Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Your Women's Tour de France La Course in Review! #lacourse

Okay, so I got some crap for not covering La Course in more detail (tho I *was* working a freakin' bike event for 13 hours so cut me some slack dag nabit). And what do I find? Holy crap, even getting enough info now on basics like the race route's a nutwhack! Anyhow, so here's to the first of many more (and three weeks more, for heck's sake): yer inaugural women's La Course!

The Route: Just another day on the Champs-Elysees, baby, 89 kilometers of flat as a (slightly lumpy) pancake and beggin' for action!

The Contenders: Who *wasn't* there? Vos, Bronzini, Olds, Wild, Barnes, Van Dijk, Worrack...hell, if the Tour had managed to hold onto half so bangin' a field, it coulda been a very different race!

How It Went Down: interestingly, Bronzini's Wiggle-Honda, for one, wasn't convinced it'd end in a bunch sprint. And breakaways we got, but a relentless peloton kept bringin' 'em back. Disaster at 1.2k to go: Lizzie Armitstead and reigning French national champ Prevot hit the deck, and Wild's chances for a win were arguably blown when she punctured then had to chase back on. Final podium: Marianne Vos, Kirsten Wild (even after her puncture!), and Leah Kirchmann. Next year: oh come on, Giorgia will so either take it!

TV Coverage: As usual, glad to get any scraps I can get, but at least Universal carried highlights, and huge points to Gogo for rightly comparing Marianne Vos to Eddy Merckx, though it's also worth noting that in addition to being a road, mtb and cross champ, Vos has also been observed to personally MacGyver a fully-functional race-ready road bike outta kitchen twine, wire hangers, cut-up rubber raincoats, and aluminum foil. Right on Marianne!

And, the Coolest Footage Ever: if you ever wondered what it was like to be the most kick-!@# athlete in the world, here's the Vos cam to take you through it, complete with primal scream o' victory. Why is there not some huge bronze statue to this woman?!

Anyway, that's La Course for this year, and I think we've all answered the question whether there's a market. Now UCI, let's pop some champagne, quit treating these women like wilting violets, let 'em do the three week stage races they deserve, and get 'em all-day live coverage to boot!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

It's the 2014 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards! #letour

Look--except for the last 10 minutes of the stage, the end of the Tour de France is always a total letdown. You've invested weeks of cheering, swearing, and armchair directeur-sportifing. And you already know what's gonna happen, right down to the jersey-donning, dignitary-handshaking, and Oleg Tinkov barging onto the podium in a yellow jumpsuit in front of Vincenzo Nibali to declare himself the winner. So what better way to cheer ourselves up after this humongous anticlimax by giving these hard-working riders credit where credit is (sometimes disgustingly) due? Yes, hold on to your handlebars everybody--it's time for the 2014 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards!

Coulda Woulda Shoulda Award: sure, discount Vincenzo Nibali all you like for beating the "weakest" final field in years by a suitably ludicrous 7 minute plus margin with the exit of Alberto Contador and Chris Froome. But part of the damn game is staying upright and out of trouble, and he ain't in the rarified company of both Alberto and Eddy Merckx as one of the 6 winners of all 3 Grand Tours because everyone good around him--including some damn fine riders who made it all the way to Paris this year--sucked all the time. So lay off il campione already--like it or not, respect, he really earned it!

Cognitive Dissonance Prize of the Tour: okay, like the last 30 Tours. *Two* French guys on the podium? What's next, an actual win in Paris? Ha, ha, just ki--no, I mean it, what's next, an actual win in Paris?

Punk-!@# Move of the Tour: sure, faking exhaustion, like writhing in agony on the ground over a hangnail in soccer, is part of the game, but Alejandro Valverde ignoring young Pinot's desperate gestures for help sucking on his wheel and *then* attacking him was a major wanker move. And who's on the final podium in Paris now? Yeah, that's right!

PR Screwup of 2014: the podium-babe kiss-diss of maillot jaune Vincenzo Nibali that far overwhelmed the achievement of the precious jersey itself. It's back to draping yourself over the merch in a tacky bikini at international car shows for you, young lady!

Crushing Disappointment of the Tour: yep--fan fave Peter Sagan takes the green jersey but fails to win, as was deemed almost inevitable beforehand, a single stage. Dang, that kid is a Ferrari motor with a Yugo head--someone grab him a tutor on race tactics, but quick!

Pretty Fly for a Backup Guy Prize: Rafal Majka wasn't even supposed to be there. But when Contador crashed out, this bottom-o'-the-barrel selection from Tinkov-Saxo not only bagged two mountain stages, but the overall polka-dot jersey as well (shut up! Purito's just resting up for the Vuelta! bite me!)--and Oleg apparently owes him an Aston Martin for his efforts. To the completely outclassed Team Sky--watch and *learn*!

Agonizing Moment of the Race Award: yes, this Tour was replete with jump-outta-yer-chair-screaming awful moments. But for me, most heartrending was Jack Bauer getting swept up after an exhausting all-day breakaway within mere meters on the line on stage 15. Aw, I *really*, *really* hope he gets one next year!

No No No No No No Imminently Memorial Statute: no matter how often he says it, it still can't really be true. The great Jens Voigt's last Tour de France. Still, of course he took a final flyer to grab an intermediate sprint on the final stage. Jeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnssssssssss!

Gorilla in the Mist (of Rage) Award: yes, the hilarious scene where Andre Greipel, having dragged his ginormous thundering carcass over the Stage 11 mountains to a surprise possible sprint win, goes down in a tangle with we love Sylvain Chavanel, the camera cuts back shortly thereafter to catch Sylvain and Andre having a commiserating "well, that's cycling!" sort of chat, and instead nabs an angry giant gesturing violently at Chava and screaming "you touched my handlebars! your fault!" Good thing the camera was there or there mighta been a lot more than just gesturing--and Sylvain, next time, don't piss off the Gorilla!

Completely Missing the Point Award: the cycling world goes nuts--after *years* of begging for, and clearly deserving, their own three week Tour de France, the women get what? *One* day on the Champs-Elysees with some of the greatest riders in the peloton, with--gasp!--equal prize money on the day to boot. Except it wasn't freakin' BROADCAST, except for highlights, at least in my country. Well, Marianne Vos won it. Do you clods even *see* the problem here?

Annoying Trend of 2014: great, you got a selfie. Unfortunately, you also just derailed the stage and possibly career of one of the top competitive athletes on the planet. Tool!

