Wednesday, November 23, 2022

It's Yer 10 Cycling Things I'm Thankful For This Thanksgiving (And a Few I'm Damn Well Not)!

 Okay, for those of us in the U.S., Thankgiving is a day to share a joyful meal, discreetly leave the room to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade when Aunt Progressive and Uncle MAGA get into a screaming fight over vaccines and microchips, then keel over in front of (American) football while pretending to be too engrossed in giant goons causing each other grievous bodily harm to remember to not be an ill-raised pig to get our !@#es into the kitchen to help with the cleanup.  Oh right, and to celebrate all the things we're thankful this year!  So, in the spirit of mixed joy and simmering hostility that characterizes the holiday, It's Yer 10 Cycling Things I'm Thankful For This Thanksgiving (And a Few I'm Damn Well Not)!

1. Euskaltel.  Sigh.  Need any more really be said?

2. Simon Clarke's thrilling Stage 5 Tour de France stage win.  Give ICA all the crap you want for being a two-wheeled retirement home, but *damn*, that was good!

3. Puck Pieterse.  I know this isn't a 'cross blog, but !@#$, didja *see* her last weekend?  Plus having the coolest name in the peloton.  You go, little sister!

4. Alejandro Valverde. Sure, he's a dirty, cheating s.o.b., but hey, who *hasn't* made a little mistake incredibly frequently over a truly astonishing period of time?  Anyway, he'll be back!

5. Cycling Twitter. So long as that !@#$wit doesn't kill it entirely in his megalomaniacal folly, it's still here today!

6. Sonny Colbrelli. Yes, he was forced to choose, if you can call it that, between retirement, or removing his life-saving defibrillator. And his press conference was truly gut-wrenching.  But he's staying in cycling, and his ginormous and well-earned new Paris-Roubaix tat will always remind him of one of the most fun wins in cycling we've seen in years.  Forza Sonny--a campione on the bike and off!

7. Fabio Jakobsen's Comeback.  Shut up, you were so either crying.  In fact, you're !@#damn crying right now. Aw rats, now so am I--somebody hand me a freakin' handkerchief!

8. Rogla.  No, I don't know what's in the water over there lately at Jumbo-Visma, either.  And for those of us who actually lived through the bizarro Killer Bee Craze of the 1970s, their kit frankly still gives us the heebie-jeebies. But he's so dear.  Let's just enjoy the illusion while it lasts, shall we?

9. Marianne Vos. Yes, I *know* it's all about AVV this year.  But this multidisciplinary goddess is still the cyclist against whom all others will ever, in all human history, be measured.  Looking forward to your Roubaix win next year!

10. Fine, the Women's Tour, which is still too short.  Now bring on a three-week women's Giro and Vuelta, dammit! 

And a few I'm damn well not:

1. Pat Lefevere: Slagging His Own Riders Since 1955.  There, you've got yer personal brand--now shut the hell up and treat Alapanache with some respect!

2. What the !@#$ is this Nairo Quintana-Going-to-Bahrain-Victorious bull!@%$ I'm hearing?  !@#$ !

3. Time Trials.  It takes a lot--a *lot*--for me to taken issue with our beloved Giro d'Italia in anyway, anyhow, anywhy, or anywhere, ever.  But so many TT kilometers in in 2023 that our dear Mikel Landa is afraid to ride it, thereby setting him up for likely I can barely stand to say it top-o-the-podium heartbreak in Paris?  Bring me an Aperol Spritz, pronto--hell, bring me the whole damn bottles!

All right dear reader(s)--most of all, I'm thankful for all of you.  Now bring on the turkey hangover!

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

It's Yer !#$% It, a Time Trial Basically Counts as a Rest Day, Right?: Vuelta a Espana Rest Day Roundup!

 All right, it's been an intriguing and often beguiling start to this year's Vuelta, with everyone damn near sobbing with joy over--well, why waste time on the intro, when we can just get right to it? Anyhow, here's the state of the race:

1.  Gesink. Yes, you too teared up with good-sportsmanship vibes when Jumbo predictably bagged the opening team time trial and Rogla made sure that everyone loves Robert Gesink, who sure earned it with those monster pulls, took the inaugural red jersey.  A nice reward for a selfless career!

