Saturday, May 20, 2017

It's Yer What-the-Hell-Just-Happened Roundup and Here-Come-the-Mountains Giro Preview! #Giro100

Gavi-what?: So, you *just* figured out how to spell "Postlberger", and now you've got some *new* phenom to memorize? That's right, much as I want Andre Greipel to win every sprint, there's no doubt newborn baby Fernando Gaviria is the new jock-on-the-block, and I gotta say, sucks to be you if you're sprinting against this kid for the next, oh, 8 years or so. So go go Gorilla--but for Chrissakes beef up yer leadout train first!

Gone But Unfortunately Not Forgotten: In other Giro news, an injured Mikel Landa has decided to save Sky's !@# and continue on in the giro, to which team boss Dave Brailsford gratefully responded by kicking Landa right in the nuts, and an injured Geraint Thomas (not so injured he couldn't go full Cancellara in the time trial, but whatevs) *quit* the Giro, to which Dave Brailsford irritatingly responded by overthrowing the house of Windsor, clapping Queen Elizabeth and the rest of the royal family into leg irons and stuffing 'em into an unused utility closet in the Tower of London, and installing G on the Throne of England. Jaysus, Mikel, GET OUT of Team Craphole already, I know the dough is good but yer dignity is worth so much more!

La Vie in Rosa: Meantime, amiable giant Tom Dumoulin is comfortably in pink despite the fact that by sheer genetics he ought to be barely making it up the Dolomites sitting in a freakin' ski lift, but, with another time trial to go and two minutes plus on more natural climbers like Quintana Pinot (yes, he's a GC contender *now*, !@#$ off) & Nibali who can climb Everest without drawing a breath, it's apparently all but certain that big Tom'll not only stay there in the maglia rosa but beat 'em all by 3 or 4 days to Milan. What the !@#$ is *wrong* with the world nowadays, am I the *only* one who thinks it's gone all topsy-turvy?

Up, Up, and...Well, Good Luck Staying Away!: And, forget this Mount Etna/Blockhead !@#$--it's almost time for the full-on total mountains onslaught of the most beautiful race on Earth, so get set and embrace the pain cave, baby! Today: we're only a few short kilometers away from the gentle climb to Oropa, and if these nits just mark each other like spineless lilies and wheelsuck in Valverdean proportions, well, at least they got another chance to reclaim their rightful place in history on Monday's Queen Stage 16, a brutal haul up the Mortirolo with its 16% ramps, followed by the Cima Coppi at the fabled (and feared) Passo Stelvio and its hairy descent, then a quick jaunt for some more suffering over the border in Switzerland up the Giogo di Santa Maria, and a damn near 100% downhill plummet into Bormio. Okay, Mikel, we know you want and of course deserve this one--but it's gonna depend on yer descending, so please, you and the other guys just stay the hell upright, okay?! And don't worry big Tom, you'll get your breath back on Stage 17's comparatively mellow roller with early ups Aprica and Passo del Tonale before a chill middle part then last uphill grind to Canazei--which won't really help you if you cracked on Stage 16 and Nibs (tho down a key domestique) Thibaut and Nairo actually pulled their !@#$ together and attacked!

News It or Lose It: finally, no Giro would be complete without the two Bardiana-CSF nimrods who tested poz and got pulled immediately prior to the first day's start line getting popped for sure on their B-sample and promptly fired by their team, which apparently is totally cool for the race organizers to have the rest of em continue but raises the entertaining prospect of whether the kids are gonna blame (1) just had sex (2) didn't have enough sex or (3) yet *again* ordered an unregulated supplement off the internet like the rest of their similarly dimwitted pro-cyclist miscreant buddies. Ah, well--you guys got nothin' but time now, so choose yer excuses--and start cultivating the right friendships in anticipation of your eventual returns to the peloton--carefully!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Jailbait! Pink Gorillas! Disturbing Analogies! Slap-Fights!: It's Yer Giro d'Italia Week One in Review!

Okay, the first week of this year's monumental 100th Giro d'Italia has been accused, in some circles--as in, say, the legendary Mario "the Lion King" Cipollini's--as being a bit of a snoozer. But whaddaya expect--they gotta throw the few sprinters at the race *some* kind of a bone before they send 'em home crying like Cavendish when he loses, right? And you actually missed, if you weren't paying attention or, frankly, just laid a little too hard into the Aperol, quite a bit. So before we hit the serious mountains with tomorrow's hopefully GC-awakening slog up to Blockhaus, let's review!

Hijinks!: Yes, sincere congrats to the first two twits (Stefano Perazzi and Nicola Ruffoni, both of Bardiani-CSF) to get popped for doping before the race even it made it to the pre-show press conferences. Well, *that* restores the public faith in clean sport! Bonus points to Team Bardiani management for immediately throwing the riders under the bus (they wish literally!) as the usual "rogue elements" with the squad staff "completely unaware of the drugs we personally provided them (wait, did I translate that right?) and, of course, for UCI for immediately clamping down on this disgusting scourge by--uh, yeah, letting the team ride the race anyway. Bets on which Bardiani innocent gets busted next!

