Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It's Yer Holy Crap It's Almost the Tour Intro to Cycling Part Cinq: The 9 Species of Cycling Fans! #tdf2016

Welcome back, new cycling fans and old! You've got the Who, When, Where, and What Cool Cycling Terms you need to know. Now, whether you're watching the race by the actual roadside, or just wondering who *are* those nutwhacks you're seeing on TV, you oughta know who's watching the Grand Boucle, the Big Show, the--well, you get the picture. Why? Because the Tour de France isn't just a *race*, it's an *experience*, especially for (and because of) its rabid fans. So who are these people? Witness, The 9 Species of Cycling Fans:

1) The Wannabe: He's ridden the entire 267 kilometers of the queen stage just this morning before the race organizers closed the route for the riders--twice. His Strava KOMs rival Alberto Contador's, on one of El Pistolero's *good* days. And, despite heavy approbation from those who might dismiss him as a ridiculous, thwarted, moneybags weekend-warrior poseur, has he got the $10,000 superlight carbon-fiber ride and full polka-dot mountains leader kit (including socks and custom frame paint job) to prove it. Generally harmless, but he will *gut* you if you try to beat 'im to that bidon the race leader just tossed. How else can you pretend you're Astana's team leader without the right equipment?

2) The Polly Pureheart: Paints your name on the road--a dozen times in a single kilometer. Patiently waits for autographs for hours outside the team bus, and scores one (totally reasonably) from your mechanic, too. Politely begs a selfie with you at the hotel, while you're not too busy waiting for the elevator, of course. Has visited cycling museums in Belgium, Italy, France, and Spain, and is currently raising funds for one--or a giant marble statue of Jacques Anquetil--in her own hometown. One of the last bastions of unsullied love and innocence in a jaded sport, and no, they really *can't* believe their heroes'd ever do such a horrid thing--so don't dope and break his trusting heart, you soulless selfish goon!

3) The Helpmate: Need a bottle of water to toss over your broiling climbing carcass in the 90 degree heat? Got it. Help getting your bike in order after a crash? He's there to pick it up and set it straight. Want a mani-pedi to soothe your spirit while you wait for the team car? Nail file and cuticle oil right here! A close relative to the Polly Pureheart, he's always got your back, and will even give you a push on it to help you along--whether you want it or not!

4) The Camera Whore: the most annoying of all Fan Species, this jack!@# running screaming next to you dressed in a cowboy hat with giant steerhorns on it and a Captain America man-thong, a terrifying clown wig and a tutu, or a completely incongruous and unnecessary bunny suit, has no interest other than creating a disgusting Youtube spectacle of himself, and pissing you off completely, for all eternity. God, you're INTERFERING WITH THE RACE LEADER'S LINE, you unbearable braying jerkface--back off, or it's fair game if Bernard Hinault pops up and smashes you into the tarmac!

5) The Punisher: Whether roadside-shaming you with an enormous insulting banner, blaring "DOPER!" in your ear to the mellifluous accompaniment of a vuvuzela as you pass, or merely sprinting beside you dressed like a humongous syringe wielding a mock-up of a hospital blood bag, whatever your performance-enhancing indiscretions or however many decades in the past they were, this fan is gonna make you PAY--as publicly as possible. Notorious Subspecies: the Pig. Not only hates their unsuspecting target, but actually throws urine on it. Hey, that's what your fellow riders' ill-aimed "nature breaks on the fly" are for! Spiteful Cousin: the Bitter Betty. Specially wired to suck the joy right outta you like steroid-stuffed mosquito on tender mortal flesh, no matter who wins, or how beautifully, she'll claim he's a dirty, doping scumbag. Worse, she's probably right. Oh well, enjoy the race anyway--if you can!

6) The Wanderer: Gee, that kitten video is important. My, this text is interesting! No, my toddler *won't* get bored sitting on an empty mountainside for 6 hours and start careening around like a flailing Froome on amphetamines. Sure, my unleashed dog *could* use a nice walk right into Sylvain Chavanel's wheel! Do you even *know* you're at the Tour de France, you utter and inexplicable twit?

7) The Bon Vivant: the Pippo Pozzato of the fan world, they've perfectly perched their pop-up camper on the edge of a cliff that'd terrify an overly arrogant mountain goat, and they're ready to enjoy the next 24 hours (or longer) waiting for the race to come by. Bread, cheese, and fine cured meats? Check! Just slightly overripe cherries from the bush out back of the house? Of course! Wine whose color jauntily recalls the perfect yellow of the maillot jaune, or the robust red of the Katusha kit? We emptied out the wine cellar, it's all right here! Cashmere blanket to fend off the chill, an umbrella hat to fend off the scorching sun, camp chairs that rival a down-filled chaise for comfort? We've got you covered! Notable Subspecies: the Party Animal. They like to live well too--by getting completely hammered. Rider bonus: they may offer you a beer in a plastic cup as you ride by. You're already at the !@#-end of the peloton--might as well enjoy the rest of the ride!

8) The Nationalist: Hey! It's my flag, my giant flag, can you see my giant flag, I'm gonna whip my ginormous flag into your face and blind you right when you need your eyeballs to win the stage with! Yep, she's gonna show her national pride to the peloton and to millions of viewers at home, even tho there's *one* guy from Obscureistan in the entire peloton--and he's not even in this race!

