Wednesday, July 04, 2018

It's Yer 2018 Tour de France in Preview, Part Trois: the Fast Men, Roleurs, & Mountain Goats!

All right, people. We all know this sucks, the Tour's likely to be a three-week, uh, purely-enthusiasm-fueled farce with a preordained podium and a lifetime pass for damn near every illicit activity short of being a 49-year-old Master's racer popped for an overdose of Red Bull. But here we are, I'm carrot-bound to root for Mikel Landa, so while we're ignoring the TV coverage and begging for the misery to end, I promised both of you I'd post for the non-GC so let's go. Oh, and I forgot to mention Adam Yates in my GC preview. Like any other name but one !@#$in' matters! Anyhoo:

The Fast Men:

Nacer Bouhanni: out. Right now it's because Cofidis don't think he can win, and *do* think he's a colossal pain in the !@#. Tomorrow it'll be because he punched a two-foot hole through the side of the team bus when he heard the news. Hey, at least he didn't aim for anyone's head!

Mark Cavendish: he wants to edge up on Merckx's stage win record, *and* justify like 10 years of belittling smack talk about other sprinters for winning only "#$^& races"--too bad he's been on a downswing the last couple seasons. Still, good for a stage win somewhere, if he doesn't crash himself (or more likely some other unlucky bastard) trying to cram through a two-inch gap in Sagan's handlebars, right?

Peter Sagan: Pure sprinter? Classics man? Freak climber? I don't know which Saganator we'll be getting this month, but I'm pretty sure he'll beat the crap out of anyone he wants to when he wants to--and with his mad bike handling skills, without even having to sucker-whang anyone into the barriers to do it. *And* he'll wheelie doing it. Gosh, isn't he just dreamy?

Marcel Kittel: his year has sucked, and there's no particular reason to think it'll be much different right now, though with approximately 68 sprint stages, it'd sure look weak if he didn't manage to squeak out one or two of 'em. But cripes, will his hair look perfect!

Sam Bennett: sure, the Giro's not a sprinter's game (to the extent it ever was, say in the Petacchi years), but snagging two stages including the final day off Elia Viviani is still some pretty sweet pedigree. Bennett for the stealth win in Paris!

Caleb Ewan: oh, right--he's !@#$ed. !@#$ed, I say! What the *hell*, Michelton-Scott?

Bling Matthews: look, he is one crafty s.o.b. I often think he gets more attention for his flashy nickname than his wins. I'm not counting him out!

Andre Greipel: first, you *suck*, Lotto--how dare you jerk our big lug around so ungratefully? And despite his advanced age of "still half of Valverde's" he's having a bangin' year. So go to hell, he can so either--two for Andre, I call, so buzz off haters!

The Roleurs: between the mini-Roubaix, the gravel sections, and the days they just gotta put in to not kill the sprinters and to give the climbers a quasi-rest day, there's quite a bit of fun to be had, and, as usual, Quick Step plans to take all of it, if the ever-underrated Boassen Hagen-Dazs doesn't steal the pave. Too many to mention here, and Sky's gonna clamp down on anyone who could take one with Armstrongian ruthlessness, but Philippe Gilbert certainly doesn't intend a bunch of whippersnappers on his own team beat him, and, despite the fact it's not going to happen because the entire planet bites, I am still planning for Sylvain Chavanel to grab a late-career stage win, if a rhino doesn't come charging out the roadside and bash straight into his wheel like happens every freakin' year. Maybe armor up yer bike a little Chava, it's worth the extra weight in protection!

The Mountaineers: yeah, the entire GC. !@#$ off, Froomey! All eyes on baby Colombian phenom Egan Bernal, all the more so since their World Cup is blown, who though conscripted to the service of his twig-bug team leader ought at least be granted *one* stage Chris doesn't want so he doesn't get tempted to do to Froome what Froome did to Wiggo. Everyone else: don't count out Movistar: if Nairo Landa and Valverde manage to take each other out trying to crush the others like skittering insec--uh, helping each other so generously that no one of them can win, there's still wee high-peaks backup Soler. And right, we've also got Bardet, Zakarin, Barguil, and Martin, and frankly, if France *doesn't* pull something out of this ridiculous joke of a year, the press will be *very* peevish. But sadly, we may be just looking at another USPostalDiscovery/Skybot borefest. Me, tho' they're there for previous TdF champ Nibali, I'm all-ex-Euskaltel all the time. Allez allez Izagirreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!

Okay folks. Let's hold our noses the next three weeks, and beg for podium assistance from the Carrot gods. And no matter how much you dislike him--heck knows I'm with you there--no throwing anything disgusting on Chris Froome, you !@#damn animals!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

It's Yer 2018 Tour de France in Preview, Part Deux: The General Classification Contenders!

