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Hayward FieldIt is spring break on the University of Oregon campus... the school is out of the NCAA Tournament, baseball won't be taking place for the fledgling program this season, and all the Duck crazies have to anticipate is this summer's U.S. Olympic Track and Field trials. The festivities at Hayward Field, freshly renovated for the Trials, are expected to bring 100,000 people into the Eugene community for the events at the end of June and beginning of July...

And yours truly will get to feed the hungry masses. Working for the University in its catering department is usually an exercise in repetition. There are various parties which will call for special menus, certainly... but usually we are churning out the same appetizers and entree options day in and day out. On the heels of the already-busy early-June graduation festivities, the Olympic Trials are going to test the stamina and endurance of every member of the catering staff...

So this spring break has come as something of a time to recharge and get rested up before the stretch run. The second half of MY season is raring to go...

 

Fabian Cancellara... who saw THAT one coming?! Revisiting last week's column, I recognize that I was woefully wrong in my Milan-San Remo predictions. 2006 Paris-Roubaix winner and two-time world time-trial champion Fabian Cancellara won in a stirring solo breakaway less than two miles from the finish to put any chance of a sprint finish to the flames. 2006 Milan-San Remo winner Filippo Pozzato took second ahead of Philippe Gilbert, with Davide Rebellin in fourth. It was truly an exciting finish in anticipation of the heart of the spring classics calendar. I will get more in-depth into the cycling season next week with a preview and primer on the cobblestone classics: the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) on April 6, Gent-Wevelgem on April 9, and the Queen of the Classics (or Hell of the North, depending on who you ask), Paris-Roubaix on April 13...


My father may not be paying any attention to the hardscrabble cyclists barreling through the Forest of Arenberg and Carrefour de l'Arbre on his birthday, but I will sure be watching Boonen and Van Petegem and crew as I wish him a happy 46th...


But what is happening in those non-traditional sports about which Americans seem to care so little? A whole slew of nations competed against each other yesterday in qualifying matches for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In the Asian qualifiers, there were several upsets: Bahrain beat Japan 1-0, North Korea held South Korea to a nil-nil draw, Uzbekistan pummeled Saudi Arabia 3-0, and Qatar defeated Asian Cup holder Iraq 2-0. A wild day in the qualifying tournament was capped by a stirring scoreless tie between China and Australia, with goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer saving an 89th-minute penalty kick to keep the injury-addled Socceroos in the hunt...

Schwarzer the Hero...The competition for CONCACAF (North and Central America), by comparison, was droll and riddled with one-sided scorelines:

 

Grenada 10, U.S. Virgin Islands 0

Suriname 7, Montserrat 1

El Salvador 4, Anquilla 0

 

Nothing nearly approaching the excitement and the Cinderella stories coming from Asia...

 

In other stories, Roger Federer continues his slide in advance of the second Grand Slam of the year, the French Open. He has already lost six sets and three matches this season. The slump began in Melbourne, where Federer fought to get past Janko Tipsarevic in a five-set third-round fiasco before succumbing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the semifinals in straight sets. Coming out of his unsuccessful Australian Open, Federer then proceeded to lose to Andy Murray in the first round of the Dubai Open... and lost to unheralded American Mardy Fish in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells. The 26-year-old Swiss dynamo has been anything BUT dominant heading into this season... his best match might've been a made-for-television exhibition against Pete Sampras at Madison Square Garden. He will need a swift rebound to have a shot against three-time defending champion Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros... and to defeat new nemesis Djokovic, whose meteoric rise was foreseen by the French Open when he went to the quarterfinals in 2006 and the semifinals in 2007. Will Novak be the person to unseat Nadal and take a French Open before Federer gets one?

 

It certainly wouldn't come as a shock to yours truly... but then again, very little does in the crazy world of sports. Athletes are going to be asked to choke back lung blood as they "endure" Beijing's atmospheric soup... the athletes most-tested for performance-enhancing drugs -- CYCLISTS -- get the most ridicule when a positive result comes up... and few American sports fans even know all this is going on!!!

 

So, while those commercial breaks are draining your brain during the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight this weekend, take the time to check in on the rest of this wide spectrum of sports across the globe!

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