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!