Sunday, December 30, 2018

It's Yer 2018 Year in Review!

Y'know, a whole lotta mortifying can happen in the next 27 hours, but even with the world o' cycling doing its worst, I figure it's safe (enough) to remind us, before the Prosecco bender kicks in, what were the highlights--and let's face it, the lowlights--of 2019.  So before auld aquaintance should be forgot, it's on to your 2018 Year in Review!

January: Dozen riders popped for EPO at Vuelta a Costa Rica, World Tour peloton clean; Peter Sagan poses as Napoleon for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne; not one, but *two* glorious baby Carrot squads, Euskadi-Murias and Fundacion Euskadi, hit the hills.  Watch out Froomey, the *real* climbers are comin'!

February: Oman, is it hot! Vino's boys take 1st, 2nd at Tour of Oman, but who gives a crap--our little Izagirre, Gorka, takes 3rd!; Viviani starts of huge winning season at Dubai Tour, Cav takes--damn, was that his only victory this season?; Dane Michael Valgren smokes Omloop Het !@#dammitthat'salottavowelsjusttosay'news'.  On to the Classics!

March: UCI unveils war on mechanical doping by politely asking Froome if he does it, heralding denial as start of clean new era; Tiesj Benoot takes Strade Bianche in emotional, brilliant win, trophy mistakenly awarded to Wout van Aert instead; Wiggo assures BBC he "100% did not cheat," no-one cares. 

April: van der Breggen smashes Flanders with 27k solo breakaway; Boonen smacks Sagan for whinging how no one ever helps him; Saganator responds by winning Roubaix; Nibs out of Pais Vasco with gnarly saddle sore; if I hear one more !@#$in word about the "Wolfpack" I *swear* I'm going all Bouhanni on someone!

May: What else? Il Grande Giro, baby! Peloton irked Froome allowed to ride, better him nailed than them; Disgraced inept dope-weasel Riccardo Ricco' releases "Heart of the Cobra," apparently some weird new concoction he's taking;  Froome breaks away with winning move on e---uh, e-xceptional bike on the Finestre. You're not worthy!

June: Pre-Tour prep time!  Geraint Thomas takes Dauphine, setting up slap-fight with Giro-tired Froome-dawg ahead of July; Lotto Soudal barred from using "speed gel" on legs at Tour de Suisse, , take 16 hours to make it to start line from team bus, serves those !@#$ers right for plotting to screw Greipel; UCI plans to ban tramadol as soon as some better !@#$ comes along, but here boys, have at!

July: It's the Giro Donne, baby! Oh, right, and that other race.  Van Vleuten seizes mighty Zoncolan; Gendarmes tear-gas peloton in mistaken raid on irate farmers; errant camera strap and attached total moron snap Nibali's vertebrae, ruining Tour; Nairo Quintana--well, what the hell *did* he do there?; mild-mannered domestique Geraint Thomas takes maiden Tour de France victory, Froome gets all the headlines, *again*.

August: BinckBank Tour convenes at Kit Kat Club; Bernal and Landa in serious San Sebastian crash, I told you get outta that craphole Mikel!; Moscon banned after Tour de France DQ for being a total tool; our wee Izagirres sign for Astana?; the smashing Vuelta begins, Nibali riding despite surgery, busted vertebrae BECAUSE THE REST OF YOU ARE WUSSIES YOU COWARDLY SIMPS!

September: It's the World Road Championships, honey!  Mummified Alejandro Valverde wakened from crypt by ancient spell, claims men's road race; van Vleuten finishes women's race with broken knee, van der Breggen grabs the stripes though; Movistar calls out Michelton-Scott for wheel-sucking at Vuelta, race stopped for medical attention after entire peloton's heads collectively explode; Aru criticizes beloved bike manufacturer Colnago, stripped of Italian citizenship, forced to get passport from "Walmart Kids' Bicycle Department," JAYSUS CAN'T ANYONE BUT THE BRITS WIN A !@#DAMN GRAND TOUR ANY MORE?

October: It's the Race of the Falling Leaves! Landis announces formation of new cycling team "!@#$ You Lance Armstrong," offers him bale of weed in consolation; Chavanel in final race ever--waaaaaahhhhh!; Thibaut Pinot wins Lombardia, Nibali takes second because YOU'RE ALL WEAK; Stephen De Jongh in scary training crash, saved by Strava peeps.  Whew!

November: Contract season! Quintana to switch--aw, crap, just trainers for 2019; Gerrans to Goldman Sachs post-retirement, accidentally crashes world economy on third day of work; Euskadi aim for Tour de France wildcard invite, you go Edu and Rodriguez!; Giro route revealed, totally coincidentally has 850 kilometers of ITT not meant to seduce Dumoulin back, discourage Froome *at all*.

December: Team kit reveals!  Aru scowls through UAE photo session after being mistaken for towel boy; Deceuninck concedes defeat, basically remains Quick Step; print shop accidentally puts "V.I.Poo" toilet deodorizer logo on AG2R kit instead, nobody can tell the difference.  And Nibali's contract up for grabs after last-minute sponsorship disaster--Sky, you've still got some money lying around, amirite?; and no, I can't bear to talk about Paul Sherwen here.

Well folks, that's yer crash course in 2018--now kids, let's keep it clean out there next year, and *no*, I repeat *no* shenanigans!

It's Yer New Year's Resolutions for the Peloton!

Yep, it's nigh on the New Year, where we wash ourselves clean of our filthy year past and revel in the sparkling perfection of the year to come. Yet, judging by their actions, certain denizes of our beloved peloton who appear to be entirely freed from the curses of self awareness and self reflection could *really* use a little help from their friends.  And who better to know what the actual peloton needs than us?  So listen up cyclists: here's Yer New Year's Resolutions for 2019!

Geraint Thomas: As the reigning Tour de France champion, I will claim my rightful place as the undisputed leader of Team Sky in Jul--(Froome kicks in nuts)--urgh, yessir, I'll get on your laundry right away!

Chris Froome: Yeah, glad we got *that* resolution straightened out.  AND I WANT THOSE DIRTY CHAMOIS SPOTLESS, AM I CLEAR?

Simon Yates: you two jack!@#es just keep on fighting.  *I'm* gonna add a yellow winner's jersey to my red one!

Romain Bardet: you Brits can all can suck it.  Time for a new French champion of the Tour!

Gianna Moscon: I'll shut my racist stupid yap.  Hey, Brailsford, what's with these handcuffs, how am I supposed to !@#damn smack anybody like this, anyway?

Alejandro Valverde: Me? I'll still be in World Champion gear when Peter Sagan's 80 years old and retired to the countryside. Now the only reason I want you on my wheel is to bring me up a water bottle, you got that Nairo?

Chantal Blaak: you think *I'm* going back to superdomestique duty?  I'm regaining my stripes in 2019!

Peter Sagan: I'll complete my Monuments sweep.  *After* I tell you how unappreciated I am again!

Nairo Quintana: I will figure out what the hell's been going wrong with my training regimen.  Hey, maybe switching to Team Sky would help!

Fabio Aru: I will--hey, where are you guys going?  I'm right here! No, that's Nibali, I'm right *here*!

Mikel Landa: Listen to me very carefully Mikel: I will get the hell outta Movistar.  JAYSUS MIKEL WHAT MORE EVIDENCE DO YOU NEED TO SEE THAT UNZUE'S GONNA !@#$ YOU OVER TIL THE END OF TIME ALREADY!

Alexandre Vinokourov: I'll hire Mikel Landa back.  Baby needs another Grand Tour win!

Tour de France: We will cave to public demand and the impassioned pleas of the highly qualified women's peloton and put on a fully-supported, publicized, and televised 3 week Tour de France.  For the guys.  *You* just get a !@#$ty crit this year.  Now freshen up my drinky-poo, will ya babe?

Brad Wiggins: No. More. Books.  Besides, I've got my Olympic arm-wrestling career to look after!

Floyd Landis: I will piss off Lance Armstrong by my mere existence. Every. Single. Day. 

Andre Greipel: Two words, Lotto: Caleb. Ewan. Is. Toast.

John Degenkolb: the longer the 'stache, the more the victories.  Guinness Book of World Records, here I come!

Annemiek van Vleuten: uh, artistic cycling?  I'm running outta things to win, here!

Anna van der Breggen: You. Me. Rematch!

Tom Dumoulin: Oh, all right, with 2200 kilometers of time trialling at the Giro d'Italia I guess I'll have another go at it this year.  But *no* more !@#$in' Finestre, you hear me?!

Toms Skujins: I'm gonna perfect my latke recipe.  Oh yeah, and ride that framey thing with wheels on it, too!

Euskadi Murias: World Tour.  And we're bringing back our rightful team kit, too!

Pippo Pozzato: In honor of my retirement, I will get a giant tat listing every one of my career victories.  Aw, man, I know I'm running outta room on my arms legs and torso, but do we gotta put that freakin' needle *there*?

Well, boys and girls, you got your assignments. Now go get 'em, or you'll get even worse ones for next year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2018 Racejunkie Awards!

Yes, cycling fans, it's awards season, that beautiful time of year when we all dress up in our smartest team kit, hit the red carpet, then immediately hit the bar to numb the impact of the coming rightful pride or grotesque humiliation with truly toe-tingling supplies of alcohol or the off-season vice of one's choice.  Prizes--I swear--for those arrogant or desperate enough to claim them: a smashing custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap; a passel o' handsome racejunkie stickers to deface yer team car, yer bike, or yer face; eternal glory (or embarassment); and, an actual corporeal tchotchke you can put on your mantle right next to your Giro trophy, giant cobblestone, and positive test results.  So who's distinguished themselves, or besmirched their family name for generations to come, this year?  These people!

Race o' the 2018: La Course.  Annemiek van Vleuten beating Anna van der Breggen *just* on the line, on the sole scrap of a women's day at the men's Tour de France.  The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat in one soulcrushing screenshot!

Guilty Pleasure Award: forget not winning the actual Tour de France to a lesser teammate: what was actually more ignominious for resident Sky human power-meter and godawful abomination on the bike Chris Froome was his highly enjoyable humiliation at the hands of French gendarmes, who tackled the Dawg and yanked him off his bike as he attempted to anonymously slink off the Col du Portet with his bodyguard after stage 17--and a disastrous day--clothed in what appeared to be a billowing giant Army tent. Needless to say, hilarity--or rather a torrent of French-tinged swearing--ensued.  This was terrible, and ought to be swiftly forgotten.  I mean, just look at it!  <iframe width="360" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Punk o' the Year: Racist slurs.  Sucker-punching cheap shots, including a bad-optics DQ from the Tour de France after smacking Fortuneo's harmless nice-guy Elie Gesbert in the face on Stage 15 for no discernible reason nary a kilometer into the day.  And a general attitude of assholery unequaled even among the most classless of jackwagons in the peloton.  Congrats, Gianni Moscon-- if you can call it that!

Existential Crisis of Award: 10 years after his ban from Operacion Puerto expired, and at the approximate age of when our planet's supercontinent Gaia broke apart into the 7 big wunks we enjoy today, Alejandro Valverde's scream of triumph at the World Road Championships this year was outshouted only by cycling's collective shrieks of disbelief, admiration, joy, disgust, and horror.  Yep, this one's for all of us, since it took (no disrespect to Bala's power and perseverance) the collective cringing denial of the cycling authorities, press hounds, and enabler tifosi to get us here.  Congrats--now get that look off your face every time you see those World Champion stripes!

Karmic Justice o' the Year: perpetual Armstrong stinging pest Floyd Landis, who turned around years of fan ire over his bogus "Floyd Fairness Fund" and total peloton ostracism for breaking omerta'  to start an instantly successful cannabis biz and, even better, stick it massively to lifetime-banned Lance by taking his $250k whistleblower windfall and starting a freakin' cycling squad.  Toke that, Armstrong!

Fuckwit Tactics o' 2018: FFS, Movistar--this triple-team-captaincy crap with Nairo, Alejandro, and Mikel is *never*, *ever* gonna work.  And sure, for 2019, you've sagely apparently decided to knock that down to the slightly less idiotic two-equal-captain strategy.  But why the !@#$ did it take you so long to learn your lesson?!  Mikel, I'm telling you, these clowns have wasted your potential--but there's still time for you to get the hell out!

The Empire Strikes Back Award: sure, it's already been an embarrassing generation or so for the poor French.  But to have the Brits bag not just their beloved Tour de France, but the other two Grand Tours as well, has gotta be a special kind o' nut-kick for not just them but for other historic cycling powerhouses like Italy and Spain.  All hail the Queen--and you might as well all start learning how to sing the national anthem now!

It's (No Good) To Be the King Statuette: look, in any normal year, Geraint Thomas would be here for
"Superdomestique o' the Year"or some admirable endeavor.  But this is still 2018, and the guy was actually able to ride out of Giro-tired Froomey's shadow and take his maiden Grand Tour victory.  Not that it matters to Chris this year when he kicks your !@# back into second tier status--now get off yer bike and pump my tires, you lowly minion!

Carrot Rising Prize: Bring one baby carrot into the smashing Vuelta a Espana amidst an all-star gaggle of gasping climbers, and what do you get?  That's right baby, one debutant Euskadi-Murias boy to rule them all! Oscar Rodriguez' beyond-bangin' stage 13 win on the fierce gradients of La Camperona. Aupaaaaaaaaaa--and watch out Sky and Movistar, they're coming for you next year too!

Total Weeper of 2018: yes, John Degenstache's tearful redemption win, after years of recovery from near career-tanking injury, on the cobbled streets of the Tour de France.  But for me, this is hands-down a heartbreaking but beautiful tribute by Canadian nice guy and first-time Grand Tour stage winner EF-Drapac's Michael Woods, gasping with exhaustion at the end of an epic Stage 17 victory at the Vuelta a Espana and dedicating his win to his and his wife's late son Hunter.  Yeah, I'm still crying--but you know you are too!

Marginal Bull!@#$ Award: Holy Jiffy Bags, Batman, Sky's out!  Which raises the question, who's gonna pay the civil damages when they get sued for allowing Geraint Thomas and Froome to engage in a cage-fight-to-the-death for team leadership ahead of this year's Tour de France?

Worth His Weight in Gold Award: yeah, Nairo weighs about as much as butterfly's breath, so this one seems about right.  Honestly, whatever funk he's been in, his beautiful win at the perfect Giro d'Italia years back *was* worthy, so hopefully, somehow, he'll get his mojo back--*after* Landa gets a real crack at team leadership, of course!

Entertainer o' the Year: Toms Skujins.  Even more than Peter Sagan, Trek-Segafredo's resident potato-lovin' Latvian--and wearer of the polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France in truly a breakout year--swept the cynical cycling press *and* the tifosi off their feet with a blizzard of roadly panache, lively tweets, and simple joie de vivre.  From hot chocolate to Christmas onesies, cyclocross coverage to of course the glories of spuds, there's nothing Toms won't weigh in on, to our collective delight.  Keep it up, kid--and no, we won't forget your achievements on the bike that got you here!

Enabler Prize o' 2018: nothing says "shape up or else!" about your rider's ignorant, racist, crybaby behavior like punishing him by--uh, by not imposing any material consequences whatsoever for two straight seasons' worth of total jackassery.  Sky, I don't care what races he wins or how much !@#$ty "any publicity is good publicity" he sends your way--get a grip on Moscon's twitface behavior, and get your house in order!

Suck Retirement o' 2018: yes, Pippo Pozzato's last-minute retirement announcement blows, not least because our dashing Pippo, off to nurture young cycling talent and, bizarrely, take up a career in roller hockey, is single-handedly destroying cycling's single greatest source of semi-porno selfies since Cipollini.  But for me, the greatest if most unheralded sucktastic retirement is Italy's sprinter extraordinaire grande Giorgia Bronzini.  After a precocious beginning (and equally strong finish!) in track, Giorgia racked up *2* UCI World Road Championships, a pile of victories in the fabulous Giro Rosa, and emphatic wins in races from China to the Basque Country.  Now, it's off to impart her wisdom--if unfortunately not her intimidating speed--to the whippersnappers.  Grazie Giorgia, I know the sport will continue to benefit from all you do!

Doping Scandal of 2018: after years of explaining away buckets o' testosterone patches, boxes of unattributable vials, and performances that make DiscoveryPostal look like a post-bender New Year's Day beginner club ride, Team S--I mean, 3 Masters racers from the Vuelta a Miami were popped for EPO and similar antediluvian substances by crack cycling police force UCI.  Ya gotta give UCI credit for catching 'em at this level--it's the only way to ensure the pro peloton remains the sparkling-clean bastion of purity it is today!

And Last But Not Least, the Golden Hanky Award: what happens when you're unconditionally swooned over by the press, mobbed by smokin' hot fans of every persuasion, showered with lucrative sponsorship gigs, finally the winner of the legendary Paris-Roubaix (in World Champ stripes, no less), and generally granted more deference than God?  *That*'s right, if you're bike handler perfecto Peter Sagan, you complain to the press about how unappreciated you are and threaten to ride your mountain bike off into the obscure sunset.  Cry me a river, honey--just turn off the waterworks *before* you pop another wheelie for the cameras!

Well folks, them's pretty much mine--so step up winners, and own your victories if you dare!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

It's Yer Merry Festivus Gift List for the Peloton!

Yes, it's the holidays, that glorious time of year when we wish good will to all our brethren and sistren, except Team Sky who's relentlessly crushed the fun out of all the Grand Tours with their boring lifeless death-by-power-meter approach so they suck but everyone else we'll cut some slack.  So who's been naughty or nice this season, and what do we gift 'em? Enjoy, dear peloton--you deserve it!

1. Gianni Moscon: how many racist sucker-punching wankmeisters does it take to change a lightbulb? Who cares, but I'll tell you what that kid *does* need--a damn muzzle. And viewing his latest obscene gestures to the cameras straight from the warm-'n'-fuzzy lovefest that is team camp, we should damn well slap on some mittens, too.  Now *don't* take 'em off til you've learned yer lessons, ya little punk!

2. Floyd Landis: All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I'm fi--oh wait, that's Jeff Spicoli. Let's just deliver this new team boss, and pleasingly perpetual annoyance to Lance Armstrong, a truckload of Doritos to go with his boatloads of bud!

3. Mikel Landa: the 2019 Giro.  Because until you get one, Unzue is *never* gonna 100% back you for the Tour, the new stupid "two team captain" strategy is *still* gonna fail, and you will always, *always* be !@#$ed.  We love you Mikel, you can do this--just maybe scarf an extra espresso before all those extra time trials this year and it's yours!

3. John Degenstache: damn, I'd love him to win Paris-Roubaix this coming year!

4. Peter Sagan: impeccable bike-handling skil--no, he got that.  A screaming horde of fanboys'n'girls second only to the Beatles--yeah, done and dusted.  More moolah in endorsements than god--mmm-hmm, been there already.  World cham--no, he has like a million o'those.  Aw hell, he doesn't need anything--maybe give the boy a Tour de France mountain stage, just to mix it up a bit!

5. Andre Greipel: a big ol' win on the Champs-Elysees.  Eat *that*, Lotto, you faithless goons!

6. Lotto-Whicheverscrewedhimover: a lump of coal.  You *suck* for jacking our big lug over!

7. Team Sky: Jiffy bags.  Ya gotta be running low by now, amirite?

8. Anna van der Breggen: La Course.  Because she was so, *so* close this year!

9. UCI: Salbutamol, or whatever performance-enhancing drug would give you the strength to bust anyone bigger'n some poor Master's racer for doping!

10. Alejandro Valverde: cripes, he's got the World Champion stripes and at least another 80 top years in the legs--I guess just that everyone won't have just ditched bicycles for flying cars and jet-packs by the time he packs it in?

11. Alexandre Vinokourov: Okay I don't really know what to get you Vino so please don't hurt me but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE give Mikel Landa a nice contract and 100% Grand Tour backing, and lure that boy the hell outta Dodge!

12. Dave Brailsford: a crack legal team.  No reason--just good to have in your back pocket in case you ever need it!

13. Geraint Thomas: like, a nice little "participation" trophy or some such comforting trinket given to the kid who always gets picked last in gym class.  'Cause heck knows Froome ain't gonna let the mere defending Tour de France champion have another crack at it this July!

14. Our Baby Carrots: between Edu Prades, Oscar Rodriguez' stealth triumph, and every darn breakaway in every race you rode in--what more our future superstars need, except to continue on the same flower-strewn path?  A case of giant bottles of podium Champagne--you're gonna get 'em anyway, might as well enjoy 'em up front!

15. Marcel Kittel: a buzz cut.  I'm serious.  It's like a reverse Samson & Delilah thing--shave off the gorgeous pompadour, regain your winning ways. Worth a try, right?

16. Nairo Quintana: his mojo.  After Mikel Landa kicks his !@# at the Tour.

17. The Women's Peloton: a TOUR DE FRANCE. Not some bull!@#$ pacifier snoozer-to-watch throwaway circuit race, a REAL FREAKIN' TOUR DE FRANCE. !@#dammit, are you people *trying* to make me doubt the existence of Santa Claus, how much longer do I have to ask for this?!

18. Finally, My Dear Readers (Both of You): look, what with everyone *still* reeling from Alberto Contador's retirement and that catastrophic stick-figure's victory at the Giro, it's been a tough 'ol 2018. May all your cycling dreams, at least those of which I would approve, come true!

All right kids, that's about as much genuine goodwill as I can put out there in one go without passing out.  So crank those maudlin tunes, lift that tasty spiked nog, and Merry Festivus and Happy New Year to all of you!

