Friday, July 03, 2015

Can't Get Enough of the Giro Even Though It's Time for the Tour? Me Neither--It's the Giro Rosa, Baby! #GiroRosa2015

The Race: 9 stages and a just-completed explosive 2k time trial prologue--hellooooo, 1st leader of the race Annemiek Van Vleuten!--with a sprinty-rolly 1st half yielding to a climber's delight--or agony!--for the final stages, with a 21.7k stage 8 time trial, 2 summit finishes and 3 more mountainy stages tossed in. Forza donne--you're gonna need all the "forza" you can muster!

The Ruckus: the women's peloton is at its most leg-to-leg competitive in virtually every discipline in years, the tifosi appear to be at historic levels of freakout, and, for my money, it's time for the women's sport to take its rightful place just as tennis' did a generation ago. And, you can follow it, and all the action, here! Heck, you can even catch it on RAI, if you get it (not me unfortunately--screw you American cable)!

The Contenders: the national jerseys have just been awarded, prior winners have a lot to show against the young'uns, and there's a whole lotta pride--and scarce scanty sponsorship dough on the line. Sprints--the great Giorgia Bronzini, who sez, to broken hearts everywhere if you got any brains whatsoever, she might retire next year. Her own Wiggle teammate Julien D'hoore, Barbara Guarischi. GC--2-time campionessa/US bad-!@# Mara Abbott (follow her here! French phenom and new world road champ--are you watching, French men's teams? 'cause she oughta make you weep!--Pauline Ferrand-Prevot. Brit fastwoman and all-round danger the great Lizzie Armistead, Evelyn Stevens! Also on tap: last year's blue best-Italian-rider jersey winner Elisa Longo Borghini and 2009 maglia rosa Claudia Lichtenberg. Out: unfortunately, still, defending champ Marianne Vos, but even without her, the depth in this field is insane. See you next year, Marianne--but even you're gonna have your work cut out for you when you get back!

Well, onto the fast course tomorrow--congratulations to you and whatever the hell you're standing next to, Annemiek!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

It's Yer Tour de France in Preview Part Final: The Climbers, The Roleurs, and General Roundup! #letour

Okay, the teams've been presented, the nutrition's been tweaked, and we've got one (two, depending where you live) day to go! So now that you got the course, the GC, and the sprinters, who's left? These guys!

The Climbers: if you *can't* climb, you're not up for GC, so that covers *them*. If you *can* climb, but aren't up for GC, you're generally yer GC-huntin' team captain's beeyotch. But if he chokes or you're free of an overall contender in yer squad, *and* you're capable of a flying legendary mountaintop stage win, you probably used to work for Euskaltel. BMC's former King of the Mountains and don't you forget it Samu', of course. Movistar's Gorka Izaguirre and Winner Anacona. Romain Sicard. Uran Uran. Richie Porte, if he gets his confidence back after his soul-suckin' Giro. Rafal Majka and Roman Kreuziger, the latter bouncing back from a bio passport accusation and with more'n enough motivation for vengeance. Last year's podium surprise Thibaut Pinot. Out: shock Giro podium Mikel Landa, on Grand Tour hiatus til the Vuelta (because apparently, Nibali doesn't take that !@#$.) Oh, come on, Fab 4, reward one of your boys with a stage win!

The Stage Fighters: they're not the climbiest, they're not the sprintiest, but put 'em in the right place at the right time, and you've got *gold*, baby! Fabian Cancellara, who just announced this may be his farewell Tour (yes, Fabs fans, I know--here, have a tissue!) and Tony Martin for the time trial. We love camera-grabbin' Tommy "the Tongue" Voeckler and the indestructible Sylvain Chavanel. Luca Paolini. Like every damn Belgian in the peloton for the cobblestones. Gerrans, Costa, Kwiatkowski, Pippo (yeah, go to hell, at least the Tour will be infinitely more glam with him there)! Oh, the likelihood that some dimwit fan is gonna take out one of these guys with their !@#$in' camera or enormous drooling dog *right* when they're on the cusp of victory is just *killin'* me here...

