Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mystery Pills! Gilbert Gets His Groove Back! Brotherly Love at Sky! Yer Random Peloton Roundup

Uh, They're Tic-Tacs! Yeah, That's the Ticket: well, there's clearly more than one way to crash out of a race, or a career: some tarmac-diving dimwit at Paris-Roubaix apparently ripped his jersey enough that a vial o' pills fell out and skidded across the roadside, only to be studiously ignored by the riders and soigneurs carefully picking up all the crash detritus from the course. Holy crap, that's even a better roadside souvenir than a spit-swilled discarded superstar bidon--maybe if you twit another pic of it, the rightful owner'll come and autograph it for you! That, or maybe he figures his thumbprint's enough of a gift for the narcs...

Speaking of Pijls: welcome back from your year-long funk, Philippe Gilbert!

We'll Always Have Paris (Roubaix): so, thinkin' about the tiresome hype over Brad Wiggins' performance at Paris-Roubaix this weekend, here's my q: with a top 10 in one of the hardest races on the planet in his pocket, and his distinct hostility towards eclipsing sun Chris Froome at last year's Tour de France, *how* happy exactly is Wiggo gonna be being Chris Froome's water-bottle wind-breaker beeyotch at the Tour *this* year? Yeah, didn't think so--but Brad, don't you even *think* about riding the beautiful Giro like a half-hearted consolation prize again, so just suck it up and fake nice in France, !@#dammit!

I Love Rocky Road(s): finally, the thorough Alberto Contador ain't missing a trick, skipping the risk of injury at the upcoming Ardennes Classics to recon the actual Tour de France cobbles instead, following Alejandro Valverde's earlier racing test-drive and leaving Vincenzo Nibali scrambling for the sage assistance of former cobbled bad-!@# Peter Van Petegem. One sour note: expected to go on vacation after his trip, Contador apparently hit his miniscule race weight a little too soon, and got lodged chest-deep between the stones of the Forest of Arenberg instead. Well, they'll pry 'im out eventually--they got until July 'til Froomey comes by and rides over his head, anyway!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's Yer 2014 Paris-Roubaix Racejunkie Awards!

Cobblestone, schmobblestone: the Queen of the Monuments is behind us, so let's get on to the *really* prestigious festivities, mine. Therefore, without further ado:

1. Crash o' the Race: wow, considering what a slasher-movie mangle-fest the Hell o' the North usually is, the surprise is rather that there wasn't one. Nonetheless, Luca Paolini's spectacular pratfall takes it for sheer "holy crap!"ness. Good thing he had that Duck Dynasty beard to cushion 'im!

2. Crash o' the Race (Game-Changer Edition): No, none of the favorites got badly taken down themselves, and that'd've been a right suck way to lose the race. But Cancellara, already down a Devolder, sure didn't need his teammate to ricochet off the curb right in front of him and cost Fabian that wee bit of wasted energy getting back to the front. Bet he had enough wattage to thwap the guy upside the head after the race in the discreet environs of the team-bus, though!

3. Domestique of Paris-Roubaix: Go to hell, this is killin' me! Yep, it's Tom Boonen. Oh Tommeke, I *know* you were pissed--but what the hell did that serve *repeatedly* futilely taking off, with Niki on your wheel no less? Anyway, Terpstra did ride beautifully--and he coulda done worse than having you as a launching-pad!

4. Sigh o' Relief o' the Season: yeah, bite me, haters, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen could sit there reciting the action while a wall o' paint dries, and they'd *still* be worth listening to all day. Welcome back at last Phil and Paul--I was starting to get a bit nervous there!

5. Peter Peter Pave-Eater Award: Sagan, that was a valiant effort, but yet again, time--and next year's sponsorship dough--is ticking by. A little less goofballery, a little more whup-!@#, maybe?

6. Lone Wolf Prize: Y'know, even Fabian Cancellara can't do it alone. Once in a while!

7. Thooooooooooooooooooooooooor! Award: that was him all right, resplendent in national champion colors, and however briefly, pulling hard at the front of the race. Thoooooooooooooooor!

8. Weight of a Nation Prize: Yeah, that was the ever-maligned Pippo Pozzato coming in first among all the Italians in the race, baby! In 50th, 6:44 down, but seriously, oughtn't he get some nice compliments for that?

9. Two Towers Award: Niki Terpstra's solo surge--and triumph--was great. But was there ever a happier podium runner-up than the bangin' John Degenkolb? Tell me, you soulless cynic, that wasn't just sweet to behold!

