Thursday, August 20, 2015

It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Tres: the Climbers, the Sprinters, and Late Hot Gossip! #LV2015 #lavuelta

Woo-hoo, the beautiful Vuelta's finally upon us, and now that we've covered the Course and the General Classification Contenders, it's time for--and yes, it's still both bitchin' and handy to know--the 'Nother Stuff! The score:

The Climbers: if they can't climb, they ain't GC. And if they can't climb, and still ain't GC, they're working for the man who is. But if they bust hard, do well, and sufficiently exhaust the overall competition setting a barf-inducing page in the mountains--or if their team leader irredeemably tanks, or if there really isn't one--they may be rewarded with the go-ahead for a stage win. Natch, they're mostly on Sky, Movistar, or Astana, and we love ex-Euskaltel to boot. Too many to count, including the free-rangers without a GC hope, but Mikel Landa for Nibali and Aru--who's been thoroughly warned, as he was at the Giro, not to !@#$ with the designated leader(s). Mikel Nieve for that spidery freak Froome. Newly-rejoining-the-World-Tour-for-2016 Amets Txurruka for Caja Rural. We love Samuel Sanchez and Darwin Atapuma for whatever's left of Tejay after his valiant fight at the Tour de France. Fran Ventoso for Alejandro, uh, Nairo over at Movistar. Dani Moreno for he can so either win it you haters Purito. And geez, pretty much everyone on Team Colombia, when you look at it. Either way, they're all firecrackers to watch, and most of 'em have hometown pride to fill. Goooooooooooo ex-Carrots!

The Sprinters: let's be honest, the steep'n'gory Vuelta's no place for pampered princes like Cav, Kittel, or for that matter, the hulking Greipel. But I'll also be fair (for once)--there's a few, and any of 'em what can make it outta the first week alive has more'n earned his keep for the team. On tap: Nacer Bouhanni; Angel Vicioso; JJ Rojas from Movistar; Gerro and Ewan at Greenedge with trusty Docker to show the way; Bennati. Good luck, you sprinters'll need it to survive those pesky mountains in between!

The 'Nother Guys: yes, yes, the Saganator, who better come up with a pile o' stage wins if he knows what's good for him, and he doesn't think "good" is Oleg Tinkov kicking his !@#$. But other gents in the race: LL Cool Sanchez (yeah, yeah, checkered past, throw half the field out then!), Sylvain Chavanel, Talansky, John Degenkolb, and--no, don't worry, Fabs fans, I didn't forget him--our tough-as-nails Spartacus, with Frank Schleck no less. And holy crap, what is the entire Classics planet o' Belgium doing here?

And Last But Not Least, the Controversy: well, apparently the entire field--much less their terrified leadership--is enraged that there's some dirt roads to enjoy, slow down, crash out, and puncture our GC faves in the team time trial. Oh, what's a little stretch of "that totally !@#$ed me off the podium!" between friends? Meantime, still irked by the Simoni-Cunego or Wiggo-Froome disasters (hell, I don't give about the Wiggo situation, but man, that Cunego still gets on my last nerve!)? Well, pass the popcorn for the disdainful Vinokourov's raw survival-of-the-fittest Nibali-Aru deathmatch and the subtler Valverde-Quintana stealth-mode backstab! Me, I'm a sucker for underdogs, so I guess it's Nibs and brilliant-but-sort-of-defenseless Quintana for me. But only after Purito has *stomped* them!

