Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Robbie McEwen Weighs In; and, Right On Levi!

Aw, *Man*: All right, I'll pony up: I think there's no freakin' way Alexander Vinokourov is riding clean, unless, perhaps, you consider him on a sliding scale relative to, say, Valverde. Allegedly! But when a guy who I love specifically because he's been known to head-butt rivals at the line, go absolutely snarling wingnut at the press and routinely smack down other riders as scumweasels says Vino's paid his dues, apologized humbly, and deserves to be back and lauded for his win unmolested by continued accusations, I concede, such gentlemanly behavior does give me pause. Except the part about the humble apology. Unless "!@#% you!" means "mea culpa" in Kazakh?

Oh, Water Beeyotch....Here, Water Beeyotch!: okay, before I get a ton of crap from a bunch of holier-than-thou tree-huggers, (1) I *have* hugged trees, so lay off and (2) green good, I heart Mother Earth, yap. But what the hell is this stupid lawsuit against a wunk of teams and some harmless schmo from Landbowkredit for polluting the environment by tossing water bottles off the road? First, if this truly *is* a disastrous scourge, how hard is it for you martyrs to just pick the damn things up yourselves, if the many roadside fanatics who actually beat each other senseless trying to claim one from their favorite rider as a prize don't get 'em first? Second, do you freaks know what this means? It means Klodi's gonna have to sling a 50-pound Hefty bag over his shoulder and haul it up the !@#damn Alps to the finish line every day at the Tour de France like some spit-covered garbage-toting Santa Claus! Oh, Klodi...

Or, we could just save the environment by having the team-car staff chug along in donkey carts. Hell, if the peloton *really* gets off the juice, the team cars'll even be able to keep up!

Give Levi a Grand Tour Shot Already!: meantime, over at the Gila Tour, look who's winnin'!:Woo-hoo Levi!

Want Freis With That?: over on the Planet of Dubious Accomplishments, I suppose some accepting-the-inevitable bonus points go to BMC dope-fiend Thomas Frei, who, wracked with guilt immediately upon getting busted by his A-sample, admits to micro-dosing EPO and being thwarted only because he failed to properly flush the evidence out of his system, which begs the question, if dutifully hitting the Gatorade is all it takes to successfully beat the tests, how many of these clowns active right now this season *do* have the attention spans to set their watches and grab their sippy cups? Whew, good thing UCI's been yellin' how the cyclists have completely cleaned themselves up nowadays--50-odd doping pozes into the season I was actually starting to have my doubts!

Don't Let the Door Hit You in the !@# On the Way Out!: last but not least, as Cav continues his Boonenesque downward spiral--without the fun of piles of blow, random club hookups, or playing F1 driver on the autobahn in his sportscar--current nemesis/beloved teammate Andre "!@#$-Race Winner" Greipel has announced his intent to find a team that'll let him ride some real races, specifically the Tour de France, next year, and given the squad's frankly nose-pickin' ennui in response, that team sure ain't gonna be HTC. Oh well, Andre, you tried--at least this way you can settle things with Cav at the finish line next year!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Call Bull!@#$, Astana!

You're Freakin' Me Out, Vinokourov: okay, let's get my shameful hypocrisy out of the way first: I often rather love Vinokourov because although he's an unrepentant doping pig, he's at least honest (well, open) enough (despite today's uncharacteristic denials)to wholly embrace it on the grounds that so still are most of his serious competitors, so anyone who's whining about it can look themselves in the mirror while they're jamming a syringe in their !@# and screw. Plus--and unfortunately, no doubt because he's still (allegedly!) a doping pig--there's a certain Ullrichian imminent-catastrophe quality to his racing that is, to say the least, lively to watch. That said, is it too much to ask that (1) he not be so counterproductively ostentatious about (allegedly!) it that he doesn't leave Contador with a third-rate pile of Kazakh packfiller to domestique him at the Tour and (2) at least *one* cyclist gets to win *something* who's clean? In fact, if that punk Valverde weren't also up there at Liege today to obliterate any chance whatsoever of fair play and leave those of us who prefer clean sport to look so much farther down the ranks for a genuine podium, and if Jens Voigt didn't entirely distract me by being smashing to watch for most of the race yet again, I'd be a whole lot more !@#$ed off. Anyone else thinking that if Vino doesn't get busted in the next 13 days we might as well just tattoo the final maglia rosa on his chest before the Giro d'Italia even starts?