10. All *Right* Already! Hype o' the Race: yes, 10th in Paris-Roubaix is amazing. But jeez, was I the only one who felt it was a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittle overdone on the whole Wiggo thing? Wake me up when he whines about the Giro again!

11. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words Prize: what else?

Well, whatever I missed--and I admit I was distractedly crestfallen over the Tom Boonen situation--feel free to fill in. Now, time to root for Gilbert's redemption at the Ardennes Classics!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh-way to Hell: It's Yer Paris-Roubaix in Preview, Honey!

Yes, it's time for the most glorious Monument of all, the riveting Hell o' the North! Why "the Hell of the North?" Well, it's north. The hell: bone-jarring dream-destroying cobblestones, the ever-chance of freak wet weather to make the pave' that much more slippery, and pain, pain, pain, PAIN, baby! And that's on a *good* race day. This year's deal:

Out: Suck! We love Sylvain Chavanel with asthmatic bronchitis. Also missing: Flanders-crunched trusty Cancellara lieutenant Stijn Devolder, replaced by the very-fine-but-not-so-tested Boy Van Poppel. You *doubly* can't afford to screw this up tactically now, Trekies! To see how Quick Step is feeling about it, let's check out their course recon: And yes, the ones who make it like three feet past the start line before bagging out in wailing agony tomorrow are *still* the bad-!@#$edest road-beasties on the planet. Bow, bow before the riders of Roubaix, o spindly unworthy wimpmeister peons!

In: Yep, it's Cancellara, Sagan, Vanmarcke again, and yep, we all know who'll probably get it, tho' if an overconfident Sagan tries to pop a wheelie on the pave for the Beliebers--I mean, Sagan fans--I bet *that'll* cause some fun for the gruppo. On their heels, if they don't end up on the ground: Boassen-Hagen-Dazs, coif-master Taylor Phinney, Degenkolb, Stybar, Terpstra, and Pippo. But dammit, I *so* want Tom Boonen to win it. And what the !@#$ is all this hype about Brad Wiggins for !@#$'s sake--is *everyone* so high on tramadol these days they're seeing this?

The Forecast: the good news: no rain! The bad news: it's a blinding retina-scratchin' dust-bowl! Wait--*who* just attacked me?

The Course: oh, sweetie, I know you know it. And if you're new now, you'll be in love with it by tomorrow. 28 cobbled sections, with the dangerous Arenberg a mere 18 sectors in and the potentially race-deciding Carrefour near the end. How you're gonna feel afterwards: yeah, well this is how Tony Martin looked after the Tour of the Basque country today, and there ain't even no rock-ridin' *there*: And if you think you're getting off easy cruising the roadside, they're plowing it up with farm machinery. In sum: allez allez, suckers--see you at the post-race podium 'n' kiss-n-cry!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Alberto Contador: Wheel-Sucking Punk-#$%, Or Just a Guy Ridin' His Race?

Basque Company: so, as the fabulous Tour of the Basque Country plows on--and be honest, is there *anything* more heartbreaking this cycling season than just seeing a nostalgic smattering of orange shirts amidst the formerly insanely sardine-packed Euskaltel fanatics as their old squad goes by in jerseys from random teams?--there seems to be a bit o' controversy over whether Contador clinging to Valverde's wheel as the latter labored up the final climb before shooting around him like--well, a 2009 Alberto--was a punk-!@# wheel-slurpin' cheap-shot, or just an all's-fair-in-love-and-cycling fake-out tactic, or, even more kindly, just a strugglin' guy who got his legs back at just the right moment. Me, I think Valverde was *way* diplomatic, but considering some of the !@#$ Piti's pulled on the peloton, and the freakish success he's been exhibiting lately, he's probably better off keepin' his yap shut! Either way, great ride Alberto--and Froomey, you better *hope* he and Kreuziger are burning themselves out too early ahead of July!

Scheldenfreude: and, it's time for the sprinters to come out and play at the exciting Scheldeprijs, except there's only like two of them left at all in the peloton who aren't at home either hurling their guts out or held together with titanium plates, which means that (1) Marcel Kittel's got a damn good chance; and so (2) he won't get any real credit even if he wins, poor guy. Me, I hope *both* Andre "the Gorilla" and Cav get better really soon--what fun is it crushing someone in a sprint if it's not a bloodbath of the very very best? Well, probably pretty fun, but still!

