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!