Sunday, July 28, 2019

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

Feeling glum this morning from your annual post-Tour de France hangover? Hoarse from proudly singing "La Marseillaise" for 3 straight weeks when, it just now occurs to you, you are not even French? Suddenly horrified by the cold realization that even though it was the first halfway interesting Tour in ages, SkyIneos *still* bagged the top two spots on GC?  Well weep no more, honey, because if you've got the fever, yeah, we've got the cure--It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious Tour de France racejunkie Awards!  Prizes--honest, if anyone legit should be so bold, so desperate, or so oddly masochistic as to claim them--(1) a dashing custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap; (2) a passel of handsome racejunkie stickers to vandalize the belongings of that jack!@# you thought really *should* have been awarded your embarrassing prize; and (3) a genuine metal/plastic hybrid promotional statuette thingy reclaimed from the junk shop for some Millennial snowflake's childhood "participation" prize in the TinyTown Elementary School's Annual "Red Rover, Red Rover" Invitational Tournament.  So let's take a deep breath, get ourselves a nice comforting croissant to celebrate our achievements, and get down to the awards show!

Class Act o' the Tour: Stage 18.  Julian Alaphilippe, seeing a wee wet boy shivering in the cold as he panted across the line after yet another successful defense of his leader's jersey, doffs his maillot jaune without a thought and wraps the munchkin up in it to warm him.  Do you realize what kind of apocalyptic world catastrophe it'd take for Armstrong to give up that thing?  Yeah, I don't really think he would either.  So there's that, and even--perhaps especially--in defeat, Alaphilippe carried the yellow jersey with humility, profound appreciation, and grace.  Chapeau Julian--and get that guy some compensatory arm-warmers before his muscles lock up!

Punk-!@# Move o' the Race: Usually, this one goes to Valverde in any race he's in, and frankly, he came close when, on the penultimate day of the Tour, he attacked and outsprinted Mikel Landa in his desperate charge for second place after Vincenzo Nibali, though in relative terms, for Bala, the rainbow stripes seem to have given him inner peace.   But this time, we've got a dual celebration in the Ineos/Jumbo Visma matchup of Luke Rowe and Tony Martin.  Tragically, even a post-disqualification joint apology video didn't convince the race organizers to undo their decision to ignominiously eject them from the race.  And honestly, with a closely watching Peter Sagan highly likely to pop a wheelie on their skulls after he was tossed outta the race for way less hostility two years ago, who can blame 'em? While what happened is a little unclear from the video, Ineos' (reason enough to condemn him) Luke Rowe grabs Jumbo Visma's Kruijswijk. Jumbo's Tony Martin nudges Rowe.  Rowe punches Martin. Martin *really* nudges Rowe. It's like a mobile game of rock-paper-scissors, except everyone punches each other and no-one wins!

Wait, *Which* Ewan Again? Award: no, not legendary master of sprint-finish argy-bargy Robbie McEwen--he's commentating!  But while I normally don't take undue interest in sprinters, I gotta give this one to Caleb Ewan, who snuck outta nowhere to not only take 2, but *three* sprints in a race traditionally chock full o' the best in the business, including the iconic finale on the Champs-Elysees.  Nicely done--but everyone's sure gonna be on guard against you next year, so enjoy this triumph while you can!

There's a Fine Line Between Clever and Stupid Award: speaking of commentators, love 'im or hate 'im--it was a baffling, disgusting, and on reflection wily move for NBCSN to bring in none other than beyond-disgraced 7-time not-winner of the Tour de France Lance Armstrong for some cheerful analysis with, even more surprisingly, not even an ounce of apparent second thoughts by the NBC desk, which, to be fair, *was* disproportionately stocked with his former teammates.  Needless to say, the couch peloton went nuts with moral indignation, and Armstrong, well, probably just garnered another 8 million listeners for his podcast and a fifteenth home in Tahoe.  That's some chutzpah, NBC--but as long as you're all about redemption, why not give Floyd Landis a chance next year?  We *know* it'll be a lot more chill, after all!

Slow and Steady Wins the Ra--No, It *Doesn't*! It !@#$s Up the GC *Every* Time! Prize: !@#dammit Movistar, I know your roster full of two-ounce climbers is completely helpless against the vicious blast of a headwind, a tailwind, a cross-wind, or even an emphatic snort of disapproval. But team time trials are no longer a specialty discipline or an irrelevant luxury, and unless they are actually  mere handfuls of centimeters, you guys are absolutely screwed on GC *forever* unless you get everyone in the windtunnel and, I don't know, replace them with Quick Step altogether.  I'm tired of seeing Mikel hosed on GC on the first day--get your house in order this winter dammit!

Crash o' the Race (Ah Jaysus! Edition): Wout van Aert's leg-slicing collision with one of those known-hazard sticky-outy footed barriers, which went *right* down to the bone and freaked even cross-tough van Aert out to look at it.  Hey, those chef's-knife disc brakes aren't starting to look half so bad by comparison, amirite?

Crash o' the Race (Not Really GC-Deciding But Still Really Upsetting and We're So Glad He's Okay Edition): and, this one's for Astana's poor Dauphine champ Jakob Fuglsang, who really *was* doing quite well when he endured an excruciating fly over his handlebars in a Stage 16 tangle and, in severe pain but fortunately no fractures, obliged to withdraw from the race. Get well soon Jakob--perhaps this will inspire you to even greater vengeance on the road next year!

Crash o' the Race (Just Plain Weird Edition): Geraint Thomas's umpteenth crash this Tour, which is weird enough--but this time, a random and seemingly wholly unnecessary wipeout on a harmless corner where allegedly his "gears jammed up."  Um, reviewing the footage with the eagle eye of an armchair jurist, isn't it rather more likely he just, well, messed up? Man, was that a spectacular--if thankfully harmless--pratfall!  At least he wasn't on Moscon's bike when it completely disintegrated....

Smile Like You Mean It Prize: meantime, bless the hopelessly overwhelmed PR folks over at Movistar, who spent the greater part of their days at the Tour de France this year not touting the GC and stage performances of their riders, but forcing Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Alejandro Valverde together into a thousand awkward photo shots and videos with agonized grins on their faces like a show full of freezing bikini beauty-pageant contestants killing their feet in 5 inch stilettos.  Fine, Movistar, make 'em smile--but did you *really* need to make Landa get a tattoo of Nairo's face on his !@# after that stage win?  Cold!

Mr. Clean Award: to the Tour de France organizers for hiring two actual full-time employees to cover up (1) penises and (2) let's face it, they mainly care about penises, painted on the roadway for the delectation of the riders, motos, race helicopters, and fans watching intently at home.  Damn, there goes my plan to pay thousands of dollars to fly thousands of miles across the Atlantic to visit the TdF specifically to paint a florid, anatomically-accurate vajayjay smack on the finish line of the Galibier next year--killjoys!

(Swat Me On the) Moon/And Let Me Play Among the Stars Award: and, in the annals of fan !@#$wittery, it would be almost rude not to mention Stage 10, when one enterprising fan (actually, one among several) mooned the peloton *and* the cameras right on the edge of the tarmac, only to be surprised by a distinctly unimpressed (and lucky for him, unidentified) Bahrain-Merida rider, who smacked the offending spectator on the !@#  so hard in return it left an actual visible palm-print on the perp.  Wow, that's even a better souvenir than a water bottle--just be careful what you bare to the peloton *next* year or you might *really* get hurt!

That's So Money! Award: Think you know how to handle a bike?  Well get over yourself, you poseur--the Saganator can sign an autograph in his own book for a fan running beside him *while he was pedaling uphill.*  Wheelie my !@#--Sagan, you're gonna have a tough time outdoing yourself here!

You Suck ASO Prize o' 2019: La Course? La f!@# !

Don't Forget the Alamo (Waterloo, Whatever) Prize: Alaphilippe's valiant defense of the maillot jaune.  How many press conferences can you have with some asshat asking what it's like to be about to lose the leader's jersey way before you actually do it?  About 12, apparently--suck it, haters, this guy really rose to the occasion in style!

Fan !@!#wit Award: Running alongside the lead group in a day-glo mankini?  Yawn. Lighting a smoke flare right into the lungs of some poor sucker who's already gasping at 12000 feet?  Amateur hour!  Jumping over the peloton on a mountain bike, *again*? An inevitable disaster, but not this year.  Kudos to the fan who, just edging out the trou-dropping butt-slapped guy, didn't even need a selfie stick to clock Niccolo Bonifazio upside the head smack in the middle of the final sprint with her cellphone camera and send it--but, miraculously, not him--flying.  Lucky Bernard Hinault wasn't there to tackle her--do we have to go over the fan etiquette rules *again*, people?

Paranoid Conspiracy Theory o' the Race: first, there weren't photos or film of Chris Froome's alleged "catastrophic injury".  Then, there were--but stop right there, buddy, they weren't gory *enough.* Finally, he was shown pedaling with one leg, with knee scrapes that appeared to match up to earlier pics but WITHOUT AN ACTUAL LEG BONE STICKING OUT OF HIS BUSTED CLAVICLE SO CLEARLY IT'S ALL A FARCE SHEEPLE! But that's nothing compared to the epic race-deciding !@#$-up that was Stage 19, where pro-Ineos James Bond villians with humungous weather machines conspired to set up both a pounding hailstorm *and* a viscous mountain-melting mudslide and knock the crucial climb up the Cat 1 Montee de Tignes outta the Tour, render completely meaningless the thoughtful long-range stage tactics of the favored maillot jaune, and catapult the lucky Colombian (and let's be honest, the strongest overall climber in this year's race, despite the lack of a stage win) Egan Bernal to certain victory in Paris on top of a two-man Ineos podium, all to exalt the most notorious pack of oily dirtbags since DiscoveryPostal and be the sole reason the French haven't been able to pull their !@#$ together to win their own Grand Tour in two decades.  Damn you Dr. No--uh, Blofeld--um, Goldfinger--that's right, Brailsford you wily bastard!

Snit Fit o' 2019: Rohan Dennis is in the breakaway one day ahead of his wholly expected triumph in the next-day's prestigious time trial.  Suddenly, he pulls off to the side of the course--his Tour de France is over.  Is it a mechanical? A bee sting? A stomach ailment of Dumoulinesque proportions?  No, in the end it sounded less like some kind of physical or mental condition in need of sympathy,  help, and treatment, and more like "garden-variety prima-donna !@#hole." On the other hand, Bahrain, you got buckets o' money, and some of the best industry sponsors on the planet.  You couldn't get your !@#$ together to pony up a time trial bike and skinsuit he liked *before* the start line? How !@#$ing hard is *that* when this stage has been a primary goal all season?  Gentility points, though, for "allowing" him to break his contract by August 1 penalty-free, rather'n simply firing his !@# for violating  the standard cycling "don't be a d*ckhead* clause.  Well, at least we know one of these two will continue to race next year!

