Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oh, I Can't Wait One More Minute: It's Your 2014 Giro d'Italia in Preview, Part Uno!

All right, screw Romandie--it's a mere 8 days 'til the fabulous Giro d'Italia, so get yer pink on!

The Course: one word--mountains, beeyotches! You ever seen Monte Zoncolan? You need a !@#damn Batman setup to climb the thing! Three days in smashing Ireland before a rest day to get back home. And oh, yeah, an opening team time trial to put someone in rosa and scare the hell outta probably at least one squad's GC contender, 2 individual time trials to unnerve 'em even more, 8 stages for Marcel Kittel--uh, sprinters. The rest are mountains, 5 medium agony, 5 major agony replete with summit finishes, including the Queen with Zoncolan. Cadel Purito Uran Uran and Nairo sure are tough, but these just might be even tougher!

The Jerseys: Here: Rosa: the leader's jersey, natch. Don't bag this too soon Purito! Blue/Azzurra: king of the mountains, honey--c'mon, Cadel, Samu's already won it at the Tour, surely you can let 'im off the leash to at least get a day in this at the Giro as a reward for all his work for you, right? Red/Rossa: Points Classification! Special new rule for 2014: bonus points will be awarded for the first rider to whack the fan running screaming next to him in an idiotic hat and a neon Speedo upside the head with a full bidon. Break my line I'll break yer face, you TV-whoring road-hog! Bianca/White: young riders. If they're young now, they'll sure have aged a few years by the time they hit Milano. Get yer future maglia rosa contenders here!

The Tifosi: expect heavy turnout from the ever-loyal Fans Club Cunego, a pile o' Aussies rooting for Cadel for the win, and pretty much everyone having way better wine 'n' food than we have at home. And as always, I expect the Devil--the fan, not that dopey little !@#$ Riccardo Ricco!

Next up--Part Due: the Contenders!

Monday, April 28, 2014

It's Yer 2014 Classics Awards!; And, Yer Bonus 2014 Classics Mystery

1. Best Classics Rider of the Season: Watch out Sagan, there's a new kid in town, and with this boy towards the front of damn near everything this spring, he's already blitzed these races more'n you: baby phenom Michal Kwiatkowski. You better quit poppin' wheelies and start poppin', well, many dedicated training hours, kid!

2. Being Clean Is the Best Revenge Award: Okay, Alejandro Valverde's got punch, he can climb, he's one smart tactical s.o.b., hell, he can even sprint if he has to. But c'mon, man--7 years *after* the bloodbagathon of Operacion Puerto and the guy's *now* on the form of his life? F!@#$in' good espresso, is all I can say. And I hope, against all odds, that's all ever I have to!

3. No Guts No Glory Prize: his breakaway mates fell off like wilting leaves, but at Liege, only Giampaolo Caruso clung on, to the very last second no less. Not a win, but clearly a victory--bravo Giampaolo!

4. Shut Up! Could've Too So Either! Prize: oh Thor Hushovd. Now that BMC's actually got Philippe Gilbert outta his funk and back to some results, maybe they could do the same for you too? Ok, they're not gonna give a crap about you 'til at least after the Giro, but there's still time left in the season then!

5. Crash o' the Season: no, it didn't break the most bones or derail the whole campaign or even, well, happen 'til the last moments of the last spring Classic of the year. But was I the only one who leapt outta my chair screaming at the video stream when it happened? Yep, Dan Martin's agonizingly pointless slide-out just a few hundred meters from victory at Liege. Suck, suck, suck!

6. Holy Crap It's Not Just Hyperbole Award: y'know, I think Vincenzo Nibali is actually right calling bull!@#$ on the teams' safe'n'sound race tactics. Except for the last kilometer of every race, has there ever been a more cautious, measured, even dull Classics season than this one?

7. Domestique o' the Classics: yes, Tom Boonen nut-whackingly earned it for a time propelling--however inadvertently--Niki Terpstra to his Paris-Roubaix win. But we love Samuel Sanchez, with your leg-rippin' work for Gilbert, this puppy's for you. So c'mon, BMC, you gonna let Samu ride for himself--and get someone else serious to ride for him--at the Vuelta at least?

