Thursday, August 20, 2015

It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Tres: the Climbers, the Sprinters, and Late Hot Gossip! #LV2015 #lavuelta

Woo-hoo, the beautiful Vuelta's finally upon us, and now that we've covered the Course and the General Classification Contenders, it's time for--and yes, it's still both bitchin' and handy to know--the 'Nother Stuff! The score:

The Climbers: if they can't climb, they ain't GC. And if they can't climb, and still ain't GC, they're working for the man who is. But if they bust hard, do well, and sufficiently exhaust the overall competition setting a barf-inducing page in the mountains--or if their team leader irredeemably tanks, or if there really isn't one--they may be rewarded with the go-ahead for a stage win. Natch, they're mostly on Sky, Movistar, or Astana, and we love ex-Euskaltel to boot. Too many to count, including the free-rangers without a GC hope, but Mikel Landa for Nibali and Aru--who's been thoroughly warned, as he was at the Giro, not to !@#$ with the designated leader(s). Mikel Nieve for that spidery freak Froome. Newly-rejoining-the-World-Tour-for-2016 Amets Txurruka for Caja Rural. We love Samuel Sanchez and Darwin Atapuma for whatever's left of Tejay after his valiant fight at the Tour de France. Fran Ventoso for Alejandro, uh, Nairo over at Movistar. Dani Moreno for he can so either win it you haters Purito. And geez, pretty much everyone on Team Colombia, when you look at it. Either way, they're all firecrackers to watch, and most of 'em have hometown pride to fill. Goooooooooooo ex-Carrots!

The Sprinters: let's be honest, the steep'n'gory Vuelta's no place for pampered princes like Cav, Kittel, or for that matter, the hulking Greipel. But I'll also be fair (for once)--there's a few, and any of 'em what can make it outta the first week alive has more'n earned his keep for the team. On tap: Nacer Bouhanni; Angel Vicioso; JJ Rojas from Movistar; Gerro and Ewan at Greenedge with trusty Docker to show the way; Bennati. Good luck, you sprinters'll need it to survive those pesky mountains in between!

The 'Nother Guys: yes, yes, the Saganator, who better come up with a pile o' stage wins if he knows what's good for him, and he doesn't think "good" is Oleg Tinkov kicking his !@#$. But other gents in the race: LL Cool Sanchez (yeah, yeah, checkered past, throw half the field out then!), Sylvain Chavanel, Talansky, John Degenkolb, and--no, don't worry, Fabs fans, I didn't forget him--our tough-as-nails Spartacus, with Frank Schleck no less. And holy crap, what is the entire Classics planet o' Belgium doing here?

And Last But Not Least, the Controversy: well, apparently the entire field--much less their terrified leadership--is enraged that there's some dirt roads to enjoy, slow down, crash out, and puncture our GC faves in the team time trial. Oh, what's a little stretch of "that totally !@#$ed me off the podium!" between friends? Meantime, still irked by the Simoni-Cunego or Wiggo-Froome disasters (hell, I don't give about the Wiggo situation, but man, that Cunego still gets on my last nerve!)? Well, pass the popcorn for the disdainful Vinokourov's raw survival-of-the-fittest Nibali-Aru deathmatch and the subtler Valverde-Quintana stealth-mode backstab! Me, I'm a sucker for underdogs, so I guess it's Nibs and brilliant-but-sort-of-defenseless Quintana for me. But only after Purito has *stomped* them!

Okay, time to get out my Once-Eroski and Euskaltel caps and start screamin for Samu and Purito. Oh, and Happy 80th Birthday to this phenomenal race--Vive la Vueltaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!




Monday, August 17, 2015

It's Your Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Dos: the GC Contenders! #LV2015 #lavuelta

Oh yeah, it's only a few short days 'til the fabulous Vuelta, honey, and now that we've previewed the excruciating course, it's time for General Classification contenders that'll be takin' it on! And while the Tour is one nasty prologue for the flaming-hot, steeper'n hell painfest like the Vuelta, with pretty well all these guys similarly gobsmacked, that oughtn't be such a huge factor this year. Yer heroes:

1. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): WELL HE'D BE THERE BEATING ALL YOU COWARDLY WEAKLING WUSSBAGS IF ANY OF YOU'D'VE HAD HALF THE NUTS TO DO THE GIRO WITH 'IM FIRST SO GO TO HELL YOU GUTLESS !@#$IN' SHOWOFFS! AND SAGAN YOU BETTER PULL OFF AT LEAST A COUPLA STAGE WINS FOR ME TO SAVE THIS HUMILIATING !@#$-SHOW OF A SEASON! Oh, Oleg Tinkov, tell us how you *really* feel...

