Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Sky Is Falling (A Lot)! Gorilla Glue! Tom Thumb! Purito! Degen-kold-stone-killer! A Danged Mess for the Roadies

Carnage on the Cobbles! Well, it was a crash-filled finish--and a crash-filled road to get there--at the venerable men's Gent-Wevelgem this morning, as Sky boys were flying into ditches or into concrete all over the road, the race kept stopping dead around mid-group pile-ups, and Cancellara and half the other strongmen who looked to thrash it out for an incredible sprint were caught behind a road-diving Tyler Farrar and his collateral damage Andre Greipel, who remarked thoughtfully of his likely broken collarbone and certain screw outta the rest of the Classics, "It's not normal. Fuck." A man of few yet effective words, that Gorilla! Already riding wounded but nonetheless grabbing an impressive fifth: thumb-smarting big Tom Boonen. Triumphant or at least still standing: a victorious and always-underrated John Degenkolb (and a very lively reaction from his team car), Demare, and a really bummed (for the second time this week alone) Peter Sagan. On the women's side (and only the third edition of the race for them at all): an upright finale, so you gents might want to take some stability tips from the ladies, and a road-rippin' finish for US's Lauren Hall. Woo-hoo Hall and Degenkolb--and Sky, whatever the hell happened to Ian Stannard and the rest of you, I hope you're taped up pieced back together pain-medsed and back in action soon! No video of the women's finish as usual, but at least we got the podium, and where those guys with high heels tiny skirts and lots of lipstick are is beyond me: And here's the men's action:

*Now* Can They Get Some Hot Cocoa?: meantime, over at the Volta a Catalunya, the half-frozen Grand Tour contenders finally made their way in over a nasty 8 circuits, with Purito Rodriguez takin' the whole show despite a desperate final attack by Contador while Alberto and Chris Froome still enjoyed the lion's share of the attention, Alberto got the reassurance of clutchin' his few extra seconds over Froomey, and Froomey still gets to lord his 2013 win over Alberto ahead of July. I'm callin' that just about even! Now, the trippy tribute to last-stage winner Liuwe Westra:

Screw You, UCI!: and, a giant "bite me!" to UCI for bamfoozling poor Pippo Pozzato, still confused by UCI's picky new rules over when you can and can't evade the cobbles for the nice smooth roadside, which might've come in handy, say, today if he and the furry Luca Paolini hadn't gotten jerked to a stop behind a mass pile-up at Gent-Wevelgem. What's next UCI, no more sneakin'in a forbidden late-race bidon or hoping your aero position hides you from the helicopter cameras while you draft for twenty minutes behind someone else's team car? Oh, just rip the very spirit of sportsmanship outta the sport, whyndontcha...

And, Yer I'm-Gonna-Regret-Puttin'-This-Up-On-The-Internet-Someday Pic o' the Race: Fran Ventoso, a tad scraped(but luckily not a bit broken) after Gent. Dang, I hope it's legal for this guy to take an aspirin!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cobbles! Mountains! The Giro d'Italia Sings! and, Xtreme Warming Methods: Yer Cycling Roundup

It's the Pave', Beeyotches!: yep, it's time for the E3 Harelbeke, with 3x winner Fabian Cancellara, 5x champ Tom Boonen, just coming back from an awful personal tragedy, and Peter Sagan, hungry for a win after a disappointing few weeks, all lookin' to put the fear into the rest of the Classics contenders ahead of Flanders. Also in: Dwars der Vlaanderen bad!@# Niki Terpstra, Sep Vanmarcke, John Degenkolb, and come to think of it, pretty much everyone in Belgium whether they're actually pro cyclists or not. The course: cobbles, baby! 17 climbs, including the Taaienberg, Kapelberg, the fateful Oude Kwaremont, and the Boigneberg, which was even cooler when I thought it was called the "Boingenberg." Yes, we love you Fabian--but c'mon, like you all aren't rooting for Tommeke! Here, Fab's last-year's win:

The Tour Shapes Up at the Volta!: and, it was survival-of-the-fittest carnage again today at the freezing queen stage of the Volta a Catalunya, with Teejay van Garderen grabbing the stage after a pounding attack, Purito Rodriguez in the GC lead, and Alberto Contador dragging yet another few precious seconds--though I bet he wishes it were more, for psychological warfare purposes--out of Chris Froome. Also making it in: Nairo Quintana, coolly responding to a question about the performance of the other Colombians by suggesting the press'd have to ask 'em how they did when they actually get here. Ouch, Nairo!

Warming Tips of the Pros: Which talk of cold weather brings us to a distinctly gnarly revelation: forget "gloves," Saxo domestique Chris Jull-Jensen's description of how he had to pee on his own hands to keep warm at Milano-Sanremo. Geez, I know they're called "pack fodder," but for !@#$'s sake, DSes--take that nice hot cup of non-urine *coffee* you're suckin' on in the cozy comfort of the team car, blow on it so it won't scald, and let yer boys pour *that* on their hands instead! And while we're on the disgusting subject, can we please call a moratorium on the Tinkoff pix of Alberto Contador getting a balancing hand from a teammate while he wees on the go? I mean, I admire the teamwork and all, but it's sorta like holding your friend's long hair back out of the way while she's hurling from drinking too much in college--expected good sportsmanship, but not a visual you want to record for posterity!

Song Sung Pink: sure, the race don't actually start 'til May, but the official theme song and hilarious video to the glorious 2014 Giro d'Italia is already out, so honey, come get your Giro on--what, you never heard Italian rap before? Well, enjoy!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Milano-Sanremo Was Great--But Get Yer Euskaltel On Now, "Cuz Samu' Sanchez is Riding Cataluyna!

Jesus, Kristoff, Superstar!: whoa moly, what a bangin' Milano-Sanremo, with a grimacing Gorilla and really strong Cav gamely gritting it out over the climbs, a demoralized Sagan coming in around 10th, Vincenzo Nibali with an inadvertently-solo attack on the Cipressa and a post-race twit to the peloton to grow some tennis balls, a magnificent freakin' ride by Martin "My Name Is So Much Cooler Than Yours" Tjallingi, Cancellara's 10th or 11th straight Monument podium, and holy crap wasn't no-one peggin' Swifty for third so cheers to the not-even-considered-an-underdogs and congrats Kristoff for stompin' your way into glorious history! So dazzling as it was, what's next? That's right, Euskaltel-Euskadi captain Samuel Sanchez--in still extremely upsetting black-and-red, but of course we now love BMC beyond all reason for hiring him and even forgive them for impossibly tanking Gilbert and Hushovd in the same year--takes the reins at the Volta a Catalunya! Oh, right, and a buncha guys who wanna win the Tour. Like, who cares--go Samuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

The Course: stick around, we've got seven stages and climbing hell (or heaven, since I ain't climbin' it) to match! 14 category 3s, 3 cat. 2s, 6 cat. 1s, and if you haven't got your masochism on yet you perv, 2 hors categories to ice the cupcake. Tho' there's sorta a flat finish on Stages 5 and 6, if you aren't already too blinded by your own tears to make it over the climbs to get there. As they say in Spanish, "Ow, !@#$!"

The Contenders: yep, Wiggo bailed on this, too, to "train at altitude"--lookin' great to help you !@# at the Tour there, Froomey. But it's an on-form-and-in-fear-o'-Tinkoff Contador and just-comin'-off-a-bad-back Chris Froome's first pre-Tour showdown, plus Purito Rodriguez, Nairo Quintana, and Rigoberto Duran Duran. There too: last year's winner Dan Martin and Chris "That's The Last Time I Get Dissed for a Press Conference, You !@#$ers" Horner. And much as I *do* love Tejay Van Garderen, can the !@#$in' press stop acting like he and not Samuel Sanchez is BMC's team leader for the race? !@#dammit people!

The First Stage: hilly but not too deadly, with a little cat 1 to stretch the legs out, so it might give us some sense as to form, at least coming in to the race. Forecast: a comfy 60 degrees Fahrenheit (sorry dear non-American readers, I suck at translating into Celsius, they stopped fakin' we were gonna adopt that system in like 3rd grade), and partly cloudy. Sure as hell beats MSR, right? Here, nice guy Dan takes the trophy home: So good luck gentlemen--may the climbs begin!

Friday, March 21, 2014

It's Yer Milano-Sanremo In Preview!

All right, baby, now it's time for the Monuments--so let Milano-Sanremo begin!

