Tuesday, September 18, 2018

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2018 Vuelta a Espana Racejunkie Awards!

Wearing every red shirt you own in mourning for a Grand Tour just past? Still missing the cries of "Aupa!" and frantically waving Basque flags by the mountainside? Waking up from troubled sleep wondering what the !@!% is all the fuss about Porte? Yes, you've got Vuelta a Espana Withdrawal Syndrome, honey, and we've got the cure: it's yer incredibly prestigious 2018 Vuelta a Espana racejunkie awards! Prizes--I swear, for any desperate recipient who claims 'em--a custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap to decorate yer head; a whole wunk of dashing racejunkie stickers to deface yer stuff; and a random hideous trophy tchtochke to proclaim yer shame on yer mantelpiece. So with that promise, let's get to it--and hope none of these schmucks earn these same embarrassing awards next year!

1. Attack o' the Race: Nairo Quin...nah, just kidding! 23-year-old baby Carrot Oscar Rodriguez--out of contract, tho' presumably no more--of smashing startup Basque squad Euskadi-Murias, grabbing stage 13 in a daring--and almost certainly doomed--dash from a breakaway with such formidable competition as Rafal Majka and Dylan Teuns. Icing on the cake: Euskadi announced its continuation--and its inevitable invite--for 2019. Get used to it, peloton--you're gonna be seeing a whole lot more of these guys on top of the podium next year!

2. The Sky is Falling Prize: what? No blank-eyed drones drilling up every climb in a relentless annihilation of every hint of competition? No swept-under-the-rug bull!@#$ about totally accidental testosterone deliveries or surreptitious snarfs from a heretofore-unnecessary asthma inhaler? Yep, to the relief of cycling fans everywhere, the mighty Team Sky army had virtually nothing to say this Grand Tour--and I'll *double* their damn prize if they promise to sit out the next one!

3. Crash o' the Race (Fan !@#$wit Edition): Wait a minute...where's the !@#holes in neon banana-hammocks staggering into the climber's lines? where are the blinding smoky flares causing vertebrae-breaking season-destroying pileups? C'mon, not even some asshat with a wind-whipped camera strap aimed directly at a GC contender's handlebars? Ohhhhhhh, it's the *Vuelta*--and let's *keep* those race-wrecking camera whores at the Tour!

4. Crash o' the Race (Race Personnel !@#$wit Edition): okay, maybe not *everyone's* got the memo. The clueless doofus who thought an oncoming sprint finish was the perfect place to take his morning constitutional for no apparent race-related reason whatsoever. What the !@#$?!

5. Crash o' the Race (oh !@#$ oh !@#$ oh !@#$! Edition): Between the flyer just shy of a rock wall and right over a cliff, to the truly scary look of slight confusion on the man's face as he climbed out of the ravine--DiData's Louis Meintjes' stage 15 high-speed descending wipeout was absolutely terrifying. Luckily--aside from the typical cyclist bloodiness--he came out okay. Whew--let's hope nothing like that ever happens again!

6. Crash o' the Race (What the !@#$ing !@#$? Edition): Look, I love helicopter footage as much as the next fan, particularly as it applies to bucolic herds of cows or dynamic moving-tractor field art. But what we *don't* need is a low-flying helicopter crew pulling some ill-timed movie-chase stunt and spilling a pile of flyweight cyclists like dominoes across the tarmac. Damn, do you know how *fragile* those little things are? Not to mention all those expensive bikes, you eejits!

7. Exercise in Total Futility Award: Eventual winner Simon Yates, impatiently gesturing on the crucial stage 15 for perpetual leeching remora Nairo Quintana to unhitch from his damn back wheel and help. Are you *nuts*? It's *your* damn red jersey to defend--and even if it were Nairo's he *still* wouldn't budge off your wheel?

8. *I'm* Not Crying, *You're* Crying Moment o' the Vuelta: Let's leave aside that it was an incredible win by an incredibly unsung rider on an incredibly talent-packed breakaway. But EF's Michael Woods tearful post-stage interview describing his thoughts on the final approach and dedicating his victory to his stillborn son was just more than anyone on the same entire planet could take. Congratulations and condolences to this lovely rider and his family--now give me the damn Kleenex, *again*!

9. Redemption Song Prize: seriously, *Cofidis*? Like, they're still a *team*? First a stage win with A-list pugilist Nacer Bouhanni, then Jesus Herrada bags the leader's jersey? Where have these voracious Grand Tour conquerors *been* all these years? Aw, who *doesn't* love a comeback--or hell, even a come-from-nowhere-since-forever!

10. Smack Talk o' the Race (Pot Calling the Kettle Black Edition): Movistar bitching out Michelton-Scott for wheelsucking. Has Nairo been missing his last two years' worth of race replays or something?

