Friday, August 26, 2016

Let's Play Dodgeball: It's Yer Vuelta a Espana Week 1 In Review! #LV2016

Yes folks, it's high time to play that humiliating playground-game-o'-goonish-bullies everywhere--dodgeball, where some over-Red Bull'd bastard pitches a hard piece of sports equipment squarely at your defenseless 98-pound-weakling nerd-noggin, with the clear intent to hurt as much as possible, to the sadistic cheers of your 'roid-raged peaked-in-high-school 9th-grade coach, Vuelta edition! So what've you missed, cowering beneath the collapsible bleachers while praying nobody noticed you? This!

1. It's fine to exhaust your captain and set him back almost a minute on GC on the opening day making 'im domestique his domestiques on the opening day team time trial. !@#$, why not just have 'im hand his bike over next time one of his lesser teammates gets a flat on the final climb of the queen stage, can't screw him over any worse!

2. Not only did some thoughtless asshat neglect to put a big orange barrier and a person frantically waving a flag around a huge pointless steel "bollard" in the middle of the road, completely taking the very nice Steven Kruijswijk--and hat tip to organizers, noticing this !@#$ *afterwards* is not a particularly helpful response to someone who's just been whacked with a heavy pole in the "lumbar-sacral vertebrae"--but *now* poor we love Rein Taaramae's been knocked out of the Vuelta (and his very fine bike utterly splintered) by a numbnut Cofidis team car! Is this some sort of twisted pervert game of bicyclist Whack-a-Mole? You're not taking a !@#$in' roadtrip with your inbred buddies on a deserted red-dirt country byway at 4 in the morning to buy a six-pack of Bud Light fer chrissakes, you're in a *bike race* in the middle of the day--like, for your *living*--you eejits! I stand by my original solution--cattle prods, or one of those "electric fence" dog collars I think've been banned in some countries: one nice high-voltage jolt, and *that'll* keep you a safe distance away next time! Oh, for the innocent times of yore when some lumbering loser in a fright wig and hi-viz man-thong merely caused you to swerve off a mountainside by blasting a fog-horn in yer ear...and race organizers, *don't* start getting any offensive ideas from the fan base!

3. Valverde, man. I warned you dear little Nairo!

4. Sky, man. If it weren't for unfortunate attrition by saddle-sore and disgusting stomach problems (get well soon guys!), there'd be no hope. At least now if all the teams gang up and act in perfect concert maybe like one guy from another team's still got a distant chance at a podium!

5. What the !@#$ Astana, Samuel Sanchez stops to heed the call of the wild solo for *ten* seconds the entire race and *that's* when you put the hammer down? Well he's still in sixth you low-rent punks! Fabian, I don't care if you're *not* in the race--aren't you supposed to be policing this !@#$?

6. Looky looky looky at twee little Chaves!

7. Y'know, at this point, I don't even know if the stupidly scoured-up Alberto Contador is gonna start tomorrow--tho' since half the races this past year or two he's been whipping around with 80% of his body in splints, I'd be rather surprised if he didn't--but if this season's Grand Tours, and the truly vomitous lack of support he's gotten from his gilded wingnut team boss, aren't enough to make him question his life, his career choice, his entire belief system regarding the nature and order of the universe, and whether he just oughta go over to Oleg's house tie up his guards go into his living room where he's enjoying a peaceful lemonade and smack 'im square in the mouth in a fit of unseemly violent small-cyclist pique, I don't know what will. And frankly, if the discreet Samu *also* says you've ridden like a moron and needlessly whacked someone else down, you *know* you oughta just slink back to your team bus and burrow in amongst the dirty reeking yesterday's team kit like the hapless twerp you are. But even *if* Contador's lucky enough to make it to the finale in Madrid, Froome's *still* likely to snap his !@# with a wet towel and give him the world's worst chamois-wedgie while screeching "neener neener!" over his exhausted carcass, right as some other dimwit hits the brakes like they're about to t-bone a moose and takes him out again just in time for Froome to zip up the red jersey in triumph. On second thought--might as well go home and cool out playing video games til 2017 Alberto--even with Trek stacking half its deck with Classics up-and-comers, you sure as hell can't do worse than these clowns!

8. On a non-Vuelta-related note (I know, faithful reader(s), but it's just one, I promise), so now, on top of our star sprinter Nacer Bouhanni's penchant for self-destructive bar brawls, his baby brother is inciting fisticuffs with spindly outclassed unsuspecting fellow cyclists? Nice example you're setting there Rocky Balboa!

9. Finally, you've all been very patient. But don't worry lovely ex-carrots, your terrain is coming up fast. The GC's already pretty well set anyway, right?--might as well grab your own chances!

