Saturday, April 29, 2017

It's Yer 100th Giro d'Italia in Preview, Part Uno: La Corsa Rosa!

What: It's the 100th edition of the most beautiful race on earth, baby, so it ain't no place for wussies! And now that you got the lingo down from my previous posts, today, let's preview what the boys on two wheels are in for:

The Overall: Welcome to 3,615.4 kilometers of pain, glory, and general agony! Allegedly, we got six sprint stages, eight "medium mountains" stages, 5 "holy !@#$!" mountain stages, two individual time trials and, mercifully, *not* one of those stupid team time trials that can give some undeserving wanker an insurmountable two-minute gap for the overall win before the last poor sod out the start gate has even tightened his shoes. Thank you, Giro organizers!

The Prologue: Welcome to the beautiful island of Sardegna! We start off with a relatively chill 206 kilometer roller with a handful of Cat-4 climbs to warm up the legs, pave' (!) 2k before the finish, a big wide bend, and a fast finale. Enjoy it while it lasts, sprinters--it don't get much better than this!

The Sprint Stages: Like, who gives a crap, right, it's the *Giro*? Now of course, when we say a Giro stage is "flat," we mean "flat *at the end*, you hapless sap, so good luck to the dumb bastards actually choosing to be a sprinter here that you don't drop out by the 50k mark crying like Cavendish when he's just been beaten fair 'n' square by someone stronger'n him. But our big friendly lug Andre Griepel is riding it, along with, uh, some other fast guys, and you just *can't* not love *him*. Forza Gorillaaaaaaaaaa! Next up after our welcome speedway: an easy 148 k romp to Stage 3, a lumpy start then a sorta nausea-inducing consistent low roller-coaster on the way to Messina. First one in gets the motion-sickness pills! Stage 6 is another kinda-flattie with a leg-nipper of an uphill finish, just enough to discourage the pure sprinters and bamfoozle the gradient-loving boys. Stage 7, relax again til you knock the only categorized climb outta the way at 154 km, then generally down then finally up with a wee uphill to the finish in Alberobello. Enjoy it while it lasts! Your next break comes at Stage 12, with a coupla categorized climbs--wah, wah, what is this? the freakin' Tour?--on the way home to Reggio Emilia, then a ruler-flat ride of a Stage 13 before the really bad !@#$ begins and half o' you giants bail for home. Wait, I'm short on sprint stages--what he !@#$ counts in this race?

The Breakaways: Hot off the presses on stage 2, the "medium mountains" begin! And lest you think we're saving the first summit finish for the high passes, we get right down to business in Stage 4 with a Cat 2 slog up Portella Femmina Morta, before we (literally) heat things up with a Cat-1 finale up the legendary (and potentially, y'know, explosive!) volcanic Mt. Etna. Bad to time crack for the GC even with this far to go! Stage 8: eep! It's tricksy, with a seductively long completely flat stretch, then a coupla climbs and a short sharp uphill finale. Stage 10: it's yer first time trial, folks! Just shy of 40K, and early on, so no, the race ain't getting decided here: a mild start then a wunky uphill to Montefalco. Stage 14: a quick 131k, basically a looooooooong false flat all the way to the Cat 1 finale to Oropa. Fooled ya, today's a baddie! Stage 15: starting at 149 k, we got a Cat 2 and Cat 3, finishing up with a downhill run to Bergamo. Prepare the feel the pain on Stage 16, suckers! Stage 17: Do you know the way to Canazei? The Giro sure does, giving you guys a relative break after yesterday's killer with the 'mere' Aprica and Passo del Tonale before the final slog up to Canazei. All right, where's the "medium" mountain stages again?--'cause I sure ain't seeing 8 of 'em on the website!

The Mountain Stages: Hoooooooly crap, welcome to stage 9--and for my money, the Giro truly begins! Lump, flat, lump, flat, lu--whoa moly, it's the Cat 1 climb to Blockhaus, and underestimate the 14% gradients on this one like a blockhead to your peril! And while you breathe (sorta) on the aforementioned Stage 10, you better save something in the tank for Stage 11, with Cat 2, Cat 3, Cat 3, and (nyeah, nyeah!) Cat 2 again til the descent off Monte Fumaiolo leads to the final up to Bagno di Romagna. Ouch! Stage 16: it's the height o' the Alps, honey, and it's a beastie! The intimidating Mortirolo. The Cima Coppi, the highest point of the race, as we go up the mitico Stelvio on *both* sides. Then, after a final Cat 1 climb, it's a 20 descent down the Giogi di Santa Maria. Speaking of saints, you better be *praying* you don't bonk on this stage, or it's GC game over--and likely GC game over in a good way for the contender who doesn't! Stage 18: Welcome to the fearsome Dolomites--if you dare! In a leg-cramping podium-busting lung-masher, you got Pordoi. You got 2 Cat-2 breathers with Passo Valoparola and Passo Gardena, before the even more relaxing Cat 3 Passo di Panei. Finally, just when you thought it was safe to start crying, you get to ride the Cat 1 climb to Pontives, with a liiiiiiiiiittle tiny flat on the finish. Don't forget to eat now, you hear?! Stage 19--it's Cats 3, then 2, then 1, to the site of a Pantani triumph in Piancavallo. And finally, on Stage 20, it's your last-gasp hope that you can make up the disaster you suffered yesterday, and that the guy who triumphed then loses it completely today--but with Monte Grappa only mid-way through, a Cat-1 climb to Foza at around 175k, and a blessedly wavy final 15k, there's a strong chance for even some rival's tired legs to catch on up to you. Oh, thank God for you (and how devastating for us) that this suffering is almost over!

