Sunday, May 22, 2016

It's Yer Giro d'Italia Eve-o'-the-Rest-Day Re-Think and Recriminations Roundup! #Giro

Well, between the first truly excruciating mountain day and GC-smacking uphill time trial, it's been a lively coupla days at the Giro d'Italia, and what do our boys have to think about while they rest, sleep, ride, and fend off screaming phone calls from enraged DSes and humiliated money-bags sponsors? This!

1. Blazing uphill TT winner Gazprom's Alexander Foliforov. When Alejandro freakin' Valverde wonders about your performance, you *know* there's something !@#$ed up going on. Damn, the Russians have upped their sporting performance since they stopped doping after the last Olympics!

2. Vincenzo Nibali. Lo Squalo can be a legendarily award-winning whiner, but big points to him for collecting himself enough after his despondent post-ride press-avoidance and general misery to send out a friendly, "oh, well, what the hell, tomorrow is another day" kind of tweet this evening. Hey, if Alexander Vinokourov's about to knock on your hotel room door to kick your worthless !@#damn !@# from here to Kazakhst--uh, offer warm words of comfort and support--before you even get to see if you can crack Kruijswijk on GC, you might as well go out with class!

3. Kruijswijk. Speaking of whom, I have no reason whatsoever to doubt this guy's integrity, but leaving aside the shocking Foliforov and teammie Sergey Firsanov, seriously, what the !@#$ is someone built like him even doing in the maglia rosa in the second week of the Giro after a freakishly precocious uphill mountain time trial? It's another Dumoulin dilemma. What next, Andre Greipel's gonna spit Alberto Contador out like a loogie on the Alpe d'Huez at the Tour?

4. The Tifosi. Now, I *get* the enthusiasm. The screaming, the yelling, the flag-waving, the joyous adrenalin rush of having sporting history pass by literally within in an inch of the end of your nose. Heck, I've been there, and I dearly hope to be there sometime soon again (helloooo, Alberto's 2017 Giro d'Italia swan song!). But Giro fans, if nothing else, exceedingly respect the race and its participants, and frankly, as an American, I am *outraged* to have our country's slightly-unrealistic-but-deeply-sincere exceptionalism well and fairly smacked down by incredibly overbearing--and GC-ruinously harmful--Italian fans. In addition, they're lucky even the stoic Nibali didn't reach down grab a spoke and skewer those clown-wigged blockheads like a kebab. Hey, have you eejits been watching the Amgen EPO Tour of California? *We're* supposed to be the obnoxious ones!

5. Chaves. Y'know, I absolutely love Orica-Greenedge, but Alejandro Valverde showed up here with a *really* stacked deck o' teammates, and what climber-supreme Esteban Chaves and his fine squad have been able to accomplish is truly amazing. And, he's being really nice and not at all snotty about it. Forzaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa wee Esteban, I can't wait to see you've got left in the tank for the rest of the week!

6. Alejandro Valverde. After yesterday's inevitable annual Green Bullet Grand Tour meltdown, to his credit, Alejandro managed to *somewhat* redeem himself today, and there's still a good amount of road left to go. More, he's got the similarly ageless superdomestique/depending-on-your-viewpoint-prior-Giro-champ Michele Scarponi, who turned in a smashing ride today. Revenge, thy name is stage win!

7. Brad Wiggins. Nope, I don't say *that* noodge of a name too often, particularly in connection with a compliment! But what he *can* do, is give the Shark some bike throwing lessons. Students, compare:

Panache, *and* dead-on accuracy!

8. An Astana-Movistar Alliance. Yes, absolutely--both Nibali and Valverde have an excellent, sensible interest in ganging up on Steven Kruijswijk in the remaining fight-to-the-death in the Dolomites. But c'mon, neither Astana nor Movistar can halfway keep the peace and collaborate within their *own* squads the last coupla years, much less make nice and join forces to actually accomplish something together--though if Vino wants it, Vino will get it, or *else*, Movistar!

9. The Remaining Stages. Chill out, Sleeping Beauties: tho' stage 17 is a short sharp day o' relative pain, you *do* get a puncheur-friendly gasp o' high-altitude air on Stage 18, before a leisurely spin to the Cima Coppi up the Col d'Agnello on Stage 19 and the penultimate day finalizes the podium atop the Cols du Var, la Bonette, and Lombardia. Here, yer last chance to dislodge the reigning maglia rosa before you get to collapse for a few weeks at the line in Torino--plan your efforts well, prepare either your pile-o'desperate-excuses or unctuous sponsor-credit speeches accordingly, and always expect that wily Valverde to try something!