9) The Eejit: Finally, exceptionally well-meaning but potentially catastrophically injurious, this is the amateur iPhone photographer, hysterical enthusiast with a swinging inflatable promotional tchotcke, or desperately precarious leaner sticking out over the barrier, right on a high-speed corner, or over the curb 200 meters from the line in a sprint--and if you're lucky, like, say, Thor Hushovd, you'll only end up with a minor crash and a moderately bloody arm-slash to show for it. I *know*, honey, I love it too, I do--just, maybe from a bit more distance next time!

Well, cycling fans, you got all the Background Stuff You Need to Know--next up, we cover the 2016 race itself, so get yer team kit, grab your flag, and start gettin' ready to holler!

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's Yer Official Tour de France Intro to Cycling Lingo Part Quatre: 'Nother Stuff! #tdf2016

Welcome, new or not-so-new cycling fans! With Parts Un through Trois done, you now know what it is, who the hell is out there, and enougth slinky French cycling terms so that you could pass for Lance Armstrong, without being a doping vengeful !@#wipe whose selfishness, methodical codependent exploitation of junior domestiques, and mendacity almost destroyed the sport. But what *other* cycling words and tactics do you need to know, so you can enjoy the race *and* gain instant street cred with insular long-term cycling freaks? These!

Neutral Start or Neutral Zone: if you all start riding full-gas the second the race begins, you'll be so freaked you'll all go down in a 180-person crash, and the race'll be over before it even begins. So, they start you out niiiiiiiiice and slow til you get your sea legs under you. And you don't even wanna *hear* from some 5-million-euro prima donna's agent if you screw this up and their entire season's major goal is crushed. Just drop your phone and go hide instead!

Neutralizing the Stage: normally, frankly, the race organizers don't give a crap if you're riding up or down a treacherous mountain road in an epic rainstorm, a hypothermia-inducing blizzard, or on two inches of sleet-welded ice, because it makes for sexy, if dangerous, television. But if they think you might win the race, or losing but they think your prospects would improve if guys who ride better than you in bad weather get cut off at the knees, they might pick an arbitrary ending point and neutralize some portion of the stage, in which case, guy at front right then wins the day. Boy, has much hilarity ensued when half the guys aren't told the race was neutralized, and the ones who *did* stop when told to do so sit up, slow down, and lose the race!

Relegation: you acted like an !@#hole, generally in a sprint, by cutting someone else off by swerving in front of them, or, if you're really pugilistic, actively elbowing them in the guts or face. You won the stage--but not for long. You've been relegated, and the guy who came in second gets the win. Hope you liked wearing that winner's jersey on the podium while the race organizers make the call--at least until the new winner tries to strangle you with it!

Barrier: yep, the metal things covered with advertising banners meant to protect the riders from stupid fans in the last few hundred meters of the sprint. Don't worry--you can still scare the crap out of the cyclists and screw up their finale by sticking a flag or promotional thingy over the edge of it! Design Tip: the ones with the metal legs that stick out into the race course *really suck*, unless the sadistic perv who made 'em is *trying* to take innocent riders down. Jaysus, can you guys *fix* that already?

Road Furniture: You're going 60 kilometers an hour in a bike race, and the socialist nanny-state engineers concerned with paltry nothings like pedestrian or auto safety who built the street have put islands, posts, or other stupid crap right in the center of the race course, making you leap like a pole-vaulter to avoid smashing into it. Even more impressive when some bureaucrat nimwit forgets to stick a freakin' flag on it until it's entirely too late to avoid. Common sense here, people--just set the route carefully in the first place!

Attack: I want to win this stage! I want to test out my rivals' legs to see how much energy they've got left! I need a new contract for next season and want to impress other teams with my work ethic! You go for it, and you hit the gas--just not too early, or you'll've wasted all that energy for nothin'!

Mechanical: short-hand for "mechanical problem." Flat tire, chain snap, chain gets sucked into your wheel, tho' once, if I recall correctly, George Hincapie's handlebars sheared right off, nearly impaling him like some medieval pit-trap. Etiquette Tip: you do *not* attack the GC leader at a crucial time while he has a no-fault mechanical where the entire three-week race can be won or lost by seconds, unless you are a Schleck brother, in which case, you do it to the race leader first and spend the next two years bitching that the race leader did it right back to you thus hugely unjustly costing you the race. Be consistent, or shut the hell up!

Sticky Bottle: In the guise of needing a water bottle from your team car, you cling on to the one your DS hands you from the window like a lemur to be pulled along by the car and save your legs some pain. Variant: riding right behind a series of team cars to save energy on your way back up to the peloton after a mechanical problem, crash or poorly-timed *nature break. You're cheating, and yes, everybody *does* do it. Master class: Vincenzo Nibali, who actually got kicked out of the Vuelta for pulling this !@#$, which he damn well deserved for brazen stupidity alone:

Wheelsucker: a derogatory term for a lazy opportunistic weasel who, instead of doing their fair share of the work by riding in front of their small group and taking turns taking the brunt of the wind and setting the pace, sits on someone's wheel in their slipstream*, then attacks within meters of the line when the other fellow is now completely exhausted and takes the win, and the glory. Congratulations, !@#$face!

Pack Fodder: another sorta derogatory (but also rather prideful) term, this time for someone who's good enough to get a job, but not good enough for a DS to allow any other teammates to work for. And yes--he can *still* stomp your sorry rump like that grotesque screeching alien nuclear monster from "Cloverfield" that wasted the entire island of Manhattan, so show some respect!

