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.