Monday, July 24, 2017

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2017 Tour de France Racejunkie Awards!

So, missing the Tour de France yet? Yeah, me neither, which is evidenced by the fact that, for the first time in 11 years of this crap blog, I haven't even been able to be bothered to write about it more'n twice since it began. But still and all, it did occur, it *is* the biggest, gaudiest show on the racing calendar, and, for reasons that defy explanation, some guys are *still* willing to ride the thing in the--and it pains me like appendicitis to call it this--Chris Froome era. And, miraculously, a few things *did* manage to happen to keep it from being like dutifully reading a 10,000 page stack of blank paper. Whaddya get if you've won--or lost--one of cycling's most coveted, if completely unknown and totally disregarded, awards? Well, if you're so desperate as to ask for it, you get--I swear to God--a custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap; some kind of cheap-but-shiny trophy-like tchtotchke (possibly personalized, but depending on what I find at the junk store, almost certainly with someone else's name on it); a passel o' glam racejunkie stickers to emblazon your bike, your car, or your garbage can; and, best of all, eternal internet notoriety! So, without further ado, let's get on to this year's Hall of Fame (or Shame):

1. Road to Nowhere Award: well done, ASO--you've managed to design the single dullest Tour de France course in over a century. Endless flat stages? Check. A coupla one-day races with hills in 'em--without the interest or tension of the cobbles, or hell, anything else? Check. Brutal mountain stages without y'know, *mountain top finishes* that could actually mean anything? Bingo. Even worse, you preceded three weeks' worth of sleeping pills with the most disastrous prologue in years, apparently believing that wiping out anyone of any interest with any ambition by sticking 'em on a squirrely time trial bike on a squirrely course in a monsoon was a good way to ensure that *no-one* was around to light up the race in the two high-top finishes that *might've* coughed up some drama. Okay, maybe two stages out of 21 didn't suck. Well done, !@#$wits--next time, can we make the *women's* race three weeks long, and you can just let the guys chill at home and save their energy?

2. Pointless Self-Destructive Bender Award--no, it's not Oleg Tinkov--he sold his team when he got bored of mugging for the cameras with Peter "just a world champion" Sagan! But in a related shoot-yerself-in-the-foot move, this one's to ASO too, for taking one of the few riders absolutely guaranteed to put on a spectacular, crowd-pleasing, media-friendly party-on-wheels for the whole time, and kicking Peter Sagan completely out of the Tour for the astonishingly weak rationale that Mark Cavendish tried to squeeze himself into an aperture more suited for a preternaturally flexible weasel than a human cyclist hooked himself under Sagan's armpit and brought his own self down into a painful pile against the barriers. Are you !@#$ing *nuts*? Not only was it not even a relegation-worthy offense, much less a kick-out one, it wasn't even an *offense*, you eejits. Even worse, now he's gone and shaved his head, which the twitverse is convinced is a direct reaction to ASO's stupidity. Next time, watch the replay, suck up your petulant pride, and do the right thing, you crybabies!

3. Punk-!@# Move of the Race (Team): Congratulations, Team Sky, you've managed to beat out both Nacer Bouhanni's unjustified smack to Quick Step's Jack Bauer for *no* reason, *and* your own team leader's gratuitous bash of Fabio Aru into the crowd for the *!@#$* reason of daring to pursue his own GC ambitions: in a race where the rest of you looked like wheeled grandfather clocks as you clicked dully along, you decided to completely kill any joy or intrigue in the Tour by chasing down your (bushwhacking, disloyal, so what?) teammate Mikel Landa every time he showed *any* signs of independent life. God, I can't wait til he's out of that clone craphole!

4. Punk-!@# Move(s) o' the Race (Individual): The way he has a mechanical exactly at the steepest part of the climb, so the GC'll be too shamed to attack him. Or the way he needs a pee break right at the bottom of every mountain, to destroy everybody's momentum. Or the way he lifts his arm up to "call for the team car" and slow the group down for no reason--unless, best as we can discern, it's just to smell his own armpit. !@#$ you Froome, not only are you a total whinging two-bit cheap-trick punk, you're gonna get all my awards this year, you flyweight glory hog!

5. Punk-!@# Move o'the Race (Fan): look, France. We all think Froome's a doping little !@#$, as well as an abomination against the cycling gods for his hideous position on the bike. But he ain't the only reason you haven't won your own Grand Tour in a generation. Booing the maillot jaune. Understandable? Hell yeah! Class? Well, not so much!