Jailbait!: look, if you *remotely* saw anyone from Bora-Hansgrohe coming--which, to be honest, has been primarily known as "Peter Sagan's squad"--much less their actual sprinter's lead out guy who happened to be riding his first stage in his first Grand Tour ever when his sprinter lost his wheel and his whole purpose in riding the Giro vanished in a second, you are a lying lying lying liar, or else the actual and direct hand of God reaching down and propelling an entirely surprised youngster Lukas Postlberger across the line and into the holy maglia rosa on Stage 1. Even better, the kid showed more tactical sense and cool under insta-pressure as some serious GC riders a good decade his senior. Best of all, the RAI commentator's endless delight since that fateful day in yelling "Postlberger!" at completely irrelevant times during the race ever since. A sweet start to an illustrious career, Lukas!

Pink Gorillas!: Meantime, big friendly lug Andre Greipel, who looks like he could kill you merely by thinking in your personal direction but who never misses an opportunity to warmly thank and congratulate his competitors, his teammates, his soigneur, the podium babes, or any rider who manages to stay upright during an on-the-fly nature-break, also took a smashing sprint and spent a lovely day in pink, generously allowing Caleb Ewan to take a stage as well, along with an astonishingly fast Fernando Gaviria. You're just so *nice*, Andre--*please* don't bail, the race organizers *swore* there's another sprint day in there somewhere!

Disturbing Analogies!: Speaking of Gaviria, who's already bagged *two* wins so far this race and donned the newly-returned maglia ciclamino, I gotta say he's an early lead contender for the 2017 Giro d'Italia racejunkie award for quote o' the Giro: "I think getting to Milan will turn Fernando the boy into Fernando the man." Y'know,, there's just *no* commentary on that that *wouldn't* be disconcerting. Anyway, nice to see you riding so well, kid!

Lava Lumps!: naturally, the *biggest* disappointment for the tifosi this week was the vaunted Stage 4 hike up Mount Etna, not only because the volcano didn't explode and bury the Team Sky bus under a cloud of caustic ash and lava, but because the GC riders completely wussed out of *any* kind of move and that little weasel Thomas still managed to grab 4 bonus seconds over his team's rightful GC captain, Mikel Landa. Good little attack on today's stage though, Mikel--you'll have plenty of time on tomorrow's ginormous climb to stomp him tomorrow!

Slap-Fights!: Back in the peloton, an epic slap-fight between key Nibali domestique Javi Moreno and demon-squad Sky's Diego Rosa ensued after Rosa started it by giving Javi a shove and a startled Moreno reasonably responded, leading to the obvious result of the race organizers kicking out Moreno on account of Rosa being a total ass. Stop it, guys. Just--stop it. With most of you, it's like watching a unicorn and Tinkerbell getting into a to-the-death cage-fight in front of a howling bloodthirsty crowd of dew-drunk wood-sprites. It's *embarrassing.* Now hash it out like *real* cyclists, by surreptitiously lowering the other guy's saddle by a millimeter and freaking him out for 200 kilometers! Anyhoo, here's the Thrilla in Manila (Etna, whatever):

Fan Failures!: Finally, endless curses to the dimwit fan with either an overextended arm or a moron freakin' selfie stick who apparently thought it would be a good idea to steal DiData hardworking nice-guy Kristian Sbaragli's liver right off 'im and try to sell it on the black market, 'cause the eejit damn near succeeded, and as the wounded victim helpfully pointed out, it could've caused a hell of a nasty crash in the peloton, as well as the marginally lesser problem of personal disembowelment. !@#dammit, do I *have* to do yet *another* "Etiquette for Tifosi" post *every* Grand Tour--because I can only say "JAYSUS GET YOURSELF AND YOUR APPENDAGES OFF THE COURSE YOU !@#$WITS" so diplomatically!

Well, that--and the fact that an Italian astonishingly hasn't won a single stage yet this Giro, which the Moreno-less Nibali still better pull off tomorrow or he's gonna look vulnerable--was the week that was. Onto Week 2, and the *real* start of some major GC slugfests!

Monday, May 01, 2017

It's Yer 100th Giro d'Italia in Preview, Part Due: the Contenders!

Okay, you got the language down. You know the course. So who--with the obvious and tragic exception of Michele Scarponi, to whom we did an earlier Giro tribute--are we looking at, and what are their chances? Let's preview!

The Real Contenders:

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida): He's the defending champ, tho now on a different team than the last one (Astana) he won with. And *any* Italian, much less someone as cutthroat as two-time Giro winner the Shark of Messina, is gonna want to go down in history as the campeone of the 100th edition. But his team is new, so they haven't done a grand tour together before. The good news: thanks to their big-bucks sponsors, they're bringing a walloping--and Giro-experienced--squadra, including Valerio Agnoli, Giovanni Visconti, Manuele Boaro, and oldie-but-goodie Franco Pellizotti, with the added firepower of Konstantin Svitsov. Wherever you end up, we're pretty sure it'll be at least on the podium, Nibs!