8. I (Don't) Got You, Babe Prize: jeez, it's been depressing watch Andy Schleck fall down the pit o' sub-mediocrity and despair--I don't think the poor sod's even finished a race all season, much less ones he used to dominate or at least enliven. Remember when Frank used to ride for Andy? Yeah, hindsight is 20/20--what a freakin' disaster for poor Frank!

9. Magic Marker Award: Fabian Cancellara, you nailed it in Tour of Flanders, but whoa moly, you couldn't catch a break 'notherwise this whole season. You're just too damn marked by everyone--but don't worry, they'll be preoccupied with Tommeke again next year!

10. Save a Prayer for (the Giro) Now Prize: aw, I guess even Purito Rodriguez needs to be able to breathe to win a race. But he's tranquillo for the Giro d'Italia--and with 10 days to go and an estimated 4-5 days needed to heal, Cadel Evans, don't get too comfy!

And Finally, Yer Bonus 2014 Classics Mystery: if Sky is scarfin' all this Tramadol, and if it really does enhance performance, why has Sky sucked all year?

All right, it's been bitchin'--now on to the fabulous Giro d'Italia! C'mon, it's the official song (again)--sing!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

All Hail the Queen (Doyenne, Whatever): It's the 100th Liege-Waffle-Liege, Baby!

The Fuss: the 100th Happy Birthday of the final Classic of the noblest season, when desperation is high for the season's so-far winless, the legs are shot, and your enraged short-sheeted sponsor's gonna beat you over the head with their iconic product if you don't bring home a podium. If your boss is Oleg Tinkov and he compliments you on Twitter, get the hell out, out, out!

The Course: Climb, dammit, climb! But don't be so good at it that you don't have power. And don't puncture. Or forget to eat. Or get caught behind some nit making a last-second date with the road furniture. Or be a tactical eejit. He who's on the !@#-end of the peloton on the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons is lost! The whole hog: here. The profile: HOLY #$%! WHEN IS THIS AGONY GONNA STOP?

The Contenders: Last year's stealth champ Dan Martin is a marked man. Chris Froome's lookin' to scare Alberto outta his smug tranquility and calm everyone down about that alarming pic of his legs he twitted this week. 2013 runner-up Purito Rodriguez' ribs still kill from crashing at Fleche, but then, who needs "air"--he apparently has that weird Wolverine thing that still lets you pound everybody when some clown's dropped a tank on your head. Nibali's not on his best game yet, but since you're all a pack o' power-meter-watching simps, he will crush you with his sheer manliness. Gilbert probably wants and needs it more'n anybody. And who's been creepin' *everybody* out all season? That's right, inexplicably likeable Alejandro Valverde! Either way, with too many other likely suspects to list, I'm wrong by this time tomorrow anyway--so Roman Kreuziger, wanna grab some glory before you give it all to Contador in July?

The Missing: Why the heck isn't there a women's Liege already? I mean, the race is nicknamed after a lady! Marianne Vos, just go there tomorrow with some cheesy hipster moustache disguise glued on yer face and take them all out anyway!

The Gee-I-Hope-They-Don't-Ignominiously-Suck-Tomorrows: okay, basically I mean Andy Schleck, who still holds the World Record for Non-Stop Whining After a Mechanical Despite Making a Cheap Shot Attack Against The Same Guy Too but is starting to garner even my sympathy--like we love Joseba Beloki after his spectacular Tour de France leg-snap driving his wheel into melting tarmac, poor Andy's never been the same since his own fall. Damn underdog-savior complex! Here, Dan-Martin-Who-Didn't-Choke brings it home last year:
Allez allez, and may the luckiest s.o.b. win!

Friday, April 25, 2014

I Rode for Lance For 7 Years, And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt (And Millions of Dollars. And a TdF Stage Win. And...)

Jive Talkin': He denied doping. He said some awfully ungentlemanly things about former teammate/betraying rat Floyd Landis. And as one of the bulletproof riders of USPostalDiscovery and Armstrong's most loyal lieutenant, he profited hugely off an unquestioningly adoring press corps and fan base of his own, only to skate off with a ridiculous 6-month post-retirement ban for a career's worth of cheating and pretty much the same level of adoration and success he enjoyed in the first place. Yep, George Hincapie's ready to 'fess up now, and he wants your dough! Jaysus, am I the *only* one who's willing to pay people who already profited so handsomely from omerta' to shut the hell *up* already at this point?

