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!

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