Feed Zone: as noted in our discussion of "soigneur", you are fed while you ride, so you don't have to waste time and stop. Don't crash don't crash don't crash!

Newspaper: an old-school way for your fans to show true love, they will hand you actual sheets of newspapers at the top of a climb to act as a wind barrier so you don't freeze to death ribcage-first on a fast descent. Just ignore the headline making fun of you for blowing the GC yesterday!

Going Backwards: you're not of course, but relative to the speed of the peloton that is going faster than you are, you're slower so you're dropping back with each pedalstroke. Either you've done your job for your captain for the day and are completely burned out, or you've forgotten to eat or drink like a twit and you've utterly bonked. Fear not--some punk-!@# superdomestique (hi, Alejandro Valverde!) will attack his own team leader on a crucial climb, and the moto cameras'll ignore you from then on!

*Slipstream: if you ride right behind someone else, with their body and bike in front of you getting hit by the air first, you get the aerodynamic benefit of their effort without doing a damn thing yourself. Except riding for six hours, and having everyone hate your guts for all eternity.

**Nature Break: just what it sounds like. With some skill, you can do it while riding at speed, which is precisely when the race coverage will gnarl out the rest of us by focusing on you basically peeing on the poor bastard right behind you. Etiquette Tip: the race leader gets to call a nature break for the entire peloton, and you *never*, *ever* attack him then. Cry Me a River, Guys Tip: you know how the women do it, rather'n drop trou and entirely disrobe in front of a road full of strangers? According to the She-Cret Pro, THEY !@#$ING HOLD IT FOR THE ENTIRE RACE while they're also hydrating like maniacs. So if you're a guy at the Tour and *are* attacked, quit yer whinin', you pampered spoiled crybaby!

All righty-rooty, I think that covers it--now, you can dissect the race over a pile o' beer like a true professional fanatic. If I missed something, don't hesitate to ask--there are no stupid questions, at least none *I* haven't had to ask already! Coming up: yer Last Intro to Cycling post: the fans!




Thursday, June 16, 2016

It's Yer Holy Crap It's 15 Days to the Tour de France Intro to Cycling Lingo Part Trois: French Stuff! #tdf2016

Right on dear Tour de France (or general cycling) newbies: we've got you situated. We've got you acquainted with all the assorted freaks (except the tifosi--and yes, I'll get to that too!) on the race course. And now, just when you want to ask yourself, "what *does* all that crap on the TV screen mean?", it's time for Cycling Lingo to Amaze and Delight Your Friends: French Stuff Edition!*

*and don't give me crap about accents, I can't figure out how to do them properly on here, stuff it Mr. Nitpick, and keep yer eyes on the prize already!

Tete de la Course: get yer minds outta the gutter and cool your jets, you pervs--it's who's leading the stage at the moment. Don't worry about the pressure of leadership, someone'll attack soon, and all your day's agonizing hard work'll be lost!

Poursuivants: they're chasing the tetes. They either tried to bridge across to the leaders and/or breakaway, and couldn't, or were already in the breakaway or lead group, and couldn't keep up and fell back. Sucks either way, I gotta say!

Arriere: your derriere is in arriere--yep, you've cracked, and you're in the autobus!

Bidon: it's fancy foreign words for water bottle. Not only can you drink from it, you can use it to catch an easy ride by clinging to it for 10k while your DS hands it over from the team car, if you don't mind getting your lazy cheating !@# tossed out the race when you go too far. Covered in spit and thrown to the actual roadside, if you are lucky enough to be there, the bidons are a prized souvenir for fans. Extra points if you get into a fistfight over it for the cameras!

Musette: Also a beloved souvenir, if you're a fan of half-eaten ham sandwiches and gel packets that spooge like alien goo, it's a lunch bag with a long handle your swanny hands you while you're racing and you sling it over your shoulder, snarf your snacks, then toss it aside. If you are an idiot, or are just pissed off at someone, it is an excellent item to toss into a rival's wheel, tangling it horribly. *Sooooo* sorry, chum!--uh, remember that part where I told you about "hiding in the team bus" after the stage?

Maillot jaune: the reason for your entire existence--the coveted leader's yellow jersey of the Tour de France. Wear it once, it makes your career. Wear it on the final podium in Paris, and it makes you a god--at least until you get busted by our next vocabulary word!

Dopage Controllee: what Alejandro Valverde really, *really* needs to watch out for. Welcome to post-race doping control--and don't try shoving a dope-neutralizing "masking agent" down yer bib shorts before you hand over the liquid goods, some loser's already tried and gotten busted for that!

Allez Allez!: roughly, an encouraging "come on! come on!" shouted by the fans along the road. Particularly sporting to cheer on the autobus, and particularly startling to shreik right in a stage contender's ear: so back off, we'll deal with race etiquette later!

Gendarme: Acting like an !@#hat pressing too close to the racers shouting at the top of your lungs waving some completely irrelevant country's flag dressed up as some hideous clown/viking/panda/banana hybrid? The local gendarmes, there to keep order, will glare at you *very* severely!

Chateau: there's nothin' goin' on. Time for the commentators to give you a history lesson on that decadent French house the helicopter camera's castle-porning on, replete with tales of what wine, cheese, and four-star entrees they had there the last time the peloton swung by this way. But don't be jealous--in the immortal words of Mel Brooks (well, his stand-in), "Bonjour, scum!"