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Paul Sherwen, 1956-2018

Look, I'm just a fan--I never knew the man. But the dulcet tones of Phil & Paul were the soundtrack of my intro to, and most of my watching of, pro cycling. How it could possibly be interesting to watch a bike race for six hours. The attacks, the dangers, the hard-working ennui of sitting in the bunch waiting for the final 2 kilometers of a sprint. How team tactics, no matter how weak or strong the legs, could win, or kill, a race. How a 200 meter long increase in the gradient of a climb could be enough to completely blow one's engine and destroy one's stage-win dreams. How GC could be decided by a moment's inattention, an ill-timed drink break, a minor mechanical. The historical significance of a 12th-century chateau, precisely what bottle of wine he and Phil enjoyed with what entrees the last time the Tour de France chanced this way. And yes, the brief, exhilarating naivete of believing that sporting miracles do happen, that a 7-man train ticking impermeably up a fourth straight Alpine climb could be just impossibly strict training and perfect symmetry of spirit, that one man could shine that brightly, without guile, cheating, and the ruthlessness to use personal tragedy and the sympathy it rightly engendered as a cudgel to all challengers on the road, but particularly off. That, once exposed, such things were an anomaly, a scrubbable stain on a beautiful sport, its essential purity untouched by the fleeting minutiae of individual vanity and sordid scandal. In the US, for years he and Phil together were cycling's only TV ambassadors, both riding and shepherding the Armstrong era's ridiculous ratings to Stateside coverage of other races, the perfect Giro, the maddening Vuelta, the brawling combat of Paris-Roubaix. And who better to recall and recite the precise career trajectory and sing the slender palmares of every unsung workhorse who ever snuck out of a breakaway, benefitted from the dismissal or just other ambitions of greater riders, or cracked within meters of the line after the daring dash of a lifetime? If a name got misidentified here and there, if an entire generation of commentators, journalists, and even fans was left to grapple with its own complicity, these were far outweighed by the obvious love for the sport that he so thoroughly engendered in others. Condolences to all who knew, loved, and worked with him. No other commentators have ever replaced him, and I can't imagine any ever will. Thank you, Paul Sherwen. You'll be missed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

It's Yer Eleven Cycling Things I'm Grateful For This Thanksgiving (and a Few I'm Damn Well Not)!

Yes, it's Thanksgiving, that glorious American holiday where we reflect on how we stole this country from its rightful owners, confirm the world's grossest stereotypes of national excess by gorging ourselves senseless on stuffing, gravy, turkey, cranberry sauce, and pie, try not to stab Grandma's sterling silver dessert fork into the head of our crazy-!@# racist nutwhack paranoid conspiracy-theorist grand-uncle, and retreat to the couch in the living room hoping to accidentally drown out the sounds of other people doing the dishes while we watch the football game before we--JAYSUS CAN'T ANYONE SCRAPE THEIR PLATE OFF BEFORE DUMPING IT INTO THE SINK WHAT THE !@#$ EVEN IS THAT ARE YOU PEOPLE !@#$ING ANIMALS?! Oh right, and be thankful for stuff. So what cycling things am I grateful for (and a few I damn well ain't) this year? This!

1. The Giro. Yes, that disgrace won it this year, though fortunately I've almost blocked that out. What you *can't* block out--its monstrous climbs, harrowing descents, its fickle twists of grit and fate right up til the last possible moment. We love you il grande Giro--now I'm *telling* you Landa, ride this next year!

2. Not just one, but *two* teams full of baby Basque geniuses are back--and they're already getting results, including didja see Oscar Rodriguez' incredible stage 13 Vuelta a Espana mountaintop triumph!? May the ghosts of Carrots past smile upon you all--now go out there you smashing wee climbers, and make the peloton cry up every one!

3. Speaking of Basque cycling--Izagirres! Mikel! Mikel! Amets! Oh, no matter what team they work for, I'm bawling into my Euskaltel hat in gratitude right now...

4. Lotto-Soudal's Stig Broeckx. After a life-altering, nearly fatal crash in 2016, he's back on his mountain bike--and already aiming for the road. Peace, health, and happy riding forever to this wonderboy!

5. Toms Skujins. No, you can't pronounce it (or you can, smartypants, but I sure as hell can't), but boy, can you admire this kid! Social butterfly, damn hard worker, potato aficionado, and oh right, 5-stage mountains classifications holder at the Tour de France this year--you go Toms!

6. UCI's war on noncompliant--uh, socks? Because we wouldn't want to bust any superstar cash cows for *doping*, now would we!

7. Marianne Vos. Yes, there are other cyclists who've had an amazing year, and even won some races--and who were coming back from injury, as well. But all-terrain champion and Best Athlete In All Human History Vos is simply hors categorie. Allez you brilliant bad-!@#!

8. Peter Sagan. The face that launched 10,000 wheelies. Hey, forget his riding--this guy is making this broke-!@# sport *rolling* in dough!

9. It's super nice to see Alberto Contador doing so much to mentor the next generation of cyclists. Especially when he could just be kickin' back with a beer and playing with his dog all day instead for the rest of his life! sure you don't want to reconsider a comeback Alberto?

10. Alejandro Valverde in World Champion stripes. Because at least we're not all yammerin' about Froome this instant, amirite?

11. Floyd Landis. Sure, I've maybe said a few things here'n'there about Floyd over the years--and wholly merited, I might add. But Floyd gets *giant* thanks in 2018 for taking his humongous whistleblower payout
and starting a bud-based cycling squad with it, right in the eye of ol' pal Lance "I Never Tested Positive" Armstrong, who, of course, is banned for life from doing a !@#damn thing in cycling more useful'n wiping dog poo off his own wheel after a mountain bike ride. Good onya, Landis--and we can't wait to try your new team's recovery drinks!

And a Few I'm Damn Well Not:

1. Mikel Landa screwed already, *again*. What the !@#$ing !@#$, Movistar?

2. La Cour--What the !@#$, it was the single most exciting day at the *men's* Tour de France last year and now you're not only not expanding it, but making it some boring-!@# circuit crit, to boot? !@#$ you ASO!

3. Seriously, Spain and Italy--not a *single* Grand Tour victory this year? What are you, France? Now get back training and fix this ridiculousness for 2019!

Well folks, them's mine, and that's not even half the bitchin' stuff I could think of (or complain about). So let's raise a drumstick, pour some wine, and give a toast to Thanksgiving 2018!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2018 Vuelta a Espana Racejunkie Awards!

Wearing every red shirt you own in mourning for a Grand Tour just past? Still missing the cries of "Aupa!" and frantically waving Basque flags by the mountainside? Waking up from troubled sleep wondering what the !@!% is all the fuss about Porte? Yes, you've got Vuelta a Espana Withdrawal Syndrome, honey, and we've got the cure: it's yer incredibly prestigious 2018 Vuelta a Espana racejunkie awards! Prizes--I swear, for any desperate recipient who claims 'em--a custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap to decorate yer head; a whole wunk of dashing racejunkie stickers to deface yer stuff; and a random hideous trophy tchtochke to proclaim yer shame on yer mantelpiece. So with that promise, let's get to it--and hope none of these schmucks earn these same embarrassing awards next year!

1. Attack o' the Race: Nairo Quin...nah, just kidding! 23-year-old baby Carrot Oscar Rodriguez--out of contract, tho' presumably no more--of smashing startup Basque squad Euskadi-Murias, grabbing stage 13 in a daring--and almost certainly doomed--dash from a breakaway with such formidable competition as Rafal Majka and Dylan Teuns. Icing on the cake: Euskadi announced its continuation--and its inevitable invite--for 2019. Get used to it, peloton--you're gonna be seeing a whole lot more of these guys on top of the podium next year!

2. The Sky is Falling Prize: what? No blank-eyed drones drilling up every climb in a relentless annihilation of every hint of competition? No swept-under-the-rug bull!@#$ about totally accidental testosterone deliveries or surreptitious snarfs from a heretofore-unnecessary asthma inhaler? Yep, to the relief of cycling fans everywhere, the mighty Team Sky army had virtually nothing to say this Grand Tour--and I'll *double* their damn prize if they promise to sit out the next one!

3. Crash o' the Race (Fan !@#$wit Edition): Wait a minute...where's the !@#holes in neon banana-hammocks staggering into the climber's lines? where are the blinding smoky flares causing vertebrae-breaking season-destroying pileups? C'mon, not even some asshat with a wind-whipped camera strap aimed directly at a GC contender's handlebars? Ohhhhhhh, it's the *Vuelta*--and let's *keep* those race-wrecking camera whores at the Tour!

4. Crash o' the Race (Race Personnel !@#$wit Edition): okay, maybe not *everyone's* got the memo. The clueless doofus who thought an oncoming sprint finish was the perfect place to take his morning constitutional for no apparent race-related reason whatsoever. What the !@#$?!

5. Crash o' the Race (oh !@#$ oh !@#$ oh !@#$! Edition): Between the flyer just shy of a rock wall and right over a cliff, to the truly scary look of slight confusion on the man's face as he climbed out of the ravine--DiData's Louis Meintjes' stage 15 high-speed descending wipeout was absolutely terrifying. Luckily--aside from the typical cyclist bloodiness--he came out okay. Whew--let's hope nothing like that ever happens again!

6. Crash o' the Race (What the !@#$ing !@#$? Edition): Look, I love helicopter footage as much as the next fan, particularly as it applies to bucolic herds of cows or dynamic moving-tractor field art. But what we *don't* need is a low-flying helicopter crew pulling some ill-timed movie-chase stunt and spilling a pile of flyweight cyclists like dominoes across the tarmac. Damn, do you know how *fragile* those little things are? Not to mention all those expensive bikes, you eejits!

7. Exercise in Total Futility Award: Eventual winner Simon Yates, impatiently gesturing on the crucial stage 15 for perpetual leeching remora Nairo Quintana to unhitch from his damn back wheel and help. Are you *nuts*? It's *your* damn red jersey to defend--and even if it were Nairo's he *still* wouldn't budge off your wheel?

8. *I'm* Not Crying, *You're* Crying Moment o' the Vuelta: Let's leave aside that it was an incredible win by an incredibly unsung rider on an incredibly talent-packed breakaway. But EF's Michael Woods tearful post-stage interview describing his thoughts on the final approach and dedicating his victory to his stillborn son was just more than anyone on the same entire planet could take. Congratulations and condolences to this lovely rider and his family--now give me the damn Kleenex, *again*!

9. Redemption Song Prize: seriously, *Cofidis*? Like, they're still a *team*? First a stage win with A-list pugilist Nacer Bouhanni, then Jesus Herrada bags the leader's jersey? Where have these voracious Grand Tour conquerors *been* all these years? Aw, who *doesn't* love a comeback--or hell, even a come-from-nowhere-since-forever!

10. Smack Talk o' the Race (Pot Calling the Kettle Black Edition): Movistar bitching out Michelton-Scott for wheelsucking. Has Nairo been missing his last two years' worth of race replays or something?

11. Smack Talk o' the Race (On Yer Knees! Mechanical Edition): y'know, one can hardly blame poor, butt-nekkid Fabio Aru for swearing after his kit- and skin!-shredding crash on Stage 17. But when he vulgarly insulted his Colnago *bike*, man--whether his chain choked up or not--*that* was just a bridge too far. Yep, even worse than the bruising he took from the nasty fall was the groveling apologetic phone call Aru had to make to the venerable bicycle maker Ernesto Colnago in penance for his unforgivable verbal assault on Italian design. Some wounds heal faster'n others I guess!

12. Breakin' II: Electric Boogaloo Prize: entertaining as at least one of the other Grand Tours is, the Vuelta is really the only race where the breakaways are more'n a shameless opportunity for a 100-kilometer display of the sponsor logo on one's !@# before the perfectly-timed reel-in by the joyless chasing peloton--here, *every* break was a genuine, and more often than not actually successful, threat. Me, I think it's the crazy-!@# terrain and sheer befoozlement of sussing out the lumpy intricacies of even a flat stage at this Vuelta. Whyever--still made for rip-roaring suspense 'n' fun!