Okay, we'll see how the team managers spin things overnight. I'm thinking lots of thumbs-up bed-time selfies, gourmet-mag pics of optimally nutritionally-balances meals, and at least one gratuitous butt-nekkid massage pic from Pozzato. Vai vai vai vai!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's Yer Giro d'Italia Week Due (Almost) In Review! #Giro

Yes, cycling fan(s), Week 2 of the smashing Giro d'Italia is upon us, and before we hit the high passes and find out how much Valverde is *really* gonna piss us off with some 'extraterrestri' performance, what've we learned--or just plain gotten to watch, if the Chianti (the wine, not the stomping grounds) has taken precedence--this week? This!

1. Mikel Landa. This is all your fault Sky you incompetent !@#hats! Oh, Mikel, screw Froome, fake some bull!@#$ ailment for July and head straight for captaincy at the Vuelta a Espana instead...

2. Sprinters. At the rate they're bailing--including Andre Greipel, who I would be ticked at except he's just such a lovable big lug and, not coincidentally, also about 5 feet and 800 kilos bigger than me--!@#$in' Esteban Chaves'll take the red jersey *and* the final day's sprint into Torino. Jaysus, if you couldn't take the first two weeks of this--which let's face it was pretty damn kind to you--none o' you clowns'll last til Stage 2 of the Vuelta!

3. Pippo Pozzato. Sure, he's got no results. When the hell was the last time he did, and anyway, who cares? He's so preeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-tty!

4. Sprinters II. Y'know, no offense to the perfectly decent new generation, but I *really* miss the Italians having a sprinter like Alessandro Petacchi. Even without the stud-pup soft-porn calendar photographs!

5. Alejandro Valverde. Creepin' us all out since 2002. And the way he's aging, he's gonna creep us out til at least 2025, to boot!

6. Mikel Landa II. See, haters, he's clean. Yeah, shut up! When Froome got bilharzia and barfed *his* guts out, he won the freakin' Tour de France!

7. Vincenzo Nibali. Such a fine line between 'whining' and 'winning'!

8. Peter Sagan. Oh wait, he's at the Amgen EPO Tour of California. Screw that !@#$!

10. Maarten Tjallingi. Nope, still haven't seen anyone as happy as he was with his hometown blue jersey. Awwww!

12. Samuel Sanchez. No, he's not at the Giro (goddammit), but he might be next year--didja see he signed on for one more year with BMC? Samuuuuuuuuuuu!

13. Damiano Cunego. Hey, I still think he was a backstabbing upstart little wanker to the great Gilberto Simoni, but I do admire him for his riding so far this Giro. Seems almost a little mean to chase him down in the break, don'tcha think?

14. The Podium: !@#$! Landa's not on it. Okay, Chaves. No, Kruyswijk. No...

15. Last But Absolutely Not Least: The Dolomites. If anything's gonna crack Valverde outside of a dop--uh, wholly innocent medical reason to leave the race--it's gonna be them. Alpe d'Huez? Passo Giau *this*, beeyotches!

Okay, the fastmen've bailed, the stealth climbers are desperately hoping the GC contenders are too busy making their lieutenants mark the competition to take any of 'em as a threat--so bring on the mountain goats, baby, it's GO TIME!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Slap-Fights! Etiquette Breaches! Maglia Rosa Blame-Fests!: It's Yer Giro d'Italia Week One in Review! #Giro

Well yeee-haaaaaaaw, we're one week into the fight for the maglia rosa at the most beautiful of all races, the smashing Giro d'Italia--and what've we learned (or wished we could unlearn) so far, cycling fans? This!

1. *Don't* !@#$ with a guy who has *no* chance whatsoever on GC: Whaddya get when you match an FDJ rider hell-bent on a top-ten finish with an AG2R boy with whom he's tangled in a crash? *That's* right, jersey collars get tugged so fiercely a courageous race-moto driver has to dive in to the stop the carnage! And, if you're the offending Alexandre Geniez, you get a hefty 200 euro fine to boot. Hubert Dupont--hope you recovered okay from the violent imbroglio, that must've been one nasty back-o-the-neck rug-burn!

2. You can the wine outta the boy, but you can't take the boy outta the whine: Our presumptive champ in Torino, duped by his moron team car into a fruitless GC-smacking attack-o-doom on Thursday's first mountaintop finish. And, being Nibali, he didn't hesitate to immediately blast the blame onto his bosses. The only one in disagreement, after a cowed Guiseppe Martinelli took the hit for the Shark's foolishness? Undisputed tactical genius/still-missed Paolo Bettini repeat World Champion, essentially telling Vino's second-choice to man up and take control of the tactics (and obey his legs) like a true campione. Well don't expect your team car to let you use 'em like a slingshot anymore like you did last Vuelta, Nibali--they're just as likely to slingshot you right off the mountainside after that bull!@#$ whingeing master-class!

3. He is the very model of a modern major general: Sure, he's not in it for GC--mainly for just recovering from his stomach bug at the moment, with his typical stoic respect for the race--but when Fabian-friggin'-Cancellara speaks, punk, you listen. Yes, enraged etiquette enforcer Spartacus, bringing down the chase-down pain when an upstart peloton, in particular Lampre-Merida attacks race leader Tom Dumoulin while he's taking a nature break. When nature calls the maglia rosa, you *and* yer cheap tactics get put on hold, you classless pig!

4. Time doesn't fly when you're--aw, when you're dear ex-Carrot/Sky captain Mikel Landa on a time trial course: Not only was the poor guy--who worked so diligently on his form in the wind-tunnel over the winter, no less--already kneecapped by the end of the 9k Stage One race against the clock, but worse, he also bonked on the first intermediate mountain stage, losing even more time to that sneaky little ferret Valverde before the truly high peaks even come into view. Bite me, go to hell haters--'e's just restin'!

5. Whole Lotto love: Sure, studly QuickStep blond sprinter/reigning peloton supermodel Marcel Kittel's already smacked down his fast-men competitors in two stages, but which team's already nabbed three in the first week, with two going to fellow German/lovable big lug Andre Greipel, the only man on two wheels who can beat 'im so far? *Darn* tootin', it's Lotto-Soudal--um, shouldn't the Italians be getting a little nervous by now?

6. If you're happy and you know it, spray Prosecco: y'know, I don't think I've seen a happier, prouder rider on any podium anywhere in my *life* than the Netherlands' Maarten Tjallingii, taking his first-ever King of the Mountains jersey on Stage 3. And look at about 56 seconds in--his wee daughter's barely old enough to be on training wheels, and this potential future cycling star's already got the podium stance down!

7. Hard road ahead (or below): finally, only five short years after Wouter Weylandt's tragic death at the Giro, the peloton continues to take its crashes, stitches, and broken bones with philosophical grace. Most phlegmatic so far: AG2R's Arnaud Peraud, who, after a thunderous Stage 3 whack on his face and chest that temporarily knocked him out but luckily caused no more serious injury, reasoned, "I am conscious and it is good news." Stay safe out there dear riders, and soccer players--sorry, footballers--remember *that* clip next time you go down clutching your shin after a minor tap shrieking like you've just been chomped on by a zombie!

Okay, it's on to Week 2 of the fabulous Giro d'Italia. No, Tom Dumoulin is *not* a final GC contender, I *cannot* accept such heresy--and Sky, whatever you're doing to !@#$ over poor Landa so badly, FIX IT!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

It's Yer Giro d'Italia in Preview, Part Final: the Climbers! the Sprinters! The Lowdown! #Giro

The Lowdown!: yep, we are just one twee day away from starting the most beautiful race on the planet, and how's it shaping up? Well, crap, literally, if you're poor Fabian Cancellara--in his final Giro, and on the eve of his near-inevitable farewell stint in the maglia rosa, our poor Spartacus has been stricken with stomach flu, and will be lacking just that last least bit of energy on for the opening time trial. But don't give up yet, fanboys'n'girls: a sick Fabs can do more damage in nine kilometers than most time trialists can do in twenty, so there's still hope. So try some flat ginger ale or a cup of chamomile tea to soothe the turmoil, and good luck domani Fabian!

The Climbers!: Look, it's the Giro, so if you're a climber, you're probably also a GC contender, but what're you gonna do if you have a sudden Valverdean urge to backstab yer team captain, or an injury or ill-timed flat knocks him off the podium hunt? *That's* right, you're done being someone else's headwind b!tch, and you get to go off and up on your own. Betancur, Nieve, Scarponi, Atapuma--not to undercut your bosses, but you might want to leave just a *little* bit in the tank, just in case!

