Monday, May 30, 2016

It's Yer 2016 Giro d'Italia Racejunkie Awards! #Giro

Feeling unaccountably wistful whenever you see something pink? Suddenly unable to enjoy your morning !@#dammit-I'm-not-drinking-this-in-Italy espresso? Already drained and disoriented from going back to your normal sleep patterns or, even worse, having to pay attention again at 'work'? Yes, tifosi, you've just been nutwhacked with Post-Giro Letdown Syndrome--but fear not, we here at racejunkie have got the cure! Prizes for the winners, if they've got the time, obsessive interest in Googling themselves, and total lack of anything interesting to do but read this crap: eternal glory (or cringing shame), and a free stylin' embroidered racejunkie cap! Ergo, campioni, it's Yer 2016 Giro d'Italia Racejunkie Awards!

1. Punk-!@# Move of the Race: ok, bear with me here, because I *am* gonna give even this guy a little credit later on. But Michele Scarponi, punching the air in triumph *right* next to sweet, despondent Esteban Chaves' head as they crossed the line after Chaves' crushing loss of the maglia rosa on the decisive penultimate stage. For *shame*, Michele--what next, yer gonna teach yer freakin' parrot to squawk "neener neener" whenever the poor kid walks by?

2. Astanashing Publicity-Ho Turnaround of 2016: good luck, whatsyerface! You *suck*, Nibali! Huh, nice you managed to salvage some dignity there. HOLY @#$% YOU'RE GONNA WIN THIS THING I ALWAYS SAID YOU HAD IT IN YOU CAN I BRING YOU A LIMONATA/COOL YOU WITH A PALM LEAF/WASH YOUR STINKING FEET/ARU YOU LITTLE !@#$ GET OVER HERE AND START PAINTING HIS BIKE PINK! Alexander Vinokourov, I hate myself for loving you!

3. Sissy Slap-Fight of the Giro: oh sure, there were a few snarls of annoyance, emphatic elbow-flicks, clearly rude gestures, and exasperated slammings of the handlebars--but for sheer pointless, if heartfelt, drama, you can't beat FDJ's Alexandre Geniez physical and verbal assault on AG2R's Hubert Dupont at the line over what appeared to be the most trivial of offenses. Fingers were wagged, OMG a collar was pulled--damn, I'd hate to see the bloody warfare by Geniez over a *real* insult!

4. You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine Award: Gee, my legs felt good today! Boy, did I crack this afternoon or what! Did you know it's my parents' first trip to Europe? My, that crash sure smarted! Hey, I *just* lost the maglia rosa! Also Class Act of 2016 and Bestest Smile in the Peloton--Esteban Chaves, this one's for you!

5. Holy Crap It's All Over Oh !@#$ Moment o' the Race: a moment's inattention, a frightening flyer of bike and man, a fractured rib and crushed dreams after endless impregnable days in pink--Steven Kruijkwijk's terrifying somersaulting smash into a 7-foot wall of ice ended his Giro dreams in an instant. Cycling, how cruel thou art!

6. Corollary Tough Guy of 2016 Award: yep, Kruijswijk. His certain victory gone, the boy plugged on, honoring his team, the race, and himself, bringing a still-amazing-when-you-think-about-it 4th-freakin'-place to Torino. Incredible work by an incredible young talent--however the hell you pronounce yer name, I'll never underestimate you again!

7. Superduperdomestique Prize: yes, he's a doping skankwad with a history of weaselality. But holy !@#$, would Nibali have been steamrolled without him. Sitting back for half an hour on the side of the road, forgoing his own inevitable Giro stage triumph, chillin' with a beer, getting a haircut and hopping on the computer to manage his retirement portfolio while he was waiting to help his team leader with nary a complaint to be heard--*that* is sheer worker-bee perfection. Michele Scarponi, I gotta give credit where credit is due!