The Route: it's flat! no, it's hilly! !@#$, let's just throw in the Alpe d'Huez! Sure, the course has been changing every six minutes, due to landslides, weather concerns, and drunken beer-pong whims, but *something's* sure happening this weekend, and at the moment, it looks like this: Damn, can you guys at least straighten this out before the sprint teams set up their lead-outs towards the finish? Which brings us to...

The Contenders: yes, with the GT contenders largely opting out after the recent route changes (Vincenzo Nibali, intriguingly, excluded), Peter Sagan's the overwhelming fave, particularly if he decides to just bunny-hop the last kilometer to get to that ginormous pile o' dough aspirational 2015 boss Fernando Alonso's already got dangling for him at the finish line. But despite the withdrawals of folks like Phinney and Boonen, there's also a hot'n'formidable mix of pure sprinters, Classics stalwarts, and combo-fastmen, including Mark Cavendish, know-it-all-journo's dark-horse darling John Degenkolb, 2012 rainbow jersey Philippe Gilbert, Andre Greipel, and surprise defending champ Ciolek, which can still be thrown into total chaos depending on...

The Weather: forecast: crap! Rain? Check. Wind? Oh yeah. General misery? On tap! The good news: it oughta be slightly less cold than last year's sub-arctic hypothermiafest, in which, you'll recall, Taylor Phinney's frozen jersey had to be blow-torched off his body apres-race on the team bus. This was fun, right? So count yer blessings in advance the whole lot of you, and quit yer whinin'! So what's...

The Upshot: The Cipressa. The Poggio. Not, to the dismay of climbier sorts and the joy of La Classicissima purists, the Pompeiana. The last k: a downhill throw before the final argy-bargy to the line. And forget who *will* win--for my money, and I'm not not a swooning fan-crush here, though I am highly respectful--Fabian Cancellara *should* win, because, merit aside (and merit is already huge, let's face it), as you can see here, the man is a complete class act from start to finish when it comes to appraising his rivals. Forza Fabs--but either way, I expect a thrilla!

And just in case you forgot, last year's finale: It's time for one of the best races of the entire year--bring it *on*!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's Yer Tirreno-Adriatico In Review!

Yes, it's over, for this year. And there's a loooong season to come. But aside from being beautiful in its own right, it's still a hell of a bellwether, and there's valuable lessons to be learned ahead of the Classics and Grand Tours, so let's review!

1. Not to impugn Alberto Contador's hard off-season training or his impeccable purity in any way whatsoever, but comparing last season to this, if I were the narcs, I'd be pokin' that kid fuller of holes than a Sky mesh skinsuit. Jeez, Bjarne, at least stop the ostentatious braggin' for Chrissakes!

2. Speaking of whom, watching Alberto blaze up that 30% incline and bust open the race has got to be making Andy Schleck *nuts*.

3. If pure climber Nairo Quintana can keep time trialing as well as he did today, some other folks better start training a hell of a lot harder for the Giro.

4. Nice to see Cav win, eh? 'Course, we all know what he'd've done to Renshaw and Petacchi if he hadn't!

5. Adam Hansen and Ben King. *Damn!*

6. Roman Kreuziger is clearly capable of winning a Grand Tour. So what's Oleg gonna do about it?

7. Michal Kwiatkowski. *Damn*!

8. The whole fur-meister beard thing. Am I the only one worried for these boys that in that a sport where multi-day stage races can be won or lost in seconds, those things seem just a *wee* bit too un-aerodynamic?

Anyway, congrats Alberto, watch out Kittel 'cause Cavendish ain't dead yet, and Froomey, you might quite rightly be the overwhelming fave for July, but just in case, get your !@# in *gear*!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Contador Hits His Target! Breaking Schleck News! and, Women's Cycling Dissed *Again*

Shootin' At the Walls of Heartache, Bang! Bang!: well, *that's* both a relief and a throwdown: on the first major test of his legs since Oleg Tinkov threatened to break 'em last week, Alberto Contador has proven after a wholly bleak year that his elusive form is finally reemerging with a fine, if not perhaps as blazing as of old, win at Tirreno-Adriatico yesterday, and a brilliant--and frankly, classically Contadorian--attack for the ages on the slopes today that left even peerless Nairo Quintana in the dust and poor valiant maglia azzurra Michael Kwiatkowski wincing in several minutes behind. And holy crap, what's with Adam Hansen managing to even hang on to Contador's wheel for more'n ten seconds, and Ben King's brave go in the last 1.5k just as the ramps were hitting 30% and everyone else left was weaving all over the road like St. Pat's was at the critical drunken-hurling point a day early? So good job with whatever you're doing to, well, motivate Alberto, Oleg, and take *that* !@#$, Froomey--and no, your lame show-offy trainin' while painin' this week don't count! Here, yesterday's last k:

Holy Schleck!: and, as Paris-Nice increasingly becomes simply a race of body-count who-survives-upright attrition, Andy Schleck has truly thrown it down at Paris-Nice this week, threatening to--oh wait, he *still* blows. Oh Andy, getting back to your brother-n-mentor comfort-zone was supposed to change your riding for the *better* this year--it's just *too* easy at this point, I'm starting to feel sorry for you again, why don't you go home and have a nice hot toddy and a nap?!

If You're *Really* Good, You Get A Feather-Duster, Too: and, congrats to Lizzie Armitstead for winning a chilly Ronde van Drenthe this weekend, whose prizes, according to this photo, appear to include (and not to diss such fine appliances) a toaster and a vacuum cleaner. Jaysus, 1000-odd euros for a race featuring some of the world's best riders is harsh enough--but rub it in whydontcha, do you really think Tom Boonen has to go home and kick-start the ol' Hoover after a win? Here, the final few k--Lizzie, enjoy your troph--uh, apron!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Races! Prizes! Crazy-$%^ Team Leaders! It's Yer Tirreno-Adriatico in Preview! Plus, Pippo Shows the Love

Yes, it's time for the glorious Race of the Two Seas--and Contador, with Froomey out with a back injury, and defending champ Vincenzo Nibali sittin' it out, this one's on *you*!

In: Giro/Tour GC contenders Quintana, Cadel, Contador, Uran, Purito Rodriguez, Richie "Boy, Did I Just Piss Off Paris-Nice" Porte. Not In: Alejandro Valverde, who's already creepin' the hell outta everybody with a record-breaking 86 victories so far this nascent season. Thank god!

In: Fabian Cancellara vs. world speed champ Tony Martin and Brad "I Never Wanted the Tour in the First Place" Wiggins for the time trial. Unless, say, some freak comes outta nowhere to take it--Stefan Schumacher, is that you?

In: Cav's teeth and Kittel's hair face off for the sprinters. Oh, and Andre "the Gorilla" Greipel. Me, I'm bankin' on--damn, do I wanna be chomped to death, or choked from mousse fumes?

The Prize: If you're Alberto Contador, Oleg Tinkov doesn't beat you to death with his seat post. If you're anyone else, you get this *really* cool trident thing, which is even better than the Paris-Roubaix cobblestone, the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne donkey, or the Tour de France xenon-gas inhaler-canister. Just don't tick off the guy who wins it!

Unrelated Pippo Pozzato Lovefest: finally, yes, it's completely irrelevant to this discussion, but huge points to rakish peloton stud-pup Pippo Pozzato, not only for impossibly making the already fabulous Lampre-Merida team kit even more dazzling, but especially for twitting a late-nite pic and heartfelt "grazie!" to those unsung heroes of cycling, the mechanics, who, even more more impossibly, keep the riders' bikes lookin' even prettier than Pippo is. Forza, ragazzi--hey, *you* want a job where Andy Schleck can still be bitchin' about a chain that dropped like half a decade later, punk?

Friday, March 07, 2014

Get the Hell Outta There, Alberto! Wiggo Plays Nice! Lance Plays Dirty! and, It's the Strade Bianche, Baby!

Ole' Ole', Ole' Oleg!: Okay, Alberto, you greedy little prima donna, you've got wingnut team boss Oleg Tinkov's cool approval for now: he ain't makin' any calls about your performance in the Tour de France, he *is* optimistic for yer chances at Tirreno-Adriatico. Take what you can get at this point, honey! Unfortunately, despite the outraged denials of a certain rider's agent, and Luca Paolini's descriptive emoji twit-dismissal of recent rumor-mongering, Tinkov seems a lot hotter on 4 million euro prospect Peter Sagan, which means if he *is* gonna pony up to break all kindsa contractual hoo-ha, you can effectively call your team supremacy--hell, relevance--at Tinkoff goodbye. If you can't pound Froomey at the Tour Alberto, you better get out while the getting's good--and perhaps be ready to get out after Tirreno!