2.  Rogla. Considering he *just* crashed hard out of the Tour, he's coming quite nicely back into form, isn't he? Oh, sure, Evenepoel's got a week and a half on the rest of the field, but even without Sepp Kuss to haul you up the even meaner mountains to come, anything can happen and most usually does!

3. Covid.  !@#$, like *9* guys just out *today* with covid?  What the !@#$'s with the protocols?  Then again, 21 stages, two countries, a coupla dozen hotels, giant entourages, and fans screaming a millimeter from yer face for 4000 meters uphill, really, what could go wrong?

4. Sam Bennett.   Speaking of which, that *sucks* that our dual-sprint-snagger got taken out right when he was looking superb for the final green jersey in Madrid.  Chapeau to perpetual class act Mads Petersen, now in green, for a class (temporary) farewell to a fierce competitor.  Well, if it can't be Bennett's, I'm glad it's Mads'!

5. Jay Vine. I *know*, I *know*, Zwift.  Like you'd've been paying attention if we hadn't all been so starved for even virtual cycling action the last coupla years.  Still, translating that into two giant mountain triumphs--pretty impressive, whippersnapper!

6. Valverde.  Oh, he's been pretty quiet so far.  But don't you think he's gonna pull off one final stage to delight the fans enrage his detractors and probably hose one of his own teammates?  *That's* why everyone loves Bala!

7. Mikel Landa.  First, shut the hell up, you faithless heathens, you know who you are.  Didja see he won Most Combative when he burned it up on that big breakaway?  Right on Mikeeeeeeeeel--and we know you're *really* just saving it all for the third week!

8. Aupa Euskalteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel!

9. Enric Mas.  I bet you didn't think he'd be in second right now, did you?  Me either, or you're just way-!@# smarter than me.  Contador had his eyes on him since the start, though!

10. Yates, man. Full of surprises.  He'll be even more surprisingy if he doesn't crack spectacularly on at least one day coming up, you think?

11. Evenepoel. I admire a blazing ride as much as anyone, but if nothing about Evenepoel's absolute rocket ship of an individual time trial today didn't at least mildly freak you out, this has gotta be your first rodeo, amirite? Learned my lesson when my beloved Heras started pulling that !@#$.  In any event, it sure was a biiiiiiiiiiiiig margin over a pretty short course.  I'm sure it's just the aero kit!

All righty, there's yer roundup. Tomorrow, one for the sprinter.  Looking forward to it, Mads!

Thursday, August 18, 2022

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

Okay, we got the course down, but who's here to contest the race? Well, Nairo Quintana's sure not, via late announcement after first getting the UCI's blessing to start, and the notable silence of Arkea-Samsic which just re-signed him, so he can fight his entirely unwarranted discipline for entirely unintentional Tramadol use at the Tour de France, entirely coincidentally on giant mountain stages where one could reaaaaaallly use its impressive pain-numbing (if not so much its dizzying and nauseating) effects.  Good luck with that--but hey, folks've gotten off for a lot worse!  *Anyhoo*, there's still lots of solid prospects in the race, even without him and the newly-crowned Tour de France champ.  Oh, and I don't know what the hell's been going on with we love Mikel Landa's "muscle injury," but first, the entire planet can !@#$ right off, and second, we still have faith, even if he doesn't, for a podium placing *after* his home stomping-grounds stage win.  So who else's on tap for GC? These 'uns!    

Primoz Roglic: Yeah, he's injured, and I'm still baffled for the massive amount of !@#$ he took for retiring from the Tour de France after plowing through half a dozen stages and supporting his teammates while *fractured.* That said, he's back on the bike, and uncertain form or not, he is freakin' Rogla, and while I'm honestly dubious about him taking the top top spot and, say, less dubious about Domestique-o'-Death Sepp Kuss getting the go ahead for team leadership, I'm convinced that if he gets through the first week unscathed a top 3 is not outta the question.  As usual, I'll be rooting for the biggest losing cause here.  Go Rogla!