First, stop making those infernal barfing noises. I mean it people! I'm not happy about that !@#$wit and his robot army participating either. But, as with the course, we got the field we got, and to be fair (for once in 12 years of this lowly rag) we *also* got some actual possible contenders here with a chance to win that doesn't 100% depend on a shameful sport-destroying doping scandal and an ignominious 2019 race presentation with a pic of shattering glass over the last year's winner's face and a giant asterisk next to their name for the remainder of human history. So who's in, who's out, and who's just plain ridiculous! These guys!

1. Marianne Vos: Oh wait--despite the incredible depth and talent in the women's field, they *still* don't have a Tour de France, unless you count a one-day quickie that's immediately swept away without a trace in favor of hand-scrubbing the men's course for them so the *real* race can come through. Screw you, Tour de France!

2. Vincenzo Nibali: Not only is he not tired out from riding the Giro, since he didn't (which I found horrifying, but whatever), he's actually got a bangin' squad backing him--one of the best here. New Spanish national champ Gorka. Ion. Pozzo, probably still exhausted from the Giro but who, with the exception of a day's crack, really rode masterfully there. And with Nibs' spectacular descending skills to help him off the Aubisque even if he's not in great shape up top and his all-weather/all-terrain toughness, there's actually some hope here. Of course, if he doesn't let our little carrots off the leash for at least one stage win, I'll hate his guts forever--but not as much as Froome's. Shark attaaaaaaaaccckkkkk!

3. Richie Porte: Oh, BMC. One the one hand, with your impending doom, you've got a great squad filled with talent desperately looking to lock in a half-decent contract with gobsmacking performances here; on the other hand, the hell with teamwork, it is now every man for himself out there. Anyway, they seem to think Porte can do it. I'm thinking more top 5. *Why* isn't it enough for a great rider to just be a great rider without the pressure of all this yellow-in-Paris-or-nothing on 'im?

4. Movistar: a. Mikel Landa: remember how badly Landa chafed at having to waste his own GC legs serving team captain Froome, then inexplicably jumped ship to Team "WHAT THE !@#$ LANDA IT IS GOING TO BE THE EXACT SAME THING!"? Yeah, well, Nairo's made it perfectly clear he won't take this !@#$ any more'n Froome did. Saving grace: he's no worse at time trialing than Nairo. Unsaving grace: with Piti riding 'em like Cancellara the last couple years, he's gonna have to really fight Valverde on the climbs. Don't take yer eyes off 'im for a minute Mikel, no matter what the little opportunist says!

b. Nairo Quintana: To his credit, he's *earned* a Giro d'Italia--it's certainly possible he can take the Tour. But with the more sweeping climbs of France not necessarily his best, and an enormous waste of energy the first week fighting his bull!@#$ happy "co-leaders" for captaincy all but certain, he's hobbled, like the rest of Movistar's leadership, for at least 10 stages after Froomey's already spray-painted some garish neon yellow paint job on his bike. Just try not to get obliterated in a cross-wind for the first 7 sprint stages, and maybe you've got a shot against your own best pals!

c. Alejandro Valverde: How do you rate a guy, since being popped for replacing his entire bodily blood supply with Red Bull in Operacion Puerto in 2006, has only exponentially improved each of the 12 years since then? Hey, !@#$ if I know, but, despite his impressive history of one-day meltdowns wrecking his 21-day races, whatever it is you can't count this genial 834-year-old out. And of *course* he'll generously ride for you Nairo--right up to the second he smells weakness and goes all "Call of the Wild" darwinistic nightmare on your !@#!

5. Rigoberto Uran: Well, we'll get some flashes of brilliance before he fades. We still love you, grande Rigo!

6. Chris Froome: oh, all *right*! I feel dipped in swamp-filth just talkin' about 'im. So y'know that creepy internet video of that backwards-jointed quasi-dog headless bug-robot that's been circulating and causing total end-of-humanity "War of the Worlds" hysteria like "The Terminator" was some sort of staid National Geographic documentary instead of an alien dystopian hellhole future? Yeah, like *seven* of those things, *plus* the veiny twig-sculpture himself. Ugh. I *just* *can't* *stand* it. Tell me, tell me you aren't all just itching now for the relatively benign Lance Armstrong era, I *dare* you! Anyway, it ain't *my* TV ratings in the tank over this !@@$dhow. You suck, Tour de France:

7. Tom Dumoulin: Finally, although everyone's counting him out, there's not no merit here. Weak point: team--the higher he gets, the more he'll have to leech off other teams' tactics, and wheels. Strong point: this sprinty, roll-y, time trial-ly course is waaaaay better for Dumo, even with his improbable climbing ability, than the death-by-a-thousand-hairpins peaks of the Giro. Plus, *he* can time trial (of course, so can Froome now, but what dedicated donkey can't?). Cripes Mikel, if it can't be you, and I just feel too dirty cheering for Valverde, I swear I'm gonna have to root for this guy!