The Gloves Are Off!: finally, I note that the GC contenders are now breaking their pre-race silence, with quiet Nairo Quintana in a monster huff against usually-more-discreet Vincenzo Nibali for seemingly criticizing Nairo for training in the comfort and obscurity of home in Colombia while Nibs Froome and Alberto were drudging away in spot-lit misery in Tenerife, Froome finally not just bitching about his accommodations on Twitter, and Alberto Contador scaring the crap out of everyone by saying he "felt better at the 2014 Tour," which presumably means he's actually gonna shell Froomey like a peanut and leave him gacking from the bottom of the race's first climb right up to the final podium in Paris. On a related note, whose numbnut idea was it to jinx Alberto's Giro-Tour double with a maillot jaune canary? Well, enough with the smack-talk and psych-outs--it's time to go, so let's all have it out on the road!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

It's Yer Tour de France in Preview, Part Trois: the Sprinters! #letour

Yes, unlike our beloved Giro and Vuelta, where sprints are what you do before you get on with the *real* racing, the Tour de France is a veritable playground for the sugared-up irrepressible adrenalin-junkie fast kids, with a good 1/3 of the Tour to get their speed on. Also in the mix: the green "points" or sprinter's jersey, which Peter Sagan better win because even though it's lame compared to the maillot jaune Oleg Tinkov wants *some* return on investment on his showy one-boy money pit. So who's going for glory? These guys!

Mark Cavendish: the Manx Missile's had only a so-so season, and frankly seems a bit dispirited since his 2014 season-long thrashing by Marcel Kittel, but Cav looked on grand form last year for July before crashing out with a dislocated shoulder in the 2014 Tour. Result? The man is out for *revenge*, and even without his intimidating palmares and low bull!@#$ tolerance from other riders, a pissed-off Cav is liable to chew your head off right along with your legs as he takes out his anger to the line. Just so's the rest of you stay out of biting range of those big teeth you oughta survive the sprints--better a lost stage than a lost body part, for sure!

Andre "the Gorilla" Greipel: he's big, he's strong, and the Lurch o' the peloton, tho' low-key, can still stomp out a win (and accidentally his rivals) under his big carcass without even noticing. Plus, his squad's been on fine form this season. We love you, ya big lug--I'm sure there's at least one stage win in your near future!

Nacer Bouhanni: oh, sure, he *just* hit the deck hard--so hard he had to pose butt-nekkid as a jaybird to prove it. But he's decided to do the Tour de France anyway, he had a smashing early season, and who needs a properly functioning "ribcage" or "cartilage" to, y'know, breathe enough to sprint? If he can hang on long enough to really heal up, hell yes there's hope!

Tyler Farrar: shut up! Can so either!

Michael "Bling" Matthews: has this kid been having a *season*, or what? He's obliterated the field in half the races this part of the season, and has an excellent lead out to boot. Go Bling!

Peter Sagan: he can climb, he can sprint, he can cost Oleg Tinkov 4.3 million euro--but what he *can't* do is justify his wormlike existence to vengeful team boss King Oleg after blowing his highly-touted and clearly overhyped Classics season. So will the Saganator have the mental fortitude to hold it together in the Tour, particularly with his squad's (!@#damn well better be) focus on Contador grabbing the whole Tour? Well, Peter's been doing pretty well again lately--but then, it apparently helps when he's separated from Oleg by a good coupla continents, and if Alberto does well, you *know* Tinkov's gonna be there for 24/7 yellow jersey photobombs!

The 'Nother Guys: yeah, there's Boassen Haagen Dazs, Degenkolb, and a handful of other cobbles-friendly strongmen, but pure sprints aren't necessarily their thing. But if they can ditch Cav out the autobus on some of those hilly midsections, there's room to play for other boys!

