Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It's Yer Vuelta a Espana Rest-Day Week-or-So In Preview (Yeah, You Read Right)!

Look, we all know what happened so far: some Lotto dumb-!@# brought down the completely luckless Alberto Contador and screwed his whole race after his own team botched it already in the team time trial, Quintana found his second wind up the mountains yesterday as he was pursued by his own teammate Valverde, and Froome--well, his unseemly mating with his bike computer continues to play out disturbingly on live TV. So what've we got in store the next handful o' stages? Here, Yer Vuelta a Espana Next Little Wunk o' Stages in Preview:

Stage 11 (Wednesday): yep, in the words of the immortal Spinal Tap, this one goes to eleven as we hit the deal-breaking stage of the Pena Cabarga. Contador run over by herd of crazed stampeding cattle, breaks both femurs, 3 ribs, one occipital bone, and a pinky, takes second on stage behind Chris "the Living Dead" Froome. Don't sweat it Nairo, you've got plenty of time to grab an extra minute back before he slaughters you in the time trial!

Stage 12 (Thursday): We're in the Basque country with the smashing hordes of Euskaltel fans, who gives a !@#$ about the race? Contador and his bike completed smothered by rampaging swarm of killer bees, beats Chaves to the line by three minutes. Aupa Alberto!

Stage 13 (Friday): Longest stage of the Vuelta! Contador whacks into 50-foot bronze statue right in the middle of the road unmarked by apologetic race organizers, overtakes breakaway and inevitable winner Philippe Gilbert within 50 meters of the line, admits that with his entire body in giant plaster cast that winning the Vuelta in a week will be "complicated." What, your loyal domestiques won't just carry you to Madrid?

Stage 14 (Saturday): It's the Queen stage, and the GC-destroying haul up the legendary Aubisque! Contador beset by plague of locusts, gains 54 seconds on Froome as Sky captain mistakenly calls up Google Maps instead of his power meter, misdirected back to start of Stage 1. Eyes on the road, you joyless android!

Stage 16 (Sunday): Countdown! It's a Cat 3, 2, 1 to the finale up Los Sarrios. Contador caught up in draft from TV helicopter, flung back 30 kilometers, sets record time to finish line to just pip Valverde. Nice try Alejandro!

All right, that gets us to week 3, just in time for a flat stage in which some GC assclown fighting for 2 bonus seconds causes a 90-man pileup just outside the 3k mark. Good luck Alberto--if you can even make it that far with this stupid curse you've been fighting!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Let's Play Dodgeball: It's Yer Vuelta a Espana Week 1 In Review! #LV2016

Yes folks, it's high time to play that humiliating playground-game-o'-goonish-bullies everywhere--dodgeball, where some over-Red Bull'd bastard pitches a hard piece of sports equipment squarely at your defenseless 98-pound-weakling nerd-noggin, with the clear intent to hurt as much as possible, to the sadistic cheers of your 'roid-raged peaked-in-high-school 9th-grade coach, Vuelta edition! So what've you missed, cowering beneath the collapsible bleachers while praying nobody noticed you? This!

1. It's fine to exhaust your captain and set him back almost a minute on GC on the opening day making 'im domestique his domestiques on the opening day team time trial. !@#$, why not just have 'im hand his bike over next time one of his lesser teammates gets a flat on the final climb of the queen stage, can't screw him over any worse!

2. Not only did some thoughtless asshat neglect to put a big orange barrier and a person frantically waving a flag around a huge pointless steel "bollard" in the middle of the road, completely taking the very nice Steven Kruijswijk--and hat tip to organizers, noticing this !@#$ *afterwards* is not a particularly helpful response to someone who's just been whacked with a heavy pole in the "lumbar-sacral vertebrae"--but *now* poor we love Rein Taaramae's been knocked out of the Vuelta (and his very fine bike utterly splintered) by a numbnut Cofidis team car! Is this some sort of twisted pervert game of bicyclist Whack-a-Mole? You're not taking a !@#$in' roadtrip with your inbred buddies on a deserted red-dirt country byway at 4 in the morning to buy a six-pack of Bud Light fer chrissakes, you're in a *bike race* in the middle of the day--like, for your *living*--you eejits! I stand by my original solution--cattle prods, or one of those "electric fence" dog collars I think've been banned in some countries: one nice high-voltage jolt, and *that'll* keep you a safe distance away next time! Oh, for the innocent times of yore when some lumbering loser in a fright wig and hi-viz man-thong merely caused you to swerve off a mountainside by blasting a fog-horn in yer ear...and race organizers, *don't* start getting any offensive ideas from the fan base!

