Sunday, June 29, 2014

It's Yer 2014 Tour de France in Preview, Part Deux: The General Classification Contenders!

That's right, pups, these are the boys contending for the GC, the maillot jaune, the yellow jersey, top of the podium, the safe haven from Oleg Tinkov's wingnut wrath, the pride of a nation, the endorsement jackpot of a lifetime: the potential overall winners of the Tour de France 2014! So before something massively unpredictable happens on the first day and throws this whole thing to hell, who should you be looking at for the celebratory romp around the Champs Elysees and worldwide adoration and prestige as one of the top athletes of all time? These guys!

Chris Froome (Team Sky): Strengths: defending champ, solid team, and now knows definitively that anyone who !@#$s with 'im's gonna get immediately exiled to the velodrome until the Sir gets stripped off 'im like last year's discarded hot toy. More, the kid's got a handy Therapeutic Use Exemption for performance-assisting exercise-triggered-asthma meds, which, even if it only levels the playing field, certainly won't hurt 'im on the queen stage. Weaknesses: I swear, I have never seen *anyone* so ungainly on a a bicycle--how the hell does he get that much velocity with all that hapless flailing? Plus, according to Froomey, he's still a fat pig with a good kilo to lose before the Grand Depart. Lose it from where, lop off a !@#$in' limb or something?

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): Strengths: unlike, say, Froomey, he's proven he ain't no one-trick pony--he's got a good half-dozen Grand Tour wins under his bib shorts, and at age 31, he's still within that primo 28-to-31 sweet spot. Plus, whatever the heck happened in his disastrous 2013 season (shut up! he was not either!) clearly ain't happening now. As a psychological edge, (1) he's won enough to have his confidence back this time (2) he's cagey as all hell and no-one's gonna be able to tell how he feels til he either cracks catastrophically or wins Mont Ventoux by 10 minutes while actually taking a leisurely nap back in his hotel room and (3) Oleg's gonna rip his legs off if he chokes. Weaknesses: he's been known to absent-mindedly hunger-bonk; irreplaceable mountain pace-setter Roman Kreuziger's outta the Tour team with an unfortunate misunderstanding related to his 2010/2011 biological passport, and Contador, ergo, is hosed. Just suck off everybody else's domestiques, Alberto, and you ought to be alright!

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): Strengths: got me where it's coming from (well, not really), but this year, Piti's riding like a 2004-era Postie. And, he just snagged the Spanish national time trial champs to boot (didja see Euskaltel's Ion Izaguirre won the road race? didja? well didja?!) On the same note, he's got a hugely strong team of, natch, mostly extremely mountain-happy ex-Carrots. Finally, with unwilling Giro champ/wonderboy Nairo Quintana forced to stay home, he's got no internal competition to stress 'im out. Cons: he's never met a monstrous mid-race meltdown he didn't like. Bets on what day he loses the podium!

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana): Strengths: good, solid, old-fashioned, jack-of-all-trades Grand Tour rider, with an almost Cadelian sticktoitiveness and Contadorian tranquillity. Plus, he's the new Italian road race champion, so that's one less thing for the Italian press to rip on him about. Weaknesses: his squad's no Movistar, and, frankly, he's mostly sucked this year. Still, Chris 'n' Alberto've gotta be at least a little more concerned about you than they were last week--maybe that mountain training's been paying off for you after all!

Tejay Van Garderen (BMC): WAAAAH, we love Thor Hushovd's retiring and isn't riding the Tour in his farewell year, WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH! Looks funny not seeing Cadel's name on the BMC start list, much less not as named captain, right? Anyhoo, Strengths: great heart, awesome cyclist, a former Tour de France Best Young Rider, and reputedly not a self-important jerk, which always helps you keep your head in a pinch. Also, he's got a good team to help him out, including everyone's next favorite breakout star, Colombia's Darwin Atapuma. Weaknesses: not really going for the win, so much as some stages and maybe the podium. Allez Tejay, either way you still rock!

Purito Rodriguez (Katusha): no, he's not really aiming for GC here, since he promptly crashed out of main objective the Giro with the plan to rest before taking on the Vuelta, but he's still gonna push for at least a mountain stage win, which, with Froome and Contador guaranteed to be marking each other, could actually let him claw some pretty nice time back on GC. Weaknesses: this is an unplanned training ride, and if he's serious about August and September, he's not going to be willing to totally empty the tank ahead of the Vuelta. Yeah, he's still on this list anyway, so stuff it!

Riccardo Ricco': just kidding! He tried to sneak in unnoticed, but Bernard Hinault already tackled him. Speaking of whom, anyone wanna call who's gonna be the first to disgrace the race this year, besides those idiots galloping around the Alps in Speedos?

Remember, the cobbles can screw damn near any of these guys with the exception of maybe Valverde, so it could all be over anyway before week one is out. But an ill-timed flat, an overcooked corner, or, whoever forbid, a crash can happen to anyone, tho' it's a crap way to for someone to lose--and someone to win--the race. Stay safe out there guys--you get better bragging rights beating down the competition at the very top of their game!

Next preview: yer sprinters and stage-hunters. Onwards to Paris, fellow cycling freaks!

No comments: