Thursday, February 27, 2014

Omloop! Kuurne! The Belgian Races Begin! 'N' What to Look For

Yeah, break out the beer 'n' frites, babes, 'cause now that the peloton's broken in its legs a bit, it's time for the start of the bad-!@# Belgian cobbled Classics season, where the hard men face off, the GC contenders cower like whimpering wussbags, and the rest o' the pack just tries to escape the race intact. Woo-hoo! So what's up this weekend? This:

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Men's: Luca Paolini's defending it, Thor Hushovd needs it, Tom Boonen wants it, and the Muur-Kapelmuur's gonna make 'em all pay for it. The course 'n' other news flashes:here. And this, a truly bangin' recap of 2013:
Women's: a 127k o' bone-rattling sufferfest. 2013 was Tiffany Cromwell, but 2012 champ Loes Gunnewijk is there too--on the same team with repeat winner Emma Johannson!--and word is Wiggle-Honda is out for blood and podium. Just get the hell outta their way and you'll all be juuuuuuuust fine! Last year's:

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: the twitchy legs! the likelihood of carnage! the bitchin' name! oh right, and did we mention last year was cancelled due to freakin' snow? Yep, from Edvald Boassen-Haagen-Dazs to Nick Nuyens Zdenek Stybar Sep Vanmarcke and, damn, pretty much anyone on Lotto-Belisol, it's a lively--and hopefully not frostbitten--race this go-round, with a likely fast bunch finish and a whole lotta recriminations from those caught out afterwards. The weather forecast: better'n last year! Still, stay upright, hope for no mechanicals, and for heck's sake, directeur sportifs, if it turns nippy out there, put some nice hot cocoa in these boys' water bottles so they don't just freeze to death!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sink(ewitz) or Swim: Ban Avoidance 'n' Minimization Tips for Pros

Hey, You Sink My Battleship (Well, Career): yes, former T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz, who'd landed a pretty sweet comeback gig with Meridiana-Kamen and just rode to a strong second in the Trofeo Laigueglia to boot, has been slammed with a career-killing 8-year ban by CAS for being a serial cheating dirt-weasel. Why, when so many other admitted repeat offenders have gotten off much less painfully? *Rules*, Patrik--you ignored the *rules.* And while it's beyond me why I should wanna help *any* of you miscreant doping scumbags, I'm still gonna give you yer Ban Avoidance And Minimization Tips for Pro Cyclists:

1. Network. Don't dope (or get caught, anyway) unless you're doing it for such a colossal sport-screwing !@#hole that every narc on earth'd give you a pass so long as you help hand 'em the big guy you've sworn eternal subservience to for years. There's a reason why brown-nosers get ahead!

2. The Devil's in the Details. Which is what you give 'em, pal--no "I never saw anyone else do it," or "I acted on my own" bull!@#$--they want details, and they *don't* want 'em about some half-!@#ssed first-year soigneur drug-courier. Caveat: if it's someone who's been publicly supported by the current sporting or anti-doping head, give 'em someone else!

3. Go to Charm School. Cultivate (a) an adorably eccentric habit or (b) excessive humility. Collect action figures? Amuse your fans with yer ever-changing facial hair? Ride pretty well but don't make a big yap out of it to journalists? If your answer is "no", no legion of devoted fans, self-named gran fondo, hugely lucrative clothing line, or highly respected development squad for you!

4. Pick Your Battles: you want to take Mont Ventoux over a pack of genius-climber cat-fighting GC contenders? Fine, anyone can have a good day. But don't take the next two mountain stages too, you nimrod!

5. Cool Yer Jets: And while you're taking Ventoux, don't, for heck's sake, take it by ten minutes when you've spent the vast majority of your career as water-bottle-carrying pack fodder. Slow, steady, and a few hundred gasping grimacing meters' advantage wins the race--*and* deflects the critics!

6. Choose Yer Specialty: remember when Stefan Schumacher suddenly started kicking Fabian Cancellara's !@# in Tour de France time trials? Yeah, the anti-doping authorities noticed it too. For !@#$'s sake, pick something you're already plausibly that good at!

7. Get Smart. People can forgive a doper; what they *can't* forgive is an eejit. Do you really think the narcs--and the all-important public--would've been half so hard on Danilo "Low-T" DiLuca or Riccardo "Refrigerator" Ricco' if they hadn't been such egregious ostentatious morons?

Alright, you ungrateful skanks, hear me now and believe me later--or we'll all just see you in court!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

In Which Contador Lowers the Bar, Valverde Continues to Creep Us Out, and VeloNews Cheers Up All the Guys Who Can't Dope Anymore

Well, I Might Annoy You, Anyway: yep, he's come a long way from those pre-ban days when with a bat of those pretty eyelashes he could conquer a Grand Tour when he'd barely even clipped into his pedals and smoke the time trials he now all but concedes are unwinnable, but Alberto Contador hasn't quite given up yet, sort of: even though Froomey's pretty well unbeatable for the Tour de France, our boy vows he's at least gonna bug the hell outta him while he's getting there. Now *that's* the ol' fighting spirit, Alberto! Aw, come on, tell me this is one of your long-ago canny stealth moves where you sigh your legs are feeling "okay" then you leave the whole field crying in the valley while you're already up Mount Ventoux....