Flamme Rouge: last but not least--especially for the poor shmoes who've had to ride six hours without stopping like Oleg Tinkov's been chasing after them with a bullwhip--it's the red upside-down triangular banner hanging from a giant inflatable promotional doo-dad that indicates there's just 1 kilometer to go. Don't look away--a *lot* of action can happen in the last 1000 meters. Sprinters: time to get organized. Breakaway: time to pray the DSes in the team cars have miscalculated how fast the peloton needs to go to catch you and you won't be caught within a few excruciating meters of the line. Climbers: if you've got *anything* left in the writhing knots of cramping ligament that make up yer legs, now's the time to stalk (and soon's, but not yet's, the time to pass) yer prey!

Okay, I think we've nailed the French stuff you need to know. Next up: More Arcane Cycling Terms You Need to Sound Like a Total Pretentious D--uh, like a totally knowledgeable fan. Oh, and if you win, you get to spray the poor podium babes with a shook-up magnum of "Champagne"!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

It's Yer Holy Crap It's 18 Days to the Tour de France Intro to Cycling Lingo Part 2: Who the !$%! Are These Guys? #tdf2016

Yes, dear cycling noobs 'n' not so noobs, you now know what it is and where it happens! So who the hell *are* all those people out there, and what are they doin' there? We'll leave the individuals to watch for later, but here's Yer Official Racejunkie Cycling Vocab Part Deux!

Race Organizer: This is the big company that organizes the whole entire race. If your favorite rider wins, they get no credit for helping. But if your favorite rider chokes, don't worry: it's all the organizers' fault for designing such a !@#$ty course that was hand-tailored for one of his !@#$ty cheating rivals. Brilliant!

Directeur Sportif (or DS): He used to be a rider. Then he got old, like 34. Now he's a directeur sportif, and tells the riders what to do--yep, the wholly thankless job of race tactics and management. Saving grace: if you're *really* lucky, you have an unstable unpredictable delusional oligarch to report to. 'Til he fires you 'cause his champagne glass had a spot on it, anyway!

Peloton: It's the big giant lump of riders behind the race leaders and ahead of whatever poor b#stards are keeling over behind. You--in particular, your team leader--want to be as far up front in the group as possible in case some dimwit in the middle spaces out, brushes someone else's wheel, and takes half the racers down with him in a bloody, broken wreck. Unless of course that happens up near the front, where you are!

General Classification (or GC) Contender: Your top rider for the multi-stage races. If it's a one-day race, you can just call him 'captain.' He, of course, can call you whatever he wants. Bring me a fresh "Sprite," you worm!

Virtual Leader: if the race stopped *right* *now*, this guy'd be the leader of the race. Too bad you still got 84k to go, sap!

Sprinter: He bites at any climb higher'n two meters, but get him on a flat straight road near a finish line, and he's 200 meters of pure burnin' rocket fuel. And if you lose, you can always blame your:

Lead-Out Train: They mass at the front of the race at 1 k to go, flame themselves out like meteors setting the pace, then give you a wheel to chill behind 'til you're ready to unleash the pain. No lead-out? Just wheel-suck on someone else's--everyone's happy except that schmuck whose team just lost!

Domestique: A worker bee for the team leader, whether it's for the overall win in a stage race or just a one-day pile-on o' pain. You ride in front of 'im to protect 'im from the wind and let him ride in your slipstream (thus conserving energy), surround 'im so if there's a crash, you all go down first and get hurt worse, bring 'im snacks and water bottles, set a high pace to tire out his struggling rivals, give 'im your wheel or entire bike if he falls behind due to a crash or mechanical, and pace him back up to the peloton after a crash or hunger knock. All that, *and* you get to earn the UCI minimum rider wage! Don't worry--if you're a "superdomestique," you might even get a thank you in the post-race interviews, and etiquette dictates the lot of you share in the winner's prize money!

Climber: They're small. They're wily. And when everyone else is gacking in weaving, sluggish agony at the foot of the first climb of the day, these bantamweights are are whizzing up to the top of Mount Ventoux for the stage win. Oh Euskaltel!

Puncheur: If you don't pull your weight in a breakaway (see Part 1), and still try to be a weasel and win after other guys've done all the work for hours out in the miserable blasting wind, your fellow breakaway companions will "puncheur" the crap out of you after the stage. Ow, okay, I'll pull next time!

Classics Rider: not so relevant for the Tour, but for one-day spring races primarily in Belgium involving stabbing sleet, pounding rain, skating-rink cobblestones, and more mud and grit and frozen slop than you ever you'd eat, these are the hard men of the peloton. Now get out of my way before I crush you against my head like an empty beer can, mere mortal!

Autobus: You're a pure climber on a flat stage. Or, you're a sprinter on a mountain one. Or perhaps you put just a liiiiittle too much fiber in your muesli this morning, and your body, specifically your stomach, is in disgusting rebellion. Congrats, you're the back of the race--just hope you make the time cut today, and don't be afraid to take a brief--brief!--tow from your team car!

Lanterne Rouge: It's the very last-place rider at the very end of the entire 3 weeks of the entire Tour de France. And yes, that means he's *still* one of the most-!@# athletes on the planet. Bow, bow before your king, you peasant!

Podium Babe: Like Christmas ornaments, but sparklier. You pop 'em next to the stage/GC/jersey winner on the podium in a short skirt for a photo op and a big lipsticky smack on the cheek. Oh, *that*'s where you'd gone--welcome back, 1950, we *really* missed you!

