday. The first, Moises Dueñas, a Spanish rider who was the
second to test positive for EPO at the Tour de France, confessed to using the drugs after testing positive. After police uncovered doping products in his hotel room, Dueñas told investigators in Tarbes that he had purchased the products from a Spanish Doctor named Jesus Losa.
Losa, a former team doctor for Euskaltel-Euskadi, was quick to deny he had any involvement. "I have never given banned products to Moises Dueñas," Losa told El Pais. "In fact, I have worked with Dueñas, but only in matters of nutrition, diet and training. And indeed, I have received money from him, I do not know how much, but there are bills around."
Four years ago Losa was named by David Millar as
providing him with EPO, but while he was suspended from Euskaltel-Euskadi after that revelation, Losa said he never was charged. "I was never called by a judge to testify as a witness or even less as a defendant," said Losa Saturday. "And if they call me to Tarbes I shall have no problem in going to testify."
Barloworld announced Saturday that it will
withdraw its sponsorship from the team following the Tour de France because of the doping scandal.
In the same article, El Pais reported that Italian Leonardo Piepoli, the winner of
stage 10, confessed to his directeur sportif Joxean Fernandez Matxin to using EPO. After his team-mate Riccardo Riccò was taken away by police after testing positive for EPO, Piepoli reportedly said to Matxin, "I have done the same as Riccardo."
No positive doping control has been announced yet for Piepoli, but the team's manager, Mauro Gianetti, pulled the entire squad out of the race. Riccò was indicted on the same charges as Duenas in a court in Foix, but denied using EPO.

Who next? That's the question we ask. But also, where are we heading?

The experts knew of CERA's existence and where it was used, by whom... It's "only" been commercially available since the start of the year, said Prof Audran, did he? That makes you IDIOTS seven months behind already doesn't it??!!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Voigt's ride of the century, but for nothing

I watched with laboured interest at first, but at the end of Stage 10 of the Tour de France last night, found my love for cycling's biggest race rekindled somewhat.

The dope Manuel Beltran didn't destroy the beauty of the sport too much. It was still a rush, it was still very much a nailbiting affair even before the moment the group that mattered - one that contained Cadel Evans, Ricardo Ricco, Leonardo Piepoli, Franck Schleck, Juan Jose Cobo Acebo, Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov, Christian Vande Velde and a surprising Moises Duenas of Barloworld - began their attack after ditching solo breakaway leader Remy di Gregorio, who was in search of a Bastille Day win for France.

The Pyrenean stage had featured the Col de Tourmalet, which turned out to be where a troubled Alejandro Valverde was dropped, even with Caisse d'Epargne teammate Oscar Perreiro in his aid. I was devastated to see Lampre's Damiano Cunego also struggling, having been reduced to marking Valverde as the group that mattered danced on more than four minutes ahead in the final five kilometres.

That was due to some huge damage done by CSC's Jens Voigt up the Tourmalet and Fabien Cancellara on the flats leading to the final climb to Hautacam. Sensing Valverde, Perreiro, even Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez really, really troubled after being dropped off the back, Voigt rode like a man posessed up that Tourmalet with leader Sastre right on tow, albeit with at least four other main contenders.

As it turned out, Luxembourger Franck Schleck of CSC was in front, about two minutes and 17 seconds ahead of the big guys, when he crossed the finish line behind the one-two finishers for Saunier Suval - Piepoli and Cobo. It could have been another interesting day for little Luxembourg had the maillot jaune changed hands from one of their riders to another. Previous maillot jaune Kim Kirchen of Columbia was hammered. He finished down in 15th, more than four minutes behind Piepoli and is down 1:56s from Evans in the GC.

Here's the story from now. It is Evans' Tour de France after he took the maillot jaune for the first time in his career last night. And it up to one of either Vande Velde, Sastre, Menchov or maybe Ricco to deny him that. The rest of the big names like Valverde, Cunego, Nibali... They were blown away last night. It is gonna be a first ever Australian win, I think.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

That's why I told myself not to get too excited...

Here it is, here we go again.... and Triki Beltran screwed it all up just when it all looked like a good clean race to happen.
This is why I feared staying in love with the Tour de France.

It is all here

That is if you want to read and puke over shit that just keeps on happening... The Giro went by without a hitch, but here, in the biggest race on earth, it was just bound to happen. And to one of the most respected riders in the peloton. He's lost my respect to say the very least.