All righty--there's your GC, and I remind you, *none* of this is my fault. Next up, the roleurs, climbeurs, and stage hunteurs--you know you'd rather hear about them than contemplate this year's final podium anyway!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

It's Yer 2018 Tour de France In Preview, Part Un: The Course!

Look, with even our beloved Giro the source of couch peloton ambivalence due to the presence--I can barely bring myself to say victory--of that gangly gasping stick figure Froome, it's no wonder that many of my fellow cycling fans are, with his impending attendance and likely triumph, viewing the upcoming Tour de France with all the same appreciation and excitement one views, say, a strangely spreading rash. But here it is, and you're gonna watch probably at least one stage anyway even if you hate it, so if you're gonna, then you might as well know what you're getting into, and on what stage that weasel is most likely to either crack, or pull a 280 kilometer breakaway into a hurricane-force headwind and still !@#$in' win the sprint stage because we all know he's got a motor bigger than a space rocke--uh, he's better than everyone else. So what've we got? This!


The Sprinty Stages: screw deciding the race with some idiot time trial on Day One--barring catastrophe, which can surely occur--this year, we're starting right off with a treat for the fast men! 201 potentially windy K to Fontenay-le-Comte. Gorillaaaaaaaaaa--go to hell, Andre can so either! Stage two takes us more inland; Stage 4'll show us how Sagan is really doing; stage 7 gives the scrappy, on-form Caleb Ewan the chance to--oh wait, he's been completely jacked outta this race! As for stage 8--yep, flat and boring again! @#dammit, are there *any* mountains in this freakin' race? Well, maybe a few, so whoever's wussed out on the green jersey competition might as well bail well before the next sprint day on Stage 13, yer second-to-last-chance for glory on Stage 18, and, of course, yer crowning final triumph on stage 21 the Champs-Elysees. Gorillaaaaaaaaaa--go to hell, Andre can so either!

Aw, Crap, the Time Trials: okay Movistar--it's the 35k stage 3 team time trial, not tooooo long, but still yer first real chance to jack all three of yer captains outta any hope of victory. We know you're no BMC here, but can you *please* not hose dear Mikel outta GC just yet? And if you're within only a few seconds of yer nearest competitor on the podium, you're either preemptively celebrating victory in Paris or projectile vomiting in fear or despair the entire night before Stage 20, a lumpy individual 31k time trial. Aw, who says these things aren't any fun?

The Rollers: get ready, you annoyingly named Quickstep "wolfpack"--the hills-but-not-mountains get rollin' on Stage 5! Next, the 181k Stage 6 welcomes two trips up the Mur de Bretagne. Enjoy--if you don't bonk! Stage 9's yer Classics playground--15 different cobbled sectors damn near all the way to Roubaix. Pleeeeeaaaaaase don't break anything on this, Movistar? Stage 14 is a cat 4, cat 2, cat 3, cat 2 nipper to Mende; Stage 15 jams in a Cat 1 to Pic de Nore before a flat run-in to Carcassone;

The Mountains: Jaysus, are you *seriously* making us wait halfway through the race before we hit even *one* of these? After a rest day, the Tour finally begins on Stage 10, which wakes the GC up with a nice wee stroll up the Colombiere after a brief, if potentially dangerous, mountaintop flirtation with a gravel section. Tired already? Well save yer breath and quit yer whinin'--you got two hors categorie climbs in the first 57k of Stage 11, and that's before the Cat 1 stinger to La Rosiere! As for Stage 12, it's Col de la Madeleine, *and* the Croix de Fer, *and* Alpe d'Huez--so Mikel, if you wanna both completely psych out Nairo Quintana *and* claim a legendary climb, don't !@#$ this up, you hear me! Anyway, you can chill after this to Stage 16, which welcomes you back from the 2nd rest day to a Cat 1 meander up Col de Mente before a *downhill* finish off Col du Portillon. If any of you need to improve your descending skills, well, too late now, suckers! Stage 17, though mountains, is curiously a mere 65k long, but still manages to stuff in Peyresourde *and* a steep finale up Col du Portet. At least the pain won't last too long, kids! As for Stage 19--this is it, Nairo, you either solidify yer win or utterly lose it here, as you grind up the 12k Col d'Aspin before begging for mercy up the Tourmalet before conquering the Aubisque, which includes not accidentally flying off the thing as you head to the valley below. Okay now you can relax grande Mikeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel!