Joie de Vivre Award: Look, emotions run high at the Tour.  And when you're a French team with a French rider taking an iconic French mountaintop victory, things *really* get happy.  Marc Madiot's  (and let's face it, the whole entire team car to boot's) reaction to Thibaut Pinot's Stage 15 triumph on the Tourmalet. Someone grab that guy before he bounces off into space he's jumping so high!

Totally Irrelevant Oh My Word Did You Even See This News? Award: there's a baby Pippo Pozzato! there's a baby Pippo Pozzato! You may now return to your regularly scheduled big-deal race that's going on this month that I can't even remember what it is.  There's a baby Pippo Pozzato!

Screw You ASO You Retrograde Neanderthals! Prize: In the face of repeated assurances that women can't handle racing a real Tour de France, there's not a cent to be put towards its realization, and that even if the delicate pile of scary woman-parts *could* do it, no-one would watch it anyway, desellesauvelo rode the entire Tour de France route one day ahead of the men's race, with hardly any support, no whirlwind Tour de France circus-atmosphere glory, in full traffic, and with ginormous crowds wherever they went.  And not only did they ride the men's Tour de France--they actually rode *more* than theirs, because the women made it through before the stage 19 and 20s course-shortening landslides truncated the men's race by considerable kilometers and a coupla truly monstrous climbs.  Can we cut the Victorian wilting-flower crap and give them--and us--the race they deserve already?!

I'm Not Crying You're Crying! Award:  Oh, there's been so many.  Guilio Ciccone--the first Italian to wear the maillot jaune in ages--clutching his fuzzy lion mascot *so* very tenderly.  The utter exhaustion of Alaphillipe hurling for the cameras in his herculean effort to keep, and honor, his maillot jaune, which *nobody* expected him to keep this long.  But *this* was enough to crack even the most hard-hearted cynic to the core.  Stage 19.  Pinot in tears as rumors fly he's got a wasp sting, later determined to be a handlebar-bashed deep muscle bruise, as he loses minutes desperately seeking help at the medical car, then sobbing as teammate puts his arms around him and holds his bike as he climbs off & gets into the team car.  Those aren't tears, you sentimental simp--it's just water running outta my eyes like a dike just broke!

Domestique o' the Race: last but not least, in an impressive turn of events at SkyIneos, defending Tour de France champ Geraint Thomas, apparently seeing the writing on the road after Dave Brailsford wrote him off with the press as a real contender for his own title for a solid month before the race even began, and completely chucked him out the window as even a bidon carrier after the first mountain stage--and after he was easily outclimbed by his wee lieutenant at every opportunity-- sucked it up, played nice, and, after briefly bitching at the spectators for not being respectful enough, turned his attention to Egan Bernal and, to his credit, buckled down and genuinely supported him like a champ.  Oh G, glory is so fleeting--glad you handled your ejection from leadership with grace!

Well folks, that wraps up another Tour de France.  Now finish that Champagne, claim your prizes, and let's all get ready for the Vuelta!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

It's Yer Tour de France Rest Day Deux Roundup!

We made it past the time trial (except, basically, Movistar).  We made it through the first rest day.  And now, we've made it through the Pyrenees.  So before we hit the (now) race-deciding Alps, it's time to take a deep breath and, in order to better understand where we're going, reflect on where we've been.  So what the hell's been going on on one of the least-boring Tours de France in recent memory?  This!

1. WHY THE !@#$ ARE WE STILL USING THOSE !@#$ING BARRIERS WITH THE METAL FEET STICKING OUT!  Fer chrissakes, guys are getting cut up like deli meat out there!

2. Julian Alaphilippe.  He's earned--and honored--the maillot jaune.  Can we stop with the doping insinuations, and outright accusations, since he sorta cracked and definitely almost hurled up a lung clinging on to it today?  At least let's give the French ten minutes to enjoy their relief from two decades of total humiliation at their own Grand Tour, why don't we!

3. Romain Bardet and Warren Barguil.  Yeah, we *know.* But at least one of 'em's had at least one good day, so dang, cut 'em a little slack for once! Of course, the other irks me for all time for making Mikel Landa crash and get caught behind the split, even though he did apologize very nicely for it.  And right on Thibaut Pinot!

4. I will unconditionally love Phil Liggett always.  And I know, beloved cycling TV honchos around the world, if you didn't have a giant pile of dopers commentating for the sport, let's face it, coverage from damn near everywhere important would be completely silent.  But FFS, NBC, putting on some unrepentant assclown who allegedly once cornered Tyler Hamilton outside a toilet to shut him down goes beyond a mere acknowledgement of reality to a complete dope-smack (oops!) of everyone--like, say, the justly legendary Greg Lemond--this guy has deliberately !@#$ed over.  Next year, leave Lance out!

5. Rohan Dennis, man.  Bailing out of the Tour de France mid-stage--in the freakin' breakaway, no less--the day before a stage he was widely expected to win, with nary a word of explanation to his shocked team, and no precipitating no apparent illness or imminent doping bust, just a disagreement, if evidently a massive one, over his time-trial setup and skinsuit.  If it's a symptom of a broader problem, and he needs help, I genuinely hope he (and anyone else who needs it, in this pressure-cooker sport) gets it, and that the team, his compatriots, and the entire cycling world support him in every way they possibly can.  But if it was just a truly epic snit by a gigantically privileged overgrown toddler--well, good luck getting a new contract next year!

6. One of those Yates is doing pretty good this Tour, amirite? Or maybe it's both of them.  Whatever!

7. Jeeeeeeeeeeez, Nairo Quintana's boring to watch.  What *happened* to the guy who once blazingly won the fabulous Giro?

8. The fan who got her phone knocked outta her hand by Niccolo Bonifazio's head during the stage 11 sprint.  Do I *have* to repost "What Not to Do for Dimwitted Fans" every ten minutes?

9. Time trials should not decide a freakin' Grand Tour.  I'm trying to help you here, Mikel!

10. Oh, La Course this year even exists?  I mean, you guys *should* be embarrassed you're basically putting on a half-day crit for a pile of the best cyclists on the planet, but damn, I've seen more impassioned and wide-ranging publicity for my puny hometown's annual styrofoam recycling day for !@#$'s sake!

11. (Not) speaking of the spider-like flailing elephant in the room, a pile of guys who crashed (and crashed out) have looked *waaaaay* more gory than this happy-photo Pollyanna 'barely a boo-boo' bull!@#$ Chris Froome's PR team's been pimping.  If there isn't contemporaneous photographic indisputably-dated evidence that *right now* he looks like some barfed-up human mis-digestion from "Alien", Twitter still ain't buying it you fakers!

12. Peter Sagan signed an autograph for a spectator *running beside him during the race while he was riding it*, so if you even halfway think, for even a fraction of a split second of a sub-moment of a nanoparticle, that you're a *remotely* passable bike-handler--honey, you ain't !@#%!

All right, we've made it through first half of the race.  On to the Alps--time to *really* get this show on the road!


Monday, July 15, 2019

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious Giro Rosa Racejunkie Awards!

Still recovering from the drama of 10, count 'em 10, days of smashing women's pro cycling in Italy? Still dragging your !@# after a dozen sleepless nights trying desperately to find a live feed in a language you can understand for a sum that won't make you sell a kidney?  Does a certain shade of pink still tease your senses and happily invade yer dreams?  Well freak out no further, fellow tifosi, because we're not done yet--it's Yer Incredibly Prestigious Giro Rosa Racejunkie Awards!  Prizes, for those so proud or so desperate for attention to claim 'em (I swear): a dashing custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap; a passel o' handsome racejunkie stickers to deface yer house, yer bike, or yer, well, face; and, a genuine random promotional tchotchke straight from my local second-hand haunts to display to all yer friends!  So on to yer glory, or shame:

Ceeeeeeeeeelebrate Good Times, Come On (Just Not Yet) Award: hey, it's happened to the best of 'em--just ask Erik Zabel.  There's nothing in front of you but the finish line, it's the biggest win of your career, you raise yer arms in justifiable triumph...and some wise!@# who didn't get the memo sneaks around you like some twerp cutting in front of you in line at the ice-cream place on a hot hot night.  Lucy Kennedy (Stage 3, with Marianne Vos rocketing around her *out of freakin' nowhere*) and Nadia Quagliotto (Stage 4, bested by Letizia Borghesi's brutal bike throw)--I know you won't make this same mistake next time!

!@#$ *This* Award o' 2019: we've got an incredible race here, people--what the !@#$ is with the insane lack of coverage?  *Why* am I watching 14 !@#$in' straight hours on some boring men's Grand Tour sprint stage, and I have to bust my !@#--and my wallet, and my data plan--tracking down a real feed for this one?  Yes, the Italian commentary, once I got it, was great--but cripes, if we can listen to hours of yammering about some decadent disgraced aristocrat's chateaux on *one* race, we can divert some resources to actual race commentary over on this end!

Video Vanguard Award: on the flip side of this equation, Voxwomen, you *rock*! And Trek-Segafredo, not only do you have phenomenal world champ/sprint goddess/spankin' new DS Giorgia Bronzini on hand, but you're in on this too.  Woot woot woot--now if you can crank up the coverage length even *more* next year, you've got your audience already!

We Will, We Will, Rock You! Prize: OH MY GOD ON ONE SINGLE STAGE THE TOUR DE FRANCE IS GOING OVER TWO METERS OF PACKED DIR--aw, shaddup and go home, you babies, between gravel grinding, bouncing over rocks out of the start gate and a pile of uphill cobbled finishes,the women were riding Paris-Roubaix half the entire !@#damn race! Geez, maybe Classics riders as GC contenders isn't so far fetched after all--at the Giro Rosa anyway!

Optics, People! Prize: look, sponsor prizes can be...quirky, whether it's a disturbingly large salami, a pleasingly ginormous St. Bernard, a humungous wheel of local cheese, or, y'know, your very own cow.  And no doubt, the Giro Rosa's lovely sponsor surely meant well and acted generously when it gave one lucky stage victor a handsome cookware set.  But didn't it occur to anyone it looks just a *little* odd to be giving a female champ a nice big set of "get in the kitchen and make me some pie" when no-one seems to recall a similar gift for the menfolk?  Of course, it was a nice present...but you give these women a !@#$in' mop next year, and there are gonna be *riots*!

Do You Hear What I Hear? Award: not so very long ago, comely 2006 Giro champ Ivan Basso looked like he was gonna damn near deck pissed-off two time winner we love Gilberto Simoni for, not so diplomatically, calling him an "extraterrestre" for his, well, very impressive performance (which didn't seem *quite* so unfair when Basso was busted shortly thereafter).  So did we really hear Italian icon Elisa Longo Borghini, in the wake of Annemiek Van Vleuten's race-smashing capture of the queen stage to  Passo Fraele (after she'd been deprived of her monstrously trained-for goal, the Passo Gavia, by some piddling snowflake race-organizer concern over "landslides"), remark that she was thinking, "Ok, the alien is gone and now the race for human beings begins"?  Yep, but apparently she didn't mean it that way--as Annemiek herself jokingly noted the reference the next day.  I mean, she *didn't* mean it that way...right?

