Thursday, August 17, 2017

It's Yer 2017 Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Dos: The GC Contenders! #LV2017

First, of we still love so !@#$ the !@#$ off ex-Euskaltel rider Samuel Sanchez, to whom I was going to give a podium spot as well as a stage win (shut up! could so either! even without that peptide !@#$!), let me just say: Aiiigggggghhhhhhhhhhh! Second, give me that !@#damn whiskey bottle before I snatch it outta your !@#damn hand!

Okay, with that out of the way, time to get down to business (or pleasure): it's high time for the fabulous Vuelta, baby, so let's talk yer General Classification Contenders! Sure, there's only like 4--but this is the unpredictable and vicious Vuelta, and anything could still happen. My picks (and they're always wrong, so pro tip to place yer bets accordingly, especially if you'll share the proceeds):

Alberto Contador: It is unbe!@#damnlievable to me that, in the Sky/USPostal-reboot era, you would pony up for a rider like Alberto Contador and not spend the rest of your entire generous budget building an impenetrable and entirely single-minded mountains behemoth around him for the Grand Tours. But Trek, ya didn't. In his favor: it's his last race (waaaaaaah!), it's his home race (yay!), the course is perfect for a guy who lives to attack, and right now, his health is g--forget it, *I'm* not gonna be the freakin' eejit that jinxes 'im!

Chris Froome: It's just like the Tour de France, Chris, but without Mikel Landa being embarrassingly stronger than you and telling you to screw off! To his credit, the only rider in the entire peloton who could turn the most exciting mountain stages in all of cycling into a seven-hour death march of watching static on a TV screen. Now, that takes talent! Still and all, he's got humble--and incredibly talented--superdomestique Mikel Nieve (for the rest of this year, anyway!), as well as the usual raft of robot suspects, who seem to differ from the rest of their kind in their phenomenally lifelike ability to sweat, ingest food and water, and get tir--nope, they sure don't ever do that! A highly likely, if deeply vomitous, candidate for victory. But if you're gonna do that, can you at least show the *slightest* bit of panache and initiative and at least nominally try for a stage win? Nope, didn't think so, drone-boy!

Nairo Quintana: Just kidding! But Movistar's actually got a bangin' young lineup that can really do some damage, including Carlos Betancur. Oh come on! so long as he doesn't 'damage' the buffet too much he'll be fine. Maybe see you next year Nairo--if Landa doesn't crush you first!

Fabio Aru: Yes, he had a disappointing Tour. But he's bagged this hallowed race before, and now, he's had time to reflect, recharge, and most of all, get the crap beaten outta him by charming killer team boss Vinokourov. He's also got the incredibly versatile (and former Liberty Seguros Contador teammate!) Luis Leon Sanchez, and while LL Cool Sanchez never shies away from his own stage win, he's a good--and hardworking--guy to have at your side. Forza Fabio--just not quite enough to pass Alberto!

Vincenzo Nibali: He was 'only' third in the Giro this year, though he showed some serious signs of life late on. And when he's in health and on form, he's a formidable force. But our dear little Izagirre is out after his !@#$ crash at the !@#$ Tour, so he's gonna have to rely on other teams for both wheels and tactics. I'm rooting for you, Squalo--but yer even more hamstrung than Alberto, for heck's sake!

The Dark Horses: yeah, yeah, Yateses, but with Esteban Chaves to either support or contend with, there's a significant chance we love Orica will have to divvy up potential stage wins, or eat their own in pursuit of GC. And even Bardet isn't copping to anything more than some stage-hunting. But there's also Majka, and Tejay (oh BMC! I'm sure this is all your fault!), Kruijswijk, and Kelderman. Me, I look forward to their stage wins. Good luck guys--by the time the second week sinks in, you're sure as hell all gonna need it!

Well, there's yer quicky Vuelta a Espana GC In Preview--let's hope that stupid 40k flat tt doesn't kill the race, because in the Vuelta, that's what the mountains are for!

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's Yer 2017 Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Uno: The Course!