2. Chris Froo--ack! yaaaack! gaaccccckkkkk! arrrrghhhh!--me (Sky): yep, he won the freakin' Tour de France, beeyotches, with a freakishly mountain-goat contingent o' Classics riders to pace 'im, and now the smug little !@%# is back to show that, though the Giro-Tour double was arrogant and reckless as well as downright embarrassing, the Tour-Vuelta double is, for any real rider, a piece o' cake. So sorry you're not there for me to stomp on again, Alberto--I'll be sure to wave to you from the final podium in Madrid!

3. Tejay Van Garderen (BMC): Dang, he rode well and bravely at the Tour de France, didn't he? But whether his body can handle the stress 'n' strain of a 3-week two-fer, at the heights at which his impressive talent is capable, is a whole 'nother question. Still, he's got Samu. Stay strong, Tejay, and hopefully you can show 'em all in week 3!

4. Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru (Astana): Oh, the pain of having to "share" team leadership at the Vuelta! Say what you will about Nibs, but even after his Tour de France GC hopes were obliterated, the man kept stubbornly riding as hard as he could--pure and unadulterated grinta. As for Aru, yeah, you rode a *really* nice Giro with ex-Carrot Mikel Landa's monster aid--but remember your place, rugrat, your time is coming soon anyhow!

5. Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): Oh, the pain of having to "share" team leadership at the Vuelta! But at least with Movistar it's because Nairo--and miraculously, even the dependably self-destructive Valverde--completely kicked !@#. So lay off Nairo if he falters, which he won't--the poor wee thing is probably *tired* for heck's sake!

6. Purito Rodriguez (Katusha): As the GC plans of the "fabulous five" imploded around him, Purito kept his cool, and took *two* smashing stage win at the Tour. But for my money, and despite his nearly Hornerish advanced age, the starkly beautiful Vuelta is the race for him, and now is his time. Shut up, go to hell, will so too either!

Yes, there's others. And the Vuelta being the Vuelta, I'm sure I'll be proved mortifyingly wrong. But even the GC contenders ain't all the action for this phenomenal race--next up in preview: the climbers, the sprinters, and all the other stuff to see!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

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

Mourn the Giro, forget the Tour--it's time for the fabulous Vuelta a Espana! And before we get on to who's riding it and what their chances are--because frankly, at least one of the GC contenders seriously makes me want to just yak--we better know what the corsa itself is gonna throw at 'em. Ergo, let's go--the Course!

The Kick-Off: well, we gotta shake the nerves outta the lets and get the red jersey on *somebody*, and how better to do it than a short, 7.4k superflat coastal team time trial? Barring catastrophe--there, that ought curse things--some lucky guy'll inadvertently get the crowning moment of his career, and even the worst of the GC contenders, though suffering some psychological humiliation, won't be *too* freaked out by their time losses. Just stay the hell upright, Purito, and I am a happy fan!

The Individual Time Trial: happily for most of these guys, there's only one of 'em, a mildly lumpy, 38.7k Stage 17 hot off the rest day. Still, as the Vuelta don't hesitate to remind us, for the wee-est, the least-aero, and the generally unlucky, even a few seconds lost or won can count. Don't lose heart here Puritooooooooooooooooooooooo!

The Hills: if ain't mountains, it's probably "hills", which by Vuelta standards is still most people's on-the-rivet definition o' "agony". The intermediate pain starts almost right off the blocks on Stage 2, followed by the merciless run of stages 6 through 10 before the rest day of September 1st. Phew, that's a relief to get those out of the w--what, there's still *more* of this !@#$ on stages 18 and 19? "Rest" my !@#!

