UCI dope testers beware: Mr. Puerto is headed to France. Based on his stellar performance in the final mountain stages of the Tour de Suisse, we now have to worry about Alejandro Valverde winning a stage in le Grand Shindig.
The sight — and worse, the power output — of Valverde as he did his work to preserve the Suisse win for teammate Rui Costa gave us chills. Not the good kind, “wow, thrilling movie” chills but the sick, “maybe I have cancer” chills. Is Valverde back, and how far back and should we mentally prepare ourselves for the horror and hypocrisy of him thrusting into the French spotlight?
Twisted Spoke was profoundly disturbed when Valverde came off his two year doping suspension with a stage win in the Tour Down Under. Things got worse when he pounded out a stage win and the overall in the Vuelta a Andalucia and a podium spot at Paris-Nice. Then fortunately he got sick or injured or ate some bad tapas or messed up his dope regime and he went invisible, nada results. We were hoping he’d stay that way but our luck ran out in Switzerland. Something ironic about uber-clean Switzerland and the dirty Valverde.
Why do we despise Valverde when he’s served his penalty and has every right to be back? Because like his alphabet buddy Alexander Vinokourov, he’s a cynical and unrepentant liar. Upon his return to the sport he boldly declared he’d done “nothing wrong.” This Movistar is everything wrong.
We’ll go further — Valverde and Vino represent all that is flawed and ugly and dishonest in the sport of professional cycling. The fact that these two men are still riding with a professional contract is the reason HTC-Highroad folded and even top teams like Saxo Bank, Liquigas and Garmin-Barracuda beg for sponsors. Throw in Riccardo Ricco and you know why the sport can’t get past the niche level and why the casual fan associates cycling with doping.
So we’re not happy that Valverde put in his sterling ride. We’re not happy that his form is on track for le Tour. We’re not happy that he’s invited, that he’ll sign in at Liege, that he will, as the cycling cliche goes, “animate” the race. Disgrace would be a better word.
Every time we see Valverde’s name, we think of Jesus. No, not like, Jesus, is that criminal still riding — but Jesus Marzano, the Floyd Landis of Spain. Years ago, when Operacion Puerto blew up, it was Marzano who provided many of the disturbing revelations — including Valverde’s use of testosterone.
He spared no details and like most whistle-blowers, was immediately vilified — how dare he bring down one of Spain’s sporting heroes. Well, Marzano is working some shit job far from the spotlight these days but at least he has his integrity back.
Meanwhile, Valverde is riding high again. Which essentially means the sport of cycling is riding low again.