Out: Cav archrival--and best competitor--2014 bad-!@# Marcel "the Hair" Kittel, and reportedly so ticked about it he's trying to leave Giant "Doping for Hair" (a slogan discreetly dropped for the Tour) Alpecin. Yep, as with Nibs' 2014 GC win, every 2015 sprint victory'll always seem a little bit unearned--and Cav, now you got *no* excuses!

Well, we got the roleurs and climbeurs still left to go--and then, it's on to the Tour!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's Your Tour de France in Preview, Part Deux: The GC Contenders! #letour

Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Over 21 Stages: look, it's clear who's really in contention here. But, as we know from last year's kit-shredding femur-snappin' carnage, *anything* can happen at the Tour. So who's who, and what're their chances? Let's preview!

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana): yes, he goes first (though not necessarily in rank), he's the !@#damn reigning Tour de France champion! And yes, he was roundly humiliated last year at the widespread suggestion that, but for Chris Froome and Alberto Contador's unfortunate crash-outs, he'd'a been bringing up the rear on the podium. But the slow-n-steady Squalo has won all three Grand Tours, which is more than Chris Froome and 99% of the other guys in the peloton can say, and he's got the wiliest s.o.b. of a team boss in the field, the brilliant, if vicious and unpredictable, Alexander Vinokourov. Strengths: mountain superdomestique Michele Scarponi, who technically won one of Contador's Giros when it got stripped. Weaknesses: is this lineup *really* a squad that can win Nibs the Tour?

Chris Froome (Sky): Sure, he flails around like a drunken windmill, but against all aerodynamic odds, this guy's got game: he's a former winner of the Tour de France, and, even more usefully, knows who and how to throw under the bus to get there. Strengths: his team's been riding um, almost supernaturally well, and with a personal net weight of approximately 6 ounces, the man can *climb*. Weakness: psych-out. What the hell is this princess gonna do to protect his delicate wraith-like skin-sack from the harsh conditions of a 4-star hotel-room mattress now that UCI's put his mobile one-man palace off limits? HOLY !@#$, WHAT IF HE HAS TO SHARE HIS ICE-BUCKET (hell, the *hallway*) WITH SOME LOWLY SLOB DOMESTIQUE? And was Froomey *trying* to lie down for a nice nap in the middle of the roadway 5 times a day last year? Forget setting the pace--the boy needs someone to keep him *upright*!

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): Can Alberto Contador be the first man since the legendary Pantani to score the Giro-Tour double? Well, as the Greatest Grand Tour Rider of His Generation, and the good sense to keep his form to himself, he's got a better chance than anyone else would. Strength: he's willing to risk everything on descents that leave the rest of his rivals carefully hugging the roadside, and surprise-attack his rivals at the unlikeliest, yet paradoxically most successful, points on the course. Weakness: no offense Oleg--mostly because you could have me frozen like Han Solo and shipped off to !@#$hole camp in Siberia--but one, wasting a calorie of your other riders' efforts on Sagan could cost you the race, and two even though 'Berto bagged the Giro this year, it sure didn't seem to be because of his team. Nice if you can press Sky into domestique duties again--but since that ain't gonna happen twice in a row, even nicer if your guys bring their *own* A-game!

Nairo Quintana (Movistar): humble, thoughtful, and already a Grand Tour champion at the tender age of what, 25?, Nairo is the purest climber of the lot--a handy characteristic on a course laden with fabled mountains. Even more bitchin', he's a major women's rights promoter in his home country. Strengths: just peerless--peerless I say--in the steepest grades in the world. Weakness: the Tour's a lot more balanced than the Giro. Another wrench: Alejandro Valverde's there to "support" Quintana, which means, so far as I can tell, he's gonna toss 'im to the gutter like a used musette on at least 3 of 5 summit finishes and kneecap 'im entirely for at least 1 stage win. Yeah, he's gonna "help" you like Froome on Wiggins, honey--keep yer eye on that sneaky little bastid, Nairo, you *know* he wants to one-up his 4th place from last year!