Phil & Paulism of the Tour: sure, there were the frequent misidentifications of the riders, the lyrical "dancing on the pedals", the frenzied commentating of the GC contenders' every wobble, and a lengthy history lesson on each passing ruin, but this year, the winner: Paul (or Phil) referring--without hesitation or equivocating--to Marcel Kittel as the "preeminent sprinter in the world." Okay, so Cav wasn't physically there any more for Paul to remark on--but the hell with his shoulder injury, that *had* to have hurt!

The Man in Iron Mask Prize: this one's an Astana two-fer: not only did the exceedingly quiet Vincenzo Nibali finally show some emotion on the podium in Paris by, well, noticeably exhaling, but the man actually made Alexandre Vinokourov *repeatedly* smile. Someone got this all on film?--we may never, ever see this again!

Crash o' the Tour (Race-Altering Stupidity Edition): all it takes, even for the best in the business, is a moment's distraction. A smashingly on-form Alberto Contador, snapping his leg in a mere glance's time. Yes, I wonder what would've happened if, too!

Crash o' the Tour (Jaysus, Not Again Edition): it took approximately 50 separate crashes and two miles of sterile gauze bandages, but finally, after busting his wrist and hitting the deck repeatedly even before he got to the feared Stage 5 cobbles, the mummy-wrapped kit-shredded remnants of what was left of poor Chris Froome finally crawled into the team car in defeat. What a lousy way to leave!

Crash o' the Race (Aw, Suck! Edition): Mark Cavendish, taking himself (and damn near Gerro) out with a careless move near the finish line and an excruciating shoulder injury. As with Nibs and his main competition, nope, we'll never truly know what'd've happened. Get well so you can show us all next year, Cav!

Best Roadside Decoration: forget the overhead shots of spray-painted hay-bales arranged into to giant bicycles, the guy dressed like a banana, or even the dude wearing the "I'm riding a pony" outfit--this year's win goes to the wholly original and incongruous bear lugged by some fan to the sidelines. There Phil and Paul are, discussing some 13th-century chateau, and all of a sudden, Phil bursts out "Oh my goodness, Alejandro Valverde's just been eaten by a bear within one kilometer of the finish line! I can't believe what I'm seeing!" C'mon, like half of you haters weren't wishing it!

Best Rider Smackdown: between Thomas "The Tongue" Voeckler road-raging some hecklers, Luke Durbridge going all Incredible Hulk on a hapless soigneur, and an unprecedented bevy of close-cutting fans swat-offs, I'm giving this for the absolutely imperturbable Vincenzo Nibali, woken from his perpetual placidity by an exuberantly celebratory bikini-clad spectator taking a selfie who was promptly whacked outta the way not only by the race leader but also the close-following race moto immediately thereafter. I get it, it *is* the coolest thing on earth--just stay the hell outta a guy's line, willya ditzbag?

You Can't Cheat Mother Nature Prize: it's one thing when the camera happens to be passing by or curiously stops to see why a teammate is holding up his GC leader and inadvertently catches a mass (or individual) nature break. But the surprise, slow realization, and endless dissection of poor gut-flattened Arnaud Demare stepping into an accommodating if unfortunate fan's roadside trailer was just a little too intimate. Okay, there's a very gnarly bug going around the peloton, we get it--can you give the poor sod a little privacy?

Cosmic Justice Award: with all the stupid fans leaning into the riders year, often with disastrous results, I gotta admit, there was something almost satisfying every time a rider overcooked a slippery corner and plowed off the road into the spectators, since nobody that I could see got at all hurt for it. Order has been restored to the universe!

Incredible News of the Tour Award: the rumor that the luckless (and resultsless) Andy Schleck's outta Team Trek next year--and that Frank, who's long hand-held his heralded prodigy baby bro and rode pretty decently this year--still in. Worst part: nobody even noticed. Ouch!

Incredible News o' the Outside Cycling World Award: former Tour de France champ Brad Wiggins--now so discounted he couldn't even get a gig as Chris Froome's domestique--announces he's done with racing on the road entirely and will go back to the obscure and humble track instead. Worst part: nobody even noticed. Ouch!

Roses are Red, Violets Are--Who Cares? Award: finally, it seems fitting to hail the very last-placed rider in the Tour de France, the lanterne rouge: Team Giant-Shimano's Cheng Li. Sincere congratulations on a job incredibly well done--you are officially the 164th bad-!@#est athlete on Earth!

Well, congratulations to all of this year's noble, and especially ignoble, awardees. Complimenti Vincenzo Nibali, and now let's all get on to the bangin' Vuelta!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Valverde Falls Short and Sagan Blows It Again: It's Last Chance at the Tour de France Corral! #letour

Tic-Tock, Make It Stop: Yep, forget tomorrow's stage winner Tony Martin, we've got ourselves a real battle for the GC podium at the individual time trial, with the experienced if marginally crappy Valverde a mere 2 seconds back off Jean-Christophe Peraud in 3rd and 15 seconds off Thibaut Pinot Grigio. Oh, come on, I know no-one wants Piti to win here, but like you won't be off yer seats screamin' at the TV with excitement (or disgust) anyway? Plus, if Valverde gets this, it'll be the first time he (1) hasn't had a catastrophic race-wrecking meltdown at the Tour de France (or hell, any Grand Tour) and (2) he's actually made the final podium here. Aw, do it just to piss everyone off Alejandro--what's another year to the French, when they've sucked at their own Tour for a quarter-century anyhow?

He's Tourminated: and, let's just cut all the brave-face carry-on stiff-upper-lip crapola--while winning the overall green jersey at the Tour de France would be a career-defining coup for anyone else, for Peter freakin' Sagan it's an emerald emblem of failure, as having blown the stage win today with a late-stage multi-cyclist pileup, he's got just one chance left to salvage his Tour on the Champs-Elysees, and it's pretty darn likely that the little that's even left of Marcel Kittel after the Pyrenees is gonna grab that by a country mile. Speaking of which, don't it feel weird Cav not taking it? Oh well, teeth, hair, they both of 'em sprint, what's the difference!