All right, you crybabies, this ain't no stinkin' Tour de France: it's the !@#damn Vuelta, baby, and not only does that mean mountains, most importantly, it also means more mountaintop *finishes.* Add to that, blistering mountain heat that could bring a frozen wooly mammoth back to life before you even get a chance to spit out yer gel packet out on the road like a pig, and you've got a three-week recipe for misery, glory, and a damn good show. Stuff that in yer power meter and watch it weep, Froomey! Anyway, here's what the poor bastids are in for:

The Opener: 13.7 k of flat but twisty and technical team time trial that, all the guys being roughly equally exhausted from the long season, shouldn't put *too* much damage into the GC, but then again, one touch of the wheels or ill-timed mechanical and some sap is a minute down before they even get to swat away the delirious press corps. Welcome to the Vuelta, boys (even if it is in France today)--it only goes upwards from here!

The 'Nother Time Trial: What the !@#--is the Vuelta taking some !@#$ty page from the Tour this year and *trying* to !@#$ the pure climbers outta GC? For reasons I can't fathom and also don't give a rat's !@# about because they're presumptively invalid, there's a 40 k paper-flat individual time trial on Stage 16. Wait, there's a little hi--nope, that's just a speed bump. Hope you enjoyed yer rest day--if you weren't wide awake all freakin' night panicking about the imminent disappearance of your podium spot!

The Rollers: Puncheurs and breakaway artists, domestiques with a day off for freedom and those still without a contract lookin' for work, here's yer chance: 8 medium mountain stages for yer delectation and general destruction! Stage 3 smacks you with a couple of Cat 1s, the first right off the bat then the second about 3/4 through, then a Cat-2 nipper with a downhill run off Alto de la Comella. Stage 5: a pile o' Cat 2s with a right sharp climb to the end. Next up, Stage 6--a moderate yet relentless Cat 3, 3, 3, 3, 2, then flat. Whew! Stage 7--are you hurting yet? Well you will be tonight, 'cause it's the longest stage of the entire race at a chill 205 k, with pave' and a bitchin' castle to boot! Boy, this is quite a run of "mid-mountains", isn't it? Stage 8 is some sadist freak's idea of "moderate," with a Cat-1 finale with gradients up to 20%, then a bit of a decline to the finish--though maybe that's just you falling over from exhaustion! Stage 11 is another "anyone else's real mountain stage", with 2 Cat 1s including a beautiful, and brutal, finale to Observatorio Astronomico de Calar Alto. Stage 12--wait, aren't we done with our alleged rollers yet?--is a bit of a toughie from the halfway point at 80k, but a downhill-then-flat finish oughtn't coax the real mountain goats out just yet. Then, we give the others some time to play til Stage 18, which gives a punchy last 65k and an uphill kick to the line. Stage 19--it's got a downhill finish, and they're calling it "medium" again, tho it seems to me these rollers are gonna kick the hell outta the GC at *some* point.

The Flats: who cares, no one except decent climbers are gonna be able to struggle through the later ones anyway, but we're stuck with 'em--but only 5, compared to the crappy Tour's unbearable eleven. Stage 2 gives the specialists a day to enjoy, if they don't get whacked by crosswinds--watch out, GC!--then a hearty 198k Stage 4 tucks in a wee Cat 3 and heads a bit bumpily down to the finish. Stage 9 hands a rare day of mercy to the fast men again--if you don't mind an uphill finish with a 21 percent gradient section, that is! Stage 10: sure, they *say* it's flat--if yer legs don't notice that lil' Cat 1 before you thankfully head down the valley, if a break don't beat you. God, I love what the Vuelta calls a sprint stage! Still alive in this race? You get the 198 k Stage 13 from Coin to Tomares all to yourself, honey--now if you ain't looking for a new gig this late, dear sprinty ones, you maybe wanna take yerself home!

The Rest Days: You get a day off the bike--and if you're pissy little Sky, a day to skip any uncomfortable questions at the traditional rest-day press conference, too--after Stages 9 and 15. On one, you get to ponder how long you've got to go. On the other, you get to ponder how you *better* get your !@#$ together *right freakin' now*, buddy. Ahhhhh, the sweet smell o' relaxation--and fear!