The Sprints: Okay, like I give a crap, but there *are* six, for those big galoots stupid--or at least masochistic--enough to ride this carousel. Stages 3 thru 5, 12 and 13, and natch, the sponsor-slutfest two-K-thrilla ending to a ceremonial GC day for the last fast man standing (or weeping, whatever) in Madrid. Aupa to anyone who's made it this far with some gas left in the tank--you're truly a sprinter like no other!

Last But Not Least (Hell, More Like the Most) Mountains: La Vuelta ain't no simpy sprinter's race, honey--it's the !@#damn Vuelta, and despite this glorious race getting *no* respect, only the climbers will survive. On tap: 5 truly high mountain stages, beginning with a post-rest-day Stage 11 Andorran slaughterfest, billed as the toughest ever to feature in the Vuelta--and let's be honest, a buncha guys'll pick up gnarly, race-ending "stomach viruses" on the rest day just to avoid it, and there's *absolutely* no shame in that. Six! sadistic mountain passes, including one hors category climb (thoughtfully placed mid-course), 4 cat-1 climbs including the finish, and a lone cat-2 climb as a consolation prize. And that's not all! After two teaser flat stages, it's full-uphill-gas for the next 3 days on Stages 14-16, with an uphill finish at the hors categorie Alto Campo, next day a gentle cat-1 finale at Alto de Sostres--and yeah, it's still freakin' "alto", at the Vuelta it's always "alto!", and a *seven*-mountain deathmarch to the HC Ermita de Alba before what's left of the shredded carcasses of the peloton get to drift into merciful sleep for the final rest day--before, of course, they're woken up by their sadistic DSes that morning for an "easy" 3-hour spin to keep fresh. The finale: if it isn't already painfully set in stone, it comes down to who can triumph--or who just doesn't catastrophically crack--on penultimate Stage 20, with 4 Cat-1s to enjoy including two tries at Puerto de la Mocuera before a coy downhill and mood-killing uphill nip of a last k to Cercedilla. Congratulations to the final red jersey--just enjoy the bubbly tomorrow, and offer thanks to the Vuelta gods it's over!

Well, them's the corsa. Next up--the poor GC bastids who'll be riding it!


Monday, August 10, 2015

Confused About the Whole Tommy D Mess? My Fantasy Jonathan Vaughters Press Conference Explains It All!

JV: Good morning. I'm here today to explain why I'm reneging on my sacred vow to discontinue my 'clean team' if some jerk on it tested positive for drugs/I am so proud to continue to support the most morally superior team in the peloton, Cannondale-Garmin. First, I'd like to say that I must've been an idiot to think that any one of Lance's teammates who got a bull!@#$ 6-month off-season suspension for years of destructive cheating and omerta had any incentive not to pull that crap again/the positive test of that wholly unauthorized freak and outlier Tommy Danielson was a complete and utter shock to all of us. Next, I'd like to remind you that we have one of the most rigorous internal anti-doping testing programs on the face of planet Earth/if those clowns at UCI could actually detect doping this year there's no excuse whatsoever for any half-!@#ed kid with a mail-order chemistry set not to have found it.

As to why I am choosing to let this team continue in the face of such a disappointing occurrence/such an unadulterated hypocrite not to keep my word when it counts, all I can say is that, upon further reflection, it would be genuinely unfair to destroy the livelihoods of dozens of innocent riders, soigneurs, team chefs, and staff members/I genuinely thought I would never in a million years be held to such a ridiculous promise. For my riders, I can only offer my deepest apologies for this unexpected incident happening on my watch/my most pathetic begging because if fan-friendly cash-cow nice guys like Dombrowski bail on me my career is !@#$ing f!@#$ed. I also urge you, and all cyclists, not to order any nutritional supplements off the internet, no matter how seemingly reliable/to just blame yer next positive on some obscure relative's coke-dusted candies right now for how stupid you'll look. Finally, I affirm to all you today that our team remains committed to the highest standards of sportsmanship/compared to some of the other squads, we are the *least* of this sport's continued problems.