Well, there's yer course--next up, the GC contenders to either thrill or horrify you. I'll see you all tweeting frantically on the Alpe d'Huez--you know I will, you lying lying liars!

Saturday, June 09, 2018

My Fantasy Chris Froome Press Conference

Good morning. I'm here today to tell you all to feck of--(Dave Brailsford leans in, whispers in ear)--I mean, to discuss my totally believable performances in the Vuelta, the Giro, and coming up, the Tour de France, over the past year.

First, I'd like to point out that as we all know, it takes a truly catastrophically sickly athlete to win as many Grand Tours as I have. Dang, if I hadn't had my guts actually clinically liquified by bilharzia, ingested an 80 foot tapeworm, both vomited and suffered explosive diarrhea for six months straight, had a head cold, toe fungus, gout, St. Vitus' dance, cholera, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, carbuncles, tinnitus, ovarian cysts, *and* asthma, I admit, I'd pretty well suck. Thank goodness for multiple ailments, amirite?

Second, I'd like to address this "donkey to racehorse" bull!@#$ that I've been getting from all you miserable so-called cycling fans for the last three years. As to why I didn't show any particular athletic promise as a young rider, !@#$ you! I was still good enough to be in the ProTour while you were still at home bitching about Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah swilling !@#$ beer and stale chips like a fat-!@#. * Further, to paraphrase Kaiser Soze, I was *fat.* I mean, like, *Orca* fat. So you can see how Brailsford's positive-reinforcement regimen of smacking me in the mouth every time I approached the refrigerator has really helped improve my power-to-weight ratio. That, and that weird injection I got in that alleyway behind the Sky headquarters a couple years back that's slowly been turning me into a genetic human/praying mantis hybrid. (Blinks, shakes head) !@#$, I swear I can't see right since I started growing these compound bug eyes!

Third, I'd like to discuss this marginal gains horse hocke--(winces as Brailsford kicks him under the table)--uh, the many subtle changes to my diet, sleep, training, and exercise regimes. Luckily, none of the other World Tour teams, managers, trainers, doctors, soigneurs or riders ever thought of stuff like that to help *their* GC contenders, those dummies!

Fourth, I want to go head-on against these disgusting and utterly false allegations of bike doping. I *personally* watched my bike built up, and as Dave here reassured me, all those little wires, flashing lights, whirring parts, batteries, and computer chips are just water bottle cages. To think they're mounted *inside* the frames these days, who'd'a thunk it?

Next, and perhaps most importantly for you prurient doubting wankers, I want to talk about my completely benign Salbutamol overdose poz. Sure, Alessandro Petacchi could fit like 4 of me in his breast pocket and I *still* had way higher levels of that !@#$ in a single dose than he ever did in his entire career, but how else is a severe asthmatic like myself whose symptoms only kick in whenever I desperately need to up my tempo on a critical climb in a Grand Tour stage to treat such a consistent and terrible ailment?

Now, it's time to move on to my phenomenal 80k breakaway triumph on the Finestre, particularly this stupidity how of all the climbs in Italy I totally coincidentally managed to recon that one. Not only does everyone know rumors about the race course months before it's actually announced,** but I gotta tell ya, having the ability to dictate to the race organizers *exactly* what I wanna ride and when and where for the 1.5 million euro favor of my showing up sure doesn't hurt, honey! As to my spectacular attack, of *course* I gained all my time on the descent, you idiots--how much more aero than every one of the 206 bones in the adult human body and every joint to boot flailing in completely opposite directions at all times in all wind conditions can a person get, you silly things? Hell, if *Michael Freakin' Rasmussen* doesn't think I was doping more'n anybody el--uh, was doping on the Finestre, where the hell do *you* get off, you armchair weekend-warrior ignoramuses? And while we're at it, why aren't you guys investigating that bizarro aerodynamic microgel !@#$ Lotto-Soudal was using at the Dauphine? I mean, asthma meds at least help you breathe, what kind of Cold War spy-novel stealth-technology cheating crap is this?

Lastly, I'd like to say none of this would be possible without the support of my family, friends, and teammates, the enabling cowardice of UCI and the race organizers, the kind of impenetrable legal team that can only be assembled and wielded by a team with more money than God, and truly mind-bogglingly extensive medical interven--uh, the really neato wind-tunnel testing I did in January. You know what they say, it takes a village to raise up a donkey!

Well, that about wraps things up. In conclusion, I'd just like to say YOU'RE ALL BLOCKED FROM MY TWITTER ACCOUNT YOU SLANDERING MOTHER!@#$ERS--uh, I'm *really* looking forward to watching Dumoulin try to keep up with me again at the Tour. You think Carapaz and Lopez wouldn't help you reel me in, just wait'll you see Landa Quintana and Valverde going full nuclear option internally trying to kick each other's !@#--see you at the Tour, suckers!