11. Smack Talk o' the Race (On Yer Knees! Mechanical Edition): y'know, one can hardly blame poor, butt-nekkid Fabio Aru for swearing after his kit- and skin!-shredding crash on Stage 17. But when he vulgarly insulted his Colnago *bike*, man--whether his chain choked up or not--*that* was just a bridge too far. Yep, even worse than the bruising he took from the nasty fall was the groveling apologetic phone call Aru had to make to the venerable bicycle maker Ernesto Colnago in penance for his unforgivable verbal assault on Italian design. Some wounds heal faster'n others I guess!

12. Breakin' II: Electric Boogaloo Prize: entertaining as at least one of the other Grand Tours is, the Vuelta is really the only race where the breakaways are more'n a shameless opportunity for a 100-kilometer display of the sponsor logo on one's !@# before the perfectly-timed reel-in by the joyless chasing peloton--here, *every* break was a genuine, and more often than not actually successful, threat. Me, I think it's the crazy-!@# terrain and sheer befoozlement of sussing out the lumpy intricacies of even a flat stage at this Vuelta. Whyever--still made for rip-roaring suspense 'n' fun!

13. Don't Curse Him Don't Curse Him Don't Curse Him! Award: look, we all know that anytime you label anyone--particularly a wee climber with a vicious kick--the Next Lance/Basso/Alberto, they flame out like a gallon o' gas on a Kleenex. So here we've got jailbait revelation/2nd on the overall Enric Mas, in only his second Grand Tour ever, and now, even Contador is piling on the praise. Yeah, I know, I think so too--but can we all keep our yaps shut til we make sure the kid's not gonna flip out?

14. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them Prize: hey, the whole reason we *love* the Vuelta is because it's a playground for climbers, not some simpy sprint-fest. But for the poor speedsters who neglected to read the road book before committing to this madness, the average profile of a "sprint" stage--which contained only slightly fewer climbing kilometers than the entire Himalayas--must've seemed like a cruel joke. We love you race organizers--flats specialists, probably not so much!

15. Lookit Our Little Izagirres Award!: Didja see? Well didja? Right on Ion gamely taking up the reins of unexpected leadership to an impressive result--and bro Gorka for helping to bring him there!

16. Domestique o' the Race: He entered and exited in excruciating pain, shocked everyone nudging into a breakaway, and, even more unusual for a Grand-Tour-winning team captain, gave his all unreservedly for his own domestique Ion when it became clear his multiple fractures actually did impact his shot at the win. Vincenzo Nibali--you are fuoriclasse!

17. Punk-!@# Move of the Race/Best Performance in a Team Drama Statuette: sure, he hogged everyone's energy and services long past the time it became painfully obvious that the only way he was gonna see the GC podium was to fly over on it on his airplane home, but ya gotta give it to Quintana--he *did* grudgingly concede, after Bala spent half the race herding him up the mountains and the other half bagging stage victories, that he'd help Valverde if he had to. Of course, that was approximately 38 seconds before Alejandro had his Annual Grand Tour Total Spectacular Freakin' Meltdown while (literally) within spitting distance of preserving third place, and having totally squandered any shot at the top of the podium that picking him as team leader in the first place and dedicating the team's energy's to that cause might've given him. Then, of course, the team announces it will still, inexplicably, back Nairo again for next year. !@#dammit Movistar, what does it take to prove to you that this !@#$ strategy doesn't work?!

18. Last But Not Least, the STF *Up* Already Award: we *get* it. A British rider has now won every single Grand Tour this year. And one of 'em was suspended for PEDs, the other was popped for a salbutamol level more commonly seen in asthmatic elephants, and another one had a wee bio-passport suspicion-index issue back in the day. But we concede, you won 'em all, fair and square. Now *please* shut the hell up til Mikel takes the Giro next year!

Well folks, it was a beautiful Vuelta. Now *please* Movistar, give this one to Mikel Landa next year!

Monday, September 10, 2018

It's Yer Vuelta a Espana Rest Day Dos Roundup!

Holy crap, I can't believe I even let rest day uno get by me, and now it's rest day dos already! So what's going on, and what's gonna happen to light up the next week? For my money, this!

1. Holy double crap who cares about GC a baby Euskadi rider won a mountain stage! Aupaaaaaaaaaaaa Oscar Rodriguez--and watch out Colombians, the newly-reconfirmed pro-conti Basque climbers are coming at you again next year!

2. Vuelta, Schmelta--!@#dammit Mikel's really gonna stay with Movistar next year?! Nairo is never, *ever* gonna concede team leadership to you Mikel--the hell with honorably honoring your contract, get the heck outta there I tell you!

3. Yates, man. Nairo was never, ever gonna help you yesterday. It's your damn red jersey, isn't it? Plus he's a wheelsucker anyway!

