Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Your Women's Tour de France La Course in Review! #lacourse

Okay, so I got some crap for not covering La Course in more detail (tho I *was* working a freakin' bike event for 13 hours so cut me some slack dag nabit). And what do I find? Holy crap, even getting enough info now on basics like the race route's a nutwhack! Anyhow, so here's to the first of many more (and three weeks more, for heck's sake): yer inaugural women's La Course!

The Route: Just another day on the Champs-Elysees, baby, 89 kilometers of flat as a (slightly lumpy) pancake and beggin' for action!

The Contenders: Who *wasn't* there? Vos, Bronzini, Olds, Wild, Barnes, Van Dijk, Worrack...hell, if the Tour had managed to hold onto half so bangin' a field, it coulda been a very different race!

How It Went Down: interestingly, Bronzini's Wiggle-Honda, for one, wasn't convinced it'd end in a bunch sprint. And breakaways we got, but a relentless peloton kept bringin' 'em back. Disaster at 1.2k to go: Lizzie Armitstead and reigning French national champ Prevot hit the deck, and Wild's chances for a win were arguably blown when she punctured then had to chase back on. Final podium: Marianne Vos, Kirsten Wild (even after her puncture!), and Leah Kirchmann. Next year: oh come on, Giorgia will so either take it!

TV Coverage: As usual, glad to get any scraps I can get, but at least Universal carried highlights, and huge points to Gogo for rightly comparing Marianne Vos to Eddy Merckx, though it's also worth noting that in addition to being a road, mtb and cross champ, Vos has also been observed to personally MacGyver a fully-functional race-ready road bike outta kitchen twine, wire hangers, cut-up rubber raincoats, and aluminum foil. Right on Marianne!

And, the Coolest Footage Ever: if you ever wondered what it was like to be the most kick-!@# athlete in the world, here's the Vos cam to take you through it, complete with primal scream o' victory. Why is there not some huge bronze statue to this woman?!

Anyway, that's La Course for this year, and I think we've all answered the question whether there's a market. Now UCI, let's pop some champagne, quit treating these women like wilting violets, let 'em do the three week stage races they deserve, and get 'em all-day live coverage to boot!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

It's the 2014 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards! #letour

Look--except for the last 10 minutes of the stage, the end of the Tour de France is always a total letdown. You've invested weeks of cheering, swearing, and armchair directeur-sportifing. And you already know what's gonna happen, right down to the jersey-donning, dignitary-handshaking, and Oleg Tinkov barging onto the podium in a yellow jumpsuit in front of Vincenzo Nibali to declare himself the winner. So what better way to cheer ourselves up after this humongous anticlimax by giving these hard-working riders credit where credit is (sometimes disgustingly) due? Yes, hold on to your handlebars everybody--it's time for the 2014 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards!

Coulda Woulda Shoulda Award: sure, discount Vincenzo Nibali all you like for beating the "weakest" final field in years by a suitably ludicrous 7 minute plus margin with the exit of Alberto Contador and Chris Froome. But part of the damn game is staying upright and out of trouble, and he ain't in the rarified company of both Alberto and Eddy Merckx as one of the 6 winners of all 3 Grand Tours because everyone good around him--including some damn fine riders who made it all the way to Paris this year--sucked all the time. So lay off il campione already--like it or not, respect, he really earned it!

Cognitive Dissonance Prize of the Tour: okay, like the last 30 Tours. *Two* French guys on the podium? What's next, an actual win in Paris? Ha, ha, just ki--no, I mean it, what's next, an actual win in Paris?

Punk-!@# Move of the Tour: sure, faking exhaustion, like writhing in agony on the ground over a hangnail in soccer, is part of the game, but Alejandro Valverde ignoring young Pinot's desperate gestures for help sucking on his wheel and *then* attacking him was a major wanker move. And who's on the final podium in Paris now? Yeah, that's right!

