Sunday, July 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 14, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

My Fantasy Oleg Tinkov Tour de France Press Conference #tdf2016

Good morning. I'm here to update you on how totally cool my boy Peter Sagan thinks I am and you're not. [Aide whispers in ear] Oh, right, and how Bjarne Riis' over the hill protege Alberto Contador is doing who even I couldn't save a has-been like him from himself when he got badly hurt in a fall the other day or something which doesn't even matter in this race anyway.

First, I'd like to point out that not only has my bro Peter Sagan won a sprint, the maillot jaune, and the green jersey so early in the Tour, but he was a useless winless piece of !@#$ with no prospects until I personally discovered and worked with him. [Aide whispers in ear again] Okay, he maybe won a coupla minor races before I found him, but only because of my impeccable eye for talent no-one else in cycling ever even noticed before then, as well as my enormous bank account. I only got whatsisface, that skinny one, as a tagalog anyway, sort of like when the wife buys 75 dollars worth of luxury beauty products and they throw in some cheapo "cosmetics bag" for free that falls apart as soon as you use it.

Second, I'd like to address how massively close my man Peter Sagan and I are. I mean, *he* wears a Tinkoff jacket at team events, *I* wear a Tinkoff jacket at team events. *He* rides in the team bus, *I* ri--well, *I* bought the tin piece of crap team bus that broke down on us yesterday. *He's* the reigning world champion, *I* graciously deign to join him on training rides. Like, twinsies here, amirite? [Aide whispers in ear] Oh, yeah, and you know I told that slacker Contador that if he's gonna embarrass me so bad he might as well just go put on a Cofidis uniform!

Finally, I want to stress how grateful my bestie Peter Sagan is for me basically single-handedly making him the best rider ever. Not only is he naming his first child "Oleg" after me, even if it's a girl, he's also named his dog, his parakeet, his favorite bicycle, and, by special government permit, the street in front of his house after me. And *boy*, if you could only see that tattoo of me he did in 24 karat gold ink on his--[Sagan briefly passes by outside in hallway] HEY! IT'S ME! YOUR BUD OLEG! I *MADE* YOU! SOMEBODY GET A CAMERA OVER HERE! HEY, WHERE ARE YOU GO--[voice fades as he sprints into hallway]

[Oleg comes back into room] Well, that concludes my press conference about my guy Peter Sag--[aide whispers in ear]--uh, the status of our GC contende--[Contador knocks politely on door, peeks into press conference] WHAT THE !@#$? WHO *IS* THAT GUY? GET HIM OUTTA HERE! [bodyguards tackle Alberto, drag him away]

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It's Yer Holy Crap Forget the Tour It's Yer Giro Rosa 2016 in Preview! @GiroRosaCycling

Still reeling from post-Giro d'Italia bummedoutness? Nauseous at the thought of one more !@#$ing story about Chris "Pterodactyl" Froome and how barfing his guts out for two years with bilharzia miraculously turned him from middling pack fodder to Tour de France-winning superstar? Crushed at the thought of wee Nairo, or even worse, wee Contador, not taking the stop spot on the Grand Boucle podium? Well, you don't have to, honey, because the legendary Fight for Pink is on again starting like right now tomorrow--it's the grande Giro Rosa 2016! What you need to know:

The Course: We start off with a super-fast, super-flat 2k prologo to stretch the legs, get 'em under you, and zip some fortunate campionessa into the leader's jersey. Then, it's 9 smashing "tappe" to come! Stage 1: a coupla big bumps along the 104k course, and a flat finish--sprinters, get ready! Stage 2: a buncha smaller bumps, a few k more to knock out the legs and an uphill dash to the line. Third: flaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat. Okay, now that we love Wiggle rocket goddess Giorgia Bronzini has had some time to shine, can we get to the mountains already? Stage 4: Nope, not yet! A lovely loop of the Lago d'Iseo, some nippy little lumps, and a flat (and looks like just slightly downhill) finale. Stage 5: Woot woot woot, we're hitting the mountains, baby--it's the fabled--and feared!--cima coppi of the Mortirolo, a blistering descent, a run uphill to the line--a short and thoroughly painful 77k! Tappa 6: Mountains again! Passo del Ginestro, Colle di Nava, Passo Caprauna--can I get a !@#$in' bidon and a gel, I'm dyin' here for Chrissakes!--*and* one last vertical blast to Madonna della Guardia. Ouch! Stage 7: the individual time trialists come out to play with a 21.9 flat start, twice-hilly center, and flat finisher. Vai! Stage 8: aw, damn, we're almost done--really, so soon? Another chance to grab some mountain-jersey points without having to kill yerself, and the sprinters can be pretty happy, to boot. Last but not least, we finish the race--and crown the winner--with Stage 9's hill-flat-hill-flat-hill--*how* far is it to the finish line already?--104.8 finale in Verbania. May the best woman win--and as we cover next, the competition is gonna be *tough*!

The Contenders: first, who's *not* here: killer Amazon Marianne Vos, already crushing competition just back from her long season of illness and injury but holding out for gold in Rio, and all-terrain threat Pauline Ferrand-Prevot. Here: yeah, just go home now. Defending 2015 Champ Anna van der Breggen. Former Giro Rosa winners Mara Abbott and Claudia Lichtenberg. Reigning and former World Champs Lizzie Armitstead and Tatiana Guderzo. Italian powerhouses new-crowned national champ Elena Cecchini, Barbara Guarischi, Elisa Longo Borghini, and of course sprint whiz Giorgia Bronzini. Me, I think Mara Abbott's got a crown to reclaim, so no offense to van der Breggen, but you unleash that 10-day can of whup-!@# Mara!

The Prizes: holy !@#$, is this for real? They're earning like 1% of the guys get, for way more'n 1% of the work. I love you Giro Rosa--but sponsors, women's cycling is on fire this year, so for heck's sake it's time to pony up!

Where to Watch: yeah, it's a women's race, so you're largely !@#$ed. But apparently there's live streaming on RAISport2, and clearly, the solution to this stupidity is for each and every one of us to plan a 10-stage--uh, 10-day--trip to Italy for 2017. In the meantime, you can follow all the twitter news that's fit to twit at GiroRosaCycling, and catch up on the day's hot gossip at the official girorosa.it website. Forza ragazze!

Well, that's our short-'n-snappy Giro Rosa 2016 in Preview. More to come, and no doubt, more and more pain with each passing day--but you sure do get to celebrate at the end!

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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