Don't Do It, Gibo!: meanwhile, after Simoni had an entirely understandable so go to hell shaky start to his season at the Giro di Trentino, I am flipping out at the possibility that, rather than lose on his beloved Zoncolan, he's going to hang up his jersey instead of dope-sma--I mean, sticking around to help bestest pal Damiano Cunego at least pull off a stage win. Come back, Gilberto--even when you're acting nice, you're still a much more fun interview than anyone else in the Italian peloton! Which brings us to another question: what the !@#$ happened to Pellizotti in Trentino--I mean, I know he's aiming at the Tour and all, but is he really going to let that Teen Beat darling Basso stomp all over him in front of fans and press who already discount him for the entire month of May? Pull it together Franco!

Sister Sister: speaking of Basso, I surprisingly see no mention on his twitter feed about his dear sister's impending trial for trafficking in sports-doping products, presumably because he had the discretion to seek out the good stuff from other sourc--that is, because they are now estranged over their entirely different philosophies with regard to good sportsmanship. Does it strike anyone else as curious that, a few unfortunate and minor-player exceptions aside, it's the wives and girlfriends that are always going down for this rather the jerks who actually take their stuff to win? Kill the messenger, whydontcha--I suppose it's a lot less embarrassing than having to clear the ranks of half the cyclists!

Fuyu Is Right: Team RadioSkank, of course, is still reeling from the colossal misstep of Clenbuterol-snarfing Fuyu Li, who ought to know at a minimum that he's not supposed to test positive until, like everyone else who ever (super)domestiqued for Lance, he's already left the One's precious fold. Like utterly-whipped repeat podium finisher Andreas Kloden *needs* to lose the one guy he could actually pull rank on to send back for water bottles? Arrrgghhh!

Like a Fine Wine, But She Can Beat You *Down*, Honey: finally, just an encouraging nod to the French, who have at least one rider they can count on not to suck year after year after year: yep, it's permanent French champ/new autobio author Jeannie Longo, reportedly considering what to do after her cycling days are over but who luckily has at least another generation to finalize her plans. Allez allez Jeannie--and for heck's sake, can't somebody take her to the Tour de France start line with the boys?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Alberto Contador Is Scr*wed! (Again)

Bad Move, Vinokorouv!: okay, so the Gibo (Giro, whatever) di Trentino is off, and who wins the introductory time trial with enough seconds left over to stop at Lago di Garda to admire the view, take a drink, have a nice snack, and take a photograph for a couple of tourists? That's right, exquisitely amoral erratic wingnut Alexander "I Heart Syringes" Vinokorouv. Now, I'm not suggesting there's anything *wrong* with this exactly--it is indeed a very, very, very fine result--but what I am saying is, what the !@#$ are you thinking, Vino?!?! Do you *want* Astana to get its !@# kicked out of the Tour? Do you *want* Contador's domestiques to be pincushioned into springing a thousand leaks from the unannounced 2 am doping controls every night for the next 10 weeks? Do you *want* those raging crybaby impotents at UCI turning their wrath on you and your squad because they're still pissed off they can't get Valverde? Well, *you're* the one who took advantage of Contador's less brainiac tendencies to keep him in his damn contract at steroid-stuffed brass-knuckled-goon gunpoint, so don't !@#damn go and !@#$ it up! Sigh. Tomorrow, Alexander, I think you are coming down with a severe case of stomach flu and laying low until the artificial rocket up your !@$ burns itself ou--I mean, until you have fully recovered from your unfortunate and unexpected ailment. Idiot!