Thank you for joining me here today/screw you for rejoicing in my downfall you lazy ignorant poseur know-nothing armchair Monday-morning quarterbacks. I look forward to joining you in the continued fight against this foul disease that taints our beloved sport/you guys getting the hell off my back and going back to bitching about Froomey. Have a great day/bite me!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It's Yer Post-Tour Gossip 'n' Recriminations Roundup! #letour

Straight Outta Paris: hot on the heels of Alberto Contador's pledge to target--and target *only*--the Tour de France next season, tuttobiciweb's reporting that he's going to officially end his 2015 season with this weekend's Clasica San Sebastian, leaving him only a crappy worthless Giro d'Italia (the most beautiful race in the world Oleg you publicity-whoring goon!), and a subsequent top-5 Tour de France GC that most cyclists would still kill for to show for all that work, immediately after which he'll be stuffed into the oxygen-deprived cargo hold of a decaying Soviet military aircraft and airlifted to Nepal, which Oleg Tinkov recently bought in its entirety to serve as a high-altitude training ground for Alberto to win the Tour next year or else, you little !@#$! Quoth a forcibly duct-taped Alberto, in response to a reporter's question about the tactic, "Mgggmmpph!"

Transfer-a-palooza: and, with the Tour de France results in hand, the post-transfer clamor has predictably started, with Mark Cavendish demoted to the just-banned Androni-Sidermec squad for his loser 1-stage victory, Andre Greipel given 3 billion euro from Lotto-Soudal to build a 36-man leadout squad, Porte shoved off to BMC at the special request of Chris Froome for getting dropped one one of the Tour's approximately 968 categorized climbs--uh, to "pursue his own GC ambitions," and Tejay Van Garderen reportedly taking intensive fencing lessons with a top-notch Olympic coach in order to challenge Porte to a gentlemanly duel for team leadership. Sky, meanwhile, has apparently hired ex-Euskaltel Giro revelation Mikel Landa, Benat Intxausti, and both Izaguirre brothers, upon which a potentially-retiring Samuel Sanchez will buy the squad, put everyone in orange-and-black kit with the words "WE'RE !@#$ING EUSKALTEL, DAMMIT!" emblazoned thereon, and force defending Tour de France champ Chris Froome off the team and into early retirement unless he can prove definitively he's actually Basque. Aupa Samuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu! Finally, over in the women's peloton, Giro Donne/LaCourse conquistadora Anna Van der Breggen and the inimitable (if currently dented) Marianne Vos will be given a raise commensurate with their athletic prowess, meaning they'll be paid in a whole handful's worth of 1-euro coins instead of those little wooden tokens you redeem for cheap tacky crap when you win beanbag-toss games at those sandy seedy seaside amusement venues. Also, any and all women riders who've still been stiffed outta their rightful (if pathetic) earnings in *last* year's UCI races will be allowed to sideline as podium babes at men's amateur races to *really* earn their keep instead. Who *says* there's been no progress in the women's sport this year?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's Yer 2015 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards! #letour

Yes, the urine's been thrown, the champagne's been quaffed, and Peter Sagan made like a 1930s machine-gun gangster on the podium, so as we all catch our breaths and finally tear ourselves away from our Twitter feeds, it's time for the incredibly prestigious 2015 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards! Prizes: well, if anyone's so insane as to actually claim it, I swear I'll toss in an actual pretty little engraved trophy to go along with the eternal glory, shameful notoriety, and humiliating internet obscurity these fine awards will bring. So cue the Bernard Hinault-Christian Prudhomme dancing spangled chorus line, and let's start the show!

Punk-!@# Move of the Race: Yes, it is the topic of some debate whether Vincenzo Nibali intentionally attacked the yellow jersey when he looked directly into his face, saw he'd had a mechanical, and made what was undoubtedly a long-preplanned attack for redemption exactly at that very moment. Am I the only one who remembers the Schleck brothers (yeah, I said that, not the other attack that day) at Contador's Tour? But the winner is absolutely maillot jaune Chris Froome chasing down *every* second of Alberto Contador's moves from the very first *hint* of a hopeful pedalstroke. Valverde pulling that !@#$, I get--he's likely to self-destruct at any moment. But with AC six minutes down, that's not cautious. That's !@#holean!

Dumb-!@# Move of the Race: Warren Barguil, shouldering Geraint Thomas headfirst into a telephone pole *and* !@#-over-end into a ditch on a surprisingly broad switchback. Hold yer line, you eejit!

