Your humble cycling blogger is a big fan of The Wire, the hit US drama series in which a motley bunch of maverick cops are given access to snoop over the cell phone calls made between a bunch of nefarious drug dealers of the Baltimore underworld.
Should any bored and misinformed policemen in the UK ever suspect Saddles of running some kind of illicit Pot Belge ring, they'd be somewhat disappointed with the quality of voicemail messages left on his contacts' phones.
For instance, a couple of weeks ago they would have picked up this succinct zinger: "Pal, be there in five. Mine's a four cheeses with extra Parma ham. Make sure it has Gorgonzola – and get the chef to throw on some rocket."
Or, last weekend while Saddles was hamfistedly hosting a distant relative, they might have been completely bemused by this one: "Hi brother, I'm in a bit of a pickle. Wrong choice of words. We've actually run out of pickle and Vince is waiting for his Ploughman's. Should I tell him I can do him a plain Cheddar sandwich instead? Or could you sort out a delivery of Branston's finest and get it delivered by courier? We also promised him a couple of pickled onions – but the local Tesco doesn't stock them. Bread is another problem – there's not enough yeast for the machine to be productive. Please advise!"
And yet, and yet... following the latest instalment of the Operacion Puerto "public health" trial in Madrid, this kind of low-brow gastronomic chit-chat is exactly the kind of thing that the authorities seem to be wolfing down.
On Saturday 13th May 2006, Dr Fuentes is said to have put in a panicked phone call to haematologist Jose Luis Merino after discovering that his picnic hamper of medical stocks was running low.
"I need your help. It's hectic," Fuentes pleaded with Merino in a telephone conversation played to the court. "Birillo [Ivan Basso's codename] is waiting for us. What should I tell him? That there is nothing to eat? Soon they are in a region where we won't be able to deliver any rolls. It had been anticipated that he would get a sandwich. If there is no sausage, I make him do one with chorizo and cheese. We promised we would give him a couple of ice lollies [blood bags]."
All in all, it seemed a huge effort to go to for a man who loved to peruse the menu, was happy to order and see his food prepared, but who never actually took a bite.
- - -
Meanwhile, Team Sky have sought to shore up their PR team by hiring former Rabobank rider Michael Boogerd as a consultant. In his first day in his new (highly unofficial) role, Boogerd denied to reporters that Dr. Geert Leinders played a major role in Rabobank's much-documented doping culture.
"I think it's terrible how team doctor Geert Leinders is put down," said Boogerd, reading from an autocue held up by a bald man in a black Rapha polo shirt with a sky blue trim. "He is wrongly portrayed as a key figure in a doping network."
Leinders, who worked at Rabobank from 1996 until 2009 and then for Sky during a six-month period in the build-up to last season's purple patch, did not see his contract renewed at the British team in the light of the Rabobank revelations.
Another former Rabobank rider, Michael Rasmussen, has cast doubt on Boogerd's spin, however, by declaring that Leinders was fully complicit in his doping on the team.
Speaking to Danish TV in a short interview in English, Rasmussen admitted that doping "became part of my every day life between 1998 and 2010". He said that Rabobank "knew I was taking EPO when I came here because I was with CSC beforehand" and they "knew that my hematocrit was too high but that didn't stop them".
On taking EPO during the Tour de France, Rasmussen said that he used the blood booster "for the first time during the Tour in 2004 and it was done by Doctor Leinders". He also spat in the soup by admitting that "in my time I knew that [Dennis] Menchov, [Michael] Boogerd and Thomas Dekker did it".
Currently riding Paris-Nice, Menchov, the 'Silent Assassin', lived up to the to the first part of his nickname by making no comment. Rasmussen better be wary of the Russian ace putting the second part of his moniker into action.
- - -
Elsewhere, some positive news – and Garmin-Sharp finally got their first win of the season courtesy of Andrew Talansky's stage three scalp in Paris-Nice. The 24-year-old American outsprinted Italy's Davide Malcarne from a break and became the fourth different owner of the race's yellow jersey in as many days.
Over the border in Italy, compatriot Taylor Phinney – currently being rained upon for six hours a day during Tirreno-Adriatico – was pumped by the news.
"I think we're all motivated after what happened this winter in US cycling," said the 22-year-old time trial specialist with reference to the Lance Armstrong scandal that has engulfed Trans-Atlantic triathlon and two-wheeled sport. "We've got a lot to prove. We want to prove that we love this sport and that we're committed to bringing it out of the ashes of the past."
The BMC rider also told Cyclingnews that it was "time to strike and rebuild the image of cycling" with the likes of himself, Talansky, Tejay van Garderen and Tyler Farrar. "I'm really happy with what's going on and that we're a unified group despite us riding for different teams. It's good we're doing a kick-ass job."
In another week dogged by behind-the-scenes doping revelations, Phinney's encouraging and inspiring words are indeed a breath of fresh air.
Phinney, for sure, is one rider who would never be seen dead eating a cheese and chorizo sandwich. As for ice lollies – he's more of a Magnum than a Calippo kind of guy.