Monday, August 22, 2016

It's Yer "Alberto Contador's Already Completely !#$%ed" Vuelta a Espana Roundup! #LV2016

Thank You Oleg, May I Have Another: yep, it's just 3 days into the smashing Vuelta a Espana--a race particularly suited to Alberto Contador's characteristics--and he's already a nearly-insurmountable 1:18 or so back. And *why* is he so far back, and *why* is that 1 minute and change already so potentially insurmountable? That's right, the lead-weight C-Team that Sagan-fawning "I'm *so* done with this cycling !@#$" Oleg "Alberto Who?" Tinkov saddled Alberto with, so much so that the freakin' GC captain had to gut himself of a week's worth of energy just trying to save his own domestiques' !@#es in the team time trial, when they should've been going all Captain America on the evil peloton trying to preserve *Alberto's* chances. Damn, Oleg, why don't you just designate Contador to lead out Bennati in the sprints so he can drain himself, declare his job done, and drop outta the Vuelta before they start hitting any *other* climbs? Alternately, you might've just whacked 'im in the kneecaps with a heavy-duty bike pump and at least've given 'im a dignified excuse to bail out on this humilating !@#$show before he wastes two and a half more weeks of his life on this planet! 'Nother factor: Sky, of course, is juiced up like a--uh,at near 100%, as is totally natural immediately following an all-out blisteringly successful effort in the Tour de France, and, as any guy who just smashed said Tour and taken a bronze medal in the Rio road race would reasonably be, Chris Froome (insert disgusting lougie-hocking sound effect here) is fresh as a just-plucked daisy to Contador's painfully mortal band of helpless wannabes. Oh Alberto, if anyone can save this, we know you can, and to be sure there's an awful lot of road left--the problem is, it's covered in Froome, and Valverde looks freakishly unstoppable as usual, to boot! But maybe Alejandro'll be too busy marking his own team leader Nairo to pay any attention to you when you get your legs back and take a flyer off the GC group--we can always hope his own greed'll overtake his team-friendly common-sense, can't we?

Tomorrow's Stage 4: a coupla Cat 3s early on, a buncha lumps, and a mildly sloping Cat 2 finish--Philippe Gilbert, if you were pissed off and bored because no-one rode on the Day 2 sprint stage, maybe on this one you'll goad someone into action!

PS Look Alberto, it's the red jersey! You remember what it feels like to wear this repeatedly, right? I think I can, I think I can, I *think* I can...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Rio Whaaaaat? It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Tres: the 'Nother Guys, and Roundup Stuff! #LV2016

We've got the course down. We've got the GC. What *don't* we have? Damn right, everybody *else* who's going hell-bent for leather for sunburnt glory, and all the last minute news, unfounded gossip, and prurient speculation you need (well, probably don't need) to know! Ergo:

The Missing: Who's *not* here? Tragically, not Froome, but even more tragically, these guys: Sky's Mikel Landa with a "hip injury", which can only mean one of two things: (1) he's got a hip injury, or (2) those !@#$ers at Sky have corrupted 'im. It better be option (1), Brailsford you goon! Also out: defending 2015 campeon Fabio Aru, and last year's bizarro-world revelation Tom Dumoulin, who, frankly, has no business in Vuelta terrain anyway, except maybe lounging in a folding chair by the roadside with a crisp glass of rose' and a nice luncheon with the other fans cheering the *riders* on. Worst of all, Purito--WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!

The Sprinters: all right, you hard-core Vuelta freaks, quit laughin'! Yes, despite the wholesale bail-out of those sprinters with better sense, there *are* a few at this race, at least until Cavondonga sends them whimpering home like a kid who just got a bagful o' broccoli and Brussels sprouts for trick-or-treat on Halloween. Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data), who, late word has it, has even more epic hair this year than Marcel Kittel. (bite me! we still love him!). Reigning Spanish road race champ JJ Rojas (Movistar). Master o' Suavity Benna-Jet (Tinkoff). Uh...other guys! Oh, poor dears, at least they've thrown a *few* stages in there for you...just pretend all those mountains are--nope, I got nuthin', it's all an uphill death march and you're gonna be feelin' it!