The Green Bullet Returns!: and, in a disconcerting nod to our final news bite below, former naughty-boy Alejandro Valverde is already skeeving us out this season, grabbing two stages, including the opening time trial, in the Ruta del Sol and threatening, as always, to post even more disturbingly successful results in the bigger, later races of 2014. I'm sure it's just that bangin' new diet you've been on, Alejandro! Or your change in training methods. Or that aero new Movistar kit. Or--well, I better stop while I'm ahead, I guess!

Like Still Being High Years After You Embarrassed Yourself Gacking On That Joint in High School, But More Lucrative: Dead sorry you stopped doping in 2006, like everyone else totally coincidentally did? Still pissed you're now forced to compete clean against the chumps you were beating the chamois off before? Well rest easy, (ex) scumbag, because Velonews has learned that the benefits of doping last looooong after that handy masking agent has left you with the apparent testosterone levels of a My Little Pony doll! Oh, come *back* dear darling Vino, come *back*--according to this, it's not like your performance will have dropped since you left the peloton anyway!

Monday, February 17, 2014

It's Cycling's Greatest Romances (Pretty Darn Recent Edition)!

Oh, sure, Valentine's Day is long over, but you know what isn't? That's right, haters--the deep and abiding love within members of the peloton, ties drawn tight by long, lonely hours of training, the brother-or-sisterhood of shared exhaustion after a day's hard pursuit of a common goal, the exhausting, clandestine midnight road-trips to a magical, faraway clin--y'know, love of pure sport, I say! Anyway, for the secret chick-flick watcher that dwells deep within each one of you--and you know, however shamefully, o studly bike jockey, it's in there--I bring you some of Cycling's Greatest Loves:

1. Alberto Contador and Johan Bruyneel: He was the puppy-eyed Next Lance, a peerless climber with an impressive time-trial and the apparently seamless ability to turn them both into Grand Tour gold. The other he was the heartbroken hit-maker searching for his next little gleaming comet. And oh, was it beautiful for the like three months it lasted!

2. Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong: What happens when the star-struck Next Lance meets the fading resentful Current Lance? In the immortal words of Bette Davis, "fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!" Yep, that was one delightfully ugly Tour de France all right...

3. Alberto Contador and Oleg Tinkov: Dang, this kid gets around! So y'know when you've saved up for a really nice romantic dinner with your sweetie and one member of the couple two tables over is having an epic screaming public meltdown while the other one just sort of tries to calm things down by melting cringing into the tablecloth? Yeah, that. But they're getting along famously now--'til that damn Oleg started throwing new crush Sagan in Alberto's face the last couple of weeks, anyway!

4. Mark Cavendish and Roberto Ferrari: oh, sure, he's dallied with Andre and and Bernie and Marcel and Peter--but nothing's quite set off the sparks like the instant attraction between Mark Cavendish and Roberto Ferrari at the 2012 Giro. Yeah, Ferrari's bike was attracted right across the entire road into poor Cav's, that is! "

5. Rui Costa and Carlos Barredo: yes, tots, it's been relentlessly drilled into you since nursery school--be nice, and share. And what's nicer than sharing an expensive pro-level wheelset with a needy competitor's brain case? Carlos Barredo (whanger) and reigning World Champion Rui Costa (whangee), this one's for you!

6. And, Last But Not Least, Chris Froome and Brad Wiggins: Tracy and Hepburn, Bogie and Bacall, Kardashian and West--history is replete with examples of enduring love between formidable (or embarrassingly dimwitted) equals. Which is what protected Tour de France rider/eventual winner Brad Wiggins thought, anyway, 'til wingman Chris Froome attacked his own darling leader during the race whined about his own obvious superiority to the press and openly declared he'd'a won if he hadn't had to shepherd Brad around like a smart dog with a dumb sheep. Classy!

Well, there's certainly buckets more, but them's mine for now, and the rest of you, keep the lovers' quarrels under wraps next time--on the other hand, maybe don't!

Sunday, February 09, 2014

My Fantasy Mark Cavendish Press Conference

Good morning, arseholes. I've called you here today because you won't quit bitching that that arrogant pile of hair and styling mousse Marcel Kittel is the new sprint king of the peloton and I'm some sorry left-over has-been. First, I'd like to say, !@#$ off! Now, I'll take questions from the audience.

Q. Mark, your teammate Tony Martin hasn't been seen in public since he choked your lead-out at the Tour of Dubai last week. Where is he?

A. (Digs out piece of black spandex from teeth, spits it out onto table): Haven't got the faintest idea, mate.

Q. You are one of the winningest sprinters in all of cycling history. How do you handle the pressure of that impressive legacy at such a young age?