The Sprinters!: yeah, it's the Giro, but they *have* crammed a good seven flat days in there, and to its credit, it's attracted a truly bangin' sprint field. A resurgent Kittel's good for at least a coupla stages (and, unlike most of these guys, has vowed to stick it out to the end in Torino, mountains be damned), Elia Viviani's got extra motivation on his home stomping grounds, Caleb Ewan's got a fine shot--but for sheer wanting it, my dough's on Andre "the Gorilla" Greipel, slowly healing from a !@#$ start to his season and rarin' to stay upright and get revenge. Vai vai vai you big lug--is there anything more lovely than a primal Greipel scream at the line?

The 'Nother Guys!: y'know, even though there's buckets of puncheurs this race who can bag a win, without the scrappy and intermittently violent Philippe Gilbert in the field, I just didn't have the heart to yap on 'em. And I feel like I have the same fruitlessly optimistic rainblow-unicorn desire every GT for dashing studpup-about-town Pippo Pozzato to shake off his years-long ennui and take a stage. But give him a lackadaisical field and a flash of inspiration--heck, even a half-!@#edly committed breakaway--and our dear bon vivant is still, I *swear*, a candidate for a win. He's already gotten sorta close a coupla times this season--keep it up, and I promise, you'll earn yourself a smashing pink-and-gold Giro tat front-and-center somewhere if you've still got space!

All right gents, time to post that final pre-race selfie, down your last meal-o-marginal-gains, and saddle up. In bocca al lupo, and may the best man--well, okay, I'm flat out rooting for Landa--win! And to get you in that special mood, here's the Official 2016 Appeldorn Giro d'Italia Theme Song


Saturday, April 30, 2016

It's Yer Giro d'Italia in Preview, Part Due--the GC Contenders! #Giro

All right, we know where they're going--but who's gonna get there, and who's gonna challenge for overall victory? There's only one who can stand on the top step in Torino--and it's likely to be one of these guys!

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana): look, he may've threatened to bail on the race entirely if they pulled any of this "extreme weather protocol"/cancel the mountain stages crap so wilting wussies don't freeze to death or even lose a digit or two to frostbite,the cowards--but "Lo Squalo" knows that with Vinokorouv handing the Tour to upstart Italian fave Fabio Aru, no matter how many Grand Tours he's won or how many sleetstorm's he's powered through to victory, the Giro d'Italia is the only game in town for him this year. So aside from the fact that he's the Italian's hometown favorite, what are his chances? Of whining and complaining every damn day--I'd say a clear 100%. Of winning? Barring disaster, he's my second fave odds-wise for the win, and let's face it, anyone who can pull off the Giro the Vuelta and the Tour, no matter who the hell crashed out before him and enraged him with the implication he mightn't've won 'em all otherwise, ain't stupid. He's also got quite a bangin' squad for a team boss aiming squarely at the Tour, including canny workhorse Michele Scarponi. Forza Nibs--but forza not quite as much as the next guy on the list!

Mikel Landa (Sky): first, shut he hell up, haters. I don't give a crap that he's on Sky and it's not his fault because it's only since no one took me up on my generous offer to crowd-fund Euskaltel that he ever had to switch teams at all and like his other squad was any better, so the fact that he's nested in a snarl of dope-stuffed smirking vipers has absolutely nothing to do with him and let me just enjoy it while it all lasts !@#dammit. And he needs this win, because if he's gonna kick that skeleton freak Froome off the mountainside for the Tour someday, he's gonna need a Giro under his belt to prove he can do it. Of course, the day he starts to time trial like we still miss so bite me Roberto Heras in his last year in the peloton is the day (1) he does show he can win a Grand Tour GC and (2) the narcs start stickin' him full of more needles than a pissed-off porcupine on a big dumb dog. As to his minimal race days and huge wonk of illnesses this season, well, it sure don't seem to be holding him back! Vai Mikeeeeeeeeeeeeel--and Froomey, if you have *any* appreciation for what you did to your own team captain just a few short seasons back, you'll have the sense to watch this race veeeeeeeery carefully!