*Hey, I gotta be fair here!
**Hey, I gotta be fair here!

Sunday, June 03, 2018

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2018 Giro d'Italia Racejunkie Awards!

All right, half o' you didn't watch because of the start location, half o' you didn't watch because of that idiot, and the third half of you only watched it begrudgingly--but it remains an irrefutable truth that the beautiful Giro d'Italia is greater than any one (or even a multiple pack o') fuckwits, so now that the Prosecco hangover's warn off and the pre-Tour hype has barely begun, it's time to reward the beautiful, the ugly, and the just plain ludicrous with this year's Incredibly Prestigious 2018 Giro d'Italia racejunkie Awards! Prizes--I swear, for anyone bold, desperate, or self-Googling enough to claim them--a dashing custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap, a passel o' handsome racejunkie stickers to ruin yer bike, yer car, or yer face, and--last but *so* not least, an actual physical trophy dredged up from the best, worst, or most ignominious my local second-hand tchotchke shop has to offer. So celebrants, let's get to it!

Total Embarrassment o' the Giro: *why* did my beloved Giro pay that horrid windmill/daddy-longlegs hybrid 1.5 million euro to besmirch this race? Right, it must've brought in more attention than it cost. Except for the tifosi, who were pissed, and collectively (though theoretically possibly for a host of other reasons, even though we all of course know better) dragged the TV ratings down to the lowest in many years. Don't you ever, *ever* pull this crap again, race organizers!

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superdomestique! Prize: Yap, yap, in a creepily familiar US Postal feedback loop, a pack of humanoid robots damn near killed themselves and every other rider in the peloton for 21 consecutive stages setting the pace for that freak Froome on climbs, the flats, and the handful of meters back to the team bus after the line. But who this *really* belongs to is Thibaut Pinot's loyal teammates on his spectacular crack on the stage to Jafferau, who collectively nursed a dehydrated, feverish, vomiting, and ultimately hospitalized Pinot across the line miraculously within the time cut to boot before he was obliged to drop out on the penultimate day. Fortunately, our boy is reportedly recovering nicely, despite an apparent diagnosis of pneumonia and a doc-ordered three weeks' rest from the bike. Forza Pinot, and bravi ragazzi!

Aw, Suck! Podium Moment o' the Giro: C'mon Pozzo. C'mon Pozzo. C'mon Pozzo--aw, *dammit*! Next year, Domenico, I know you can do it next year!

Crash o' the Race (Aw, Rats!): surprisingly, and for once fortunately, it was a three week Tour o' Relatively Minimum Carnage out there. But still and all, it just plain sucked for hardworking Bahrain do-it-all Konstantin Svitsov, who crashed out with a crappy fractured vertabrae no less on the recon of the opening time trial course before the race even began. Heal up soon, Konstantin--hopefully you'll at least be back for the Tour!

Crash o' the Race (Totally Insignificant): speaking of which, who else wiped out on the recon, to immediate social-media humungo-ruckus and worldwide respectable-media hoo-ha, but to no practical effect on the man, or the race, whatsoever? That's right, this one's for Froome. Glad he wasn't hurt--if he was gonna lose the race, I wanted it to be fair and square, on top form!

Crash o' the Race (Totally Bizarre): and speaking of whom, how the *hell* do you even crash inching your way uphill? Yep, Froome again, Stage 8. Damn, it's like his fifth award already, someone get this guy a shopping cart!

Punk-Ass Move o' the Race: For !@#$'s sake, Froome--we know you won. By a lot. Was it *really* necessary to attack Dumoulin for a few meter's advantage when you were coming in together on like Stage 56 and already had the entire damn race wrapped up? Show some class whydontcha!

Associated Manufactured Controversy Award: speaking of our lovebirds, was it a deliberate snub that 2017 Giro champ Tom Dumoulin, who famously stated flat out that he thought Froome oughtn't to be riding the Giro, didn't immediately respond to Froomey's warm offer of congratulations-and-glad-I-beat-you? Or merely the distraction of the crush of fan and media attention surrounding Dumoulin the minute he took a breath across the line? Needless to say (and I include myself in this dim assessment) tifosi speculation took the low road. STOP THE PRESSES THE BROMANCE IS DEAD!

Total Eclipse of the Heart Prize: look, on his most benign day, Astana boss/future Emperor of All Earth Alexander Vinokourov would probably shank you for politely complimenting his shirt. But it was really quite touching after the climb to Jafferau to watch close up how he waited for, enthusiastically welcomed, and assiduously looked after each of his boys to straggle in over the line. Please don't hurt me for saying something nice about you Vino!