Punk-!@# Move o' the Race: did you *see*...well, there was that time...uh, that is...wait, am I really seeing the top cyclists of the planet in a cutthroat competition crushing each other day in and day out  without sucker punches, sniveling smack talk, and cheap-!@# deliberate line interference only their mothers could love?  I mean, not to go all kumbayah and sing-alongs here, I didn't exactly see anyone holding back on the tarmac--but where the hell is Valverde when you need him?

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...Prize: am I the only one who thought that the traditional parade of podium babes looked a little, well, awkward up there this year?  And of course, they skipped the iconic kiss-and-lipstick-print shots.  So why not eye-candy man-babes in little shorts, or a healthy, diverse mix of equal-opportunity T&A?  Or better yet, baby goats?  *Everyone* loves baby goats!

Breakout Star of 2019: I don't know race *you* were watching, but for sheer tenacity, major efforts in the breakaways, and relentless grinding of her competitors down to a crying nub, for my money, Soraya Paladin rode a *great* freakin' Giro Rosa.  Yes, at 26 she's hardly a total newb, she had a great 2018 generally too, but here, this year, third on Stage 8 from a break, 4th on Stage 10, nearly snatched the maglia azzurra from Longo Borghini, 9th overall on GC--dang, I can't wait to see what she does next year!

And Last But Not Least, Domestique o' the Race: On the penultimate stage, she gutted herself, bypassing, then getting bypassed by, reigning world champ/perpetual threat/actual stage winner Anna Van der Breggen, all to give her excellent teammate Amanda Spratt a spot on the final podium.  Not bad to have the time-slaughtering Maglia Rosa causing the carnage for you, amirite?  Congrats on winning the whole Giro and all, Annemiek Van Vleuten--but this even bitchiner award is for you!

Well folks, they're short and sweet, but them's mine, and yours if  you care to claim 'em--just try not to earn anything *too* embarrassing next year!



Thursday, July 04, 2019

It's Yer Tour de France in Preview, Part Trois: The Sprinteurs, The Climbeurs, and the Puncheurs!


Ok, we got the course. We got the GC (massively wrong most likely, but we got 'em)!  So who can we count on for more intermittent, but no less spectacular, excitement during the Tour?  These ones!

The Sprinters: CAV'S NOT HERE CAV'S NOT HERE CAV'S NOT HERE! All right, we got *that* out of our system.  Neither is Nacer Bouhanni, presumably for having sucker-punched the hotel breakfast buffet for unsatisfactory muesli options, but I don't see anyone bitching about that.   So who *is* around?  Peter Sagan of course, and as everyone's been pointing out in horror, with baby brother Juraj in national champ victory colors, you'll be able to see him at least briefly in his native Bora jersey on Day 1 before he grabs green for good.  He's like the ATV of sprints: a little unwieldy on a total flat, but fun as !@#$ with a little argy-bargy or bounce in the finale.  Just *don't* pop a stupid wheelie til you cross the line, willya? Perpetual punk Gianni Moscon, which is bad news for his spindly rivals, but good news for the cattle-prod industry, which just experienced a peloton-wide run on 'em to tape to their top tubes in case a jolt of electricity is needed to fend Moscon off.   Also on hand: Elia Viviani, eager to do some damage after his lackluster Giro; Dylan Groenewegen, who has been utterly en fuego this whole year; scrappy Caleb Ewan; Bling Matthews, Alexander Kristoff, Boassen Hagen-Daaz, and, best of all, we love big lug Andre Greipel, who go to hell *and* double-stuff it haters still has at least one more smashing Grand Tour victory in him.  Go go Gorilla--didja see his video with his bitchin' customized new gorilla shoes?

The Puncheurs: Is there *anything* a Wout/Van/der/Whatsit can't do this year?  Just write the all-caps tweets in advance right now, and save yourselves some effort later on when you're two-weeks  impaired by champagne!  Former world road champ Michal Kwiatkowski.  LL Cool Sanchez, who at only a coupla years younger than Valverde can be counted on to bag a stage victory in damn near anything.  And when you look at EF's lineup, you can't help but notice the indefatigable Simon Clarke, who though basically there to support Uran roared back from a nasty injury a ways back seemingly even stronger than before.  Does that guy *ever* crack?  Van Avermonster.  Last year's most combative, Dan Martin.  Everyone's favorite potato head Toms Skujins.  And yes, Tony Martin's already won the time trial--what *else* did you expect?

The Climbeurs (besides the GC contenders): !@#$ed out of leadership from your team or a hopeless inability to avoid an echelon split or to stay in one piece during a time trial?  Too valuable an asset to blow on a pointless day-long 18-man breakaway that'll inevitably collaps as you all start d*icking around 2k to the line?  Well now's your chance for glory! First off--aupa grande Gorkaaaaaaa! Rigoberto Uran, who I know is gunning for GC but is really more likely to have one spectacular day amid a sea of really-darn-goodness.  Romain Bardet.  Aruuuuuuuu--recovering from leg-vein surgery and years of unmet expectations, not a GC threat, but, if feeling well, may go for a redemptive stage victory.  Honestly, I hope this glum kid *does* get a few minutes of positive coverage from the Italian press!   And, never to be underestimated, Alejandro Valverde, who has the uncanny ability to choke on GC, bushwhack his own teammates outta victory, and still, even in his scarily wasted current form, sneak a stage win like he's just parachuted outta the race helicopter.  Numbnut fans--bare yer junk in a too-small speedo if you must, run up the entire Tourmalet in a cow costume--but *please* stay outta these guys' way!

The Absentees: Yes, Cav.  But also Dumo and Roglic.  And Philippe !@#$in' Gilbert for !@#$'s sake!  Also Degenstache.  And for those of you either still mourning the tragic absence of Chris Froome, or enjoying his absence but not his injuries I hope you sick freaks, rest assured that he's been completely reconstituted Westworld-style and is resting both comfortably and completely unscathed from his gory recent accident in his apparently completely unnecessary hospital bed.  Damn, that *does* seem weird--oh no, now *I'm* getting dragged into the abyss!

Well folks, there's your Tour.  Good luck to everyone who inevitably proves me wrong, stay outta trouble please Mikel--and let's get this gaudy show on the road!

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

It's the Giro, It's the Giro, It's the Giro Rosa!: in Preview

Feeling a strange mix of ennui and downright irritation over the Tour de France?  Already writing it off as a sordid doping !@#$show? Well look no further. don your pinkest gear, and get ready to scream your Giro-lovin' heads off, *again*, because it's the Giro Rosa, baby!  And even in this truncated preview, and 10-stage race, we've got buckets to cover--and thanks to Voxwomen and Trek (and RAI of course for the Italians), it's even being partially televised! So let's roll, before these bad-!@# women roll right over us:

The Stages: I don't know what the hell everyone else sees here, but to me, this is no country for the sprinters...anywhere!  Stage 1: We begin in Piemonte with an 18 k, lightly lumpy team time trial from Cassano Spinola to Castellania.  Stretch those legs--cause they're gonna need to be flexible from here on out!  Stage 2 eases us in with a 78.3k loop which starts up to Colle del Lis, then flattens out til a slightly uphill finish.  On the 104k stage 3, don't let the opening downslope fool ya--you hit the tough little climb to Tollegno at 87k to go, with 34k of uphill at the end to Piedicavallo.  Oof, now I'm starting to see what we're in for! 

Stage 4: welcome to beautiful Lombardia!  We've got an easy start, then 1/3 of the way in to this 100k haul a hard climb at Montorfan, with the last 5k on the upswing. And as the great Giorgia Bronzini opines, this is the "easiest" stage in this year's Giro, so enjoy it while you can!  As for Stage 5: bring on the pain, honey, we're in the Alps!  On this queen stage, only halfway through the race mind you, we start with a nipper to Aprica before finishing the day on this year's Cima Coppi, a mountaintop finish on the iconic Passo Gavia.  Ow ow ow ow!  Stage 6 gives you a breather, and the time trialists a day for celebration, on a 12k individual tt which, though slightly uphill, is still a course for time trial bikes and accordingly shouldn't send *too* many shivers up the spine of the GC.  Relaxed now?  Great, 'cause Stage 7 is 129k with 4, count 'em 4 sharp climbs: Monte di Malo (Italian for "oh, this feels *bad*!"), Fara Vincentino, Marostica, and a painful finish at San Giorgio di Perlena.  Had enough?  Well toughsky-crapsky, darlin', as on Stage 8 we've got a 135k slog in the Veneto, with a sizeable climb to Andreis at 60k, then up to Clauzetto at 95k, then a brief nap til the slightly uphill final 20k.  Wait, what sick freak thought *that* idea up?  Stage 9: Almost there!  Just a pan-flat 125k jaunt til a just plain mean 900 meters of climbing in the last 20k to Monte Montasio.  Stage 10, though, brings you home in your snug podium position--assuming a preexisting obliteration on GC like last year's and no help from a few second's gain down below--mercifully finishing this smashing race with a mostly flat run except a jump to Moruzzo around 100k in, a 5k drop to *almost* the finish line except, just perfectly, a short, cobbled climb to Castello di Udine.  Just don't get overeager in those corners, o tired ones! 

The Players: this ain't no "half the contenders are missing" Tour de France bull!@#$--as always, we have got the absolute cream of the crop for this incredible course. Defending champ Annemiek Van Vleuten completely she-nut-whacked the field with an amazing 4 minute margin over her next competitors, last year's podium bad-!@#es Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Amanda Spratt, all of whom are back *and* on some pretty intimidating form this year.  Bonus psych-out factor--Van Vleuten's been pretty much camped out at altitude, and scoped out the Gavia for maximum suffer-infliction ahead of time.  Still, we got perpetual Van Vleuten challenger/reigning World Champ/2 time Giro Rosa winner Anna van der Breggen, who's got the ever-underestimated Chantal Blaak at her back; total whomper of a climber Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Katia Niewadonna--are you all crying yet?--self-proclaimed stage-hunter but also GC threat Elisa Longo Borghini with the home-court advantage, and Marianne Vos to basically make everyone whimper from the second she clips in til frankly weeks after she's already clipped out.  And, shout out to American talents Leah Thomas & Katie Hall, who may not get all the press, but can certainly put on all the pressure. Can you all tell I'm falling over with excitement here?

So onwards and upwards...and upwards...and upwards--but don't worry, there's glory to be had at the top!

Monday, July 01, 2019

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

All right, we got the course down--on to the general classification contenders!  Let's see...there's Chris Froo--naw...Tom Dumou--aw, dammit! So now no matter who wins, it'll be a big pile of "what ifs" from the fans and journalists in Snarkville, and someone'll be bitching about their lack of respect in every interview for the rest of their life.  So who's that gonna be?  Let's take a look at these guys!

Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas: Alberto Contador sez Egan's the frontrunner this year, and hell, who would know better?  Even Geraint "Jaysus Ineos I'm the defending Tour champion for chrissake!" Thomas has effectively conceded defeat, and admirably chosen to take the high road, instead of smacking that little twerp back to windbreaker duties where he would normally belong. Still, the Tour is gonna be nothing this year if not full of surprises.  Will Bernal keep up the team's clearly bull!@#$ pretense of equal status, or stamp any doubt out on the road at the first speedbump? Will G help him or hurt him--or worse, just drift backwards like dandelion fluff, and make no difference at all?  Only the tarmac--and Dave Brailsford--will decide.  Til then, clutch that crown while you still can, Geraint!

Warren Barguil or Thibaut Pinot: oh, please.  They'll give a great run for yer money on the mountains classification.  And newly-crowned French road champ Barguil is now the subject of a truly orgasmic French-press (ooo, coffee!) feeding frenzy.  Problem: neither of 'em have got the team.  Still, I expect some serious stage fireworks outta these boys, and a high enough GC placement to keep the press hounds howling.  Prove me wrong, boys--no pressure, but the decades-wounded pride of a nation rests on your tiny shoulders!

Marianne Vo--!@#$ YOU ASO, WHERE IS THE WOMEN'S TOUR DE FRANCE ALREADY? And don't tell me some !@#$ty sprint while the !@#damn street cleaners are still out on the course sweeping up cigarette butts ahead of the men's race counts! !@#DAMMIT!

Jakob Fuglsang: just...what? What? Yeah, I like him too.  But eyes on the ball, people!

Nairo Quintana: How many wheels would a wheelsucker suck if a wheelsucker could suck wheels? Well, he's bound to run out of 'em anyway, particularly if Valverde and/or Landa get annoyed enough hauling his uninspiring !#$ up the Tourmalet.  If that happens, even *if* Unzue's darling's on form to attack, he's downright screwed.  Good luck out there though--and I hope you didn't read what Greg Lemond had to say this morning!

Mikel Landa: Shut up! Can so either! I *know* Movistar won't let him off the leash, what with their bizarre deference to Quintana, and master tactician/recently-terrifying stick-figure Alejandro Valverde just having bagged the Spanish national road championship, the Hour Record, the Hell of the North, Eurovision, a $240 million euro contract with Barcelona, the Westminster Dog Show Best in Breed/Whippets, and the Girl Scout Troop 675 Badge for Most Cookie Sales Lifetime Achievement Award. So since you're outta there next year anyway, Mikel, why not tell Unzue to !@#$ off and make your *own* chances?  I mean, remember how well you worked with Alberto that time?  Now *stay* outta trouble, *don't* let Valverde get close enough to shove a bidon in your chain, and *use* those painful Pyrenees to set yerself up nice for the Alps!

Alejandro Valverde: I. Can't. Even.  Except he probably can.  !@#$, why not just bring Lance back to win the whole thing?

Vincenzo Nibali: boy, is he *pissed* about not winning the Giro.  That said, he wrecked himself enough to make it unlikely he'll be the top man on the podium come Paris.  Famous last words--this prediction'll probably end up like the opening skinnydipper scene in Jaws.  Please don't hurt me for doubting you Nibs!

The Yateses: I can't remember which one was popped for doping, and which one won the Vuelta last year.  I *do* remember that one of 'em said back in May that the other GC contenders for the Giro oughta be "!@#$ting their pants" in fear of him, to an excruciatingly embarrassing anticlimax.  But put one seriously bruised ego and two bros together, and at least one of 'em's likely to place respectably on GC, if perhaps more likely to just bag a couple of stage wins.  Wait, which of you guys is your team backing?

Enric Mas and Richie Porte: aw, lay *off* these fine riders already!

Anyhoo, you all know who *I'm* rooting for, so place yer bets accordingly against me and you'll all be damn millionaires.  For heck's sake, he just needs Unzue not to !@#$ him over for *one* day!  Next up: the Sprinters, the Roleurs, and the Climbeurs!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

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

Look, the Tour's an obscene, decadent, Caligula-esque circus.  But this year, for the notable though unfortunate absences of certain riders for whom we wish a speedy recovery if they're not actually just laughing their !@#ses off at their underwater James-Bond-villian modernist lairs far from the nefarious intrusions of antidoping controllers--and equipped with both unbearably-slowly nut-slicing stainless-steel laser tables and shark-infested feeding-freezy trapdoor-tanks in the improbable chance they *do* find their way in--we've actually got a modest shot of this year's race being (1) interesting and (2) possibly even competitive, with fun for snowball's-chance-in-hell GC contenders, sprinters, and puncheurs alike.  So what've they got coming to them?  This!

The Overall: Welcome to Brussels, home of the Grand Depart!  This Tour's got something for everyone: plenty of sprints, some nice roll-y breather days for breakaway artists and the inevitable "next [insert iconic name that everyone desperately tries to think of that isn't Lance Armstrong]", and, of course, eye-candy mountains with buckets of opportunity for Movistar to figure out how they're gonna eat their own young, *again.* On to the specifics!

The Time Trials: Hey perfect mountain goat, want to lose the GC to some musclebound mother!@#$er who can barely climb a mountain on a !@#damn helicopter?  Here's your chance! First, yer whole squad gets to screw you over with a mildy lumpy 27.6 k team time trial on Stage 2.  Now, you can relax--and for heck's sake gain as much time as you can in the mountains--before Stage 13's 27.2 k bit-o-rise-y-then-pretty-darn-flat individual effort.  Just--please watch out in the those corners, so we can all get back to the real race!

The Sprints: We start off the Tour in handsome Brussels with Stage 1 long 194-odd-kilometer leg-stretcher, then pick it up again on Stage 4.  Then, a break for actual fun outside the final 5k before we return to Cav's Chance to Blow It on Stage 7, a bucket o' pain til the next sprint finish on Stage 10, and, after the first rest day, another shot at glory (and another fruitless play to rip the green jersey off Sagan) on stage 10.  After that, you just gotta stay within the time cut for 6 more stages till the next easy jaunt on Stage 16 from Nimes to shining Nimes.  And what would the Tour be without the magnificent finale on the Champs-Elysees?  Yap, Sagan, yap--we still believe in you Greipel you big lug, let's cap off this season in style!

The Breakaways: Stage 3 starts off deceptively simply before delivering a nauseating roller-coaster ride for the last 30k.  !@#$, I miss Gilbert already!  Then, after a rest on Stage 4, stage 5 gives the hill-shy their first real leg nips as the tacticians start !@#$ing around the last 2 kilometers and--I mean, as they carefully assess their chances before going for that big last-minute surge from behind.  And geez,  with 5 (!) Cat 2s and two Cat 3s, Stage 8's really not joking about "hilly"--better make time for a winery-Tour refreshment as we hit the surprisingly painful road to St. Etienne!  Stage 9 gives no chance for rest, though, as the unsuccessful stage hunters try for redemption with a rather hefty 7.2% gradient hump 13k out from the finish in Brioude.  If you've blown all of that, though, you've still got a shot on Stage 17 with a likely decisive schlep 10k from the finish line.  Team cars, now is *not* the time to drop trou on your breakaway guys!

The Mountains: Sure, the Tour's "mountain" stages basically grandfather in a coupla the Giro or Vuelta's definition of "hilly" stages, but still, there's pain enough! We start off the *real* race on Stage 7 to La Planche des Belles Filles (French for "Plank of the Podium Babes"), with 3 nasty Cat 1 climbs sandwiching a coupla Cat 2s and a throwaway Cat 3.  Welcome to the Tour the France, kids!  Then, after the first rest day and a flat stage that you all better stay upright on and ahead of any crosswinds dammit Mikel, Stage 12 welcomes us with a gentle valley start before pitching us onto the legendary Peyresourde, then the Cat 1, 7.5%  Hourquette d'Anzican before a bit of a recovery descent to the finish.  *Don't* try to descend out of your league, you-know-who-you-ares! If you've survived the ITT on Stage 13, and haven't decided to crawl home in mortification with some bull!@#$ 'gastrointestinal distress', Stage 14 gives you a chance for an prestigious victory, or embarrassingly public defeat, up the mighty Tourmalet.  Make it through that?  Say hello to Stage 15, as we drag you up--really, you drag *you* up--3 Cat 1s including the spankin' new Foix Prat d'Albis, French for "we're gonna grind you up like goose liver."  Ready for tomorrow's rest day? After all that wine and pate' watching you saps, I know *I* am!  After leaving the lovely Pyrenees, we head into the podium-deciding Alps, with 3 opportunities to helplessly crack just on Stage 18's Col du Vars, the agonizing HC Izoard, and, if you're still not crumbling next to the road sobbing uncontrollably, the beloved (or behated, if you're riding it) Hors Categorie Galibier before a merciful--or terrifyingly exhausting--8k drop to the finish line.  C'mon Sagan, you can do this one--your fans will wait all night if they have to!  Finally, the short (126k) 'n' nasty, Stage 19, with Col d'Iseran 35k from the end, which would give you hope if you didn't have the Cat 1 Montee d'Tignes to overcome before you hit the hotel.  Ouch!  Still within spitting distance of your competitors, including your stupid unsuspecting teammate?  Well Stage 20 wraps it up with the Cat 1 Cormet de Roselend (French for "stop and smell the roses on your nature break, loser, I'm attacking you now"), a chill stage 2 interval, and, for the last gasp of the Tour--and your lungs--the oxygen-deprived summit up the phenomenal Val Thorens.  I just wrapped up the maillot jaune?  Great--now get that camera off me while I vomit!

Of course, the Tour *still* blows in comparison to the beautiful Giro and smashing Vuelta, but you all know we're all gonna watch it anyway, if only for Landa and possibly Thibaut Pinot YouTube highlights.  Speaking of whom, next up (shut up haters!): the GC contenders!

Monday, June 17, 2019

It's Yer Chris Froome Paranoid Conspiracy Theory Roundup!

Look, we all know that Team Ineos in the Sky With Diamonds is capable of truly epic levels of bull!@#$tery, like "marginal gains," "I had no idea what was in that Jiffy Bag labeled "HEY DAVE, HERE'S THAT BAGFUL OF BANNED PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING DRUGS YOU ORDERED FROM ME BY TEXT MESSAGE FOR YOUR RIDERS," and  "we appreciate Geraint Thomas winning the Tour de France for us and will gladly support him again."  But since Chris Froome's shocking 50-kph Tour-and-possibly-career-destroying smash into a wall, there's been a truly, startlingly paranoid quasi-Masonic deep-state X-Files Spy vs. Spy Bourne Identity just-!@#$in'-nutwhack tweet-blizzard o' conspiracy theories, so before we all get totally lost in the weeds here, let's recap, summarize, and clarify:

1. Juanjo Cobo, the improbable Vuelta a Espana champ/current milkman (a far nobler profession than 'pro cyclist', BTW), was busted for bio passport probs and potentially stripped of his win, in which Chris Froome placed an improbable 2nd, THE VERY SAME DAY THAT FROOME SLAMMED INTO A WALL BLOWING A SNOT-ROCKET ON A TT-RECON DESCENT CAUSING CATASTROPHIC INJURIES.  