Okay, time to get out my Once-Eroski and Euskaltel caps and start screamin for Samu and Purito. Oh, and Happy 80th Birthday to this phenomenal race--Vive la Vueltaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Monday, August 17, 2015

It's Your Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Dos: the GC Contenders! #LV2015 #lavuelta

Oh yeah, it's only a few short days 'til the fabulous Vuelta, honey, and now that we've previewed the excruciating course, it's time for General Classification contenders that'll be takin' it on! And while the Tour is one nasty prologue for the flaming-hot, steeper'n hell painfest like the Vuelta, with pretty well all these guys similarly gobsmacked, that oughtn't be such a huge factor this year. Yer heroes:


2. Chris Froo--ack! yaaaack! gaaccccckkkkk! arrrrghhhh!--me (Sky): yep, he won the freakin' Tour de France, beeyotches, with a freakishly mountain-goat contingent o' Classics riders to pace 'im, and now the smug little !@%# is back to show that, though the Giro-Tour double was arrogant and reckless as well as downright embarrassing, the Tour-Vuelta double is, for any real rider, a piece o' cake. So sorry you're not there for me to stomp on again, Alberto--I'll be sure to wave to you from the final podium in Madrid!

3. Tejay Van Garderen (BMC): Dang, he rode well and bravely at the Tour de France, didn't he? But whether his body can handle the stress 'n' strain of a 3-week two-fer, at the heights at which his impressive talent is capable, is a whole 'nother question. Still, he's got Samu. Stay strong, Tejay, and hopefully you can show 'em all in week 3!

4. Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru (Astana): Oh, the pain of having to "share" team leadership at the Vuelta! Say what you will about Nibs, but even after his Tour de France GC hopes were obliterated, the man kept stubbornly riding as hard as he could--pure and unadulterated grinta. As for Aru, yeah, you rode a *really* nice Giro with ex-Carrot Mikel Landa's monster aid--but remember your place, rugrat, your time is coming soon anyhow!

5. Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): Oh, the pain of having to "share" team leadership at the Vuelta! But at least with Movistar it's because Nairo--and miraculously, even the dependably self-destructive Valverde--completely kicked !@#. So lay off Nairo if he falters, which he won't--the poor wee thing is probably *tired* for heck's sake!

6. Purito Rodriguez (Katusha): As the GC plans of the "fabulous five" imploded around him, Purito kept his cool, and took *two* smashing stage win at the Tour. But for my money, and despite his nearly Hornerish advanced age, the starkly beautiful Vuelta is the race for him, and now is his time. Shut up, go to hell, will so too either!

Yes, there's others. And the Vuelta being the Vuelta, I'm sure I'll be proved mortifyingly wrong. But even the GC contenders ain't all the action for this phenomenal race--next up in preview: the climbers, the sprinters, and all the other stuff to see!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Uno!: The Course! #lavuelta

Mourn the Giro, forget the Tour--it's time for the fabulous Vuelta a Espana! And before we get on to who's riding it and what their chances are--because frankly, at least one of the GC contenders seriously makes me want to just yak--we better know what the corsa itself is gonna throw at 'em. Ergo, let's go--the Course!

The Kick-Off: well, we gotta shake the nerves outta the lets and get the red jersey on *somebody*, and how better to do it than a short, 7.4k superflat coastal team time trial? Barring catastrophe--there, that ought curse things--some lucky guy'll inadvertently get the crowning moment of his career, and even the worst of the GC contenders, though suffering some psychological humiliation, won't be *too* freaked out by their time losses. Just stay the hell upright, Purito, and I am a happy fan!

The Individual Time Trial: happily for most of these guys, there's only one of 'em, a mildly lumpy, 38.7k Stage 17 hot off the rest day. Still, as the Vuelta don't hesitate to remind us, for the wee-est, the least-aero, and the generally unlucky, even a few seconds lost or won can count. Don't lose heart here Puritooooooooooooooooooooooo!

The Hills: if ain't mountains, it's probably "hills", which by Vuelta standards is still most people's on-the-rivet definition o' "agony". The intermediate pain starts almost right off the blocks on Stage 2, followed by the merciless run of stages 6 through 10 before the rest day of September 1st. Phew, that's a relief to get those out of the w--what, there's still *more* of this !@#$ on stages 18 and 19? "Rest" my !@#!

The Sprints: Okay, like I give a crap, but there *are* six, for those big galoots stupid--or at least masochistic--enough to ride this carousel. Stages 3 thru 5, 12 and 13, and natch, the sponsor-slutfest two-K-thrilla ending to a ceremonial GC day for the last fast man standing (or weeping, whatever) in Madrid. Aupa to anyone who's made it this far with some gas left in the tank--you're truly a sprinter like no other!