And Best of All, The Mountains: Woot woot woot--it takes til the imperious Stage 14 before the Vuelta concedes it's finally in the high passes, but it's worth the wait, a long slow meander ever-upwards then an HC climb to La Pandera! Next, a short'n'sweet--but surely painful--Stage 15 129 k romp up the Cat 1 Alto de Hazallanas, a dip before Cat 1 Alto del Purche, then no rest whatsoever before the relentless finale to Sierra Nevada. Aren't you glad it's a rest day? Then, after the suck ITT wrecks the GC, Stage 17 brings us a good 9,000 feet of climbing, with a nasty spike to finish you off. Now dammit, I'm missing a "high mountain" day--which of those ludicrous breakaway pretenders are they calling the 4th one, Stage 11? Stage 20--it's the grand GC finale, with the truly legendary Angliru. Alberto, I hope to see you there--first, where you belong!


Well folks, them's the quickie version. The long version takes three weeks of pain, pain, pain, and pain--oh Vuelta, even before we get to the GC contenders, how we love you!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Fantasy Alberto Contador Press Conference

Good morning. On the eve of my final race, the beautiful Vuelta a Espana--and now that I've formally announced my retirement--it's time for me to vent about 10 years of pent-up ra--uh, to thank my team bosses, teammates, and fans for their incredible support.

Lance Armstrong: You inspired me with your perserverance and calm during your cancer battle, through my own life-threatening--and nearly life- and career-ending--illness. You were my hero. Then, you were a *total* d*ick. Just as I come into my own after years of precocious, but nearly permanently interrupted, promise, you smack me flat at the 2009 Tour de France on what should have been one of the most joyous wins of my career with your narcissistic selfishness, cavernous ego, and boundless pettiness. First, you ditch me in a cross-wind. Then, you smack me to the press for (1) not domestiquing my own domestique and (2) well, *climbing*. I beat you. Own it. I don't care what excuse you want to make about age or anything else. Instead of blowing me off on the podium like a crappy toddler who's just had his lollipop snatched, either shake my hand like a civilized human or go home and wipe your snivelling nose on one of the 7 yellow jerseys you never tire of saying you won fair and square. Hell, you're not allowed to compete anymore anyway, what else have you got to do?

Oleg Tinkov: Get a life. I don't care who you think I should be banging, how often you think I should be banging, or what purported effect you think my banging's had on my job performance. In fact, it's downright pervy that you're focused so much on my sex life. I also don't care that I "only" won you a lousy Giro d'Italia, because as I recall, you had your entire luxury dacha spray-painted pink, whored yourself for every possible photo opportunity like a freakin' Kardashian, and fawned over me like Thomas on Froome for six months afterwards. I don't care how much you thought I sucked, who you should've bought instead of me, how much you think I should be paid, when I should've retired, why you thought it was productive to constantly slag your own GC leader, or what possible good it did for performance and morale to encourage my own domestiques to screw me over. And frankly, I took this !@#$ for *years* before I finally snapped and objected to your idiot low-rent behavior in the mildest possible terms, so now that I'm *not* bound by professional propriety any more, I no longer feel compelled not to tell you clearly to completely !@#$ off. As long as I live, and despite your epically inept leadership, I'll always be the winner of 3 Giri, 3 Tours, 3 Vueltas--as of this morning--and about 50 other races, forever. Besides a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in "Vulgar Bitching", what !@#$in' trophies do *you* have?

Bjarne Riis: on a related note, if I didn't understand why you and Tinkov hated each others' guts, I sure do now. And thanks for all your guidance--and resulting GT wins--over the years!

Chris Froome: you've won 4 Tours de France. Chapeau! As for our respective riding styles, well, nothing says "panache" like turning over the pedals at the exact same cadence every second for 3 consecutive weeks while glomming onto your power meter like it's the last piece of flotsam in a shipwreck. Good luck beating *that* boring yet incredibly effective !@#$ the next 5 years, suckers!

The Fans: All this swooning is making me blush. Sagan likes all that showy !@#$--maybe you could switch it over to him now?

My Domestiques: You know who you are. And not the ones who !@#$ed me over at Tinkoff, either! You were there with me at every moment, til you cracked like a rotten walnut from the effort. Now back to the !@#$wits who deserve a talking-to!