2. Some other pro guy said he once mistook Juanjo Cobo for a "fat mechanic," not a wasted wraith with the approximate BMI of a half-starved locust.   So...karma, bitches!

3. Ineos sez Froome had multiple breaks to his femur, some broken ribs, and a fractured elbow. Normal people, including Froome-haters, were horrified, and wished him a full and speedy recovery.

4. Allegedly, a coupla tools were like "big whoop, he's a cheating scumbag anyway," leading to massive "YOU'RE A TOTAL !@#$FACE" outrage.  However, I personally more saw, "Yep, hate him, hope he gets well soon, that's a !@#$ty thing to happen to anyone."

5. Updated medical reports said Froome also had a broken neck, and lost like 2 liters of blood.

6. Dan Martin and some other guys said either they were there and thought holy crap he coulda been killed and were blessedly relieved he was not, or told him "hey, careful on the descent there, cowboy."

7. The ambulance took a while to get to and stabilize him before it was safe to move him to hospital. Suspiciously, though, THERE IS NO GORY INSENSITIVE DISRESPECTFUL VOYEURISTIC HELP-NO-ONE STREAMING YOUTUBE FOOTAGE of something that clearly would've completely traumatized his poor family if they'd seen it, so honestly, what the hell is *wrong* with you people?

8. He was in the ER/ICU, and then he was not.

9. Post-surgery, Froome posts a pic of himself giving a thumbs-up sign from his hospital bed, with basically a big band-aid on his elbow, a blanket deceptively pulled over his purportedly mangled torso, no IV lines, and his scrawny neck without any visible immobilization collar or other support.  There is also a noticeable lack of overflowing blood-buckets in his disconcertingly clean hospital room, and a disturbing absence of machines that beep.

10. Some crackpot posts some kind of weird Masonic flat-earth fake-moon-landing little-green-men-but-cyclists thing, and everyone loses it.

11. Phil Gaimon posts a pic of himself after a vaguely similar track crash having apparently been put through a wood-chipper.

12. There are now two schools of thought on Twitter: "boy, he doesn't *look* that injured, he *must* be part of a vast team-and-hospital-wide conspiracy to fake us out" when all he actually had to do if he thought he was about to get popped himself was excuse himself out of the Tour with a much simpler bogus 'stomach ailment' and "WTF, you watch two seasons of "Grey's Anatomy" and now you're a medical expert you tinfoil-hatted freak?" Suddenly, a third group emerges!  It basically just says, "Hmmmm."

13. We love Joseba Beloki talked about his own Tour de France career-crushing femur break and I almost bawled.

14. The upshot: (1) Froome's a dirty dirty you-know-whatter; (2) crashing is a crappy sad way for even an odious sports-weasel to end his career so let's hope he heals completely and quickly; (3) Geraint Thomas is *still* fucked; and (4) I've been running this pointless blog for 13 years and even *I* think we all need to get a life.

Glad that's settled.  On to the Tour!

Sunday, June 02, 2019

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2019 Giro d'Italia racejunkie Awards!

Okay, so I've been a *little* bit discombobulated this Giro by Movistar sucking *again* with some guy from it who's not Mikel Landa winning instead.  But still and all, it *was* rather a ripper, so before the inevitable din and unbearable hype surrounding the inferior Tour de France kicks in, let's give credit where credit is (sometimes mortifyingly) due: It's time for Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2019 Giro d'Italia racejunkie Awards!  Prizes (I swear), should any winner be so desperate as to claim them: a stylin' custom-embroidered racejunkie cap to adorn yer head; a passel o' racejunkie stickers to deface every mountaintop sign to pass in a car so you can pretend you actually climbed the thing on yer bike; and, in lieu of the hallowed Trofeo Senza Fine, a promotional statuary tchotchke plucked right from my local secondhand store and engraved with *your actual name.* So own yer glory, and yer shame kids--it's damn-near-as-good-as-a-maglia-rosa time!

Talk Softly and Carry a Big Stick (Except You Didn't) Prize: hey, we *all* love a little pre-race smack talk.  After all, what better way to get the adrenalin flowing, the tifosi screaming, and yer rivals ready to stick a shank in your tire at 50 miles an hour? That's right, Simon Yates's suave suggestion that his fellow GC contenders oughta be "!@@#ing in their pants right now."  Um, are you sure that wasn't just what you thought they were doing when they were actually 20 kilometers up the road ahead of you instead?

Caught With Their Pants Down Prize: heck, mechanicals happen.  But when you really *don't* want them to happen, particularly when everyone's surmising whether you're about to take the entire show in Verona, is when your team car collectively decides now's a perfectly harmless time to drop trou at the side of the road for a little gruppo nature break.  Still, Primoz Roglic managed to get another bike and get on his way eventually. Oh, well--it's not like he wanted the final maglia rosa anyway!

Screw You Race Organizers! Award: Remember when time triallists were approximately size of the Abominable Snowman, and about as likely to disrupt the results of the final overall podium?  Yeah, well *I* do, and time was, whippersnappers, where only the rarest of GCs was actually decided by a freakin' pile of suckfest TIME TRIALS THAT NO PURE CLIMBER WAS EVER ABLE TO NAVIGATE COMPETITIVELY ANYTIME ANYWHERE EVER.  And yes, I'm a bitter Landa fan.  Do you *know* how much this race would've changed if the first day (and the last!) hadn't taken a !@#damn baseball bat to this poor kid's legs, and ego?  Perfidy, thy name is PLEASE PLEASE GIRO DON'T EVER DO ANYTHING LIKE THIS EVER AGAIN!

Superdomestique-o'-the-Giro: speaking of whom, in my misery over Movistar's usual hosing of our little Carrot underdog, I *do* have to in all honesty give this one to, yep, this year's new and now reigning Maglia Rosa, Richard Carapaz, who genuinely dug in there with his last ounce of energy in the race's penultimate stage to smoosh the GC contenders to almost--almost!--give the stage to loyal, if overall generally a bit bummed out, co-captain Mikel Landa. Aw, thanks for trying Richard--now *don't* come between Mikel and the (I hope) Vuelta!

Fake-Out of the--Hell, of the Century! Award: so what're a ravenous press, twitterverse, and bored-as-hell tifosi supposed to think when a bunch of guys in intimidating-lookin' hazmat suits ostentatiously descend on the notorious Alexander Vinokourov's Astana team bus and disappear inside with what looks like some high-tech James Bond spymongering gear?  HOLY !@#$ STOP THE INTERNET AND FLEE FROM THE NARCS IT'S US POSTAL ALL OVER AG--uh, it's a minor new cleaning-product sponsor, like, *seriously* giving that filthy team bus a nice scrub.  Well now that we're all freaking out Vino, can you get a damn whiskey sponsor out here to calm us down?

Total !@#$in' Hypocrisy Award: so someone finally notices that Alessandro "Wheezy" Petacchi, already renowned for sucking enough asthma meds right before the finish line to open up the airways of an entire herd of stampeding wildebeest, is retroactively implicated in some *other* ancient doping scandal that's just now being revealed by clowns lining up to take down a doctor everyone already knew was a dope supplier now that they've benefited from all the !@#$ they took from him, and what happens? That's right, the noble head honchos over at RAI--who've previously had no reservations showcasing *other* former pros snarled in their own doping allegations, who shall remain nameless because I like them--take the strapping ex-sprint king right outta the broadcaster's box and into the annals of Guys We Knew Should Make Us Look Bad But Like Who Cared Until Now Anyway?, while fellow miscreants-turned-commentator-darlings David Millar and Christian Vande Velde get to laugh their absolute !@#es off over a beer.  I mean, not that Petacchi deserves a ticker-tape parade for his hijinks, but what the !@#$, people?!

Crash o' the Race (GC-Deciding): Y'know, in the absence of last year's defending-champ-who-declined-to-defend-his-title-therefore-dishonoring-this-beautiful-race-and-should've-been-thrown-into-a-viperous-gaping-snakepit, I was actually rather looking forward to see how runner-up Tom Dumoulin was gonna do--but we'll never know, because the poor kid was taken out by a nasty knee injury on Stage 4.  Didja see how he at least tried to get on the bike the next day before succumbing to the inevitable?  Now *that's* giving the race its due!

Crash o' the Race (Jaysus Thank God He's Okay!): speaking of asthma, this one's unfortunately for AG2Rs Alexis Vuillermoz, who actually did have a severe enough asthma attack on the Queen stage 16 to cause him to crash into a ravine, be rescued, hauled up, and treated, and, miraculously, climb back on his bike and proceed to finish the stage.  Forget the hype about all the Classics guys--now *that's* some hardman !@#$!

*I'm* Not Crying, *You're* Crying! Prize: he burst onto the scene in 2015, climbing (and smiling) like an angel at the Vuelta, where he wore the yellow jersey, and then in 2016 at the Giro, where he hit the podium.  And after that?  Well, despite a lovely stage win at the 2018 Giro, the poor boy was gobsmacked for damn near a year by a bout of Epstein-Barr virus, with naysayers wondering if he'd ever truly come back.  But come back he did, with a gorgeous victory on Stage 19 and a tearful celebration with his adorable parents.  Oh, shut up and pass me the Kleenex, you sentimental fool!

Fan !@#$wit Award (Were You Raised By!@#dam' Wolves or Something? Edition): look, we all live for waiting on a freezing roadside for seven hours in the vain and statistically unlikely hope that a passing domestique will toss a water bottle, an empty musette, or even a spit-covered half-empty gel packet, our way.  And honestly, most of these guys are nice enough to actually look for some eager kid (or grown-up!) to toss 'em to, when they've got quite *enough* to attend to at that moment, thank you.  But just a bit *too* eager was the big adult assclown who thought it was perfectly okay to bodily wrench a water bottle from the very mouth of poor Marco Haller like a medieval barber yanking a rotten tooth from some poor bastard's head with a rusty farrier's hammer.  Forget the fan--I'm inclined to award this one to Marco for charging over and berating the !@#$in' idiot!

Fan !@#$wit Award (Malice Aforethought Edition): between the too-close-flag-wavers, the selfie-stickers, the dog-walkers, and, may heaven protect our eyes, the exhibitionists running beside the riders screaming in their too-small banana-hammocks, it's often hard to pick who gets a Fan !@#$wit Award in the Giro or any Grand Tour.  But to their credit, at least they're just stupid--it's a whole 'nother animal when someone actively picks up a pale-blue cruiser bike and intentionally throws it in the race course, which inevitable near-catastrophe was heroically averted by another tifoso who immediately ran out into the road ahead of the charging peloton and retrieved it.  Holy crap, and I thought tossing tacks into the road was bad!