4. Nacer Bouhanni did *not* get into a shouting match with his DS and sucker-punch his team bus. He got into a shouting match with his team bus and sucker-punched his DS. Keep it straight, people!

5. So Nairo promises if he's "got to" work for Alejandro Valverde, he will. Getting a little annoyed with Piti's eye-rolling whenever he has to let off the gas to help you out, are we?

6. Isn't it *so* much less boring not having Team Sky DiscoveryPostal's drones ticking away at the front like a pack of amphetamine-stoked lemmings?

7. Nibali working for Ion Izagirre. Class.

8. Dropping the helicopter so low at the end of stage 6 that it blew a helpless AG2R toothpick flat on his !@# at the finish line? Geez, race organizers, aren't you already on considerable notice that these scrawny guys have been known to be knocked off the mountainside by the passing flutter of a butterfly wing, much less some huge honkin' aircraft?

9. Thibaut Pinot. After watching him barely able to stumble across the line after his desperate crack at the Giro, that was a *great* freakin' redemption ride!

10. Walking directly into the path of a sprint finale going full gas is the height of irresponsible stupidity. What a !@#$ way to ruin--and bloody--poor Alexandre Geniez's victory!

11. Vuelta fans are disproportionately less obnoxiously camera-whoring than their Tour de France counterparts. That said, feel free to give it up for Euskadiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

12. Uran probably can't podium, but boy is he hanging on gamely til the last kilometer every day. And lookit our wee Izagirre!

13. Yeah, *everybody* misses Contador. Cripes are we getting lonely for panache!

14. Speaking of which, Miguel Angel Lopez. Watch out next year!

15. OMG DID YOU SEE THE WHOLE SERENA THING AT THE US OP--yes. It's not cycling. When Marianne Vos deliberately whacks over a race official with her cross bike, we'll talk.

16. Where the !@#$ is the women's Vuelta a Espana!

17. Ben King, man. *Tell* me you didn't ink that contract extension (in particularly, the 'salary' part) til after your smashing double stage wins!

18. There is no other race right now but the Vuelta. Except the ones Andre Greipel is winning after Lotto !@#$ed him out of a contract next year, woot!

19. This talk of Valverde bailing out of the Vuelta to prepare for the Worlds is crazy. This ageless android races nuts-to-the-floor 366 days a year without any apparent impact on his performance. And we'll be saying the same damn thing 20 years from now!

20. Louis Meintjes. Geez he looked woozy. Glad he didn't suffer a head injury--and why the hell wasn't he pulled from the stage just in case anyway?

All righty folks, we've still got a spiky time trial for Nairo to choke on, and a race-deciding mountain stage to come on stage 20. Aupa Land--oh, !@#$ you, Movistar, this is all your fault!

Friday, August 24, 2018

It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Dos: the General Classification Contenders!

Yes, for the fifth Grand Tour in a row, last year's dope-popped defending champion, and everybody's favorite rider, Chris Froome, will be--naaaaaah, just kidding! Mercifully, he's keeping his flailing tainted-!@# carcass at home, so basically, we got ourselves a race, y'all! Less mercifully, however, through either injury or attrition--at least until our fledgling baby Carrots take wing in a season or two--there's rather a dearth o' Spanish or Basque contenders this year, but still and all, a fine field and a lively race to come. So who do we got? Read on--and if I'm wrong as usual, have at!

1. Mikel Nie--!@#DAMMIT MOVISTAR YOU SUCK AND THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT! If you'd had Mikel ride the Giro and not the crappy Tour de France like I told you to, he'd be rested'n'rosy for the Vuelta, but instead, a series of bone-crushing crashes have him out of the darling Vuelta (*and* the Worlds, *double* suck!). Did I mention this is all your fault Movistar? Fer crissakes if you don't lose him to Vinokourov like you completely deserve, set him right to win *one* of the two superior Grand Tours next year, willya?

2. Vincenzo Nibali--oh wait, *he's* still !@#$ed by some numbnut with an airborne camera strap and is hoping to merely be in *less* excruciating pain for the final week. Which brings us to...

3. Ion and Gorka Izagirre: look, we know they're good for at least a stage win (or two), if Nibs'll let 'em out to play--and who deserves it more than these wee whiz-kid ex-and-always Euskaltel boys? Better, there's not *so* many stupid flat time trials and echelon-smarting windy tundras as in the Tour show. And, at 29 and 30, they're in primo GC-snagging years. Aupaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa--and stuff it, doubters, you can eat the confetti blasted off the podium ceremony!

4. Nairo Quintana: alright Nairo: you gotta get by just *one* "co-captain" now, but it *is* Alejandro Valverde, who'd bushwhack the Tooth Fairy to recapture the baby tooth from under his pillow and, though generous and helpful to others, might be lured to change his mind in your case for a podium--or top--spot of his own. Luckily, he, like you, tends to completely choke on at least one vital day. Which naturally segues into...