Union of the Snake: elsewhere on the Trentino roster, of course, in addition to Gilberto Simoni (bow, beeyotch!), angel-winged press-flirt Ivan Basso and Franco "Why Does Everyone Keep Fawning Over Ivan When I'm King of the Mountains at the Tour?" Pellizotti, is Riccardo "Head for the Hills!" Ricco', replete with a spiffy new cobra-head bike and, of course, distinctly annoyed that for some utterly unfathomable reason he screwed his whole team out of an invite to the Tour de France, which he's ridden so miraculously well in the past. I gotta say, if I were him, I'd call bull!@#$ on this one as well. I mean, have you seen who *else* gets to ride the freakin' Tour this year?

The Chicken Comes Home to Roost: meanwhile, in a nod to a dear and highly respected reader who specifically requested that I *not* post a sleazy Danilo DiLuca-esque portrait of Tour de France winner Michael Rasmussen, I therefore post a quite un-Cosmo pic of our beloved Chicken, now out of competition due to "mono" and who, as he looks towards the faraway Vuelta for results, in *my* humble opinion ought to stop whatever the hell he's been (allegedly!) taking in his IV drip and start mainlining McDonald's Happy Meals instead. Never let it be said that we here at racejunkie don't respond to your concerns!

Sins of the Fleche: finally, it's off the remainder of the Ardennes Classics, baby, as Contador gets to ride possibly his last race of the season thanks to his dimwit boss, Cadel pegs Amstel Gold champ Philippe Gilbert for the win, and the Schlecks, Cunego and Valverde look for vengeance after a crash-bonk-and-ash-cloud-marred start to the week. The profile: ouch, especially over the Mur de Huy. All right, I get they're saving themselves for Liege, but allez allez Schlecks--after your crap start to the season, you need some confidence ahead of July!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Adventures in Doping Excuses

And Atmospherics, Too!: Yes, doping's evil, no, I don't support it. And, I don't normally worry about weather conditions, unless to enjoy a miserable freezing sleeting Classic from the comfort of my couch and a nice hot toddy. But one can't help but notice--if one's morals lean towards the, well, flexible--the fantastic opportunity this giant Icelandic volcanic ash cloud presents to the peloton this weekend, particularly that freakishly high percentage of superstars who are surprisingly afflicted with life- and career-threatening asthma only within 1 kilometer of the finish line. I mean, if pure mountain air or a flat stretch of bucolic meadow is damn near gonna kill ya--and, coincidentally, require the immediate ingestion of a huge amount of oxygen-flow-improving asthma meds--imagine how much of that !@#$ you boys can justify taking *this* weekend when you're breathing in ginormous amounts of the exact same crap that smothered the entire city of Pompeii! Better, this sounds a hell of a lot more plausible than even the beautiful Bjorn Leukemans "Love Machine" defense a few years back. Opportunity knocks, skeezeballs--just don't say I told ya so!

Il Grande Giro is Right, Baby!: yes, after months of exhortation, and a bit of a sidetrack into developing scandal, our glittery fairy-princesses at Lampre have finally signed we love peerless peloton smack-talker/2-time Giro king/general avenger of injustice Gilberto Simoni to ride the Giro d' Italia one last time. Now, for *my* money what's interesting is whether a still-young, clean (and no, pretty-pretty as Ivan is, and despite the enormity of my lingering geek-crush on his crack legal team, I'm not *entirely* sold on that "attempted doping" bull!@#$) Basso can continue to pound, in the high passes at least, a damn-old Simoni. Sorry Ivan, but just out of nostalgia that Gibo grievously impugned your manhood then had to hastily retract allegations that you tried to bribe him off a stage win at your last big match-up, I've got to go with Simoni on this one. Next up: the Giro del Trentino, where he'll open a can of whup-!@# on such perpetual inferiors as Riccardo "Wuss-Baby" Ricco', (excellent Classics rider, who to be even fairer is still coming off a stomach ailment) Damiano Cunego, and even endlessly diverting wingnut Vinokorouv. Forza Gibooooooooooooooooooooo!