Fan !@#$wit Award (Vigilante Justice Edition): What's even worse than a stupid crash when you're riding like mad for the final podium?  The roadside moron who puts you there!  Undaunted by the ticking clock, though, Miguel Angel Lopez took the time to give the gentleman an etiquette lesson--if you can call smacking the guy upside the head til his hat spun out like a frisbee "etiquette." And while everyone was quick to assure that they don't condone violence, even the race organizers, with the power of expulsion in their hands, were inclined to let this one slide.  Hell hath no fury like a GC contender impeded!

Nice Guys Finish Last (But Also First!) Award: Chad Haga--who generously entertained the lot of us with his pithy #GiroOversimplified daily roundups via twitter--slogged through rain, sun, rain, and rain for three straight weeks and sat in the hot seat for damn near the entire final day before finding out the truly bitchin'--he won the Stage 21 time trial, and single-handedly salvaged the demoralized leaderless Team Sunweb's entire Grand Tour.  Nice to have something sweet to cheer about for once, amirite? Woot woot woot Chad Haga!

And Finally, the Punk-!@# Move of the Giro: y'know, I usually have a wealth of options to choose from here, as the race for the final maglia rosa grows more intense, tempers rise, and frankly, usually Alejandro Valverde is racing it.  But this year he wasn't, and aside from a little argy-bargy in the sprints from Elia Viviani, and Vincenzo Nibali clearly about to go completely over the edge at Primoz Roglic's failure to assist him in overthrowing, well, Primoz Roglic, this year was astonishingly civilized.  So here's a slightly revised "Dumb-!@# Move of the Giro" Award: for forcibly abandoning your own team leader Nibali (who could've really used the help, by the way) by getting popped for a 2013 Austrian doping scandal 5 stages into the race, Kristijan Koren, this one's for you!

Well folks, there's my Giro d'Italia awards for 2019--now either claim 'em, correct me, or hope to heck I don't have to give your sorry !@# another prize next year!


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

It's Yer What the Hell is Going on In the Giro (and Even the Amgen EPO Tour of California) Roundup!

Look, in a week that's supposed to be a dull preview to the real action in the mountains in one race, and a hippie peace'n'lovefest at another, it's been a freakin' catastropalooza at the Giro and even the ToC so far, so what the hell is happening?  Let's talk!

The Giro: all right, I'm a little rusty on game shows, so apologies if all I can come up with is some half-!@#ed reference to whatever 1950s dinosaur was being aired immediately before the already-ancient "I Love Lucy" reruns I watched as a kid.  But only 5 stages in, this Giro d'Italia's gone 16 ways to hell, and boy, is there *buckets* of blame to go around.  So let's play Pick the Culprits!

1. The Race Organizers: to be fair, an 8k individual time trial shouldn't *totally* kill the GC on the first day*, especially when that 2k vertical leg-biter at the end seems to have been quite a mercy bone generously tossed to the helpless pure climbers.  But *damn*--can I just reiterate I have *hate* when the GC's half-decided on day 1 of a 3-week Grand Tour?  Take these stupid things outta the calculation and leave 'em to the specialists on Day 1 at least, for heck's sake! *I know, you're right.  GC contenders should be reasonably proficient in all disciplines, not just the climbs.  But the fact that you're right doesn't make it not suck!

2. The Race Organizers (Part Due): I, too, was pretty surprised by reigning maglia ciclamino Elia Viviani's dazzling deviation of line in stage 2's hotly-contested finale, not least because, when it came to avoiding the voracious press corps anyway, Elia was able to ride from the podium to his window-tinted team bus with the approximate precision of a returning moon lander with a 2-square-centimeter target window for evading otherwise certain death.  But swerve he did, and *gee*, did that cost 'im--not just relegation, but jersey-deciding sprint points, a whopping fine, *and* the requirement that he ride all subsequent stages solo on the safety of adjacent commuter bike paths.  Hey, at least no one crashed from that--what's a little argy-bargy between mortal enemies anyway?

3. That Flake from Ineos: Y'know, *everybody's* probably caused a crash or two in their day.  But *dang*, must it be to the eternal detriment of last year's runner-up Tom Dumoulin, who ended the stage in a pile of blood, a slew of x-rays (all negative, fortunately), and a reluctant early trip home?  I mean seriously, can't you just trebuchet yourself into a damn ditch first and leave the race contenders to go safely on their way? Eyes *forward*, FFS!

4. Movistar: Wow, that was a great ride by Carapaz!  But could you have kicked we love Mikel Landa from team leadership any faster'n !@#$in Goose from "Top Gun"  blasting himself from his ejector seat during the post-race commentary from the teams, even if you did backtrack the next day and generously sorta reinstate him after he made back up a bit of time?  Oh, Mikel, I *told* you to get the hell outta there...

5. Simon Yates: okay, speaking of dear Mikel, maybe he wasn't...*overly* diplomatic when he called Simon a man-whore and an idiot for allegedly taking him down in a roundabout the next day after the Carapaz fiasco after Mikel already miraculously evaded carnage in the Ineos crash that blew out half the rest of the GC.  But he *did* subsequently tweet an apology, which Yates kindly dismissed as a heat of the moment remark, which seems karmically right, as Yates had opined in the pre-Giro presser that the other contenders oughta be "shitting their pants" in fear of him, leading a tranquillo Nibali to first mildly castigate him to show "respect," then suggest such things added "pepper" to the race.  Lookin' forward to the next three weeks--now, I gotta go brush up on my foreign-language cussing!

6. The Commentator Paradox: yeah, I know I'm just banging this drum, but can someone explain to me why, say, David Millar gets to perch a crystal halo on his head on a perpetual nobility tour, Christian Vande Velde gets to talk turkey on US TV with nary a whisper, and Alessandro Petacchi gets kicked the !@#$ off RAI?  I mean, I personally maintain without irony or self-reflection that Iban was framed and Samu was shafted, but either we call bull!@#$ on these guys as post-career commentators or we don't. Or should Alessandro just get a lucrative DS role instead, and we've all championed clean sport the right way again?

The ToC: admittedly, I'm still so pissed at UCI for scheduling this race during the Giro that I've been reluctant to pay attention, but it is some darn diverting racing, no more so than today's stage, where Tejay Van Garderen busted a chain, swapped bikes with an Aussie teammate, got totally confused by the brake configuration, and flew through a Red-Rover's-worth of wildly gesticulating  course-flaggers, only to turn around, drag his !@# aaaaalmost up to the peloton, dodge a giant stick in the road, then get caught up behind a yuge pileup caused by some tape-like substance in the road, all well outside the last 3k, understandably drag in quite behind, then *still* keep his 6-second advantage and the leader's jersey in apparent contravention of the rules.  Is it me, or is it just no one really wanted to award the leader's jersey to that punk Moscon?

Welp, there's your crash (literally!) course, and with today's mere 1 moto wipeout, 1 gamechanger in the Giro *and* the Tour, a handy Nibs domestique plus some other guy at the ToC pulled before the day even started for biological irregularities, and a desperately cold'n' rain-soaked finale that caused the Giro organization to shorten the stage as Elia missed out on vindication thanks to frozen legs, I gotta say, I'm eager for tomorrow's undoubtedly more peaceful breakaway stage--forza ragazzi, and the lot of you, hold it together!

Friday, May 10, 2019

It's Yer Giro D'Italia in Preview, Part Tre: the Sprinteurs, the Climbeurs, and Puncheurs!

Sure, the race actually starts in a few minutes, but that don't mean we're done with our preview yet: while you're holding your breath while some poor bastard botches a bike change, we've got the sprinters, climbers, and stage hunters to break down!  So who've you got for stage wins, once you've been well and truly hosed by your GC picks?  These boys!

The Sprinteurs: let's be honest--recent bout of flu or not, if Elia Viviani is on half the form he was in 2018, he's a shoo-in for a passel of stage victories and the hallowed maglia ciclamino again.  First, the you-suck-uci-for-scheduling-the-amgen-epo-tour-o'-california-at-the-same-time-as-the-Giro has permanently gutted the giro sprinter field.  Second, this guy, unlike your typical sprinter musk oxen, can hang tough in all but the viciousest climbs.  Heck, if you can look fresher'n a daisy--or hell, an actual dead person--after last year's epic slog up the Finestre, as he did, what *can't* you conquer?  Still, there are a couple of other fast men here, most of whom are destined to crawl home weeping like wet-diapered toddlers after the first big mountain stage on Day 13, and scrappy little squirt Caleb Ewan, the tranquillo Fernando Gaviria, and Arnaud Demare could all dethrone, even if temporarily, the reigning king.  See that controversial Italian champ jersey they dropped on Elia?--kids, follow that!

The Climbeurs: look, if you can climb, you're a threat for Giro GC.  But some pretty amazing talent has been pressed into service, at least theoretically, for their team leaders, and all it takes is one captain's bonk for a mountain goat specialist to be let off the leash.  Ex-Carrot Ion Izagirre, who's whomped out an impressive palmares of his own this season.  Esteban Chaves, who if he doesn't get sick can charmingly crush just about anyone.  Carapaz, who better stick to backing Mikel !@#dammit.  Rafal Majka, who's pounded out a coupla Tour de France mountains titles. Pavel Sivakov--with poor Bernal out, now might be your moment. And of course, beloved ex-carrot Mikel Nieve.  Forza ragazzi!

The Puncheurs and Stage Hunteurs: Finally, the Giro is nothing if not unpredictable, and as the GC get too cagey watching each other, and hold back on the rollers to save energy in the big passes, there's some pretty wily stage hunters, and even out-of-place Classics guys, out for glory and a bangin' raise next year.  Tao Geoghegan Hart.  Bauke Mollema.  Bob Jungels.  Davide Formolo.  And I'm hoping that, as happens in at least one Grand Tour per year, some jailbait revelation or lifelong worker bee will pull a humungous solo breakaway and astonish and delight us all. Gooooooooo unexpected mystery man!

Welp, there's no doubt buckets more I'm missing, but them's my top picks.  Now let's get on with the show--and Landa, pleeeeeaaaaaaaase have a good ITT tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

It's Yer Giro d'Italia 2019 in Preview, Part Due: The GC Contenders!

Okay, tifosi, we got the corsa rosa down--now who's gonna rule it?  Probably one of these guys!

Mikel Landa: first, everyone can suck it for not including we love Mikel Landa in their top five.  Sure, he hasn't won a Grand Tour *yet*.  And with Alejandro Valverde missing in action with a gnarly butt-bone bruise, he'll lack some serious mountain firepower.  On the plus side, with Alejandro Valverde missing in action with a gnarly butt-bone bruise, he'll also lack the threat of a serious race-crushing bushwhack from his own teammate.  Of course, our luckless Mikel is down with a vicious toe-rub injury because Movistar sucks *and* all the gods of Valhalla are conspiring against him, but we know this--he's hungry, he's podiumed and won stages here before, it'd be bitchin' to give the unappreciative Movistar a giant !@#$ you as he bolts out the door to take Nibs' place at Bahrain-Merida, and, in a reasonably mountain goat's Giro where even the GC-blowing TTs are on the steep side, the boy can *climb*.  And even without Valverde, Mikel's got some hardcore backup: youngster Carapaz, who had a smashing Giro 2018, and Andrey Amador for the mountains, and JJ Rojas for some protection in the flats.  Aupa Mikeeeeeel--and the rest of you haters know what you can do with that!