Walk Like a Cav, Talk Like a Cav, Dress Like a Cav My So-o-o-on: Can't sprint as fast as the Manx Missile, but want to look like you could, without all the blindingly expensive dental work it'd take to get his killer choppers? Well, now you can: Mark Cavendish's got his own dashing new clothing line here! Next up: Marcel Kittel's Hair Club for Men. Oh, the glorious mane you'll have--it's the next thing to being on the podium, without that annoying 200km of riding to get you there!

Holy Crap It's Two Weeks to the Giro and It's Already Shaping Up!: finally, Cadel Evans has already dope-smacked the Dolomites and atomic-wedgied his competitors for the Giro d'Italia at the leg-grinding Giro del Trentino this week, and with unwilling Giro competitor Nairo Quintana already presumptively screwed by the last-minute suck cancellation of his training race the Tour of Asturias, oldie-but-goodie Cadel's chances are looking increasingly good. More bad news for Italian cycling: Pippo Pozzato's Classics season was such a downer Lampre's apparently going to keep him out of the Giro d'Italia. Irrelevant Trentino bonus: former Euskie mountain goat Mikel Landa grabbing a monster stage win. Aupa Euskalteeeeeeeeeel--uh, Astana, whatever!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Fantasy (Condensed!) Johan Bruyneel Press Conference; Nibali Calls Bull$%^&; and, It's the Mur de Wheeeee!

Newsflash!: Good morning. I've called you all here today to address USADA's ridiculous 10-year ban of me from pro cycling. First, let me say that of course I did it. All of it. And a whole buncha 'nother stuff they couldn't even nail me for, either. Second, I'd like to say, who gives a !@#$? I'm already richer than God, *and* I get to stay that way. Third, waaaaaaah! other people got less sanctions than me! Waaaaaaaa! Finally--you lack jurisdiction, and you can't get me. Neener neener neener!

Vincenzo Nibali Just Called You a Cowardly Bean-Counting Wiener: oh, yeah, numbers-crunching sponsor-brownnosing quivering-jello-molds of the peloton, Vincenzo "the Shark" Nibali's got a message for you: with the possible exception of Fabian Cancellara, everyone else is a beat-down wuss-on-wheels, riding for ProTour points and scuttling for intermediate sprints and top-ten placements instead of for glorious victory, like him. Geez, Vincenzo, it may be true, but you're really not looking to build relationships with guys who can help you out in a pinch, are you--you might want to rethink that 'tude come July!

Fleche and Bones: yep, with Philippe Gilbert finally having shrugged off his rainbow-cursed funk of 2013 and tucked Amstel Gold under his belt (and I *hope* you bowed before Samuel Sanchez for blowing up the race on the Cauberg!), it's time for the fair Fleche-Wallone and, of course, an entire race full of top climbers, puncheurs, and rolleurs crying like babies from the bottom to top of the max-19%-gradient Mur de Huy. Absent from the men's race: uh-huh, Andy Schleck, knee-thwapped at Amstel Gold. But come on, you weren't calling him, right? Contenders: Kwiatkowski, lookin' for revenge; defending champ Dani Moreno; Alejandro Valverde, desperate to grab an Ardennes; and last week's surprise Jelle Vanendaert. For the women: well, Marianne Vos has barely road-ridden this year, but she's still liable to kick your !@#, and Elisa Longo Borghini, Emma Johansson and Flanders champ Ellen Van Dijk are ready to suffer. Here, last year's men's Fleche finale: Go Gilbert--and give Samu' your prize money!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mystery Pills! Gilbert Gets His Groove Back! Brotherly Love at Sky! Yer Random Peloton Roundup

Uh, They're Tic-Tacs! Yeah, That's the Ticket: well, there's clearly more than one way to crash out of a race, or a career: some tarmac-diving dimwit at Paris-Roubaix apparently ripped his jersey enough that a vial o' pills fell out and skidded across the roadside, only to be studiously ignored by the riders and soigneurs carefully picking up all the crash detritus from the course. Holy crap, that's even a better roadside souvenir than a spit-swilled discarded superstar bidon--maybe if you twit another pic of it, the rightful owner'll come and autograph it for you! That, or maybe he figures his thumbprint's enough of a gift for the narcs...

Speaking of Pijls: welcome back from your year-long funk, Philippe Gilbert!