5. Alejandro Valverde: Deficits: he's got a "co-captain," and is the approximate age of "older'n Moses." Pluses: because he's been cryogenically preserved between race days and for the entirety of all his off-seasons, he's biologically only 16 years old, but with the tactical mind of a Cold War stealth submarine commander. Sure, he tends to crack--but this guy can smell others' suffering like shark on wounded tuna, so ignore him at your peril!

6. Michal Kwiatkowski: geez, even Sky's running low on guys who can win every Grand Tour they ever enter. But with Froomey still smarting from playing bridesmaid to his own superdomestique, and surely-impending-Sir Thomas understandably figuring what the hell more can he do this year more'n the Tour de France and a seat with the Knights of the Round Table, they've still got Kwiato, who's had a pretty bangin' season, for a high GC placing. The benefit, of course, of Sky not clearly contending for, and inevitably getting, the win, is that the other squads won't be so preemptively cowed into total !@#-covering cowardice that they hopefully won't be afraid to actually attack, as opposed to meekly accepting their usual fate and instead painstakingly crawling to their real objective of second place. *Please* light it up out there, guys--especially you Izagirres!

7. Rigoberto Uran--oh, Rigo. We know you can do it. *You* know you can do it. But somehow, someways, through twists of bad luck and form, you just haven't done it quite yet. Particularly since EF has given you another super-strong support squad, I refuse to give up on you. Go Rigo--as you're truly capable of doing!

8. Thibaut Pinot: he's found his true and forever home at FDJ, where he just re-signed. And he had an *incredible* Giro until one fateful virus absolutely gobsmacked him on the way to the Falzarego. So he's clearly got talent enough for even the Vuelta's brutal passes, *and* the fire for redemption--and hopefully nothing more this time--in his guts. Go go Pinot!

9. Fabio Aru: oh, Fabio. Whatever's been going on with you physically, I have to surmise that all the pressure on you to be the next Ivan Basso just made you crack like a noce. But you seem pretty optimistic, so we'll aim you for a stage and a final podium. You can do mountains, kiddo--remember?

10. Richie Porte: he's just announced he's heading for Trek next season, so he's got *one* more Grand Tour shot with the formidable BMC machine, and I figure that, in his quiet way, he'll try his damndest to make the most of it. Problem: he *just* missed the shiny pre-race press schmoozer due to "gastrointestinal problems," and announced today that he's not nearly at the form he was in the Tour. Dag nabit Richie, don't you realize no-one actually *has* "gastrointestinal issues," they're just something riders drop out for mid-race when they're about to get popped for dope? And, with Froome out of the race, he's got no-one to domestique for but himself. Now get well soon, and if *anyone* with *any* illness gets within 20 yards o' you the next three weeks, I want you to spray 'em with enough Lysol to empty a fire extinguisher!

11. Last but not least, Simon Yates: my, we've got a wide-open field this year--anyone thinking this Vuelta's gonna be superlative fun? Anyway, with poor Porte apparently, well, indisposed, and a really incredible Giro stage-win hat-trick behind him, lotsa money's riding on this kid, especially with his brother to back him. Me, of course I'm putting my money on more sentimental, if inevitably stage-winning-but-GC-losing, causes. Enjoy raking in the big bucks, the rest of you!

Well, that's mine, and yes, I'm sure I missed your faves like a colossal blockhead. But I'm busy rooting for the new baby Basques who are sure to fight incredibly hard, so you can just bow to the real champs o' the race while they pass by!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

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

This ain't no stinkin' time-trial snoozefest or GC-busting endless echelon wind-tunnel fest--it's the fabulous Vuelta a Espana, honey, and that means *mountains*! So what do we--but not necessarily the poor bastards who have to ride the entire excruciating thing--have to look forward to, or fear in quivering terror? This!

The Individual Time Trials: yeah, there's two of 'em: one a flat-with-a-wee-lump-around-6k 8km prologue shortie to get some lucky s.o.b. into the leader's jersey--and short enough that, barring some catastrophic tumble or mechanical, it oughtn't to make any longstanding difference on GC--and the other a 32k, stage 16, right-after-the-rest-day-so-you-better-not-be-the-kind-of-rider-who-always-sucks-then, mostly-flat, *could* screw over the lesser time trialists on GC tailor-made Nairo Quintana nightmare. Hold your !@#$ together Valverde--this could really help you against your 'co-captain' here!

The Flats: right, like anyone gives a crap, but there's 6 flat stages to show the sprinters some desperately-needed mercy, though looking at the profiles, the Vuelta a Espana's definition of a "flat stage" is somewhere between a snarky schoolyard bully's "just kidding!"" to an outright raging-Vinokourov "!@#$ you!" Stages 2, 6 through 8, 10, 18, 19 which finishes flat but at altitude after a climb up the Coll de la Rabassa, and of course 21. Umm...are there really gonna *be* any sprinters left by the top of Stage 19? Anyway, good luck to you saps, whoever you are!