Other Guys: Yes, the French rode well last year, scoring 2 podium spots for the first time in well--heck, I wasn't a math major, *you* see if you can count that high. But even the best of 'em was like 8 minutes back last year, so if Nibs even just stays even, and especially if Froome Contador and Quintana don't meet with any major misfortune, they're screwed. And go to hell, Purito's gonna be up there too! I do expect Talansky and Tejay to put up a show, and since Tejay is bringing we love former King of the Mountains Samuel Sanchez, he won't lack for help in the heights. While we're at it, allez allez Rigoberto Uran--after that Giro, you're gonna *need* to do well!

Well, let's hope that between the cobbles, the crosswinds, and just plain breathin' in and out, that all these guys manage to stay outta trouble so we've got a fight worth watching. Me, much as I love king-o'-the-future Quintana and admire the tranquillo Nibs, I'm kinda hoping for Alberto this year--if only so Oleg Tinkov leaves him in one piece at the end of the race in Paris!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's Yer Tour de France in Preview, Part Un: The Course! #letour

Yes, Tour fans, we're *getting* to the GC contenders next, I swear--but, as Brad Wiggins' virtually custom-designed Tour de France shows, the course itself can be difference between winning, or losing, the whole show. So here, what they're up against:

The Overall: no, this ain't no Giro: we got 9! flat stages, 3 medium hilly stages for the breakaway artistes, 7 mountain stages with 5 summit finishes among 'em, 1 individual time trial, one team time trial, and--though now useless to poor oppressed Chris Froome, who'll be forced to use a regular hotel room like a peasant instead of his one-man luxury motorcade--two rest days to relax the legs, restore the soul, and outsmart the narcs. How it breaks down:

Week One: Welcome to Le Tour, and the beautiful Netherlands! To get our first boy in yellow, we start off with a 13.8k exceedingly flat individual time trial from Utrecht to Utrecht. Not enough to blow the GC wide open, but just enough to scare a few guys a little! Day 2: 116 k with a coastline-hugging island finish that could toss in some crosswinds--so Sky/Astana/Movistar/Tinkoff, keep your captains up front! Day 3: if you can't handle the fabled Mur de Huy, with its 1.3k embracing a leg-crushing max 25% gradient, you're already in for it. Stage 4: it's the cobbles, beeyotches: 13k and 7 sections of potential disaster for any GC contender to have a mechanical or get caught up in some other eejits (or their own) nasty crash. Good luck kids! Stage 5, 189k and a sprinter's delight; Stage 6, a bit of a lumpy little beast with another threat of coastal crosswinds; and finally, another likely sprint stage to round out the week. Enjoy it while it lasts, overall contenders, 'cause next week, it's down to business!

Week Two: Stage 8: time to test those legs, climbers! Not so bad, but a finishing kick up the 2k, 6-odd% Mur de Bretagne. Stage 9: a hilly, but fortunately not too twisty, 28k team time trial, uphill at the end, which could leave some of the leaders bitin' their nails. *Don't* !@#$ this up for Quintana, Movistar! Day 10: relax, you've earned your rest day--instead of riding all day, you can use that time to freak out about tomorrow! Stage 10: *now* we're climbing! After a coupla cat-4s to lull the boys to sleep, it's a jarring hors categorie finale up the Col de Soudet. Ouchie! Stage 11: it's the pain-cave duo of the Col d'Aspin, and the Tourmalet, with, to be fair, a chill Cat-3 ending to give anyone who bonked earlier a chance to catch back up. And on the plus side, stage 10 didn't look so bad after all, right? Stage 12: no more gifts, honey: 2 Cat-1 slugfests, and the potentially GC-destroying--or making--Plateau de Beille. Anyone wanna place bets as to which stage Alejandro Valverde's gonna melt down on? Yeah, me neither, man's still riding like a freak--I don't think the hills will be his worst problem! Stage 13: a long'n'lumpy 198k schlep that'll mercilessly tease those climb-sucky sprinters still stuck on the autobus at the flat, friendly end. Now that's just mean!