Ladies First: finally, don't forget that delicate flowers like Marianne Vos and Giorgia Bronzini are gonna be provin' the worth of the ladies on the Champs as well, in what's hopefully their first crack at a someday-soon full-on three-week Tour de France. No diss to the eternal Vos, but can *someone* else at least come close to taking it besides her--variety is the spice of life, and we need *something* unexpected to happen on Sunday, right? Woot woot Giorgiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Soigneur Beatings, Team Bushwhacking, and Total Freakin' Meltdowns: It's Chaos at the Tour! #letour

Well, you can't say the Pyrenees aren't lively: between Luke Durbridge attacking a Movistar soigneur who inadvertently got in his way, Valverde's squad ruthlessly eliminating a bonked and helpless Tejay Van Garderen from the podium slugfest, and a coupla French riders other'n Chavanel who actually don't suck battling it out for both the third place overall and the prized white jersey, it's !@#damn carnage out there! So let's chat:

Oleeeeeee, Ole Ole Oleg: so the entire purpose of Alberto Contador's season is !@#$ed, first by his leg-breaking crash and then by surgical complications now screwing him out of the beloved Vuelta, and what does a despondent Plan-B-less Tinkoff-Saxo do? That's right, bag three huge mountain stages and the polka-dot jersey in short order, even without high-pass superdomestiques Roman Kreuziger and Jesus Hernandez in hand. Uh, Oleg, not to besmirch either young Majka or we love Mick Rogers, but you *might* wanna ask these guys to cool their jets just a *little* bit--you *want* the narcs so suspicious you have to find the squad a Band-Aid sponsor next year just to plug up the holes from their surprise 2 a.m. doping tests?

Polka Party: meantime, much as it rips my guts out to see dear Purito losing the polka-dot jersey to Rafal Majka, I gotta say, since Rodriguez' main goals for the year were supposed to be the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta anyway, maybe it's better for him to conserve some energy now for the Vuelta and not squander it all defending the King of the Mountains. Oh, hell with that, go for it Purito--*then* kick everyone's !@# in September!

Race to the Bottom: in wholly disgusting and hopefully inaccurate news, the peloton's now wracked with the word that alleged Orica-Greenedge class-act Michael Albasini called French breakaway companion Kevin Reza a "dirty negro" for failing to work in the break, which according to team management was simply a "misunderstanding" pleasantly resolved between the two riders with a "handshake." !@#$, Albasini, you're lucky it wasn't pleasantly resolved with a punch to the jaw a lifetime ban and immediate expulsion from the race! Sigh, and here I'd heard in sport this was mostly a soccer problem...

Just Say No (or "Neigh"): and, over in the rarified world of horse racing, I see even the unimpeachable Queen Elizabeth's prize horse has been busted for pony doping, upon which the royal family promptly blamed--and you can't make this !@#$ up--"contaminated feed." That's right, now you gotta hire one guy just to go and hand-pick a bale o' organic clover for the sensitive beastie, none o' this cheap tainted Chinese suspect hay anymore...

Haut(acam) Couture: finally, the mountains ain't over yet, as even a cagey and perhaps superstitious Vincenzo Nibali concedes, with brutal climbs up both the hors categorie Tourmalet and Hautacam tomorrow, and the best chance for anyone to crack Alejandro Valverde's increasingly iron-clad second place. Me, I'm looking for Tejay to get his wings back before Peter Sagan's desperate next-day last-chance stage before the Champs-Elysees. And of course, where else but tomorrow for Purito to grab back that dashing dotted jersey again? Allez, the lot of you--but I wouldn't mind a former Euskie grabbing the stage! Here, WWF champ Durbridge throws it down:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ten Ways to Beat Vincenzo Nibali in This Year's Tour de France #letour

Look, Vincenzo Nibali's 4:37 up at the Tour de France with just a few days to go, and everyone's already started snoozin' as the remaining competition just fights for scraps on the podium. And you sure as hell can't beat Nibali at this point just by riding your bike. But *no-one* is unbeatable--and if you want that maillot jaune in Paris, boys, it's time to get creative! Here, how to beat Nibs at this year's Tour:

1. Run the Orica-Greenedge bus into some road furniture on a narrow section of the course, and hold up the yellow jersey group for 30 minutes while you try to execute a three-point turn to move it out of the way.

2. Sneak into his luggage and replace his bib shorts with a pair one size too small. Six hours in the saddle wearing that puppy = "Medic!"

3. Swap out the electrolyte drink in his water bottle for the a nice turkey dinner nutrient supplement. L-tryptophan nap-time!

4. Repaint Marcel Kittel's bike in Astana colors and slip it on top of the team car. One bike change, and Nibs won't even be able to reach the pedals.

5. Lock Alexander Vinokourov in the bathroom and replace him with a carefully-made-up Movistar boss, who will then issue fake race instructions from the team car. Really, Vino, you *want* me to ride at the back of the peloton at the start of the Pla d'Adet? Okay....

6. Provoke Vincenzo with doping questions at the press conference 'til he slugs a journalist. Mon Dieu--the maillot jaune is in handcuffs, he missed the sign-in!

7. Put your crappiest domestique in Astana kit and stick 'im in front to set the pace--a slooooooow pace. Like Nibali's gonna be able to tell the difference?--he's following the guy's !@#, not his face!

8. Crazy Glue, meet cleats. Cleats, meet bike shoes. Those wacky pranksters, I'll just--whaddya mean, you can't find my other pair of bike shoes?

9. Pretend you didn't hear the yellow jersey's request for a rest break. Again. And again. And again. Not to get graphic here, but the guy's gotta stop sometime!

10. Swap out his time trial bike and aero helmet for a fatbike and a spiky kids' dinosaur helmet just before the clock starts to tick. That oughta pull back about 20 seconds a kilometer!

Well, aside from the tried-and-true "slash his tires" and "throw a musette into his wheel"--which are both punk-!@# and actually dangerous, so completely off the table--them's my best bets. If you got any other ideas, I'm sure Valverde wouldn't mind hearing 'em--but time is running out!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

It's Yer Tour de France Rest Day Deux Roundup! #letour

Okay, it's technically not the rest day yet, but it will be after the guys get a good night's sleep, so let's get up to speed:

Mortal Kombat: total bull!@#$ giving Martin Elmiger--for whom I was even rooting, so for once in the 8 years of this blog-rag I'm actually being fair--the Most Combative prize over Jack Bauer. He at least was able to put a whack into Elmiger in the end--can we at least give this poor sobbing guy a nice embroidered hanky or something?

Adventures in Interviews: yep, it's been pretty dramatic on the road out there, but for once it's also been equally entertaining in the pre- and post-race rider interviews, particularly the best one so far held yesterday: the journo asking Andre Greipel if he'd talked to Sylvain Chavanel since the "incident", and a murderous-looking (or perhaps he was happy, hard to tell the difference) Greipel just going "NO." Brevity is the soul of...well, deciding *not* to go back a few days later and rip the other guy's legs off! Meantime, in "Things Not to Say to the Press," let's give the weird stuffed animal thingy to race leader Vincenzo Nibali, who when asked about any connection to notorious doping doc Michele Ferrari, said he'd never met him "personally." What, so your soigneur personally met 'im a dark alley behind a shady internet pharmacy or some !@#$?--just say "no" and leave it, do you *want* the narcs to stick you full of more spikes than a hedgehog you eejit?!