Team Bus: You run and hide in it if you lose. If you're *really* having an embarrassing day, your DS'll throw you back out of it. Have fun walking back to the hotel in your bike shoes, hoser!

Team Car: It contains your DS, a mechanic, somebody who can patch you up if you crash, and an empty seat if you bonk so badly you need to abandon the race in a camera-friendly mire of rage and humiliation. It follows you around in case you need advice, a water bottle, a bandage, a tweak to your saddle, and a sympathetic ear. If you're a total wanker, you'll hold on to it for half a k up a climb and use it to slingshot yourself past the pathetic losers yacking up the climb on their own. Just don't pull that !@#$ in front of the cameras, you eejit!

Team Chef: yes, you *are* eating 50 pounds of plain white rice for breakfast. And you're gonna shut up and *like* it!

Soigneur: S/he hands you bags of food in the feed zone while you're on the fly. They wrangle your luggage, do your laundry, keep you organized, throw a towel around you when you're sweating (and smellin') like a pig at the end of the stage, and generally are absolutely indispensable making it possible for you to do *your* job. All hail the Swanny--trust me, you're not worthy, you're not worthy!

Mechanic: It's to the rider's credit if he wins, and entirely your fault if he snaps a chain, flats a tire, bangs a derailleur against a barrier, and loses the race. Also, you work approximately 56 hours per day. Don't worry, there's a coffee machine in the team bus!

Neutral Support Car: your team car is on the !@#-end of nowhere, so these folks'll give you a spare wheel when you hit a tack some !@#hat tossed on the road. Next year, pick a team that won't be ordered to sit a half an hour back in the queue!

Race Moto: They carry cameras, commentators, various officials, and an old-fashioned blackboard to tell you that your breakaway group is about to be caught. And if you're *totally* collapsing physically and mentally, wave to the TV cameras--or maybe some other gesture, instead!

And Last But Not Least, Most Important of All: Masseuse: self-evidently, this is your recovery savior after an exhausting, painful stage. But if you need pictures to explain the play-by-play, just Google "Filippo Pozzato" --though I wouldn't advise downloading the images at work!

Well folks, you've officially learned more'n you ever wanted to know about the players in the game, and if I missed anyone, let us know. Next up, Obscure Cycling Jargon So You Can Sound Way Way Cooler Than You Are!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

It's Yer Holy Crap It's 20 Days to the Tour de France Intro to Cycling Vocabulary Guide! #tdf2016

New to pro cycling fandom, and want to know what the hell everyone's talking about? Enjoy sexy French mountain views with intermittent crazy-!@# bursts o' speed? Got some friendly nationalistic fervor ahead of Rio, and curious as to what's the deal with the road race? Or perhaps you just gotta know why your partner's suddenly switched over from man- or woman-crushing on Ryan Gosling and can't stop yapping about some shaggy "Peter Sagan" guy. Whatever your motive, we here at racejunkie have got the means--it's Yer Official Holy Crap It's 20 Days to the Tour de France Intro to Cycling Jargon, Part 1: The Race Course!

Tour de France: It's a three week bike race all over France by a 200-pack of pain-suckin' tacky-spandex masochists for the shameful entertainment of thousands of voyeuristic roadside, and millions of television, fans. It's roughly divided up into:

Sprints: Six hours of flat-tarmac "oh god *nothing* is happening," followed by about 5 k of "here they go, the teams are getting organized!", 1 k of "yeah, it's really on *now* baby," 200 meters of "holy !@#$ didja *see* that!," and approximately 16 hours of "that's bull!@@#!/you cut off my line!/I got pushed into the barriers!/what !@#$head caused that stupid crash?!" Ancillary vocab: the "lead-out" is the bunch of teammates who shepherd and protect you til it's time for you to sprint. The "crosswind" is when you're not paying attention, can't stay close enough to the guy ahead of you, fall waaaaaaaaay behind everyone else, and have to do the slumping crawl of shame across the finish line where all the other sprinters will laugh at you. Burn!

Time Trials: Individually or by team, it's when you each head out from a start gate separately at about 2 minute intervals in a race against the clock to see who goes fastest on the course without anyone else to blame but yourself, your teammates, your masseuse, your soigneur*, your team boss, your mechanic, or an obscure you ailment you don't have but it's not like a disease can defend itself from slander so what do you care. You wear a specially aero helmet, skinsuit, and bike, and, if you're really great at this discipline, probably aren't much good at anything else. And why the hell are there eighteen 90% turns on a course for a bike that can't turn for !@#$?

Rollers or Breakaway Stages: you can't really sprint, you can sorta climb, the contenders for the overall race win need a chill day off to recoup some energy, and your team's gonna throw your worthless !@# on the street next season if you don't give your sponsor's logo some primo air time by making the TV cameras focus on either (1) your chest or (2) your butt. Congratulations, one out of the four of you just got some major Tour de France glory while the rest get to spend your lives in endless self-recrimination for blowing it!

Mountain Stages: Yes, just like it sounds. The person who will win the overall big giant prize at the end of the three weeks will probably win or lose it here. If you've got some time to spare, and it's not gonna even really be a close race, you might let one of your teeny-weeny mountain-goat super-climber teammates go ahead and take the win. Selfless move, *and* you still get all the headlines as the race's ultimate champ! Ancillary vocabulary: "Queen Stage." Yeah, a doper just won that. But that's not true if you like the guy!

Climb: what you have to do on a mountain stage. If you generally prefer to sprint, you are praying to god you make it up the freakin' thing before the race organizers decide you're too much a worthless slowpoke wuss and make you leave the race entirely. Dang, couldn't they have at least done that *before* you schlepped your humongous carcass up Mt. Everest?

Switchbacks: it's basic physics, kid: climb straight up a 12,000 foot mountain in a direct line, and you'll croak. Climb up in slightly-less-steep increments by going back and forth, back and forth with bends in the road, and you'll croak a thousand times. Sounds much better, right? Yeah, until you realize you've got 86 left to go, sucker!

Descent: it's still switchbacks, but even more entertaining because you are doing them downhill at 75 miles an hour where some doofus engineer had a moral objection to the concept of "guardrails." Don't look down--no, I'm serious, or you'll end up in the !@#damn ravine!

Cobblestones: Not such a big factor in the Tour de France, but it's where they take a nice smooth tar surface your little skinny wheels can happily, safely spin on, and replace them with uneven wunks of unforgiving lumpy granite death you are sure to (1) get a flat tire on or (2) flat-out crash and break something, like a piece of your bike, or your body. And they're even *more* fun when it rains and you're riding on uneven lumpy granite *slippery* death!

Scenery: it's truly breath-taking, and it's what you *don't* see because, in the words of some famous rider I can't recall, all you're looking at for 3 weeks if you're riding is the wheel of the guy right in front of you. But trust me, it's fabulous--like you care, when you're spelunking in the ol' "pain cave"**!

*yeah, we'll get to that. Honest!

** yeah, we'll cover that too. Just gimme a chance to get my breath, whydontcha?

Well dear newbies--and I say that with love, because even the most unbearably trivia-obsessed anal-retentive smarty-pants among us was once one too--we've got you situated. Next up (I think): Who the !@#$ Are These Guys?

Monday, May 30, 2016

It's Yer 2016 Giro d'Italia Racejunkie Awards! #Giro

Feeling unaccountably wistful whenever you see something pink? Suddenly unable to enjoy your morning !@#dammit-I'm-not-drinking-this-in-Italy espresso? Already drained and disoriented from going back to your normal sleep patterns or, even worse, having to pay attention again at 'work'? Yes, tifosi, you've just been nutwhacked with Post-Giro Letdown Syndrome--but fear not, we here at racejunkie have got the cure! Prizes for the winners, if they've got the time, obsessive interest in Googling themselves, and total lack of anything interesting to do but read this crap: eternal glory (or cringing shame), and a free stylin' embroidered racejunkie cap! Ergo, campioni, it's Yer 2016 Giro d'Italia Racejunkie Awards!

1. Punk-!@# Move of the Race: ok, bear with me here, because I *am* gonna give even this guy a little credit later on. But Michele Scarponi, punching the air in triumph *right* next to sweet, despondent Esteban Chaves' head as they crossed the line after Chaves' crushing loss of the maglia rosa on the decisive penultimate stage. For *shame*, Michele--what next, yer gonna teach yer freakin' parrot to squawk "neener neener" whenever the poor kid walks by?

2. Astanashing Publicity-Ho Turnaround of 2016: good luck, whatsyerface! You *suck*, Nibali! Huh, nice you managed to salvage some dignity there. HOLY @#$% YOU'RE GONNA WIN THIS THING I ALWAYS SAID YOU HAD IT IN YOU CAN I BRING YOU A LIMONATA/COOL YOU WITH A PALM LEAF/WASH YOUR STINKING FEET/ARU YOU LITTLE !@#$ GET OVER HERE AND START PAINTING HIS BIKE PINK! Alexander Vinokourov, I hate myself for loving you!

3. Sissy Slap-Fight of the Giro: oh sure, there were a few snarls of annoyance, emphatic elbow-flicks, clearly rude gestures, and exasperated slammings of the handlebars--but for sheer pointless, if heartfelt, drama, you can't beat FDJ's Alexandre Geniez physical and verbal assault on AG2R's Hubert Dupont at the line over what appeared to be the most trivial of offenses. Fingers were wagged, OMG a collar was pulled--damn, I'd hate to see the bloody warfare by Geniez over a *real* insult!

4. You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine Award: Gee, my legs felt good today! Boy, did I crack this afternoon or what! Did you know it's my parents' first trip to Europe? My, that crash sure smarted! Hey, I *just* lost the maglia rosa! Also Class Act of 2016 and Bestest Smile in the Peloton--Esteban Chaves, this one's for you!

5. Holy Crap It's All Over Oh !@#$ Moment o' the Race: a moment's inattention, a frightening flyer of bike and man, a fractured rib and crushed dreams after endless impregnable days in pink--Steven Kruijkwijk's terrifying somersaulting smash into a 7-foot wall of ice ended his Giro dreams in an instant. Cycling, how cruel thou art!

6. Corollary Tough Guy of 2016 Award: yep, Kruijswijk. His certain victory gone, the boy plugged on, honoring his team, the race, and himself, bringing a still-amazing-when-you-think-about-it 4th-freakin'-place to Torino. Incredible work by an incredible young talent--however the hell you pronounce yer name, I'll never underestimate you again!

7. Superduperdomestique Prize: yes, he's a doping skankwad with a history of weaselality. But holy !@#$, would Nibali have been steamrolled without him. Sitting back for half an hour on the side of the road, forgoing his own inevitable Giro stage triumph, chillin' with a beer, getting a haircut and hopping on the computer to manage his retirement portfolio while he was waiting to help his team leader with nary a complaint to be heard--*that* is sheer worker-bee perfection. Michele Scarponi, I gotta give credit where credit is due!

8. Crash o' the Race, Decisive: yeah, yeah, same one. Kruijswijk, come get yer prize!

9. Crash o' the Race, Oh No Oh No Oh No: A resurgent Ilnur Zakarin's devastating--and temporarily totally incapacitating--zoom into a stony creekbed. The kind of thing that makes you wonder, ought they be filming this if his family is watching? Incredibly fortunately, just a coupla super-painful, season-screwing fractures, and a cheery post-hospital selfie. Geez, we're glad you're okay! Corollary Touching TV Interview Award: you'd barely know that coolest-name-in-the-peloton Rein Taraamae had won a stage at the Giro d'Italia at all, the way he was so clearly focused on his teammate's well-being. Stand up guy, stand up champion!

10. Crash o' the Race, Just !@#$ing Stupid: he's *so* close to the line, in a brave--and possibly even successful--ripping attack in the final meters of a three-week-long behemoth of pain, suffering, and ignominy. And what should appear like some hideous race-!@#$ing nightmare? That's right, some nimrod's shod foot *right* into the race course, and Sonny Colbrelli goes flying like the Wright Brothers on steroids. Forget those useless ad-covered'barriers'--what we need is some straight-on barbed wire to contain these eejits!

11. Tifosi !@#hat Award: with a mercifully distinct lack of free-ranging livestock, family pets, or oblivious toddlers this Giro, we still managed to shame ourselves mightily. On the last climb of the entire race alone, I counted a Pony, a Pig, and a Banana Guy, each one causing a GC CONTENDER DESPERATELY SEEKING TO GAIN RACE-DECIDING SECONDS !@#DAMMIT TO ACTUALLY HAVE TO SWERVE OFF HIS LINE! Jaysus, what're you gonna try next, sucking the freakin' oxygen right outta their starving gasping lungs by setting off smoke flares on the racecourse? Oh, wait...

12. What the Ungrateful !@#$ Award: look, I know you're sprinters. And I know that, once you hit the Dolomites--or hell, even see them looming 10 stages away in the distances--the terrain is just not for you. But dag nabit, the race organizers went OUT OF THEIR WAY to cater to you boys this Giro, and what do you in return for their kindness? *That's* right, use the beautiful Giro as a lowly training !@#$! for your *real* season's objective, the Tour de France, where no doubt you'll stick it out straight through the Alps to the final line in Paris. *And* you wore the holy maglia rosa to boot. Marcel Kittel--*not* *cool*!

13. God I Love Italy Award: now and forever, "PANTANI" spray-painted on every roadside snowbank, inch of tarmac, and homemade banner. Say what you will about the subject, but that is devotion, my friends!

14. I Call Bull!@#$ Award (Time Trial and Mountain Stage Edition): Foliforov, man. Are you *kidding* me?!

15. I Call Bull!@#$ Award (Sprint Edition): Giacomo Nizzolo's moment o' glory, interview o' glee, and subsequent spirit-crushing defeat on the final day in Torino. If Robbie "Head-Butt" McEwen sez it's okay, it *must've* been okay!

16. Darned Decent of 'Im Prize: look, I *know* you all think Vino shoved a rocket up his--uh, in his pocket on the rest day, but it *was* right for Nibs to go over and give props to Esteban Chaves' darling family--at least before Vino horned in for the huggy-kissy "I *made* you and you *owe* me!" photo op!

17. Cry Me a River Excuse o' the Race: not to minimize the very real effects of the dearth of a very handy item like, y'know, oxygen, but jaysus, Valverde, the "altitude"? Isn't that where you gallivant off to 'train' every year? Get thee to the Tour then if you can't handle the Giro!

18. TMI Statuette: Of all the reasons to bail outta a Grand Tour--the air-sapping bronchitis, the explosive diarrhea, the imminent biological passport bust--this is for Tom Dumoulin, brought down by the humblest of enemies, the gnarly saddlesore. Heal fast, Tom--and even better, heal discreetly!

19. Gratuitous T&A Prize: no, no, not Pippo Pozzato (for once). Don't know what the white, pink, blue and red jerseys are for? Yeah, well, you still don't know now either--but boy, don't they look hot on those models every morning!

20. Most Likely to Have His !@# Kicked By His Team Boss Award: No, he wasn't a particular favorite for a podium sport. And let's face it, our lovably erratic Moneybags has really got his eye--and horsewhip--set on July. But Oleg Tinkov surely expected *something* outta this race, and Rafal Majka, unfortunately, didn't give it. Like a college kid being stalked by a mask-wearing psycho perv in an isolated cabin in a third-rate horror flick--Rafal, GEEEEEET OUUUUUUT!

21. Questionably Enjoyable Race Tactic o' the Giro: Cannondale's Rigoberto Duran Duran, giving up the ghost after a rather middling campaign by throwing all he had left in the service--darn near successfully--of fellow countryman and opposing squad denizen Orica-Greenedge's Esteban Chaves. Why the hell not--beats all that "Vincenzo and Alejandro" yapping!

22. Overhype o' the Race Prize: Yes, I *know* it's dear Mikel Landa. Shove off! Bite me! Saving Grace Consolation Award: dear Mikel Nieve, a stage win *and* the blue jersey. Mikeeeeeeeel--both of you, you smashing ex-Carrots!