Week Three: Stage 14: a deceptively false-flat midsection leading up to a sharp finish. Pay attention, GC! Stage 15: another day for the fast-men, whoever hasn't already abandoned the whole race in cringing agony. Stage 16: a break-friendly course with a sprint-lovin' end. Don't look behind you jaysus you've only got 1k to go don't !@#$ this break up and lose in the last 500 meters playing head games! Next day--yer last chance to rest'n' recuperate, 'cause Stage 17, it's up again with a Cat-1 before yer Cat-2 end-game. Stage 18--the hors categorie Col du Glandon before a mercifully (much) more manageable end. Stage 19--it's now or never for the GC contenders! Cat 1, HC, Cat 2, and Cat 1 to La Toussuire. Hang it there Alberto--if you bonk on the Croix de Fer, you can always bomb it down the Col du Mollard before the final push to the clouds! Stage 20: yep, if the GC guys've all been lucky, the race organizers have left it *right* to the end, as they tackle the Croix de Fer again and end up the legendary Alpe d'Huez. Gone from the planned route: the Galibier, nixed over some troublesome rockslides. Oh, throw 'em a rope and an axe and let 'em pick their way over with their bikes slung over their shoulders all 'cross-style--you *want* ratings drama, or not?

Last But Not Least: it's the ceremonial champagne-sippin' romps in the yellow, green, polka-dot, and white jerseys, and one last chance for eternal glory on the Champs-Elysees. C'mon, Cav, it'd be awful nice to see you back!

Well, them's the ride--and Contador, if you're not on top of the podium to bask in the Giro-Tour double, I'd stick on a fake moustache, sneak discreetly around that nutjob Tinkov, and grab the first damn flight outta Paree!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Hell With UCI, ASO, and the Teams: It's Yer Comprehensive Plan to Save Cycling! #cycling

Look, it's only nine days 'til the Tour de France, and what's the big news in cycling? Right, UCI, ASO, and the teams are all in some bull!@#$ power struggle to "reform" the sport, and inevitably, they're gonna !@#$ it up. Ergo, it's time for the rest of us to take charge, so here, Yer Comprehensive Plan to Save Cycling:

1. Screw this revolving-door of teams named after corporate sponsors. Who the hell's ever gonna feel any loyalty to Team You Got Embarrassing Dandruff? Like with soccer clubs and baseball teams, your team's from *this* city or *this* place, and it's got *this* in big letters on the front of the jersey, and the corporate shills can stick their little logos on the shoulders the arms and that showy patch of real estate on the !@#, and we are going to buy 8 million tshirts and jerseys 'n' !@#$ to show our team pride. We're the Boston Nutcrackers, and you're going *down*, you punks!

2. Consistent, uniform team kit. !@#dammit, I *hate* when the teams change colors every year and it takes you (well, okay, me) half the season to figure out who's where in the peloton. Argyle? Great! Lampre? So pretty (though I did prefer the turquoise to that sedate navy)! FDJ? You guys get *one* chance to fix that monstrosity before the new rule's in place!

3. Podium babes. From now on, unless they've personally just won the race, they're Alberto Contador and Fabian Cancellara. At least that's what I'm sensing would be a ratings winner from all those lurid comments on Twitter!

4. ASO gets a 12-month grace period to get over France not winning a Tour de France in 2 1/2 decades. Then, they have to stop acting like crybabies and help *solve* this mess. That's what like 80% of this is about, right?

5. The Amgen EPO Tour of California can damn well wait until the Giro d'Italia is over from now on. I'm tired of the Giro field being gutted by this stupid schedule change!