Nail-Biter Competition of the Giro: yeah, the maglia rosa. But no, this was the absolutely tit-for-that will-he-or-won't-he fight for the young rider's jersey between Carapaz and Lopez. Sure, they tanked Dumoulin's last hope of reeling back Chris Froome while the two whippersnappers were busy marking each other for white, but hell, Dumo's maglia rosa wasn't their problem!

Running Fan Incident Award (Sissy Slap-Fight Version): to be fair (for once), almost anybody, not least a rider fighting for the overall win in Rome, would want to punch the crap outta a stupid six-foot inflatable Tyrannosaurus Rex plunging and lumbering alongside as one tries to find one's line on a critical climb. But to his credit, Froome refused to slag--though he did shove aside--said dinosaur, diplomatically averring that he was merely moving the innocently stumbling Rex out of his way. Hey, I gotta call it like I see it--that was class!

Running Fan Incident Award (Wisenheimer Version): okay, normally I view the sort of publicity-slut camera-grabbing fans who run alongside the riders in neon banana hammocks or completely incongruous horned Viking helmets with the sort of nauseous semi-complicit horror an American feels at seeing a McDonald's tucked amidst the actual-human-food cafes two streets away from the Vatican. But I couldn't help but feel a sort of grudging, if completely inexcusable, admiration for the guy who managed to perfectly replicate an all-body Ventolin inhaler and still sprint uphill in the thing. An artist, you are, Anonymous!

I See a Red Maglia and I Want It Painted Black Award: no, they don't award it anymore, but gosh darn it, they sure ought to, because the dead-last rider crossing the line dead-last or near so in every stage for three weeks running is *still*, full-stop, one of the greatest athletes on the planet. Two-year's-running last place finisher/maglia nera winner/full o' stick-to-it-iveness Wilier Triestina Guiseppe Fonzi, this one's for you. Bonus award to the Giro organizers for playing the theme from Happy Days at your every sign-in!

Break o' the Race (Ex-Carrot Edition): He did it in 2011, he did it in 2016, and he did it again in 2018. Mikeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel (Nieve, that is)--happy birthday to you is right!

Break o' the Race (No I Am !@#damn Not Awarding It To Froome Edition): Slag him all you want for collapsing in the final week, and slag him even more justifiably for his sketchy UCI run-in that was justifiably howled about every single meter of the race, but damn, Simon Yates' 18k stage 15 run into (well, straight up) Sappada was a *move*. What happens in the future, I can't control!

All Right !@#dammit Even I Can't Be Sarcastic All The Time Cut The Kid A Little Slack Award!: Aru, man. I don't know if it's physical, I don't know if it's the psychological pressure of all the hype, I don't whether it's a team mis-fit, or what. But leave poor little Fabio Aru alone!

Crack o' the Race: no, I'm not giving it to Pinot--the poor kid was sick. But who *did* crack spectacularly was maglia rosa and seemingly-inevitable-top-o'-the-podium vincitore Simon Yates, who, as many resignedly predicted, would and did blow up, as is his youngster wont, the third week in heartbreaking and epic fashion with 85k to go on the Finestre. His stated reason? Fair enough--the boy was just damn *exhausted*. Still, he honored the pink jersey by digging deep and finishing the stage, and the whole race as well. Just maybe work on that long-term endurance thing on the off-season, kid!

Because I'm Happy Prize: sure, he had a bitchin' stage win on the Giro's first heights as a tip o' the hat by respectful team captain Yates after an exhausting most-o'-the-day break. But what completely blew me away was how, with absolutely nothing in the tank by the penultimate day's climb to Cervinia, wee Esteban Chaves still kept smiling even as he ground his way back to his team car after the finish line. Is it even legal to be that cheerful all the time?

Paint Job o' the Race (Jaysus H. Gaudy Freakin' Christ It's Not Even the Right Color Edition): Yes, Chris, you won the Giro, you get a big pink freakin' bike. But !@#DAMMIT THE MAGLIA ROSA IS NOT FLUORESCENT NEON PINK YOU TACKY SNOTTY MISPLACED SHOWOFF! Honor the maglia in yer paint job right, or stay the hell home. FFS, are you gonna light up the Tour de France finale in hi-viz yellow too? *Don't* do that again!

Paint Job o' the Race (Class Edition): a clean black Specialized frame. a subtle streak of magenta. a flash of matching bar tape. And the maglia ciclamino left to stand out on its glorious own. Elia Viviani, and whoever the hell paints yer bike, this one's for you. Nicely done!

The Sound of Inevitability Award: yes, I am going to hold an unreasonable grudge for all time against UCI for rescheduling the Amgen EPO Tour of California right up against the beautiful Giro, thereby depriving the latter race of the likes of Petacchi's beautiful blue train and most of the rest of the world's best sprinters for all time as, for some sick tiwsted rationale, they decide the payoff of one sprint in Milano after 2 million meters of climbing over 14 mountain ranges isn't quite enough and bail for the relatively modest coupla days o' pain in the US. So--with the exception of Sam Bennett's smashing second stage grab on the prestigious final day in Roma--Elia Viviani (fine and deserving as he truly was) had no possible outcome but to take the majority of the flat stages and of course the sprinter's jersey. Well done, but dammit UCI, fix this!

And Last But Not Least, the Road Graffiti o' the Giro: y'know, it still warms the cockles of my miserable cynic hypocrite heart to see the lovely tributes to Marco Pantani painted all over the road. And can anyone begrudge anyone writing encouragement to Aru, Dumoulin, or Pozzovivo? But for me, the immortal words (and accompanying tent set-up) at the foot of Monte Zoncolan handily pointing Chris Froome to a "VENTOLIN PUSHER" and, for some mysterious reason, also "P*SSY", will forever capture the very spirit of this year's Giro. And if you actually *had* that inhaler on hand (yes, just the inhaler you pervs!), that's a *double* trophy for you!

Well, them's your Giro Awards for this year. So swallow yer pride, waste yer time, and pick up yer prizes--just hope you don't earn another one next year!

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

It's Yer Holy Crap It's Time for the Mountains Giro d'Italia Roundup!

Okay, one prologue, a couple boring sprints, an ugly transfer day, and two bumpy wake-up calls later, we're finally back and well-entrenched on Italian soil, so to those just tuning in now (and those just waking up), welcome to the smashing 101st Giro d'Italia! So what've we learned, and what's a-comin'? This!

1. Shut up, Froome. Jaysus!

2. Elia Viviani is doing his team, and country, proud. See what happens when all the other top sprinters skip the race in favor of that stupid Amgen EPO Tour o' California or to hold back for the gaudy Tour de France?

3. As usual, the prologue !@#$ed the GC on Day 1. Word time trial champ--and freakishly inexplicable high-peaks whiz kid--Dumo slaughtered the field, with (to be fair, this sucked--I want him to get his !@# kicked staying upright) Froome bashed up from a recon ride and dropping 37 seconds (up to 55 now with him too nervous to use his mot--uh, mojo), flyweight Pinot at 34' on the day, piccolo Chaves at 47, perpetual almost Fabio Aru at 57, and Lopez at 1:14, so it's gonna be a looooooong ride back to the podium for most of 'em. Hell, since apparently being 2 feet taller and 80 kilos heavier won't do the trick, maybe Dumoulin'll have another--nope, I'm sure they've got his digestive system under control this time, you're all just hosed!

4. !@#$IN' HELL ASTANA, CAN YOU *TRY* NOT TO RUN OVER THE INNOCENT RACE MARSHAL/ROAD FURNITURE FLAG ALERT GUYS? Oh, that was the Tour de Yorkshire. !@#$IN' HELL ASTANA, CAN YOU NOT PULL THIS STUPID !@#$ AT THE GIRO OR ANYWHERE ELSE EVER AGAIN YOU EEJITS?!

5. Ya gotta love Riccardo Ricco'. After hiding behind the skirts of first his own girlfriend, *then* his own grandma when he got popped, he's finally decided to stick his hand up like that annoying kid in science class who can't bear to be ignored for two seconds with his new book "Heart of the Weasel"--uh, "Cobra", with the apparent revelation that while he'd definitely still dope today, as one must, he'd probably not be so parsimonious as to refuse to pony up serious dough for medical assistance instead of what he did last time, which was to stick his blood bag in his dorm fridge next to the mold-mangled remains of a two-week-old burrito and the disconcertingly off-smelling mayonnaise. Y'know twerp--everyone *still* likes Rasmussen better, so !@#$ off! David Millar, though, you might beat in a yearbook popularity contest, so I suppose that's something old boy!

5. Stage hunters, enjoy this while it lasts--'cause starting tomorrow, the time-screwed mountaineers are gonna jostle you for anything left that they think they can get. Aruuuuuuuuuuuuu--well, maybe you'd better hold off for a superhuman effort in week 3!

6. Ale Petacchi, who was notoriously busted for asthmatic-rhino levels of inhaler juice a ways back, was waxing poetic on his Twitter about his gorgeous 2004 Giro victories. Okay, he got a *little* wheezy in his day, but am I the *only* one who still loves and misses Fassa Bortolo's beautiful blue train from the long-past eons when sprinters still *came* to the mountain-monster Giro with joy?