The Stage Hunters: look, unless Froome's teammates chew their shoes off the pedals to free themselves from the trap they're in, they ain't getting let out for a stage win unless and until Froome *says* they can. And frankly, he won't. Sorry boys--it's "Vive la Revolucion" and you overthrow your captain, or you're hosed! Guys who actually have a chance: for the breaks and roleurs, Philippe Gilbert (BMC). LL Cool Sanchez (Astana). Michal Kwiatkowski, Peter Kennaugh--oops, they're Sky, they're doomed! Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), who's usually pegged for GC but is begging off in favor of Samuel Sanchez and hoping for a breakaway stage win instead (can you imagine, say, Cav and his huge ego doing that for someone else)? Andrew Talansky, and yes, I know you all want him for the overall. And did I mention I just plain like Rein Taaramae whether you seriously think he's gonna bag a win or not? For the truly climbiest, besides the GC contenders we covered already: Darwin Atapuma (BMC). Damn, they've got a bangin' squad this year! Pierre Rolland (Cannondale). We love ex-Euskaltel's Igor Anton (Dimension Data). Markel Irizar from Trek, an ex-Carrot--natch!(and we still love you Haimar Zubeldia!) Everyone at Caja Rural. And of course, the canny s.o.b. Michele Scarponi (Astana) who, having buried himself (and parked his bony !@# on the side of the road for 15 hours to help his leader) for his team at the last Grand Tour, and with no other road captain at the Vuelta to speak of, will surely have more than a few rocket-fueled cracks at the summit. Last but not least: by this year's results, whatever 6-foot-8 hulking Dutch weightlifter they stick in at the last minute to absolutely obliterate 2017 Paris-Roubaix champ Nairo Quintana. How do you say "Red Jersey" in Dutch again?

The Forecast: yeah, it's boring and I'm a ween. But it *matters*, first off because the poor Belgians're gonna spontaneously combust once they hit the unfiltered sun and heat of the Basque mountains, and second, 'cause it can determine the race. Sadly, the forecast for tomorrow's team time trial is lovely, meaning it's too late to back out of it now, suckers!

Roundup Stuff!: finally, as the cycling portion of the Rio Olympics winds down, let's take a moment to celebrate Peter Sagan's if not win, at least highly entertaining continuous-wheelie ride in the mountain bike competition, as well as his shiny new medals in the kierin, team pursuit, omnium, BMX, and the men's and women's road race even though he wasn't actually riding 'em. Nice work there Saganator! Meantime, Mark Cavendish profusely apologized for "not whacking into that bloody wanker hard en--uh, that accident!" And, for those of you just itchin' for early news of the Worlds, please be advised that giant and deceptively friendly German Andre Greipel has already informed his nation that's he not !@#damn going there to share team captaincy, which, I presume, is German for "wash my shorts and carry my chamois cream, Kittel you wuss!" Ah, our beloved cycling--now, get out your Basque flags, don't you dare ever root for Alejandro Valverde, and Alberto, it's time to stick it to that !@#hat Oleg Tinkov and take on the top podium spot in the Vuelta!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Forget That Wanker Cav, It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Dos: The GC Contenders!

Okay, cycling fans, we've got the course of the fabulous Vuelta down: now who're the poor masochistic bastids twisted enough to take on the thing for the overall? These guys!

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff): you know the drill: the last few years, he's either crashed outta or been too tired to take on the Tour. But, on form, and however you think he has and hasn't done it, and after the natural indiscretions and tactical mishaps of youth, there's been no greater climber who can also take GC in the modern peloton, and the Vuelta is his kind of merciless stomping ground. How his? That's right, punks, he's bagged this Grand Tour alone three times, and if he takes it this year, he'll equal we-still-love Roberto Heras (shut up!)'s four-peat. Wildcard factor: let's face it, Oleg Tinkov's attention's been elsewhere, like getting a resort-perfect tan basking in the radioactive glow that is Peter Sagan, and he may not even remember at this point that there *is* a Vuelta. Ray o' hope: it's !@#$ing Alberto Contador for chrissakes!

Nairo Quintana (Movistar): for some reason, despite Movistar having the second most formidable GC lineup all year (behind the freaks at Sky, of course), our wee little pile o' pure mountain-goatness has had a lackluster season to date. But the mean steeps of the Spanish mountains are perfect for him, and he oughtn't be *too* set back from the get-go after the Stage 1 ITT. Go Nairo, for a high podium spot anyway--who doesn't love a redemption story?

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): Sure, he's theoretically tired from riding--and damn near winning--the Giro, the Tour, half the Classics, the Olympics, and virtually every other road race this year in the UCI calendar--except that he never actually *gets* tired, because he's Alejandro Valverde, he just posed butt-naked and oiled-up for a magazine cover, and, uh, he clearly takes "nutritional science" to a whooooooooooole 'nother level. And of course, he's not going to the Vuelta for himself--he's going for Nairo, if you define "going for" as "hovering over his desiccated desert-drained carcass like a starving vulture waiting for the perfect moment of weakness." *Such* a generous helpmate, Alejandro--and good luck keeping an eye on your own teammate Nairo, much less your actual other competitors!