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): yeah, he creeps me out too. And if he doesn't creep *you* out, frankly, you creep *me* out. He's brilliant, tenacious, unpredictable, and inevitably, catastrophically fragile on at least one miserable !@#$ disaster day he really oughta be cruising on. But by his numbers, and with his honestly disturbing consistency, if he keeps his bonk day to a minimum time loss, he may actually be able to do it. Don't worry--it'll probably just be the podium. If not, I'm fully expecting the heavens to crack open and the hounds of doom to come howling out to devour the Earth--so he wins, well, it was nice knowing ya!

Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale): he's been the runner-up twice, the biggest guns are (and they can all suck it for doing this) prioritizing the Tour, and he's been promised heavier mountain backup than he's ever enjoyed. More, he's sounding super confident, which goes a long way when the legs cause doubts. Win? Nah--but top five? You betcha!

Ryder Hesjedal (Trek-Segafredo): okay, he's looked a liiiiiiittle shaky the last few rides, and no-one's taking him seriously, but he's actually won this race before, so no matter how unlikely that was, you can't count him out for at least a hell of a fight--and perhaps a Nibs-esque consolation redemption-song stage win--before he cracks for good. And yes, I know you're all rooting for Fabs to take a stage win anyway!

Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin): what the !@#$? This guy has no business being anywhere *near* GC on a Grand Tour, much less the Dolomiti-of-Death-stuffed Giro d'Italia. I can't even discuss it. What the !@#$?

Dark Horses: yeah, yeah--Esteban Chaves and Rafal Majka. Who *won't* be entertained watching 'em scare the spandex off Alejandro Valverde on a few key mountain stages before that reverse-aging wingnut dispatches 'em for good? I know *I* will be, so good luck boys!

Well, them's the GC hopes, but it *is* the Giro, and one sketchy descent in a sleetstorm or ill-timed snack break and the whole podium can be shot to hell. So good luck, stay up right--and prepare to bow before Landa in Torino!

Friday, April 29, 2016

It's Yer Giro d'Italia in Preview Part Uno--The Race Course, Baby! #Giro

Okay, so British Cycling's a pack of misogynist !@#holes and misogynist-!@#hole apologists, Vino's Astana boys are a bunch of bidon-wielding goon-thugs, and somebody everybody likes just got popped for a TUE his own team doc failed to ask for that wouldn't've been a violation in the first place. But what's *really* important in cycling? *That's* !@#damn right kids, it's time for the fabulous Giro d'Italia! Oh, sure, Nibali's only riding it because Vino kicked his !@# outta the Tour in favor of that little twerp Aru, Landa needs to build his palmares before he can displace the flailing Froome like Froome did to Wiggo before him, and Valverde's just in it to exhaust himself so he doesn't have to openly bushwhack Nairo at the Tour only to blow the podium anyway, but the Giro is ever more beautiful and thrilling than its also-ran status to the gaudy Tour's hideous yellow glare would suggest, so what to look for in the terrifying precipices and harrowing descents of the Corsa Rosa? This!

The Time Trials: Jaysus, there's 3 of 'em? And they're all individual, none of that touchy-feely kumbaya team bull!@#$. Woe betide the eejit who hasn't sought marginal gains in the wind tunnel this winter! We start the whole shebang off with a 9.8k super-flat time trial through the bitchin'ly named town of Appeldorn to get a warm body into the maglia rosa. Just enough time and distance to stretch the legs and slightly psych out yer rival GC contenders before the horse has even really left the barn! Then, it's a 40k Stage 9 roller through Chianti, and--finally--a straight-uphill mountain time trial to save the dignity (or crush the hopes) of the climbers on Stage 15. Forza Purit--dammit, he's riding the *Tour* for chrissakes, forza Mikeeeeeeeeeeeel!

The Sprint Stages: I'll be honest--it's the Giro, so I barely give a crap about these here, but even without an enraged Robbie McEwen still in the peloton to bite somebody's ear off in the sprint, there's certainly something to be said for a little glory for the fast men, especially those who can make it past the first mountain stage without running crying to their DSes like a toddler who's just had his balloon popped by some jackwagon. And they get 7! Stages 2, 3, 7, 11, 12, 17, and the last chance for eternal fame in the run into Torino. Don't worry boys--if you make it that far, you *might* be able to recover sometime before the end of the season!

