Sunday, July 24, 2016

It's Yer 2016 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards (Because I Can't Deal With the Tour After Today) #TDF2016

All right cycling fans, the circus has ended, the clowns've gone home, and it's time for our incredibly prestigious 2016 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards (Because I Can't !@#$ing Deal With the Tour After Today)! Prizes for the winners, should any be so desperate as to claim them: a fine custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap, whatever cheap tacky statuette I can find in a local thrift shop, a lifetime's worth of shameful notoriety on the Internets, and, most important of all, a warm and heartfelt congrats for a job well (or incredibly horridly) done. On to the show!

Dumb-!@# Move of the Race (Pre-Race): People are *drunk*? And disturbing my precious *beauty sleep*? By speaking outside in a *common hallway*? At a hotel with a *bar* in it? On their *holiday,* the outrageous disrespectful bastards? Well god forbid I should grab a pair of 30-cent earplugs, peons, because you have dared to disturb the primo snooze-time of a *prince*! Yep, complete numbnut/not-so-hot-apparently pugilist Nacer Bouhanni, the entire reason for his team's otherwise hopeless existence at the Tour, sagely determining it was a smarter use of Cofidis's time and money--and a better cycling career move to boot--to beat the hell out of drunken tourist number one, break his own freakin' hand in the process, and injure himself outta the Tour de France, instead of using, oh, such unheard-of methods as "asking them nicely to be quiet" or "calling the hotel management and telling them to make them be quiet". Nice work, eejit--on the bright side, at least we didn't have to listen to you bitching at the finish line why it was someone else's fault you lost all the sprints for three weeks!

Crap (Well, Technically P!@#) Tactic o' 2016: so race leader Chris Froome, briefly losing the services of two of his android Sky domestiques for a grand total of 30 completely inconsequential seconds over a three-week race while only 6 others remained with him that whole time to shield him from the wind, wipe his nose, bring him his blankie and scratch his butt for him that might, just *theoretically*, have allowed the other GC non-contenders to get *one or two meters* ahead til they'd've been humiliatingly reeled back by the robot train anyway, *totally coincidentally* finds his delicate bladder is ABOUT TO BLOW THAT VERY SECOND, necessitating an immediate--and ruthlessly Fabian "Miss Manners" Cancellara-enforced--COMPLETE STOPPAGE OF THE PELOTON while our Froomey takes a relaxed and leisurely nature break that, shockingly, allows his boys to disentangle themselves, shake out their legs, get back on their bikes again, and return seamlessly to his service. What a petty little wanker move, Froome!

Run Run Rudolph, Santa's Got to Make It to Town Award: okay, maybe it's not entirely unreasonable to expect that (1) eejit fans are gonna crowd the riders on Mont Ventoux (2) the race moto in front of you is likely to do something both (a) unexpected and (b) sorta stupid (3) you're gonna be rather startled when (a) the guy ahead of you jaw-plants into the stopped-on-a-dime race moto and (b) your own bike folds up like a wet taco. But in the grand scheme of rider reactions to unpredictable events, Chris Froome still managed to pull off the Freakout Heard Round the World of this, or any, millenium. The bewildered grab for a neutral service bike, the pissed-off road toss when the pedals proved incompatible? Of course. The "sprinting up the road in your cleats like Usain Bolt being pursued by a hive of coked-up of killer bees without a bike against the rules and gaining (and being retroactively gifted!) a ton of ill-gotten time" part? Not so much. Froome, I know the whole situation wasn't cool--but either hold it together, or stay the hell away from the unfairly time-screwed Bauke Mollema for the next few years!

Domestique o' the Race: sure, Froomey had a pack of enormous Classics riders perfectly normally powering up the entire Alps like they were pedaling up the street for a Starbucks, but damn, if Tejay Van Garderen wasn't getting any help or sympathy from our winner this year, we sure can tell who was! Brailsford, get Richie Porte the Sky uniform he so fully deserves--and BMC, kick his !@# to the curb!

Kardashian Family Camera Wh*re Prize: so, Peter Sagan, how does it feel to win the gr--!@#$ OFF, VERMIN, I'M TAKIN' A PHOTO WITH MY BOY HERE! YOU, GET OVER HERE, GIMME THAT SELFIE STICK! HEY, PETEY, COME A LITTLE CLOSER! RIGHT, RIGHT, ARM AROUND MY SHOULDER..BIG SMILE NOW...Oleg Tinkov, you have every right to be happy and proud of your ginormously expensive toy-trinket's smashing performance this year. But we *know* you run Team Tinkoff already--can't you just get one of those life-size cardboard cut-outs to take pictures with, and leave the poor guy alone now?

Crash o' the Tour (Spectacular But Harmless Edition): there you are, just chillin' in the individual time trial, no pressure for results, just a few more pedal strokes to the line--'til one tricky corner sends you right into the spectators like you're about to pull up to have a beer with him. Oliver Naesen, glad you're okay, and you get *major* points for style!

Crash o' the Tour (Race-Wrecking Edition): need we even name the sad recipient of this unwanted prize? The nearly-invincible Alberto Contador, finally defeated by not one but two ignominiously avoidable and excruciatingly painful crashes as what was left of his poor wee ripped-up bod he crawled into the team car on Stage 9, flushing his sole season's goal, and any hope this Tour de France had of being remotely interesting for all but a few handfuls of seconds, down the toilette. Aw, rats--speedy recovery for the Vuelta Alberto, and don't you let that goon Tinkov suggest it's not as worthy!

Crash o' the Tour (Total Random !@#$show Edition): ever wonder what it'd be like to lam a $15,000 bike with your body on it into a 2,000-kilogram kids'-party bouncy house at 50 kilometers an hour? Well, a bloodied-n-stitched-up Adam Yates can sure tell you--and what he can tell you is, it *sucks*. Of all the avoidable !@#damn stupid things--next year, dear race organizers, can you at least put up some "WATCH OUT YOU DIPWAD YOU'RE ABOUT TO RIP THE PLUG OUT OF THIS GIANT TWO STORY OBVIOUSLY RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU FLAMME ROUGE INFLATABLE MONSTROSITY" caution tape?

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream Award: Was he off in the Land of Nod? On a Magic Carpet Ride? Don't Dreaming It's Over? Either way, Nairo Quintana seemed to absolutely snooze through this race (welcome to the club, pal!). Hey, forget the lousy cap and trophy--get this kid a nice pillow and soft cozy blanket, stat!

All Quiet on the Western Front Award: the first 6 Tour stages--6!--and not a single rider had to drop outta the race due to illness, bull!@#$ "I'm about to get popped for doping" illness, crash, or other injury. Okay, that right there is suspicious!

The Return of the King Prize: look, I am only awarding *anything* to the sprinters because Andre Greipel restored my smithereened faith in humanity by taking the final win on the Champs-Elysees today. But after a coupla lousy low-key seasons uncharacteristically in the shadows of guys like Kittel and, well, almost everybody else with a half-!@#ed touch of speed in their legs, I have to concede, it was very pleasing to see Mark Cavendish with his form (and confidence) back in buckets. But it was still nicer that Andre won!

Totally Unrelated to the Tour de France Stuff I Like Award: Didja see Tommeke's back in 2017 with Quick Step for one more crack at Paris-Roubaix, and also with a celebratory win that very same day he inked the deal? Woot woot woot!

Anticlimactic Retirement o' the Race: *really*, Fabian Cancellara--and believe me, it takes a lot to criticize a legend like you? Your very last Grande Boucle ever, you're just not feeling it, and you bail out for a shot at a medal in Rio? WHAT THE HELL? You better bring home gold for your fanboys and girls--after all those years of devotion, they deserve it!

Fan !@#$Head Neon Banana-Hammock Prize: okay, in *any* year, unfortunately, this is a pretty packed field of contenders. But from freaks dressed like humongous lobsters to !@#holes destroying riders' lines on crucial climbs to nimrods burning flares on the course to fans shoving giant flags into cyclists' derailleurs, this year really seemed to take the cake--until, of course, some invisible though history-making moronothon dead-blocked a moto, took Porte Mollema and Froome out, and earned themselves the prestigious tile of Biggest Sporting Tool of All Human History. Whoever you are--if you ever even sobered up enough to *know* who you are--be proud for this one brief shining moment before your ancestors, peers, and all your descendants disown you and deny your very existence for as long as this Earth shall spin!

I Really Don't Believe In Violence Award: to be fair, sometimes a struggling pack-fodder rider mightn't so much *mind* a gentle nudge on the saddle as he gacks up a mountain he's no business ever climbing in the first place. But unless you think a GC contender honestly *wants* to risk the maillot jaune, the greatest achievement of any riders' career except the Giro or Vuelta, and his stone-carved place in the tablets o'time for the amazing honor of your touch, your spittle, or even just your incoherent ear-bloodying screaming, BACK THE !@#$ OFF--really, is it *so* hard for even the tenderest and gentlest among us to understand, say, Chris Froome's surprisingly effective Stage 8 spectator slug? I ain't your biggest fan, Froomey, but credit's due where credit's due!

Corollary Okay Maybe Vigilantism Ain't So Bad Award: given that even France's finest gendarmes proved unable to corral the approximate population of China smooshed into meter-wide strips of grass on the edge of terrifying life-threatening precipices, it was perhaps not entirely unsporting for self-appointed sheriffs of the Wild Wild Alps to take the initiative to protect their heroes by grabbing 'em by the scruffs and swinging 'em off the road with admirable speed and ferocity. You threaten someone's favorite rider with your venal antics, you takes your chances, pal!

Last But Not Least, the Annual Raise the Red Lanterne Prize: armchair peloton denizens, noble weekend warriors, and hard core pros alike: one final round of applause, please, for this year's 174th, last-place finisher, Bora-Argon's Sam Bennett, a hard-earned 5 hours, 17 minutes, and 14 seconds behind overall winner Chris Froome. While he certainly didn't sound happy being asked about it, he, like anyone who can survive 3 weeks of cycling misery, exhaustion, intermittent fulfillment, and damned hard work, honestly deserves any pedestal we can find to put him on--congrats to our 2016 Tour de France Lanterne Rouge!

Well, fellow tifosi, I know you're all relieved it's over, but if you still care enough to point out whatever I certainly missed, have at--now let's get ready for the fabulous Vuelta a Espana!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

It's Your Holy Crap What Just Happened at the Tour de France !#$-show in Review! #TDF2016

Okay, cycling fans--you've seen the footage, you've heard the screams, but a whoooole lot was going on in that stage even *plus* that, so where do we start with a review of the bloody carnage? Here!

The Break: Yes, it all started as a perfectly ordinary day at the Tour de France, with the climb up the legendary Mont Ventoux axed by 6 kilometers after both Quintana brothers were blown off the top of the mountain by 150 kilometer winds and into the valley below on the prior day's recon, a pile of French guys desperately trying to prove their country's cycling relevance on Bastille Day, and giant German monolith sprinter Andre Greipel--approximately both the size and weight of the legendary Louvre museum and all its contents--poised to take one of the most epic climbs in all cycling over a pack of flyweight Munchkin mountain goats. So aside from the usual contingent of early crashes, such as Simon Gerrans breaking his collarbone and *still* finishing the uphill stage, something akin to to having Muhammad Ali at his peak punch your face in 50 consecutive times without a moment's break, everything's going along normally and swimmingly, until:

The Great Pee Controversy of 2016: trust me, on any other day, this'd send hard-core cycling fan into a scorched-earth nuclear-option Twitter war of rage and emoji-stoked weeping: so like three Sky boys--essential domestiques to race leader Chris Froome--go down in a pile, potentially screwing Froome out of much-needed backup which could endanger his overall race lead. Totally coicidentally, at that *exact* moment, Froome's bladder *completely* blows apart, and he pulls the "courtesy-slowdown-for-the-maillot-jaune's-call-o'-nature" card, immediately causing the peloton's Chief Etiquette Enforcer (oh right, and noted bike rider) Fabian Cancellara to slow down the group to wait for him, sending trigger-temper Alejandro Valverde--who knows something about being a !@#damn weasel, thank you, and clearly calls bull!@#$--into an impotent rage and allowing Froome to get his domestiques disentangled and back in line to help him, thus averting an utterly fair and justified loss of time. What the hell Froome you punk, you're riding just fine without this sneaky crap! Which gets us to:

The Climb of Mont Ventoux: where, as a pack of enormous Easter-Island-figure-sized Belgian Classics riders naturally are the first to ascend the feared mountain over the wee climbers gasping behind, the joyful crowd, hugely intoxicated by adrenaline, an Oktoberfest's worth of beer and god knows what else, and the peculiar pleasures of acting like total !@#holes half-dressed in man-thongs, fright wigs, and prurient Furry costumes for the TV cameras, runs, as always, dangerously on top of the riders while also helpfully setting off smoke flares two inches from the nostrils of both boys in the peloton who actually *need* asthma inhalers for medical reasons. Meantime, as Chris Froome, his superdomestique--uh, Tejay Van Garderen's teammate--Richie Porte, and nice guy Bauke Mollema attack and successfully drop the already-embattled GC contender Nairo Quintana--the "unprecedented security" at this year's Tour, apparently consisting of an impressive two gendarmes, is outnumbered by a ratio of 20,000 idiots: to 1 as the race motos try to ram their way through the throng, at which point one unusually stupid fan gets waaaay too in the way, causing the race moto ahead to stop dead on a dime, Richie Porte to smash his jaw right on the moto camera, and Froome and Mollema to go down like dominoes right on top of him, with Froome's bike especially folding like a hot crepe, leading to:

The Olympic Track and Field Competition: Froome, with no replacement bike or team car in sight, completely going off his head in panic and sprinting up Mont Ventoux in his bike cleats but sans bike, while frantically grunting to his bosses into his race mic and being shruggingly waved off by passing neutral Mavic wheel-carrying motos, until:

The Merry-Go-Round: in which Froome finally gets a neutral replacement bike that fits like crap, won't let him clip in his shoes properly, and might as well have been some roadside fan two-year-olds freakin' Big Wheel for all its usefulness, which the exasperated race leader promptly abandons by the roadside, standing around losing time until the Sky team car finally shows up with a new bike, at which point:

The Comeback: Nairo Quintana, previously climbing like, well, a giant Belgian Classics specialist except for a coupla brief and fruitless attacks, cheerfully passes Froome along with every other GC contender who's previously been dropped, crossing the line after:

Someone Just Won This Race: poor old Thomas De Gendt, taking one of the most celebrated climbs in all cycling which would normally be the absolute highlight and triumph of any rider's career, crosses the finish line in victory to virtually no notice by the fans, TV commentators, or race organizers at all, after which coverage immediately cuts away to:

The Important Stuff: namely, TV clips from 20,000 different angles showing how utterly !@#$ed the race is, breathless interviews with dazed GC contenders, the race commentator's swooning shouting dissection of what just happened, and the race organizers' desperate rocket-fast attempts to figure out what's the fairest way to calculate the GC when it's just been totally upended by some flag-waving fan !@#$head, which includes, somewhere, De Gendt getting a nice jersey presentation, ASO provisionally awarding the leader's jersey to Queen Elizabeth in the confusion, and Chris Froome getting totally crappily and unfairly hissed by the crowd when he's done tweeting that he's just been handed the maillot jaune and finally deigns to go up to the stage and put it on despite Nairo Quintana crossing the line some 36 years ahead of him, while fellow crash-caught riders, like Bauke Mollema who for chrissakes hit the deck at the *exact same time and place* for the *exact same freakin' reason*, immediately take to Twitter to denounce how *they've* just been massively screwed on time while Chris Froome gets gifted a now-virtually-unassailable race lead ahead of tomorrow's key, and inevitably Quintana-crushing, time trial, and former race leader/inexplicable new GC rider Tom Dumoulin cheekily asking if they can get their 21 minutes they schlepped home in removed from *their* time. Yep, just another day at the office--damn, maybe poor Contador was better off inadvertently getting the hell outta Dodge and avoiding this nightmare, who *knows* what would've happened to him out there!

Well, that's just another day at the office at the ol' Tour de France--enjoy the recap footage, and if today's stage is any indication, anything goes for tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

My Fantasy Oleg Tinkov Tour de France Press Conference #tdf2016

Good morning. I'm here to update you on how totally cool my boy Peter Sagan thinks I am and you're not. [Aide whispers in ear] Oh, right, and how Bjarne Riis' over the hill protege Alberto Contador is doing who even I couldn't save a has-been like him from himself when he got badly hurt in a fall the other day or something which doesn't even matter in this race anyway.

First, I'd like to point out that not only has my bro Peter Sagan won a sprint, the maillot jaune, and the green jersey so early in the Tour, but he was a useless winless piece of !@#$ with no prospects until I personally discovered and worked with him. [Aide whispers in ear again] Okay, he maybe won a coupla minor races before I found him, but only because of my impeccable eye for talent no-one else in cycling ever even noticed before then, as well as my enormous bank account. I only got whatsisface, that skinny one, as a tagalog anyway, sort of like when the wife buys 75 dollars worth of luxury beauty products and they throw in some cheapo "cosmetics bag" for free that falls apart as soon as you use it.

Second, I'd like to address how massively close my man Peter Sagan and I are. I mean, *he* wears a Tinkoff jacket at team events, *I* wear a Tinkoff jacket at team events. *He* rides in the team bus, *I* ri--well, *I* bought the tin piece of crap team bus that broke down on us yesterday. *He's* the reigning world champion, *I* graciously deign to join him on training rides. Like, twinsies here, amirite? [Aide whispers in ear] Oh, yeah, and you know I told that slacker Contador that if he's gonna embarrass me so bad he might as well just go put on a Cofidis uniform!

Finally, I want to stress how grateful my bestie Peter Sagan is for me basically single-handedly making him the best rider ever. Not only is he naming his first child "Oleg" after me, even if it's a girl, he's also named his dog, his parakeet, his favorite bicycle, and, by special government permit, the street in front of his house after me. And *boy*, if you could only see that tattoo of me he did in 24 karat gold ink on his--[Sagan briefly passes by outside in hallway] HEY! IT'S ME! YOUR BUD OLEG! I *MADE* YOU! SOMEBODY GET A CAMERA OVER HERE! HEY, WHERE ARE YOU GO--[voice fades as he sprints into hallway]

[Oleg comes back into room] Well, that concludes my press conference about my guy Peter Sag--[aide whispers in ear]--uh, the status of our GC contende--[Contador knocks politely on door, peeks into press conference] WHAT THE !@#$? WHO *IS* THAT GUY? GET HIM OUTTA HERE! [bodyguards tackle Alberto, drag him away]