Saturday, April 30, 2016

It's Yer Giro d'Italia in Preview, Part Due--the GC Contenders! #Giro

All right, we know where they're going--but who's gonna get there, and who's gonna challenge for overall victory? There's only one who can stand on the top step in Torino--and it's likely to be one of these guys!

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana): look, he may've threatened to bail on the race entirely if they pulled any of this "extreme weather protocol"/cancel the mountain stages crap so wilting wussies don't freeze to death or even lose a digit or two to frostbite,the cowards--but "Lo Squalo" knows that with Vinokorouv handing the Tour to upstart Italian fave Fabio Aru, no matter how many Grand Tours he's won or how many sleetstorm's he's powered through to victory, the Giro d'Italia is the only game in town for him this year. So aside from the fact that he's the Italian's hometown favorite, what are his chances? Of whining and complaining every damn day--I'd say a clear 100%. Of winning? Barring disaster, he's my second fave odds-wise for the win, and let's face it, anyone who can pull off the Giro the Vuelta and the Tour, no matter who the hell crashed out before him and enraged him with the implication he mightn't've won 'em all otherwise, ain't stupid. He's also got quite a bangin' squad for a team boss aiming squarely at the Tour, including canny workhorse Michele Scarponi. Forza Nibs--but forza not quite as much as the next guy on the list!

Mikel Landa (Sky): first, shut he hell up, haters. I don't give a crap that he's on Sky and it's not his fault because it's only since no one took me up on my generous offer to crowd-fund Euskaltel that he ever had to switch teams at all and like his other squad was any better, so the fact that he's nested in a snarl of dope-stuffed smirking vipers has absolutely nothing to do with him and let me just enjoy it while it all lasts !@#dammit. And he needs this win, because if he's gonna kick that skeleton freak Froome off the mountainside for the Tour someday, he's gonna need a Giro under his belt to prove he can do it. Of course, the day he starts to time trial like we still miss so bite me Roberto Heras in his last year in the peloton is the day (1) he does show he can win a Grand Tour GC and (2) the narcs start stickin' him full of more needles than a pissed-off porcupine on a big dumb dog. As to his minimal race days and huge wonk of illnesses this season, well, it sure don't seem to be holding him back! Vai Mikeeeeeeeeeeeeel--and Froomey, if you have *any* appreciation for what you did to your own team captain just a few short seasons back, you'll have the sense to watch this race veeeeeeeery carefully!

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): yeah, he creeps me out too. And if he doesn't creep *you* out, frankly, you creep *me* out. He's brilliant, tenacious, unpredictable, and inevitably, catastrophically fragile on at least one miserable !@#$ disaster day he really oughta be cruising on. But by his numbers, and with his honestly disturbing consistency, if he keeps his bonk day to a minimum time loss, he may actually be able to do it. Don't worry--it'll probably just be the podium. If not, I'm fully expecting the heavens to crack open and the hounds of doom to come howling out to devour the Earth--so he wins, well, it was nice knowing ya!

Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale): he's been the runner-up twice, the biggest guns are (and they can all suck it for doing this) prioritizing the Tour, and he's been promised heavier mountain backup than he's ever enjoyed. More, he's sounding super confident, which goes a long way when the legs cause doubts. Win? Nah--but top five? You betcha!

Ryder Hesjedal (Trek-Segafredo): okay, he's looked a liiiiiiittle shaky the last few rides, and no-one's taking him seriously, but he's actually won this race before, so no matter how unlikely that was, you can't count him out for at least a hell of a fight--and perhaps a Nibs-esque consolation redemption-song stage win--before he cracks for good. And yes, I know you're all rooting for Fabs to take a stage win anyway!

Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin): what the !@#$? This guy has no business being anywhere *near* GC on a Grand Tour, much less the Dolomiti-of-Death-stuffed Giro d'Italia. I can't even discuss it. What the !@#$?

Dark Horses: yeah, yeah--Esteban Chaves and Rafal Majka. Who *won't* be entertained watching 'em scare the spandex off Alejandro Valverde on a few key mountain stages before that reverse-aging wingnut dispatches 'em for good? I know *I* will be, so good luck boys!

Well, them's the GC hopes, but it *is* the Giro, and one sketchy descent in a sleetstorm or ill-timed snack break and the whole podium can be shot to hell. So good luck, stay up right--and prepare to bow before Landa in Torino!

Friday, April 29, 2016

It's Yer Giro d'Italia in Preview Part Uno--The Race Course, Baby! #Giro

Okay, so British Cycling's a pack of misogynist !@#holes and misogynist-!@#hole apologists, Vino's Astana boys are a bunch of bidon-wielding goon-thugs, and somebody everybody likes just got popped for a TUE his own team doc failed to ask for that wouldn't've been a violation in the first place. But what's *really* important in cycling? *That's* !@#damn right kids, it's time for the fabulous Giro d'Italia! Oh, sure, Nibali's only riding it because Vino kicked his !@# outta the Tour in favor of that little twerp Aru, Landa needs to build his palmares before he can displace the flailing Froome like Froome did to Wiggo before him, and Valverde's just in it to exhaust himself so he doesn't have to openly bushwhack Nairo at the Tour only to blow the podium anyway, but the Giro is ever more beautiful and thrilling than its also-ran status to the gaudy Tour's hideous yellow glare would suggest, so what to look for in the terrifying precipices and harrowing descents of the Corsa Rosa? This!

The Time Trials: Jaysus, there's 3 of 'em? And they're all individual, none of that touchy-feely kumbaya team bull!@#$. Woe betide the eejit who hasn't sought marginal gains in the wind tunnel this winter! We start the whole shebang off with a 9.8k super-flat time trial through the bitchin'ly named town of Appeldorn to get a warm body into the maglia rosa. Just enough time and distance to stretch the legs and slightly psych out yer rival GC contenders before the horse has even really left the barn! Then, it's a 40k Stage 9 roller through Chianti, and--finally--a straight-uphill mountain time trial to save the dignity (or crush the hopes) of the climbers on Stage 15. Forza Purit--dammit, he's riding the *Tour* for chrissakes, forza Mikeeeeeeeeeeeel!

The Sprint Stages: I'll be honest--it's the Giro, so I barely give a crap about these here, but even without an enraged Robbie McEwen still in the peloton to bite somebody's ear off in the sprint, there's certainly something to be said for a little glory for the fast men, especially those who can make it past the first mountain stage without running crying to their DSes like a toddler who's just had his balloon popped by some jackwagon. And they get 7! Stages 2, 3, 7, 11, 12, 17, and the last chance for eternal fame in the run into Torino. Don't worry boys--if you make it that far, you *might* be able to recover sometime before the end of the season!

The Lumpy Ones: Got a hankering to impress your sponsor with a long breakaway while the GC chill in the pack *and* amp up your asking price for next year? Don't mind a bucket o' flat with just enough heights, descents, and crash-friendly twists'n'turns to freak out the sprinters? Here's yer chances, dreamers, darers, and roleurs! Stage 4, 5, 8, 11, 16, 18. Hmmm, this is primo Philippe Gilbert territory--is he even riding this, or is his busted finger still wired to make a rude gesture at the guy who hit 'im?

The Mountains: *Here* we go, cycling fans, *this* is what the smashing Giro is all about! Only 4 of 'em are named as "high mountain stages," but if you think the other 3 ain't gonna hurt, I want what you're drinking! It takes us 'til Stage 6 for our first summit finish, but we (and hopefully, y'know, the GC contenders) get there, and Stage 10 and the two Cat 1 and Cat 2s in Stage 13 get the blood pumping next. Next, Stage 14 bashes you into the pain cave with the Passo Pordoi, Passo Sella, and Passo Gardena, *then* Passo Campolongo, Passo Giau (which translates literally as "the Pass of Holy f!@#!"), Valparola and--thank God, at last!--the Muro del Gatto. Medic! And that's not all: Stage 19 whacks you right in the middle with the Col d'Agnello, only to let you breathe on the downhill before you realize "crap, I can't believe I let that guy go!" on the finale, and Stage 20 (and I do love a nail-biter of a Giro) will either crown--or dethrone--the final victor in Milan with the Col de Var, la Bonette, and Lombardia, with a right little nipper up to the finish line. Mikeeeeeeeeeeel--don't let that punk Valverde psych you out wee Landa, he's probably already had his catastrophic one-day meltdown by now!

Okay, them's the course of the gentlemen's Giro 2016--next up, yer GC Contenders! Are you tough enough?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chemical Weapons! Discs-o'-Death! Doping Busts! Uh, And There's Bike Racing, Right?

Law and Disorder: well, more's coming out about the violent drunken goon-thug/innocent cyclist altercation involving Philippe Gilbert, and it turns out, !@#damn right PhilGil *did* go all chemical-warfare pepper-spray on that motorist's !@#, which *does* count as a "weapon" in Belgium--and coming from a strictly American Wild West mine's-bigger cowboy perspective here, *that* ain't no "weapon," but I digress--and now, big bad car driver is cryin' to his mama *and* the cops that will-o'-the-wisp Gilbert (who to be fair, has proven himself a mortal threat to frightened children in the past) was a mean, mean bully. I warned you in yesterday's people, don't !@#$ with the man--particularly since he sez he's *always* packin'!

And It Burns, Burns, Burns/The Ring of Fire, The Ring of Fire: meantime, as Movistar's Fran Ventoso shows off what looks to be a nice gory round chunk sliced outta his leg and rails about the nascent use of disc brakes in the peloton, and the all-powerful disc-brakes lobby lams into Fran for mistaking an obvious Velociraptor attack for a harmless bike part, the twitsphere's gone wild, not least UCI, who either are or aren't gonna ban disc brakes in races until more research can be done, presumably on the unwitting bods of whatever sap happens to go down in a pile of uncoordinated and lethally armed Lampre riders. Me, I say let's preserve valuable cyclist bodies *and* advance science with a good old-fashioned cage-match: two combative guys, say Cavendish, and Philippe, in one of those metal circus sphere cages, one with rim brakes and the other with discs, they ram into each other repeatedly, whoever comes out roughly in one piece (or the least number of pieces), the other guy's brakes are the new UCI standard. Saddle up, boys, problem solved!

Quoth the Beard, Nevermore: and, it's with total ennui that I note that Matteo Gavazzi's been popped for coke a truly impressive third time--the latest perilously close to the time he won an unusual number of victories, so maybe more'n a little off-hours clubbing just there--and with total bummedness that we love Luca "the Beard" Paolini's long, bad-!@# career is, most probably, over on account of his advanced age of 39 and his official 18-month ban for the same devil's nose-candy. Dammit, if only they'd been old enough to be aware for Nancy Reagan's appearance on "Diff'rent Strokes" to push her extremely effective "Just Say No!" campaign! Oh, these wild kids today...

Ardennes You Glad I Didn't Say Banana?: finally, if you *do* think Gilbert's gonna be hampered by a few freakin' fractures in his beloved Ardennes classics, think again, doubters--he's posted a pic of his X-ray with a good skyscraper's worth of steel pins in his finger on Instagram, and he is aiming that digit directly at *you*!

Monday, April 11, 2016

It's Yer Paris-Roubaix In Review! and, A Friendly Note About Philippe Gilbert #ParisRoubaix

Yep, the Hell of the North is done and dusted, so if you weren't glued to your illicit porn-spammed feed glomming on to every magnificent, tragic second for 6 straight hours, what'd you miss? Here, some key points, and a Bonus Friendly Note about Philippe Gilbert:

1. Peter Sagan: no-one else is ever, ever going to help you. And the one guy who would've in a pinch, is retiring. Keep this in yer damn head while you're team-shopping, doofus!

2. Peter Sagan: calm down, everybody. He's still gonna win it. Just not this year.

3. UCI: in all seriousness. The sport's just lost an innocent rider in a terrible tragedy. You *know* cyclists go down in crashes with motos close behind them all the time. Now Elia Viviani gets run over, fortunately with no worse than a few contusions. *What* else is it gonna take before you institute a minimum distance between race motos and riders?!

4. Tom Boonen, man. Gutted. I'm *still* crushed!

5. Mathew Hayman, man. If you're gonna be a domestique most of your career, this is one hell of a reward!

6. Fabian Cancellara. Two silly crashes, one total legend. Chapeau and au revoir, Spartacus!

7. A women's Flanders is awesome. So where the !@#$'s the women's Paris-Roubaix?

8. Get well soon Mitch Docker Niki Terpstra and the rest of the wounded from the cobblestones!

9. So Phil Gaimon apparently rode off course and out of the race. Um, not to deface the hallowed pave' or nothin', but, y'know, *arrows* maybe for these guys?

10. So now not only is Philippe Gilbert !@#$ed out of Brabantse Pijl and probably the Ardennes Classics as well, but now the !@#clown who broke Gilbert's finger in an altercation is saying that Philippe is the aggressor *and* our BMC hero apparently laid into 'im with some kind of pepper spray. Leaving aside the fact that, well, I call bull!@#$, but YOU'RE TALKING TO A GUY WHO SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF A THIRD GRADER BY SCREAMING IN HER FACE DURING THE TOUR DE FRANCE! AND IF HE'S TOUGH ENOUGH TO DO THAT, YOU KNOW HE IS GONNA TAKE YOU *OUT*, MOTHER!@#$ER! For heck's sake, man, what the hell were you even thinking?

Saturday, April 02, 2016

And the Wheels On the Bus--Uh, Bike--Go Ronde and Ronde: It's the Tour of Flanders, Baby!

Yes, after a truly unspeakably tragic week, cycling--heavy-hearted as it is--is healing the best and humblest way it knows how, by taking on the glory, the pain, the blood, and the sheer leg-crunching suffering of the cobblestones at the revered Ronde van Vlaanderen. Pre-race controversy: no, not whether Sagan shaved his freakin' legs you prurient pervs, but some squads were apparently *not* allowed to recon certain sections of the course and, as a result, are not only spittin' fire but already preparing their post-race press-conference justification for how it's all the jerkface organizers' fault for not even allowing them to prep enough to win. Anyhoo, on tap for the gentlemen: And for the women: And even in "tiny", honey, that spells "agony"!

On form for the men: well, after what seems to be a mathematically endless series of Fabs-vs.-Tom articles and soft-porn photo-spreads, all bets are on the retiring last-stand Cancellara for a historic 4-peat vs. the tactically-blockheaded but uncontrollably powerful Peter Sagan, tho' if it comes down to the motivator of "rider most likely to be beaten senseless with a cobblestone by his rabid foaming oligarch team boss if he loses," it's clear we ain't looking at Trek-Segafredo here for the win. Me, I'm thinkin' last year's king Kristoff is just too marked as never before, I'm rooting pointlessly for we love Tom Boonen who shut up and go to hell is just holding it all back for Roubaix, not getting at all the hate for Greg Van Avermonster, and still holding onto the fond delusion that dashing if perpetually underperforming bon vivant Pippo Pozzato's got enough legs to (1) fit in a nice new trophy tat somewhere and (2) seriously stick it to those unappreciative snots at Lampre, at least with an upgrade to the podium. Yeah, yeah, Saganator's got it, forza Pippo, even tho' I hope Tommeke still kicks your !@#!

For the women: holy crap have we got powerhouse city here, with a huge percentage of the likely contenders being both uninjured and on spectacular early-season form, between reigning rainbow jersey and so far absolutely uncursed and unbeatable Lizzie Armistead, surprise (to me anyway, but I'm just yer average eejit) Gent-Wevelgem winner/Armistead teammate Chantal Blaak, and, of course, defending Ronde ruler Wiggle's Elisa Longo Borghini, and as a reminder, last year's podium roundout of Jolien D'hoore and Anna Van Der Breggen. We'll see who's still standing (or crawling) on the Paterberg--but go Lizzie, how can you not root for someone with so much talent grit and total bad-!@#ery?

And in case you forgot, here's how it played out last year for the men: and the women:

Now, off to the races, kids--may your tires never puncture, your bike not spontaneously combust, your bidon never be empty, and most of all, may Fabian Cancellara have mercy upon your doomed, desperate souls!