The Lumpy Ones: Got a hankering to impress your sponsor with a long breakaway while the GC chill in the pack *and* amp up your asking price for next year? Don't mind a bucket o' flat with just enough heights, descents, and crash-friendly twists'n'turns to freak out the sprinters? Here's yer chances, dreamers, darers, and roleurs! Stage 4, 5, 8, 11, 16, 18. Hmmm, this is primo Philippe Gilbert territory--is he even riding this, or is his busted finger still wired to make a rude gesture at the guy who hit 'im?

The Mountains: *Here* we go, cycling fans, *this* is what the smashing Giro is all about! Only 4 of 'em are named as "high mountain stages," but if you think the other 3 ain't gonna hurt, I want what you're drinking! It takes us 'til Stage 6 for our first summit finish, but we (and hopefully, y'know, the GC contenders) get there, and Stage 10 and the two Cat 1 and Cat 2s in Stage 13 get the blood pumping next. Next, Stage 14 bashes you into the pain cave with the Passo Pordoi, Passo Sella, and Passo Gardena, *then* Passo Campolongo, Passo Giau (which translates literally as "the Pass of Holy f!@#!"), Valparola and--thank God, at last!--the Muro del Gatto. Medic! And that's not all: Stage 19 whacks you right in the middle with the Col d'Agnello, only to let you breathe on the downhill before you realize "crap, I can't believe I let that guy go!" on the finale, and Stage 20 (and I do love a nail-biter of a Giro) will either crown--or dethrone--the final victor in Milan with the Col de Var, la Bonette, and Lombardia, with a right little nipper up to the finish line. Mikeeeeeeeeeeel--don't let that punk Valverde psych you out wee Landa, he's probably already had his catastrophic one-day meltdown by now!

Okay, them's the course of the gentlemen's Giro 2016--next up, yer GC Contenders! Are you tough enough?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chemical Weapons! Discs-o'-Death! Doping Busts! Uh, And There's Bike Racing, Right?

Law and Disorder: well, more's coming out about the violent drunken goon-thug/innocent cyclist altercation involving Philippe Gilbert, and it turns out, !@#damn right PhilGil *did* go all chemical-warfare pepper-spray on that motorist's !@#, which *does* count as a "weapon" in Belgium--and coming from a strictly American Wild West mine's-bigger cowboy perspective here, *that* ain't no "weapon," but I digress--and now, big bad car driver is cryin' to his mama *and* the cops that will-o'-the-wisp Gilbert (who to be fair, has proven himself a mortal threat to frightened children in the past) was a mean, mean bully. I warned you in yesterday's people, don't !@#$ with the man--particularly since he sez he's *always* packin'!

And It Burns, Burns, Burns/The Ring of Fire, The Ring of Fire: meantime, as Movistar's Fran Ventoso shows off what looks to be a nice gory round chunk sliced outta his leg and rails about the nascent use of disc brakes in the peloton, and the all-powerful disc-brakes lobby lams into Fran for mistaking an obvious Velociraptor attack for a harmless bike part, the twitsphere's gone wild, not least UCI, who either are or aren't gonna ban disc brakes in races until more research can be done, presumably on the unwitting bods of whatever sap happens to go down in a pile of uncoordinated and lethally armed Lampre riders. Me, I say let's preserve valuable cyclist bodies *and* advance science with a good old-fashioned cage-match: two combative guys, say Cavendish, and Philippe, in one of those metal circus sphere cages, one with rim brakes and the other with discs, they ram into each other repeatedly, whoever comes out roughly in one piece (or the least number of pieces), the other guy's brakes are the new UCI standard. Saddle up, boys, problem solved!

Quoth the Beard, Nevermore: and, it's with total ennui that I note that Matteo Gavazzi's been popped for coke a truly impressive third time--the latest perilously close to the time he won an unusual number of victories, so maybe more'n a little off-hours clubbing just there--and with total bummedness that we love Luca "the Beard" Paolini's long, bad-!@# career is, most probably, over on account of his advanced age of 39 and his official 18-month ban for the same devil's nose-candy. Dammit, if only they'd been old enough to be aware for Nancy Reagan's appearance on "Diff'rent Strokes" to push her extremely effective "Just Say No!" campaign! Oh, these wild kids today...

Ardennes You Glad I Didn't Say Banana?: finally, if you *do* think Gilbert's gonna be hampered by a few freakin' fractures in his beloved Ardennes classics, think again, doubters--he's posted a pic of his X-ray with a good skyscraper's worth of steel pins in his finger on Instagram, and he is aiming that digit directly at *you*!