The Rollers: Need a warm-up, mountain goats? Keeping in mind this race's sadistic definition of what constitutes "flat", here's enough for the vultures to scope out any obvious imminent vulnerabilities on GC, while still saving their own strength for the decisive high passes. Misery, thy name is "medium mountains"! Stages 3 (sticking a Cat 1 nipper starting around 25k), 4 (two measly Cat 1s), 5 (Cat 2 before a dizzying drop to a flat finale)(the "medium mountains"), and 11 (207.8k of roller-coaster Cat 3s, the longest of this Vuelta), 12 (two Cat 3s, a buncha flats, and a bumpy end), and 17 (18% gradients on the final climb)(the "merely hilly"). You like breakaways, Wolfpack? Well don't say they didn't warn you!

Last But Not Least, the High Mountains: yes, *this* is why we're all here in this relentless landscape for this hideous sufferfest, and *this* is what sends even the mighty Saganator into spasms of gut-busting grief. Take heart Peter, and don't get too cocky Nairo--there's "only" 5 of 'em, holding you in suspense all the way to Stage 9, which starts with the Cat 1 Puerto del Pico, then finishes up the Cat "Holy Crap!" Alto de la Covatilla. No worries--there's a rest day tomorrow, if you make it there! Next up, an extended period of chill til the pain kicks in again on Stage 13 (Cat 1 Puerto de Tarna at 89k, Cat 1 Alto de la Camperona to finish), only to continue on Stage 14 to Nava (just go the hell home already, you're cooked), only to kick you flat in the nuts for a third consecutive day on Stage 15 by finishing on the fearsome, and iconic, Covadonga. Feelin' the burn yet? Well quit complainin', you big baby, 'cause you still got the race-deciding Stage 20 to get through! Less than 100k but packed with pain, you get *two* trips up the Cat 1 Coll de Beixalis, the roughly-midpoint Cat 1 Coll de Ordino, and, to crown your Vuelta with molten tears o' joy, or defeat, the HC Coll de la Gallina (in English, the "Col de What the !@#$ Was I Even Thinking?!"). *Jeez*, I love this race!

Well folks, that's yer Vuelta Route 101--now go home and study the official roadbook, if you dare!

Monday, July 30, 2018

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2018 Tour de France racejunkie Awards!

All right folks. If you're anything like me, you could barely stand to watch the Tour because of all the Froome !@#$. But because we're cycling fans, even we scornful cynics put half an eyeball on it *occasionally*, so it's time yet again to reward the good, the bad, and the unspeakably ugly! Prizes, if anyone is so degraded, desperate, or self-Googling as to claim them--and I swear, I'm good for 'em--a bitchin' custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap, a passel o' dashing racejunkie stickers to advertise yer shame, and some kinda shiny random trophy tchotchke I'll wrangle up from somewhere. So winners, either step on up, or hide like a weenie in yer team bus--whichever fits!

Captain Obvious Award: hey, I like a good political protest as much as anyone. But it *ought* to go without saying in that dispersing said protest, one ought not to pepper spray the entire freakin' (and non-protesting) peloton. Oh, for the days when Bernard Hinault could handle these problems with a single tackle!

Crash o' the Race (Fan !@#$wit Edition): Y'know, bad enough some assclown thinks it's a great idea to inject a forest-fire's worth of smoke flares into gasping riders' lungs. And it's rather a crapshoot when some overenthusiastic drunkard crams a giant flapping flag cringingly close to a struggling rider's wheelset. But it triply sucks when some ejjit decides--after multiple, caught-on-tape Tour de France-screwing episodes of similar problems with various loop-things--that a !@#$ing *camera strap* is just *awesome* when it's suddenly wrapped around a GC contender's handlebars. Thanks, Nameless Scourge o' Nibali, for the fractured vertebra, and crashing out the only guy with a *possible* hope of livening up the race--now next year, stay the !@#$ home!

Crash o' the Race (Ow, !@#$! Edition): Philippe Gilbert can handle a bike. What's even more impressive is that after dodging what appeared to be something in the road in a whipping descent and flying over a stone wall into a crevasse, he managed (with the help of a neutral service car denizen) to climb right back out, give a thumbs-up, and finish the stage within the time cut with a busted kneecap. Undaunted, Gilbert promptly posted sweet hospital-bedside photos with the (still dearly missed) Tom Boonen. Come back soon Phil--the Tour owes you a stage win next year!