The finale: Here, it's the time triallist's last chance for glory--and the last barrier to making history as campione of the 100th Giro d'Italia. If you got more than a handful of seconds, with only 29 mostly-downhill k on the way to the--I swear, you're seriously almost done here--finish line in Milano, keep yer head and you'll probably keep yer crown (well, your godly golden spiral, but still). !@#$ the podium--after 3,500 k of this !@#$, I need a massage, pronto!

Well folks, them's yer preview of il percorso for the magnificent 100th Giro d'Italia. And don't take my unreliable word for it: here's the official promo!:

Tomorrow, the Contenders. Til then, forza ragazzi--and to *any* of you who make it to the line in Milan, we're not worthy, we're not worthy!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

It's The 100th Giro d'Italia! A Short Tribute to Michele Scarponi at the Giro

Look, there's no doubt that, with the tragic and untimely death of Michele Scarponi, the 100th edition of the mitico Giro d'Italia will start off, as it will finish, with inestimable grief and loss. And lest there be any tinge of hypocrisy on my end, let me state unequivocally that I stand by every wiseacre thing I ever blogged, tweeted, or said about him in the 11 year history of this wretched screed. But it also can't be denied that Scarponi's ineffable mix of showmanship, grinta, human frailty, and utter ease as either a captain or painfully self-sacrificing superdomestique were quintessially, well, Giro. So with that in mind, a brief tribute to the history of Michele Scarponi at the most beautiful race on earth:

2202: In his maiden Giro, with Acqua e Sapone, Michele bags a fine 18th overall. Not bad for a whippersnapper!

2003: Now with Domina Vacanze (oh! these lovely lost squads!), Scarponi goes two better in the general classification. Steady!

2004: What the hell? Why wasn't he here?

2005: Now with Liberty Seguros, Michele still finishes, this time at a yeoman's 47th. Just you wait though, until...

2006: As Operacion Puerto unfolds, taking half the active peloton and his own squad's now-notorious management with it, Scarponi DNFs. And of course, he misses 2007 and 2008 as well, leading to...

2009: A new gig at Androni, where he superdomestiques the great Gilberto Simoni, wins stage 6 on a solo break, pockets a thrilla of a stage 18, *and* pulls off a wholly respectable 31st, a fine preview of...

2010: His breakout performance as a serious GC contender, taking a smashing Stage 19 mountain sprint over the returning Ivan Basso and a jailbait Vincenzo Nibali on his way to 4th overall, which brings him...

2011: To the Disney sparkle princesses at our beloved Lampre, where he takes the prestigious red points jersey and grabs the second step on the podium, 6 minutes down (and it's !@#damn impressive he did) on the year's winner, Alberto Contador (yeah, I stick by that!), proving it's no fluke when...

2012: Ryder Hesjedal wholly unexpectedly emerges triumphant, but Scarponi still claws his way to just-shy-of-the-final-podium in 4th again, before:

2013: He scrappily holds onto 4th again, until...

2014: Now with Astana and its erratic raging (but wily!) boss Vinokourov, even he finally bails on stage 16, after which...

2015: He takes this one off, until...

2016: When, in what would sadly turn out to be his final Giro appearance, he stops cold on a mountainside on the way to near-certain stage victory to hang back and help his struggling captain Vincenzo Nibali not only on the stage, but to seal the overall victory (and winning a prestigious 2016 Giro d'Italia racejunkie Award in the process). Grande Michele!

May the 2017 Giro d'Italia live up to his impressive legacy. Grazie Michele!

Friday, April 07, 2017

It's Yer Quasi-Literate Guide to Italian Cycling Terms, Part Due!

Ok, so now you know who's doing what where in the gruppo at the fabulous Giro, or any other race you're watching on your smashing Italian pirate feed. But what disastrous mechanical did they just have, what just happened to that poor guy who crashed, and what the *hell* are the tifosi (that's you, cycling fan!) shouting at them from the roadside? This!

Bike parts!

Ruota: Wheel. Example: "I can't believe Carlos Barredo just whanged Rui Costa over the head with his ruota!"

Derailleur (front): Cambio.

Derailleur (wheel): Deragliatore. "Jaysus, you moron, try not to throw your !@#$in musette into my deragliatore!"