23. Last But Not Least, the Miracle On Ice Award of Giro d'Italia 2016: It was the Clif Bar! A nice spa facial on the rest day! No, the acupuncture! Whatever, Nibali--you recovered, enjoy the maglia rosa, *and* ignore the petty haters whinging about "integrity" and "blood bags" while you can!

Well, that's the best of a shockingly exciting thrilla of the Giro d'Italia 2016--same time next year, if you're not all disgustingly aiming for the circus-freak Tour de France instead!



Sunday, May 22, 2016

It's Yer Giro d'Italia Eve-o'-the-Rest-Day Re-Think and Recriminations Roundup! #Giro

Well, between the first truly excruciating mountain day and GC-smacking uphill time trial, it's been a lively coupla days at the Giro d'Italia, and what do our boys have to think about while they rest, sleep, ride, and fend off screaming phone calls from enraged DSes and humiliated money-bags sponsors? This!

1. Blazing uphill TT winner Gazprom's Alexander Foliforov. When Alejandro freakin' Valverde wonders about your performance, you *know* there's something !@#$ed up going on. Damn, the Russians have upped their sporting performance since they stopped doping after the last Olympics!

2. Vincenzo Nibali. Lo Squalo can be a legendarily award-winning whiner, but big points to him for collecting himself enough after his despondent post-ride press-avoidance and general misery to send out a friendly, "oh, well, what the hell, tomorrow is another day" kind of tweet this evening. Hey, if Alexander Vinokourov's about to knock on your hotel room door to kick your worthless !@#damn !@# from here to Kazakhst--uh, offer warm words of comfort and support--before you even get to see if you can crack Kruijswijk on GC, you might as well go out with class!

3. Kruijswijk. Speaking of whom, I have no reason whatsoever to doubt this guy's integrity, but leaving aside the shocking Foliforov and teammie Sergey Firsanov, seriously, what the !@#$ is someone built like him even doing in the maglia rosa in the second week of the Giro after a freakishly precocious uphill mountain time trial? It's another Dumoulin dilemma. What next, Andre Greipel's gonna spit Alberto Contador out like a loogie on the Alpe d'Huez at the Tour?

4. The Tifosi. Now, I *get* the enthusiasm. The screaming, the yelling, the flag-waving, the joyous adrenalin rush of having sporting history pass by literally within in an inch of the end of your nose. Heck, I've been there, and I dearly hope to be there sometime soon again (helloooo, Alberto's 2017 Giro d'Italia swan song!). But Giro fans, if nothing else, exceedingly respect the race and its participants, and frankly, as an American, I am *outraged* to have our country's slightly-unrealistic-but-deeply-sincere exceptionalism well and fairly smacked down by incredibly overbearing--and GC-ruinously harmful--Italian fans. In addition, they're lucky even the stoic Nibali didn't reach down grab a spoke and skewer those clown-wigged blockheads like a kebab. Hey, have you eejits been watching the Amgen EPO Tour of California? *We're* supposed to be the obnoxious ones!

5. Chaves. Y'know, I absolutely love Orica-Greenedge, but Alejandro Valverde showed up here with a *really* stacked deck o' teammates, and what climber-supreme Esteban Chaves and his fine squad have been able to accomplish is truly amazing. And, he's being really nice and not at all snotty about it. Forzaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa wee Esteban, I can't wait to see you've got left in the tank for the rest of the week!

6. Alejandro Valverde. After yesterday's inevitable annual Green Bullet Grand Tour meltdown, to his credit, Alejandro managed to *somewhat* redeem himself today, and there's still a good amount of road left to go. More, he's got the similarly ageless superdomestique/depending-on-your-viewpoint-prior-Giro-champ Michele Scarponi, who turned in a smashing ride today. Revenge, thy name is stage win!

7. Brad Wiggins. Nope, I don't say *that* noodge of a name too often, particularly in connection with a compliment! But what he *can* do, is give the Shark some bike throwing lessons. Students, compare:



Panache, *and* dead-on accuracy!

8. An Astana-Movistar Alliance. Yes, absolutely--both Nibali and Valverde have an excellent, sensible interest in ganging up on Steven Kruijswijk in the remaining fight-to-the-death in the Dolomites. But c'mon, neither Astana nor Movistar can halfway keep the peace and collaborate within their *own* squads the last coupla years, much less make nice and join forces to actually accomplish something together--though if Vino wants it, Vino will get it, or *else*, Movistar!

9. The Remaining Stages. Chill out, Sleeping Beauties: tho' stage 17 is a short sharp day o' relative pain, you *do* get a puncheur-friendly gasp o' high-altitude air on Stage 18, before a leisurely spin to the Cima Coppi up the Col d'Agnello on Stage 19 and the penultimate day finalizes the podium atop the Cols du Var, la Bonette, and Lombardia. Here, yer last chance to dislodge the reigning maglia rosa before you get to collapse for a few weeks at the line in Torino--plan your efforts well, prepare either your pile-o'desperate-excuses or unctuous sponsor-credit speeches accordingly, and always expect that wily Valverde to try something!

Okay, we'll see how the team managers spin things overnight. I'm thinking lots of thumbs-up bed-time selfies, gourmet-mag pics of optimally nutritionally-balances meals, and at least one gratuitous butt-nekkid massage pic from Pozzato. Vai vai vai vai!