Mime is Money (or Not): look, Sagan, you've got a bangin' palmares, and you are still very young. But damn, will you *never* learn any tactical sense? You can't rely on wheelies and batted eyelashes forever, boy!

Meditations on the Maillot Jaune: I'm pretty sure I've never seen Vincenzo Nibali actually breathe, at least on a freakin' mountain climb. He must have gills somewhere. Oh, that's right, he *is* nicknamed the Shark after all!

Kind Gesture o' the Alps: Tinkoff-Saxo's Rafal Majka dedicating his very first pro win ever to departed team leader Alberto Contador--not just because it was so self-effacing, but because it would look *really* bad for Tinkov to have Alberto whacked right now!

The Resurgence of Frank Schleck: yeah, just *tell* me you're not equal parts heartened and freaked out by how well big bro Frank is riding lately. Liar! Note to Papa Schleck: even so, and particularly considering poor Andy's season, you might not want to yap to everyone that the boys are better off retiring than riding for a Pro Continental squad next year. Unless you *want* 'em working for an elite team in exchange for laundry duty and an occasional euro for the soda machine!

Cough Drops: in addition to the usual disgusting intestinal bugs that seem to going around--or at least grabbing serious discussion and screen time when some sorry afflicted s.o.b. has to commandeer an innocent bystander's camper trailer to handle it--half the rest of the GC contenders, specifically Tejay Van Garderen and Sky backup-plan Richie Porte, were stuck gacking their way through the high Alps with chest infections. May the rest day give you a chance to recover, if nothing else so you can pound Valverde (but not dear Purito) in the Pyrenees!

Karmic Justice: so Alejandro Valverde sits there suckin' off a suprised and disappointed young Thibaut Pinot's wheel and faking an inability to help, then whips around him like a total wanker--and the next day, Valverde accuses Pinot of touching his wheel and screwing up his gears so badly that he loses precious time on GC. I think this sweet kid is learning already, Alejandro--might want to stay outta his way from now on!

Clap Along If You Feel Like a Room Without a Roof: holy crap, I don't care if he *does* have the likely winner of the TdF to his credit, in all his triumphant erratic nutjob years in professional cyclist outwitting (and outbloodbagging) the best of the most amoral, I swear I have never seen Alexander Vinkourov so outright smiley. Am I the only thinking he needs a specialized sports physiologist/trainer to help him there so the muscles of his face don't explode? We still love you Vino you bastid!

Friday, July 18, 2014

It's Yer Lessons from the Peloton, Part Deux! #letour

1. I know he won last year and all, but Froome woulda been flailing like a baby pterodactyl trying to keep up with Vincenzo Nibali today. Does *anyone* look more tranquillo on a bike than Nibs?

2. Alejandro Valverde is a punk-!@# opportunistic weasel. Thibaut Pinot--lesson learned, young man!

3. You cannot improve on Cipollini's nekkid skinsuit by printing a neon Borat banana-hammock over one and haranguing the peloton. For the love of God and the mercy for all watching the Tour at home--just. don't.

4. Yes, Phil called Romain Bardet "Bardot" a thousand times today. Frankly, I don't care if he can't actually tell Roman and Brigitte apart. Neither can you. We love you Phil!

5. Shut up! Purito was just resting! Go to hell!

6. Pretty interesting how Jurgen Van den Broeck was smacking Alberto Contador for causing his own crash the other day then he goes and causes Jakob Fuglsang's. That's quite enough from the peanut gallery, then, thank you!

7. And yes, this is left over from yesterday--but Peter Sagan, give it up. Everyone is threatened by you. No-one is going to cooperate with you. Ever. Just *go* already!

Well, here's the Shark in yellow again--but tomorrow on the Col d'Izoard, anything can happen! Come on, we can't just all throw in towel just yet...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How to Fend Off a Gorilla, And Other Valuable Lessons from the Peloton #letour

Sure, today was a twinky little "transitional" stage, but before we hit the high Alps tomorrow, there's a few important lessons so far we ought to take away from Le Tour and around the sport in general, so kids, for the betterment and just plain saving of us all, let's review:

Crouching Cyclist, Hidden Chavanel: so let's say you inadvertently piss off, and take down, Andre "the Gorilla" Greipel within lougie-ing distance of a sprint he didn't even expect to be there for, much less actively contest, since he had to spend 5 miserable hours hauling his monstrous carcass over about 600 Cat 3 and Cat 4 climbs first to get within 3k of the line before you personally destroyed his sudden stage-win dreams. Well, normally, according to the experts, gorillas are quite reserved and shy--until they're provoked by unexpected movements, when they will charge you and let out "horrific" roars. And if that don't work, it attacks. So what do you when he does it? Well, according to experts, it ain't "flee"--he'll take you for a wuss, charge after you, and bite into whatever body part he gloms on first. Instead, you are to crouch "submissively" and keep your eyes on the ground. Words to live by--literally! Here, Sylvain Chavanel instinctively does the right thing after a wee imbroglio with Andre today:

How to Look All Cleanster, But Still Be Loyal to Your Cyclist: string him along! Yes, that's what the fine folks at Team "Incredibly Anti-Doping, Unless We Want You As a Staff Member and You're Not American" Sky did after backing Brit bio-passport miscreant Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, popped ages ago but only now whacked with a two-year ban for not quite provably doing anything wrong, subject of course to appeals--they had his back until UCI handed down the news, at which point, not subject to appeals, they ripped him as a freak-o'-the-peloton "cheat" and terminated his contract. Classy! Aw, and I was *so* hoping we'd get to see the alternate "As we expected the allegations were proven to be baseless and we are delighted to announce his formal return to training with the squad" press release...

How to Piss Off Mark Cavendish: well, if you're we love Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, announce without any hesitation whatsoever right on the air that Marcel Kittel is the best sprinter in the world today. Oh, really? I can guess someone who might have an issue with *that*! Don't worry, boys--I'm sure the two of you can take that baby Mark Cavendish, at least if Bobke goes all Hinault and lands on 'em like a pro wrestler--and I doubt he was watching some boring bike race from home today anyway!

How to Fake Like Your Head Isn't About to Explode: oh, come on, Oleg. We *know* you ain't happy, and even if poor wee Contador makes it back to form in time for the Vuelta, you ain't gonna be satisfied without him winning the showiest Big Show of them all. Alternate tactic: deflection, by attacking another team for its lame anti-doping response on Twitter this very afternoon. But you sure did psych us out there with that big smile and thumbs-up from the team car this morning, Mr. Tinkov--*how* many stage wins does it take to make up for not getting the maillot jaune in Paris again?