13. Don't Curse Him Don't Curse Him Don't Curse Him! Award: look, we all know that anytime you label anyone--particularly a wee climber with a vicious kick--the Next Lance/Basso/Alberto, they flame out like a gallon o' gas on a Kleenex. So here we've got jailbait revelation/2nd on the overall Enric Mas, in only his second Grand Tour ever, and now, even Contador is piling on the praise. Yeah, I know, I think so too--but can we all keep our yaps shut til we make sure the kid's not gonna flip out?

14. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them Prize: hey, the whole reason we *love* the Vuelta is because it's a playground for climbers, not some simpy sprint-fest. But for the poor speedsters who neglected to read the road book before committing to this madness, the average profile of a "sprint" stage--which contained only slightly fewer climbing kilometers than the entire Himalayas--must've seemed like a cruel joke. We love you race organizers--flats specialists, probably not so much!

15. Lookit Our Little Izagirres Award!: Didja see? Well didja? Right on Ion gamely taking up the reins of unexpected leadership to an impressive result--and bro Gorka for helping to bring him there!

16. Domestique o' the Race: He entered and exited in excruciating pain, shocked everyone nudging into a breakaway, and, even more unusual for a Grand-Tour-winning team captain, gave his all unreservedly for his own domestique Ion when it became clear his multiple fractures actually did impact his shot at the win. Vincenzo Nibali--you are fuoriclasse!

17. Punk-!@# Move of the Race/Best Performance in a Team Drama Statuette: sure, he hogged everyone's energy and services long past the time it became painfully obvious that the only way he was gonna see the GC podium was to fly over on it on his airplane home, but ya gotta give it to Quintana--he *did* grudgingly concede, after Bala spent half the race herding him up the mountains and the other half bagging stage victories, that he'd help Valverde if he had to. Of course, that was approximately 38 seconds before Alejandro had his Annual Grand Tour Total Spectacular Freakin' Meltdown while (literally) within spitting distance of preserving third place, and having totally squandered any shot at the top of the podium that picking him as team leader in the first place and dedicating the team's energy's to that cause might've given him. Then, of course, the team announces it will still, inexplicably, back Nairo again for next year. !@#dammit Movistar, what does it take to prove to you that this !@#$ strategy doesn't work?!

18. Last But Not Least, the STF *Up* Already Award: we *get* it. A British rider has now won every single Grand Tour this year. And one of 'em was suspended for PEDs, the other was popped for a salbutamol level more commonly seen in asthmatic elephants, and another one had a wee bio-passport suspicion-index issue back in the day. But we concede, you won 'em all, fair and square. Now *please* shut the hell up til Mikel takes the Giro next year!

Well folks, it was a beautiful Vuelta. Now *please* Movistar, give this one to Mikel Landa next year!

Monday, September 10, 2018

It's Yer Vuelta a Espana Rest Day Dos Roundup!

Holy crap, I can't believe I even let rest day uno get by me, and now it's rest day dos already! So what's going on, and what's gonna happen to light up the next week? For my money, this!

1. Holy double crap who cares about GC a baby Euskadi rider won a mountain stage! Aupaaaaaaaaaaaa Oscar Rodriguez--and watch out Colombians, the newly-reconfirmed pro-conti Basque climbers are coming at you again next year!

2. Vuelta, Schmelta--!@#dammit Mikel's really gonna stay with Movistar next year?! Nairo is never, *ever* gonna concede team leadership to you Mikel--the hell with honorably honoring your contract, get the heck outta there I tell you!

3. Yates, man. Nairo was never, ever gonna help you yesterday. It's your damn red jersey, isn't it? Plus he's a wheelsucker anyway!

4. Nacer Bouhanni did *not* get into a shouting match with his DS and sucker-punch his team bus. He got into a shouting match with his team bus and sucker-punched his DS. Keep it straight, people!

5. So Nairo promises if he's "got to" work for Alejandro Valverde, he will. Getting a little annoyed with Piti's eye-rolling whenever he has to let off the gas to help you out, are we?

6. Isn't it *so* much less boring not having Team Sky DiscoveryPostal's drones ticking away at the front like a pack of amphetamine-stoked lemmings?

7. Nibali working for Ion Izagirre. Class.

8. Dropping the helicopter so low at the end of stage 6 that it blew a helpless AG2R toothpick flat on his !@# at the finish line? Geez, race organizers, aren't you already on considerable notice that these scrawny guys have been known to be knocked off the mountainside by the passing flutter of a butterfly wing, much less some huge honkin' aircraft?

9. Thibaut Pinot. After watching him barely able to stumble across the line after his desperate crack at the Giro, that was a *great* freakin' redemption ride!

10. Walking directly into the path of a sprint finale going full gas is the height of irresponsible stupidity. What a !@#$ way to ruin--and bloody--poor Alexandre Geniez's victory!

11. Vuelta fans are disproportionately less obnoxiously camera-whoring than their Tour de France counterparts. That said, feel free to give it up for Euskadiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

12. Uran probably can't podium, but boy is he hanging on gamely til the last kilometer every day. And lookit our wee Izagirre!

13. Yeah, *everybody* misses Contador. Cripes are we getting lonely for panache!

14. Speaking of which, Miguel Angel Lopez. Watch out next year!

15. OMG DID YOU SEE THE WHOLE SERENA THING AT THE US OP--yes. It's not cycling. When Marianne Vos deliberately whacks over a race official with her cross bike, we'll talk.

16. Where the !@#$ is the women's Vuelta a Espana!

17. Ben King, man. *Tell* me you didn't ink that contract extension (in particularly, the 'salary' part) til after your smashing double stage wins!

18. There is no other race right now but the Vuelta. Except the ones Andre Greipel is winning after Lotto !@#$ed him out of a contract next year, woot!

19. This talk of Valverde bailing out of the Vuelta to prepare for the Worlds is crazy. This ageless android races nuts-to-the-floor 366 days a year without any apparent impact on his performance. And we'll be saying the same damn thing 20 years from now!

20. Louis Meintjes. Geez he looked woozy. Glad he didn't suffer a head injury--and why the hell wasn't he pulled from the stage just in case anyway?

All righty folks, we've still got a spiky time trial for Nairo to choke on, and a race-deciding mountain stage to come on stage 20. Aupa Land--oh, !@#$ you, Movistar, this is all your fault!

Friday, August 24, 2018

It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Dos: the General Classification Contenders!

Yes, for the fifth Grand Tour in a row, last year's dope-popped defending champion, and everybody's favorite rider, Chris Froome, will be--naaaaaah, just kidding! Mercifully, he's keeping his flailing tainted-!@# carcass at home, so basically, we got ourselves a race, y'all! Less mercifully, however, through either injury or attrition--at least until our fledgling baby Carrots take wing in a season or two--there's rather a dearth o' Spanish or Basque contenders this year, but still and all, a fine field and a lively race to come. So who do we got? Read on--and if I'm wrong as usual, have at!

1. Mikel Nie--!@#DAMMIT MOVISTAR YOU SUCK AND THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT! If you'd had Mikel ride the Giro and not the crappy Tour de France like I told you to, he'd be rested'n'rosy for the Vuelta, but instead, a series of bone-crushing crashes have him out of the darling Vuelta (*and* the Worlds, *double* suck!). Did I mention this is all your fault Movistar? Fer crissakes if you don't lose him to Vinokourov like you completely deserve, set him right to win *one* of the two superior Grand Tours next year, willya?

2. Vincenzo Nibali--oh wait, *he's* still !@#$ed by some numbnut with an airborne camera strap and is hoping to merely be in *less* excruciating pain for the final week. Which brings us to...

3. Ion and Gorka Izagirre: look, we know they're good for at least a stage win (or two), if Nibs'll let 'em out to play--and who deserves it more than these wee whiz-kid ex-and-always Euskaltel boys? Better, there's not *so* many stupid flat time trials and echelon-smarting windy tundras as in the Tour show. And, at 29 and 30, they're in primo GC-snagging years. Aupaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa--and stuff it, doubters, you can eat the confetti blasted off the podium ceremony!

4. Nairo Quintana: alright Nairo: you gotta get by just *one* "co-captain" now, but it *is* Alejandro Valverde, who'd bushwhack the Tooth Fairy to recapture the baby tooth from under his pillow and, though generous and helpful to others, might be lured to change his mind in your case for a podium--or top--spot of his own. Luckily, he, like you, tends to completely choke on at least one vital day. Which naturally segues into...

5. Alejandro Valverde: Deficits: he's got a "co-captain," and is the approximate age of "older'n Moses." Pluses: because he's been cryogenically preserved between race days and for the entirety of all his off-seasons, he's biologically only 16 years old, but with the tactical mind of a Cold War stealth submarine commander. Sure, he tends to crack--but this guy can smell others' suffering like shark on wounded tuna, so ignore him at your peril!

6. Michal Kwiatkowski: geez, even Sky's running low on guys who can win every Grand Tour they ever enter. But with Froomey still smarting from playing bridesmaid to his own superdomestique, and surely-impending-Sir Thomas understandably figuring what the hell more can he do this year more'n the Tour de France and a seat with the Knights of the Round Table, they've still got Kwiato, who's had a pretty bangin' season, for a high GC placing. The benefit, of course, of Sky not clearly contending for, and inevitably getting, the win, is that the other squads won't be so preemptively cowed into total !@#-covering cowardice that they hopefully won't be afraid to actually attack, as opposed to meekly accepting their usual fate and instead painstakingly crawling to their real objective of second place. *Please* light it up out there, guys--especially you Izagirres!

7. Rigoberto Uran--oh, Rigo. We know you can do it. *You* know you can do it. But somehow, someways, through twists of bad luck and form, you just haven't done it quite yet. Particularly since EF has given you another super-strong support squad, I refuse to give up on you. Go Rigo--as you're truly capable of doing!

8. Thibaut Pinot: he's found his true and forever home at FDJ, where he just re-signed. And he had an *incredible* Giro until one fateful virus absolutely gobsmacked him on the way to the Falzarego. So he's clearly got talent enough for even the Vuelta's brutal passes, *and* the fire for redemption--and hopefully nothing more this time--in his guts. Go go Pinot!

9. Fabio Aru: oh, Fabio. Whatever's been going on with you physically, I have to surmise that all the pressure on you to be the next Ivan Basso just made you crack like a noce. But you seem pretty optimistic, so we'll aim you for a stage and a final podium. You can do mountains, kiddo--remember?

10. Richie Porte: he's just announced he's heading for Trek next season, so he's got *one* more Grand Tour shot with the formidable BMC machine, and I figure that, in his quiet way, he'll try his damndest to make the most of it. Problem: he *just* missed the shiny pre-race press schmoozer due to "gastrointestinal problems," and announced today that he's not nearly at the form he was in the Tour. Dag nabit Richie, don't you realize no-one actually *has* "gastrointestinal issues," they're just something riders drop out for mid-race when they're about to get popped for dope? And, with Froome out of the race, he's got no-one to domestique for but himself. Now get well soon, and if *anyone* with *any* illness gets within 20 yards o' you the next three weeks, I want you to spray 'em with enough Lysol to empty a fire extinguisher!