A. Are you saying I don't?

Q. No, it was a compliment. I mean--

A. 'Cause you can go to bloody hell if you think you have half the balls to get on a bike and try to ride against me yourself you !@#$%ing !@#$%. In fact, why don't we--

Q. Uh, let's talk about your experience at Team Sky. Despite the differences you had with management, did it help you grow as a rider?

A. It helped me grow when I called Brad Wiggins a !@#$ing !@#$% and told Brailsford to !@#$ himself if he couldn't appreciate everything I did for him.

Q. How's your experience been so far at OPQS?

A. Great. I've got my right-hand lead-out man back, I've got the full support of the squad, this is gonna be a fantastic year. In fact, I owe it all to them. When I win.

Q. You've actually been really gracious and almost charming in the wake of last week's unfortunate outcomes, even tweeting self-deprecatingly to Marcel Kittel and being up for playing some video games. Is this a sign of the professional regard you have for him?

A. Of course. He's a great rider, a great bloke, I was hoping to spend some friendly time with him. Especially if I could grab his video game controller and wham it into his--(handler leans over, whispers in ear)

Q. Mark, if you have a weakness--

A. (Leaps up) Are you saying I do?

Q. Um, one of your lesser enormous strengths, as with many other phenomenal sprinters such as yourself, is your climbing ability. Do you see that as a particular problem in the race for the green jersey against Peter Sagan at the Tour de France this season?

A. That snotty little show-off piece of !@#$ couldn't sprint his way out of a paper bag, so what if he can climb, I'll show him a !@#$ing green jersey winner that puffed up overpaid--

Q. You've been known to go off in a rage and blame everybody but yourself when you lose a sprint. How do you respond to that criticism?

A: (Lunging across table, restrained by team reps): I'll mother!@#$ing kill you you ignorant piece of !@#$! If I mother!@#$ing lose a sprint it's because I got boxed in by some incompetent !@#$ing moron or my stupid !@#ing train leaped too soon or some mother!@#$ing idiot changed his line with no warning and cut me off like a !@#damn psycho! I'll roll right over you you !@#$ing bastard! I'll chew your piece of !@#$ car to !@@##$ing pieces, I'll ram this microphone down your !@#$ing throat! I'll--(dragged off by security still screaming)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

What Can You Get For One Peter Sagan? Let's See!

So after ex-road god/former squadra azzurra commissario tecnico/new Alonso bigshot Paolo Bettini scoffed at the idea of 2015's hot new squad shelling out 3.2 million euro a year (that's about 4.3 mil to us Americans) on the grounds you could buy like three other top-flight riders for the price, I couldn't help but wonder, what *else* can you get in exchange for the kid? Well:

1 Lamborghini Veneno (!@#$, was this what Tom Boonen was wrapping around a frickin' tree? good thing Peter's still got 300k left over to fix it)

16 Ferrari 458 Spiders

353 Chevy Sparks

2.15 Alejandro Valverdes

323 Cannondale SuperSix Evo Black Incs

25,294 GMC Denali 700cc Men's Road Bikes (at Wal-Mart)

107.5 years of doping supplies and treatment (2006 prices)

157 Sets of All the Stuff in the Song "Twelve Days of Christmas"

270,440 Team Cannondale Elite Corsa Water Bottles

(This one's for you, Chris Horner!) 930,736 Big Macs;

And, for you Sagan swooners out there (oh, and you *know* you want one): 179,541 Peter Sagan "Tourminator" T-Shirts

Well folks, you tell me if he's worth it--and either way, Peter, with all that dough you got, get shoppin'!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Woo-Hoo BMC--Samu's Got a Sweet New Ride! And, It's 1/21th of a Tour de France for the Women!

Like I Didn't Love You Enough for Signing Thor Hushovd: now you've got my eternal loyalty, as BMC steps up (per, no doubt, my January 22 obsequious beg-fest and of course the rest of the internet's lobbying), takes advantage of the spot left by the fired Alessandro Ballan, and--despite the fact that it's expressly a support role, which, thank you very much, I expect him to fully settle out on the road--signed we love desperately jobless and incredibly talented 2008 Olympic champ we still horridly miss Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez. Well anyway, them gold accents looks awful nice with red and black, Samu'--and get ready for August after you superdomestique in May or July, because Lampre can keep cheeseburgering Horner all they want, but I still see a Grand Tour captaincy in your future come August!

They Are the Champs-ions, My Friends: and, allez allez to the women's peloton, who finally get 1/21th of the Tour de France they deserve with a earlier-day sprint to the boys' celebratory victory lap on the Champs-Elysees, which Giorgia Bronzini will win and which should be, say, next year dammit, filled out with the rest of the damn race. Still, it's a start--and Marianne Vos, since you're already hanging up your 'cross bike for the season after demolishing the field yesterday, I say you just sneak on one of the early-DNFing gentlemen's team kits slip in to some unsuspecting team and ride the whole damn men's Tour anyway!