PR Screwup of 2014: the podium-babe kiss-diss of maillot jaune Vincenzo Nibali that far overwhelmed the achievement of the precious jersey itself. It's back to draping yourself over the merch in a tacky bikini at international car shows for you, young lady!

Crushing Disappointment of the Tour: yep--fan fave Peter Sagan takes the green jersey but fails to win, as was deemed almost inevitable beforehand, a single stage. Dang, that kid is a Ferrari motor with a Yugo head--someone grab him a tutor on race tactics, but quick!

Pretty Fly for a Backup Guy Prize: Rafal Majka wasn't even supposed to be there. But when Contador crashed out, this bottom-o'-the-barrel selection from Tinkov-Saxo not only bagged two mountain stages, but the overall polka-dot jersey as well (shut up! Purito's just resting up for the Vuelta! bite me!)--and Oleg apparently owes him an Aston Martin for his efforts. To the completely outclassed Team Sky--watch and *learn*!

Agonizing Moment of the Race Award: yes, this Tour was replete with jump-outta-yer-chair-screaming awful moments. But for me, most heartrending was Jack Bauer getting swept up after an exhausting all-day breakaway within mere meters on the line on stage 15. Aw, I *really*, *really* hope he gets one next year!

No No No No No No Imminently Memorial Statute: no matter how often he says it, it still can't really be true. The great Jens Voigt's last Tour de France. Still, of course he took a final flyer to grab an intermediate sprint on the final stage. Jeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnssssssssss!

Gorilla in the Mist (of Rage) Award: yes, the hilarious scene where Andre Greipel, having dragged his ginormous thundering carcass over the Stage 11 mountains to a surprise possible sprint win, goes down in a tangle with we love Sylvain Chavanel, the camera cuts back shortly thereafter to catch Sylvain and Andre having a commiserating "well, that's cycling!" sort of chat, and instead nabs an angry giant gesturing violently at Chava and screaming "you touched my handlebars! your fault!" Good thing the camera was there or there mighta been a lot more than just gesturing--and Sylvain, next time, don't piss off the Gorilla!

Completely Missing the Point Award: the cycling world goes nuts--after *years* of begging for, and clearly deserving, their own three week Tour de France, the women get what? *One* day on the Champs-Elysees with some of the greatest riders in the peloton, with--gasp!--equal prize money on the day to boot. Except it wasn't freakin' BROADCAST, except for highlights, at least in my country. Well, Marianne Vos won it. Do you clods even *see* the problem here?

Annoying Trend of 2014: great, you got a selfie. Unfortunately, you also just derailed the stage and possibly career of one of the top competitive athletes on the planet. Tool!

Phil & Paulism of the Tour: sure, there were the frequent misidentifications of the riders, the lyrical "dancing on the pedals", the frenzied commentating of the GC contenders' every wobble, and a lengthy history lesson on each passing ruin, but this year, the winner: Paul (or Phil) referring--without hesitation or equivocating--to Marcel Kittel as the "preeminent sprinter in the world." Okay, so Cav wasn't physically there any more for Paul to remark on--but the hell with his shoulder injury, that *had* to have hurt!

The Man in Iron Mask Prize: this one's an Astana two-fer: not only did the exceedingly quiet Vincenzo Nibali finally show some emotion on the podium in Paris by, well, noticeably exhaling, but the man actually made Alexandre Vinokourov *repeatedly* smile. Someone got this all on film?--we may never, ever see this again!

Crash o' the Tour (Race-Altering Stupidity Edition): all it takes, even for the best in the business, is a moment's distraction. A smashingly on-form Alberto Contador, snapping his leg in a mere glance's time. Yes, I wonder what would've happened if, too!

Crash o' the Tour (Jaysus, Not Again Edition): it took approximately 50 separate crashes and two miles of sterile gauze bandages, but finally, after busting his wrist and hitting the deck repeatedly even before he got to the feared Stage 5 cobbles, the mummy-wrapped kit-shredded remnants of what was left of poor Chris Froome finally crawled into the team car in defeat. What a lousy way to leave!