The Guy Who Ran Beside Me Dressed Like a Syringe That Time: I'm really sorry that I punched you. Without breaking your face. I know I got popped and all, but seriously, you're running alongside of *me* in that thing instead of my friend Alejandro Valverde? Unbegoddamnlievable! While we're at it, can the rest of you !@#$in' cut it with the steak jokes? It's been like 5 years already! Can't you clowns go after one of those morons who claimed they sucked up their entire lifetime doping intake over one sloppy makeout session with their girlfriend?

All right, time to prepare for the Vuelta. After that, I'm heading off into the sunset to play with my dog. And to anyone looking to !@#$ with me now--just remember that my cycling gloves are officially *off!*

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

My Fantasy Mikel Landa Press Conference

Good morning. As transfer season gets underway, I'd like to address the controversy over my relationship with Chris Froome and Team Sky once and for all.

First, I'd like to thank team management for their incredible support of me as a rider this year. There's nothing like getting B-grade backup at the Giro d'Italia & intentionally destroying my podium shot at the Tour to really improve one's morale. Hey, why allow the team's only chance at an actual *stage win* at no risk to the overall in Paris, just in case Froome needs me right there for his third consecutive bike change in a single climb? I'm also super grateful that since the Tour, they've rewarded my incredible effort and complete bodily exhaustion by working me like a donkey at every subsequent race on the calendar. Get it, a donkey?--kinda what Froome was just before he became a racehorse overnight, amirite?

Second, I want to say that while my legs were stronger than even Froome's mo--uh, motivation, I fully support the idea that the sole purpose for a domestique's existence is to be a selfless lieutenant for his captain, just like Froome was for Brad Wiggins back in his day. That idea, and not Chris hiding biting poisonous fire ants in my chamois as punishment for getting out of line, is why I was so glad to be deliberately chased down by my own teammates and made to schlep back and work for Froome instead. So when I said "I won't play second place to anyone next year," I meant "to anyone but Froomey." Love that guy!

Third, it's important to me that you all understand that I was *not* conspiring with Alberto Contador to bushwhack Froome when we broke away together. Not only does Alberto have too much class for that, we couldn't agree on how to knock that sonofa--how to knock that spectator's flag out of our way. Boy, are those things distracting when you're trying to hang back to help your team leader!

Finally, I'd like to address my plans for next year. Given my wonderful friendship with Froome and Dave Brailsford, I'm sure it's no surprise I'm giving serious consideration to--

[Froome busts in room with Geraint Thomas, shoves Landa off podium] YOU'RE *MINE*, B*ITCH, MINE TIL DECEMBER 31ST SO DON'T YOU FORGET IT YOU LITTLE PIECE OF !@#$! NOW GET BACK TO THE HOTEL AND GET READY TO RIDE FOR ME AT THE VUELTA, I DON'T GIVE A !@#$ HOW MANY GRAND TOURS YOU'VE RIDDEN THIS YEAR! I SAID MOVE IT! [swats over mic, stomps out of room]

Monday, July 24, 2017

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2017 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards!

So, missing the Tour de France yet? Yeah, me neither, which is evidenced by the fact that, for the first time in 11 years of this crap blog, I haven't even been able to be bothered to write about it more'n twice since it began. But still and all, it did occur, it *is* the biggest, gaudiest show on the racing calendar, and, for reasons that defy explanation, some guys are *still* willing to ride the thing in the--and it pains me like appendicitis to call it this--Chris Froome era. And, miraculously, a few things *did* manage to happen to keep it from being like dutifully reading a 10,000 page stack of blank paper. Whaddya get if you've won--or lost--one of cycling's most coveted, if completely unknown and totally disregarded, awards? Well, if you're so desperate as to ask for it, you get--I swear to God--a custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap; some kind of cheap-but-shiny trophy-like tchtotchke (possibly personalized, but depending on what I find at the junk store, almost certainly with someone else's name on it); a passel o' glam racejunkie stickers to emblazon your bike, your car, or your garbage can; and, best of all, eternal internet notoriety! So, without further ado, let's get on to this year's Hall of Fame (or Shame):