Formula One Wannabe Dipwad Award: Poor Jakob Fuglsang, about to pounce in the Alps from a breakaway and save the day for Astana when he's taken completely out by a race moto. Cold comfort: the motoman's ejection from the Tour, which was probably better off for the lout's personal post-race safety anyhow. You're supposed to ride *alongside* the riders, not *into* them, you !@#$!

Things That Make You Go "Hmmmm" Prize: for a hulking track-n-classics specialist, Geraint Thomas sure is one hell of a freaky-deaky mountain goat. All-rounders are a refreshing change of pace in the modern peloton, though. Quintana for Paris-Roubaix 2016!

Fan Disgrace o' the Race: that skankball who allegedly threw a cup of wee onto Chris Froome. There's *wanting* to--which let's be honest, is pervy enough--and there's *doing* it. Can we just find this repulsive clown and shove 'im off to live in a cave somewhere the rest of his life, away from civilized folks? Oh, the innocent days when you just had to worry about some bewigged howling doofus in a neon banana-hammock half taking you down on the Alpe d'Huez waving a giant flag in your face...

Best Domestique: yes, I am instinctively voting for we love Samuel Sanchez, who has turned his Olympic gold medal and prior King of the Mountains jersey into platinum domestique superstar service. But this one's honestly gotta go to brash prettyboy goofball Peter Sagan, who never hesitated to help a struggling, bone-tired Alberto Contador wherever and whenever he needed it most. Nice work, Peto--between that and the green jersey, even Oleg probably won't beat you too hard for not winning a stage!

Don't Look Back Award: y'know how Nairo Quintana took off on that brave, if ultimately too-late, attack against the yellow jersey on Alpe d'Huez? Yeah, it wasn't Froome he really had to watch out for, it was his own teammate Valverde! Just to make sure he was there to help if wee Nairo needed, I mean. Right, Alejandro?

Tearjerker Moment of 2015: Tejay Van Garderen's head being cradled by team management as he steps sobbing off the bike and into the team car as he retired within spitting distance of the podium in Paris. Shut up, ya cynic, like you weren't tearing up, too--now pass me the Kleenex, you know you've got a box of 'em right next to you right now!

Marginal Gains Award: Sky, I don't know *what* tweaks you were makin' in the absence of Porte's personal Giro d'Italia motorpalace--but I bet the other squads are trying to find out!

Whining Crybaby Statuette o' the Tour: his graceless constant bitching in the face of overwhelming success was that single singing mosquito that drives you screaming out of bed and bat-!@#$ arm-swinging crazed in the middle of the night. Wah, the press is conspiring against me, wah, it's just the Wheaties leaving me 8 teammates in front of me on the top of la Toussiere, wah, Nibali's unfairly attacking me, wah, someone's turned my face into a toilet, wah wah wah. Chris Froome, this one's for you--was there anything you *didn't* complain about this Tour?!

Uncomfortable Announcer Commentary Award: it rather guts me to do this, but ex-Lanceman Christian Vandevelde so perkily commenting on Sky's creepily familiar robotic superiority in the Alps and Pyrenees without a hint of, well, anything, for days on end was a sight and sound to behold. What's this paranoid bull!@#$ about the press constantly besmirching your integrity all about again, Froomey?

Hissy Fit of 2015: sure, I'd like to've heard what Froomey yelled at Nibs after their little imbroglio, especially as Nibs discreetly suggested it was far too outre' for delicate ears to hear. This one's for Thibaut Pinot, completely blowing his cool at a routine mechanical and even losing it at the teammate who responsibly stopped to help 'im. Did you see Contador petulantly slamming $10,000 of equipment around when Peter Sagan offered 'im *his* bike? No--but by all means feel to throw an epic toddler tantrum for the cameras all over again!

Crash o' the Race: sadly, there *were* too many contenders this road-slick destructive disastrous year, though miraculously, the race organizers managed to keep from actively planting a pointless metal pole right in the middle of the course to bring down the riders. Poor Tony Martin, enjoying one day in yellow after a blazing near-win in the time trial then busting his collarbone into six different pieces within meters of the line. And of course, he got back up, climbed on his bike, and--with the help of his teammates, but still--brought the maillot jaune home. Allez allez for a speedy recovery, with that attitude I expect you to get it back next year!