Crash o' the Race (Aw, Suck! Edition): Mark Cavendish, taking himself (and damn near Gerro) out with a careless move near the finish line and an excruciating shoulder injury. As with Nibs and his main competition, nope, we'll never truly know what'd've happened. Get well so you can show us all next year, Cav!

Best Roadside Decoration: forget the overhead shots of spray-painted hay-bales arranged into to giant bicycles, the guy dressed like a banana, or even the dude wearing the "I'm riding a pony" outfit--this year's win goes to the wholly original and incongruous bear lugged by some fan to the sidelines. There Phil and Paul are, discussing some 13th-century chateau, and all of a sudden, Phil bursts out "Oh my goodness, Alejandro Valverde's just been eaten by a bear within one kilometer of the finish line! I can't believe what I'm seeing!" C'mon, like half of you haters weren't wishing it!

Best Rider Smackdown: between Thomas "The Tongue" Voeckler road-raging some hecklers, Luke Durbridge going all Incredible Hulk on a hapless soigneur, and an unprecedented bevy of close-cutting fans swat-offs, I'm giving this for the absolutely imperturbable Vincenzo Nibali, woken from his perpetual placidity by an exuberantly celebratory bikini-clad spectator taking a selfie who was promptly whacked outta the way not only by the race leader but also the close-following race moto immediately thereafter. I get it, it *is* the coolest thing on earth--just stay the hell outta a guy's line, willya ditzbag?

You Can't Cheat Mother Nature Prize: it's one thing when the camera happens to be passing by or curiously stops to see why a teammate is holding up his GC leader and inadvertently catches a mass (or individual) nature break. But the surprise, slow realization, and endless dissection of poor gut-flattened Arnaud Demare stepping into an accommodating if unfortunate fan's roadside trailer was just a little too intimate. Okay, there's a very gnarly bug going around the peloton, we get it--can you give the poor sod a little privacy?

Cosmic Justice Award: with all the stupid fans leaning into the riders year, often with disastrous results, I gotta admit, there was something almost satisfying every time a rider overcooked a slippery corner and plowed off the road into the spectators, since nobody that I could see got at all hurt for it. Order has been restored to the universe!

Incredible News of the Tour Award: the rumor that the luckless (and resultsless) Andy Schleck's outta Team Trek next year--and that Frank, who's long hand-held his heralded prodigy baby bro and rode pretty decently this year--still in. Worst part: nobody even noticed. Ouch!

Incredible News o' the Outside Cycling World Award: former Tour de France champ Brad Wiggins--now so discounted he couldn't even get a gig as Chris Froome's domestique--announces he's done with racing on the road entirely and will go back to the obscure and humble track instead. Worst part: nobody even noticed. Ouch!

Roses are Red, Violets Are--Who Cares? Award: finally, it seems fitting to hail the very last-placed rider in the Tour de France, the lanterne rouge: Team Giant-Shimano's Cheng Li. Sincere congratulations on a job incredibly well done--you are officially the 164th bad-!@#est athlete on Earth!

Well, congratulations to all of this year's noble, and especially ignoble, awardees. Complimenti Vincenzo Nibali, and now let's all get on to the bangin' Vuelta!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Valverde Falls Short and Sagan Blows It Again: It's Last Chance at the Tour de France Corral! #letour

Tic-Tock, Make It Stop: Yep, forget tomorrow's stage winner Tony Martin, we've got ourselves a real battle for the GC podium at the individual time trial, with the experienced if marginally crappy Valverde a mere 2 seconds back off Jean-Christophe Peraud in 3rd and 15 seconds off Thibaut Pinot Grigio. Oh, come on, I know no-one wants Piti to win here, but like you won't be off yer seats screamin' at the TV with excitement (or disgust) anyway? Plus, if Valverde gets this, it'll be the first time he (1) hasn't had a catastrophic race-wrecking meltdown at the Tour de France (or hell, any Grand Tour) and (2) he's actually made the final podium here. Aw, do it just to piss everyone off Alejandro--what's another year to the French, when they've sucked at their own Tour for a quarter-century anyhow?