1. Road to Nowhere Award: well done, ASO--you've managed to design the single dullest Tour de France course in over a century. Endless flat stages? Check. A coupla one-day races with hills in 'em--without the interest or tension of the cobbles, or hell, anything else? Check. Brutal mountain stages without y'know, *mountain top finishes* that could actually mean anything? Bingo. Even worse, you preceded three weeks' worth of sleeping pills with the most disastrous prologue in years, apparently believing that wiping out anyone of any interest with any ambition by sticking 'em on a squirrely time trial bike on a squirrely course in a monsoon was a good way to ensure that *no-one* was around to light up the race in the two high-top finishes that *might've* coughed up some drama. Okay, maybe two stages out of 21 didn't suck. Well done, !@#$wits--next time, can we make the *women's* race three weeks long, and you can just let the guys chill at home and save their energy?

2. Pointless Self-Destructive Bender Award--no, it's not Oleg Tinkov--he sold his team when he got bored of mugging for the cameras with Peter "just a world champion" Sagan! But in a related shoot-yerself-in-the-foot move, this one's to ASO too, for taking one of the few riders absolutely guaranteed to put on a spectacular, crowd-pleasing, media-friendly party-on-wheels for the whole time, and kicking Peter Sagan completely out of the Tour for the astonishingly weak rationale that Mark Cavendish tried to squeeze himself into an aperture more suited for a preternaturally flexible weasel than a human cyclist hooked himself under Sagan's armpit and brought his own self down into a painful pile against the barriers. Are you !@#$ing *nuts*? Not only was it not even a relegation-worthy offense, much less a kick-out one, it wasn't even an *offense*, you eejits. Even worse, now he's gone and shaved his head, which the twitverse is convinced is a direct reaction to ASO's stupidity. Next time, watch the replay, suck up your petulant pride, and do the right thing, you crybabies!

3. Punk-!@# Move of the Race (Team): Congratulations, Team Sky, you've managed to beat out both Nacer Bouhanni's unjustified smack to Quick Step's Jack Bauer for *no* reason, *and* your own team leader's gratuitous bash of Fabio Aru into the crowd for the *!@#$* reason of daring to pursue his own GC ambitions: in a race where the rest of you looked like wheeled grandfather clocks as you clicked dully along, you decided to completely kill any joy or intrigue in the Tour by chasing down your (bushwhacking, disloyal, so what?) teammate Mikel Landa every time he showed *any* signs of independent life. God, I can't wait til he's out of that clone craphole!

4. Punk-!@# Move(s) o' the Race (Individual): The way he has a mechanical exactly at the steepest part of the climb, so the GC'll be too shamed to attack him. Or the way he needs a pee break right at the bottom of every mountain, to destroy everybody's momentum. Or the way he lifts his arm up to "call for the team car" and slow the group down for no reason--unless, best as we can discern, it's just to smell his own armpit. !@#$ you Froome, not only are you a total whinging two-bit cheap-trick punk, you're gonna get all my awards this year, you flyweight glory hog!

5. Punk-!@# Move o'the Race (Fan): look, France. We all think Froome's a doping little !@#$, as well as an abomination against the cycling gods for his hideous position on the bike. But he ain't the only reason you haven't won your own Grand Tour in a generation. Booing the maillot jaune. Understandable? Hell yeah! Class? Well, not so much!

6. The Fast and the Furio--No, Just !@#$in' Boring Prize: Never has a rider made one of the world's most difficult, dramatic, and spectacular sporting events seem *so* like a flavorless three-week-long bowl o' bottomless gruel. Way to go, Froomey, you achieved the impossible! Now come collect your--no, take your eyes off your--hey, you've already won the--!@#$, no-one can get his eyes off that damn power meter for *anything*!

7. Crash-o-the-Race (Jaysus H. CHRIST, not *again*! Edition): Can Alberto Contador's luck *be* any more !@#$ the last few years? Before Trek can even fail to stand up to Sky's hideous mountain onslaught, and the commentators 6iscount our wee hero on account of his being the approximate age of a new-discovered dinosaur fossil (but still a good milennium younger than Valverde), Alberto's chance at a farewell Tour get wrecked once again by a series of idiotic yet painful crashes, including one at the wheel of an exhausted Nairo Quintana, who to be fair was so knackered by his lousy Giro that he may not have actually been conscious he was riding a bike race at all. Just, *please*--can this guy stay upright at least at the Giro next year so we'll know if he could win fair and square?