Tales of the Truly Disgusting (Cheat-Weasel Edition): finally, many thanks to the Secret Pro, who took the cake, and my appetite, this week with his truly gnarly recaps of old-skool doping mishaps, including (1) Vino and Kashechkin getting their blood bags mixed-up, and luckily not killing themselves since they had the same blood type--those wacky kids!--and (2)we-still-love-so-stuff-it Giro bad!@#--uh, somebody who shall not be named--only tested poz for coke not because *he* was using it, but because the cousin whose blood he was transfusing to boost his own--ewwwwwwwwwwwwww!--was secretly on blow. *Damn*, whatsyerface--all the work, all the damage control, and none of the cokey fun--no *wonder* you were pissed! Now, can we just get back to more wholesome pursuits like "training at altitude"--sure beats being some nasty fly-by-night vampire bat!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

It's Your 2014 Tour of Flanders Awards!

Hardman of the Race: holy !#$, are they holding Stijn Devolder's shattered carcass together with duct tape at this point? About 38 hard, *hard* crashes, the man looks like a rotting arm-dropping zombie outta the Living Dead, and still he just keeps on coming back. No, he didn't "win"--but yeah, he *won*!

Newbie o' Flanders Award: I can't believe this is Taylor Phinney's first time here. A Ronde of applause for his stellar ride with Darryl Impey!

Crash of the Race (Fear o' God Edition): half of Saxo-Tinkoff goes down all at once in a perplexing, slow-to-fix tangle. If they didn't break any bones *in* the crash, Oleg Tinkov's gonna do it for 'em!

Crash of the Race (Aw, Suck Edition): The great-hearted MTN-Qhubeka, an African squad's first broken collarbone (anyway, sure looked it) in their first ever Flanders. Get well soon kid!

Panic at the Roadside Award: OH MY GOD NIKI TERPSTRA'S DOWN! THIS IS A CATASTROPHE FOR OMEGA PHARMA QUICKSTEP! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY HAVE--oh, he's just peeing. Um, look, over there--cows grazing!

What the !@#$ Is He Doing There? Prize: really. Wiggins?

Cha-Ching! (In Reverse) Award: Peter Sagan, you rakish, *very* youngster, *you* may not be feeling the Classics pressure--but trust me, come 4-million-euro contract time, your price, and your commission-hungry agent, will be. You better start thinking about next weekend, pal!

The Player's Club Prize: Bjorn "I Only Tested Poz for Testosterone Because I Was Just This Very Minute Doing My Girlfriend" Leukemans' failed attack at 23k. Yep, this obnoxious joke is just too easy, even for me!

Insult-to-Injury Award: oh, there was a women's Ronde Van Vlaanderen all right--not that we'd know it from the guttural footnote to the breathless high-pitched coverage of the menfolk's. And Ellen Van Dijk soloed to win it. BROADCAST WOMEN'S CYCLING DAMMIT--LIKE THE SAME FREAKIN' CENTURY IT HAPPENS!

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire Prize: why the !@#$ can't we get contemporaneous non-!@#$ coverage in the US without blacked-out screens pop-up porno 2-pixel visuals and a stream that jerks like a--well, let's just leave that there? *This*, this is why this country is going to hell in a handbasket, I say!

Now *Them's* Fightin' Words Award: the BEIN Sports commentator who cheerily sent us "back to Magnus Baxter." TWICE. Right, along with "Bernard Hiny" and "Eddy Mertz", you insufferable twit!

Layoff Tommeke You Bastards!: okay, not a prize exactly, but nonetheless, a mandate. You just wait--he'll be 100% at Paris-Roubaix!

And Finally, Debbie Downer of the Race: yeah, I mean Spartacus winning it. I know, I know, he's amazing--but I didn't want the predictable to happen. And really, while that was a bit of a scare there at 2.6k to go, it was over at 13k when Cancellara took off. And the last k's damn-near track-standing--annoying!

Well, them's mine--it was a predictably twitchy start, it was unpredictably sunny, and sincere best wishes to all who were hurt. Now, it's on to the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, and next week's Hell o' the North!

Friday, April 04, 2014

You Down With O.P.P. (Other People's Pave')?: It's Yer Flanders in Preview, Baby!

Oh yeah, we're down to serious business, baby, because there's both the men's and women's Ronde van Vlaanderen are this weekend, and there's already drama by the buckets! The score:

The Gossip: Belgian cops totally coincidentally kick Peter Sagan off the Kwaremont while he's reconning the course today, link here. Nothing personal! Next up: authorities bust into every non-Belgian team and rider's hotel rooms at 3 a.m. on Sunday with battering rams, billy clubs, bullhorns, stun guns, cattle prods, smoke grenades, and those spazzy little hand-buzzers you buy at the joke shop. Oops, wrong room--nighty-night, sorry to disturb you!