3. Valverde, man. I warned you dear little Nairo!

4. Sky, man. If it weren't for unfortunate attrition by saddle-sore and disgusting stomach problems (get well soon guys!), there'd be no hope. At least now if all the teams gang up and act in perfect concert maybe like one guy from another team's still got a distant chance at a podium!

5. What the !@#$ Astana, Samuel Sanchez stops to heed the call of the wild solo for *ten* seconds the entire race and *that's* when you put the hammer down? Well he's still in sixth you low-rent punks! Fabian, I don't care if you're *not* in the race--aren't you supposed to be policing this !@#$?

6. Looky looky looky at twee little Chaves!

7. Y'know, at this point, I don't even know if the stupidly scoured-up Alberto Contador is gonna start tomorrow--tho' since half the races this past year or two he's been whipping around with 80% of his body in splints, I'd be rather surprised if he didn't--but if this season's Grand Tours, and the truly vomitous lack of support he's gotten from his gilded wingnut team boss, aren't enough to make him question his life, his career choice, his entire belief system regarding the nature and order of the universe, and whether he just oughta go over to Oleg's house tie up his guards go into his living room where he's enjoying a peaceful lemonade and smack 'im square in the mouth in a fit of unseemly violent small-cyclist pique, I don't know what will. And frankly, if the discreet Samu *also* says you've ridden like a moron and needlessly whacked someone else down, you *know* you oughta just slink back to your team bus and burrow in amongst the dirty reeking yesterday's team kit like the hapless twerp you are. But even *if* Contador's lucky enough to make it to the finale in Madrid, Froome's *still* likely to snap his !@# with a wet towel and give him the world's worst chamois-wedgie while screeching "neener neener!" over his exhausted carcass, right as some other dimwit hits the brakes like they're about to t-bone a moose and takes him out again just in time for Froome to zip up the red jersey in triumph. On second thought--might as well go home and cool out playing video games til 2017 Alberto--even with Trek stacking half its deck with Classics up-and-comers, you sure as hell can't do worse than these clowns!

8. On a non-Vuelta-related note (I know, faithful reader(s), but it's just one, I promise), so now, on top of our star sprinter Nacer Bouhanni's penchant for self-destructive bar brawls, his baby brother is inciting fisticuffs with spindly outclassed unsuspecting fellow cyclists? Nice example you're setting there Rocky Balboa!

9. Finally, you've all been very patient. But don't worry lovely ex-carrots, your terrain is coming up fast. The GC's already pretty well set anyway, right?--might as well grab your own chances!

Monday, August 22, 2016

It's Yer "Alberto Contador's Already Completely !#$%ed" Vuelta a Espana Roundup! #LV2016

Thank You Oleg, May I Have Another: yep, it's just 3 days into the smashing Vuelta a Espana--a race particularly suited to Alberto Contador's characteristics--and he's already a nearly-insurmountable 1:18 or so back. And *why* is he so far back, and *why* is that 1 minute and change already so potentially insurmountable? That's right, the lead-weight C-Team that Sagan-fawning "I'm *so* done with this cycling !@#$" Oleg "Alberto Who?" Tinkov saddled Alberto with, so much so that the freakin' GC captain had to gut himself of a week's worth of energy just trying to save his own domestiques' !@#es in the team time trial, when they should've been going all Captain America on the evil peloton trying to preserve *Alberto's* chances. Damn, Oleg, why don't you just designate Contador to lead out Bennati in the sprints so he can drain himself, declare his job done, and drop outta the Vuelta before they start hitting any *other* climbs? Alternately, you might've just whacked 'im in the kneecaps with a heavy-duty bike pump and at least've given 'im a dignified excuse to bail out on this humilating !@#$show before he wastes two and a half more weeks of his life on this planet! 'Nother factor: Sky, of course, is juiced up like a--uh,at near 100%, as is totally natural immediately following an all-out blisteringly successful effort in the Tour de France, and, as any guy who just smashed said Tour and taken a bronze medal in the Rio road race would reasonably be, Chris Froome (insert disgusting lougie-hocking sound effect here) is fresh as a just-plucked daisy to Contador's painfully mortal band of helpless wannabes. Oh Alberto, if anyone can save this, we know you can, and to be sure there's an awful lot of road left--the problem is, it's covered in Froome, and Valverde looks freakishly unstoppable as usual, to boot! But maybe Alejandro'll be too busy marking his own team leader Nairo to pay any attention to you when you get your legs back and take a flyer off the GC group--we can always hope his own greed'll overtake his team-friendly common-sense, can't we?

Tomorrow's Stage 4: a coupla Cat 3s early on, a buncha lumps, and a mildly sloping Cat 2 finish--Philippe Gilbert, if you were pissed off and bored because no-one rode on the Day 2 sprint stage, maybe on this one you'll goad someone into action!

PS Look Alberto, it's the red jersey! You remember what it feels like to wear this repeatedly, right? I think I can, I think I can, I *think* I can...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Rio Whaaaaat? It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Tres: the 'Nother Guys, and Roundup Stuff! #LV2016

We've got the course down. We've got the GC. What *don't* we have? Damn right, everybody *else* who's going hell-bent for leather for sunburnt glory, and all the last minute news, unfounded gossip, and prurient speculation you need (well, probably don't need) to know! Ergo:

The Missing: Who's *not* here? Tragically, not Froome, but even more tragically, these guys: Sky's Mikel Landa with a "hip injury", which can only mean one of two things: (1) he's got a hip injury, or (2) those !@#$ers at Sky have corrupted 'im. It better be option (1), Brailsford you goon! Also out: defending 2015 campeon Fabio Aru, and last year's bizarro-world revelation Tom Dumoulin, who, frankly, has no business in Vuelta terrain anyway, except maybe lounging in a folding chair by the roadside with a crisp glass of rose' and a nice luncheon with the other fans cheering the *riders* on. Worst of all, Purito--WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!

The Sprinters: all right, you hard-core Vuelta freaks, quit laughin'! Yes, despite the wholesale bail-out of those sprinters with better sense, there *are* a few at this race, at least until Cavondonga sends them whimpering home like a kid who just got a bagful o' broccoli and Brussels sprouts for trick-or-treat on Halloween. Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data), who, late word has it, has even more epic hair this year than Marcel Kittel. (bite me! we still love him!). Reigning Spanish road race champ JJ Rojas (Movistar). Master o' Suavity Benna-Jet (Tinkoff). Uh...other guys! Oh, poor dears, at least they've thrown a *few* stages in there for you...just pretend all those mountains are--nope, I got nuthin', it's all an uphill death march and you're gonna be feelin' it!

The Stage Hunters: look, unless Froome's teammates chew their shoes off the pedals to free themselves from the trap they're in, they ain't getting let out for a stage win unless and until Froome *says* they can. And frankly, he won't. Sorry boys--it's "Vive la Revolucion" and you overthrow your captain, or you're hosed! Guys who actually have a chance: for the breaks and roleurs, Philippe Gilbert (BMC). LL Cool Sanchez (Astana). Michal Kwiatkowski, Peter Kennaugh--oops, they're Sky, they're doomed! Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), who's usually pegged for GC but is begging off in favor of Samuel Sanchez and hoping for a breakaway stage win instead (can you imagine, say, Cav and his huge ego doing that for someone else)? Andrew Talansky, and yes, I know you all want him for the overall. And did I mention I just plain like Rein Taaramae whether you seriously think he's gonna bag a win or not? For the truly climbiest, besides the GC contenders we covered already: Darwin Atapuma (BMC). Damn, they've got a bangin' squad this year! Pierre Rolland (Cannondale). We love ex-Euskaltel's Igor Anton (Dimension Data). Markel Irizar from Trek, an ex-Carrot--natch!(and we still love you Haimar Zubeldia!) Everyone at Caja Rural. And of course, the canny s.o.b. Michele Scarponi (Astana) who, having buried himself (and parked his bony !@# on the side of the road for 15 hours to help his leader) for his team at the last Grand Tour, and with no other road captain at the Vuelta to speak of, will surely have more than a few rocket-fueled cracks at the summit. Last but not least: by this year's results, whatever 6-foot-8 hulking Dutch weightlifter they stick in at the last minute to absolutely obliterate 2017 Paris-Roubaix champ Nairo Quintana. How do you say "Red Jersey" in Dutch again?