Vincenzo Nibali: two-time Giro champ/don't forget his Tour or Vuelta either Nibs is focusing on the Giro this year, and that means one thing for the peloton: pain.  Pain on the climbs, pain on the rolling stages when he's in pursuit, pain on the flats when you can't even shake him, and most especially pain on the descents, where he'll blast by you and be enjoying a massage, a facial, and a cocktail back at the hotel while you're still white-knuckling your squirrely !@# down the first freakin' hairpin on the second-to-last Dolomite of the day.  Downside: second only to Tom Dumoulin's, his team's maybe not so strong as others' GC squads here.  Like that matters?  He's the freakin' Shark, !@#dammit!

Tom Dumoulin: all right, I'm still irked that someone the approximate body size of a steriod-suckin' Incredible Hulk can seemingly climb like a two-kilogram Chavito, but that aside, and ignoring his own grim outlook, Tom's gotta have nothin' but love for this route: he's got two whole weeks to conserve his energy before the mountains kick in, and he's got three whole time trials that, while not the flat profile beloved by specialists, nonetheless puts him on a bike that he can ride effortlessly while the other GC contenders are just praying to manage to stay reliably upright.  If he can minimize his losses on the giant passes, he could do this.  Aupa Mikeeeeeeeeel!

Simon Yates: the most excruciating "almost" of Giro 2018, when he bonked spectacularly on the grueling Finestre while that flailing spider windmill charged ahead for the win, he's got unfinished business here, and put a pretty sweet down payment on it with his late-season Vuelta win.  And while he says he's riding "conservatively" this trip, I assume that also means he'll be paying sharp attention to eating and drinking, to at least take one potential source of total collapse out of the threat pool. And who's he's got on his side? Cheerful Esteban Chaves, who'd also like to redeem a tough 2018, and we love fabulous veteran Carrot Mikel Nieve, who's already bagged the maglia azzurra and a buncha stage wins in this glorious race.  Hold your head together, and you've got a real shot at maglia rosa glory!

Primoz Roglic: look, I get it. He had a great Romandie, he's got a huge engine, he's an enormous talent.  But a three-week Grand Tour is an entirely different garanimal from a week-long stage race, and 21 days is plenty of time to grind even a strongman like this kid into a whimpering, jelly-like nub.  He's got only a handful of Grand Tours under his chamois so far--though who's to say this won't be his breakthrough?

Miguel Angel Lopez: he's young--in fact, last year's third place is also the reigning young rider champ.  He's brilliant--and has had a great start to his season.  And typical for Vino, who has been known to actually crush people into tiny carbon piles by the steely glare of his eyeballs, Astana has brought a squad, including twee-but-formidable Ion Izagirre, designed to kill. But I'm not sure Lopez's got this one just yet.  But I am sure that Vino'll make sure anyone who says that !@#$ is gonna pay for it!

And Finally, the Absentees: hey, I'm the first to say that that ungrateful arachnid-weasel is doing the Giro a favor by not showing up this year, but with happy lieutenant Geraint Thomas also delusionally thinking he'll get an equivalent shot at the Tour this year, that's two bigwigs out, alongside the ever-formidable mostly-bridesmaid Valverde that really open things up--and mercifully shield our eyes from the grotesque sight of Froome on a bike til his main goal in July. It'd be bull!@#$ to say that the absent won't define the race as the participants--so for the guys that are left, and particularly all my ex-Carrots in the house--now's yer chance to blow this race apart!

Well Giro fans, them's mine--next up, if I get around to it before a celebratory pre-race bar crawl with my Lupo Wolfie mascot derails it til after the show's already started, the sprinters, the climbers, and the 'nother threats!

Monday, May 06, 2019

It's Yer 2019 Giro d'Italia in Preview, Part Uno: The Course!

All right, we already know that the race organizers tailor-made this course to seduce Tom Dumoulin into participating by cramming in three freakin' time trials, instead of sensibly tailoring it to deserving natural climbers like Mikel Landa, in which case Dumo better cut the cagey psych-out crap with how out of form he is, be !@#damn grateful, and ride it if he's suffering from the !@#damn bubonic plague. Anyhoo, it being the perfect Giro, it's still a smashing course with plenty o' opportunity for unbelievable breakaways, spectacular bonks, and astonishing mountaintop triumphs, so what've we got? This!

The Overall: As I mentioned, this year's Giro's got *three* individual time trials, which means, no matter how climby they are, three opportunities for the mountain goats to fall over like dominoes on a quake fault and lose the race entirely to the Slightly- Less-Jolly-Than-Usual Green (well, actually red) Giant.  Dammit! Besides them, we have about 5 sprinty stages, 8 medium lumpy stages, and--the entire point of this three-week pain circus--5 big giant mountain stages.  Woot--bring it on, and gentlemen, I'll be sure to mimic your superhuman efforts by enthusiastically toasting you with an Aperol spritz!

The ITTs: we start, punctuate, and possibly podium-smashingly end the Giro with ITTs--no team ones, thank god--with 6k of flat and 2k of leg-nippin' nasty on Stage 1; a generally upward trending tho' not killer incline 35 k slog on Stage 9, and, to completely screw the GC for guys with a, let's say, imperfect grasp of time trial technique, on Stage 21, 17 k with a hill halfway, some last-second mountain points up for grabs, and a 4k descent at the end. Maglia Azzura hunters and crap bike handlers--keep yer eyes open!

The Sprints: like anyone cares, because it's the Giro d'Italia, but still, Elia Viviani put on a truly masterclass show in these last year, so I guess I gotta talk 'em.  Stage 3 stretches you out on the hills around Siena before a nice flat finale; Stage 5 pretends like the breakaway's got a chance with a hilly start then a pancake though awfully bendy finish into Terracina; then it's time for the mountain-shy to cringe home with some bull!@#$ stomach problem unless they can hold out til the flats pick up again on stages 10 and 11; and you get one more chance for glory on Stage 18--if you can make it there!  Sure you don't want to do the Tour of California instead?

The Rollers:   Stage 2's got a flat finish, so break at your peril and pray you don't get mortifyingly caught by the charging fast men in the last 200m; I don't know what the hell a "conurbation" around Rome is, but there is one on Stage 4, as well as a nice 4k uphill finale; Stage 6 is an exhausting 238k slog with a tricky twisty finish; Stage 7 takes us to L'Acquila with a teasingly flat run in until the road jumps upward; and Stage 8, our longest at 239 k, lulls you to sleep with with a flat 140k before kicking you in the nuts for three categorized climbs til a technical finish.  Then, a short'n'dirty stage 12 drags you *twice* up the 20% incline to Principi di Acaia, with the first Cat 1 beast o' the race, Montoso, to welcome you there; Stage 15, still a punishing 232k, takes us into friendly Il Lombardia territory, with the Ghisallo, Civiglio, and San Fermo.  Now take a rest day, honey--you're gonna need it through the big passes til Stage 19 gives you one last chance at mercy with a breakaway-friendly, low summit finish!

And Last But Not Least, The Entire Point of the Whole Race: yes, it's the mountains, baby!  Hope you caught your breath the first 12 stages, because now, it's a whole new world o' hurt: you ease in, sorta, as Stage 13 takes us up the Nivolet with a 15% finale; Stage 14's got 3,000 meters o' climbing in a quick 130k to Cormayeur.  But I hope you're not feeling too relaxed from your rest day--Stage 16 smacks you right in the Alps with 5,700 meters uphill, including the Presolana, the Cima Coppi (Italian for "We're !@#$ed") of the massive Gavia, and, if you're not crying in yer mamma's skirts yet, the mighty Mortirolo.  Whew, I'm I glad *that's* outta the w--aw, crap, it's Stage 17, with ginormous climbs and a vicious uphill finish!  But don't get too comfortable waiting out the sprinters and breakaway artists, and for !@#$'s sake, GC contenders, espresso up for your last chance to redeem your miserable bonk and 10 minute time loss on Stage 16: Stage 20 is a one-way ticket to hel--I mean, the smashing Dolomites, with 5,000 meters of suffer, including the Cima Camp, the Manghen Pass, and the Croce d'Auna to the last Cat 1 slog up Monte Avena.  Make it outta here alive?  Congrats, you just won the race--unless you blow it all on the ITT tomorrow!

Well, them's your 2019 Corsa Rosa basics, and remember, the Tour de France is for charlatans, braggarts, and media whores.   Next up: the GC Contenders--forza Mikeeeeeeeeel, and all of you lucky enough to participate in this beautiful event!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

It's racejunkie's Race Safety Guidelines for Every Conceivable Variety of !&#$wit!

Look everybody, we've barely made it through one Monument this season, and already we've got road-rashed collarbone-snapped riders piling up on race courses like empty piss-water beer cans in a frat house.  So what can we do to help these nice athletes stay upright, and in one piece?  This!

Spectators:

1. No. Selfie Sticks. Ever!

2. Next !@#$ing !@#$wit who sets off a flare next to the peloton is gonna have that !@#$ing thing shoved down their throat like some fire-eating !@#$ing circus freak.  Understand, asshole?!

3. If you're gonna slap *anyone* in the face with an inflatable promotional item in the last 15 seconds of a sprint, let it be yourself--or at least that six-foot-seven assclown who just budged in front of the primo spot you've been hoarding since 4 o'clock this morning.  And keep that thing behind the barriers !@#dammit!

4. Hey, let your freak flag fly, honey.  Just not a fourteen-foot Lion of Flanders in the face of a bonking rider desperate to minimize every inch of the 8000 meters he's just finished climbing!

5. Don't text and walk.  You have *no* idea where you are in space.  At least until all 14 kg of a breakaway lands on your dimwit body and ends their race right there. Come to think of it, anywhere on the planet, in any situation, this oughta be a face-smackable offense.  But we'll keep it to this context for the moment!

6. Children.  You know what children are?  Cannonballs with feet.  Shot out of a roller-coaster-shaped cast-iron tube at a million miles an hour with no more sense--or sense of direction--than a drunken amoeba.  Keep 'em back!

7. Straps. Nice purse! Hey, cool camera! Which any rider has the preemptive right to instantly garrote you with like a B-movie gangster if you let it fly out into the wind and catch their handlebar.  Hey, are you that jack!@# that took down our dear little Iban?