8. Crash o' the Race, Decisive: yeah, yeah, same one. Kruijswijk, come get yer prize!

9. Crash o' the Race, Oh No Oh No Oh No: A resurgent Ilnur Zakarin's devastating--and temporarily totally incapacitating--zoom into a stony creekbed. The kind of thing that makes you wonder, ought they be filming this if his family is watching? Incredibly fortunately, just a coupla super-painful, season-screwing fractures, and a cheery post-hospital selfie. Geez, we're glad you're okay! Corollary Touching TV Interview Award: you'd barely know that coolest-name-in-the-peloton Rein Taraamae had won a stage at the Giro d'Italia at all, the way he was so clearly focused on his teammate's well-being. Stand up guy, stand up champion!

10. Crash o' the Race, Just !@#$ing Stupid: he's *so* close to the line, in a brave--and possibly even successful--ripping attack in the final meters of a three-week-long behemoth of pain, suffering, and ignominy. And what should appear like some hideous race-!@#$ing nightmare? That's right, some nimrod's shod foot *right* into the race course, and Sonny Colbrelli goes flying like the Wright Brothers on steroids. Forget those useless ad-covered'barriers'--what we need is some straight-on barbed wire to contain these eejits!

11. Tifosi !@#hat Award: with a mercifully distinct lack of free-ranging livestock, family pets, or oblivious toddlers this Giro, we still managed to shame ourselves mightily. On the last climb of the entire race alone, I counted a Pony, a Pig, and a Banana Guy, each one causing a GC CONTENDER DESPERATELY SEEKING TO GAIN RACE-DECIDING SECONDS !@#DAMMIT TO ACTUALLY HAVE TO SWERVE OFF HIS LINE! Jaysus, what're you gonna try next, sucking the freakin' oxygen right outta their starving gasping lungs by setting off smoke flares on the racecourse? Oh, wait...

12. What the Ungrateful !@#$ Award: look, I know you're sprinters. And I know that, once you hit the Dolomites--or hell, even see them looming 10 stages away in the distances--the terrain is just not for you. But dag nabit, the race organizers went OUT OF THEIR WAY to cater to you boys this Giro, and what do you in return for their kindness? *That's* right, use the beautiful Giro as a lowly training !@#$! for your *real* season's objective, the Tour de France, where no doubt you'll stick it out straight through the Alps to the final line in Paris. *And* you wore the holy maglia rosa to boot. Marcel Kittel--*not* *cool*!

13. God I Love Italy Award: now and forever, "PANTANI" spray-painted on every roadside snowbank, inch of tarmac, and homemade banner. Say what you will about the subject, but that is devotion, my friends!

14. I Call Bull!@#$ Award (Time Trial and Mountain Stage Edition): Foliforov, man. Are you *kidding* me?!

15. I Call Bull!@#$ Award (Sprint Edition): Giacomo Nizzolo's moment o' glory, interview o' glee, and subsequent spirit-crushing defeat on the final day in Torino. If Robbie "Head-Butt" McEwen sez it's okay, it *must've* been okay!

16. Darned Decent of 'Im Prize: look, I *know* you all think Vino shoved a rocket up his--uh, in his pocket on the rest day, but it *was* right for Nibs to go over and give props to Esteban Chaves' darling family--at least before Vino horned in for the huggy-kissy "I *made* you and you *owe* me!" photo op!

17. Cry Me a River Excuse o' the Race: not to minimize the very real effects of the dearth of a very handy item like, y'know, oxygen, but jaysus, Valverde, the "altitude"? Isn't that where you gallivant off to 'train' every year? Get thee to the Tour then if you can't handle the Giro!

18. TMI Statuette: Of all the reasons to bail outta a Grand Tour--the air-sapping bronchitis, the explosive diarrhea, the imminent biological passport bust--this is for Tom Dumoulin, brought down by the humblest of enemies, the gnarly saddlesore. Heal fast, Tom--and even better, heal discreetly!

19. Gratuitous T&A Prize: no, no, not Pippo Pozzato (for once). Don't know what the white, pink, blue and red jerseys are for? Yeah, well, you still don't know now either--but boy, don't they look hot on those models every morning!

