Go, Speed Racer, Go!: okay, Robbie "Head-Butt" McEwen is out, which, frankly, blows, not only cuz he's so much fun to watch in the last 200 meters, but also because you never know what poor bastard he's gonna randomly turn on like a rabid cornered starving wolverine in the traditional post-race interview. So is Alessandro Petacchi, whose last visit to the Vuelta, if I recall correctly, ended by breaking his hand while smashing into the team bus in a snit, and Cav, among other luminaries. But it's still a field chock-full o' thrill-a-minute, bad-!@# talent, so as the few remaining moments of pre-race rest tick by, let's look at these boys while they last:
1. Tom Boonen. Oh yeah, baby, after his latest moronothon coke bust, then barely scraping into, then gacking out of, the Tour, everyone's favorite scalawag is back, fresh from a win at the Eneco Tour and out to whomp his naysayers into quivering blobs of Gu. Go Tom--you need to replenish that diminishing Lamborghini budget or dontcha?
2. Tyler Farrar. Break out the Bud Light, paint my big hairy beer gut with the American flag and slap an idiotic horned hat on my head as I run in the middle of the course in my boxer shorts, honey, 'cause the USA's Next Great Sprint Hope's bringing out the most disgusting braggart jerkface behavior that makes us justly loathed the world over by the same classy Eurosnobs who routinely pound each other senseless over soccer matches. Get ready to ruuuummmmbbbbblllleeeee!
3. Daniele Bennati. After seasons of deriding Petacchi as a decayed crawling shadow of better days past, Benna-Jet's been whacked with an illness-ridden, utterly unimpressive season of his own, and he'd like--and damn well needs to--reclaim *some* dignity. Good luck Daniele, but you're still gonna be beaten by:
4. Woo-hoo Oscar We Love Freire! Neither nut-needling saddlesore, bone-snapping crash, nor freak invisible back or neck injury shall keep this hard man from his appointed rounds dope-smacking everyone else around in even the slightest uphill sprint. Allez allez Oscar--and for heck's sake hold your body together the next three weeks!
Well, I never did get to the stage winners, but it's all about the wee Spanish squads anyway, as it should be, and in any event, let's face it, the only thing about this race that truly matters is the high mountains, and Samu is gonna knock you out. Aupa Sanchez--and eat his dust, Valverde!
P.S. Keep trying, Contador, but you better move fast: Vino still looooooooooooooooves you, and you don't want to piss off the likes of him by failing to bail and *then* be stuck on his squad within kicking distance. Best wishes, child--maybe Cadel can lend you a few of his bodyguards?