And, How to Win a PR War: oh, Lampre left charming selfie king Pippo Pozzato off its Tour de France squad--but it certainly lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the adoring fan populace, as a suavely offended Pippo responds by not only posting a thousand photos of himself diligently pursuing high-altitude training the last two weeks just to shove it in your face that he's *not* a slacker, but also manages to put up a photo of himself tranquilly contemplating the true meaning of life against a stunning mountain panorama totally coincidentally with his shirt off. Grimy exhausted blue-and-fuchsia guys picking apart the stage results with obscure announcers in immediate post-race interviews--0. Pozzato--1000!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Big GC Guys Are Dropping Like Flies/How Can I Remember All of Their Names? And, Punk-!$# Move, Race Organizers! #letour

Beautiful Strangers: let's face it, after a half-Tour of crashes, crashes, crashes, drop-outs, and general mayhem, the GC at the Tour is, with mighty few exceptions, starting to look like a game of "what the !@#$ am I even doing here?", leaving pretty well 3 guys who can hope to take Nibali out before the Champs-Elysees, and that only if they hide his bike before the start of the queen stage and make him lose a good twenty minutes before he finds it tucked discreetly behind the Movistar team's dirty underwear. Is that why Nibs has been looking so, well, sort of sheepish getting his maillot jaune lately? Well, take some comfort Vincenzo--you actually made Alexander Vinokourov smile on the rest day yesterday, and at least they've got the podium-babe kiss-fest fiasco all resolved! Now if we could only keep anyone besides the lanterne rouge in the race...

People Who Live in Glass Mansions: and, hilarity predictably ensued when the intrepid journos over at cyclingnews asked all the living prior Tour winners whether Armstrong should keep his 7 Tour de France titles, with vets of the hard-core omerta days proclaiming their outrage over the injustice, others with reps and titles to protect justly equivocating, and the smart ones just keeping their damn mouths shut. Jaysus, I *just* caught like 10 seconds of "The Armstrong Lie" yesterday and had to turn it off for fear that the oily self-justification was gonna ooze out the TV's frame and permanently smear my flat-screen. Can we all just agree to give 'em to Iban Mayo and shut the door on this torrential bull!@#$? Thanks, UCI!

A Dilemma for Tinkov: so--and I know it's easy to put yourself in this guy's shoes--imagine you're a crazed Russian oligarch with a cycling fetish contemplating a merger with Cannondale, and you've gotta decide, where are you gonna put your money and your resources next year--on a brilliant bike handler/jailbait goofball all-rounder/potential Classics god-for-the-ages with the worst sense of tactical timing on the planet, or on a GC guy who was theoretically on the best form of his life but just got over having a pretty crap prior season? Me, I'm hoping for a massive internal war-fest over at the impending TinkoffCannondale between Peter Sagan and Alberto Contador in 2015 (and I'm betting that Alberto is gonna take out Sagan while the latter is distracted by swooning fans), but in the meantime, I suppose we'll all just have to wait to see if Alberto makes it back for a Vuelta media circus with Froomey for September. Look, look how upset this whole thing has made poor Oleg--he's trying to sneak himself and Tyler Hamilton into the Tour--shame on you *all*!

You Blow, ASO!: finally, a giant "you suck!" to the Tour de France organizers, who might've acknowledged a pain-wracked Andrew Talansky's valiant effort to stay just barely within the time limit and honor his hard-working teammates by *not* giving him a giant steel-toed jack-booted kick to the nuts and penalizing him 20 seconds for drafting behind a team car while ALONE FOR FOUR HOURS OF TOTAL AGONY! What the hell, you soulless freaks--you gonna penalize Froome for dropping out by hunting him down and smashing him down to the tarmac again?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Shake 'n' Break (Well, Not Really): It's Nibali's Tour to Lose Now, and, Chava-nooooooooooo! #letour

Okay, let's get this out there: even though Contador's down Kreuziger and Hernandez, and Nibali's Astana is now stronger on paper in the mountains, in this first comparatively minor test Nibs was surprisingly isolated surprisingly early, and Tinkoff-Saxo surprisingly held together longer'n they should've. Still, despite all the yelping by the announcers how Contador looked like he was kicking Vincenzo's !@#, that's sure not how it looked on camera, with Contador doubtless holding something in reserve for bigger peaks but still unable to shake Nibs off by more than a couple of seconds, leaving Nibs with plenty of cushion to lose time in the high passes, and another psychological boost today as well. Yes, yes, the first real mountain stages'll tell--but for my money, that wasn't looking so great for Alberto today, even if it did for his squad! Here, our very happy boy Blel, particularly as he gets to cover up that godawful AG2R jersey with those dashing polka dots:

The Blame Game: meantime, I suppose all the recriminations over the Gerrans-Talansky sprint crash the other day are moot, as Talansky, who yesterday bitterly demanded an apology for touching Gerrans' back wheel while looking backwards at the exact moment Gerrans (along with everybody else) slightly shifted his line and an indignant Gerro basically told him to screw off before Andrew modulated his tone this morning, crashed today this time with no help from Simon whatsoever and buried himself over 4 minutes behind on GC. Still, given the likelihood that that canny bastard Valverde will have at least one day's catastrophic meltdown, he can still claw his back to a decent position again!

French Toast: and, in a Tour where the French still can't field a GC contender for damn near going on a third decade, we love savior-of-French-dignity Sylvain Chavanel looked set to take the win even if he had to tic-tic-tic back up to Blel Kadri to do it, but in the end, it was Blel who took the day by a blazing two-odd minutes, and fair enough, because I've rarely seen anyone, out of all the guys achieving the dream of a lifetime every year, so clearly out of his head delighted as wee Kadri. Good work, and Chavanel, the break awaits another day!

Pink Cadillac (Actually, more like a Lamborghini): over in Italy, as usual, Marianne Vos, who seems completely impervious to weather, road conditions, gradient, or frankly even gravity, took the stage in the Giro Rosa, still leaving the great Emma Pooley at the top of the King of the Mountains classification and Mara Abbott a good three minutes down. Forza Mara, forza Emma--hell, forza *anyone* who has the grinta to take on a stage with Vos riding in it!