20. Most Likely to Have His !@# Kicked By His Team Boss Award: No, he wasn't a particular favorite for a podium sport. And let's face it, our lovably erratic Moneybags has really got his eye--and horsewhip--set on July. But Oleg Tinkov surely expected *something* outta this race, and Rafal Majka, unfortunately, didn't give it. Like a college kid being stalked by a mask-wearing psycho perv in an isolated cabin in a third-rate horror flick--Rafal, GEEEEEET OUUUUUUT!

21. Questionably Enjoyable Race Tactic o' the Giro: Cannondale's Rigoberto Duran Duran, giving up the ghost after a rather middling campaign by throwing all he had left in the service--darn near successfully--of fellow countryman and opposing squad denizen Orica-Greenedge's Esteban Chaves. Why the hell not--beats all that "Vincenzo and Alejandro" yapping!

22. Overhype o' the Race Prize: Yes, I *know* it's dear Mikel Landa. Shove off! Bite me! Saving Grace Consolation Award: dear Mikel Nieve, a stage win *and* the blue jersey. Mikeeeeeeeel--both of you, you smashing ex-Carrots!

23. Last But Not Least, the Miracle On Ice Award of Giro d'Italia 2016: It was the Clif Bar! A nice spa facial on the rest day! No, the acupuncture! Whatever, Nibali--you recovered, enjoy the maglia rosa, *and* ignore the petty haters whinging about "integrity" and "blood bags" while you can!

Well, that's the best of a shockingly exciting thrilla of the Giro d'Italia 2016--same time next year, if you're not all disgustingly aiming for the circus-freak Tour de France instead!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

It's Yer Giro d'Italia Eve-o'-the-Rest-Day Re-Think and Recriminations Roundup! #Giro

Well, between the first truly excruciating mountain day and GC-smacking uphill time trial, it's been a lively coupla days at the Giro d'Italia, and what do our boys have to think about while they rest, sleep, ride, and fend off screaming phone calls from enraged DSes and humiliated money-bags sponsors? This!

1. Blazing uphill TT winner Gazprom's Alexander Foliforov. When Alejandro freakin' Valverde wonders about your performance, you *know* there's something !@#$ed up going on. Damn, the Russians have upped their sporting performance since they stopped doping after the last Olympics!

2. Vincenzo Nibali. Lo Squalo can be a legendarily award-winning whiner, but big points to him for collecting himself enough after his despondent post-ride press-avoidance and general misery to send out a friendly, "oh, well, what the hell, tomorrow is another day" kind of tweet this evening. Hey, if Alexander Vinokourov's about to knock on your hotel room door to kick your worthless !@#damn !@# from here to Kazakhst--uh, offer warm words of comfort and support--before you even get to see if you can crack Kruijswijk on GC, you might as well go out with class!

3. Kruijswijk. Speaking of whom, I have no reason whatsoever to doubt this guy's integrity, but leaving aside the shocking Foliforov and teammie Sergey Firsanov, seriously, what the !@#$ is someone built like him even doing in the maglia rosa in the second week of the Giro after a freakishly precocious uphill mountain time trial? It's another Dumoulin dilemma. What next, Andre Greipel's gonna spit Alberto Contador out like a loogie on the Alpe d'Huez at the Tour?

4. The Tifosi. Now, I *get* the enthusiasm. The screaming, the yelling, the flag-waving, the joyous adrenalin rush of having sporting history pass by literally within in an inch of the end of your nose. Heck, I've been there, and I dearly hope to be there sometime soon again (helloooo, Alberto's 2017 Giro d'Italia swan song!). But Giro fans, if nothing else, exceedingly respect the race and its participants, and frankly, as an American, I am *outraged* to have our country's slightly-unrealistic-but-deeply-sincere exceptionalism well and fairly smacked down by incredibly overbearing--and GC-ruinously harmful--Italian fans. In addition, they're lucky even the stoic Nibali didn't reach down grab a spoke and skewer those clown-wigged blockheads like a kebab. Hey, have you eejits been watching the Amgen EPO Tour of California? *We're* supposed to be the obnoxious ones!

5. Chaves. Y'know, I absolutely love Orica-Greenedge, but Alejandro Valverde showed up here with a *really* stacked deck o' teammates, and what climber-supreme Esteban Chaves and his fine squad have been able to accomplish is truly amazing. And, he's being really nice and not at all snotty about it. Forzaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa wee Esteban, I can't wait to see you've got left in the tank for the rest of the week!

6. Alejandro Valverde. After yesterday's inevitable annual Green Bullet Grand Tour meltdown, to his credit, Alejandro managed to *somewhat* redeem himself today, and there's still a good amount of road left to go. More, he's got the similarly ageless superdomestique/depending-on-your-viewpoint-prior-Giro-champ Michele Scarponi, who turned in a smashing ride today. Revenge, thy name is stage win!

7. Brad Wiggins. Nope, I don't say *that* noodge of a name too often, particularly in connection with a compliment! But what he *can* do, is give the Shark some bike throwing lessons. Students, compare:

Panache, *and* dead-on accuracy!

8. An Astana-Movistar Alliance. Yes, absolutely--both Nibali and Valverde have an excellent, sensible interest in ganging up on Steven Kruijswijk in the remaining fight-to-the-death in the Dolomites. But c'mon, neither Astana nor Movistar can halfway keep the peace and collaborate within their *own* squads the last coupla years, much less make nice and join forces to actually accomplish something together--though if Vino wants it, Vino will get it, or *else*, Movistar!

9. The Remaining Stages. Chill out, Sleeping Beauties: tho' stage 17 is a short sharp day o' relative pain, you *do* get a puncheur-friendly gasp o' high-altitude air on Stage 18, before a leisurely spin to the Cima Coppi up the Col d'Agnello on Stage 19 and the penultimate day finalizes the podium atop the Cols du Var, la Bonette, and Lombardia. Here, yer last chance to dislodge the reigning maglia rosa before you get to collapse for a few weeks at the line in Torino--plan your efforts well, prepare either your pile-o'desperate-excuses or unctuous sponsor-credit speeches accordingly, and always expect that wily Valverde to try something!

Okay, we'll see how the team managers spin things overnight. I'm thinking lots of thumbs-up bed-time selfies, gourmet-mag pics of optimally nutritionally-balances meals, and at least one gratuitous butt-nekkid massage pic from Pozzato. Vai vai vai vai!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's Yer Giro d'Italia Week Due (Almost) In Review! #Giro

Yes, cycling fan(s), Week 2 of the smashing Giro d'Italia is upon us, and before we hit the high passes and find out how much Valverde is *really* gonna piss us off with some 'extraterrestri' performance, what've we learned--or just plain gotten to watch, if the Chianti (the wine, not the stomping grounds) has taken precedence--this week? This!

1. Mikel Landa. This is all your fault Sky you incompetent !@#hats! Oh, Mikel, screw Froome, fake some bull!@#$ ailment for July and head straight for captaincy at the Vuelta a Espana instead...

2. Sprinters. At the rate they're bailing--including Andre Greipel, who I would be ticked at except he's just such a lovable big lug and, not coincidentally, also about 5 feet and 800 kilos bigger than me--!@#$in' Esteban Chaves'll take the red jersey *and* the final day's sprint into Torino. Jaysus, if you couldn't take the first two weeks of this--which let's face it was pretty damn kind to you--none o' you clowns'll last til Stage 2 of the Vuelta!

3. Pippo Pozzato. Sure, he's got no results. When the hell was the last time he did, and anyway, who cares? He's so preeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-tty!

4. Sprinters II. Y'know, no offense to the perfectly decent new generation, but I *really* miss the Italians having a sprinter like Alessandro Petacchi. Even without the stud-pup soft-porn calendar photographs!

5. Alejandro Valverde. Creepin' us all out since 2002. And the way he's aging, he's gonna creep us out til at least 2025, to boot!

6. Mikel Landa II. See, haters, he's clean. Yeah, shut up! When Froome got bilharzia and barfed *his* guts out, he won the freakin' Tour de France!

7. Vincenzo Nibali. Such a fine line between 'whining' and 'winning'!

8. Peter Sagan. Oh wait, he's at the Amgen EPO Tour of California. Screw that !@#$!

10. Maarten Tjallingi. Nope, still haven't seen anyone as happy as he was with his hometown blue jersey. Awwww!

12. Samuel Sanchez. No, he's not at the Giro (goddammit), but he might be next year--didja see he signed on for one more year with BMC? Samuuuuuuuuuuu!

13. Damiano Cunego. Hey, I still think he was a backstabbing upstart little wanker to the great Gilberto Simoni, but I do admire him for his riding so far this Giro. Seems almost a little mean to chase him down in the break, don'tcha think?

14. The Podium: !@#$! Landa's not on it. Okay, Chaves. No, Kruyswijk. No...

15. Last But Absolutely Not Least: The Dolomites. If anything's gonna crack Valverde outside of a dop--uh, wholly innocent medical reason to leave the race--it's gonna be them. Alpe d'Huez? Passo Giau *this*, beeyotches!

Okay, the fastmen've bailed, the stealth climbers are desperately hoping the GC contenders are too busy making their lieutenants mark the competition to take any of 'em as a threat--so bring on the mountain goats, baby, it's GO TIME!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Slap-Fights! Etiquette Breaches! Maglia Rosa Blame-Fests!: It's Yer Giro d'Italia Week One in Review! #Giro

Well yeee-haaaaaaaw, we're one week into the fight for the maglia rosa at the most beautiful of all races, the smashing Giro d'Italia--and what've we learned (or wished we could unlearn) so far, cycling fans? This!

1. *Don't* !@#$ with a guy who has *no* chance whatsoever on GC: Whaddya get when you match an FDJ rider hell-bent on a top-ten finish with an AG2R boy with whom he's tangled in a crash? *That's* right, jersey collars get tugged so fiercely a courageous race-moto driver has to dive in to the stop the carnage! And, if you're the offending Alexandre Geniez, you get a hefty 200 euro fine to boot. Hubert Dupont--hope you recovered okay from the violent imbroglio, that must've been one nasty back-o-the-neck rug-burn!

2. You can the wine outta the boy, but you can't take the boy outta the whine: Our presumptive champ in Torino, duped by his moron team car into a fruitless GC-smacking attack-o-doom on Thursday's first mountaintop finish. And, being Nibali, he didn't hesitate to immediately blast the blame onto his bosses. The only one in disagreement, after a cowed Guiseppe Martinelli took the hit for the Shark's foolishness? Undisputed tactical genius/still-missed Paolo Bettini repeat World Champion, essentially telling Vino's second-choice to man up and take control of the tactics (and obey his legs) like a true campione. Well don't expect your team car to let you use 'em like a slingshot anymore like you did last Vuelta, Nibali--they're just as likely to slingshot you right off the mountainside after that bull!@#$ whingeing master-class!

3. He is the very model of a modern major general: Sure, he's not in it for GC--mainly for just recovering from his stomach bug at the moment, with his typical stoic respect for the race--but when Fabian-friggin'-Cancellara speaks, punk, you listen. Yes, enraged etiquette enforcer Spartacus, bringing down the chase-down pain when an upstart peloton, in particular Lampre-Merida attacks race leader Tom Dumoulin while he's taking a nature break. When nature calls the maglia rosa, you *and* yer cheap tactics get put on hold, you classless pig!

4. Time doesn't fly when you're--aw, when you're dear ex-Carrot/Sky captain Mikel Landa on a time trial course: Not only was the poor guy--who worked so diligently on his form in the wind-tunnel over the winter, no less--already kneecapped by the end of the 9k Stage One race against the clock, but worse, he also bonked on the first intermediate mountain stage, losing even more time to that sneaky little ferret Valverde before the truly high peaks even come into view. Bite me, go to hell haters--'e's just restin'!

5. Whole Lotto love: Sure, studly QuickStep blond sprinter/reigning peloton supermodel Marcel Kittel's already smacked down his fast-men competitors in two stages, but which team's already nabbed three in the first week, with two going to fellow German/lovable big lug Andre Greipel, the only man on two wheels who can beat 'im so far? *Darn* tootin', it's Lotto-Soudal--um, shouldn't the Italians be getting a little nervous by now?

6. If you're happy and you know it, spray Prosecco: y'know, I don't think I've seen a happier, prouder rider on any podium anywhere in my *life* than the Netherlands' Maarten Tjallingii, taking his first-ever King of the Mountains jersey on Stage 3. And look at about 56 seconds in--his wee daughter's barely old enough to be on training wheels, and this potential future cycling star's already got the podium stance down!

7. Hard road ahead (or below): finally, only five short years after Wouter Weylandt's tragic death at the Giro, the peloton continues to take its crashes, stitches, and broken bones with philosophical grace. Most phlegmatic so far: AG2R's Arnaud Peraud, who, after a thunderous Stage 3 whack on his face and chest that temporarily knocked him out but luckily caused no more serious injury, reasoned, "I am conscious and it is good news." Stay safe out there dear riders, and soccer players--sorry, footballers--remember *that* clip next time you go down clutching your shin after a minor tap shrieking like you've just been chomped on by a zombie!

Okay, it's on to Week 2 of the fabulous Giro d'Italia. No, Tom Dumoulin is *not* a final GC contender, I *cannot* accept such heresy--and Sky, whatever you're doing to !@#$ over poor Landa so badly, FIX IT!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

It's Yer Giro d'Italia in Preview, Part Final: the Climbers! the Sprinters! The Lowdown! #Giro

The Lowdown!: yep, we are just one twee day away from starting the most beautiful race on the planet, and how's it shaping up? Well, crap, literally, if you're poor Fabian Cancellara--in his final Giro, and on the eve of his near-inevitable farewell stint in the maglia rosa, our poor Spartacus has been stricken with stomach flu, and will be lacking just that last least bit of energy on for the opening time trial. But don't give up yet, fanboys'n'girls: a sick Fabs can do more damage in nine kilometers than most time trialists can do in twenty, so there's still hope. So try some flat ginger ale or a cup of chamomile tea to soothe the turmoil, and good luck domani Fabian!

The Climbers!: Look, it's the Giro, so if you're a climber, you're probably also a GC contender, but what're you gonna do if you have a sudden Valverdean urge to backstab yer team captain, or an injury or ill-timed flat knocks him off the podium hunt? *That's* right, you're done being someone else's headwind b!tch, and you get to go off and up on your own. Betancur, Nieve, Scarponi, Atapuma--not to undercut your bosses, but you might want to leave just a *little* bit in the tank, just in case!

The Sprinters!: yeah, it's the Giro, but they *have* crammed a good seven flat days in there, and to its credit, it's attracted a truly bangin' sprint field. A resurgent Kittel's good for at least a coupla stages (and, unlike most of these guys, has vowed to stick it out to the end in Torino, mountains be damned), Elia Viviani's got extra motivation on his home stomping grounds, Caleb Ewan's got a fine shot--but for sheer wanting it, my dough's on Andre "the Gorilla" Greipel, slowly healing from a !@#$ start to his season and rarin' to stay upright and get revenge. Vai vai vai you big lug--is there anything more lovely than a primal Greipel scream at the line?

The 'Nother Guys!: y'know, even though there's buckets of puncheurs this race who can bag a win, without the scrappy and intermittently violent Philippe Gilbert in the field, I just didn't have the heart to yap on 'em. And I feel like I have the same fruitlessly optimistic rainblow-unicorn desire every GT for dashing studpup-about-town Pippo Pozzato to shake off his years-long ennui and take a stage. But give him a lackadaisical field and a flash of inspiration--heck, even a half-!@#edly committed breakaway--and our dear bon vivant is still, I *swear*, a candidate for a win. He's already gotten sorta close a coupla times this season--keep it up, and I promise, you'll earn yourself a smashing pink-and-gold Giro tat front-and-center somewhere if you've still got space!

All right gents, time to post that final pre-race selfie, down your last meal-o-marginal-gains, and saddle up. In bocca al lupo, and may the best man--well, okay, I'm flat out rooting for Landa--win! And to get you in that special mood, here's the Official 2016 Appeldorn Giro d'Italia Theme Song