11. Last but not least, Simon Yates: my, we've got a wide-open field this year--anyone thinking this Vuelta's gonna be superlative fun? Anyway, with poor Porte apparently, well, indisposed, and a really incredible Giro stage-win hat-trick behind him, lotsa money's riding on this kid, especially with his brother to back him. Me, of course I'm putting my money on more sentimental, if inevitably stage-winning-but-GC-losing, causes. Enjoy raking in the big bucks, the rest of you!

Well, that's mine, and yes, I'm sure I missed your faves like a colossal blockhead. But I'm busy rooting for the new baby Basques who are sure to fight incredibly hard, so you can just bow to the real champs o' the race while they pass by!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

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

This ain't no stinkin' time-trial snoozefest or GC-busting endless echelon wind-tunnel fest--it's the fabulous Vuelta a Espana, honey, and that means *mountains*! So what do we--but not necessarily the poor bastards who have to ride the entire excruciating thing--have to look forward to, or fear in quivering terror? This!

The Individual Time Trials: yeah, there's two of 'em: one a flat-with-a-wee-lump-around-6k 8km prologue shortie to get some lucky s.o.b. into the leader's jersey--and short enough that, barring some catastrophic tumble or mechanical, it oughtn't to make any longstanding difference on GC--and the other a 32k, stage 16, right-after-the-rest-day-so-you-better-not-be-the-kind-of-rider-who-always-sucks-then, mostly-flat, *could* screw over the lesser time trialists on GC tailor-made Nairo Quintana nightmare. Hold your !@#$ together Valverde--this could really help you against your 'co-captain' here!

The Flats: right, like anyone gives a crap, but there's 6 flat stages to show the sprinters some desperately-needed mercy, though looking at the profiles, the Vuelta a Espana's definition of a "flat stage" is somewhere between a snarky schoolyard bully's "just kidding!"" to an outright raging-Vinokourov "!@#$ you!" Stages 2, 6 through 8, 10, 18, 19 which finishes flat but at altitude after a climb up the Coll de la Rabassa, and of course 21. Umm...are there really gonna *be* any sprinters left by the top of Stage 19? Anyway, good luck to you saps, whoever you are!

The Rollers: Need a warm-up, mountain goats? Keeping in mind this race's sadistic definition of what constitutes "flat", here's enough for the vultures to scope out any obvious imminent vulnerabilities on GC, while still saving their own strength for the decisive high passes. Misery, thy name is "medium mountains"! Stages 3 (sticking a Cat 1 nipper starting around 25k), 4 (two measly Cat 1s), 5 (Cat 2 before a dizzying drop to a flat finale)(the "medium mountains"), and 11 (207.8k of roller-coaster Cat 3s, the longest of this Vuelta), 12 (two Cat 3s, a buncha flats, and a bumpy end), and 17 (18% gradients on the final climb)(the "merely hilly"). You like breakaways, Wolfpack? Well don't say they didn't warn you!

Last But Not Least, the High Mountains: yes, *this* is why we're all here in this relentless landscape for this hideous sufferfest, and *this* is what sends even the mighty Saganator into spasms of gut-busting grief. Take heart Peter, and don't get too cocky Nairo--there's "only" 5 of 'em, holding you in suspense all the way to Stage 9, which starts with the Cat 1 Puerto del Pico, then finishes up the Cat "Holy Crap!" Alto de la Covatilla. No worries--there's a rest day tomorrow, if you make it there! Next up, an extended period of chill til the pain kicks in again on Stage 13 (Cat 1 Puerto de Tarna at 89k, Cat 1 Alto de la Camperona to finish), only to continue on Stage 14 to Nava (just go the hell home already, you're cooked), only to kick you flat in the nuts for a third consecutive day on Stage 15 by finishing on the fearsome, and iconic, Covadonga. Feelin' the burn yet? Well quit complainin', you big baby, 'cause you still got the race-deciding Stage 20 to get through! Less than 100k but packed with pain, you get *two* trips up the Cat 1 Coll de Beixalis, the roughly-midpoint Cat 1 Coll de Ordino, and, to crown your Vuelta with molten tears o' joy, or defeat, the HC Coll de la Gallina (in English, the "Col de What the !@#$ Was I Even Thinking?!"). *Jeez*, I love this race!

Well folks, that's yer Vuelta Route 101--now go home and study the official roadbook, if you dare!

Monday, July 30, 2018

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2018 Tour de France racejunkie Awards!

All right folks. If you're anything like me, you could barely stand to watch the Tour because of all the Froome !@#$. But because we're cycling fans, even we scornful cynics put half an eyeball on it *occasionally*, so it's time yet again to reward the good, the bad, and the unspeakably ugly! Prizes, if anyone is so degraded, desperate, or self-Googling as to claim them--and I swear, I'm good for 'em--a bitchin' custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap, a passel o' dashing racejunkie stickers to advertise yer shame, and some kinda shiny random trophy tchotchke I'll wrangle up from somewhere. So winners, either step on up, or hide like a weenie in yer team bus--whichever fits!

Captain Obvious Award: hey, I like a good political protest as much as anyone. But it *ought* to go without saying in that dispersing said protest, one ought not to pepper spray the entire freakin' (and non-protesting) peloton. Oh, for the days when Bernard Hinault could handle these problems with a single tackle!

Crash o' the Race (Fan !@#$wit Edition): Y'know, bad enough some assclown thinks it's a great idea to inject a forest-fire's worth of smoke flares into gasping riders' lungs. And it's rather a crapshoot when some overenthusiastic drunkard crams a giant flapping flag cringingly close to a struggling rider's wheelset. But it triply sucks when some ejjit decides--after multiple, caught-on-tape Tour de France-screwing episodes of similar problems with various loop-things--that a !@#$ing *camera strap* is just *awesome* when it's suddenly wrapped around a GC contender's handlebars. Thanks, Nameless Scourge o' Nibali, for the fractured vertebra, and crashing out the only guy with a *possible* hope of livening up the race--now next year, stay the !@#$ home!

Crash o' the Race (Ow, !@#$! Edition): Philippe Gilbert can handle a bike. What's even more impressive is that after dodging what appeared to be something in the road in a whipping descent and flying over a stone wall into a crevasse, he managed (with the help of a neutral service car denizen) to climb right back out, give a thumbs-up, and finish the stage within the time cut with a busted kneecap. Undaunted, Gilbert promptly posted sweet hospital-bedside photos with the (still dearly missed) Tom Boonen. Come back soon Phil--the Tour owes you a stage win next year!

Crash o' the Race (Calm Down Everybody He's Going to Be Fine): look, it was terrifying when normally stellar master-o-his-machine green jersey/world champ/winner of everything else on earth Peter Sagan flew off the road, into the woods, and, as he poetically put it, landed on his !@# on a big rock. But not only did he seemingly not fracture that, he didn't touch his dreamboat face, either, and our hero managed to both gingerly finish the stage *and* hold his green jersey all the way into Paris. Now heal up Peter--your fans seemed to have been more traumatized than you were!

Dumb-!@# Race Organizer Move of 2018: Seriously, ASO? Putting 18 hors categorie climbs into a single stage, then not adjusting the time cut so every damn sprinter left got tossed out of the race before the Champs-Elysees? What kind of fun is *that*--forget making the final stage a snoozefest, you could've tormented those poor guys for *days* more!

Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz, Oh What a Relief It Is Prize: now, not to put a paranoid conspiracy theorist tinfoil-hat motive on everything Team Sky does--but c'mon, am I the *only* person to think that it looked a *whole* lot better for Team Sky to have Geraint Thomas take this Tour instead of Chris Froome, again? Somewhere, the hopeless antidoping authorities are toasting that win *twice* as much as Thomas himself!

Punk-!@# Move of the Race: I know, normally this goes to Alejandro Valverde for, oh, bushwhacking his teammate or something. But our wily Movistarlet was inexplicably quiet this Tour, and repeat racist/slap-happy dimwit Gianni Moscon -classily took his rightful place by, for no discernible reason, suddenly sucker-punching Fortuneo's harmless Elie Gesbert on stage 15, getting him promptly kicked out of the race. Team Sky, of course, immediately leapt into action, having Moscon robotically read a brief apology for the cameras and promising to deal with it *just* *as* *soon* *as* *they* *can.* Oh my, are you guys going to give him another "Young Rider" accolade on your website like after he flung a slur at Kevin Reza? *That'll* learn him--that you won't do anything about his behavior as long as he's useful, anyway!

French Dressing (Down) Award: Sure, it's rude. Heck, even indecorous. But is Dave Brailsford seriously suggesting that "French culture" is the reason behind the incessant 21 day 247 booing smacking Team Marginal Gains and their presumptive leader Chris Froome? Leaving aside the obvious fact that *every* culture was booing, j'accuse, jerkface--now you got your Tour anyway, so quit yer whining!

Cripes, Maybe It *Is* the French Award: Bad enough the poor guy had to ditch his yellow jersey dreams to some punk domestique--adding insult to injury (or more accurately, injury to insult), as Froome-dawg descended from the stage 17 finish off the Col d'Portet to the team bus, a gendarme, apparently mistaking him for a mere loser fan in his discreet giant flapping grey jacket, bodily jerked the 4-time Tour de France champ off his bike and onto the tarmac. Fortunately, after a brief discussion involving the words "!@#$ you!", "lawsuit!" and "bloody wanker," understanding and harmony was reached by all, but not, fortunately, without the entire humiliation being recorded for posterity on an iPhone. Here, we wouldn't want to relive that injustice, now would we?

Total Crushing Disappointment of the Race: oh, Mikel Landa. I *told* you not to go to Movistar! Would you just *promise* to stick it Nairo in August at the Vuelta, *please*?

Stupid !@#$ing Strategy of the Tour: in a related award--congrats, Movistar, on your idiot strategy of letting your three leaders blow all their energy infighting--it really paid off with the top step in Paris! Well, in the team competition anyway...

Hardman o' the Tour: as a wise man from Spinal Tap once said, "It's a fine line between clever and stupid." And we can debate EF's decision to let a shoulder-snapped Lawson Craddock continue in the race after a brutal fall all day. But stay in he did--and used the 20 consecutive days of following suffering to raise over $100,000 to restore his home velodrome, benefiting generations of local cyclists to come. You made it home to Paris, Lawson--now get that kid some champagne, his Lanterne Rouge, and a medic!

SuperDuperDomestique(s) Award: and, in sort of a two-fer, while Sky wunderkind Egan Bernal's smashing and relentless work for his captain(s) drove cycling into a frenzy over its Next Great Grand Tour Hope, EF's Simon Clarke and his teammates, to a bit less hype, carefully shepherded the severely-dented, yet undaunted, Lawson Craddock, to the line each day. That was really lovely. Oh, bite me, you cynics--even I get to get maudlin once in a while!

Best Stage of 2018: remember when Geraint Thomas took th--no, me either, frankly, because the one day "La Course by Tour de France" patronizing nod to the women was actually the most exciting, nail-biting day of the entire men's Tour de France. Annemiek Van Vleuten, *just* pipping an almost-triumphant Anna van der Breggen at the line. Agony!

