Dr Ferrari is adamant. He did not visit the Astana cycling team’s training camp at Montecatini Terme in November last year. He is affronted by the suggestion and hopes that his former clients, led by the similarly upstanding Mr Vinokourov, will take legal action against those who suggest he has.
Poor Michele. His ire hides a deeper sadness. From whom else might a friendly visit be considered a stain on the character of the host? There are many who received him gladly in the past, and who footed the bill only for the pleasure of his company and the sparkle of his conversation. Now he must eat his waffles alone.
"Hey, Vince mon frère, what you looking so happy about? Cyril doesn't have a licence either, you know."
Which rather begs the question, how does the good doctor pass his time nowadays? Time is pleasant, surely, in tranquil Ferrara, but with such a burning desire to do good among the athletic community, the hours must drag. His special oils perhaps now sit in dusty jars, taking up space on a shelf in the pantry like the overstocks from some particularly productive jam-making session. Should he not distribute them to the needy? It will soon be Christmas. The urge to help must be strong.
You will have detected, dear reader, a gentle note of irony in the preceding paragraphs. Our genuine sympathies, however, go to Vincenzo Nibali, who must now be trying desperately to recall the precise moment at which entrusting his career to the tender ministrations of an organisation headed by the aforementioned Vino seemed like a good idea. Offered a choice between riding the 2015 Tour alone, or in the pale blue of Astana, it is likely he would opt for the solo option. A unicycle might be more appealing, or at most a tandem to share with Jakob Fuglsang.
Such desperate measures might soon become Nibali’s only options. The decision to renew, or not to renew, Astana’s WorldTour licence will be made soon. Aigle might be a quiet town, uncluttered by any meaningful press corps, for example, but there is always something to occupy time. ‘In’ trays at the World Cycling Centre are likely to be filled for months to come with memos headed ‘Astana’, and perhaps even at the headquarters of Swiss neighbours, CAS, too. The work of the sports politician is never done.
Spare a thought, then, this Christmas, for the lonely doctor, and the busy apparatchiks of Aigle, for whom the holiday season might yet be ruined. The Brothers Iglinksy have spoiled the fairy tale of clean sport, and have left us a pantomime, with Vino centre stage as the Dame, performing an encore demanded by no one. Impresario Cookson must change the cast before panto season ends and the racing season begins, or the WorldTour will risk playing to empty theatres that ring to hollow applause.
STAT'S THE WAY, UH HUH UH HUH
38 - riders listed by Gazzetta dello Sport under investigation by Italian police in connection with Ferrari.
17 - Astana riders reported by Gazzetta to have links with the 'doctor'.
Druivencross was last weekend, won by Tom Meeusen and Sanne Cant. Here's a snip of the 1971 version, complete with Isaac Hayes' Shaft theme. Think you're a bad mothercrosser? Shut your mouth!
Ignoring the fact that the last time Le Tour visited Mont St Michel (2013) the monastary staff were on strike, and assuming they'll have it settled by the 2016 Grand Départ, you might want to carefully consider your parking options when you get there - unlike this bus driver.