No News Is...Uh, No News: lastly, big congrats to UCI for taking the next great step in the fight against doping--yep, apparently, the sport's so clean, and the wrongdoers such hidebound aging relics of the Armstrong era, that they're not even gonna *bother* announcing sanctions against doping scumwads unless they're "important" any more, which left just-announced recent ban-ee Denis "Might As Well Give Heras Back His Vuelta" Menchov off the big-boy list. Well, that oughta scare the crap outta the upcoming generation of easily-tempted success-hungry youngsters--now just announce you're gonna stop testing, and I bet that'll finish up cleaning the sport *real* fast!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Oleg Tinkov Takes On Nibali (In Case Alberto Contador Can't): This Tour Just Keeps Getting Weirder #letour

First, Chris Froome crashes out *not* on the cobbles, so whoever wins is already gonna be in a lifetime rage being perma-dogged by the question, "What if?" Meantime, half the peloton's having knee surgery, Cancellara's outraged at the pave he adored before Boom kicked his !@# on 'em, Andre Griepel's been sprinting like a freakin' climber til this afternoon, Sagan can't time an effort with Big Ben bangin' out the tempo, still-recovering Purito's snailing along at the back of the gruppo like he's looking for a lost contact lens, Eddy Merckx is mocking the entire peloton as a pack of blanky-snuggling wuss-weenies for not having to ride 50 k of cobblestones in a Tour like he did, and not only was Contador's thorough recon of Stage 5 clearly useless after he dropped 2 minutes 40 he'll have to climb like it's 2010 or hope Nibs forgets to eat for a week to have any hope of getting it back, having already been screwed out of primo help by Kreuziger's bio-passport snafu he's now lost poor other-key-mountaineer Jesus Hernandez to quite a serious concussion on today's crash-fouled stage (get well soon and stay safe, Jesus)! What the hell is going *on* out there? Well, crazy-!@# Contador boss Oleg Tinkov's got an answer: he's tweet-warned the remaining GC contenders that *he's* already conquered Saturday's mountain stage, even if *Contador's* gonna !@#$ it up. Jaysus, I'd be more afraid as a Tinkoff rider that my own boss'd toss me off one of those peaks to be picked apart by vultures than of Nibs beating me a up a climb, but either way, that's all just freakin' scary!

A Gentle Plea: and what the !@#$'s with all the Phil and Paul twitter-hate?! They're gods, I tell you, gods! They can announce my !@#damn breakfast for all I care, they can start mistaking the riders for show dogs, they can repeat Jens' age 'til it feels like the ear-worm chorus of every crappy overplayed pop song on the planet, they can jump in on the jersey presentations and pretend they're podium babes, just leave them be !@#dammit!

La Vie En Rosa: finally, I'd be reporting buckets more on the beautiful Giro that's underway if it weren't such a one-handed slaughterhouse by the best cyclist in all human history out there, though of course we love speed demon Giorgia Bronzini did grab a sprint and Emma Pooley thundered to the win in the first mountain stage. But we're hitting the key stages now, so Mara Abbott, these heights are your playground--forza ragazza, and Marianne, throw *someone* else a bone out there!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Oh, the Carnage, the Humiliation--No, Not the Brazil/Germany Match, It's the Stage 5 Cobbles! #letour

Oh yeah, baby, it's time for the Paris-Roubaix of the Tour de France, the day the GC contenders all dread, and it's already bloody devastation out there--and the stage isn't even til tomorrow! The course: a granite minefield of punctures mechanicals crashes slowdowns and dashed dreams, with the added pleasure of a pile o' rain in the forecast that'll have guys careening over the road like a coupla doofus teenage joy-riders tryin' to evade the chasing cops. Worse, the only guys who *can* ride the cobbles--except Fabian Cancellara--are gonna be too busy nursemaiding their own GC bosses to have half a chance for themselves. As for Chris "!@#$, I Need *Another* TUE!" Froome, he gets to pamper his new-hurt wrist by bashing it FOUR HUNDRED JILLION TIMES over a jouncing quarry o' hell. Don't worry honey, I'm sure a *little* opium won't run afoul of the CAS rules! Not much better off--Nibali, Contador, or the wholly luckless Valverde, who while not quite as disastrous as the flailing Froomey on the pave, are still pretty well jacked at the slightest misfortune--after all, they can't *all* fit out on the front to stay out of trouble at once! Not a concern, as if he was anyway--sad-sack ol' Andy Schleck, doomed this time by a well-whanged knee. Well, at least *one* guy's gonna have a good day out there--oh, why not just give the stage and the maillot jaune to Fabs right now, and save all the other poor shmoes the pain? Here, what they're in for (and let's face it, these kids are doing better than half the peloton will tomorrow): Allez al--!@#DAMMIT MY TIRE! 12 MONTHS OF TRAINING DOWN THE TOILET! OLEG'S GONNA BREAK MY KNEECAPS!

P.S. Speaking of team bosses, was I the only one absolutely *howling* when the US commentator asked Alexander Vinokourov about the "emotions" he was feeling watching Nibs race the Tour de France on the same road he won his Olympic gold medal on, and a completely puzzled Vino was like "Emotions? Uh, my family felt emotions..." We love you Vino--even though it's oh so wrong!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

It's a Handy Guide to Peloton Body Language! #letour

Oh sure, we armchair road warriors get to *see* all the action at the Tour--but crucially, what's being *communicated* amongst the riders, directeur sportifs, soigneurs and fans as the race goes on? Here, yer Handy Guide to Peloton Body Language:

The Head-Butt: How *dare* you ride faster than me you bloody bastard?!

The Armpit Glance: If I didn't waste time doing this, I could actually take the stage win with my brazen attack. Oops--almost!

The Elbow Flick: Come *on* you lazy piece of !@#$, I've been dragging your wheelsucking !@# up the mountain for like an hour here, take your turn already!

The Wily Weave (Related): If you try to come around me and and take the stage win after pulling that crap, I am going to squeeze you into the barriers like toothpaste. Justice is served!

The Bike Toss (Version Un): my !@#$in' chain dropped and I am going to rip my mechanic's head face off like a rabid wolverine as soon as I find his sorry !@#. DAMMIT!

The Collarbone Snap: oh no oh no oh no. Race over--get well soon poor thing!

The "It's ME, Beeyotch!": Not to be confused with the Exuberant Arm Raise, or the polite corporate-name-underlining "Sponsor Pleaser," it's why everyone thinks sprinters are arrogant !@#holes. Suck *this*, losers!

The Goddamn Right I'm Not Doping Gutted Collapse: Exhibit 1: John Degenkolb. Medic!

The Swerve: It's fun to sprint on the diagonal, especially if I completely screw *your* chances! Often followed by the Wheel Whang (see below).

The Sticky Bottle: Just coming back for a little drink and a chat with my DS. And an illegal tow. Also, a great website. Nothing to see here, race organizers!