8. Crash-o-the-Race (Magical Mystery Tour Edition): *Would* BMC's Richie Porte--having only recently learned that best-bro/not-a-teammate Chris Froome might work *against* him sometimes--have tossed his friendship to the wind and gone all-in against Froome for Tour de France GC--and possibly even seriously challenged him for actual victory, or would he have yielded to temptation and superdomestiqued his own rival to the win in Paris, *again*? Welp, we'll never know, because poor Richie crashed out. Richie, when you've recovered from your wins, do pick up your prize--and *promise* you'll really ride against him next year!

9. Crash-o-the-Race (Didn't Make a !@#damn Bit of Difference Edition): y'know, I'm very sorry for Geraint Thomas, and I truly wish him a swift, smooth, and complete recovery. But really, when you've got !@#$in' 10 other next-generation Terminators decimating every other team in their path, did Froome even *need* him there, except perhaps for constant ego-stroking? Nope. Anyhow, get well soon Geraint!

10. Domestique o' the Tour: Michal Kwiatkowski, hands damn down. Sky, time to give that guy a ginormous raise--move it, or lose it to another squad!

11. The Power of Love (And Threats) Award: Oh, Rogue Mikel. You openly resented it, and you even attacked a few (okay, a buncha) times to show that you could, but *something*--pride, etiquette, bodily threats from Brailsford-- drove you to eventually fall in line behind your team captain (a hell of a lot more gracefully than that asshat did for Wiggins, by the way). But you sure don't have to put up with that crap next year!

12. Good, Good, Good, Good Vibrations Prize: Aw, who *didn't* join in podium finisher Rigoberto Uran's obvious delight at standing on the second step in Paris? Better luck next year--or whenever someone gets popped and you get awarded the whole shebang retroactively!

13. Total Freakin' Ripoff o' the Race: y'know, I wanted Andre Greipel to win *every* *single* *stage*--and if you've got any other explanation to suggest other'n "he was just intentionally resting," you can leave my happy island of plausible deniability and shut yer piehole--and Bling put on a super show, but man, Marcel Kittel *deserved* that green jersey, and even I was gutted for him when he climbed into the back of the team car in bruised defeat. Oh, all right, probably Sagan would've had it--but thanks to ASO, we'll never know, will we?

14. Nail-Nipper Moment o' the Race Award: 10 seconds to the line. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Is he gonna--no he's not abou--holy crap he's done it! Romain Bardet pipping Mikel Landa by one lousy second to hold his podium on the penultimate day. Finally, some drama--even if the result sucked!

15. You Spin Me Right Round Baby/Right Round Like a Motor Baby Prize: okay, let's hit this face on: despite my liberal-arts education, I get "inertia." What I don't get is some grasping half-dead guy gacking his way up a hill and weaving like a punch-drunk boxer while his brand-new wheel suddenly starts whizzing up the Alps at 8 million RPM. Or have I missed some valid marginal gains here? You know who you are--either get yer prize, or get lost, you weasel!

16. The Dog Ate My Homework Statuette: we know, Nairo--you couldn't win the Tour this year, but you had a darn good excuse for not doing it. Maybe if Valverde gets back to nip at your heels one last time, you'll be the pup that wins the race next year!

And Finally, Yer Class Act o' the Tour: As a three-time Tour de France champ--and nine-time Grand Tour legend--he could've, in all honesty, just packed up and gone home without anyone blaming him. But what does he do when his GC is shot and his body's too bashed for even a stage win? *That's* right, he !@#damn gets on his bike every morning, attacks his heart out til his legs explode, and honors the Tour de France *every* *single* *pedalstroke* *into* *Paris.* This doesn't change a whit of every word I've written since your jailbait days-but Alberto Contador, you are the winner in guts if not in glory!

Well folks, them's my awards--next year, let's hope Landa gets the big one, and we've got more interesting !@#$ to write about!



