Yes, the Vuelta has passed, the dirty cynical speculation has begun, Valverde continues to creep everyone out, and runner-up Vincenzo Nibali is already a loooooooooooong way from anywhere Alexandre Vinokourov can find 'em. Hey, at least he won't Oleg Tinkov your !@# on Twitter! So as everyone rests up for the Worlds, and the fans all catch our breath (and catch up on sleep), who's the very best of the best? Well, it's the 2013 Vuelta a Espana Racejunkie Awards, so let's find out!
Magical Mystery (Grand) Tour Award: don't lie to me, you Nervous Nellies--even if you love 'im & congratulate 'im, you're a-wonderin' if Chris Horner, age Moses, doped not only to take a very impressive two stages, but to win the whole show. That disconcertingly uniform tick-tick-tick of the pedals? The Lanceian ability to not even crack once, for one second, and have to rest 'n' get his legs back, like everyone else? That superior-form-through-zero-pre-Vuelta-race-miles-and-Big-Mac-diet? Oh, ye of little faith--or too much! All I can say is, Lance never tested positive (tho' he actually did) either. Horner--congratulations, or go to hell!
What's Cooler Than Being Cool? Ice Cold! Statuette: okay, the Classics, it's mandatory. The Giro, it's expected. The Tour, it's a single day of unreasonable smugness to every warm-weather lover in the race. But the Vuelta? These guys were shiverin' like Chinese Crested Hairless show-dogs sled-dogging their nekkid butts to the North Pole! The stage 14 carnage: 14 dropouts, a whole peloton o' bone-chilled misery, and potential podium-finisher Ivan Basso, who proclaimed it the saddest day of his career. !@#dammit, you're supposed to *melt* these guys in August like wax on hot-plate, not freeze them solid like Solo in Carbonite!
Vuelta a France Prize: yes, for once the French aren't winning something like "Most Consecutive GC Losses In Their Own Grand Tour" or "Team Whose Spot Really Shoulda Gone to That Pro Conti Outfit"--from Alexandre Geniez to Warren Barguil,these guys we never talk about (yet) grabbed a pile o' stages and a whole bucketload o' still-in-diapers-neo-pro glory, including the legendary Angliru. Could we be seeing another French all-round champion the next few years? If so, AG2R--spiff up those bugly team kits already!
Unrelated Anticlimax Award: so, Lance popped his 2000 Olympic Bronze medal in an envelope and mailed it back to the IOC. The outrage! The shock! The scandal! The...yawn...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...snort...
Heartbreak o' the Vuelta: y'know, Tony Martin is a pretty fine rider, but powering alone through a 175 k time trial is an astonishing freakin' feat even for him, which is why it was so particularly agonizing to watch 'im get swept up within mere meters of the line on a masterful, brutal stage 6. Here, you watch it--I can't bear to do it again!
Relief o' the Race: Philippe Gilbert, this one's for you--you broke your rainbow curse on stage 12, ya got the hell out before you did something stupid, and ya saved the rest o' the gas tank for the World Championships. Chapeau, wise boy!
So Close, But Yet So Far-rar Prize: oh, Tyler. You had a really, really crap coupla years, you really need a contract, you really, almost got a paycheck-ensuring win a few times there, most agonizingly, alas, on the final stage. Perhaps the flatter sprints of the Tour are more your style? Aw, nabit--fate, course, and legs, *somewhere* smile on this poor boy and let him earn his win!
Not Too Shabby Award: okay, so Purito was off the podium for his first Grand Tour since 2011. But he *did* just kick !@# at a body-gutting Tour de France in July, and he *still* managed to drop all the other GC contenders, and damn near grab himself a podium slot to boot, on a brilliant stage 19. Woo-hoo Purito--2014 is your GC-winnin' year, I know it!
Sissy-Boy Slap-Fight o' the Race: oh wait--this wasn't the 2013 Vuelta, it was the 2012 Tour! Sir Brad Wiggins threatening to quit the race and not be the first ever British winner of the Tour because Chris Froome embarrassed him on a climb. Wah, wah--feel free to give the trophy, the dough, and the knighthood back, you whiner!
Isn't Halloween In October? Award: yep, there's sure some scary stuff out there--namely, the gory goblin' feeling of Alejandro Valverde still winnin'. I'm sure it's just an innocent cold breeze that's making those shivers go up 'n' down my spine!
Cool Cucumber of 2013: he gets the leader's jersey, he'll sensibly give it back. You take the stage, that's one less publicity onslaught he has to comply with. Claw within 3 seconds of 'im, he's glad to have the company. And win the race on the penultimate day, he's pleased as punch to pack his bags and get some rest. Rode like a lion, handled it like a lamb--complimenti Vincenzo, you grande!
Grouplove Award: last but absolutely not least, no, they didn't win a stage, only because they were kind enough to let all those newbies take 'em (shut up! did too!). But in their final Grand Tour ever (aiiiiiiggghhhhhhhhhhh! aaaaiiiiiighhhhhhhhhhh!) our brave Euskaltel-Euskadi was not only in damn near every break, landed Samuel Sanchez in the top ten overall, and was the only squad to finish with all its riders, but with consistency, dedication, pride, and grace, it won the overall team classification as its last farewell. Thank you, thank you, dear Carrots--Alonso, you better not !@#$ this dear team up!
Well, dear reader(s), them's mine, and to all our bnngin' awardees, may you enjoy your wins and pass your doping controls. On to the Worlds!