He's Tourminated: and, let's just cut all the brave-face carry-on stiff-upper-lip crapola--while winning the overall green jersey at the Tour de France would be a career-defining coup for anyone else, for Peter freakin' Sagan it's an emerald emblem of failure, as having blown the stage win today with a late-stage multi-cyclist pileup, he's got just one chance left to salvage his Tour on the Champs-Elysees, and it's pretty darn likely that the little that's even left of Marcel Kittel after the Pyrenees is gonna grab that by a country mile. Speaking of which, don't it feel weird Cav not taking it? Oh well, teeth, hair, they both of 'em sprint, what's the difference!

Ladies First: finally, don't forget that delicate flowers like Marianne Vos and Giorgia Bronzini are gonna be provin' the worth of the ladies on the Champs as well, in what's hopefully their first crack at a someday-soon full-on three-week Tour de France. No diss to the eternal Vos, but can *someone* else at least come close to taking it besides her--variety is the spice of life, and we need *something* unexpected to happen on Sunday, right? Woot woot Giorgiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Soigneur Beatings, Team Bushwhacking, and Total Freakin' Meltdowns: It's Chaos at the Tour! #letour

Well, you can't say the Pyrenees aren't lively: between Luke Durbridge attacking a Movistar soigneur who inadvertently got in his way, Valverde's squad ruthlessly eliminating a bonked and helpless Tejay Van Garderen from the podium slugfest, and a coupla French riders other'n Chavanel who actually don't suck battling it out for both the third place overall and the prized white jersey, it's !@#damn carnage out there! So let's chat:

Oleeeeeee, Ole Ole Oleg: so the entire purpose of Alberto Contador's season is !@#$ed, first by his leg-breaking crash and then by surgical complications now screwing him out of the beloved Vuelta, and what does a despondent Plan-B-less Tinkoff-Saxo do? That's right, bag three huge mountain stages and the polka-dot jersey in short order, even without high-pass superdomestiques Roman Kreuziger and Jesus Hernandez in hand. Uh, Oleg, not to besmirch either young Majka or we love Mick Rogers, but you *might* wanna ask these guys to cool their jets just a *little* bit--you *want* the narcs so suspicious you have to find the squad a Band-Aid sponsor next year just to plug up the holes from their surprise 2 a.m. doping tests?

Polka Party: meantime, much as it rips my guts out to see dear Purito losing the polka-dot jersey to Rafal Majka, I gotta say, since Rodriguez' main goals for the year were supposed to be the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta anyway, maybe it's better for him to conserve some energy now for the Vuelta and not squander it all defending the King of the Mountains. Oh, hell with that, go for it Purito--*then* kick everyone's !@# in September!

Race to the Bottom: in wholly disgusting and hopefully inaccurate news, the peloton's now wracked with the word that alleged Orica-Greenedge class-act Michael Albasini called French breakaway companion Kevin Reza a "dirty negro" for failing to work in the break, which according to team management was simply a "misunderstanding" pleasantly resolved between the two riders with a "handshake." !@#$, Albasini, you're lucky it wasn't pleasantly resolved with a punch to the jaw a lifetime ban and immediate expulsion from the race! Sigh, and here I'd heard in sport this was mostly a soccer problem...

Just Say No (or "Neigh"): and, over in the rarified world of horse racing, I see even the unimpeachable Queen Elizabeth's prize horse has been busted for pony doping, upon which the royal family promptly blamed--and you can't make this !@#$ up--"contaminated feed." That's right, now you gotta hire one guy just to go and hand-pick a bale o' organic clover for the sensitive beastie, none o' this cheap tainted Chinese suspect hay anymore...