Weeper o' the Race: I don't know what the hell the organizers were thinking except "carnage = ratings", but there was in fact a Paris-Roubaix stage this year, and when the rocks were conquered, the dust cleared, and the miniscule climbers pried out from the spaces between the cobblestones, John Degenstache--whose return to dominance was seriously in doubt after he almost had his finger severed in his (and his team's) horrific 2016 training crash by a careening head-on driver--took the honors, the day, and the Most Touching Post Race Interview Ever. Shut up, I'm not crying, *you're* crying--now give me those Kleenex!

Oh, Snap! Tweet o' the Tour: from Michael Rasmussen, who knows from dodgy performances: "According to Froome, Egan Bernal reminds him of himself when he was 21. The only similarity I can find is that both were riding bikes--not at the same level though." Sing it Michael--'cause the rest of us have no cred!

And Finally, the Bad-!@#ses of 2018: every damn day before the menfolk raced, and a day ahead of the guys, the thirteen intrepid, unofficial, under-supported women of Donnons des Elles au Velo J-1 rode the entire Tour de France--without the accolades, roadside circus, road closures, podium babes, prize money, or credit--because y'know, they *can*, and ASO's failure to have a full-fledged women's Tour de France is *bull!@#$.* Cyclists, we salute you--and ASO, fix this already you backwards jackwagons!

Well, folks, we're mercifully done with the Tour de France til next year. On the glorious Vuelta--and I mean it, Mikel, don't blow this, we believe in you!

Monday, July 16, 2018

It's Yer Tour de France Week One (And a Little More) Roundup!

Look, unless we're personally Chris Froome, or someone making a !@#$-ton of money off this farce, we've all been ambivalent about--or outright skipping--the whole damn Tour. But there was actually a lot of action amidst the 800-kilometer sprint snoozefests, so what'd you miss? This!

1. !@#$ you UCI for relegating Andre Greipel! The total unbelievable bull!@#$ you clowns allow and *this* is what you harp on? If you're trying to look *less* like wankers for kicking Peter Sagan out entirely last year, *this* ain't helping!

2. If you weren't absolutely *bawling* when Degenstache gave his tearful post-win interview dedicating his victory to his dear late friend after being smashed to pieces and utterly written off post-his terrible 2016 injury, you have no soul. NONE, you empty ghoul!

3. $%^!in' Porte, man. He can't catch a break.

4. !@#$in' Tejay, man. He can't catch a break.

5. The absurdity of a tiny baby superclimber suddenly bombarded by Next Great Talent hype having to effectively ride Paris-Roubaix in his first Grand Tour is superseded only by the ignominy of his plowing directly into the back of a team car without anyone watching out for him and folding up like a cheap suitcase. Heal up quick, Egan Bernal, and FFS Sky, let this kid develop somewhere a little safer first!

6. I'm not sure it was a great idea for Lawson Craddock to keep riding after his bloody faceplant--I'm a lowly couchpeloton denizen, not a doctor--but the caretaking EF's riders have shown for him as he recovers and perserveres is quite lovely. And kudos to all for turning his suffering into huge charitable donations!

7. Movistar--specifically Nairo and, with one silly paved-surface mishap, Mikel--survived surprisingly well on the cobbles yesterday. But with one less key man in the mountains, and the high passes finally looming, pick a !@#damn leader (Mikel, who is still considerably ahead of Nairo) *now* and stick with 'im!

8. Anyone else feel the universe was just playing a game of freakin' whack-a-mole on poor Romain Bardet yesterday? Just *amazing* he didn't lose more time, he'd've finished that stage two days earlier if not for all that !@#$!

9. Talking smack about your own rider is *not* the way to motivate your boy to victory, Tinkoff--uh, Katusha. Lucky Marcel Kittel whanged his bike into the team bus instead of yer damn head!

10. I know, I'm the only one happy to see Greg Van Avermonster in yellow. Don't worry haters, he'll lose the maillot jaune on the road by the time both of you read this!

11. Lots of yappin' today on whether Geraint Thomas, ahead of team leader Chris Froome on GC, gets to play captain at the Tour. Given Froome attacking his own road boss Brad Wiggins against team orders, I'm gonna say, what are you, on dope?! No, I don't mean that way! Well, come to think of it...

12. Oh, Rigoberto Uran. *So* great, but your run of misfortune continues. But I do believe he's good to fight for a stage win and a reasonably decent revival on GC!

13. Vincenzo Nibali. Uh-huh, that's how this former (and eternal) Tour de France champion gets there--he's so stealthy you almost forget he's around, and then suddenly, you're chum. Watch out for Shark sightings!

14. Yeah, La Course. It's got a stellar lineup--even if half of 'em are exhausted as hell from the Giro Rosa--and it's actually a very nice route. Whoop de doo, and, by current standards, the fact the women get any race at all seems like a celebration. But a group of women are riding the entire Tour de France route *each day* ahead of the guys with--unlike the menfolk--shoestring budgets and limited, if superlative, support to prove there ought to be a *real* women's Tour de France, *and* they're killing it. !@#dammit ASO you backwards troglodytes do what's right already!

Okay, on to the Giro Rosa in Review. And the rest of, y'know, some big fussy race going on in France!

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

It's Yer 2018 Tour de France in Preview, Part Trois: the Fast Men, Roleurs, & Mountain Goats!

All right, people. We all know this sucks, the Tour's likely to be a three-week, uh, purely-enthusiasm-fueled farce with a preordained podium and a lifetime pass for damn near every illicit activity short of being a 49-year-old Master's racer popped for an overdose of Red Bull. But here we are, I'm carrot-bound to root for Mikel Landa, so while we're ignoring the TV coverage and begging for the misery to end, I promised both of you I'd post for the non-GC so let's go. Oh, and I forgot to mention Adam Yates in my GC preview. Like any other name but one !@#$in' matters! Anyhoo:

The Fast Men:

Nacer Bouhanni: out. Right now it's because Cofidis don't think he can win, and *do* think he's a colossal pain in the !@#. Tomorrow it'll be because he punched a two-foot hole through the side of the team bus when he heard the news. Hey, at least he didn't aim for anyone's head!

Mark Cavendish: he wants to edge up on Merckx's stage win record, *and* justify like 10 years of belittling smack talk about other sprinters for winning only "#$^& races"--too bad he's been on a downswing the last couple seasons. Still, good for a stage win somewhere, if he doesn't crash himself (or more likely some other unlucky bastard) trying to cram through a two-inch gap in Sagan's handlebars, right?

Peter Sagan: Pure sprinter? Classics man? Freak climber? I don't know which Saganator we'll be getting this month, but I'm pretty sure he'll beat the crap out of anyone he wants to when he wants to--and with his mad bike handling skills, without even having to sucker-whang anyone into the barriers to do it. *And* he'll wheelie doing it. Gosh, isn't he just dreamy?

Marcel Kittel: his year has sucked, and there's no particular reason to think it'll be much different right now, though with approximately 68 sprint stages, it'd sure look weak if he didn't manage to squeak out one or two of 'em. But cripes, will his hair look perfect!

Sam Bennett: sure, the Giro's not a sprinter's game (to the extent it ever was, say in the Petacchi years), but snagging two stages including the final day off Elia Viviani is still some pretty sweet pedigree. Bennett for the stealth win in Paris!

Caleb Ewan: oh, right--he's !@#$ed. !@#$ed, I say! What the *hell*, Michelton-Scott?

Bling Matthews: look, he is one crafty s.o.b. I often think he gets more attention for his flashy nickname than his wins. I'm not counting him out!

Andre Greipel: first, you *suck*, Lotto--how dare you jerk our big lug around so ungratefully? And despite his advanced age of "still half of Valverde's" he's having a bangin' year. So go to hell, he can so either--two for Andre, I call, so buzz off haters!

The Roleurs: between the mini-Roubaix, the gravel sections, and the days they just gotta put in to not kill the sprinters and to give the climbers a quasi-rest day, there's quite a bit of fun to be had, and, as usual, Quick Step plans to take all of it, if the ever-underrated Boassen Hagen-Dazs doesn't steal the pave. Too many to mention here, and Sky's gonna clamp down on anyone who could take one with Armstrongian ruthlessness, but Philippe Gilbert certainly doesn't intend a bunch of whippersnappers on his own team beat him, and, despite the fact it's not going to happen because the entire planet bites, I am still planning for Sylvain Chavanel to grab a late-career stage win, if a rhino doesn't come charging out the roadside and bash straight into his wheel like happens every freakin' year. Maybe armor up yer bike a little Chava, it's worth the extra weight in protection!

The Mountaineers: yeah, the entire GC. !@#$ off, Froomey! All eyes on baby Colombian phenom Egan Bernal, all the more so since their World Cup is blown, who though conscripted to the service of his twig-bug team leader ought at least be granted *one* stage Chris doesn't want so he doesn't get tempted to do to Froome what Froome did to Wiggo. Everyone else: don't count out Movistar: if Nairo Landa and Valverde manage to take each other out trying to crush the others like skittering insec--uh, helping each other so generously that no one of them can win, there's still wee high-peaks backup Soler. And right, we've also got Bardet, Zakarin, Barguil, and Martin, and frankly, if France *doesn't* pull something out of this ridiculous joke of a year, the press will be *very* peevish. But sadly, we may be just looking at another USPostalDiscovery/Skybot borefest. Me, tho' they're there for previous TdF champ Nibali, I'm all-ex-Euskaltel all the time. Allez allez Izagirreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!

Okay folks. Let's hold our noses the next three weeks, and beg for podium assistance from the Carrot gods. And no matter how much you dislike him--heck knows I'm with you there--no throwing anything disgusting on Chris Froome, you !@#damn animals!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

It's Yer 2018 Tour de France in Preview, Part Deux: The General Classification Contenders!

First, stop making those infernal barfing noises. I mean it people! I'm not happy about that !@#$wit and his robot army participating either. But, as with the course, we got the field we got, and to be fair (for once in 12 years of this lowly rag) we *also* got some actual possible contenders here with a chance to win that doesn't 100% depend on a shameful sport-destroying doping scandal and an ignominious 2019 race presentation with a pic of shattering glass over the last year's winner's face and a giant asterisk next to their name for the remainder of human history. So who's in, who's out, and who's just plain ridiculous! These guys!

1. Marianne Vos: Oh wait--despite the incredible depth and talent in the women's field, they *still* don't have a Tour de France, unless you count a one-day quickie that's immediately swept away without a trace in favor of hand-scrubbing the men's course for them so the *real* race can come through. Screw you, Tour de France!

2. Vincenzo Nibali: Not only is he not tired out from riding the Giro, since he didn't (which I found horrifying, but whatever), he's actually got a bangin' squad backing him--one of the best here. New Spanish national champ Gorka. Ion. Pozzo, probably still exhausted from the Giro but who, with the exception of a day's crack, really rode masterfully there. And with Nibs' spectacular descending skills to help him off the Aubisque even if he's not in great shape up top and his all-weather/all-terrain toughness, there's actually some hope here. Of course, if he doesn't let our little carrots off the leash for at least one stage win, I'll hate his guts forever--but not as much as Froome's. Shark attaaaaaaaaccckkkkk!

3. Richie Porte: Oh, BMC. One the one hand, with your impending doom, you've got a great squad filled with talent desperately looking to lock in a half-decent contract with gobsmacking performances here; on the other hand, the hell with teamwork, it is now every man for himself out there. Anyway, they seem to think Porte can do it. I'm thinking more top 5. *Why* isn't it enough for a great rider to just be a great rider without the pressure of all this yellow-in-Paris-or-nothing on 'im?