Richard Carapaz: no, I can't !@#$in' stand 'im. Yes, I can begrudgingly acknowledge he may do very, very well.  And also be a wheelsucking sandbagging whinemaster the entire way to Madrid.  Ugh, do I *have* the podium ceremony if he's on it?

Remco Evenepoel: Well, Pat Lefevere's already thrown him under the bus, which, though par for the course for the head of the Wolfpack who *just* smacked around World Champ Julian Alaphilippe for heck's sake, means Evenepoel's either wilting already under the weight of diminished expectations, or mentally out to kick his !@#.  The high passes'll tell us which one!  

Jai Hindley: Count him out if you will--because heck knows the mountain-happy Giro-Vuelta duo is a leg-killer--but he did grab a Grand Tour absolutely no one expected (you either, liar!), and for that alone, we can't count him out.  But add sweltering August heat to crushing Basque mountains, and the Vuelta's its own particular kind of delightful (for us) hell (for them).  But wouldn't it be nice if he beat expectations? 

Joao Almeida: He's young, he's hungry--and he says his legs pretty well suck.  But while Covid took him outta the Giro, he did have a pretty stellar comeback to the second spot at the Vuelta a Burgos.  Plus, there's a lot being 24 can make up for, particularly if you get the leaders' jersey to give you that little extra oomph.  Aw, c'mon, you want him to do well too!

Miguel Angel Lopez: Astana's a freakin' train wreck right now.  Oh Vino, I *told* you not to let the Izagirres go!

Simon Yates: last but not least, Captain Yo-yo--who, after all, has bagged this smashing Grand Tour before--is if nothing else gonna give us a spectacularly gut-wrenching show of incredible surges, astonishing stage finishes, and monstrously record-breaking cracks.  Cripes, can you just *pick* one already--I'm getting seasick here!

Oh, and for stages, I'd love that wily old codger Alejandro Valverde to take one last win here--and yes, it'll make me feel *dirty.* And yeah, you know I don't want to hear any crap about this--aupa Mikeeeeeeeeeeeeeel!

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

 Holy crap, it's like T - 2 to the Vuelta! And this ain't no sprinters' party (though the Tour de France wasn't so much as usual this year either)--this is the fabulous Vuelta a Espana, baby, and a course tailor-made for the mountain goats over at we love Euskaltel and, of course, we love and *have faith in* you heretic goons, Mikel Landa, who we refuse to accept this bull!@#$ about not going for GC and maybe only aiming for a stage win.  #Landismo, beeyotches!  Anyway, before we get to who's in it, including that Tramadol-sucking DQd Mikel-backstabbing weasel Quintana, *what's* in it?  This!

Week One: Welcome to...the Netherlands? Whatever, but you can't go wrong with beautiful Utrecht!  We start off with an inaugural, long enough at 23.3k time trial that oughta give Lotto Soudal, and, more importantly, Primoz Roglic, an annoying GC advantage of approximately 52 hours 16 minutes over the nearest podium contenders.  Dammit!  Stage 2 *is* a rare gift to the fast men--if you don't count the Cat 3 tossed in to get the KOM going. Danger: crosswinds. Don't !@#$ this up, Bahrain!  Stage 3: don't get those mountain legs *too* twitchy just yet, because it's another flat one.  Enjoy, sprinters, because it's just about your last damn chance! Next up: a premature transfer/rest day, and we all saw this year how *that* throws the peloton for a loop.  Hold it together, and we'll see you tomorrow in Spain! Stage 4: Technically a medium-mountains stage, the climb 15k out then skeevy descent to the finish means some of you better have brushed up on your descending skills--no opiates for you, Nairo! Stage 5: and oh yes, we are in the Basque country at last, home of the most perfect fans on the planet and another day to get the climbers just started in their groove. And yes, I already have my massive orange shrine in place.  Aupa Euskalteeeeeeeeeeeeeeel! Stage 6: Okay, *now* we're in the mountains, honey: it's two Cat 1s including a mountaintop finish that, while it won't decide the GC, certainly might show who's gonna be spit out of it. Stage 7: "medium mountains", in that it has a giant-!@# Cat 1 beast of the Puerto de San Glorio peaking about 65k from the finish then a mostly looooooooooong downhill to the finish, with a mean lumpy bit at 150-168k just to wreck your rhythm.  Cripes, *now* can we have a real rest day?