Haut(acam) Couture: finally, the mountains ain't over yet, as even a cagey and perhaps superstitious Vincenzo Nibali concedes, with brutal climbs up both the hors categorie Tourmalet and Hautacam tomorrow, and the best chance for anyone to crack Alejandro Valverde's increasingly iron-clad second place. Me, I'm looking for Tejay to get his wings back before Peter Sagan's desperate next-day last-chance stage before the Champs-Elysees. And of course, where else but tomorrow for Purito to grab back that dashing dotted jersey again? Allez, the lot of you--but I wouldn't mind a former Euskie grabbing the stage! Here, WWF champ Durbridge throws it down:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ten Ways to Beat Vincenzo Nibali in This Year's Tour de France #letour

Look, Vincenzo Nibali's 4:37 up at the Tour de France with just a few days to go, and everyone's already started snoozin' as the remaining competition just fights for scraps on the podium. And you sure as hell can't beat Nibali at this point just by riding your bike. But *no-one* is unbeatable--and if you want that maillot jaune in Paris, boys, it's time to get creative! Here, how to beat Nibs at this year's Tour:

1. Run the Orica-Greenedge bus into some road furniture on a narrow section of the course, and hold up the yellow jersey group for 30 minutes while you try to execute a three-point turn to move it out of the way.

2. Sneak into his luggage and replace his bib shorts with a pair one size too small. Six hours in the saddle wearing that puppy = "Medic!"

3. Swap out the electrolyte drink in his water bottle for the a nice turkey dinner nutrient supplement. L-tryptophan nap-time!

4. Repaint Marcel Kittel's bike in Astana colors and slip it on top of the team car. One bike change, and Nibs won't even be able to reach the pedals.

5. Lock Alexander Vinokourov in the bathroom and replace him with a carefully-made-up Movistar boss, who will then issue fake race instructions from the team car. Really, Vino, you *want* me to ride at the back of the peloton at the start of the Pla d'Adet? Okay....

6. Provoke Vincenzo with doping questions at the press conference 'til he slugs a journalist. Mon Dieu--the maillot jaune is in handcuffs, he missed the sign-in!

7. Put your crappiest domestique in Astana kit and stick 'im in front to set the pace--a slooooooow pace. Like Nibali's gonna be able to tell the difference?--he's following the guy's !@#, not his face!

8. Crazy Glue, meet cleats. Cleats, meet bike shoes. Those wacky pranksters, I'll just--whaddya mean, you can't find my other pair of bike shoes?

9. Pretend you didn't hear the yellow jersey's request for a rest break. Again. And again. And again. Not to get graphic here, but the guy's gotta stop sometime!

10. Swap out his time trial bike and aero helmet for a fatbike and a spiky kids' dinosaur helmet just before the clock starts to tick. That oughta pull back about 20 seconds a kilometer!

Well, aside from the tried-and-true "slash his tires" and "throw a musette into his wheel"--which are both punk-!@# and actually dangerous, so completely off the table--them's my best bets. If you got any other ideas, I'm sure Valverde wouldn't mind hearing 'em--but time is running out!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

It's Yer Tour de France Rest Day Deux Roundup! #letour

Okay, it's technically not the rest day yet, but it will be after the guys get a good night's sleep, so let's get up to speed:

Mortal Kombat: total bull!@#$ giving Martin Elmiger--for whom I was even rooting, so for once in the 8 years of this blog-rag I'm actually being fair--the Most Combative prize over Jack Bauer. He at least was able to put a whack into Elmiger in the end--can we at least give this poor sobbing guy a nice embroidered hanky or something?

Adventures in Interviews: yep, it's been pretty dramatic on the road out there, but for once it's also been equally entertaining in the pre- and post-race rider interviews, particularly the best one so far held yesterday: the journo asking Andre Greipel if he'd talked to Sylvain Chavanel since the "incident", and a murderous-looking (or perhaps he was happy, hard to tell the difference) Greipel just going "NO." Brevity is the soul of...well, deciding *not* to go back a few days later and rip the other guy's legs off! Meantime, in "Things Not to Say to the Press," let's give the weird stuffed animal thingy to race leader Vincenzo Nibali, who when asked about any connection to notorious doping doc Michele Ferrari, said he'd never met him "personally." What, so your soigneur personally met 'im a dark alley behind a shady internet pharmacy or some !@#$?--just say "no" and leave it, do you *want* the narcs to stick you full of more spikes than a hedgehog you eejit?!

