Re: Floyd Landis


New requirement for being a Tour de France victor: debilitating disease/handicap.

Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:04 PM
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There's an argument in the cycling circles, which I know no one else follows, that the topsy-turvy quality of the top ten the past week, and particularly Landis' collapse one day and dominance the next, reassert patterns characteristic of the race for most of its hundred years, but not the last few. This used to happen to Eddy Merxx and Bernhard Hinoult. The obvious inference some are drawing is that the normally-drugged top tier having been eliminated the old patterns are instantly back. This argument was alluded to in a very good piece about a professor who studies the tour for French studies in The Chronicle this past week.

I've watched the tour closely for years, and know the styles and personalities of the top fifty or so riders. This year has been the best and most exiting I've ever seen, which I expected and predicted.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:17 PM
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Better than 1989?

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:25 PM
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I think a more compelling argument is that few of these riders are experienced leaders and their teams didn't know what strategy would be best. No way Pereiro gets handed 30 minutes if someone's actually paying attention. Although I guess Landis managed to make up for that in the end.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:28 PM
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I didn't watch that one, and the drama was mostly on the last time trial that year, but that was in the "normal" era. I think of LeMond as the real thing, and the greatest American cyclist I've ever seen.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:30 PM
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What happens to someone who calls Emerson an asshole? Is the effect reversed?

Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:33 PM
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I don't buy that. Many of the teams had experienced leaders. It's true the Pereiro escape seems foolish in retrospect, and the sort of thing not seen much since everbody's been plugged in, but his ability once he got there took them by surprise. And confusion in strategy can have many causes, but it made for very interesting stages.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:36 PM
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I know nothing about cycling,but that argument seems off: I can't think of a highly competitive sport where if you remove the front-runners, who usually have a big lead over the next tier, the sport *doesn't* get more exciting as the guys normally jumbled in obscure 7th-10th places are now competing for 1st-4th.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:40 PM
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5: In 1989, Delgado, defending champion, didn't pay attention to the schedule and showed up to the prologue 2 minutes late. He ended up starting the tour dead last and chasing from there. I think he got 3rd. Lemond took the lead in each time trial and lost it to Fignon more than once. A lot more drama than the last day, and nothing inexplicable - aside from Delgado's mistake - like not chasing a potential contender when he has a 30 minute lead.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:41 PM
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Kloden wasn't supposed to lead Ullrich. Sastre wasn't supposed to lead Basso. There's your 3rd and 4th. Pereiro got 10th twice so he had a solid history, especially if you figure some of those in front of him in past tours had been dopers.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:43 PM
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8: It's the up-and-down nature of the daily performances that they're referring to. And the reason for the "big lead over the next tier" is the point in question. Can you get the Chronicle article? By now it's not free anymore, but if you're a subscriber, it is. I wouldn't allude to this if it wasn't my own conviction, but I've been suspicious for years and I know LeMond has been.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:45 PM
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I'd argue that without Armstrong, and with all the people who kicked out, the tour would have been similarly unpredictable.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:48 PM
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No one thinks someone FedEx'd Landis a couple doses of The Clear?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:49 PM
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10: It was a mistake all right. As I say, '89 wasn't as vivid to me since I don't remember watching it. I started watching right after that. And I've always heard it said that Fignon's time-trial strategy and preparation were an oversight also.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:49 PM
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No, I can't, unfortunately. It sounds fascinating.

All I was saying that in any competition, if you remove a highly favored front-runner, there's a perception that the game is now anyone's to take, which can always make it seem more exciting.

Is the claim in the article that the drugs were used to result in very consistent performances, instead of someone being fired up one day and worn out the rest, and that's what's been missing?

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:49 PM
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I think Fignon's time trial prep has looked wrong mainly because everyone's copied Lemond since 1989. But if I remember correctly, and I was just a kid then, it was Lemond who was doing something different, including the use of triathlete handlebars.

Who wrote the Chronicle article or what was the headline? I should be able to get it. All I've found is an interview so far.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:52 PM
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The claim is that Armstrong's career in particular has several suspicious features, which are also true of the other top riders now, such as Ullrich. One is that old-time stars like LeMond showed their form very early, with near-top finishes even in their first tours, and then faded within a few years, and were uncompetitive by their mid-thirties. Armstrong was a heavy rider who dropped out of his first two tours and couldn't climb. And yet he kept getting faster, and his last tour, in his mid-thirties, was his fastest. That's a pattern never seen before in a hundred years. And it's equally true of Ullrich's arc, that his growing strength is odd.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 12:58 PM
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The interview is all there is. He only alludes, sketches out really, what the argument is. I thought his observations about the social history of the race, and about the differences in outlook between France and the US about human improvement, were fascinating and shrewd.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:01 PM
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Here are the stats on Eddie Merckx. In 1969 he won 6 stages and all three major jerseys. In 1970 he won 8 stages and the mountain and yellow jerseys. In 1971 he won 4 stages and the green and yellow jerseys. In 1972 he won 6 stages and the green and yellow jerseys. In 1974 he won 8 stages and only the yellow jersey.

I suppose he probably had some bad days in that stretch.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:04 PM
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17: Is the cancer explanation not really believable? I've heard it said that since he lost all his weight during treatment, and built back up much leaner than he was, he became a better climber.

Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:07 PM
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What do you mean by "fastest tour"? It's pretty well-established, I thought, that the tours overall are being ridden at a faster pace because the pack is keeping the speeds up in order to prevent small breakaways and set things up for the big group sprinters. It used to be they'd average lower speeds on the flats.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:08 PM
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Merckx was the greatest rider probably, at least in terms of dominance. And yes, he did have horrendous days, like Landis's on Thursday. And Jacques Anquetil, the five-time winner before him, and Hinoult, the five-time winner after him, had them too.

I suspect hydration and blood-sugar have been part of it; they've always been known to be important, but studies have recently shown how important.

And the biggest change beyond drugs, unmistakenly effective, is communication. Everybody is plugged in now. In the old days, a breakaway was sometimes literally forgotten.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:11 PM
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Someone who calls Emerson an asshole is swallowed up by the faceless mob and is never seen again. Every once in awhile their pitiful voice is heard bemoaning their terrible fate, but nothing can be done for them.

No, FL, I'm not going to call you an asshole. You'll have to succed or fail without my help.

How many testicles does this new guy have? When does he plan to dump his wife?

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:15 PM
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20: Possible? sure. But the word "suspicious" is useful too.

21: You would think picking up the pace would run down a fading body faster. Granted, team tactics are another important factor: the leader usually doesn't have to do any work.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:15 PM
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I don't know if the stats are available online for day by day standings of old tours, but I'd be interested to see if Merckx ever lost 10 minutes in one day and still won the tour that year. I haven't seen any tour before 1986 so I don't have any memory of Hinaoult winning, but I don't think Lemond ever lost that much on a bad day in the tours he won. After 91 he certainly had bad days as he headed towards retirement.

I don't think Landis' recovery can be explained entirely by lack of doping. He broke away on an early climb and no one chased. Anytime you see a group as big as the one behind Landis going over the mountains you know that they aren't going that hard. They only split up on the final climb.

I still think it comes down to tactics, team strength, and experience. Had they really pushed earlier and still not caught Landis, I'd think differently. Maybe.

And I'd add that attacking early, instead of on the final climb, seems to have been an unusual tactic in recent years.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:19 PM
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This is the key part of the Chronicle interview:

Q. Will the doping scandal of 2006 change the tour or affect people's opinions about it? In your book, you mention that even racers in the early 20th century used drugs such as cocaine and chloroform to enhance their performance.
A. How many of these do you have to experience before you realize that there's a tremendous amount of hypocrisy, and there isn't a sustained effort to clean up the sport? There's just not the funding. ... You'll know the doping has been addressed to some extent when the average speeds of the Tour de France races decline. ...
The question goes back to one influence of the Enlightenment. One aspect of the Enlightenment was this optimistic assessment of human capacity. The perfectibility or the ongoing improvement of human capacities. What's really interesting in our era is that the public completely buys into the idea that there is no limit to human physical capacity. If they just train better and get better equipment, these times should come down. When, in fact, there's obviously going to be some limit.

That may an argument that doping continues - and I happen to believe doping has been going on for a long time - but I don't see the argument that doping didn't take place during old times when people had bad days and good ones. Amphetamines were a problem in the 1960s, weren't they? And blood-doping - transfusions of blood taken at higher altitudes into riders at sea level - has existed since the 1980s.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:25 PM
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Oh and now that I've driven everyone away, I'll amend 25 by saying I meant "lost 10 minutes to a known contender"; in 1990 Claudio Chiapucci was in a breakaway in an early stage where he got 10 minutes on Lemond. He ended up second and became a contender in the future, but that seems to have been pretty unexpected. He was 81st in 1989.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:38 PM
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I think doping has become more effective, safer and harder to detect. The British star Tom Simpson died on the Galibier in 1967, because of it. And the blood-doping concept has been around for longer than the eighties; originally people stored their own blood and re-transfused it. Hard to do over 3 weeks, but the Marathon winner in the 1976 Olympics had done that.