Crash o' the Race (Calm Down Everybody He's Going to Be Fine): look, it was terrifying when normally stellar master-o-his-machine green jersey/world champ/winner of everything else on earth Peter Sagan flew off the road, into the woods, and, as he poetically put it, landed on his !@# on a big rock. But not only did he seemingly not fracture that, he didn't touch his dreamboat face, either, and our hero managed to both gingerly finish the stage *and* hold his green jersey all the way into Paris. Now heal up Peter--your fans seemed to have been more traumatized than you were!

Dumb-!@# Race Organizer Move of 2018: Seriously, ASO? Putting 18 hors categorie climbs into a single stage, then not adjusting the time cut so every damn sprinter left got tossed out of the race before the Champs-Elysees? What kind of fun is *that*--forget making the final stage a snoozefest, you could've tormented those poor guys for *days* more!

Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz, Oh What a Relief It Is Prize: now, not to put a paranoid conspiracy theorist tinfoil-hat motive on everything Team Sky does--but c'mon, am I the *only* person to think that it looked a *whole* lot better for Team Sky to have Geraint Thomas take this Tour instead of Chris Froome, again? Somewhere, the hopeless antidoping authorities are toasting that win *twice* as much as Thomas himself!

Punk-!@# Move of the Race: I know, normally this goes to Alejandro Valverde for, oh, bushwhacking his teammate or something. But our wily Movistarlet was inexplicably quiet this Tour, and repeat racist/slap-happy dimwit Gianni Moscon -classily took his rightful place by, for no discernible reason, suddenly sucker-punching Fortuneo's harmless Elie Gesbert on stage 15, getting him promptly kicked out of the race. Team Sky, of course, immediately leapt into action, having Moscon robotically read a brief apology for the cameras and promising to deal with it *just* *as* *soon* *as* *they* *can.* Oh my, are you guys going to give him another "Young Rider" accolade on your website like after he flung a slur at Kevin Reza? *That'll* learn him--that you won't do anything about his behavior as long as he's useful, anyway!

French Dressing (Down) Award: Sure, it's rude. Heck, even indecorous. But is Dave Brailsford seriously suggesting that "French culture" is the reason behind the incessant 21 day 247 booing smacking Team Marginal Gains and their presumptive leader Chris Froome? Leaving aside the obvious fact that *every* culture was booing, j'accuse, jerkface--now you got your Tour anyway, so quit yer whining!

Cripes, Maybe It *Is* the French Award: Bad enough the poor guy had to ditch his yellow jersey dreams to some punk domestique--adding insult to injury (or more accurately, injury to insult), as Froome-dawg descended from the stage 17 finish off the Col d'Portet to the team bus, a gendarme, apparently mistaking him for a mere loser fan in his discreet giant flapping grey jacket, bodily jerked the 4-time Tour de France champ off his bike and onto the tarmac. Fortunately, after a brief discussion involving the words "!@#$ you!", "lawsuit!" and "bloody wanker," understanding and harmony was reached by all, but not, fortunately, without the entire humiliation being recorded for posterity on an iPhone. Here, we wouldn't want to relive that injustice, now would we?

Total Crushing Disappointment of the Race: oh, Mikel Landa. I *told* you not to go to Movistar! Would you just *promise* to stick it Nairo in August at the Vuelta, *please*?

Stupid !@#$ing Strategy of the Tour: in a related award--congrats, Movistar, on your idiot strategy of letting your three leaders blow all their energy infighting--it really paid off with the top step in Paris! Well, in the team competition anyway...

Hardman o' the Tour: as a wise man from Spinal Tap once said, "It's a fine line between clever and stupid." And we can debate EF's decision to let a shoulder-snapped Lawson Craddock continue in the race after a brutal fall all day. But stay in he did--and used the 20 consecutive days of following suffering to raise over $100,000 to restore his home velodrome, benefiting generations of local cyclists to come. You made it home to Paris, Lawson--now get that kid some champagne, his Lanterne Rouge, and a medic!

SuperDuperDomestique(s) Award: and, in sort of a two-fer, while Sky wunderkind Egan Bernal's smashing and relentless work for his captain(s) drove cycling into a frenzy over its Next Great Grand Tour Hope, EF's Simon Clarke and his teammates, to a bit less hype, carefully shepherded the severely-dented, yet undaunted, Lawson Craddock, to the line each day. That was really lovely. Oh, bite me, you cynics--even I get to get maudlin once in a while!

Best Stage of 2018: remember when Geraint Thomas took th--no, me either, frankly, because the one day "La Course by Tour de France" patronizing nod to the women was actually the most exciting, nail-biting day of the entire men's Tour de France. Annemiek Van Vleuten, *just* pipping an almost-triumphant Anna van der Breggen at the line. Agony!