Mime is Money (or Not): look, Sagan, you've got a bangin' palmares, and you are still very young. But damn, will you *never* learn any tactical sense? You can't rely on wheelies and batted eyelashes forever, boy!

Meditations on the Maillot Jaune: I'm pretty sure I've never seen Vincenzo Nibali actually breathe, at least on a freakin' mountain climb. He must have gills somewhere. Oh, that's right, he *is* nicknamed the Shark after all!

Kind Gesture o' the Alps: Tinkoff-Saxo's Rafal Majka dedicating his very first pro win ever to departed team leader Alberto Contador--not just because it was so self-effacing, but because it would look *really* bad for Tinkov to have Alberto whacked right now!

The Resurgence of Frank Schleck: yeah, just *tell* me you're not equal parts heartened and freaked out by how well big bro Frank is riding lately. Liar! Note to Papa Schleck: even so, and particularly considering poor Andy's season, you might not want to yap to everyone that the boys are better off retiring than riding for a Pro Continental squad next year. Unless you *want* 'em working for an elite team in exchange for laundry duty and an occasional euro for the soda machine!

Cough Drops: in addition to the usual disgusting intestinal bugs that seem to going around--or at least grabbing serious discussion and screen time when some sorry afflicted s.o.b. has to commandeer an innocent bystander's camper trailer to handle it--half the rest of the GC contenders, specifically Tejay Van Garderen and Sky backup-plan Richie Porte, were stuck gacking their way through the high Alps with chest infections. May the rest day give you a chance to recover, if nothing else so you can pound Valverde (but not dear Purito) in the Pyrenees!

Karmic Justice: so Alejandro Valverde sits there suckin' off a suprised and disappointed young Thibaut Pinot's wheel and faking an inability to help, then whips around him like a total wanker--and the next day, Valverde accuses Pinot of touching his wheel and screwing up his gears so badly that he loses precious time on GC. I think this sweet kid is learning already, Alejandro--might want to stay outta his way from now on!

Clap Along If You Feel Like a Room Without a Roof: holy crap, I don't care if he *does* have the likely winner of the TdF to his credit, in all his triumphant erratic nutjob years in professional cyclist outwitting (and outbloodbagging) the best of the most amoral, I swear I have never seen Alexander Vinkourov so outright smiley. Am I the only thinking he needs a specialized sports physiologist/trainer to help him there so the muscles of his face don't explode? We still love you Vino you bastid!

Friday, July 18, 2014

It's Yer Lessons from the Peloton, Part Deux! #letour

1. I know he won last year and all, but Froome woulda been flailing like a baby pterodactyl trying to keep up with Vincenzo Nibali today. Does *anyone* look more tranquillo on a bike than Nibs?

2. Alejandro Valverde is a punk-!@# opportunistic weasel. Thibaut Pinot--lesson learned, young man!

3. You cannot improve on Cipollini's nekkid skinsuit by printing a neon Borat banana-hammock over one and haranguing the peloton. For the love of God and the mercy for all watching the Tour at home--just. don't.

4. Yes, Phil called Romain Bardet "Bardot" a thousand times today. Frankly, I don't care if he can't actually tell Roman and Brigitte apart. Neither can you. We love you Phil!

5. Shut up! Purito was just resting! Go to hell!

6. Pretty interesting how Jurgen Van den Broeck was smacking Alberto Contador for causing his own crash the other day then he goes and causes Jakob Fuglsang's. That's quite enough from the peanut gallery, then, thank you!

7. And yes, this is left over from yesterday--but Peter Sagan, give it up. Everyone is threatened by you. No-one is going to cooperate with you. Ever. Just *go* already!

Well, here's the Shark in yellow again--but tomorrow on the Col d'Izoard, anything can happen! Come on, we can't just all throw in towel just yet...