Friday, October 20, 2017

The Tour de France is *On*, Baby!

Miss the hard smack of Cav ramming someone into the barriers? Find yourself sighing dreamily whenever you spy the color yellow? Well, I don't, but if you do, have we got a bangin' 2018 Tour de France right outta the gate! And it's still 9 months away for heck's sake!:

1. Pave'!: that's right, Classics specialists, not only is there reputed to be gravel patches ahead, have we got cobblestones for you! What better way to ensure total chaos in GC than to have Froome's spider limbs flailing wildly across cracks he can't even see due to his unseemly relationship with his power meter, or to launch a two-ounce climber into outer space when he hits a particularly lumpy slab o' rock? Enjoy the novelty, boys--if you survive it!

2. Mountains!: yes, it's already billed as "one for the climbers", meaning, presumably, that the giant Classics men who've recently taken over the mountains by storm'll be leaving boys actually built for mountain-goat duty, like Esteban Chaves, struggling at the base of every col like they've got a lead chamois in their shorts. Allez ogres! Over at Movistar, we can expect intra-squad treachery of truly epic proportions, as Nairo recently affirmed to the press that he is TEAM LEADER FOR THE TOUR DAMMIT, and Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde burst out into maniacal laughter before being whapped upside the head with a miniature Tour trophy by their distinctly irritated team boss. Froome, meantime, will abandon his beloved power meter in the heights in favor of a full-on Iron Man helmet, which will spit out a continually-updated full-body MRI, once-a-minute body-weight update, *and* replace his bike's mo--uh, Chris' own personal motivation. Asked about their captain's 5th-win Tour prospects, Sky domestiques Michal Kwiatkowski and Geraint Thomas responded in physical and verbal unison "He's great, he's great, he's gre--", until Dave Brailsford fiddled with some software on his iPhone and the riders slipped back into "human" mode. Fabio Aru, natch, is making his move from Astana to UAE in search of greater success, while Alexander Vinokourov, reportedly "stunned" at Aru's leaving, has already announced Astana's complete Tour de France lineup for next year, including surprise return Alberto Contador, who was lured out of retirement with the seductive promise, "!@#$, it can't be any worse than working for that !@#hole Tinkov, right?" May the best climbers actually win--and good luck with that, you underfunded suckers from every other team but Sky!.

3. Time Trials!: Uh-oh--there ain't much. Tom Dumoulin, upset at the lack of 28% percent gradient climbs that come so naturally to giant Dutch time triallists, is reportedly considering not riding the Tour de France because--oh, holy crap, it *is* because of the lack of time trial kilometers! Don't worry Tom, with your recent transformation you'll just take the queen stage in the Alps by 10 minutes instead--you'll hardly even remember you were ever some big sleek TT guy at all!

4. The Sprints!: As to the seeming lack of sprint stages in next year's course, Newly Sensitive Cav Version 2.0 issued a press release stating "!@#$ this !@#$, what the !@#$ing &*% do I look like, !@##ing Esteban Chaves you !@#$ing c@#$!?", Nacer Bouhanni, also present at the route reveal, had no comment about the course itself, but did sucker-punch the tech guy running the slide presentation on his way out, while Peter Sagan--oh, who cares what he said, he's just gonna win all the damn things anyway, can we just hand over the green jersey now and save the other guys the humiliation?

4. La Course!: Next, the Tour de France once again makes a great leap for gender equality by allowing the delicate ladies a one-day race on the exact same route as the guys', with the proviso that they all attach brooms to the backs of their bicycles because "we wouldn't want to risk the *real* Tour de France racers getting a puncture." Furthermore, in lieu of a gravel stage, the entire women's peloton will instead be assigned to breaking large granite rocks into little tiny pieces for the menfolk to ride on. I am woman, hear me roar--no, seriously, don't walk away ASO you !@#$wits, I said HEAR ME ROAR !@#DAMMIT!