The Forecast: yeah, it's boring and I'm a ween. But it *matters*, first off because the poor Belgians're gonna spontaneously combust once they hit the unfiltered sun and heat of the Basque mountains, and second, 'cause it can determine the race. Sadly, the forecast for tomorrow's team time trial is lovely, meaning it's too late to back out of it now, suckers!

Roundup Stuff!: finally, as the cycling portion of the Rio Olympics winds down, let's take a moment to celebrate Peter Sagan's if not win, at least highly entertaining continuous-wheelie ride in the mountain bike competition, as well as his shiny new medals in the kierin, team pursuit, omnium, BMX, and the men's and women's road race even though he wasn't actually riding 'em. Nice work there Saganator! Meantime, Mark Cavendish profusely apologized for "not whacking into that bloody wanker hard en--uh, that accident!" And, for those of you just itchin' for early news of the Worlds, please be advised that giant and deceptively friendly German Andre Greipel has already informed his nation that's he not !@#damn going there to share team captaincy, which, I presume, is German for "wash my shorts and carry my chamois cream, Kittel you wuss!" Ah, our beloved cycling--now, get out your Basque flags, don't you dare ever root for Alejandro Valverde, and Alberto, it's time to stick it to that !@#hat Oleg Tinkov and take on the top podium spot in the Vuelta!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Forget That Wanker Cav, It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Dos: The GC Contenders!

Okay, cycling fans, we've got the course of the fabulous Vuelta down: now who're the poor masochistic bastids twisted enough to take on the thing for the overall? These guys!

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff): you know the drill: the last few years, he's either crashed outta or been too tired to take on the Tour. But, on form, and however you think he has and hasn't done it, and after the natural indiscretions and tactical mishaps of youth, there's been no greater climber who can also take GC in the modern peloton, and the Vuelta is his kind of merciless stomping ground. How his? That's right, punks, he's bagged this Grand Tour alone three times, and if he takes it this year, he'll equal we-still-love Roberto Heras (shut up!)'s four-peat. Wildcard factor: let's face it, Oleg Tinkov's attention's been elsewhere, like getting a resort-perfect tan basking in the radioactive glow that is Peter Sagan, and he may not even remember at this point that there *is* a Vuelta. Ray o' hope: it's !@#$ing Alberto Contador for chrissakes!

Nairo Quintana (Movistar): for some reason, despite Movistar having the second most formidable GC lineup all year (behind the freaks at Sky, of course), our wee little pile o' pure mountain-goatness has had a lackluster season to date. But the mean steeps of the Spanish mountains are perfect for him, and he oughtn't be *too* set back from the get-go after the Stage 1 ITT. Go Nairo, for a high podium spot anyway--who doesn't love a redemption story?

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): Sure, he's theoretically tired from riding--and damn near winning--the Giro, the Tour, half the Classics, the Olympics, and virtually every other road race this year in the UCI calendar--except that he never actually *gets* tired, because he's Alejandro Valverde, he just posed butt-naked and oiled-up for a magazine cover, and, uh, he clearly takes "nutritional science" to a whooooooooooole 'nother level. And of course, he's not going to the Vuelta for himself--he's going for Nairo, if you define "going for" as "hovering over his desiccated desert-drained carcass like a starving vulture waiting for the perfect moment of weakness." *Such* a generous helpmate, Alejandro--and good luck keeping an eye on your own teammate Nairo, much less your actual other competitors!