Last But Not Least (Hell, More Like the Most) Mountains: La Vuelta ain't no simpy sprinter's race, honey--it's the !@#damn Vuelta, and despite this glorious race getting *no* respect, only the climbers will survive. On tap: 5 truly high mountain stages, beginning with a post-rest-day Stage 11 Andorran slaughterfest, billed as the toughest ever to feature in the Vuelta--and let's be honest, a buncha guys'll pick up gnarly, race-ending "stomach viruses" on the rest day just to avoid it, and there's *absolutely* no shame in that. Six! sadistic mountain passes, including one hors category climb (thoughtfully placed mid-course), 4 cat-1 climbs including the finish, and a lone cat-2 climb as a consolation prize. And that's not all! After two teaser flat stages, it's full-uphill-gas for the next 3 days on Stages 14-16, with an uphill finish at the hors categorie Alto Campo, next day a gentle cat-1 finale at Alto de Sostres--and yeah, it's still freakin' "alto", at the Vuelta it's always "alto!", and a *seven*-mountain deathmarch to the HC Ermita de Alba before what's left of the shredded carcasses of the peloton get to drift into merciful sleep for the final rest day--before, of course, they're woken up by their sadistic DSes that morning for an "easy" 3-hour spin to keep fresh. The finale: if it isn't already painfully set in stone, it comes down to who can triumph--or who just doesn't catastrophically crack--on penultimate Stage 20, with 4 Cat-1s to enjoy including two tries at Puerto de la Mocuera before a coy downhill and mood-killing uphill nip of a last k to Cercedilla. Congratulations to the final red jersey--just enjoy the bubbly tomorrow, and offer thanks to the Vuelta gods it's over!

Well, them's the corsa. Next up--the poor GC bastids who'll be riding it!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Confused About the Whole Tommy D Mess? My Fantasy Jonathan Vaughters Press Conference Explains It All!

JV: Good morning. I'm here today to explain why I'm reneging on my sacred vow to discontinue my 'clean team' if some jerk on it tested positive for drugs/I am so proud to continue to support the most morally superior team in the peloton, Cannondale-Garmin. First, I'd like to say that I must've been an idiot to think that any one of Lance's teammates who got a bull!@#$ 6-month off-season suspension for years of destructive cheating and omerta had any incentive not to pull that crap again/the positive test of that wholly unauthorized freak and outlier Tommy Danielson was a complete and utter shock to all of us. Next, I'd like to remind you that we have one of the most rigorous internal anti-doping testing programs on the face of planet Earth/if those clowns at UCI could actually detect doping this year there's no excuse whatsoever for any half-!@#ed kid with a mail-order chemistry set not to have found it.

As to why I am choosing to let this team continue in the face of such a disappointing occurrence/such an unadulterated hypocrite not to keep my word when it counts, all I can say is that, upon further reflection, it would be genuinely unfair to destroy the livelihoods of dozens of innocent riders, soigneurs, team chefs, and staff members/I genuinely thought I would never in a million years be held to such a ridiculous promise. For my riders, I can only offer my deepest apologies for this unexpected incident happening on my watch/my most pathetic begging because if fan-friendly cash-cow nice guys like Dombrowski bail on me my career is !@#$ing f!@#$ed. I also urge you, and all cyclists, not to order any nutritional supplements off the internet, no matter how seemingly reliable/to just blame yer next positive on some obscure relative's coke-dusted candies right now for how stupid you'll look. Finally, I affirm to all you today that our team remains committed to the highest standards of sportsmanship/compared to some of the other squads, we are the *least* of this sport's continued problems.

Thank you for joining me here today/screw you for rejoicing in my downfall you lazy ignorant poseur know-nothing armchair Monday-morning quarterbacks. I look forward to joining you in the continued fight against this foul disease that taints our beloved sport/you guys getting the hell off my back and going back to bitching about Froomey. Have a great day/bite me!