8. Dogs.  Man, I *love* dogs. And I'm writing this directly to you, Fido, because it's obvious you're the brain trust in your relationship with your stupid owner, who refuses to keep you on a short leash for the six seconds it takes the peloton to flash by because you might feel oppressed for the moment before you decide to roll in another animal's poop on the roadside.  I don't care if a !@#damn steak truck crashes over in front of you and spills its meaty guts in a gift straight from God, or if your owner throws the BIGGEST TENNIS BALL EVER right out into the yellow line in the middle of the road, or if there is nothing more compelling to you ON EARTH than a stampeding herd of spinning carbon wheels begging to be chased after and bitten into submission.  Stay off the freakin' road, for chrissakes!

9. Runners. I get it, there's something about the dazzling internet glory of letting your barely-covered less-impressive-than-you-think neon-highlighted junk bounce out into the TV screens of thousands of people while screaming like a maniac, while the only part of you anyone actually maybe wants to see, your head so you can be id'd and thrown into a !@#damn gulag, is crowned by some giant pair of Viking helmet-horns and threatens to spear some poor flyweight climber like a tropical fish, that hardly *anyone* can be expected to resist.  Well, resist it. Just...back off before you crash somebody, you gaudy embarrassment, and for god's sake, put on some real underwear!

10. Drunks.  Hey, I know that there's !@#$-all to do for the six hours you're freezing on a mountain top or baking to death in a desert or getting torrentially-rained on slipping on cobblestones but make doping jokes, write chalk encouragement or obscenities on the pavement, or simply get hammered. But don't let alcohol make an ENTIRE PLANET OF SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE hate your !@#$ing guts, and some unfortunate bone-broken rider put you on an angry DS hit list, when you stumble obliviously into the roadway and take out some guy who's spent approximately 25 million training hours preparing for the exact moment you happen to lose total control of your most basic bodily functions.  Dammit people, make sure the one teetotaler in your group keeps an eye on you!

Race Motos and Cars: your job is to *escort* the riders, not jerk to a stop so they go flying through your rear windshield, knock them sideways into a barbed-wire cattle fence, or plow them over from behind in some incidental inconvenience to your sad little Vin Diesel "Fast and Furious" fantasy.  In fact, they're why you're there.  Drive like it!

Race Organizers:

1. Inflatables.  There is truly nothing more exciting for the fans, and riders, to see than the red kite dangling from that giant inflatable bridge thing.  Even more exciting, however, is for it not to collapse on some poor bastard just trying to drag their exhausted carcass to the finish line.  Pump, generator, attendant, done!

2. Road furniture. Hey, you know what's even more fun than finishing a bike race after 6 hours barbecuing in 200-degree heat and vomiting your guts out in front of 76 eager TV cameras? An unmarked and apparently totally unnecessary iron pole in the exact center of the road you can crash into at 40 kilometers an hour!  Um, no it's not.  Remember, if there's gotta be carnage, some squishy volunteer with a waving flouro-flag makes a *lot* nicer landing surface than sheet metal!

3. Weather.  It does, I admit, make great television to watch a peloton-hipster's ridiculous handlebar mustache encase in sleet like some freakish mountain hermit, or Nairo Quintana slowly freeze into an adorable tabletop wedding-bash ice-sculpture, or some heavyweight climber sink into melting tarmac and be preserved for all eternity like a woolly mammoth for some delighted, if puzzled, future anthropologist to dig up.  And of course, you can't underestimate the highly smug martyrdom aspect of the sport, which also makes the bitter envious couch peloton all want to see these guys *earn* their pampered princeling sports-icon paycheck, because we have to !@#damn earn *our* paltry one in some !@#$y job with a miserable prison guard of a sadistic boss !@#dammit.  But geez, these frail little things *need* their fingers and toes--can we make "just before they're desperate enough for their lives to let another human being urinate on them like some disgusting politician scandal-video" the rule of thumb for calling it a day already?

4. Timing.  This isn't a safety issue, but it *does* completely piss me off, so I'm throwing it in.  How *dare* you schedule any other race at the same time as the perfect beautiful Giro, you twisted freaks?

Race Helicopters (I Mean Holy !@#$, We Have to Talk About Race Helicopters!): now, we *love* you.  You bring us beautiful field-art shots of tractors slowly circling in perfect harmony as bike wheels to carefully sited bales of hay making up bike frames.  You show us historic castles, the impeccable elegance of an echelon, where Sagan is peeking out from an impossible distance, and the argy-bargy of a sprint whose hairs-breadth result can only be seen from above.  And what else are you apparently doing now?  *That's* right, buzzing the finish line with your power-blades and blasting rows of barriers into unsuspecting, and, let's face, downright eggshell cyclists staggering across the finish line.  Jaysus, they made it through all these other idiots, and now they have to worry about you guys sending them to hospital?  Stay airborne til these tiny little things get to shelter next time!

And Last But Not Least, The Folks Who Keep Watch at Crossing Zones and Other Race Guardians: we all know that public-safety work can be incredibly boring, spiked with the sort of intermittent heart-stopping terror that makes the rest of us entirely to wussy to even casually *think* of doing your job.  But when your *sole* purpose at that race is to secure the course for the riders against a veritable army of teeming citizen dumb!@#es, please, please, please, do not turn your back for even a *second*.  Because that's the *exact* moment that Joe Q. Numbnut is gonna sprint *right* across the approaching peloton, and fold those suckers up like a giant carbon-spandex origami menagerie.  Never underestimate our astonishing dimwittery, and race organizers, give these folks a giant raise!

Well, them's mine, but I'm sure I'll be back here when some eejit decides to, oh, dig up a coupla cobblestones from the Arenberg for a souvenir just before Van Avermaet powers through, or some other spectacular act of world-class stupidity I can't even begin to dream of.  But let's start with these--and don't make me add to this !@#damn list, you hear me?!

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

It's Yer 2019 Cycling Year In Preview (Yeah, You Read Right)!

Ok kids, time to shake off that post-New Year's hangover, toss yer 2018 team kit in the trash, and pull up yer big-boy chamois--another shameful year is behind us, and another one is rarin' to begin!  So what've we got ahead?  Here, yer 2019 Cycling Year in Preview:

January: Team camps round up! AG2R to preemptive counseling for inevitable Tour de France loss; Astana to WHEREVER VINO WANTS YOU TO GO AND WHATEVER HE WANTS YOU TO DO YOU WORTHLESS WORMS!; Deuc-whatever-Quick Step "Wolfpack" to Alps for extreme wilderness training, mistakenly tear Philippe Gilbert to pieces in pursuit of fleeing rabbit.  Guess the 'pack just got a little smaller for this year!

February: Classics training! Record 2 spectators on course at Tour of Oman, soigneurs vaporize into dry air awaiting passing peloton at feed zones; 68 riders positive for "!@#$loads of caffeine" at Tour of Colombia, field decimated for stage 2; Sagan recons Gent-Wevelgem press room for intensive preening, smack-talk training.

March: the Classics begin! Nibali takes Milano-San Remo (again) after using 2-by-4 to preemptively whack every fan he sees with a camera outta the way on the roadside; Simon Yates wins Paris-Nice after defending champ Marc Soler mistakenly chases down Adam; Sagan repeats Gent-Wevelgem after Viviani blinded by Sagan's gleaming beauty just before finishing sprint.

April:  It's the cobbles, beeyotches! Sagan lost in Forest of Arenberg, taken in by wicked witch in house built of candy; cobblestones torn out, replaced with asphalt when Roubaix first-timer Froome complains, "They're ouchy!"; Alejandro Valverde sweeps Ardennes, bolts for team bus, disappears behind sweeping black satin cape when UCI  photographer notices Bala can't see own reflection in mirror; Wolfpack distracted when Van Avermaet throws raw meat by side of road.

May: It's Il Grande Giro, baby!  Mountain stages cancelled after Tom Dumoulin protests they're "too climby"; Landa takes individual time trial, wins Giro after sneaking to course night before, pointing arrow for time trial course away from valley floor and up the Mortirolo; Egan Bernal gains 93 minutes on Fedaia without pedaling when team mechanic mistakenly hands him Froome's Tour de France bike.

June: Time for Tour de France prep! Alberto Contador back in action at Dauphine as fans snatch Caja Rural team boss, force them to sign one-race contract; women's peloton train for--aw, what the hell do they really have to train for in France in July, anyway? Porte doubles at Tour de Suisse, Australia's richest family thrown into bankruptcy when bet fortune on Porte winning the Tour de France in 4 weeks.

July: What else? It's the Grand Bull-shay! Sky rewards Geraint Thomas for incredible 2018 victory by kicking him off team bus to "save gas," making him transport Froome's luggage between stages on foot; Froome out after eyeballs weld to readout on power meter, sent to be freed by surgical specialist in London; Movistar to "9-man-captain" strategy, fistfight ensues at team meeting, Nairo only one to make it out alive when hides behind water pitcher on table; no-one bothers to ride La Course, Giro Donne officials startled when entire planet's female riders show at their start line instead.

August: the Vuelta begins!  Euskadi-Murias loses 26 hours on opening team time trial, regains on first mountain top finish; Yates blows double when confuses Oscar Rodriguez' neon-green team kit for safety vest of road-hazard flag guy, doesn't bother to chase down on decisive climb to Santuario del Acebo ; c'mon, who's really watching the Tour de Pologne, anyway?

September: Time for the World Championships! van der Breggen, van Vleuten DQd from time trial and road races after signing in late due to exhaustion from epic 48-hour "Fortnite" battle; Alejandro Valverde wins men's time trial stripes, because nothing in this ridiculous sport makes any sense any more; Cav grabs men's road race because "I gotta justify 13 consecutive years of slagging other sprinters for sucking somehow."

October: Nibali wins Il Lombardia after having vertebrae broken by dipwad with selfie stick, legs run over by stampeding elephants, arms fractured by out-of-control cruise ship, and feelings really, *really* hurt by mean kid who cut in line at gelato shop; Sagan switches career to unicycle when miffed at perceived lack of adoring press coverage, UCI votes to make 2020 Paris-Roubaix one-wheel-only; 'cross season underway, Belgian 3-year-old busted for using training wheels in debut victory; Mikel Landa announces team switch to "for chrissakes, anywhere but Movistar, please!"

November: Transfer rumors confirmed! Sky announces replacement sponsor "Joe's Suspicious Internet Testosterone Nut-Patches.com"; Geraint Thomas to "back to haulin' Froomey's laundry, I guess"; Quick Step erroneously signs actual wolves, Gilbert, Alaphilippe, Evenepoel out of contract for 2020.

December: Team kit reveals! Euskadi-Murias switches to bunny suits, tiny riders swooped away by hawks; AG2R to controversial "disco ball" outfits so at *somebody'll* notice 'em in the peloton next season; "Joe's Suspicious Internet Testosterone Nut-Patches.com" design rejected by UCI for too- graphic imagery.  Bummer!

Well folks, that's yer 100% Guaranteed racejunkie Year in Preview--so when this !@#$ goes down in 2019, don't say I didn't warn you!