Sunday, July 09, 2017

It's Yer 2017 Tour de France Rest-Day Week-One-in-Review!

Well, with the dullest course in living memory on the books, the Tour de France's been surprisingly (if daaaaaaarn intermittently) sprightly the last few days, so as Team "You Suck!" Sky dodges the traditional rest-day press conference like a bunny fleeing a wolf-pack, what've we learned so far, fellow tifosi? This stuff!

1. Shut it Froome. I don't even know what you just said. In fact, I don't even know if you've actually been interviewed. Just shut it!

2. Now, reasonable people can differ reasonably--even on the brutish playing field of a pot of tea and crumpets in the parlor--as to the etiquette of a rider attacking the race leader when he's got a mechanical or, if you're one of Froome's GC rivals apparently, ever, under any circumstances, at all. But if Sagan deserved to get his !@# kicked outta the Tour for the sin of Cav riding up under his handlebars from behind and crashing himself out, Froome absolutely sure as hell deserves to get his !@# kicked out of the Tour for intentionally plowing Aru into the spectators with his spiky insect exoskeleton. A punk move I get--deliberate revenge is bull!@#$. Is it me, or are ASO's tender feelings too hurt from the Sagan backlash to play fair enough to punish an !@#wipe who *really* deserves it?

3. Mark Cavendish may have a long and glorious history of being a petty, whinging wanker, and I get the deep and actually rational sense of injustice of the swooning Saganator fan-base over what happened, but anyone who aims their ire--and for !@#$'s sake, even death wishes!--at Cav's wife and kids is a total despicable scumlord. Perspective, you vicious freaks!

4. Trek-Segafredo--you're lovely for buying up Contador with a nice contract, and I do believe you mean so well by him--as evidenced by, if nothing else, the fact that his own teammates aren't openly trying their damnedest to throw their own team captain to the wolves in their own self-interest. But totally aside from Contador's own legs and creeping age, to beat those soldered-together nuclear-powered robots at Sky you *have* to have an *entire* team 100% climbing-ready to escort him in the mountains. What, you need more money--I've got the $50 bucks I couldn't give away to crowdfund Euskaltel burning a hole in my pocket, anyone else in?

5. It was nice to see the remaining GC contenders stepping up to superdomestique Chris Froome for his 2017 maillot jaune today. At least you know Contador, however and whyever hampered, will try to attack when he's got the legs no matter what. Really, WTF was *that*?

6. ASO, any bike race is always dangerous, but this Tour is *carnage*. Valverde. Porte. Thomas. About a dozen other guys so far. Can you *please* try to minimize the inch-wide descents, unpadded corners, and curlicue finishing "straights" for next year, for safety's sake? Honestly, we *don't* need or want the 'spectacle' of people getting hurt and wins-by-attrition! What is this, !@#$in' "Rollerball"?

7. Oh, FDJ. Such fine and deserving talent, but *four* riders outside the time cut today! Maybe you could call Dave Brailsford and talk, y'know, nutrition or something?

8. Speaking of whom, !@#$ you Sky for screwing Mikel Landa for the Vuelta! He looks like a sullen toddler stuck in his "time-out" corner out there. Can you *please* let the guy off the leash and give him a cookie or something?

9. Andre Greipel will so either. He's just, y'know, conserving energy and nicely giving fellow countryman Kittel a few stages to shine. Is too! PS Class for setting things to rights with Sagan after the incidente!

10. Two Grand Tour career starts, two Grand Tour career stages--the Vuelta first, of course. Who *doesn't* like to say "Calmejane"?

11. White shorts. Just--no.

12. Yes, Robbie, the mechanics of on-the-fly nature breaks are fascinating. Can we *please* stop discussing them now?

12. Where the !@#$ is our TV coverage of the Giro Rosa?! *Tell* me what sponsor !@#$ you want me to buy to make this possible!

13. Oh Nairo. Even without Valverde around to bushwhack you, you should've known this was an exercise in total futility before you started. Be honest--is this why you rode the noble Giro, to give yourself an out here?