Week 2: Feeling relaxed, or you freaked out about that opiate you didn't know you took and that pesky finger stick from the narcs?  Anyway, Stage 8 in Asturias is *not* screwing around, with a five-pack of Cat 2s and 3s until you start pretty much climbing for good for the last 18k onto the spankin' new hence totally unpredictable in practice mountaintop finito on the Cat 1 Collao Fancuaya.  *Now* we're talking GC! Don't shake out those legs *too* much, though--Stage 8 is another rolling ripper with a finale up the (yep, you guessed it) Cat 1 to Nava with a complete b!@#$ of a 4k to shell out the more slow-'n'-steady types.  Wait, now it's rest day 2 *already*?  What is this heathen sneaky !@#$ ?, I'm a Tour de France guy for chrissakes!  Well, rest up or not, but Stage 10 is a 30k individual time trial flat enough to completely screw Mikel and any other pure climbers but which ought to leave the rest of the GC undisturbed. Oh, and crosswinds.  No fun!  Stage 11: Okay, sprinters, enjoy--191k of damn near nothin'!  Stage 12: Welcome to Malaga!  You got squat to do most of the day, GC, except freak out about the 20k finale up the Cat 1 Penas Blancas.   That oughta wake you up outta your stupor!  Stage 13: don't worry, despite its rolly profile, it's actually pretty damn flat, but it's gonna take some recovery by the really big boys not to bonk a bit before the final sprint.  We finish up the week with a pretty mellow Stage 14 with a Cat 3 hop about 90k out then (of course, which is why we love the Vuelta), yet another Cat 1 finale with a downhill/uphill final k.  Oh thank God--there's a rest day *3* this merciful Vuelta?

Week 3: all right, gloves off (or on, whichever you prefer) boys--if you haven't crashed out or completely cracked like a bad nut, this is when it all gets decided!  Stage 15 is a party for the pure climbers, with our first HC ("Holy Crap") finale of the race that's sure to show whose recent injuries or covid bouts have left them vulnerable.  Stage 16: one more for the sprinters.  All right, guys, you can all go crying home now without any (well, much) shame or regrets!  Stage 17: Break(away) time--just one Cat 2 at the final to separate the wheat from the chaff!  Stage 18: another quiet mountain day, with just one Cat 1 honker at 140-150k out, then a relatively gentle 5-6%, 10k climb to Alto de Piornal. Bonus: you pass a monastery halfway in, so if you're done with this masochistic cyclist !@#$ and decide you'd prefer a life of quiet contemplation, now's your chance!  Stage 19 is another one for the break, with 2 Cat 2s and a nice flat finish.  But it ain't over yet: for stage 20, it's Cat 1 Cat 2 Cat 2 Cat 1 Cat 1, with a just-slightly-enough-to-crush-you-spirituallly uphill final k to Navacerrada.  Jaysus, I'm gasping--can we call the podium now or what?  Last but not least, even the brutal Vuelta gives the riders a mercy flat celebration stage for Stage 21, though I don't know that sparkling wine's gonna pair well with all that Tylenol you're stuffed with.  But stagger on up, GC, and enjoy your podium celebration before your legs collapse!

Well, that's yer Vuelta.  Next up: the GC contenders!  

Thursday, August 04, 2022

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious Tours (!) de France racejunkie Awards!