Here's the take on it:

Cycling News Flash, July 12, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Tour's first doping positive reported

Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) in 2007
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Spaniard Manuel Beltrán has become the 2008 Tour de France's first doping positive. The Liquigas rider's A sample tested positive for the banned blood booster erythropoeitin following the first stage which ended in Plumelec last Saturday.

Tour organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), announced Friday evening that it had received confirmation from the French Anti-doping Agency (AFLD) of the positive result.

"The organisation of the Tour de France has received the confirmation from the AFLD that Manuel Beltrán had been tested positive after the first stage," the ASO statement said. "They notice the decision of the team Liquigas to exclude Beltrán from the Tour de France, according to the contract signed with all the teams engaged in the Tour."

The Liquigas team announced that it had immediately withdrawn Beltrán from the race, and suspended him from the team. Liquigas press officer Gabriele Sola confirmed the news to Cyclingnews. "Beltrán gave a positive and the police at this moment are at the hotel. The team suspended Beltrán immediately and he is pulled out from the Tour. If the counter-analysis confirms his positive, then Beltrán will be fired and have to pay the cost."

Liquigas team manager Roberto Amadio faces the press
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Team manager Roberto Amadio said he was "shocked" by the news. "We will await the outcome of further investigations and at the same time, albeit with pain, we are prepared to take stricter measures, with full respect for the values that have always been evident in our team."

The worldwide press received the news before the ASO could make an announcement, which the organisation said it regretted, saying some reporters have not yet understood that the determination in the fight against doping is total, "and that the noose is tightening on the cheaters".

The French newspaper L'Equipe reported that Beltran was one of ten riders found by the AFLD to have abnormal blood values in the days prior to the Tour. On July 3 and 4, the AFLD performed blood tests on riders "to allow for subsequent targeted doping tests during the Tour de France," the agency announced Friday.

Beltrán is taken away by the Gendarmerie
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The other nine riders who showed abnormal results will be informed this weekend by the AFLD, but the agency said that it would take no action against the riders other than to suggest that they submit the results to their team doctor "because of the possibility of a health risk," the statement read.

The AFLD said that it does not have the results of the same riders' testing which was performed in the first half of the year as part of the UCI's program, but "in the spirit of cooperation with the international federation" it would forward the results to the UCI for inclusion with those riders' profiles.

Beltrán, one of Lance Armstrong's former mountain domestique has ridden for the Liquigas team since leaving the Discovery Channel in 2006.


First Edition Cycling News, July 12, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo & Ben Abrahams

Beltrán taken for questioning, Liquigas to continue

French Gendarmes keep watch on the Hotel des Voyageurs
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

French police took Spaniard Manuel Beltrán into custody for questioning on Friday night following news that he had tested positive for the performance enhancing drug EPO. The 37-year-old Beltrán was taken away from the Hotel des Voyageurs, where he and the Liquigas team were staying. Police also searched Beltrán's hotel room.

"The police have taken Manuel away for questioning," a Liquigas spokesman told the BBC. "He was not sharing the room with any other team-mates. It was only his room that was searched."

Beltrán, a former mountain domestique for Lance Armstrong's US Postal and Discovery Channel teams, was immediately removed from the race by his team, a move which may have salvaged Liquigas' chances at continuing in the Tour de France.

While reports initially stated that should Beltrán's B sample come back positive, the team would be forced to withdraw from the race, the German television station ZDF received confirmation from the Amaury Sport Organistion (ASO) that the team could remain in the race.

The station also reported that the team will escape the 100,000 euro penalty which was part of the ASO's anti-doping contract signed by all teams prior to the Tour, because they removed Beltrán immediately after the positive A-sample.

Liquigas manager Roberto Amadio said that his rider has said that he has done nothing wrong, and has been suspended until the counter-analysis he has requested can be performed. But, he said, if it is also positive, he will be fired.

The news of the doping positive struck a blow to the Tour de France, which was hoping to clean up its image after multiple doping scandals in the 2007 event. During last year's Tour, there were no fewer than five positives announced during the Tour or shortly after, and the race leader, Michael Rasmussen (then of Rabobank) was removed from the race after it was revealed he had falsified his pre-Tour anti-doping whereabouts declarations.

The doping scandals led to the withdrawal of the Astana team, whose leader Alexander Vinokourov had tested positive for blood transfusion, as well as the Cofidis team of Cristian Moreni, who tested positive for testosterone.