14. I've said it before, and I'll say it again (which is why it's lucky no-one reads this rag anyway): high mountain stages with downhill finishes are a *total* *!@#$in'* waste. We *know* who can descend--even if they run into trouble. What I want to know is, outside of Froome and his mo--uh, "mojo"--who the hell on a stage can climb to victory?

Well, them's my sum-up. Landa, plot your escape, Nairo, plot--well, *something*, for chrissakes, and Alberto, whatever's gone sour, we trust you'll be back to smack down your rivals and remind them who *earned* 9 Grand Tours another day!







Thursday, June 29, 2017

It's Yer Tour de France in Preview, Part Trois: the 'Nother Contenders! #TdF

You got yer course, you got yer maillots jaune, *now* what do you need? That's right, yer climbers, (yawn) sprinters, and yer adorably-doomed breakaway artistes and general stage hunters! So who to look for:

Sprinters: if you ain't here, your mama probably is! Sagan. Kittel. Bouhanni. Cav, if, despite Cav's wholly unwarranted recent-smack talk, will be lucky if Mark Renshaw don't accidentally outshoot his own captain. Best of all, woot woot woot--Gorilla's in the hooooooouse! Dang, isn't it *enough* that Sagan's gonna win the green jersey for more consecutive years than he's actually been alive, he's gotta take like 10 stage victories too? We're running outta goofy stage-win dances for this kid--Andre Greipel, primarily because of your general awesomeness but also just to give Peter time to re-choreograph, I'm *really* rooting for you here!

Climbers: bizarrely, despite the obscene lack of, y'know, MOUNTAIN STAGES at this year's Tour, there's a bunch of 'em, if the poor wee lightweights don't get blown off the course somewhere in Dusseldorf never to be seen again. Anyhoo, aside from the GC, who've we got? Yep, lots of team-captain's superdomestiques who'll have to wait til and only their GC boy cracks before they'll be let off the leash, and a handful who've already been granted their own chances at bat. Landa and Nieve, both hopefully looking to screw over Froome to save their own careers for 2019. Wee darling Esteban Chaves, who'll so enrapture his competitors with his aw-shucks adorability they won't even notice he's beat them til he's 45 k up the mountain. Our smashing ex-Carrot Izagirres, rumored to be riding together again next year. The Yates brothers. Alejandro Valverde, whose loyalty, one suspects, is just one deep breath from Nairo away from ditching his twee boss entirely and leaving him at the !@#-end of the Hautacam before Quintana's even got his chamois straight. Hell, even that much-hyped-but-oft-dismissed Carlos Betancur, who seemed to reach a crucial epiphany when he *just* heard for the *very first time* last week that an all-donut diet and giant tractor-tire of a beer gut *isn't* in fact the winning formula for flyweight climber success. You go Carlos--no, we mean it, now that you can, try *going*!

The Breakaways and Stage Hunters: frankly, who *isn't* her whom we love? Sure, sweetly hopeful newbies and the regular denizens of the (cycling) Atlas Obscura'll all be here, but we've also got such experienced wheelmen as the ageless Sylvain Chavanel--armed, I hear, with a Taser for the next !@#$wit who lets his dog plow into his wheel--Phil-Gil, and Tommy "the Tongue" Voeckler, particularly looking for glory in his last (!) Tour de France, everybody's favorite stoner little buddy Taylor Phinney, Cannondale teammie Andrew Talansky, Greg "!@#$ You I'm Not a Wheelsucker" van Avermaet, and, of course, the mighty Degenstache, who better shut the hell up buckle down get over himself and ride himself ragged for Alberto Contador in the mountains and on every other stage, you hear me?! So go forth and break away, or at least surprise the pack with a 3k-leap to the finish line a la' the wily Gilbert--just don't start !@#$ing around looking at your companions the last 300 meters before the line like you nimrods usually d--they're coming you fools, I tell you!--just stop i--stop it!--aw, *!@#dammit!*

Look, there's a looooooooot of non-GC talent out there, but one of those stages could be yours, boys--so keep your dope at undetectable levels, don't say anything moronic and embarrass the sponsors on the eve of the race, and for !@##'s sake, Nacer, wear a glove if you're gonna sock anybody!

PS Goriiiiillllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!