Ugh, Chris Froome (Sky): fresh off his trouncing Tour de France victory, and still in ghastly irritating delight over his bronze medal in Rio, Froome's ready to do what virtually anyone else would only be capable of doing in his situation: absolutely sucking, except he's got a cybernetic Borg-squadron of half-human half-derailleur tig-welded Franken-wraiths to bring him up to the last 100 meters of every single climb on every single day before they even break a sweat enough to need to dab their delicate brows with a hanky. Me: I hope Mikel Landa--who had a rather indifferent Tour de France, but certainly had enough of being under the domestique yoke at his last team gig before inexplicably bailing for even less green pastures at Sky--finds the legs to match his talent *and* his ambitions and, as Froome did to Wiggins before him, *completely* calls bull!@#$ and bushwhacks--I mean, genuinely accidentally loses his earpiece when he directly tosses it under a race moto's wheel and thus unfortunately can't hear any orders regarding--Froome. Tough to bite the hand that feeds you--but *damn*, Mikel, not *that* tough if a red jersey can be yours on the final podium, amirite?

Esteban Chaves (Orica): he's humble. He floats up mountains like a dream. And, while he's clearly a threat, he's not *such* a proven dead-on threat that the Big Three won't consider pacifying 'im with a little friendly leeway, for a little while at least. Looking for at least a coupla stage wins outta you, kid, and a wholehearted fight for a podium!

Tejay Van Garderen (BMC): Oh, Tejay. Bursts o' brilliance, but totally unpredictable, careening from breathtaking greatness to miserable bonkfest within--sometimes multiple times within--a single stage. No matter the odds, we're rooting for you man!

Samuel Sanchez (BMC): Shut up! Go to hell! BMC sez he's co-team leader and he deserves it! How many !@#damn gold-medal statues of you are there in the village square of *your* hometowns, you miserable haters--and you can start taking bets now on what vicious mountain stage will be his!

Tom Dumoulin (Giant): just kidding! Seriously, when the !@#$ did these humongous hulking Paul Bunyan Classics goons suddenly become viable Grand Tour contenders, particularly once the mountains kick in? It's happening *everywhere*--and I call, well, hijinks, *that's* right *I* said it, *hijinks*!

And Last But Not Least, Purito Rodrigue--WAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! COME BACK, DEAR PURITO, COME BACK! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

Well, there's my Vuelta GC roundup, and if there's anything race predictions show, it's that they b--that anything is possible. Next up: The 'Nother Riders. Til then, venga Alberto, and Samu, bring us home one last stage win before you retire!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Hell With the Olympics, It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Uno: the Course!

Okay, I've been lax, but besides the fact that both my dear readers have certainly got better stuff to do, I've also got an epic excuse: I was flattened for weeks by a completely ignominious yet totally incapacitating injury taking out the gar--uh, being chased off a high and excessively rocky nearby mountain pass by a distinctly irritated and giant-clawed Fiat-sized brown bear. Anyhoo, damn straight, cycling fans, new and old: it's time to block out the attention-whoring freak show that is the Tour de France, and go on the smashing, ever-underrated Vuelta a Espana! And sprinters, while there's a few bones thrown here for you, this ain't no place for Champs-Elysees glory-hunters: the Vuelta is a steep, leg-crunching climber's playground, and the rest of you, merely pack fodder. So what can we expect over the next three weeks? This!

The Sprint Stages: right, I'm forced to mention them in the interest of not being a total dismissive tool, so let's get it over with: Stage 2 tucks in a wee Cat-3 lump ahead of one of the few days o' mercy for the flat-land freaks; the 173k Stage 5 mocks you with another Cat 3 and a circuit finale; and holy crap, our Stage 12 intro to the the glorious Basque country at last, home of Euskaltel-Euskadi and, allegedly, a slight chance for fast men despite a Cat 1, Cat 3, then 2 Cat 2s on the way to Bilbao. Are you ready to get your orange on--I am! Stage 16: yeah, like any of you are still here anyway--but if you are, this Bud's for you! Ditto with Stage 18, and the lively last-day circuit of Stage 21. But spare a little TV time for the GC winner, if you please! So sprinters: the upshot is, I dare ya!

The Time Trials: Don't worry twee dear Nairo, there's only two: a flat 30k opening-day team trial to get someone into the gold (sorry, red!) jersey and terrify the GC time-losers on the day, and, on Stage 19 an individual bumpy 37k for the two time trial specialists (or reasonably competent roleurs) stupid enough to take on this race. Fabian, you sure you don't wanna have one last go after your spankin'-new gold medal from Rio?

The Breakaway Stages: sadistically categorized as "medium mountains," these are nonetheless a cavalcade o' cramping, not likely decisive enough for the GC to flip out but decisive enough to screw the complacent. Stage 3 warm up the legs with a Cat 3, a Cat 2, then a modest-sounding but biting 13.8 % hike up the finishing Cat 3 Mirador. Stage 4: another lumper, with 3 modest peaks at under 5% gradient, but a high-altitude, 11k final climb. And welcome to Stage 6, with some nippy little climbs and descents, and, an extra bonus, a "narrow" road at the end for some argy-bargy if the gruppo is fairly tight! Stage 7: 3 Cat 3s and a flat chance at the finish if the sprinters can schlep over the hills. Yeah, 'cause they're great at that! Stage 9: welcome to Oviedo, home of the incredible Samuel Sanchez, as the race pushes through a Cat 2-Cat 3-Cat 3-Cat 3-Cat 2 triple-decker sandwich--GC, sounds workable, but relax at your peril! Stage 13: welcome to the longest day of the Vuelta, 213k of you-better-not-!@#damn-forget-to-eat ahead of the next day's indescribable agony. Stage 15: you get what counts for mellow in the Vuelta--a 118k countdown from Cat 3, to Cat 2, to the Cat 1 finale of Los Sarrios. If you blew your GC on yesterday's queen stage, you might as well have a go!

The Mountains: *here's* what makes this race so agonizing, so excruciating, and so marvelously beautiful, particularly to those of us with access to primo air-conditioning: gradients so steep you might as well be riding upside down, terrain so summer-burnt and spare it's like a moonscape, and, of course, heat so brutal even the most flame-retardant sun-lover will be begging for a miserable Belgian early-March sleetfest or pelting Giro snowstorm. We first hit the serious mountains on the confounding Stage 8, which is mostly false-flat the entire way until at about 170k you smack right into the Cat 1 Alto de la Camperona endgame, with a max slope of 25%. What sicko dreams up this !@#$? Stage 10: yep, party's over, slackers: it's the legendary hors-category climb of the Lagos de Cavodonga, after you've already relaxed with a Cat-1 leg-squincher up Alto del Mirador del Fito. Enjoy tomorrow's rest day--you're certainly gonna need it! Stage 11: another 168k lumper, 'til the poor bastards hit the fearsome Cat-1 Pena Cabarga, with a slightly unwelcoming 18% pitch, a coupla short 6% sections, and a final-k punch of 11%. Ow, *dammit*! This gives you a few days to chill, until the Queen Stage 14: almost 200k of "holy crap!" with the gently-rolling Cat 1s the narrow Col Inharpu, the beloved (or behated) Col de Soudet, then the Col du Maria Blanque, and last but not least, everyone's HC fave--or, likely for someone on GC, mortal enemy--the notorious Col d'Aubisque. Medic--and masseuse! Stage 17: fresh off another nap day, it's the exciting new climb of the Mas de la Costa, generally a lax 13% for the weaklings but gearing up to 22% of sheer pain-o-rama. God, is this thing *over* yet--me, at least *I* hope not! Stage 20: if the race ain't already won or lost, honey, this is *it*--a fierce descent for the unafraid and completely coordinated: 4 Cat 2s and a GC bucket-list Hors Category Alto de Aitana, mostly under 10% but a looooooong--and draining--21k. Please, please someone drop Alejandro Valverde fer Chrissakes!

Okay, that's yer brief Vuelta a Espana Course in Preview: next up, the Players, and yes, I'm still hoping Purito comes to his senses!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

It's Yer 2016 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards (Because I Can't Deal With the Tour After Today) #TDF2016

All right cycling fans, the circus has ended, the clowns've gone home, and it's time for our incredibly prestigious 2016 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards (Because I Can't !@#$ing Deal With the Tour After Today)! Prizes for the winners, should any be so desperate as to claim them: a fine custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap, whatever cheap tacky statuette I can find in a local thrift shop, a lifetime's worth of shameful notoriety on the Internets, and, most important of all, a warm and heartfelt congrats for a job well (or incredibly horridly) done. On to the show!

Dumb-!@# Move of the Race (Pre-Race): People are *drunk*? And disturbing my precious *beauty sleep*? By speaking outside in a *common hallway*? At a hotel with a *bar* in it? On their *holiday,* the outrageous disrespectful bastards? Well god forbid I should grab a pair of 30-cent earplugs, peons, because you have dared to disturb the primo snooze-time of a *prince*! Yep, complete numbnut/not-so-hot-apparently pugilist Nacer Bouhanni, the entire reason for his team's otherwise hopeless existence at the Tour, sagely determining it was a smarter use of Cofidis's time and money--and a better cycling career move to boot--to beat the hell out of drunken tourist number one, break his own freakin' hand in the process, and injure himself outta the Tour de France, instead of using, oh, such unheard-of methods as "asking them nicely to be quiet" or "calling the hotel management and telling them to make them be quiet". Nice work, eejit--on the bright side, at least we didn't have to listen to you bitching at the finish line why it was someone else's fault you lost all the sprints for three weeks!