Simp Overlord Decision of the Tour: it poured like hell during the entire LaCourse, turning the streets of Paris into a Slip'n'Slide and sending a good half the women's peloton skidding across the cobbles like drunken ice dancers. And what do the Tour de France race organizers do? Celebrate Anna Van Der Breggen's audacious solo attack for the win ahead of a surging chase, and then call "time" on the men's GC after the first pass of the finish line when the pavement was already drying out so Froome needn't roll over any dangerous remaining damp spots. Can we just give the women a *real* Tour de France already, and let those pampered princes in the men's race take their chances in the last 10 minutes of the whole shebang for all that dough they make?

Everybody Polka Award: yeah, whatsisface won the mountains jersey in the end. But who clawed his way into it beforehand, *and* won two stages this TdF to boot? That's right, Purito Rodriguez, baby. Puritooooooooooooooo--now let's see what you're gonna bring on in the Vuelta!

A Bicycle Built for Two (Well, Second) Award: Peter Sagan, you are *nothing* if not consistent this season. But for your sake, can you at least take a stage win sometime this year, before Oleg remembers how much he paid you to help out Mick and Kreuziger and to bring home a snazzy green t-shirt?

Reality Bites Consolation Prize: finally, before the post-race team-bus horsewhippings get underway, let's give a big round of applause *and* buckets o' credit aforethought to Tinkoff-Saxo boss Oleg Tinkov, who, before the grease was even off Contador's chain, had Alberto loudly proclaiming his one and *only* focus from now on is to bring the Tour de France home for himsel--uh, for Oleg next year. Go to hell, Oleg, the Giro's by far the more beautiful race--and this debacle is all your stupid fault anyhow!

Well, I just noticed I didn't do a sprint award, which in any case belongs to Andre Greipel. So let's pass out the prizes, say farewell to Paris, toast the Tour, and get on to the beautiful Vuelta a Espana--Puritooooooooooooooooooo!









Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It's Yer Tour de France Rest Day Deux Roundup! #letour

1. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, OLEG!

2. On the other hand, anyone who gets kissed by a beagle can't be a *total* goon. But still mostly.

3. Alberto's looking, as he tends to heading into the third week of a Grand Tour, pretty strong. But if Froome's PostalDiscoverySky androids keep riding like this--not even counting Chris "the Pterodactyl" Froome himself--it ain't gonna matter for !@#$.

3. Quintana, man. Your "helpmate" Valverde is right behind you, and, well, it seems highly unlikely he's gonna hold off outta teamsmanship. Watch your back, little Nairo!

4. Am I the only one who thinks Oleg'd rather Sagan just take a !@#$in' stage win for once than don the "most consistent" green jersey every day?

5. Don't blame the !@#$in' media for everyone thinking you and your team are doping, Froome you baby. You riding like such a freak and having a !@#damn Classics specialist making Quintana look like freakin' Cavendish on a mountain climb are why. Wah, wah--the maillot jaune's your reward, whether you deserve it or not!

6. Speaking of whom, it's kinda a testament to Cav's sheer amazingness that everyone's acting like he's a loser for taking "just" one stage win this year. We really take him for granted, don't we?

7. Tejay Van Garderen. What a great job by him, *and* BMC. Samuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

8. PURITOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

9. Major, *major* grinta by Nibali yesterday. No matter where he places, *that's* a champion.

10. New UCI rule: any classless skankfest "fan" throwing wizz on a rider--no matter who that is, or why--shall be used as a fire hydrant for the entire peloton's next "nature break."

11. Of all the reasons guys've left the Tour this year, it's a relief to hear Basso's prognosis after his terrible news is excellent and dandy a baby Van Avermaet is pending. And could Vandevelde quit bitching how BMC should never have squandered a spot on 'im in the first place?

12. Andre Greipel. Gets no credit, but gets the glory!

13. Loved, *loved* Steve Schlanger desperately trying to milk Geraint Thomas for tearful emotion after Warren Barguil whanged him head over heels into a telephone pole and a ditch and getting a mild "it's irritating" in return.

14. It's been a *lot* less bloody this week. Let's hope it stays that way in the Alps--and go Alberto, or it's *this* next week in Paris!