Mikel Landa (Team Sky): Shut up, he can too! Go to hell! Well, the eternal !@#$wits over at Team Sky have disastrously declared that dear Mikel and Geraint Thomas will have "co-captaincy" at the Giro, which means (1) they're going to blow all their !@#damn energy figuring out who deserves sole leadership; (2) tactically, they're going to be !@#$, and (3) no matter what Mikel Landa says--and he's said a lot of contradictory things of late--with non-Tour Grand Tour heir apparent/fawned-over management darling Geraint Thomas on hand, Mikel is absolutely unequivocally !@#$ed. On the plus side, the chance that Mikel will wake up from a troubled sleep with a gigantic revelation about his crap situation leaves open a significant possibility than he's going to go for blood like Froome on Wiggins. But by then, it may well be too late. You *suck*, Sky!

Geraint Thomas (Sky): !@#$ you, you shoulda been backing defending champ Mikel last week at the Giro del Trentino, you little !@#$! On the grounds of extreme annoyance, I decline to analyze this horrible scenario any further.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar): Look, I *get* it. He maintains strict radio silence for the 8 months of the year he's at home training in Colombia "at altitude," where he is totally coincidentally completely unreachable by land,sea, air, tunnel, riverboat, or internet. No-one is *ever* gonna give a !@#$ about it, so let's just move *on*, shall we? Aside from Nibali, and of course Mikel to whom all should bow (shut up, he can too, go to hell!), the only other real competition for the top spot, barring ill-fortune, is wee Nairo. Weakness: the time trial, at least theoretically. Strength: this being the 100th Giro, the two of 'em oughtn't to decide it. And while this prior winner is a smashing pure climber and has fine tactical sense despite his relative youth, he *is* idiotically going for the fabled Giro-Tour double, which means he (1) risks holding back too much for July, endangering his Giro or (2) risks blasting too away much energy at the Giro, screwing his chances at the Tour. As for his squad, Movistar, to its credit, isn't !@#$ing around: Amador, Anacona, Izagirre, thankfully *not* Valverde, Rojas, even Bennati--who, despite his sprinter's prowess, wrenched his guts out as an indispensable mountain domestique for Alberto Contador and will no doubt transfer his allegiance here. Now let our little Izagirre go for a stage win after you've locked in the GC, Nairo!

The Outsiders 'n' Top Ten-ners:

Bauke Mollema: 1st of all, how can you *not* love Bauke Mollema? That said, if Trek has *any* brains, they're not gonna burn all their Grand Tour matches for a Top Ten (or even Five) at the Giro if they really want to have a chance of beating that freak Froome and his android army at the Tour de France, particularly since, as the Tour will happily brag to you, there's been no do--uh, positive tests for *anything* at the most prestigious race on Earth (and don't even *get* me started there) since approximately when Landis was popped. But I'd love to see Mollema get a nice high placing all the same!

Tom Dumoulin: let's be honest, by peloton standards, Dumoulin's the approximate size of an overfed wooly mammoth, so his recent-years' spate of climbing success makes about as much sense as Estaban Chaves pounding on Andre Greipel in a sprint (or being able to pound on the Gorilla hard enough to make him think it's anything but a gnat he's swatting, for that matter). But climb he can, except for maybe the nastiest gradients in the Dolomites, so if he doesn't, say, have a 14-minutes-in-one-day spectacular crack, I suppose he can do pretty well. Not as well as Nairo though!

Yates, Kruijswijk: I understand. And I like them. But c'mon--all this top of the podium %^&* I'm reading, really? Though Tejay, with your usual class, I positively expect a good show!

The Climbers: yeah, if you can climb, you're aiming for GC here. Except our darling ex-Euskaltel riders, who seem to have a "Stomp On Me" clause in each of their contracts. Screw you, ProTour!

The Sprinters: Andre Greipel. And, y'know, some other guys, except Elia Viviani, which must've been a kick in the nuts so I'm sorry about that. Forza Gorillaaaaaaaaaa!

The Breakaway Artists: !@#dammit why didn't someone hire Amets so he could light those up? Anyhoo, every single Italian at the Giro is honor-bound to absolutely crush themselves trying to win a 100th Giro stage in their hometown. You wanna do all that research or got it all right off the top of your head, well fill me in! High on my Official List of Things That Ain't Happenin'--the dashing Pippo Pozzato taking one last win, but at least we can count on him flexing his latest tats for the expectant press. Vai Pippoooooooooooo!

Welp, there's your quick guide to who's gonna be who at this year's Giro. Now on to the most beautiful race on Earth--and thank you Astana for riding on in memory of your friend and compatriot!