Wiggo Plays Nice: well, nice-ish, anyway, as admits to some post-Tour discombobulation and vows to "help" Chris Froome all he can this year. Uh, I don't know if you remember, Froomey, but if Brad is going by *your* definition of "help" during *his* winning year, I think you're pretty well !@#$ed. Unless attacking your own team leader, openly deriding him in the press, and generally acting like a total impatient backstabbing wanker are "helpful"--well, don't say you weren't warned!

Ugh, Lance, *Again*: yep, even besides the usual charges of disgusting cheating 'n' extreme toolishness which have surrounded our hero of late, there's even more scandal a-risin' with the latest wave of Lance Armstrong books, with good-guy Wheelmen author/intrepid journalist Reed Albergotti reportedly saying that Lance or his minions contacted his bosses at the Wall Street Journal to try to get his !@# fired, apparently over some bothersome "truth" that got in the way of Lance's image and, even worse, his own dazzling self-worship. !@#$, Armstrong, where's your class--you coulda just gone to the WSJ offices and personally cornered 'im outside the toilet like you did with ol' Tyler Hamilton!

It's the Strade Bianche, Woo-hoo!: and finally, there's lots of actual racing going on this weekend, with the beautiful Strade Bianche and the beginning of unsung super-domestique-but-leader-in-his-own-right Richie Porte's defense of Paris Nice. What to see on the white roads in Italy: not freakin' much, thanks to the damn (yet hallowed) dust, but it'll be a bangin' race, with we love BMC's (omigod! BMC???) Samuel Sanchez, Cadel, Sagan, Wiggo, Cav, Valverde, Cancellara, and defending champ Moreno Moser all on hand. Me, I'm actually just stoked to Samu' back in action again, especially since I'm traumatized enough as it is by wishful thinking every time I see Wiggle-Honda's Euskaltelian orange-and-black team kit. Good luck gents--and Peter, you can start proving yourself and your salary demands to Tinkov now!

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Frozen Eyeballs! Chain-Ring Chest-Rippage! Yep, It's Classics Season All Right

Omloop-de-loop: first, a big bucket o' well-earned beer to Brit Ian Stannard (tho' it rather broke my heart that Greg Van Avermaet didn't win) for his (and Britain's!) first Omloop Het Volk, and congratulations to the rest of the survivors, including Thor Hushovd, who first suckered some of us (ahem) with sordid rumors of a broken arm (though I was thinkin' collarbone when I first saw him) then fortunately turned to have been not dented quite enough to threaten the rest of his Classics, Tom Boonen, who doffed his rain-gear just in time to get uncharacteristically bamfoozled by downpour 'n' cold, and some poor bastid who apparently suffered a "frozen eyeball." Ow, !@#$! For the women: Giant's Amy Pieters, beating out Lizzie Armistead and previous repeat winner Emma Johannson, and a whole lot less blood 'n' gore from the lot of 'em. Well, count your blessings most of you--you don't have to fear the race for a whole 'nother year!

To Every Thing, Kuurne, Kuurne, Kuurne: and, a narrow and thrilling triumph of experience over exuberant youth over at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, with a redemptive if fruitless ride for yesterday's-crash-out Luca Paolini, and a gnarly if ultimately not crushing chomp to the chest with a chain-ring and some hospital-room stitches for a still-perfectly-coiffed Taylor Phinney, as big Tom Boonen bagged a record third Kuurne with a perfectly-timed bike throw and a Miley Cyrus tongue-thrust over Belkin whippersnapper Moreno Hofland, who Tommeke sure better assume is gonna plan for that same trick next year, even if Boonen *is* still gonna kick his !@# again anyway. Plus, you get booze and a donkey for winning it! Woo-hoo Tom--and no offense to his great Classics rival Fabian Cancellara, but eat it, buddy, this is only the beginning this season!

Breakin' the Law/Breakin' the Law: finally, speaking of cobbles, apparently UCI is intent on enforcing Rule No. Screw You You Weaselly Wussies, which bars riders from--as they often do--hopping off the cobbles or any other frightening surface to a softer, steadier, 'n' generally less bone-snappin' adjacent path. Well, there goes half the field at Flanders--boys, buttress your collarbones, you ain't getting off that easy this year!