Weeper o' the Race: I don't know what the hell the organizers were thinking except "carnage = ratings", but there was in fact a Paris-Roubaix stage this year, and when the rocks were conquered, the dust cleared, and the miniscule climbers pried out from the spaces between the cobblestones, John Degenstache--whose return to dominance was seriously in doubt after he almost had his finger severed in his (and his team's) horrific 2016 training crash by a careening head-on driver--took the honors, the day, and the Most Touching Post Race Interview Ever. Shut up, I'm not crying, *you're* crying--now give me those Kleenex!

Oh, Snap! Tweet o' the Tour: from Michael Rasmussen, who knows from dodgy performances: "According to Froome, Egan Bernal reminds him of himself when he was 21. The only similarity I can find is that both were riding bikes--not at the same level though." Sing it Michael--'cause the rest of us have no cred!

And Finally, the Bad-!@#ses of 2018: every damn day before the menfolk raced, and a day ahead of the guys, the thirteen intrepid, unofficial, under-supported women of Donnons des Elles au Velo J-1 rode the entire Tour de France--without the accolades, roadside circus, road closures, podium babes, prize money, or credit--because y'know, they *can*, and ASO's failure to have a full-fledged women's Tour de France is *bull!@#$.* Cyclists, we salute you--and ASO, fix this already you backwards jackwagons!

Well, folks, we're mercifully done with the Tour de France til next year. On the glorious Vuelta--and I mean it, Mikel, don't blow this, we believe in you!

Monday, July 16, 2018

It's Yer Tour de France Week One (And a Little More) Roundup!

Look, unless we're personally Chris Froome, or someone making a !@#$-ton of money off this farce, we've all been ambivalent about--or outright skipping--the whole damn Tour. But there was actually a lot of action amidst the 800-kilometer sprint snoozefests, so what'd you miss? This!

1. !@#$ you UCI for relegating Andre Greipel! The total unbelievable bull!@#$ you clowns allow and *this* is what you harp on? If you're trying to look *less* like wankers for kicking Peter Sagan out entirely last year, *this* ain't helping!

2. If you weren't absolutely *bawling* when Degenstache gave his tearful post-win interview dedicating his victory to his dear late friend after being smashed to pieces and utterly written off post-his terrible 2016 injury, you have no soul. NONE, you empty ghoul!

3. $%^!in' Porte, man. He can't catch a break.

4. !@#$in' Tejay, man. He can't catch a break.

5. The absurdity of a tiny baby superclimber suddenly bombarded by Next Great Talent hype having to effectively ride Paris-Roubaix in his first Grand Tour is superseded only by the ignominy of his plowing directly into the back of a team car without anyone watching out for him and folding up like a cheap suitcase. Heal up quick, Egan Bernal, and FFS Sky, let this kid develop somewhere a little safer first!

6. I'm not sure it was a great idea for Lawson Craddock to keep riding after his bloody faceplant--I'm a lowly couchpeloton denizen, not a doctor--but the caretaking EF's riders have shown for him as he recovers and perserveres is quite lovely. And kudos to all for turning his suffering into huge charitable donations!

7. Movistar--specifically Nairo and, with one silly paved-surface mishap, Mikel--survived surprisingly well on the cobbles yesterday. But with one less key man in the mountains, and the high passes finally looming, pick a !@#damn leader (Mikel, who is still considerably ahead of Nairo) *now* and stick with 'im!

8. Anyone else feel the universe was just playing a game of freakin' whack-a-mole on poor Romain Bardet yesterday? Just *amazing* he didn't lose more time, he'd've finished that stage two days earlier if not for all that !@#$!

9. Talking smack about your own rider is *not* the way to motivate your boy to victory, Tinkoff--uh, Katusha. Lucky Marcel Kittel whanged his bike into the team bus instead of yer damn head!

10. I know, I'm the only one happy to see Greg Van Avermonster in yellow. Don't worry haters, he'll lose the maillot jaune on the road by the time both of you read this!

11. Lots of yappin' today on whether Geraint Thomas, ahead of team leader Chris Froome on GC, gets to play captain at the Tour. Given Froome attacking his own road boss Brad Wiggins against team orders, I'm gonna say, what are you, on dope?! No, I don't mean that way! Well, come to think of it...

12. Oh, Rigoberto Uran. *So* great, but your run of misfortune continues. But I do believe he's good to fight for a stage win and a reasonably decent revival on GC!

13. Vincenzo Nibali. Uh-huh, that's how this former (and eternal) Tour de France champion gets there--he's so stealthy you almost forget he's around, and then suddenly, you're chum. Watch out for Shark sightings!

14. Yeah, La Course. It's got a stellar lineup--even if half of 'em are exhausted as hell from the Giro Rosa--and it's actually a very nice route. Whoop de doo, and, by current standards, the fact the women get any race at all seems like a celebration. But a group of women are riding the entire Tour de France route *each day* ahead of the guys with--unlike the menfolk--shoestring budgets and limited, if superlative, support to prove there ought to be a *real* women's Tour de France, *and* they're killing it. !@#dammit ASO you backwards troglodytes do what's right already!