Ugh, Chris Froome (Sky): fresh off his trouncing Tour de France victory, and still in ghastly irritating delight over his bronze medal in Rio, Froome's ready to do what virtually anyone else would only be capable of doing in his situation: absolutely sucking, except he's got a cybernetic Borg-squadron of half-human half-derailleur tig-welded Franken-wraiths to bring him up to the last 100 meters of every single climb on every single day before they even break a sweat enough to need to dab their delicate brows with a hanky. Me: I hope Mikel Landa--who had a rather indifferent Tour de France, but certainly had enough of being under the domestique yoke at his last team gig before inexplicably bailing for even less green pastures at Sky--finds the legs to match his talent *and* his ambitions and, as Froome did to Wiggins before him, *completely* calls bull!@#$ and bushwhacks--I mean, genuinely accidentally loses his earpiece when he directly tosses it under a race moto's wheel and thus unfortunately can't hear any orders regarding--Froome. Tough to bite the hand that feeds you--but *damn*, Mikel, not *that* tough if a red jersey can be yours on the final podium, amirite?

Esteban Chaves (Orica): he's humble. He floats up mountains like a dream. And, while he's clearly a threat, he's not *such* a proven dead-on threat that the Big Three won't consider pacifying 'im with a little friendly leeway, for a little while at least. Looking for at least a coupla stage wins outta you, kid, and a wholehearted fight for a podium!

Tejay Van Garderen (BMC): Oh, Tejay. Bursts o' brilliance, but totally unpredictable, careening from breathtaking greatness to miserable bonkfest within--sometimes multiple times within--a single stage. No matter the odds, we're rooting for you man!

Samuel Sanchez (BMC): Shut up! Go to hell! BMC sez he's co-team leader and he deserves it! How many !@#damn gold-medal statues of you are there in the village square of *your* hometowns, you miserable haters--and you can start taking bets now on what vicious mountain stage will be his!

Tom Dumoulin (Giant): just kidding! Seriously, when the !@#$ did these humongous hulking Paul Bunyan Classics goons suddenly become viable Grand Tour contenders, particularly once the mountains kick in? It's happening *everywhere*--and I call, well, hijinks, *that's* right *I* said it, *hijinks*!


Well, there's my Vuelta GC roundup, and if there's anything race predictions show, it's that they b--that anything is possible. Next up: The 'Nother Riders. Til then, venga Alberto, and Samu, bring us home one last stage win before you retire!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Hell With the Olympics, It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Uno: the Course!

Okay, I've been lax, but besides the fact that both my dear readers have certainly got better stuff to do, I've also got an epic excuse: I was flattened for weeks by a completely ignominious yet totally incapacitating injury taking out the gar--uh, being chased off a high and excessively rocky nearby mountain pass by a distinctly irritated and giant-clawed Fiat-sized brown bear. Anyhoo, damn straight, cycling fans, new and old: it's time to block out the attention-whoring freak show that is the Tour de France, and go on the smashing, ever-underrated Vuelta a Espana! And sprinters, while there's a few bones thrown here for you, this ain't no place for Champs-Elysees glory-hunters: the Vuelta is a steep, leg-crunching climber's playground, and the rest of you, merely pack fodder. So what can we expect over the next three weeks? This!

The Sprint Stages: right, I'm forced to mention them in the interest of not being a total dismissive tool, so let's get it over with: Stage 2 tucks in a wee Cat-3 lump ahead of one of the few days o' mercy for the flat-land freaks; the 173k Stage 5 mocks you with another Cat 3 and a circuit finale; and holy crap, our Stage 12 intro to the the glorious Basque country at last, home of Euskaltel-Euskadi and, allegedly, a slight chance for fast men despite a Cat 1, Cat 3, then 2 Cat 2s on the way to Bilbao. Are you ready to get your orange on--I am! Stage 16: yeah, like any of you are still here anyway--but if you are, this Bud's for you! Ditto with Stage 18, and the lively last-day circuit of Stage 21. But spare a little TV time for the GC winner, if you please! So sprinters: the upshot is, I dare ya!