6. The Fast and the Furio--No, Just !@#$in' Boring Prize: Never has a rider made one of the world's most difficult, dramatic, and spectacular sporting events seem *so* like a flavorless three-week-long bowl o' bottomless gruel. Way to go, Froomey, you achieved the impossible! Now come collect your--no, take your eyes off your--hey, you've already won the--!@#$, no-one can get his eyes off that damn power meter for *anything*!

7. Crash-o-the-Race (Jaysus H. CHRIST, not *again*! Edition): Can Alberto Contador's luck *be* any more !@#$ the last few years? Before Trek can even fail to stand up to Sky's hideous mountain onslaught, and the commentators 6iscount our wee hero on account of his being the approximate age of a new-discovered dinosaur fossil (but still a good milennium younger than Valverde), Alberto's chance at a farewell Tour get wrecked once again by a series of idiotic yet painful crashes, including one at the wheel of an exhausted Nairo Quintana, who to be fair was so knackered by his lousy Giro that he may not have actually been conscious he was riding a bike race at all. Just, *please*--can this guy stay upright at least at the Giro next year so we'll know if he could win fair and square?

8. Crash-o-the-Race (Magical Mystery Tour Edition): *Would* BMC's Richie Porte--having only recently learned that best-bro/not-a-teammate Chris Froome might work *against* him sometimes--have tossed his friendship to the wind and gone all-in against Froome for Tour de France GC--and possibly even seriously challenged him for actual victory, or would he have yielded to temptation and superdomestiqued his own rival to the win in Paris, *again*? Welp, we'll never know, because poor Richie crashed out. Richie, when you've recovered from your wins, do pick up your prize--and *promise* you'll really ride against him next year!

9. Crash-o-the-Race (Didn't Make a !@#damn Bit of Difference Edition): y'know, I'm very sorry for Geraint Thomas, and I truly wish him a swift, smooth, and complete recovery. But really, when you've got !@#$in' 10 other next-generation Terminators decimating every other team in their path, did Froome even *need* him there, except perhaps for constant ego-stroking? Nope. Anyhow, get well soon Geraint!

10. Domestique o' the Tour: Michal Kwiatkowski, hands damn down. Sky, time to give that guy a ginormous raise--move it, or lose it to another squad!

11. The Power of Love (And Threats) Award: Oh, Rogue Mikel. You openly resented it, and you even attacked a few (okay, a buncha) times to show that you could, but *something*--pride, etiquette, bodily threats from Brailsford-- drove you to eventually fall in line behind your team captain (a hell of a lot more gracefully than that asshat did for Wiggins, by the way). But you sure don't have to put up with that crap next year!

12. Good, Good, Good, Good Vibrations Prize: Aw, who *didn't* join in podium finisher Rigoberto Uran's obvious delight at standing on the second step in Paris? Better luck next year--or whenever someone gets popped and you get awarded the whole shebang retroactively!

13. Total Freakin' Ripoff o' the Race: y'know, I wanted Andre Greipel to win *every* *single* *stage*--and if you've got any other explanation to suggest other'n "he was just intentionally resting," you can leave my happy island of plausible deniability and shut yer piehole--and Bling put on a super show, but man, Marcel Kittel *deserved* that green jersey, and even I was gutted for him when he climbed into the back of the team car in bruised defeat. Oh, all right, probably Sagan would've had it--but thanks to ASO, we'll never know, will we?

14. Nail-Nipper Moment o' the Race Award: 10 seconds to the line. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Is he gonna--no he's not abou--holy crap he's done it! Romain Bardet pipping Mikel Landa by one lousy second to hold his podium on the penultimate day. Finally, some drama--even if the result sucked!

15. You Spin Me Right Round Baby/Right Round Like a Motor Baby Prize: okay, let's hit this face on: despite my liberal-arts education, I get "inertia." What I don't get is some grasping half-dead guy gacking his way up a hill and weaving like a punch-drunk boxer while his brand-new wheel suddenly starts whizzing up the Alps at 8 million RPM. Or have I missed some valid marginal gains here? You know who you are--either get yer prize, or get lost, you weasel!

16. The Dog Ate My Homework Statuette: we know, Nairo--you couldn't win the Tour this year, but you had a darn good excuse for not doing it. Maybe if Valverde gets back to nip at your heels one last time, you'll be the pup that wins the race next year!

And Finally, Yer Class Act o' the Tour: As a three-time Tour de France champ--and nine-time Grand Tour legend--he could've, in all honesty, just packed up and gone home without anyone blaming him. But what does he do when his GC is shot and his body's too bashed for even a stage win? *That's* right, he !@#damn gets on his bike every morning, attacks his heart out til his legs explode, and honors the Tour de France *every* *single* *pedalstroke* *into* *Paris.* This doesn't change a whit of every word I've written since your jailbait days-but Alberto Contador, you are the winner in guts if not in glory!