We'll Always Have Paris (Roubaix): so, thinkin' about the tiresome hype over Brad Wiggins' performance at Paris-Roubaix this weekend, here's my q: with a top 10 in one of the hardest races on the planet in his pocket, and his distinct hostility towards eclipsing sun Chris Froome at last year's Tour de France, *how* happy exactly is Wiggo gonna be being Chris Froome's water-bottle wind-breaker beeyotch at the Tour *this* year? Yeah, didn't think so--but Brad, don't you even *think* about riding the beautiful Giro like a half-hearted consolation prize again, so just suck it up and fake nice in France, !@#dammit!

I Love Rocky Road(s): finally, the thorough Alberto Contador ain't missing a trick, skipping the risk of injury at the upcoming Ardennes Classics to recon the actual Tour de France cobbles instead, following Alejandro Valverde's earlier racing test-drive and leaving Vincenzo Nibali scrambling for the sage assistance of former cobbled bad-!@# Peter Van Petegem. One sour note: expected to go on vacation after his trip, Contador apparently hit his miniscule race weight a little too soon, and got lodged chest-deep between the stones of the Forest of Arenberg instead. Well, they'll pry 'im out eventually--they got until July 'til Froomey comes by and rides over his head, anyway!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's Yer 2014 Paris-Roubaix Racejunkie Awards!

Cobblestone, schmobblestone: the Queen of the Monuments is behind us, so let's get on to the *really* prestigious festivities, mine. Therefore, without further ado:

1. Crash o' the Race: wow, considering what a slasher-movie mangle-fest the Hell o' the North usually is, the surprise is rather that there wasn't one. Nonetheless, Luca Paolini's spectacular pratfall takes it for sheer "holy crap!"ness. Good thing he had that Duck Dynasty beard to cushion 'im!

2. Crash o' the Race (Game-Changer Edition): No, none of the favorites got badly taken down themselves, and that'd've been a right suck way to lose the race. But Cancellara, already down a Devolder, sure didn't need his teammate to ricochet off the curb right in front of him and cost Fabian that wee bit of wasted energy getting back to the front. Bet he had enough wattage to thwap the guy upside the head after the race in the discreet environs of the team-bus, though!

3. Domestique of Paris-Roubaix: Go to hell, this is killin' me! Yep, it's Tom Boonen. Oh Tommeke, I *know* you were pissed--but what the hell did that serve *repeatedly* futilely taking off, with Niki on your wheel no less? Anyway, Terpstra did ride beautifully--and he coulda done worse than having you as a launching-pad!

4. Sigh o' Relief o' the Season: yeah, bite me, haters, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen could sit there reciting the action while a wall o' paint dries, and they'd *still* be worth listening to all day. Welcome back at last Phil and Paul--I was starting to get a bit nervous there!

5. Peter Peter Pave-Eater Award: Sagan, that was a valiant effort, but yet again, time--and next year's sponsorship dough--is ticking by. A little less goofballery, a little more whup-!@#, maybe?

6. Lone Wolf Prize: Y'know, even Fabian Cancellara can't do it alone. Once in a while!

7. Thooooooooooooooooooooooooor! Award: that was him all right, resplendent in national champion colors, and however briefly, pulling hard at the front of the race. Thoooooooooooooooor!

8. Weight of a Nation Prize: Yeah, that was the ever-maligned Pippo Pozzato coming in first among all the Italians in the race, baby! In 50th, 6:44 down, but seriously, oughtn't he get some nice compliments for that?

9. Two Towers Award: Niki Terpstra's solo surge--and triumph--was great. But was there ever a happier podium runner-up than the bangin' John Degenkolb? Tell me, you soulless cynic, that wasn't just sweet to behold!

10. All *Right* Already! Hype o' the Race: yes, 10th in Paris-Roubaix is amazing. But jeez, was I the only one who felt it was a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittle overdone on the whole Wiggo thing? Wake me up when he whines about the Giro again!

11. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words Prize: what else?

Well, whatever I missed--and I admit I was distractedly crestfallen over the Tom Boonen situation--feel free to fill in. Now, time to root for Gilbert's redemption at the Ardennes Classics!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh-way to Hell: It's Yer Paris-Roubaix in Preview, Honey!