The Breakaway Dither: I'd rather *all* of us lose than *me* lose. Well, we all got our wish I see!

The Fan Punch: Do *not* touch the riders, *or* make fun of their doping practices. You got that, punk?

The Please Push Me: A feeble gesture to one's back on a brutal climb. No, no, I can get in trouble if you push me. God, *someone* please push me!

The Bike Toss (Version Deux): Well, it's really a "throw," but anyway, they're thrusting their bike forward to nip someone else at the line. Such a thrilla!

The Wheel Whang: exactly what it looks like. A scrawny-boy slap fight, but with implements!

Well, them's the basics, along with the Disappointed Musette Rifling Frown, the Get That !@#$ing Camera Out Of My Face Post-Loss Death Stare, and the Jersey Wearers Fake Smile Group Publicity Photo-Op. So now that you know the drill, enjoy the Tour de France--I hear Eurosport is looking for commentators!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

It's Your Tour de France Stage 1 Review!

1. That crash was completely on Cav, but I'm awful sorry about his separated shoulder and hope he can start tomorrow. And to his credit, he's already apologized. So long as he stays the hell away from poor Gerrans from now on!

2. I am utterly and unequivocally opposed to fans getting in the way of the riders. But it was sort of spiritual watching them all touching Jens like a holy relic.

3. Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnsssssssss!

4. If I were Floyd Landis watching a well-paid and still-beloved Christian Van de Velde announcing the Tour de France to an adoring audience after he silently watched Floyd be vilified for years knowing he was telling the truth, I'd be bull!@#$. !@#$, why not just bring Lance Armstrong in to sit next to Bobke next time?

5. After 2 problems with his bike, ten bucks sez that Chris Horner got back to his hotel and beat his mechanic over the head with a Big Mac and large fries. Well, internet gambling's probably illegal, so let's make that "a piece of paper with $10 written on it."

6. What the hell is it this year with stage 1 at the Grand Tours? Anyone setting their sights on the Vuelta a Espana, watch out--you're cursed!

7. Kinda liked Tinkoff-Saxo's other kit better. Leave it to Oleg to figure out how to out-shine the maillot jaune!

8. If you're gonna dress up like a bunny rabbit and run alongside the peloton like an idiot, you might as well go all out and add a bunch of carrots. Nice accessorizing!

9. Didja see Marianne Vos is in the lead at the Giro Rosa? Natch!


11. America may have had its issues with the British monarchy, but that *was* pretty cool the way the royals sent the peloton on its way. Tell me how Andy Schleck got right up there though? Yeah, yeah, I know, he "won" the Tour in 2010....and is it me, or was Froomey rather blushing talking to Kate?

Look, there goes the peloton--wait, what the *hell* is going on with the multiple yellow jerseys, who's in charge of this thing?

Friday, July 04, 2014

It's Yer 2014 Tour de France in Preview: the Climbers, Roleurs, 'n' Everyone Else We Love (Or Don't!) Roundup!

Tic-toc, you can't make it stop, baby, because it's one day left to the Grand Boucle, so time for our final pre-Tour preview! So last but not very least: the mountain goats, and yer everyone else who's in or out who we love, or just love to hate!

Thomas "the Grimace" Voeckler: whose face embodies the angst, the glory, the tragedy, the suffering of the Tour de France? That's right, Tommy Voeckler--and that's all before he gets to the day's sign-in! Watch him for the ebb and flow of attack after attack, the surge of triumph and the gutted visage of defeat. We love you Voeckler--you're like the overacting soccer player of cycling!

Jeeeeeeeeeeeens! Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeens! Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeens! really, need one say more? He just got to Yorkshire and already completed a geocache! Plus reconned the course, rebuilt his own bicycle, participated in a barn-raising, repaired Big Ben, took the Queen out to a rave, and personally hammered Sir Brad a new suit of armor. See you in the breakaways, Jens!

Purito Rodriguez: yes, I put 'im in with GC, tho' he's basically here because he crashed out of the Giro and needs some miles--but not pounded out too hard--for the Vuelta. Me, I'm putting him in for a stage win. Woot woot!

Rui Costa: he's the world champ, he just bagged the Tour de Suisse after a typical curse-of-the-rainbow-jersey start to the season, and he aims, if not to win, to make a fuss. Plus, if you piss 'im off, he'll whang the crap out of you with the nearest bike wheel. Now *that's* world-class!

Sylvain Chavanel: for years, along with Sandy Casar, pretty much the only reason the French *didn't* suck. He doesn't make a fuss, but he always scares the crap out of his unlucky companions in a breakaway. Class act all 'round!

Christophe Riblon: no, still not a huge name, but he *did* win the Alpe d'Huez last year. Who wouldn't like a double?

Darwin Atapuma: Colombia's latest sensation among a sea of latest Colombian sensation, this boy has a hell of a future--and luckily, at the last minute, a freakin' visa. Good support for his boss at BMC, and a massive threat in the heights if he gets the nod to strike out on his own for a stage!

Andrew Talansky: yeah, I got smacked for leaving him out before, but here he is: the man who outsmarted--and out-rode--Alberto Contador on the highest passes of the Dauphine. He may not get GC, but if he can hang in for three weeks, he can sure place high--and afford to throw in a body-crushing performance on at least one mountain stage. Let Nibs Alberto and Froomey mark each other--Andrew, take full advantage! Along those lines, Michal Kwiatkowski, 11th last year, who should be able to put on a pretty sweet show despite some recent uneven form. Allez allez boys!

Ex-Carrots: look, I'm not apologizing for Alejandro Valverde here--he still creeps me out. But damn, he's got a great squad of mostly ex-Euskies to back him, and you can't fault Valverde for his total generosity to his teammates in the face of personal setback. Benat, Ion, the whole lot of you--be ready to step up after Piti's inevitable meltdown!

Chris Horner: the oldest Grand Tour winner is back, without huge expectations but still having to convince everyone he really deserved his big win last year. But for !@#$'s sake, if he gets another concussion, take him *off* the bike before the stage ends!

Fabian Cancellara: oh, no, I didn't forget your darling, Fabs fans! He's predicting monster GC chaos on the fateful cobbles, and I'm betting (oops! jinxed 'im!) he'll come out on top. Go Fabs!