7. Outside the bellissime roads of Sicily, meantime, Nacer Bouhanni has apparently gotten into a "violent" altercation with his Cofidis DS on team bus which, given cyclists' usual ineptitude at the manly art of the bar brawl, usually consists of nothing more'n taking a wild swing in someone's general direction with an empty bidon or, God forbid, attempting to give one's rival a "noogie", but with a trained pugilist on the downslide like Bouhanni could actually mean a pretty decent sucker-punch to the noggin. !@#dammit Bouhanni, hold it together--if you blow yer chance at the Tour team, who's gonna be there to body-check that horrid little punk Moscon?

Well, tomorrow the fearsome Mt. Etna beckons. Now *what's* that !@#$ you have to wrap all yer discreet motorized assistance with so it doesn't get molten by lava?

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

It's Yer Giro d'Italia in Preview, Part Due: The GC Contenders!

Look, let's face it--to my eternal enmity, and what should be the World Tour's eternal chagrin, ain't nobody sending their "A-Teams" to the beautiful Giro this--or lately, any--year, opting instead for the garish golden circus, and inevitably maillot-jaune-disgracing doping scandal, of the Tour. You *suck*, cycling! Anyhoo, the squads are contractually bound to send *somebody*, so here they are, and with any luck, the actual winner won't be *too* much of an embarrassment. Any anyway, it's the Giro--*nothing* will mar its beauty dammit, or else! So, in no particular order except the person who pisses me off the most first, the GC:

1. Chris Froome. First--shut up, Froome. Second, you're only riding this for (1) the 1.5 million euros you're getting, you overpriced ho and (2) so you've still got a Grand Tour victory this year on the (extremely) off chance the UCI shows some nuts and doesn't allow you to defile the Tour de France, which *itself* is such an insult to the perfect Giro that you don't deserve to ride it at all, you contemptible alien stick figure. Still, we're stuck with you *and* your hideous ungainly riding style. The hell with your recon of the route: can we just lock this monstrosity into a screening room with 360 degree displays of Contador, Pantani and Heras climbing so he can at least learn some grace?

2. Tom Dumoulin: Amazingly, Tom "Andre the Giant" Dumoulin has managed to turn himself into a 5-foot-2-inch, 120-lb climbing specialist, and while the whole cycling world--the sick freaks--'ll mostly be tuning in with a toxic mix of prurience, fascination, and dread to see if a graphic replay of last year's notorious Ass-Gate returns, I'll be watching wondering why I wasted my time on a stupid law degree rather'n some advanced physics crown that could enable me to figure out how his still-newish climbing ability is possible within the known or theoretical physical structure of the universe. Nonetheless, Dumo's riding, his stubble is carefully curated for maximum photo op, and he just insulted Froome today, so in my book, he's got a good possibility to win against the Evil Twig, tho' of course the winner should actually be Italian. So Forza Dumo!

3. Thibaut Pinot. Ah, Thibaut. So close, but yet so !@#$ed. The q is can he overcome his team and apparently mandatory ill-timed bad luck, illness or injury. The asnswer is, there's no shame in a podium, kid! Heck, why not be happy with a coupla stages or a lovely KOM jersey, to boot?

4. Miguel Angel Lopez. If this were the Tour, we wouldn't be having this conversation, talented as he is. But this ain't and we are. The mountains are a done deal--but can he survive the rest of the course?

5. Mikel Landa. WHAT THE !@#$ ARE YOU DOING MIKEL I TOLD YOU TO WIN THE GIRO TO GAIN UNQUESTIONED CAPTAINCY AND STREET CRED BEFORE GOING FOR THE TOUR! Now you'll just waste half of July shaking Nairo *and* that crafty little !@#$ Valverde off your wheel, not focusing on your external enemies. WHAT THE !@#$?

6. Fabio Aru: Let's be honest, the Next Great Italian Hope has seemed a little, well, melancholy at never having quite yet lived up to his potential. But you may surprise us, little flyweight--on a good day, you're still a panting, awkward, tenacious pleasure to watch, and if you can get your confidence up, your legs, I truly believe, can follow. Vai vai vai vai vai--and don't let the belittling press get you down!

7. Simon Yates: C'mon man. No matter how perfectly he sets this up, he's gonna collapsed like a 10-story house-o'-cards whacked by a bazooka. Yap, yap, Yates fans--I'm prepared to eat my words, but fairly certain that I won't have to!

8. Esteban Chaves: go to hell, can too either! So what if he can't do any of the other kinds of stages? No one cares about those in the Giro anyways!

Ok, barring catastrophe--or embodying it--there's yer GC. Tomorrow last but not least, yer sprinty-rolly-stagey guys!