I do think drugs are a big factor, but the other features, notably the scale of monitoring and medical advice, are important too. Still, whatever the reason, great fun eh?

I have to go out now, but I'll check back later. I'm not walking away from the argument.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:49 PM
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From the wikipedia entry on Simpson:

At the start of the 1967 Tour de France, Simpson was optimistic that he could make an impact on the event. After the first week he was sixth overall, but a stomach bug began to affect his form, and he lost vital time in a stage including the Col du Galibier. In Marseille, at the start of stage 13 on Thursday 13 July, he was still suffering the effects as the race headed into Provence on a blisteringly hot day, and was seen to consume brandy during the early parts of the stage. In those years, tour organisers limited each rider to only four bottles (bidons) of water, circa 2 litres - the effects of dehydration then being poorly understood. During races, riders often raided roadside bars and cafes for drinks, and filled their bottles from fountains.
On the day's main climb, Mont Ventoux, Simpson broke away early, but was soon passed by the eventual stage winner, Julio Jiminez, and four others. About two kilometres from the summit, Simpson began to zig-zag erratically across the road, eventually falling against an embankment. While his team car helpers wanted him to retire from the race, Simpson insisted on being put back on his cycle and he continued for another 500m or so before again beginning to falter; he toppled unconscious into the arms of his helpers, still gripping his handlebars. Despite mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and the administration of oxygen, plus a helicopter airlift to a nearby hospital, Simpson died. Two tubes of amphetamines and a further empty tube were found in the rear pocket of his racing jersey.

Amphetamines in your pockets? At least today's riders have the decency to keep the drug paraphernalia in team cars and hotel rooms.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 1:57 PM
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I remember the Galibier was part of the story, but I'd forgotten the actual death was on the horrific Mont Ventoux. The tour didn't go there this year. Didn't Richard Virenque win the last time there, a couple of years ago?

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 3:01 PM
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A cyclist died in the 1960 Olympics. Amphetamines were involved, but he actually died from a skull fracture, not from the sideeffects of the drug.

Knut Jensen

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 3:05 PM
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Knut Jensen

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 3:06 PM
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I'm pretty sure Virenque won there, but I don't remember if that was pre or post scandal. My favorite Ventoux was in 1994 (I think) when a really big, really tall non climber who was near last place broke away on the flat, got 25 minutes ahead on the approach, lost all but about 5 minutes on the climb, and ended up winning the stage by staying away on the descent to the finishing town.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 3:16 PM
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eb, do you ride? I do, every day, and my interest is driven by feeling what I see happening. That's how I am about most things that interest me.

I was with my brother last week, and he laughed at my naive supposition that my interest in NASCAR was typical, in that my experience and interest in engine-building, suspension and tire tuning, etc. would be widely shared.

For most people, they haven't a clue, and it's spectacle and attitude, he said.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 3:30 PM
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My dad's been a cycling fan and cyclist for years. He used to buy day or two old newspapers from France at international newstands in the 50s and 60s to find out what was going on in the Tour de France. So I get a lot of information from him and watched most of the Tours growing up.

I'm mostly just a fan. I could have gotten into cycling in high school but I chose to stick with running instead. The only thing I really enjoyed about riding was climbing hills (believe it or not). And I was never interested in dealing with maintenance. It's too bad, though, because riding is a lot easier on your joints than running.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 3:44 PM
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Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 3:49 PM
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"Those who will be impotent" has the same sort of unimpeachability as "in the long run, we are all dead." The saddle nose should not be appreciably higher than the back. A Japanese doctor wrote an article about all of the sexual benefits of cycling. "Cowpers gland stimulation" was the one I remember.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 4:06 PM
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Your high school had a cycling team?

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 4:11 PM
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No, but it had a cross country team. I'd have cycled on my own.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 4:13 PM
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That's pretty cool. It looks like a rewarding sport.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 4:14 PM
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Actually, I had friends who were pretty into mountain biking, but not so much into road cycling.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 4:15 PM
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The bicycle cops around here have noseless saddles. I guess that wouldn't work for serious racers, though.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 4:17 PM
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As far as the armstrong suspicions go, it's worth noting that he was the first rider to really specialize in the tour and only the tour. Landis, for instance, won three one week tours this year (tour of california in february/march, paris-nice, and the tour of georgia). Armstrong by contrast typically rode one early season short tour, one or two classics and the dauphine-liberie or tour de suisse before the tour and not fully competitively. Most of the other riders and lemond and the earlier GC riders usually rode a full set of classics including paris-roubaix, and 3 or so of the short tours and the giro pre tour. So armstrong had to peak once, while his rivals were typically trying to maintain form for a much longer period.