Finally, the Missing: out: the incredibly annoying unctuous hypocrite David "I Hearted Doping Til Others Got to Do It Without Me" Millar, who took to social media to whine about his rejection for the final Tour de France Jonathan Vaughters apparently owed him. Everytime this guy opens his mouth, no matter what the topic, I swear it makes me nostalgic for omerta. But don't worry, fans, he'll apparently be the mosquito in yer ears over on British commentary! Nairo, of course, as Movistar herds its baby superstar cautiously. And Cadel, and Uran, and Gilbert. Worst of all on the out list: the glamorous Pippo Pozzato, who's reportedly planning in revenge to pop up and take a nekkid selfie right next to the day's stage winners as they cross the finish line. Well, that settles who wins the queen stage, I guess--now get that guy a maillot jaune before he shocks the innocent public!

Ah, Jeez!: I can't believe I nearly missed mentioning we love Ted King, who got completely screwed out of the Tour de France last year by a pack of soulless nit-picker bean-counter judges, who kicked his !@# over a measly 7 seconds after a nasty crash while repeatedly letting more well-known riders (Cav! Cav! 'scuse me, must be a frog in my throat) off the hook. When he's helping Sagan to yet another stage win over a suck French rider, race organizers, remember that!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Yeah, the Hell With the Tour--It's the Giro Rosa, Baby!

Already annoyed with the hype (including mine) over the Tour? Still just a little heartbroken every day that the Giro d'Italia's over? Me too! Well, it ain't three weeks long yet, but the women's Giro d'Italia is here, with an all-star field, some bitchin' roads, and no stupid Lance Armstrong questions at the daily press conference! So what to expect:

The Course: 9 stages plus a 2.5k--I swear it--maglia-rosa-startin' prologue! 2 opening sprint-n-circuit stages, with a climb and some KOM points on stage 1; more flats on stage 4; a cat 2 climb and an uphill finish on stage 3; a touching tribute to Marco Pantani to Romagna on stage 5. On stage 6: yeeeee-haaaaaah, we hit the Alps, honey, with a cat 1 Pian del Cansiglio and a swift descent to the finish; mostly flat with an uphill end to stage 7; and stage 8 is the Queen, with an air-gaspin' finale on the cat 1 San Domenico di Varzo! Yer last chance: stage 9, ending the race on the hallowed Ghisallo. Forza donne!

The Riders: oh yes, defending champ/United Healthcare goddess Mara Abbott's gonna be defending her maglia rosa with a great squad, but she's not the only with eyes (and legs!) on the prizes: the smashing field includes near-unbeatable Marianne Vos, ever-tough Emma Pooley, Tatiana Guderzo, Fabiana Luperini, Silvia Cecchini, 2012 double Olympic bronze medalist Olga Zabelinskaya (whew, I'm getting tired here, I should've broken this down by category), Kirsten Wild, Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Johansson, and, of course, my personal fave, rocketeer and general bad!@# Giorgia Bronzini. Watch out for Georgia in the sprints, Mara to keep her overall, and Vos--well, better watch out for her *everywhere*! But here, UHC and Mara throw it *down*:

The Jerseys: Five jersey to rule them all, including the GC's maglia rosa, white for Young Rider, blue for Best Italian Rider (and holy crap, is there a *huge* talent pool to slug it out for that), blazin' hot pink for Best Sprinter, and green for Queen o' the Mountains. Gentle plea to Marianne: you might wanna give someone else a chance at at least *one* of 'em!

The Song: finally, lest you think the Giro Rosa hasn't got an official song, grab yer glow stick, pump up the volume, and get ready to party as jimmygianmario starts us off!

Arriva il Giro Rosa, baby!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

It's Yer Tour de France in Preview, Part Trois: the Sprinters!

So, it's the high-octane position-jockeying lead-out-chaos adrenaline rush of the last two kilometers of a sprint stage after 6 hours of relentlessly boring nothingness that thrills you, eh? Well, as we discussed in our Tour de France in Preview Part Un, the course has got plenty o' excitement for you this year, so let's take a look at the fast men!

Mark "the Manx Missile" Cavendish (OPQS): Strengths: still, I believe, the fastest man on two wheels in a straight-up sprint. And with his incredible palmares, the Tour--especially the Champs-Elysees--is his particular playground. Plus, should his actual legs fail to do the job, he can latch onto Marcel Kittel's jersey with his giant teeth and fling him single-molar-dly into the barriers. Weaknesses: gets totally put out by any sort of argy-bargy or sadistically twisty corners before the finish line. And Cav does *love* a lead-out, so if they've got a problem, so does he. Anyone want to place bets on the first teammates he publicly rips to the press for screwing him over? You're right, it *could* be all eight of 'em at once!

Marcel "Needs a Cool Nickname" Kittel (Giant-Shimano: Strengths: oh come on, who else can possibly seriously challenge Cav right now? He had a great start to the Giro and has looked smashing all year. Plus, despite his size, on a rolling stage that ends as a sprint, he's somehow not quite so knocked out as Cav when he gets there. And oh, that hair! Weaknesses: uh, his team I guess, compared to Cav? It's not like he really needs anyone the last kilometer anyway though!

Andre "the Gorilla" Greipel (Lotto-Belisol): Strengths: no, he's not the silkiest sprinter, but damn, this boy is a *beast*. And, with the German championship fresh under his big sturdy belt, he's got confidence at just the right time. Weaknesses: none. Absolutely none. I suppose you could tag-team up to squeeze him out by leaving him too little room to get through near the finish line, but then, that's only if you're not afraid of the fact that he's been known to kill other riders with a single glance!

Peter "the Tourminator" Sagan (Cannondale): Strengths: that smile. Those eyes. Them wheelies. And a total youthful lack of self-doubt, insecurity, or fear. Plus, he sure can descend, and is pretty well the best bike-handler around. So *that's* what makes the fanboys-and-girls swoon! Weaknesses: on a perfect flat, he's pretty vulnerable. And at--what is he, 12 years old?--he still tends to get overexcited, so the best tactician he ain't. Best to aim for an uphill run to the line and tire out Cav and Kittel's climbing legs 1st!

Elia Viviani (Cannondale): after an inexplicably tough Giro, he's not here for himself, but as Sagan's support man. Maybe a pure flat finish'll give 'im a shot over Sagan though?

Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ): by contrast, after a truly smashing Giro in which he came completely into his own mentally and physically, he's been rewarded by...being left at home?! Screw you FDJ!

Well, them's mine, but as soon as some asshat zips across someone else's line or a numbnut fan gets a little too enthusiastic clapping some gaudy promotional item over the barriers, that's the top 20 guys down in a swearing bone-bruising pile-up and it's game on for some stunned and lucky domestique. May your collarbones all stay intact, may the fastest man win, and the rest of you--no whining when you're beaten! Here, Cav himself causes the chaos on last year's stage 10:

Next up: yeah, you know it--the Climbing Gods, and Peeps We Love (Or Not) Who Are In (Or Out!)