The Time Trials: Don't worry twee dear Nairo, there's only two: a flat 30k opening-day team trial to get someone into the gold (sorry, red!) jersey and terrify the GC time-losers on the day, and, on Stage 19 an individual bumpy 37k for the two time trial specialists (or reasonably competent roleurs) stupid enough to take on this race. Fabian, you sure you don't wanna have one last go after your spankin'-new gold medal from Rio?

The Breakaway Stages: sadistically categorized as "medium mountains," these are nonetheless a cavalcade o' cramping, not likely decisive enough for the GC to flip out but decisive enough to screw the complacent. Stage 3 warm up the legs with a Cat 3, a Cat 2, then a modest-sounding but biting 13.8 % hike up the finishing Cat 3 Mirador. Stage 4: another lumper, with 3 modest peaks at under 5% gradient, but a high-altitude, 11k final climb. And welcome to Stage 6, with some nippy little climbs and descents, and, an extra bonus, a "narrow" road at the end for some argy-bargy if the gruppo is fairly tight! Stage 7: 3 Cat 3s and a flat chance at the finish if the sprinters can schlep over the hills. Yeah, 'cause they're great at that! Stage 9: welcome to Oviedo, home of the incredible Samuel Sanchez, as the race pushes through a Cat 2-Cat 3-Cat 3-Cat 3-Cat 2 triple-decker sandwich--GC, sounds workable, but relax at your peril! Stage 13: welcome to the longest day of the Vuelta, 213k of you-better-not-!@#damn-forget-to-eat ahead of the next day's indescribable agony. Stage 15: you get what counts for mellow in the Vuelta--a 118k countdown from Cat 3, to Cat 2, to the Cat 1 finale of Los Sarrios. If you blew your GC on yesterday's queen stage, you might as well have a go!

The Mountains: *here's* what makes this race so agonizing, so excruciating, and so marvelously beautiful, particularly to those of us with access to primo air-conditioning: gradients so steep you might as well be riding upside down, terrain so summer-burnt and spare it's like a moonscape, and, of course, heat so brutal even the most flame-retardant sun-lover will be begging for a miserable Belgian early-March sleetfest or pelting Giro snowstorm. We first hit the serious mountains on the confounding Stage 8, which is mostly false-flat the entire way until at about 170k you smack right into the Cat 1 Alto de la Camperona endgame, with a max slope of 25%. What sicko dreams up this !@#$? Stage 10: yep, party's over, slackers: it's the legendary hors-category climb of the Lagos de Cavodonga, after you've already relaxed with a Cat-1 leg-squincher up Alto del Mirador del Fito. Enjoy tomorrow's rest day--you're certainly gonna need it! Stage 11: another 168k lumper, 'til the poor bastards hit the fearsome Cat-1 Pena Cabarga, with a slightly unwelcoming 18% pitch, a coupla short 6% sections, and a final-k punch of 11%. Ow, *dammit*! This gives you a few days to chill, until the Queen Stage 14: almost 200k of "holy crap!" with the gently-rolling Cat 1s the narrow Col Inharpu, the beloved (or behated) Col de Soudet, then the Col du Maria Blanque, and last but not least, everyone's HC fave--or, likely for someone on GC, mortal enemy--the notorious Col d'Aubisque. Medic--and masseuse! Stage 17: fresh off another nap day, it's the exciting new climb of the Mas de la Costa, generally a lax 13% for the weaklings but gearing up to 22% of sheer pain-o-rama. God, is this thing *over* yet--me, at least *I* hope not! Stage 20: if the race ain't already won or lost, honey, this is *it*--a fierce descent for the unafraid and completely coordinated: 4 Cat 2s and a GC bucket-list Hors Category Alto de Aitana, mostly under 10% but a looooooong--and draining--21k. Please, please someone drop Alejandro Valverde fer Chrissakes!

Okay, that's yer brief Vuelta a Espana Course in Preview: next up, the Players, and yes, I'm still hoping Purito comes to his senses!