It was a forgone conclusion: Lance without Johan? Ren without Stimpy? Siegfried without Roy? Unthinkable. Astana is now a sinking ship, gutted of riders, rudderless and shamed by the return of the unrepentant son, Alexandre Vinokourov.
There’s no love lost between Bruyneel and the oil barons of Kazakhstan who had constant problems writing the pay checks. Bruyneel will steal a few more riders heading out the door. The next few months will determine how foolish Alberto Contador is: riding for Astana with Vino and without Bruyneel spells disaster in any language you choose.
The real excitement is the hinted return of the second best American tour rider: the disgraced Floyd Landis. When questioned about the possibility, Armstrong said “I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Floyd is a great rider, a tremendous story.” Twisted Spoke is thrilled by the possibility of the mad Mennonite returning to the european peleton and perhaps even attacking the tour once more.
Put Landis at the front heading up Alpe d’Huez or the Tourmalet with Lance in tow and Contador will beg the Schleck brothers for help. It’s an intriguing scenario filled with redemption and revenge. A motivated Landis will rip the legs off anyone Lance points a finger at. The man has a new hip and a huge ax to grind. His natural, non-synthetic testosterone will be off the charts.
The only question will be the Tour itself. Landis has served his time, he’s street legal, but the French have no fondness for the only Tour champion stripped of the yellow jersey. They didn’t appreciate Vinokourov’s blood doping and Landis is in the same boat. He didn’t do himself any favors with a long, bitter and costly defense either. The old Fairness For Floyd slogan doesn’t play well in Paris. Still, with Lance pulling some strings, perhaps, just maybe.
We firmly expect to hear Landis cranking the ZZ Top in the Radio Shack bus in 10 months. Hey, the Tour of Utah was fun but it’s just not the Champs Elysees — even with the silly dunk contest. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE651tO4sCw]