Yes, it's time for the most glorious Monument of all, the riveting Hell o' the North! Why "the Hell of the North?" Well, it's north. The hell: bone-jarring dream-destroying cobblestones, the ever-chance of freak wet weather to make the pave' that much more slippery, and pain, pain, pain, PAIN, baby! And that's on a *good* race day. This year's deal:

Out: Suck! We love Sylvain Chavanel with asthmatic bronchitis. Also missing: Flanders-crunched trusty Cancellara lieutenant Stijn Devolder, replaced by the very-fine-but-not-so-tested Boy Van Poppel. You *doubly* can't afford to screw this up tactically now, Trekies! To see how Quick Step is feeling about it, let's check out their course recon: And yes, the ones who make it like three feet past the start line before bagging out in wailing agony tomorrow are *still* the bad-!@#$edest road-beasties on the planet. Bow, bow before the riders of Roubaix, o spindly unworthy wimpmeister peons!

In: Yep, it's Cancellara, Sagan, Vanmarcke again, and yep, we all know who'll probably get it, tho' if an overconfident Sagan tries to pop a wheelie on the pave for the Beliebers--I mean, Sagan fans--I bet *that'll* cause some fun for the gruppo. On their heels, if they don't end up on the ground: Boassen-Hagen-Dazs, coif-master Taylor Phinney, Degenkolb, Stybar, Terpstra, and Pippo. But dammit, I *so* want Tom Boonen to win it. And what the !@#$ is all this hype about Brad Wiggins for !@#$'s sake--is *everyone* so high on tramadol these days they're seeing this?

The Forecast: the good news: no rain! The bad news: it's a blinding retina-scratchin' dust-bowl! Wait--*who* just attacked me?

The Course: oh, sweetie, I know you know it. And if you're new now, you'll be in love with it by tomorrow. 28 cobbled sections, with the dangerous Arenberg a mere 18 sectors in and the potentially race-deciding Carrefour near the end. How you're gonna feel afterwards: yeah, well this is how Tony Martin looked after the Tour of the Basque country today, and there ain't even no rock-ridin' *there*: And if you think you're getting off easy cruising the roadside, they're plowing it up with farm machinery. In sum: allez allez, suckers--see you at the post-race podium 'n' kiss-n-cry!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Alberto Contador: Wheel-Sucking Punk-#$%, Or Just a Guy Ridin' His Race?

Basque Company: so, as the fabulous Tour of the Basque Country plows on--and be honest, is there *anything* more heartbreaking this cycling season than just seeing a nostalgic smattering of orange shirts amidst the formerly insanely sardine-packed Euskaltel fanatics as their old squad goes by in jerseys from random teams?--there seems to be a bit o' controversy over whether Contador clinging to Valverde's wheel as the latter labored up the final climb before shooting around him like--well, a 2009 Alberto--was a punk-!@# wheel-slurpin' cheap-shot, or just an all's-fair-in-love-and-cycling fake-out tactic, or, even more kindly, just a strugglin' guy who got his legs back at just the right moment. Me, I think Valverde was *way* diplomatic, but considering some of the !@#$ Piti's pulled on the peloton, and the freakish success he's been exhibiting lately, he's probably better off keepin' his yap shut! Either way, great ride Alberto--and Froomey, you better *hope* he and Kreuziger are burning themselves out too early ahead of July!

Scheldenfreude: and, it's time for the sprinters to come out and play at the exciting Scheldeprijs, except there's only like two of them left at all in the peloton who aren't at home either hurling their guts out or held together with titanium plates, which means that (1) Marcel Kittel's got a damn good chance; and so (2) he won't get any real credit even if he wins, poor guy. Me, I hope *both* Andre "the Gorilla" and Cav get better really soon--what fun is it crushing someone in a sprint if it's not a bloodbath of the very very best? Well, probably pretty fun, but still!

Tales of the Truly Disgusting (Cheat-Weasel Edition): finally, many thanks to the Secret Pro, who took the cake, and my appetite, this week with his truly gnarly recaps of old-skool doping mishaps, including (1) Vino and Kashechkin getting their blood bags mixed-up, and luckily not killing themselves since they had the same blood type--those wacky kids!--and (2)we-still-love-so-stuff-it Giro bad!@#--uh, somebody who shall not be named--only tested poz for coke not because *he* was using it, but because the cousin whose blood he was transfusing to boost his own--ewwwwwwwwwwwwww!--was secretly on blow. *Damn*, whatsyerface--all the work, all the damage control, and none of the cokey fun--no *wonder* you were pissed! Now, can we just get back to more wholesome pursuits like "training at altitude"--sure beats being some nasty fly-by-night vampire bat!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

It's Your 2014 Tour of Flanders Awards!

