Stranger than bicycle fiction. Tag this under goofball, ironic, vaudeville.
Alejandro Valverde, recent Vuelta winner, will race against a dog sled team on a 350 meter course on Valencia’s Paseo de la Alameda. Given the absence of snow, the sled will be outfitted with wheels. Like what kind of wheels — Zipp, Hed, Mavic? Will the sled be carbon fiber or just a throwback wood design lashed together with moose tendon? Ahh, but we digress.
This dog stunt comes from the same rider who allegedly had his Operacion Puerto blood bag coded with the name of his dog, Piti. (The blood the Italian Olympic Committee claims is a DNA match to Valverde.) Will Piti be in the stands to watch all the action in this — what do we call this thing — a mushterium? A criterium on skids? A dog and phony show?
Will Piti be rooting for his faithful master or “musher” Ismael Piñol Venteo and his six dogs? Our money is on the musher unless Alejandro slips Piti a special dog treat. It’s imperative that Alejandro know his mushing terminology or consequences could be dire. The command “Gee” means turn right, “Haw” means turn left.
Does Valverde see the comic irony in this? Probably not. It’s all just good fun and silly promotion. Like say, Valverde entering a demolition derby with his bike. Valverde pedaling a water bike in a shark tank. Valverde racing billygoats wearing horns and a fur coat. Valverde dancing naked for the Court of Arbitration in Sport to overturn his drug ban. Fun stuff, you know?
In any case, this race is going to be tough sledding for Valverde. Anyone who watches those Taming Of The Great Northwest movies knows that mushers are ornery cusses. They drink whiskey from broken glass bottles and eat frozen seal meat. They’re not boy scouts like that Andy Schleck guy. If the race gets close, don’t be surprised if Piñol Venteo uses the whip on Alejandro. Snap the Spanish rider right off his bike.
Even a win for Valverde could be dangerous. Once unhitched from the sled harness, those dogs can be vicious. They may get Alejandro before the UCI does. Twisted Spoke suggests the Caisse d’Epagne rider have a can of Mace in his jersey pocket along with a 20 oz. steak to throw in the opposite direction.
This is not a UCI-sanctioned event so neither Valverde, the sled driver nor the six dogs will be drug tested. But I wouldn’t put it past musher Venteo dosing his mutts with some extra high quality feed. Rumor has it that Eufemiano Fuentes, the sports doctor implicated in the Operacion Puerto doping scandal, has apparently gone into the specialty dog chow business. Watch out, Alejandro.