Goldmember: finally, as we look for baby Schleck to make the peloton shriek in pain at Amstel Gold this weekend with the aid of big bro/new dad Frank, let's first note that Euskaltel made Alberto Contador cry like a two-year-old at Vuelta a Castilla y Leon today, and then let's take a look at the Amstel course profile: Allez allez Andy!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Your Philosophical Question o' the Day

Could Fabian Cancellara Win the Tour de France?: No. Next!

Dancing With the Podium Babes: yes, for those of you getting bored of drunken frat-boy vomit-fests, starving desperate corporate-drone dilettantes eating rats in jungles, and skeezy hyper-gelled spray-tan-addicts caressing their own biceps in the mirror, there's a great new reality show in town that's actually relevant to cycling: Be a Giro d'Italia Podium Babe! Dutch arm-candy will be tested on subjects including Italian culture and language, and, let's be honest, pulchritude. No word on when the "Be a Women's-Giro d'Italia Podium Man-Babe!" show is starting, but I'm confident it's soon. Hell, gives Di Luca and all those other unemployed doping-ban male cyclists a way to stay involved in the sport!

Cav Strikes Back: so in the wake of his calling BFF teammate Andre Greipel a "!@#$-race" winning, no-talent loser, and his boss' subsequent mild admonition that he expects teh boys to play nice when they're told to, *and* the inexcusable failure of some female non-cycling journalist to fawn over him, sprint king Mark Cavendish has gone postal yet again over how tough he has it, whining that he was screwed out of (repeat winner Thor Hushovd's, so suck it!) green jersey in one of the "two worst calls" in all sporting history, Brad Wiggins has no right to criticize his egomania 'cause Wiggo's a no-talent loser too, Greipel is *still* a loser, and people are mean, mean, mean to him! Yes, Cav, as a civil rights lawyer I see this *every* *single* *day*--boy, you are *oppressed*! One of the (justly) most celebrated athletes in the world, a huge cash-cow of a contract at an age when most of your contemporaries are living in their parents' basements or grubbing away desperately at some unbearable crap-paying cube job, adulation, fame, the power to go off on anyone at any time virtually without repercussions--and on top of that indignity, SOME PEOPLE DON'T COMPLIMENT YOU EVERY SECOND! Oh, the injustice of it all....

The Why the Hell Isn't This Getting More Press Coverage Freak-Out o' the Week: wah, it's gonna take Bjarne ten more minutes to find a sponsor willing to tolerate their logo being flashed first at every finish line by Fabian Cancellara, wah--what the !@#$ is this about we love Euskaltel-Euskadi having sponsorship troubles? Aiiiggghhhh! Samuel Sanchez, say it ain't so--I can't *stand* to see another great Basque climber defect to RadioSkank!

Breaking News in Italian Cycling: no, not some penny-ante inquest about widespread doping at Lampre that threatens to drag it down the toilet, you fools--the *important* issue, natch, is whether Pozzato's radical-yet-paradoxically-old-school black tricolore kit at last weekend's Paris-Roubaix is sartorially appropriate. Luckily, our dashing Pippo will be relieved to hear, style of course has won out over strict technical propriety, and he remains indeed on both the best-dressed and future race start lists. Whew, glad we got *that* earthshaker resolved!

Golden Boys: last but not least, there is in fact actual racing going on, and as we wish allergy-whacked Alberto Contador a healthy and successfully Vuelta a Castilla y Leon (if only to watch him irk Lance Armstrong), even more bitchin' is that we can see we love dear little Carlos Sastre back in action at the Ardennes Classics this weekend as he preps to take out the two remaining Italian GC contenders not already banned out of contention at the fabulous Giro. Allez allez Carlos--nice to have you back!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tom Boonen's Quote o' the Race

Boonen, on his stupid compatriots blowing the win at Paris-Roubaix by refusing to chase: "There was no co-operation. If you ride with three guys then you close that gap, even on Cancellara; it's not just that this year he has jet engines installed up on his arse." So sweet. Even if Flecha *did* screw you, we still love you, Tom!

