Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Your Tour de France Preview, Part Deux; and, Your Daily News Update

Okay folks, since I can't say no to a Stuey O'Grady fan, I'll get right on to the sprinters. The coveted Green (or Points) Jersey is awarded every year to basically the best sprinter in the entire Tour. In addition to points you win by your placement at the end of a stage, you can also pick up points by crossing the line first (or second or third) at various arbitrarily-set places during the course itself. You will often see a team’s lead sprinter sending another teammate up the road to grab these points instead, both to conserve their own energy for the sprint to the finish line and to keep any other sprinter who is a threat to the green jersey from getting them instead. Got it? Good! These guys are mostly *big*--it's all about the power, baby! Really, what’s fun on a flat stage is the last kilometer, when the “lead-out” boys are setting up the sprint for their main man for the frantic crush towards the finish. Frequent crash scenario within sight of the line: some dimwit forces another sprinter into the barriers at the side of the course, taking down like 20 guys at once because they’re too tightly packed and going too fast to avoid it. Now that's great television! So, without further ado, the sprinters:

1. Mark Cavendish (Columbia): the fastest man in cycling right now, absolutely. Just unbeatable in the last 100 meters. Very young, arrogant (a common sprinter trait), frequently obnoxious, but to be fair still learning how to handle the press. Dropped out of the Giro early after several wins because he couldn’t handle the mountains, got criticized for wussing out, wants to stick it out til the end of the Tour to take the green jersey and, not coincidentally, stick it to his naysayers as well.

2. Thor Hushovd (Cervelo): multiple green jersey winner and also a prologue (the short first time trial stage in some races that’s just there to put the leader’s jersey on someone’s back) specialist. Big lovable Norwegian, good sport, not as powerful as some of the others, but smart and can do it if the stars are aligned. Heinrich Haussler, his lead-out man, has been outshining him a bit so far this season, and nice-guy Thor will let him take it if he earns it. I’m rooting for Thor because not only is he grossly underrated, but because Cav has been a real wanker lately.

3. Daniele Bennati (Liquigas): smack-talking Petacchi-dissing Italian upstart, whose legs can sometimes even match his mouth, he just had a pre-Tour training crash. In bocca al lupo, Benna-Jet!

4. Tom Boonen (Quick Step): A special case. Busted for out-of-competition coke *again* this spring, partying Belgian national hero found out today he's got to wait for yet another tribunal to decide if the Tour will let him in even tho’ he’s a bad example for the kiddies. He drinks too much, snorts blow, occasionally wraps his Lamborghini around a tree, and is beloved by all, so I’m betting he’s in. Just crowned Belgian national champion and out to clear his name, he is the best sprinter in the world besides Cav as well as a hell of a Classics man and is great fun to watch.

5. Tyler Farrar (Garmin): until 2006 US-based (which is viewed as sort of farm-team level by the European peloton), has surprised everyone this year and is the best American sprinter right now--2nd in a couple of Giro stages, he could take a sprint at the Tour.

6. Oscar Freire (Rabobank): just coming back from an unusually ugly crash at the Tour of California. Perpetually thwapped by gross career-threatening saddlesores, weird neck problems, and damn near every other injury or ailment a cyclist can suffer, and just keeps on winning. Best of all, he's named after the best Muppet on earth. What's not to love?

7. Missing in Action: Aussie Robbie “the Pocket Rocket” (he’s small) McEwen: beyond rude by even sprinter standards, he’s great because he’s a total loose cannon but is unfortunately still recuperating from a brutal crash. Also Alessandro “Ale-Jet” Petacchi—-one of best sprinters of all time, his little team wasn’t invited to the Tour.

Remember, just watch the last 2 km or so if it’s too boring watching nothing happen on Vs. for six hours til it’s near the end (and before you whine at me, o hardcores, we're trying to draw the newbies *in* here)--now have at!

'Cause This is Thriller!/Thriller Night!/And No-one's Going to Save You From the Beast About to Strike!: finally, Lance sez again that he'll work for Contador "with pleasure" if it's "clear" the boy can win it, and if that don't give him his angel wings, I simply cannot see what will. Um, not to question the tactics of one of the best cyclists in history, but by the time you finish competing internally, won't you have sapped key time and energy that might have better been used trying to beat more unified squads? Ah, well, it's not like it hurt T-Mobile when Vino decided to kneecap Jan Ullrich at the Tour, right? Oh, wait...


randie said...

If we are trying to draw in newbies you should have included photos next to numbers 3 and 4 at least *wink*

Anonymous said...

Do you have any comments, rants, etc, regarding the retro-testing (cough, Dekker, cough) that's going on?