Handlebar: Manubrio. As in, "Holy !@#$, Sagan just caught his manubrio in some dipwad's giacca!"

Seat: Sella. "My freakin' *sella* just flew off? My mechanic is *dead*!"

Chain: Catena. !@#dammit, is Contador *cursed* or something, he just dropped his catena at the base of the Fedaia!

Helmet: Casco. Who's got the most hideous casco (well, caschi) in the peloton? Discuss!

Borraccia: Water bottle. I bet that ain't just water that weasel Valverde's takin' in from his borraccia!

Brakes: Freni. Don't touch your freni don't touch your freni don't touch...oh, !@#$, you just took half the gruppo down with you fer crissakes!

Frame: Teliao. Wait, what's that strange little button on your telaio? And how did you just accelerate like that when your face looks like Thomas "the Tongue" Voeckler's out there?

Computer: Computerino. Hey, some !@#$ing tifoso just stole my computerino when I was right here waiting for a wheel change!


Fall: As I mentioned, Caduta.

*Big* !@#$in' fall: Maxicaduta. !@#dammit, *another* maxicaduta for Alberto!

Collarbone: Clavicola. Oh, no, that's like the third time Phinney's busted his clavicola this year!

Leg: Gamba. Contador just finished a Grand Tour stage with a broken gamba again? Che mito!

Wrist: Polso.

Broken: Rotto.

Fracture: Frattura. Jaysus, how many fratture can Mick Rogers get in one career?

Finger: Dito. Hey, is that thing broken, or did Froomey just give the camera the dito?

Scrape: Graffio. No, no, my leg didn't just get ripped off, it's merely un graffio!

Skin: Pelle. Poor Chaves looks like a mummy, he's hardly got any pelle left!

Bandage: Fasciatura. Medico, ho bisogno di piu fasciature!

Syringe: Siringa. That better be decaf espresso in that syringa!

IV: Flebo. What makes Team As--ah, forget it!

Roadside Shout-Outs!

Dai!: No, not a wish for that guy to croak--go!

Forza!: Strength! Basically, go.

Vai!: Come on! Basically, go.

Ale'!: Allez! Basically, go.

As for what *else* they're shouting at those guys--and frankly, what I probably am too--I'm too delicate to use such language, so I'll leave that all to your filthy imaginations, perverts!
Next up--*what* do you want me to tell you how to say to Froome?

Monday, April 03, 2017

It's Yer Quasi-Literate Guide to Italian Cycling Terms, Part Uno!

Yeah, yeah, cobbles. But frankly, I'm so preemptively nauseated at the thought of Tom Boonen not winning his final Paris-Roubaix, and the incredibly anal-retentive obsessing over who caused Sagan's Flanders fall when we all know the important thing is what's the proper term for his current facial-hair configuration that I Just. Can't. Even. So, as we look ahead to the smashing 100th Giro, what do you do when your own country's commentator is a !@#$wit? That's right, scam some virus-laden illegal Italian feed, but for now, you need to know what they're sayin'! Ergo, a crash course in General Bike Racing Stuff:

Squadra: yer team. I.e., "how dare you not respect the fabulous Giro enough to bring your A-squadra, you Tour de France-whoring publicity pigs?"

Testa della corsa: the head of the race. Usage: how the !@#$ can that robot Valverde be alla testa della corsa for the 16th straight stage?

Fuga: the breakaway. Example: look, Amets is in la fuga agai--wait, he's not even *racing* anymore? What the hell is *wrong* with you freaks?

Gruppo: the peloton.

Gruppetto: the autobus (the !@#-end of the peloton, not the team bus).

Gregario: yer domestique. Poor bastard!

Velocista: sprinter. Example: how the !@#$ is that 200-pound velocista suddenly out-climbing Alberto Contador? Ohhhh...

Il doping: doping. No, serious!

Scalatore: climber.

Tappa: the stage.

Cronometro: the time trial. As in, "Are you kidding me? We're allowing a !@#$in' 45k flat cronometro to decide the *Giro*?"

Partenza: the start line.

Arrivo: the finish line.

Podio: the podium.

Ristoro: the feed zone. I think. Such as, "can you *get* through this freakin' ristoro without tossing your musette into my wheel, you !@#clown?"

Discesa: the descent.

Pendenza: the percent gradient of the climb.

Tornante: hairpin turn. Like, "Oh, !@#$, did that guy just fly off that tornante?!"

Vincitore: the winner. Correct usage: "Yay! Mikel Landa e' il vincitore!"

Maglia: yes, the coveted jersey! Leader is maglia rosa; mountains is maglia azzurra; young rider is maglia bianca.

Salita: the climb.

Podio: the podium.

Caduta: a fall. Dottore!

Ammiraglia: the team car. Yeah, this is all *your* fault, you @@#-strategy-spewing nits!

Well, them's the basics. Next up: bike parts, medical crap, and, *what* are they shouting at those guys?