Hardman of the Race: holy !#$, are they holding Stijn Devolder's shattered carcass together with duct tape at this point? About 38 hard, *hard* crashes, the man looks like a rotting arm-dropping zombie outta the Living Dead, and still he just keeps on coming back. No, he didn't "win"--but yeah, he *won*!

Newbie o' Flanders Award: I can't believe this is Taylor Phinney's first time here. A Ronde of applause for his stellar ride with Darryl Impey!

Crash of the Race (Fear o' God Edition): half of Saxo-Tinkoff goes down all at once in a perplexing, slow-to-fix tangle. If they didn't break any bones *in* the crash, Oleg Tinkov's gonna do it for 'em!

Crash of the Race (Aw, Suck Edition): The great-hearted MTN-Qhubeka, an African squad's first broken collarbone (anyway, sure looked it) in their first ever Flanders. Get well soon kid!

Panic at the Roadside Award: OH MY GOD NIKI TERPSTRA'S DOWN! THIS IS A CATASTROPHE FOR OMEGA PHARMA QUICKSTEP! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY HAVE--oh, he's just peeing. Um, look, over there--cows grazing!

What the !@#$ Is He Doing There? Prize: really. Wiggins?

Cha-Ching! (In Reverse) Award: Peter Sagan, you rakish, *very* youngster, *you* may not be feeling the Classics pressure--but trust me, come 4-million-euro contract time, your price, and your commission-hungry agent, will be. You better start thinking about next weekend, pal!

The Player's Club Prize: Bjorn "I Only Tested Poz for Testosterone Because I Was Just This Very Minute Doing My Girlfriend" Leukemans' failed attack at 23k. Yep, this obnoxious joke is just too easy, even for me!

Insult-to-Injury Award: oh, there was a women's Ronde Van Vlaanderen all right--not that we'd know it from the guttural footnote to the breathless high-pitched coverage of the menfolk's. And Ellen Van Dijk soloed to win it. BROADCAST WOMEN'S CYCLING DAMMIT--LIKE THE SAME FREAKIN' CENTURY IT HAPPENS!

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire Prize: why the !@#$ can't we get contemporaneous non-!@#$ coverage in the US without blacked-out screens pop-up porno 2-pixel visuals and a stream that jerks like a--well, let's just leave that there? *This*, this is why this country is going to hell in a handbasket, I say!

Now *Them's* Fightin' Words Award: the BEIN Sports commentator who cheerily sent us "back to Magnus Baxter." TWICE. Right, along with "Bernard Hiny" and "Eddy Mertz", you insufferable twit!

Layoff Tommeke You Bastards!: okay, not a prize exactly, but nonetheless, a mandate. You just wait--he'll be 100% at Paris-Roubaix!

And Finally, Debbie Downer of the Race: yeah, I mean Spartacus winning it. I know, I know, he's amazing--but I didn't want the predictable to happen. And really, while that was a bit of a scare there at 2.6k to go, it was over at 13k when Cancellara took off. And the last k's damn-near track-standing--annoying!

Well, them's mine--it was a predictably twitchy start, it was unpredictably sunny, and sincere best wishes to all who were hurt. Now, it's on to the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, and next week's Hell o' the North!

Friday, April 04, 2014

You Down With O.P.P. (Other People's Pave')?: It's Yer Flanders in Preview, Baby!

Oh yeah, we're down to serious business, baby, because there's both the men's and women's Ronde van Vlaanderen are this weekend, and there's already drama by the buckets! The score:

The Gossip: Belgian cops totally coincidentally kick Peter Sagan off the Kwaremont while he's reconning the course today, link here. Nothing personal! Next up: authorities bust into every non-Belgian team and rider's hotel rooms at 3 a.m. on Sunday with battering rams, billy clubs, bullhorns, stun guns, cattle prods, smoke grenades, and those spazzy little hand-buzzers you buy at the joke shop. Oops, wrong room--nighty-night, sorry to disturb you!