5. The Circus!: Finally, what's the Grand Boucle without the glorious, tawdry circus that surrounds it? Lance Armstrong, who persists in clawing back from the dead like some gory extra in a Michael Jackson video, is launching his new podcast, "Look at These Guys. You've Gotta Be !@#$ing Kidding Me, Right?", and best "bud" the disgraced Floyd Landis, long banished to the trash heap of pro cycling, will be the Official Weed Provider to all the French teams who've already given up on GC anyway, *again*. Have a toke and a smile, kids!

Welp, that's yer 2018 Tour de France early preview. Now can we all get back to the Giro dammit?

Monday, September 11, 2017

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2017 Vuelta a Espana racejunkie Awards!

Yes, cycling fans, you yelled through the Giro, you swore through the Tour, you cried through the Vuelta--so what's left, beyond a drunken post-letdown blur til the season's last hurrah at the Worlds? That's right, it's Yer Incredibly Prestigious racejunkie Awards! Prizes--and I swear on my sainted ONCE cap, so you know this !@#$ is true--eternal notoriety (for good or ill), a passel of handsome racejunkie stickers, some kinda trophyish tchotchke engraved, if at all, with what's already on it when I find it at the thrift store, and--honest--a high-quality custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap. So honorees--and dishonorees--let's get this party started right!

Punk-!@# Move o' the Vuelta: bad enough that Chris Froome's obviously using a mo--motivational coach to keep his spirits high, but now this greedy hypocrite has to contest the sprint jersey on the final day--when he's constantly complaining that etiquette-ignoring unsportsmanlike GC contenders are daring to attack him on, y'know, *GC* when he inevitably has to switch wheels, take an extended graphic bathroom break, or hit the spa for a hot-stone massage, Dead Sea mud mask and organic moisturizing mani-pedi at the base of the every climb. Wah, wah, the written rules allow it--you *suck*, Froome!

Deja Vu All Over Again Award: !@#$, I didn't realize Lance, Christian, Dave, Floyd, & the rest of the boys were still riding! Oh wait, that's *not* US Postal with 8 robot guys hammering at the front of every mountain-high til every other chump in the race has cracked like a rotten walnut? Sky, PostalDiscovery--I imagine they'll go down in history the same way, anyhow!

This Team Will Self-Destruct in Five Seconds/Argy-Barguil Prize: have stage dreams of yer own backed by yer obvious form, but fail to adequately support yer team leader? If you're Team Sky at the Tour, you...well, boy, do you give Landa a stern talking-to back at the bus! If you're Team Sunweb at the Vuelta, and you're dealing with pampered princess/recent Tour King of the Mountains Warren Barguil, we're sending your disobedient !@# home! And to the next clown, give Wilco yer damn wheel when he needs it, or else!

Absolutely !@#$in' Useless Award: Before UCI makes it official, I'd like to congratulate them *and* the pro peloton on another 100% totally-honestly doping-free Grand Tour. Now come get yer cap before I whack you impotent protectionist !@#$shit artists upside the head with it!

If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again Award: let's face it: current Grand Tour tactics suck. No-one attacks, everyone treats the race leader as if he's their own team captain they can't ride against, and guys are aiming for second or third on the podium like first place has been eliminated entirely. But Alberto Contador--love 'im or hate 'im, think he's clean or a career-long cheat--you can't deny he goes all-in in *every* *freakin'* *race* he's ever ridden, to particularly spectacular effect on his second career victory on the Angliru. Gracias gracias gracias, fuoriclasse Alberto--we're gonna miss you, little guy!

Totally Normal (If You're Duct-Taped to a Rocket Being Launched Into Actual Space) Prize: okay, maybe he's just spinning a granny gear--who wouldn't? On the sharpest possible gradient on the sharpest possible climb on the sharpest possible day. But y'know kid, legit or no, it looks a *whole* lot better if you even *appear* to be breathing while you're doing it. Loyal Sky defender Wout Poels, this prize is all for you--but somehow I doubt you'll be claiming it!

