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Viva Lance Vegas

- Dark days in Toronto.

- Interesting company in New York.

- See Popo get ambushed by the feds in Austin. See carabinieri ding him just the same. From there it’s a slippery slope into summertime’s repressed memories. Think back to Landis’ acid quip (not to be confused with his acid trip) --

‘Well, it depends on what your definition of fraud is. I mean it -- look -- if [Lance] didn’t win the Tour, someone else that was doped would have won the Tour.’

This, of course, begot another of July’s quotable quotes (this time from Lance’s defense attorney, Bryan Daly, in Johnny Cochranesque rhyme, no less) --

‘If Lance Armstrong came in second in those Tour de France races, there’s no way that Lance Armstrong would be involved in these cases….’

Interesting points, both. They come from opposite sides of the aisle, but the obsession is just the same: What if Lance hadn’t won? Testing, doping, strategizing, crashing and the other thousand levers held by the fingers of fate -- what if, what if, what if? None of us have the answer, though in the name of fun & speculation we present the following game of skill. We call it ‘Lance Vegas.’ Let the names it spits out fuel daydreams about alternate endings. Trust us, it’s a less painful way to spend November than doing cyclocross. Choose the year, hit the button, and wonder out loud the would’ve/could’ve/should’ve’s that separate champions from also-rans.

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Both Operation Spanish Steak and Operation Big Tex, or whatever they’re being code named, plod along with no end immediately in sight. But it’s not premature to ask what the investigations into the last two Tour de France winners can achieve.

Even if you have little time for the two riders involved, and even less still for doping, the very fact that these two probes are unfolding 12 years after the Willy Voet’s mobile pharmacy was pulled over, suggests that they won’t cure the sport of its affliction.

Pistolero SteakhouseOne problem with the current method of testing and sanctioning -- with the occasional police raid for good measure -- is that it often leads to ambiguous results. Operación Puerto made it pretty clear to the world what was going on. Its success in terms of sanctioning is far is less obvious.

The idea that cycling should just give up and let the riders conduct whatever science experiments they wish is often advanced, most recently by Ettore Torri, the Italian Olympic committee’s doping prosecutor. The argument goes that they’re pros and they’re all doing it, so they should be able to pick and choose their poison. Its weak spot, however, is that for every pro who merrily dopes in the resulting free-for-all, there will be countless young riders who dope in unsuccessful bids to reach the top. Those kids won’t get the fame and cash but they will saddled with the same health effects.

Perhaps a wiser approach would be a truth and reconciliation commission. Rather than bracing for the next scandal, have the riders tell-all (after all, at this point in time the shock value would be limited). Then follow the confessions with draconian penalties for anyone caught doping following the amnesty period.

It will never happen, of course. And, perhaps surprisingly, the biggest roadblock may be some of the earlier measures that were supposed to eradicate doping. Several countries, notably Italy and Spain, now have criminal laws banning doping by athletes. And even in countries where no such measures exist (the United States immediately comes to mind), investigators and prosecutors have been creative in their use of existing laws to go after doping. Outing the truth would require governments around the world to agree to an amnesty and to simultaneously adopt new penalties, an idea that’s fanciful at best.

So whatever comes from the Contador and Armstrong investigations, they are unlikely to be the final word on doping in cycling. The doping story long ago grew tiresome. Anyone with a financial interest in the pro side of the sport should worry about a similar indifference developing toward cycling in general.

- Enough on the topic doping. Blame it on the idleness wrought by November -- the true cruelest month. It’s been 33 days since the Tour of Lombardy, and 102 more until Het Volk. New kits are barely being introduced and only a few final team roster spots have gone unfilled. The days are short, the mornings are cold. The strain of feigning affection for cyclocross after the glories of the road season is a post-coital ennui of its own. November: Spare me argument. Can’t I just find my clothes and drive home?

In an attempt for mental re-adjustment, we present photos of new pretty bikes from 2011 because that makes us feel a whole lot better:

Pinarello Paris Carbon

Scott CR1 Pro

Santa Cruz Blur LT Carbon

Pinarello Dogma Carbon

Ridley Excalibur

Wilier Cento1 SL

Ibis Mojo HD Carbon

BMC Race Machine RM01

Bianchi Infinito

Scott Addict R2

Ridley Dean

Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon

Wilier Cento1 Crono