4. Movistar: a. Mikel Landa: remember how badly Landa chafed at having to waste his own GC legs serving team captain Froome, then inexplicably jumped ship to Team "WHAT THE !@#$ LANDA IT IS GOING TO BE THE EXACT SAME THING!"? Yeah, well, Nairo's made it perfectly clear he won't take this !@#$ any more'n Froome did. Saving grace: he's no worse at time trialing than Nairo. Unsaving grace: with Piti riding 'em like Cancellara the last couple years, he's gonna have to really fight Valverde on the climbs. Don't take yer eyes off 'im for a minute Mikel, no matter what the little opportunist says!

b. Nairo Quintana: To his credit, he's *earned* a Giro d'Italia--it's certainly possible he can take the Tour. But with the more sweeping climbs of France not necessarily his best, and an enormous waste of energy the first week fighting his bull!@#$ happy "co-leaders" for captaincy all but certain, he's hobbled, like the rest of Movistar's leadership, for at least 10 stages after Froomey's already spray-painted some garish neon yellow paint job on his bike. Just try not to get obliterated in a cross-wind for the first 7 sprint stages, and maybe you've got a shot against your own best pals!

c. Alejandro Valverde: How do you rate a guy, since being popped for replacing his entire bodily blood supply with Red Bull in Operacion Puerto in 2006, has only exponentially improved each of the 12 years since then? Hey, !@#$ if I know, but, despite his impressive history of one-day meltdowns wrecking his 21-day races, whatever it is you can't count this genial 834-year-old out. And of *course* he'll generously ride for you Nairo--right up to the second he smells weakness and goes all "Call of the Wild" darwinistic nightmare on your !@#!

5. Rigoberto Uran: Well, we'll get some flashes of brilliance before he fades. We still love you, grande Rigo!

6. Chris Froome: oh, all *right*! I feel dipped in swamp-filth just talkin' about 'im. So y'know that creepy internet video of that backwards-jointed quasi-dog headless bug-robot that's been circulating and causing total end-of-humanity "War of the Worlds" hysteria like "The Terminator" was some sort of staid National Geographic documentary instead of an alien dystopian hellhole future? Yeah, like *seven* of those things, *plus* the veiny twig-sculpture himself. Ugh. I *just* *can't* *stand* it. Tell me, tell me you aren't all just itching now for the relatively benign Lance Armstrong era, I *dare* you! Anyway, it ain't *my* TV ratings in the tank over this !@@$dhow. You suck, Tour de France:

7. Tom Dumoulin: Finally, although everyone's counting him out, there's not no merit here. Weak point: team--the higher he gets, the more he'll have to leech off other teams' tactics, and wheels. Strong point: this sprinty, roll-y, time trial-ly course is waaaaay better for Dumo, even with his improbable climbing ability, than the death-by-a-thousand-hairpins peaks of the Giro. Plus, *he* can time trial (of course, so can Froome now, but what dedicated donkey can't?). Cripes Mikel, if it can't be you, and I just feel too dirty cheering for Valverde, I swear I'm gonna have to root for this guy!

All righty--there's your GC, and I remind you, *none* of this is my fault. Next up, the roleurs, climbeurs, and stage hunteurs--you know you'd rather hear about them than contemplate this year's final podium anyway!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

It's Yer 2018 Tour de France In Preview, Part Un: The Course!

Look, with even our beloved Giro the source of couch peloton ambivalence due to the presence--I can barely bring myself to say victory--of that gangly gasping stick figure Froome, it's no wonder that many of my fellow cycling fans are, with his impending attendance and likely triumph, viewing the upcoming Tour de France with all the same appreciation and excitement one views, say, a strangely spreading rash. But here it is, and you're gonna watch probably at least one stage anyway even if you hate it, so if you're gonna, then you might as well know what you're getting into, and on what stage that weasel is most likely to either crack, or pull a 280 kilometer breakaway into a hurricane-force headwind and still !@#$in' win the sprint stage because we all know he's got a motor bigger than a space rocke--uh, he's better than everyone else. So what've we got? This!

The Sprinty Stages: screw deciding the race with some idiot time trial on Day One--barring catastrophe, which can surely occur--this year, we're starting right off with a treat for the fast men! 201 potentially windy K to Fontenay-le-Comte. Gorillaaaaaaaaaa--go to hell, Andre can so either! Stage two takes us more inland; Stage 4'll show us how Sagan is really doing; stage 7 gives the scrappy, on-form Caleb Ewan the chance to--oh wait, he's been completely jacked outta this race! As for stage 8--yep, flat and boring again! @#dammit, are there *any* mountains in this freakin' race? Well, maybe a few, so whoever's wussed out on the green jersey competition might as well bail well before the next sprint day on Stage 13, yer second-to-last-chance for glory on Stage 18, and, of course, yer crowning final triumph on stage 21 the Champs-Elysees. Gorillaaaaaaaaaa--go to hell, Andre can so either!

Aw, Crap, the Time Trials: okay Movistar--it's the 35k stage 3 team time trial, not tooooo long, but still yer first real chance to jack all three of yer captains outta any hope of victory. We know you're no BMC here, but can you *please* not hose dear Mikel outta GC just yet? And if you're within only a few seconds of yer nearest competitor on the podium, you're either preemptively celebrating victory in Paris or projectile vomiting in fear or despair the entire night before Stage 20, a lumpy individual 31k time trial. Aw, who says these things aren't any fun?

The Rollers: get ready, you annoyingly named Quickstep "wolfpack"--the hills-but-not-mountains get rollin' on Stage 5! Next, the 181k Stage 6 welcomes two trips up the Mur de Bretagne. Enjoy--if you don't bonk! Stage 9's yer Classics playground--15 different cobbled sectors damn near all the way to Roubaix. Pleeeeeaaaaaase don't break anything on this, Movistar? Stage 14 is a cat 4, cat 2, cat 3, cat 2 nipper to Mende; Stage 15 jams in a Cat 1 to Pic de Nore before a flat run-in to Carcassone;

The Mountains: Jaysus, are you *seriously* making us wait halfway through the race before we hit even *one* of these? After a rest day, the Tour finally begins on Stage 10, which wakes the GC up with a nice wee stroll up the Colombiere after a brief, if potentially dangerous, mountaintop flirtation with a gravel section. Tired already? Well save yer breath and quit yer whinin'--you got two hors categorie climbs in the first 57k of Stage 11, and that's before the Cat 1 stinger to La Rosiere! As for Stage 12, it's Col de la Madeleine, *and* the Croix de Fer, *and* Alpe d'Huez--so Mikel, if you wanna both completely psych out Nairo Quintana *and* claim a legendary climb, don't !@#$ this up, you hear me! Anyway, you can chill after this to Stage 16, which welcomes you back from the 2nd rest day to a Cat 1 meander up Col de Mente before a *downhill* finish off Col du Portillon. If any of you need to improve your descending skills, well, too late now, suckers! Stage 17, though mountains, is curiously a mere 65k long, but still manages to stuff in Peyresourde *and* a steep finale up Col du Portet. At least the pain won't last too long, kids! As for Stage 19--this is it, Nairo, you either solidify yer win or utterly lose it here, as you grind up the 12k Col d'Aspin before begging for mercy up the Tourmalet before conquering the Aubisque, which includes not accidentally flying off the thing as you head to the valley below. Okay now you can relax grande Mikeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel!

Well, there's yer course--next up, the GC contenders to either thrill or horrify you. I'll see you all tweeting frantically on the Alpe d'Huez--you know I will, you lying lying liars!

Saturday, June 09, 2018

My Fantasy Chris Froome Press Conference

Good morning. I'm here today to tell you all to feck of--(Dave Brailsford leans in, whispers in ear)--I mean, to discuss my totally believable performances in the Vuelta, the Giro, and coming up, the Tour de France, over the past year.

First, I'd like to point out that as we all know, it takes a truly catastrophically sickly athlete to win as many Grand Tours as I have. Dang, if I hadn't had my guts actually clinically liquified by bilharzia, ingested an 80 foot tapeworm, both vomited and suffered explosive diarrhea for six months straight, had a head cold, toe fungus, gout, St. Vitus' dance, cholera, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, carbuncles, tinnitus, ovarian cysts, *and* asthma, I admit, I'd pretty well suck. Thank goodness for multiple ailments, amirite?

Second, I'd like to address this "donkey to racehorse" bull!@#$ that I've been getting from all you miserable so-called cycling fans for the last three years. As to why I didn't show any particular athletic promise as a young rider, !@#$ you! I was still good enough to be in the ProTour while you were still at home bitching about Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah swilling !@#$ beer and stale chips like a fat-!@#. * Further, to paraphrase Kaiser Soze, I was *fat.* I mean, like, *Orca* fat. So you can see how Brailsford's positive-reinforcement regimen of smacking me in the mouth every time I approached the refrigerator has really helped improve my power-to-weight ratio. That, and that weird injection I got in that alleyway behind the Sky headquarters a couple years back that's slowly been turning me into a genetic human/praying mantis hybrid. (Blinks, shakes head) !@#$, I swear I can't see right since I started growing these compound bug eyes!

Third, I'd like to discuss this marginal gains horse hocke--(winces as Brailsford kicks him under the table)--uh, the many subtle changes to my diet, sleep, training, and exercise regimes. Luckily, none of the other World Tour teams, managers, trainers, doctors, soigneurs or riders ever thought of stuff like that to help *their* GC contenders, those dummies!

Fourth, I want to go head-on against these disgusting and utterly false allegations of bike doping. I *personally* watched my bike built up, and as Dave here reassured me, all those little wires, flashing lights, whirring parts, batteries, and computer chips are just water bottle cages. To think they're mounted *inside* the frames these days, who'd'a thunk it?

Next, and perhaps most importantly for you prurient doubting wankers, I want to talk about my completely benign Salbutamol overdose poz. Sure, Alessandro Petacchi could fit like 4 of me in his breast pocket and I *still* had way higher levels of that !@#$ in a single dose than he ever did in his entire career, but how else is a severe asthmatic like myself whose symptoms only kick in whenever I desperately need to up my tempo on a critical climb in a Grand Tour stage to treat such a consistent and terrible ailment?

Now, it's time to move on to my phenomenal 80k breakaway triumph on the Finestre, particularly this stupidity how of all the climbs in Italy I totally coincidentally managed to recon that one. Not only does everyone know rumors about the race course months before it's actually announced,** but I gotta tell ya, having the ability to dictate to the race organizers *exactly* what I wanna ride and when and where for the 1.5 million euro favor of my showing up sure doesn't hurt, honey! As to my spectacular attack, of *course* I gained all my time on the descent, you idiots--how much more aero than every one of the 206 bones in the adult human body and every joint to boot flailing in completely opposite directions at all times in all wind conditions can a person get, you silly things? Hell, if *Michael Freakin' Rasmussen* doesn't think I was doping more'n anybody el--uh, was doping on the Finestre, where the hell do *you* get off, you armchair weekend-warrior ignoramuses? And while we're at it, why aren't you guys investigating that bizarro aerodynamic microgel !@#$ Lotto-Soudal was using at the Dauphine? I mean, asthma meds at least help you breathe, what kind of Cold War spy-novel stealth-technology cheating crap is this?