Crap (Well, Technically P!@#) Tactic o' 2016: so race leader Chris Froome, briefly losing the services of two of his android Sky domestiques for a grand total of 30 completely inconsequential seconds over a three-week race while only 6 others remained with him that whole time to shield him from the wind, wipe his nose, bring him his blankie and scratch his butt for him that might, just *theoretically*, have allowed the other GC non-contenders to get *one or two meters* ahead til they'd've been humiliatingly reeled back by the robot train anyway, *totally coincidentally* finds his delicate bladder is ABOUT TO BLOW THAT VERY SECOND, necessitating an immediate--and ruthlessly Fabian "Miss Manners" Cancellara-enforced--COMPLETE STOPPAGE OF THE PELOTON while our Froomey takes a relaxed and leisurely nature break that, shockingly, allows his boys to disentangle themselves, shake out their legs, get back on their bikes again, and return seamlessly to his service. What a petty little wanker move, Froome!

Run Run Rudolph, Santa's Got to Make It to Town Award: okay, maybe it's not entirely unreasonable to expect that (1) eejit fans are gonna crowd the riders on Mont Ventoux (2) the race moto in front of you is likely to do something both (a) unexpected and (b) sorta stupid (3) you're gonna be rather startled when (a) the guy ahead of you jaw-plants into the stopped-on-a-dime race moto and (b) your own bike folds up like a wet taco. But in the grand scheme of rider reactions to unpredictable events, Chris Froome still managed to pull off the Freakout Heard Round the World of this, or any, millenium. The bewildered grab for a neutral service bike, the pissed-off road toss when the pedals proved incompatible? Of course. The "sprinting up the road in your cleats like Usain Bolt being pursued by a hive of coked-up of killer bees without a bike against the rules and gaining (and being retroactively gifted!) a ton of ill-gotten time" part? Not so much. Froome, I know the whole situation wasn't cool--but either hold it together, or stay the hell away from the unfairly time-screwed Bauke Mollema for the next few years!

Domestique o' the Race: sure, Froomey had a pack of enormous Classics riders perfectly normally powering up the entire Alps like they were pedaling up the street for a Starbucks, but damn, if Tejay Van Garderen wasn't getting any help or sympathy from our winner this year, we sure can tell who was! Brailsford, get Richie Porte the Sky uniform he so fully deserves--and BMC, kick his !@# to the curb!

Kardashian Family Camera Wh*re Prize: so, Peter Sagan, how does it feel to win the gr--!@#$ OFF, VERMIN, I'M TAKIN' A PHOTO WITH MY BOY HERE! YOU, GET OVER HERE, GIMME THAT SELFIE STICK! HEY, PETEY, COME A LITTLE CLOSER! RIGHT, RIGHT, ARM AROUND MY SHOULDER..BIG SMILE NOW...Oleg Tinkov, you have every right to be happy and proud of your ginormously expensive toy-trinket's smashing performance this year. But we *know* you run Team Tinkoff already--can't you just get one of those life-size cardboard cut-outs to take pictures with, and leave the poor guy alone now?

Crash o' the Tour (Spectacular But Harmless Edition): there you are, just chillin' in the individual time trial, no pressure for results, just a few more pedal strokes to the line--'til one tricky corner sends you right into the spectators like you're about to pull up to have a beer with him. Oliver Naesen, glad you're okay, and you get *major* points for style!

Crash o' the Tour (Race-Wrecking Edition): need we even name the sad recipient of this unwanted prize? The nearly-invincible Alberto Contador, finally defeated by not one but two ignominiously avoidable and excruciatingly painful crashes as what was left of his poor wee ripped-up bod he crawled into the team car on Stage 9, flushing his sole season's goal, and any hope this Tour de France had of being remotely interesting for all but a few handfuls of seconds, down the toilette. Aw, rats--speedy recovery for the Vuelta Alberto, and don't you let that goon Tinkov suggest it's not as worthy!

Crash o' the Tour (Total Random !@#$show Edition): ever wonder what it'd be like to lam a $15,000 bike with your body on it into a 2,000-kilogram kids'-party bouncy house at 50 kilometers an hour? Well, a bloodied-n-stitched-up Adam Yates can sure tell you--and what he can tell you is, it *sucks*. Of all the avoidable !@#damn stupid things--next year, dear race organizers, can you at least put up some "WATCH OUT YOU DIPWAD YOU'RE ABOUT TO RIP THE PLUG OUT OF THIS GIANT TWO STORY OBVIOUSLY RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU FLAMME ROUGE INFLATABLE MONSTROSITY" caution tape?

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream Award: Was he off in the Land of Nod? On a Magic Carpet Ride? Don't Dreaming It's Over? Either way, Nairo Quintana seemed to absolutely snooze through this race (welcome to the club, pal!). Hey, forget the lousy cap and trophy--get this kid a nice pillow and soft cozy blanket, stat!

All Quiet on the Western Front Award: the first 6 Tour stages--6!--and not a single rider had to drop outta the race due to illness, bull!@#$ "I'm about to get popped for doping" illness, crash, or other injury. Okay, that right there is suspicious!