The Cobbles: fans love 'em, riders fear 'em, and Tom Boonen picks 'em out from between his teeth after a leisurely lunch. You know it: Molenberg, Kwaremont, Paterberg. Why the !@#$ won't a profile pic load? A close-up view of the pain on the Kwaremont: And beyond-bangin' preview of the women's race on Velofocus. Yep, it's gonna be just as vicious out there!

The Forecast: lookin' like rain. Oh, man, I can almost *hear* the sound of hitting the stones...

The Contenders: Nairo Quintana. Alberto Contador. Chris Froome. Just kidding! Tho' Alejandro Valverde's already reconned some cobbles ahead of his Tour de France bid. Tom Boonen vs. Fabian Cancellara, both downplaying their chances but ready to rumble. Peter Sagan, under heavy sponsor pressure to giddyap with a major Monument this season. Critic's darling Sep Vanmarcke. One thing's for sure: if you give Cancellara a single bike length ahead of the pack, he's gone for good, and all you're fighting for is a podium place. Eyes open, Tommeke! For the women: geez, can we get a definitive start list? Defending champ is Marianne Vos. Elisa Longo Borghini. Podiums Emma Johansson and Ellen Van Dijk. Last year's women's roundup:

The Dark Horses: who *doesn't* love ponies? We love Sylvain Chavanel. Pippo Pozzato. Luca Paolini. Niki Terpstra and Stijn Devolder. And a host of other Belgian badasses waiting to grit it out and take advantage if the favorites over-mark. Oh, like Pippo wouldn't look just *adorbs* with that trophy!

The Absentees: Nick Nuyens, gobsmacked by flu. Ian Stannard, stuffed into a back brace. There'll be a lot more before Sunday's over though, honey!

The Fans: beer, beer, and beer. And if you can see through the gorgeous Flandrian flags smothering the sidelines, you might even see some bikes go by. Wait, *who* just ran into me when I stumbled into the course?

Well, time to place yer bets--and for you undecideds, look who got it last year!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Sure, He Mighta Doped, But at Least He Didn't Dope and *Still* Suck at Descending

Not That I Have Anyone In Particular In Mind: tho' there is of course news from the Planet of Totally Pointless Non-Penalties, as ex-Lance lieutenant/descender par excellence Paolo "Il Falco" Savoldelli gets popped with, and vows to appeal, a two-year post-career ban for his interactions with helpful trainer-to-the-stars Dr. Michele Ferrari, who, an indignant Paolo proclaims, he would bring his own kids to for treatment. So would I, if I wanted 'em to be successful pro cyclists! Still, I'm inclined to cut Paolo a little slack here, because okay, maybe he was part of the repugnant poisoning and stinking maggot-ridden corruption of our beloved cycling that nearly flushed the whole sport down the toilette, but hey, at least he had some serious down-mountain bike-handling chops, unlike A--Achoo! I thought I was about to sneeze! Yes, yes, Il Falco's very very bad, I know...

DePanne-ic at the Finish Line: meantime, I'm calling bull!@#$ on this entire controversy over whether Peter Sagan intentionally grabbed the first stage from loyal teammate Oscar Gatto over at the Three Days of DePanne, when from my crappy eyesight, it sure looks to me like Sagan actually put his hands on the brakes and tried *not* to win in hopes Gatto--a very fine rider himself--would snag the win from Peter's lead-out. Look, he may be a pig and a show-off, but a stage thief the boy ain't! See for yourself:

Love Hurts: on a related note, here's speedy get-well wishes for the good half the peloton that's already been clobbered out for a huge chunk o' the season by the cobblestones, including Sky-boy Ian Stannard with a broken (well, pretty darned cracked) back, Andre Griepel, who just upgraded his mortal hardware to a titanium collarbone, and countless others damn near mummified with tapes and wraps (even fair Pippo's delicate hand!) Not even counted: poor guys like Mark Cavendish, Giro captain Richie Porte, and hosts of others, absolutely flattened by assorted disgusting body-wrecking stomach ailments. Doesn't anybody just get a *cold* anymore?

Yer Disturbing Pro-Cyclist Tweet o' the Day: finally, I don't know *what* the !@#$ this is that AG2R's Carlos Betancur's tweeting, but I'm sure *praying* it's for his CPR certification class. Like this sport doesn't already have enough freaks?