Lastly, I'd like to say none of this would be possible without the support of my family, friends, and teammates, the enabling cowardice of UCI and the race organizers, the kind of impenetrable legal team that can only be assembled and wielded by a team with more money than God, and truly mind-bogglingly extensive medical interven--uh, the really neato wind-tunnel testing I did in January. You know what they say, it takes a village to raise up a donkey!

Well, that about wraps things up. In conclusion, I'd just like to say YOU'RE ALL BLOCKED FROM MY TWITTER ACCOUNT YOU SLANDERING MOTHER!@#$ERS--uh, I'm *really* looking forward to watching Dumoulin try to keep up with me again at the Tour. You think Carapaz and Lopez wouldn't help you reel me in, just wait'll you see Landa Quintana and Valverde going full nuclear option internally trying to kick each other's !@#--see you at the Tour, suckers!

*Hey, I gotta be fair here!
**Hey, I gotta be fair here!

Sunday, June 03, 2018

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2018 Giro d'Italia Racejunkie Awards!

All right, half o' you didn't watch because of the start location, half o' you didn't watch because of that idiot, and the third half of you only watched it begrudgingly--but it remains an irrefutable truth that the beautiful Giro d'Italia is greater than any one (or even a multiple pack o') fuckwits, so now that the Prosecco hangover's warn off and the pre-Tour hype has barely begun, it's time to reward the beautiful, the ugly, and the just plain ludicrous with this year's Incredibly Prestigious 2018 Giro d'Italia racejunkie Awards! Prizes--I swear, for anyone bold, desperate, or self-Googling enough to claim them--a dashing custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap, a passel o' handsome racejunkie stickers to ruin yer bike, yer car, or yer face, and--last but *so* not least, an actual physical trophy dredged up from the best, worst, or most ignominious my local second-hand tchotchke shop has to offer. So celebrants, let's get to it!

Total Embarrassment o' the Giro: *why* did my beloved Giro pay that horrid windmill/daddy-longlegs hybrid 1.5 million euro to besmirch this race? Right, it must've brought in more attention than it cost. Except for the tifosi, who were pissed, and collectively (though theoretically possibly for a host of other reasons, even though we all of course know better) dragged the TV ratings down to the lowest in many years. Don't you ever, *ever* pull this crap again, race organizers!

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superdomestique! Prize: Yap, yap, in a creepily familiar US Postal feedback loop, a pack of humanoid robots damn near killed themselves and every other rider in the peloton for 21 consecutive stages setting the pace for that freak Froome on climbs, the flats, and the handful of meters back to the team bus after the line. But who this *really* belongs to is Thibaut Pinot's loyal teammates on his spectacular crack on the stage to Jafferau, who collectively nursed a dehydrated, feverish, vomiting, and ultimately hospitalized Pinot across the line miraculously within the time cut to boot before he was obliged to drop out on the penultimate day. Fortunately, our boy is reportedly recovering nicely, despite an apparent diagnosis of pneumonia and a doc-ordered three weeks' rest from the bike. Forza Pinot, and bravi ragazzi!

Aw, Suck! Podium Moment o' the Giro: C'mon Pozzo. C'mon Pozzo. C'mon Pozzo--aw, *dammit*! Next year, Domenico, I know you can do it next year!

Crash o' the Race (Aw, Rats!): surprisingly, and for once fortunately, it was a three week Tour o' Relatively Minimum Carnage out there. But still and all, it just plain sucked for hardworking Bahrain do-it-all Konstantin Svitsov, who crashed out with a crappy fractured vertabrae no less on the recon of the opening time trial course before the race even began. Heal up soon, Konstantin--hopefully you'll at least be back for the Tour!

Crash o' the Race (Totally Insignificant): speaking of which, who else wiped out on the recon, to immediate social-media humungo-ruckus and worldwide respectable-media hoo-ha, but to no practical effect on the man, or the race, whatsoever? That's right, this one's for Froome. Glad he wasn't hurt--if he was gonna lose the race, I wanted it to be fair and square, on top form!

Crash o' the Race (Totally Bizarre): and speaking of whom, how the *hell* do you even crash inching your way uphill? Yep, Froome again, Stage 8. Damn, it's like his fifth award already, someone get this guy a shopping cart!

Punk-Ass Move o' the Race: For !@#$'s sake, Froome--we know you won. By a lot. Was it *really* necessary to attack Dumoulin for a few meter's advantage when you were coming in together on like Stage 56 and already had the entire damn race wrapped up? Show some class whydontcha!

Associated Manufactured Controversy Award: speaking of our lovebirds, was it a deliberate snub that 2017 Giro champ Tom Dumoulin, who famously stated flat out that he thought Froome oughtn't to be riding the Giro, didn't immediately respond to Froomey's warm offer of congratulations-and-glad-I-beat-you? Or merely the distraction of the crush of fan and media attention surrounding Dumoulin the minute he took a breath across the line? Needless to say (and I include myself in this dim assessment) tifosi speculation took the low road. STOP THE PRESSES THE BROMANCE IS DEAD!

Total Eclipse of the Heart Prize: look, on his most benign day, Astana boss/future Emperor of All Earth Alexander Vinokourov would probably shank you for politely complimenting his shirt. But it was really quite touching after the climb to Jafferau to watch close up how he waited for, enthusiastically welcomed, and assiduously looked after each of his boys to straggle in over the line. Please don't hurt me for saying something nice about you Vino!

Nail-Biter Competition of the Giro: yeah, the maglia rosa. But no, this was the absolutely tit-for-that will-he-or-won't-he fight for the young rider's jersey between Carapaz and Lopez. Sure, they tanked Dumoulin's last hope of reeling back Chris Froome while the two whippersnappers were busy marking each other for white, but hell, Dumo's maglia rosa wasn't their problem!

Running Fan Incident Award (Sissy Slap-Fight Version): to be fair (for once), almost anybody, not least a rider fighting for the overall win in Rome, would want to punch the crap outta a stupid six-foot inflatable Tyrannosaurus Rex plunging and lumbering alongside as one tries to find one's line on a critical climb. But to his credit, Froome refused to slag--though he did shove aside--said dinosaur, diplomatically averring that he was merely moving the innocently stumbling Rex out of his way. Hey, I gotta call it like I see it--that was class!

Running Fan Incident Award (Wisenheimer Version): okay, normally I view the sort of publicity-slut camera-grabbing fans who run alongside the riders in neon banana hammocks or completely incongruous horned Viking helmets with the sort of nauseous semi-complicit horror an American feels at seeing a McDonald's tucked amidst the actual-human-food cafes two streets away from the Vatican. But I couldn't help but feel a sort of grudging, if completely inexcusable, admiration for the guy who managed to perfectly replicate an all-body Ventolin inhaler and still sprint uphill in the thing. An artist, you are, Anonymous!

I See a Red Maglia and I Want It Painted Black Award: no, they don't award it anymore, but gosh darn it, they sure ought to, because the dead-last rider crossing the line dead-last or near so in every stage for three weeks running is *still*, full-stop, one of the greatest athletes on the planet. Two-year's-running last place finisher/maglia nera winner/full o' stick-to-it-iveness Wilier Triestina Guiseppe Fonzi, this one's for you. Bonus award to the Giro organizers for playing the theme from Happy Days at your every sign-in!

Break o' the Race (Ex-Carrot Edition): He did it in 2011, he did it in 2016, and he did it again in 2018. Mikeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel (Nieve, that is)--happy birthday to you is right!

Break o' the Race (No I Am !@#damn Not Awarding It To Froome Edition): Slag him all you want for collapsing in the final week, and slag him even more justifiably for his sketchy UCI run-in that was justifiably howled about every single meter of the race, but damn, Simon Yates' 18k stage 15 run into (well, straight up) Sappada was a *move*. What happens in the future, I can't control!

All Right !@#dammit Even I Can't Be Sarcastic All The Time Cut The Kid A Little Slack Award!: Aru, man. I don't know if it's physical, I don't know if it's the psychological pressure of all the hype, I don't whether it's a team mis-fit, or what. But leave poor little Fabio Aru alone!

Crack o' the Race: no, I'm not giving it to Pinot--the poor kid was sick. But who *did* crack spectacularly was maglia rosa and seemingly-inevitable-top-o'-the-podium vincitore Simon Yates, who, as many resignedly predicted, would and did blow up, as is his youngster wont, the third week in heartbreaking and epic fashion with 85k to go on the Finestre. His stated reason? Fair enough--the boy was just damn *exhausted*. Still, he honored the pink jersey by digging deep and finishing the stage, and the whole race as well. Just maybe work on that long-term endurance thing on the off-season, kid!

Because I'm Happy Prize: sure, he had a bitchin' stage win on the Giro's first heights as a tip o' the hat by respectful team captain Yates after an exhausting most-o'-the-day break. But what completely blew me away was how, with absolutely nothing in the tank by the penultimate day's climb to Cervinia, wee Esteban Chaves still kept smiling even as he ground his way back to his team car after the finish line. Is it even legal to be that cheerful all the time?

Paint Job o' the Race (Jaysus H. Gaudy Freakin' Christ It's Not Even the Right Color Edition): Yes, Chris, you won the Giro, you get a big pink freakin' bike. But !@#DAMMIT THE MAGLIA ROSA IS NOT FLUORESCENT NEON PINK YOU TACKY SNOTTY MISPLACED SHOWOFF! Honor the maglia in yer paint job right, or stay the hell home. FFS, are you gonna light up the Tour de France finale in hi-viz yellow too? *Don't* do that again!

Paint Job o' the Race (Class Edition): a clean black Specialized frame. a subtle streak of magenta. a flash of matching bar tape. And the maglia ciclamino left to stand out on its glorious own. Elia Viviani, and whoever the hell paints yer bike, this one's for you. Nicely done!

The Sound of Inevitability Award: yes, I am going to hold an unreasonable grudge for all time against UCI for rescheduling the Amgen EPO Tour of California right up against the beautiful Giro, thereby depriving the latter race of the likes of Petacchi's beautiful blue train and most of the rest of the world's best sprinters for all time as, for some sick tiwsted rationale, they decide the payoff of one sprint in Milano after 2 million meters of climbing over 14 mountain ranges isn't quite enough and bail for the relatively modest coupla days o' pain in the US. So--with the exception of Sam Bennett's smashing second stage grab on the prestigious final day in Roma--Elia Viviani (fine and deserving as he truly was) had no possible outcome but to take the majority of the flat stages and of course the sprinter's jersey. Well done, but dammit UCI, fix this!

And Last But Not Least, the Road Graffiti o' the Giro: y'know, it still warms the cockles of my miserable cynic hypocrite heart to see the lovely tributes to Marco Pantani painted all over the road. And can anyone begrudge anyone writing encouragement to Aru, Dumoulin, or Pozzovivo? But for me, the immortal words (and accompanying tent set-up) at the foot of Monte Zoncolan handily pointing Chris Froome to a "VENTOLIN PUSHER" and, for some mysterious reason, also "P*SSY", will forever capture the very spirit of this year's Giro. And if you actually *had* that inhaler on hand (yes, just the inhaler you pervs!), that's a *double* trophy for you!

Well, them's your Giro Awards for this year. So swallow yer pride, waste yer time, and pick up yer prizes--just hope you don't earn another one next year!