Well folks, them's my awards--next year, let's hope Landa gets the big one, and we've got more interesting !@#$ to write about!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

It's Yer 2017 Tour de France Rest-Day Week-One-in-Review!

Well, with the dullest course in living memory on the books, the Tour de France's been surprisingly (if daaaaaaarn intermittently) sprightly the last few days, so as Team "You Suck!" Sky dodges the traditional rest-day press conference like a bunny fleeing a wolf-pack, what've we learned so far, fellow tifosi? This stuff!

1. Shut it Froome. I don't even know what you just said. In fact, I don't even know if you've actually been interviewed. Just shut it!

2. Now, reasonable people can differ reasonably--even on the brutish playing field of a pot of tea and crumpets in the parlor--as to the etiquette of a rider attacking the race leader when he's got a mechanical or, if you're one of Froome's GC rivals apparently, ever, under any circumstances, at all. But if Sagan deserved to get his !@# kicked outta the Tour for the sin of Cav riding up under his handlebars from behind and crashing himself out, Froome absolutely sure as hell deserves to get his !@# kicked out of the Tour for intentionally plowing Aru into the spectators with his spiky insect exoskeleton. A punk move I get--deliberate revenge is bull!@#$. Is it me, or are ASO's tender feelings too hurt from the Sagan backlash to play fair enough to punish an !@#wipe who *really* deserves it?

3. Mark Cavendish may have a long and glorious history of being a petty, whinging wanker, and I get the deep and actually rational sense of injustice of the swooning Saganator fan-base over what happened, but anyone who aims their ire--and for !@#$'s sake, even death wishes!--at Cav's wife and kids is a total despicable scumlord. Perspective, you vicious freaks!

4. Trek-Segafredo--you're lovely for buying up Contador with a nice contract, and I do believe you mean so well by him--as evidenced by, if nothing else, the fact that his own teammates aren't openly trying their damnedest to throw their own team captain to the wolves in their own self-interest. But totally aside from Contador's own legs and creeping age, to beat those soldered-together nuclear-powered robots at Sky you *have* to have an *entire* team 100% climbing-ready to escort him in the mountains. What, you need more money--I've got the $50 bucks I couldn't give away to crowdfund Euskaltel burning a hole in my pocket, anyone else in?

5. It was nice to see the remaining GC contenders stepping up to superdomestique Chris Froome for his 2017 maillot jaune today. At least you know Contador, however and whyever hampered, will try to attack when he's got the legs no matter what. Really, WTF was *that*?

6. ASO, any bike race is always dangerous, but this Tour is *carnage*. Valverde. Porte. Thomas. About a dozen other guys so far. Can you *please* try to minimize the inch-wide descents, unpadded corners, and curlicue finishing "straights" for next year, for safety's sake? Honestly, we *don't* need or want the 'spectacle' of people getting hurt and wins-by-attrition! What is this, !@#$in' "Rollerball"?

7. Oh, FDJ. Such fine and deserving talent, but *four* riders outside the time cut today! Maybe you could call Dave Brailsford and talk, y'know, nutrition or something?

8. Speaking of whom, !@#$ you Sky for screwing Mikel Landa for the Vuelta! He looks like a sullen toddler stuck in his "time-out" corner out there. Can you *please* let the guy off the leash and give him a cookie or something?

9. Andre Greipel will so either. He's just, y'know, conserving energy and nicely giving fellow countryman Kittel a few stages to shine. Is too! PS Class for setting things to rights with Sagan after the incidente!

10. Two Grand Tour career starts, two Grand Tour career stages--the Vuelta first, of course. Who *doesn't* like to say "Calmejane"?

11. White shorts. Just--no.

12. Yes, Robbie, the mechanics of on-the-fly nature breaks are fascinating. Can we *please* stop discussing them now?

12. Where the !@#$ is our TV coverage of the Giro Rosa?! *Tell* me what sponsor !@#$ you want me to buy to make this possible!

13. Oh Nairo. Even without Valverde around to bushwhack you, you should've known this was an exercise in total futility before you started. Be honest--is this why you rode the noble Giro, to give yourself an out here?

14. I've said it before, and I'll say it again (which is why it's lucky no-one reads this rag anyway): high mountain stages with downhill finishes are a *total* *!@#$in'* waste. We *know* who can descend--even if they run into trouble. What I want to know is, outside of Froome and his mo--uh, "mojo"--who the hell on a stage can climb to victory?

Well, them's my sum-up. Landa, plot your escape, Nairo, plot--well, *something*, for chrissakes, and Alberto, whatever's gone sour, we trust you'll be back to smack down your rivals and remind them who *earned* 9 Grand Tours another day!