Okay, on to the Giro Rosa in Review. And the rest of, y'know, some big fussy race going on in France!

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

It's Yer 2018 Tour de France in Preview, Part Trois: the Fast Men, Roleurs, & Mountain Goats!

All right, people. We all know this sucks, the Tour's likely to be a three-week, uh, purely-enthusiasm-fueled farce with a preordained podium and a lifetime pass for damn near every illicit activity short of being a 49-year-old Master's racer popped for an overdose of Red Bull. But here we are, I'm carrot-bound to root for Mikel Landa, so while we're ignoring the TV coverage and begging for the misery to end, I promised both of you I'd post for the non-GC so let's go. Oh, and I forgot to mention Adam Yates in my GC preview. Like any other name but one !@#$in' matters! Anyhoo:

The Fast Men:

Nacer Bouhanni: out. Right now it's because Cofidis don't think he can win, and *do* think he's a colossal pain in the !@#. Tomorrow it'll be because he punched a two-foot hole through the side of the team bus when he heard the news. Hey, at least he didn't aim for anyone's head!

Mark Cavendish: he wants to edge up on Merckx's stage win record, *and* justify like 10 years of belittling smack talk about other sprinters for winning only "#$^& races"--too bad he's been on a downswing the last couple seasons. Still, good for a stage win somewhere, if he doesn't crash himself (or more likely some other unlucky bastard) trying to cram through a two-inch gap in Sagan's handlebars, right?

Peter Sagan: Pure sprinter? Classics man? Freak climber? I don't know which Saganator we'll be getting this month, but I'm pretty sure he'll beat the crap out of anyone he wants to when he wants to--and with his mad bike handling skills, without even having to sucker-whang anyone into the barriers to do it. *And* he'll wheelie doing it. Gosh, isn't he just dreamy?

Marcel Kittel: his year has sucked, and there's no particular reason to think it'll be much different right now, though with approximately 68 sprint stages, it'd sure look weak if he didn't manage to squeak out one or two of 'em. But cripes, will his hair look perfect!

Sam Bennett: sure, the Giro's not a sprinter's game (to the extent it ever was, say in the Petacchi years), but snagging two stages including the final day off Elia Viviani is still some pretty sweet pedigree. Bennett for the stealth win in Paris!

Caleb Ewan: oh, right--he's !@#$ed. !@#$ed, I say! What the *hell*, Michelton-Scott?

Bling Matthews: look, he is one crafty s.o.b. I often think he gets more attention for his flashy nickname than his wins. I'm not counting him out!

Andre Greipel: first, you *suck*, Lotto--how dare you jerk our big lug around so ungratefully? And despite his advanced age of "still half of Valverde's" he's having a bangin' year. So go to hell, he can so either--two for Andre, I call, so buzz off haters!

The Roleurs: between the mini-Roubaix, the gravel sections, and the days they just gotta put in to not kill the sprinters and to give the climbers a quasi-rest day, there's quite a bit of fun to be had, and, as usual, Quick Step plans to take all of it, if the ever-underrated Boassen Hagen-Dazs doesn't steal the pave. Too many to mention here, and Sky's gonna clamp down on anyone who could take one with Armstrongian ruthlessness, but Philippe Gilbert certainly doesn't intend a bunch of whippersnappers on his own team beat him, and, despite the fact it's not going to happen because the entire planet bites, I am still planning for Sylvain Chavanel to grab a late-career stage win, if a rhino doesn't come charging out the roadside and bash straight into his wheel like happens every freakin' year. Maybe armor up yer bike a little Chava, it's worth the extra weight in protection!

The Mountaineers: yeah, the entire GC. !@#$ off, Froomey! All eyes on baby Colombian phenom Egan Bernal, all the more so since their World Cup is blown, who though conscripted to the service of his twig-bug team leader ought at least be granted *one* stage Chris doesn't want so he doesn't get tempted to do to Froome what Froome did to Wiggo. Everyone else: don't count out Movistar: if Nairo Landa and Valverde manage to take each other out trying to crush the others like skittering insec--uh, helping each other so generously that no one of them can win, there's still wee high-peaks backup Soler. And right, we've also got Bardet, Zakarin, Barguil, and Martin, and frankly, if France *doesn't* pull something out of this ridiculous joke of a year, the press will be *very* peevish. But sadly, we may be just looking at another USPostalDiscovery/Skybot borefest. Me, tho' they're there for previous TdF champ Nibali, I'm all-ex-Euskaltel all the time. Allez allez Izagirreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!

Okay folks. Let's hold our noses the next three weeks, and beg for podium assistance from the Carrot gods. And no matter how much you dislike him--heck knows I'm with you there--no throwing anything disgusting on Chris Froome, you !@#damn animals!