The Cobbles: fans love 'em, riders fear 'em, and Tom Boonen picks 'em out from between his teeth after a leisurely lunch. You know it: Molenberg, Kwaremont, Paterberg. Why the !@#$ won't a profile pic load? A close-up view of the pain on the Kwaremont: And beyond-bangin' preview of the women's race on Velofocus. Yep, it's gonna be just as vicious out there!

The Forecast: lookin' like rain. Oh, man, I can almost *hear* the sound of hitting the stones...

The Contenders: Nairo Quintana. Alberto Contador. Chris Froome. Just kidding! Tho' Alejandro Valverde's already reconned some cobbles ahead of his Tour de France bid. Tom Boonen vs. Fabian Cancellara, both downplaying their chances but ready to rumble. Peter Sagan, under heavy sponsor pressure to giddyap with a major Monument this season. Critic's darling Sep Vanmarcke. One thing's for sure: if you give Cancellara a single bike length ahead of the pack, he's gone for good, and all you're fighting for is a podium place. Eyes open, Tommeke! For the women: geez, can we get a definitive start list? Defending champ is Marianne Vos. Elisa Longo Borghini. Podiums Emma Johansson and Ellen Van Dijk. Last year's women's roundup:

The Dark Horses: who *doesn't* love ponies? We love Sylvain Chavanel. Pippo Pozzato. Luca Paolini. Niki Terpstra and Stijn Devolder. And a host of other Belgian badasses waiting to grit it out and take advantage if the favorites over-mark. Oh, like Pippo wouldn't look just *adorbs* with that trophy!

The Absentees: Nick Nuyens, gobsmacked by flu. Ian Stannard, stuffed into a back brace. There'll be a lot more before Sunday's over though, honey!

The Fans: beer, beer, and beer. And if you can see through the gorgeous Flandrian flags smothering the sidelines, you might even see some bikes go by. Wait, *who* just ran into me when I stumbled into the course?

Well, time to place yer bets--and for you undecideds, look who got it last year!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Sure, He Mighta Doped, But at Least He Didn't Dope and *Still* Suck at Descending

Not That I Have Anyone In Particular In Mind: tho' there is of course news from the Planet of Totally Pointless Non-Penalties, as ex-Lance lieutenant/descender par excellence Paolo "Il Falco" Savoldelli gets popped with, and vows to appeal, a two-year post-career ban for his interactions with helpful trainer-to-the-stars Dr. Michele Ferrari, who, an indignant Paolo proclaims, he would bring his own kids to for treatment. So would I, if I wanted 'em to be successful pro cyclists! Still, I'm inclined to cut Paolo a little slack here, because okay, maybe he was part of the repugnant poisoning and stinking maggot-ridden corruption of our beloved cycling that nearly flushed the whole sport down the toilette, but hey, at least he had some serious down-mountain bike-handling chops, unlike A--Achoo! I thought I was about to sneeze! Yes, yes, Il Falco's very very bad, I know...

DePanne-ic at the Finish Line: meantime, I'm calling bull!@#$ on this entire controversy over whether Peter Sagan intentionally grabbed the first stage from loyal teammate Oscar Gatto over at the Three Days of DePanne, when from my crappy eyesight, it sure looks to me like Sagan actually put his hands on the brakes and tried *not* to win in hopes Gatto--a very fine rider himself--would snag the win from Peter's lead-out. Look, he may be a pig and a show-off, but a stage thief the boy ain't! See for yourself:

Love Hurts: on a related note, here's speedy get-well wishes for the good half the peloton that's already been clobbered out for a huge chunk o' the season by the cobblestones, including Sky-boy Ian Stannard with a broken (well, pretty darned cracked) back, Andre Griepel, who just upgraded his mortal hardware to a titanium collarbone, and countless others damn near mummified with tapes and wraps (even fair Pippo's delicate hand!) Not even counted: poor guys like Mark Cavendish, Giro captain Richie Porte, and hosts of others, absolutely flattened by assorted disgusting body-wrecking stomach ailments. Doesn't anybody just get a *cold* anymore?

Yer Disturbing Pro-Cyclist Tweet o' the Day: finally, I don't know *what* the !@#$ this is that AG2R's Carlos Betancur's tweeting, but I'm sure *praying* it's for his CPR certification class. Like this sport doesn't already have enough freaks?