This year's Tour was touted as a "cleaner" race after the UCI began its biological passport programme, and several teams such as Team CSC-Saxo Bank, Team Columbia and Garmin-Chipotle instituted the use of blood profiling to detect the effects of doping. The method is thought to be more effective than traditional doping controls at detecting the use of performance enhancing drugs.

The ASO in its statement declared the positive test result of Beltrán as evidence that the controls are working. "The determination in the fight against doping is total, and ... the noose is tightening on the cheaters," it said.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Jeff and his Thor!

A quick sms to buddy Jean Francois Quenet (Jeff @ Jaafar Qonet @ Jeff Ali to Malaysian friends) after watching the finish of Stage Two of the Tour de France last night, got me a simple reply: "Ya, now I'm waiting for him with my microphone."
Jeff had done his part in the upbringing of the Norwegian sprint powerhouse and last night Hushovd stormed past CSC's Fabien Cancellara in the final turn of the screw to take his sixth ever Tour stage win in explosive fashion, ahead of Luxembourger Kim Kirchen of Team Columbia, who'd seen his teammate Gerald Ciolek make it a great day for the former High Road and T-Mobile team, when he took third.
Earlier, it could have been a happier moment, albeit the Tour not racing on Bastille Day, with Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) were joined by Agritubel duo Christophe Moreau and David Lelay in an all-French break that threatened to finish it off. It would have been even more special for Lelay, a native of Brittany, as the finish was in Saint Breuc. But it wasn't to be. Cancellara attacked just as the last of the quartet, Chavanel, was caught near the finish, it was dangerous. But out of the blue, a lightning fast Norwegian stromed past!
Alejandro Valverde held on the yellow and looks like it gonna be quite a long time before someone changes that.
Yup, still quite interested in this beautiful sport even though I try to stay away, out of disappointment more than anything.
But the ASO have gone mad with long stages to start the Tour. 195km on opening day, 165km yesterday and today it is 208km from Saint Malo to Nantes.. Again, some undulations with a slight rise near the finish... Funny, but still makes it quite interesting because you never know what's gonna happen. Out of two similar stages thus far, one was won by a climber and another by a sprinter.. Makes it more open I guess.. And oh yeah, Nantes is some place special for Jeff as well, because that's where his home cycling club is. U-Nantes Atlantique.. hehehe.. But I'm for an Oscar Freire win tonight.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Yellow all the way to Paris?

You can't be serious, but you wouldn't be too wrong either, in thinking that for the first time ever the possibility of a rider holding on to Tour de France's maillot jaune from start to finish is there.
If ti were a sprinter winning last night's Stage One from Brest to Plumelec, it would have been a different story. If FdJ's Phillipe Gilbert had done it, it would have been a different story too. Maybe if Columbia's Kim Kirchen had taken the win, instead of being dumped by Alejandro Valverde in the slight uphill sprint, he could be the one. But no, it looks like Caisse d'Epargne are lining up their second win in three years with Spanish national champion Valverde.
But what a start we've been given. I'd thought of the undulations on the 197km route for Stage One and of course I thought of it as too bloody long for an opening stage.
And Valverde taking the win to follow his win in the Dauphine, must surely mean that the said possibility is real - substantiated by his Alpine feats in the warm-up in Dauphine more than anything. But of course, the lead is a mere second over Gilbert, but more importantly it is the same over contenders Ricardo Ricco, Cadel Evans and Filippo Pozzato, while Damiano Cunego and Carlos Sastre are a further six behind, still an open race.
Now tonight, we must expect a similar result with another undulating course, which suits the likes of Valverde as he's shown again last night. But the finish of the 164.5km route from Auray to Saint Breuc goes flat near the end, after a slight rise, which could offer a different type of rider the chance. Maybe good for somebody like Oscar Freire or Alessandro Ballan, or.... Valverde again. Maybe Ricco too. Don't you wish Paolo Bettini was there.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Not thoroughly excited, but....