Posted by: Brian Ledford | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 4:25 PM
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The same exact complaint was made about Indurain, though: "he only wins the Tour de France." Merckx even used to do track riding — a big winter sport in Europe — during the off season.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 4:37 PM
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Does anyone seriously believe that only the team leaders are doping? That many of the riders who have to spend the three weeks of the tour as 'domestiques' don't do everything they can think of to move up to the next level?

Sure, I agree, this year's tour has been fun to watch because of the unpredictability, even if the OLN commentary is so usa-centric that it makes me want to cry. But i can see pretty easily how the loss of the front runners would make everything unpredictable, while I have a hard time believing that there were only a dozen who were doping and we got them all in a single raid.

Posted by: robin | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 4:45 PM
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I thought there were people similarly suspicious of Indurain, though on a smaller scale in part because Indurain was a star on a smaller scale. He got out before the 1998 scandals, anyway. He won the Giro twice.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 4:53 PM
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I've wondered about how far down it went to, but think the effort, and high technology, has been concentrated on the big riders. If you've got a big investment in the, etc.

And it's not as if people not receiving special care from specialists can easily avoid detection. So I'm inclined to believe this Tour was "less" druggy. Young riders and domestiques and specialists may very well have been cleaner, from my way of thinking.

Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 4:53 PM
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Actually, there is a good argument to be made that the team leaders are less likely to dope. First, they test the race winners and jersey holders. Second, the recovery demands for a domestique are going to be higher - he's been out in the wind for 100+ miles, instead of sitting in a draft. On the other hand, the doping regimes that are being described are complicated and expensive and cyclists don't make that much money compared to lots of other professional athletes (starting salary for a neo-pro is something like 45-50k - not a bad salary for riding a bike, but can you afford 15k of the top for drugs?).

There were a lot of smaller teams this year because of the eliminations and that helped the drama. CSC was down Basso, Julich (crash), and lombardi (abandon). T-mobile was missing ullrich and sevilla and was trying to protect Kloden and Rogers. Pereiro's team had lost valverde. More people were riding for first instead of riding for second so more gamesmanship.

Posted by: Brian Ledford | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 5:02 PM
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It's not so much that Landis was an asshole, it's that his comment was off-topic.

Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 07-23-06 5:38 PM
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"Arthritic right hip"???? Arthritic right hip????? Jesus, what lazy reporting! The guy has osteonecrosis of the hip, which is a dismal little syndrome in which the blood supply to the hip-joint is restricted, and the ball of the femur dies -- collapses in on itself. That ain't arthritis. He's in Stage 4 of the disease, and the fact that he can mount a bicycle at all, let alone win a Tour, is goddamned amazing.

Why am I so passionate about it? I've just recovered from a medieval little procedure to palliate my osteonecrosis, in which they drill four inches from the hip pointer into the ball to relieve pressure and (hopefully) restore blood flow, thereby saving the hip-ball. I was in Stage Two of the disease -- my femoral ball was still uncollapsed -- and 24 hours a day it felt like somebody was slamming roofing nails into my hip with a nail gun. Landis's femoral ball has almost completely collapsed, and I can't even conceive of the kind of pain the guy must have endured.

My hat is way, WAY off to him.

Posted by: Neddie Jingo | Link to this comment | 07-24-06 12:21 PM
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I'm mostly a lurker, but I find it surprising that so many commenters here have at least some idea of bicycle racing. I must say I am impressed. I'm a Cat 2 racer here in the States, and I can attest to the fact that doping is widespread. My only addition to the commentary is the belief that autologous blood doping is the most popular form of doping. It is relatively safe, easy and cheap to accomplish. Most importantly, the UCI does not have a test for it.

One other comment: EPO was developed in the 80s and abused in the 90s. I would guess that the top cyclists are on some new designer drug.

Also this:

Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 07-24-06 8:26 PM
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Looks like he doped.

Posted by: MMGood | Link to this comment | 07-27-06 11:47 AM
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I click, only to find I've been beaten to the story. Link, anyway.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-27-06 1:02 PM
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