A Gentle Plea To Our Victors: look, Cancellara earned it, and deserved it. Even if Thor I'm sure *could* have kicked his !@# with just a few days more recovery time. But much as (American) football has banned those prancing-pony post-touchdown spikes, tennis has cracked down on the primal screaming, and hockey--well, hockey's too busy beating their opponents bloody to put the stop to the occasional adrenalin-driven stick-raise, so must I call for an end, however exuberant and spontaneous, and even by so fine a gent as Cancellara, to the monstrously obnoxious Cav-esque double chest-point:Honey, we *know* it's you!

The Orange Revolution: elsewhere, it was the Klasika Primavera, baby, and, along with such former champs as Heras (shut up!), Sastre, Valverde and Cunego, look who won today!:
And in a dandy touch, big Schleck was in the house. Watch out for July, Valverde--if your ban don't get you, Samuel Sanchez will!

!@#$-All, Quick Step!

What. A. Crushing. Disappointment. Boonen breathes--and yes, flakes--for ten seconds, and it's over because, Stijn, he's got no !@#damn support. Still time for the podium, Thor!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Lookin' Good for the Hell of the North, Boys!

Especially 'Cause There's One Big Threat Less of You Now: yep, things are lookin' even better and better for the smashing Paris-Roubaix this weekend, particularly our big-fave studpuppies-o'-pain Boonen and Hincapie (no, I'm not mentioning Cancellara, !@#dammit, I still feel sorry for Tommeke), as 2008 World Champ Alessandro Ballan is suspended by current squad BMC for his (alleged) involvement in the spankin'-new Lampre doping scandal. Me, I think this is an egregious witchhunt--I mean, everyone knows cycling's cleaned up its act since that 2006 Operacion Puerto nightmare!

Ow, My Stomach!: in what I'm sure is a total coincidence, meanwhile, Lampre big-shot/Classics man Damiano Cunego has pulled out of the Vuelta a Pais Vasco with a disgusting stomach ailment, which means either (1) he's got a disgusting stomach ailment, or (2) 90% of Lampre is going to quit racing entirely in the immediate future with 'stomach ailments'. Guess which! And, because I'm genteel, and genuinely don't want to be unkind to someone in the uncomfortable throes of wholesale intestinal explosion, I won't even mention the potential amusement value of the fact that Cunego's been known to sport a giant "I'M DOPING FREE" tattoo on his arm: Aw, *I* believe in you, Piccolo Principe!

Who *Was* That Masked Man?: over in Narc-land, a pack of jailbait Ukrainian sell-outs, I mean whistleblowers, have apparently given up the goods to the French on the latest masking agents for EPO, which means, I suppose, that if anyone else ever turns up with Danilo DiLuca's Giro d'Italia Princess Bride testosterone levels at any future races, the officials won't just buy that he accidentally mistook his girlfriend's birth control pills for Tic-Tacs. Um, is anyone else thinking these guys are lucky the peloton's too busy with the Classics at the moment to schlep all the way to Ukraine to find 'em and give 'em a major beatdown?

Roubaix, Schmoubaix: finally, lest we all get bogged down in some silly cobblestone thingie coming up on Sunday, let's take note of what *really* matters: we love Samuel Sanchez took Euskaltel's first win o' the year right in its home stomping grounds in the Vuelta a Pais Vasco! Here's how his first blow in the fight for the podium at the Tour de France (yeah, that's right, he'll be there baby!) landed:

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Lessons In Love...

...From Doping Investigators: so yap, there's another giant doping scandal involving 54 skankmasters in Italy, yap, Lampre's a giant easter-egg-colored pack of drug-snarfers, yap, but more interesting, in my view, is that the rat in this case is a woman and hospital employee close to alleged head pusher Guido Nigrelli, who, according to gazzetta dello sport, acted out of twin motives of "passion" and "economics." Which leads us, class, to *two* important life lessons: (1) never piss off your woman, and (2) never, ever stiff an employee. After all, just think of the poor sweet cheating scumlords whose palmares will be destroyed by such careless folly!