This is one Tour de France that's starting without two things - the usual prologue time trial and the defending champion, so it won't be the guy in the picture (Fabian Cancellara of CSC) taking the first maillot jaune of the Tour.
I'm not thoroughly excited at the prospect of cycling's biggest race being without its biggest rider of the moment. And today's undulating Stage One over 197 kilometres, is somewhat long for an opening stage. I'd usually prefer these stage races to start short, giving the riders and fans a chance to warm up and spot the likely contenders as the peloton builds in speed and torque till the mountains decide who they want as the emperors of our sport this year.
I'd suspect the ASO believe one of their own could win following what I allege as a conspiracy to remove the likes of Alberto Contador, Andreas Kloden, Sergey Yakovlev and their Astana team from this year's Tour. And the ASO's best bet would be Francaise des Jeux's Sandy Casar (pic below).

Casar is France's best climber at this moment, after the retirement of seven-time king of the mountains Richard Virenque, but the rider who won Stage 18 last year isn't in the league that hosts the likes of Oscar Perreiro, Alejandro Valverde (both Caisse d'Epargne), Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Ricardo Ricco (Saunier Duval-Scott) and my pick for the rider I will follow closely this Tour - Lampre's Damiano Cunego (next pic). Ideally, I'd think the mountains will suit a battle between 2004 Giro winner Cunego, one of the most stylish riders on a bike, and the new Italian hope Ricardo Ricco@Cobra. Put Aussie Evans, who finished second behind Contador last year, in there and you've got a soup to die for already. Now, the Landis 2006 win well and truly buried, I'd think the beneficiary Perreiro would want to take the win outright to prove a point that he didn't have to rely on the courts to hand him the win two years ago. So, that's another nice picture to paint, but Caisse d'Epargne have slotted the number one on the team before the start as Valverde, with David Arroyo second in line, if you believe in the DS's order of team numbers.
Then you can't at all discount the probability of Rabobank coming into the picture should Denis Menchov find his touch. The Russian is a likely surprise package if the team decides so, to instead of going on their usual sporadic attack, focus on one goal.
You could also see something from the two little Colombians on Barloworld, if Mauricio Soler gets a proper act together with compatriot Felix Cardenas, you could see this team toying around the possibility of an overall win instead of polka dots.
Euskaltel in the past 10 years have always raised hopes only to falter in the Tour itself, but I believe, not in Haimar Zubeldia but Samuel Sanchez to come to the fore. He's got more character and should be the leader of the team in due course. But don't discount the possibility of the Basques together and push forward as a solid team should things start to go their way. They will never feature in the flats, not so much in the time trials, so they only have to focus on the mountains.
Today's stage? I think bunch sprint. McEwen-Hushovd-Freire-Ballan to fight it out.
Gosh.. I wrote so long... And I thought I wouldn't be interested....

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Before Beijing...

The boss, who's lucky enough to be going to Beijing next month, has started barking orders for the build-up to the Olympics.
We're slow as usual. Or I'm slow at getting to it, mainly because there so much shit going on at the same time. Try as I did, I never found that tape measure that would make me a six footer, but some Terengganu JKR guys have irked me by saying the tape measure used by my colleague Sean Augustin, that showed the Terengganu Aquatics Centre pool in Kuala Terengganu to be 49.6 metres, was wrong. Apparently, their tape measure gave a reading of exactly 50m. Follow the story on the New Straits Times if you like, 'cos we're getting to the bottom of this. I'm not gonna tell you here, because I have to do my job first.
But back to Beijing, where hopefully the swimming pool is up to FINA specs which means it has to be 50.02 metres, so as to allow for touchpads during competition, and with a RM1 million bounty up for grabs for the one or two who deliver that elusive Olympic gold, I think we could yet be disappointed again.
Wouldn't say the badminton guys are gonna deliver, because this is the Olympics, the place where they're bound to falter after sending a round of orgasms throughout the country in the build-up.
Next best bets are the cyclists. Using my heart, I'd say Josiah Ng and Azizul Hasni Awang are as good as any rider on earth to deliver a medal in the keirin. But the keirin is such a harsh game. One second you think you're in for a medal, the next you're fighting not to finish last. But Azizul's beaten all the current top brass of world keirin, bar world champion Chris Hoy, in the string of competitions leading up to Beijing thus far. .
But before we enjoy our own success in Beijing, there's a simple matter of the Tour de France without Alberto Contador. For most of the pro peloton, that race means a little bit more than the Olympic gold.
That race starts this week. A low key start, but you'll get more than you bargain for here
K... let's just enjoy this month... and next month.. 'cos if you look at it, its a wholesome three months from May to August... i.e. Giro, Champions League final, Euro, Tour de France, Olympics... sports fans couldn't ask for more....