The Return of the King Prize: look, I am only awarding *anything* to the sprinters because Andre Greipel restored my smithereened faith in humanity by taking the final win on the Champs-Elysees today. But after a coupla lousy low-key seasons uncharacteristically in the shadows of guys like Kittel and, well, almost everybody else with a half-!@#ed touch of speed in their legs, I have to concede, it was very pleasing to see Mark Cavendish with his form (and confidence) back in buckets. But it was still nicer that Andre won!

Totally Unrelated to the Tour de France Stuff I Like Award: Didja see Tommeke's back in 2017 with Quick Step for one more crack at Paris-Roubaix, and also with a celebratory win that very same day he inked the deal? Woot woot woot!

Anticlimactic Retirement o' the Race: *really*, Fabian Cancellara--and believe me, it takes a lot to criticize a legend like you? Your very last Grande Boucle ever, you're just not feeling it, and you bail out for a shot at a medal in Rio? WHAT THE HELL? You better bring home gold for your fanboys and girls--after all those years of devotion, they deserve it!

Fan !@#$Head Neon Banana-Hammock Prize: okay, in *any* year, unfortunately, this is a pretty packed field of contenders. But from freaks dressed like humongous lobsters to !@#holes destroying riders' lines on crucial climbs to nimrods burning flares on the course to fans shoving giant flags into cyclists' derailleurs, this year really seemed to take the cake--until, of course, some invisible though history-making moronothon dead-blocked a moto, took Porte Mollema and Froome out, and earned themselves the prestigious tile of Biggest Sporting Tool of All Human History. Whoever you are--if you ever even sobered up enough to *know* who you are--be proud for this one brief shining moment before your ancestors, peers, and all your descendants disown you and deny your very existence for as long as this Earth shall spin!

I Really Don't Believe In Violence Award: to be fair, sometimes a struggling pack-fodder rider mightn't so much *mind* a gentle nudge on the saddle as he gacks up a mountain he's no business ever climbing in the first place. But unless you think a GC contender honestly *wants* to risk the maillot jaune, the greatest achievement of any riders' career except the Giro or Vuelta, and his stone-carved place in the tablets o'time for the amazing honor of your touch, your spittle, or even just your incoherent ear-bloodying screaming, BACK THE !@#$ OFF--really, is it *so* hard for even the tenderest and gentlest among us to understand, say, Chris Froome's surprisingly effective Stage 8 spectator slug? I ain't your biggest fan, Froomey, but credit's due where credit's due!

Corollary Okay Maybe Vigilantism Ain't So Bad Award: given that even France's finest gendarmes proved unable to corral the approximate population of China smooshed into meter-wide strips of grass on the edge of terrifying life-threatening precipices, it was perhaps not entirely unsporting for self-appointed sheriffs of the Wild Wild Alps to take the initiative to protect their heroes by grabbing 'em by the scruffs and swinging 'em off the road with admirable speed and ferocity. You threaten someone's favorite rider with your venal antics, you takes your chances, pal!

Last But Not Least, the Annual Raise the Red Lanterne Prize: armchair peloton denizens, noble weekend warriors, and hard core pros alike: one final round of applause, please, for this year's 174th, last-place finisher, Bora-Argon's Sam Bennett, a hard-earned 5 hours, 17 minutes, and 14 seconds behind overall winner Chris Froome. While he certainly didn't sound happy being asked about it, he, like anyone who can survive 3 weeks of cycling misery, exhaustion, intermittent fulfillment, and damned hard work, honestly deserves any pedestal we can find to put him on--congrats to our 2016 Tour de France Lanterne Rouge!

Well, fellow tifosi, I know you're all relieved it's over, but if you still care enough to point out whatever I certainly missed, have at--now let's get ready for the fabulous Vuelta a Espana!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

It's Your Holy Crap What Just Happened at the Tour de France !#$-show in Review! #TDF2016

Okay, cycling fans--you've seen the footage, you've heard the screams, but a whoooole lot was going on in that stage even *plus* that, so where do we start with a review of the bloody carnage? Here!

The Break: Yes, it all started as a perfectly ordinary day at the Tour de France, with the climb up the legendary Mont Ventoux axed by 6 kilometers after both Quintana brothers were blown off the top of the mountain by 150 kilometer winds and into the valley below on the prior day's recon, a pile of French guys desperately trying to prove their country's cycling relevance on Bastille Day, and giant German monolith sprinter Andre Greipel--approximately both the size and weight of the legendary Louvre museum and all its contents--poised to take one of the most epic climbs in all cycling over a pack of flyweight Munchkin mountain goats. So aside from the usual contingent of early crashes, such as Simon Gerrans breaking his collarbone and *still* finishing the uphill stage, something akin to to having Muhammad Ali at his peak punch your face in 50 consecutive times without a moment's break, everything's going along normally and swimmingly, until:

The Great Pee Controversy of 2016: trust me, on any other day, this'd send hard-core cycling fan into a scorched-earth nuclear-option Twitter war of rage and emoji-stoked weeping: so like three Sky boys--essential domestiques to race leader Chris Froome--go down in a pile, potentially screwing Froome out of much-needed backup which could endanger his overall race lead. Totally coicidentally, at that *exact* moment, Froome's bladder *completely* blows apart, and he pulls the "courtesy-slowdown-for-the-maillot-jaune's-call-o'-nature" card, immediately causing the peloton's Chief Etiquette Enforcer (oh right, and noted bike rider) Fabian Cancellara to slow down the group to wait for him, sending trigger-temper Alejandro Valverde--who knows something about being a !@#damn weasel, thank you, and clearly calls bull!@#$--into an impotent rage and allowing Froome to get his domestiques disentangled and back in line to help him, thus averting an utterly fair and justified loss of time. What the hell Froome you punk, you're riding just fine without this sneaky crap! Which gets us to:

The Climb of Mont Ventoux: where, as a pack of enormous Easter-Island-figure-sized Belgian Classics riders naturally are the first to ascend the feared mountain over the wee climbers gasping behind, the joyful crowd, hugely intoxicated by adrenaline, an Oktoberfest's worth of beer and god knows what else, and the peculiar pleasures of acting like total !@#holes half-dressed in man-thongs, fright wigs, and prurient Furry costumes for the TV cameras, runs, as always, dangerously on top of the riders while also helpfully setting off smoke flares two inches from the nostrils of both boys in the peloton who actually *need* asthma inhalers for medical reasons. Meantime, as Chris Froome, his superdomestique--uh, Tejay Van Garderen's teammate--Richie Porte, and nice guy Bauke Mollema attack and successfully drop the already-embattled GC contender Nairo Quintana--the "unprecedented security" at this year's Tour, apparently consisting of an impressive two gendarmes, is outnumbered by a ratio of 20,000 idiots: to 1 as the race motos try to ram their way through the throng, at which point one unusually stupid fan gets waaaay too in the way, causing the race moto ahead to stop dead on a dime, Richie Porte to smash his jaw right on the moto camera, and Froome and Mollema to go down like dominoes right on top of him, with Froome's bike especially folding like a hot crepe, leading to:

The Olympic Track and Field Competition: Froome, with no replacement bike or team car in sight, completely going off his head in panic and sprinting up Mont Ventoux in his bike cleats but sans bike, while frantically grunting to his bosses into his race mic and being shruggingly waved off by passing neutral Mavic wheel-carrying motos, until:

The Merry-Go-Round: in which Froome finally gets a neutral replacement bike that fits like crap, won't let him clip in his shoes properly, and might as well have been some roadside fan two-year-olds freakin' Big Wheel for all its usefulness, which the exasperated race leader promptly abandons by the roadside, standing around losing time until the Sky team car finally shows up with a new bike, at which point:

The Comeback: Nairo Quintana, previously climbing like, well, a giant Belgian Classics specialist except for a coupla brief and fruitless attacks, cheerfully passes Froome along with every other GC contender who's previously been dropped, crossing the line after:

Someone Just Won This Race: poor old Thomas De Gendt, taking one of the most celebrated climbs in all cycling which would normally be the absolute highlight and triumph of any rider's career, crosses the finish line in victory to virtually no notice by the fans, TV commentators, or race organizers at all, after which coverage immediately cuts away to:

The Important Stuff: namely, TV clips from 20,000 different angles showing how utterly !@#$ed the race is, breathless interviews with dazed GC contenders, the race commentator's swooning shouting dissection of what just happened, and the race organizers' desperate rocket-fast attempts to figure out what's the fairest way to calculate the GC when it's just been totally upended by some flag-waving fan !@#$head, which includes, somewhere, De Gendt getting a nice jersey presentation, ASO provisionally awarding the leader's jersey to Queen Elizabeth in the confusion, and Chris Froome getting totally crappily and unfairly hissed by the crowd when he's done tweeting that he's just been handed the maillot jaune and finally deigns to go up to the stage and put it on despite Nairo Quintana crossing the line some 36 years ahead of him, while fellow crash-caught riders, like Bauke Mollema who for chrissakes hit the deck at the *exact same time and place* for the *exact same freakin' reason*, immediately take to Twitter to denounce how *they've* just been massively screwed on time while Chris Froome gets gifted a now-virtually-unassailable race lead ahead of tomorrow's key, and inevitably Quintana-crushing, time trial, and former race leader/inexplicable new GC rider Tom Dumoulin cheekily asking if they can get their 21 minutes they schlepped home in removed from *their* time. Yep, just another day at the office--damn, maybe poor Contador was better off inadvertently getting the hell outta Dodge and avoiding this nightmare, who *knows* what would've happened to him out there!

Well, that's just another day at the office at the ol' Tour de France--enjoy the recap footage, and if today's stage is any indication, anything goes for tomorrow!