The Man With the Golden Arm: man, can Alejandro "Bloodbag" Valverde's life *get* any more charmed? Not only is he allowed to ride everywhere unrestricted except (and for the hilarity factor on this one, see above) Italy, and not only did he genuinely win the stage today at the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, but he even "won" the opener there yesterday when we love Oscar Freire was !@#$ed and relegated in the sprint. First, judge for yerself. Second, Oscar could bodily whack Valverde off his bike with a giant medieval battering ram and I'd still pick Freire, so the actual merits are moot. Gee, if *I* install a permanent IV port in *my* !@# and hire top-flight legal and publicity goon squads, will someone pay *me* a gazillion euros a year to be a doping cheating dirtwad?

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing: meantime, over at Columbia-HTC, the boys are getting along just great, as Andre Greipel discreetly suggests that he'd've been a better pick than an off-his-form Mark Cavendish for Milano-Sanremo, and an excruciatingly polite Cav rather begs to differ, opining he's happy to ride on the same squad with such a talentless assclown as Greipel and that there's no way in hell Cav's gonna let that loser ride on his Tour de France squad. C'mon, Andre, take the high road, apologize, kiss, and make up--that is if Cav doesn't chew your face off with those giant teeth of his first!

Tweet o' the Week: yes, this one's a two-fer, as amiable George Hincapie takes on Podium Cafe wisenheimers who tell him he blew Flanders by using completely the wrong wheels for the cobbles, and righter-of-wrongs Robbie "Head-Butt" McEwen comes to his chivalrous defense. Damn, George is like 8 feet tall and Robbie could beat the crap out of even all of Cadel's enormous entourage with both arms tied behind his back--good thing no-one reads *this* drivel!

Too Much Is Never Enough: finally, I see Lance has decided to bow out of the Ardennes classics, but lest any of you Armstrong fans are freaked you won't be getting a play-by-play update on how many times he picks his toes today, never fear: as our bike experts at the AP were quick to post, oh my god he's riding the Circuit de la Sarthe this week! Too bad we'll never find out the name of the rider who actually *wins* the thing, at least from the American press anyway....

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Ronde and Ronde/What Goes A-Ronde, Comes A-Ronde

Swiss Army Knife: all right, I had no interest in counting Cancellara as a (oh, fair enough, the) favorite after he snipped at poor ol' Stijn Devolder, but he whomped our dear Tommeke fair'n'square so even I can't much begrudge that. But boy, you can't say the same for Matti Breschel, who, in the midst of trying to jack team leadership and huge wads of money from some other, post-Bjarne team, has now lit into his mechanics for giving him Stuey O'Grady's ride during a bike change. Shut up, Breschel--you should be *honored* to ride O'Grady's steed whether it fit you or not! Over at the women's Ronde, the weather was nastier and the race was a heck of a lot closer:
Nice score for Belgium by Grace Verbeke at least!

Alessandro, Alessandro, Alessandro: oh, Petacchi. First you have that idiot poz for huffing a liter of salbuterol, albeit after a sprint which is clearly the stupidest !@#$in' thing I've ever heard of. *Then* you bust your hand punching a team bus, Cav Boonen and even that jailbait little Bennati start kicking your !@# in every sprint, you get investigated for tax evasion in Monaco like everyone else in the peloton, the whole thing starts slipping away from your near-geriatric legs, and just when I was about to pull a Tom Boonen Image Rehabilitation Project on you, you get your form back, start not sucking entirely on the hills, *and* start grabbing stages in the Giro like it's 2004. So now your friendship with Bernucci, who apparently had enough drugs in his house to stock Team--um, forget it--for a week, gets you back in hot water? Fortunately, not only does Bernucci swear they belonged to his wife--and I'm sure she had good reason for taking 'em--nothing was found in your pad. Y'know, if it weren't for the fact that I'd then have to despise you for being a coward like Ricco', I'd say run away, Ale-Jet, run away! Man, I *hate* feeling sorry for sprinters--here we go, at least you can always be a supermodel like DiLuca if you have to!