6. Halftime Shows. Let's face it--except for an occasional GC-threatening crosswind, *nothing* is going on, say, 50k into a glass-flat sprint stage. Solution: mid-way through each Grand Tour, we full-stop the race for a dazzling multi-million-dollar musical halftime show! And, if you're anything like American football fans, you actually *will* tune into a sport you never watch all year and blow the ratings, and the advertiser/sponsor dollars, through the roof just to see it. David Hasselhoff, man (he's very big in Europe), Nicki Minaj, hundreds of dancers in sparkling-crystalled matching team kits--let's get this party *started*!

7. Barriers. The season-destroying carnage from these menaces, and the fans who lean over them, has gotten out of control. From now on, they'll have those spinning-serrated-blade thingies like the chariots from "Ben-Hur" to keep people back. Ya wanna get closer? Yeah, well the riders don't want to break their damn bones for your stupidity, either!

8. Guy riders will, in addition to their regular team-captain or domestique duties, act as soigneurs for the women until pay parity is reached. Gee, I've got a crucial mountain stage to rest up for tomorrow--uh, can I run out to the pharmacy and get you a refill on your razor blades, miss? Yeah, two days of that--suddenly there's enough money for everybody!

9. Sharp left-handers within 500 meters of the finish line shall be padded with, instead of hay bales, the actual !@#$heads who designed that crash-inducing idiocy. Voila--tomorrow's stage has been rerouted more sensibly!

10. Anyone touching a rider, unless it's to squeeze with permission squeeze Peter Sagan's adorably chubby cheeks, will be summarily consigned to a cage-fight with Mark Cavendish. Ya can't touch anyone else with yer arm yanked off!

11. Anti-doping controls will be carried out by the slowest rider in any given field. That way, at least he's got a fighting chance of figuring out what the hell's going on so he can level the playing field for the next day!

All right dear reader(s), if I've missed anything, god knows our beloved cycling could use the suggestions. So let's fix what needs fixing, and get on to the Tour!

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Fantasy No-Bull!@#$ Doping-Confession Press Conference #cycling

Good morning. I've called you all here today, even though nobody gives a crap about a minor ex-pro cyclist and current directeur sportif/trainer/bar owner/TV commentator/washed-up bitter !@#hole, because I've finally been busted for doping/my agent told me I might keep my current job if I do this/that rat-bastard ex-teammate of mine threw me under the bus to the narcs.

First, I'd like to address Denmark/Germany/Italy/are you *serious* that's all we're ever gonna get outta *Spain*?'s recent report on systemic doping in our country. At all times, I fully lied/deflected/minimized/covered up/pointed fingers at some other sap to the anti-doping authorities. Therefore, the fact that the report calls me out in only one/two/three sentences is a testament to their utter complicity/complete oafishness/general squeamishness/severe personal embarrassment in dealing with this scourge of our beloved cycling.

Next, I'd like to say that my farcical claim that I only doped during the "early" part of my career, when I sucked, then was perfectly clean when I was actually winning races, was to beat the statute of limitations/make my mom feel better/keep my most recent soigneur from hunting me down like a wildebeest/the most ludicrous horse-hockey ever conjured with a sleazy PR agent and desperate team management. In fact, I was taking PEDs up until 2 years ago/2 weeks ago/hell, I'm about to jam a needle in my !@# right after the press conference just to take a club ride.

As to the UCI, I'd like to offer my sincerest ennui/disdain/contempt/!@#$ you buddy! for their inept/ineffective/half-hearted/completely useless actions to clean up the sport. In particular, I'd like to extend my gratitude/shake their hands/kiss them like they've never been kissed before for tipping off my team boss about the impending midnight hotel-room drug checks/introducing the biological passport and providing a perfect roadmap to what I could get away with/buying that ridiculous story about how I just had a massive stomach virus/weird tropical parasite/pre-test sexual encounter/asthma attack.

Lastly, I'd like to thank my current team for supporting me/recognizing that my prior sins have nothing to do with them/understanding that the sport cannot move forward without an open and honest discussion of the past/promising not to have me whacked if I completely exonerated them from any wrongdoing. I're not gonna have me whacked now, right? Right?