Grinta Award: yes, Alberto fought his way through a !@#$ (no pun intended) day of stomach troubles, and still managed to attack every other day despite a team that, even with its bestest efforts, was completely outmatched by the androids at Sky. But y'know, this one's for the few--very few!--brave boys at Team Dimension Data, who were decimated nearly right off the bat by disgusting illness and injury and *still* schlepped on with only 3 boys standing, all the way to Madrid. Lachlan Morton, ex-Carrot Igor Anton, and Janse van Rensburg--step on up, if you remotely have the legs left to do it!

Crash o' the Race (Aw, Crap!): it was his first-ever solo stage in his first-ever Grand Tour. And with some crap luck, emerging talent UAE Team Emirates' Anass Ait El Abdia hit the deck, crashing out on stage two. The look on his face was particularly heartbreaking--but you earned your way to your first Grand Tour, there'll surely be more in your future!

Crash o' the Race (No !@#damn Impact At All): let's be honest--you could have Nacer Bouhanni riding next to Froome punching him in the face *all day* *every day*, and Chris Froome still couldn't crash long enough or hard enough to matter. I crashed and got a boo-boo? Big deal. I'm *still* gonna finish three minutes ahead of your !@#!

Passive-Aggressive Paranoid Conspiracy Theorist o' the Race: it's the biggest baddest climbing day yet, and Astana's incredibly detail-oriented professional mechanics "accidentally" left a rather crucial chainring off faded team captain Fabio Aru's bicycle. "!@#$ you" from Vino--or innocent mistake? Fabio--at least in the heat of disappointment, and before Vino beats it outta him--thinks the former. I'm sure it didn't *feel* innocent on that 28% gradient, anyhow!

Still Not a Grand Tour Award: oh, my darling Vuelta. So close--but 20 stages *not* too far. Thanks for the day race, but can we *please* give the women's peloton a little more road time?

Cult of Personality Prize: The howling, sobbing, shrieking mob of Alberto Contador fans, every single minute of every single day, before, up to, including, and far beyond his exhausted retreat into the team bus every evening. And who could blame them--well, us? Jaysus, I've seen Justin Bieber concerts with less bloodshed!

Field Art o' the Vuelta: now, we're all familiar with the standard aerial shots of hay-bale "WELCOME" signs, corn-field bicycle cutouts, and tractors slowly chasing each other with giant hood-mounted syringes--but what *really* stood out this year in both looks and ingenuity was the farmer who got his/her sheep into a humongous moving-bicycle display by spreading feed on the ground in the appropriate shape and releasing the herd to stampede for their dinners in perfect formation. A nice meal *and* a nice bike race--what's not to like?

Pointless Distraction Prize: HOLY CRAP WE'RE ABOUT TO FOLD THE TEAM FOR LACK OF A SPONSOR GIG! CROWDFUND US OR IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT YOU WORTHLESS FANS! Oh, wait--it's cool. We got it. Jonathan Vaughters, scare the !@#$ outta every single Uran Uran fan on Earth, whydontcha?--especially since it ultimately worked!

And Finally, Yer Dumb-!@# Move o' the 2017 Vuelta: for three freakin' weeks, you haul your saddle-sore !@# 200 miles across some of the most brutal terrain in Spain. And the very night before your chill slo-mo ceremonial parade into Madrid as a finisher of one of the greatest races in cycling's pantheon, whaddya do? Well, no-one's quite saying, but clearly something so beyond the bounds of normal pro-cyclist stupid--and that's saying a lot--that your own team pulls you outta the race the final morning. Drugs? Alcohol? A sex scandal beyond the usual Dekkerian-hooker hijinks? Only Odd Christian Eikhorn can tell--and he ain't, but kid, you can pick up yer prize anyway!

Well, that's our beloved Vuelta, done and dusted--in 2018, may the best robo--man win!

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!