Basque to the Future: finally, in loving memory of Iban Mayo's completely bull!@#$ trashed career (like it's any of your dang beeswax I'm still in denial?), it's the Vuelta a Pais Vasco all week, baby, and it's time for the still-winless Euskaltel (damn, guys, you're starting to look like a French squad, pick it up!) and the fabulous Samuel Sanchez to start instilling fear into the climbers of the peloton. Also bitchin'--both big and baby Schleck'll be there. Sure, it'll be nice to see if Andy's finally recovered, but aupa Samu--and watch out for him in the Tour, Armstrong!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

What the Hell *Is* a Pave', Anyway? And, The Parasite on the Podium

Classics Questions from Dear Newbies: so on the very eve of the Tour of Flanders, as I beat it into occasionally-unwilling initiates that the Final Four of something called "basketball" is lame and cycling is the king of all sporting endeavors, a few questions have arisen from those unfamiliar with aught but the Tour de France:

1) What the !@#$ Is a Pave'?: Pave' is pain, baby. Bone-rattling, tire-pinching, frame-twisting, flesh-rippin' pain. If it's dry, it's cornea-mangling stone-dust assault. If it's wet, it's a slick path to more broken bones than Lance Armstrong's got beeyotches. Basically, it's an irregular squarish or rectangularish rock that masquerades as a road surface but is in actuality a gateway to cold grey granite death. See you in Hades, sucker!

2) What's the Route?: !@#$-all if I can tell, but Flemish sure *reads* scary. Ah, here's a better map!

3) Who Am I Rooting For?: if you're me, anyone who's guaranteed to lose, but these are races for the hard men, baby--some twinkie prima-donna climber or rigid wraith time-trialist is meat before they hit the start line, if they're even stupid enough to sign up in the first place. The Belgians have a super-sweet edge because these sick freaks voluntarily ride this crap terrain all year. Even fresh out of celebrity rehab, it's all about big Tom Boonen, and it would've been all about his twice-winning defending-champ teammate Stijn Devolder if his own damn boss hadn't viciously and counterproductively emasculated him this week to anyone who would listen, which this week means every cycling journalist, fan, and rider on earth. Poor Stijn! Look for Leif Hoste, whose excuse this year is a too-close relationship of late with the men's room, to give his traditional glum post-race analysis-o'-failure. Sentimental losing picks: George Hincapie, who has the Worst Mechanical Luck Ever Every Single Freakin' Race He's In; we love Thor Hushovd, who's takin' the green jersey at the Tour de France again this year so the big-shot Classics can just stuff it; dogged Aussie Stuey O'Grady, whose entire skeleton has been replaced by a series of pins, plates and screws due to crashes and is now a certified indestructible cyborg; Philippe Gilbert, who I keep rooting for to win in every race since he's like one of two French cyclists not to bite the last few years but then I always remember he's actually Belgian. And look, he's riding a nifty pave'-print bike tomorrow!

4) So What *Is* the Forecast for Tomorrow?: Belgian beach weather: rain, wind, and hail, baby! Some of these guys have been known to dive for cover like they're under an artillery barrage, so watch the fun as the fans scatter!

5) What's the Prize?: you ain't *dead*, honey, what more do you want? Oh, and you're revered as a god by the Belgians for all time. Bonus!

The Cobra Strikes: finally, in completely unrelated news, congrats to gutless worm Riccardo Ricco' on his first win back from his doping ban, and, of course, to his ex-companion/baby mama/cyclocross champ Vania Rossi, whose own B-sample actually came back negative(or, in either the desperate or genuinely incriminating words of the narcs, "below the minimum" necessary for a confirming positive test). As expected, the narcs vowed to keep on pursuing Vania anyway in an Iban-Mayo-esque bloodlust inability to accept they'd blown it, in this case on the grounds that CERA degrades mighty quick in urine (so look forward to an excess of needle-sticks this season, peloton!), and Ricco', always a class act, deigned to vaguely have heard of her sometime after he hid crying behind her team kit like a simp during his own dope bust but before she herself turned up on the hit list and Ricco went scattering to the hills like a cockroach. Good luck Vania--between all these schmucks, you're gonna need it!