 Yes folks, the Tour Hommes is rather long gone, but the Tour de France Femmes Avec Swift has just wrapped up, so, thanks to the women *finally* getting a real show after umpteen years (and the riders, staff, organizers, journos, and fans who made it possible by endlessly pressing UCI for the obvious), it's time for our inaugural Incredibly Prestigious Tours (!) de France racejunkie Awards! Prizes--I swear on #landismo, so you know this is no bull!@#$--for those so desperate for low-rent notoriety to claim 'em: (1) a genuine sports statuary thingy with your name and award either (a) elegantly engraved on it or (b) written in nearabout the nicest darn penmanship you've ever encountered outside a doctor's prescription pad; (2) a dashing, custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling (not baseball, you heathens!) cap; (3) a passel of handsome genuine racejunkie stickers to deface yer bike, yer helmet, or Pat Lefevere; and (4) eternal (because you know whatever dumb!@#ery you get up to now is sticking around in perpetuity) internet glory (or shame).  So what was the good, the bad, and (for sure) the unspeakably ugly of this year's Tours (!)?  Well pop open that champagne, try not to kill yerself with the cork, get ready with that brie and a hunk o' baguette, and let's look!

Total Best Moment in the Entire Planetary History of Cycling: you know it. You dreamt it.  And she's deserved it for at least the last 15 years.  Marianne Vos, indisputably the GOAT, in the maillot jaune.  Now figure out how to wind back time you blowhard physicists and let her fight for it every damn year!

Self-Own o' (Not Quite) the Race: no, he *wasn't* in the Tour, but we love him anyway, so he still wins.  Biniam Girmay's bitchin' new Angry Exploding Cork Cartoon helmet.  Glad to see that his vision's intact from his Giro d'Italia Champagne Fisticuffs, *and* his sense of humor!

!@#$ Crash o' the Tour (GC-deciding): Oh, dear Primoz Roglic.  Before your willing acolyte Vingegaard could even smack you around on the road for undisputed leadership at Team Jumbo-Visma, you got taken out when Caleb Ewan got taken out by, of all stupidities, an errant bale of hay knocked out into the course by a race vehicle, which an adjacent gendarme didn't even bother to kick back onto the sidewalk.  That just *sucks*--can we please find out who's responsible, and encourage them to issue Primoz a deeply heartfelt apology?

Corollary Screw You People, What Is the Big Damn Deal? Award: Stage 15.  Who doesn't take the start? Roglic.  Why?  No, *not* because he's being a whiny-!@# !@#$% over losing team leadership to Jonas Vingegaard, when you *just* watched him Jonas hauling relentlessly up the mountains for most of the last *two weeks* while he struggled through excruciating pain--it's because he was *struggling through excruciating pain*, you jackwagons, and he finally needed to *stop.*  If he'd wanted to hose Vinegaard, he could've dropped out the day after his crash.  Give the guy some credit for sportsmanship, and let him take his well-earned Tylenol in peace!

Fan !@#$wit Award: holy moly, I think this is maybe the single year since I've been doing this that no-one caused any kind of GC-determining catastrophe, unless you count the crashes caused by agricultural protestors literally gluing their !@#es to the tarmac in front of the riders, and the usual "Y'know what riders like to climb through? Smoke flares!" eejits. The flags stayed out of the wheels, the signs stayed sensibly held overhead, and the camera-seeking exhibitionists didn't unduly distract the talent.  All in all, well done, people!

Fan *Fun*wit Award: well, this is new this year—but I had to give props to the Tour de France Femmes Hopping Inflatable Chicken Guy, who livened up not only the race but apparently also snagged an empty podium shot (with him on it). Allez allez next year—we hope!

I'm Not Crying, *You're* Crying Result o' the Race: Hugo Houle, stage 15, Tour Hommes, holding off his rampaging compatriots to take a decisive victory, which he desperately wanted to get for, and tearfully dedicated to, his late brother.  Now hand me a hanky before I drool on my yellow t-shirt--or yours!

All I Want for Christmas Is...Prize: Simon freakin' Clarke, people.  At Christmas, this spectacularly underrated but always incredibly reliable rider was out of a contract, and unwillingly considering his next steps towards a post-peloton career.  And while his team might be mocked as the final resting place for talent towards, well, the twilight of their pro riding days, Clarke roundly proved he was no mere money-making nostalgia-name with a beautiful, nail-nipping, right on the line perfect bike throw victory on Stage 5.  Hot damn--call the police and the fireman!  

Well That Was 3,328 Kilometers of My Life I'm Never Gonna Get Back Prize: Caleb Ewan.  Just an amazing sprinter, with just some crap placement and maybe just a little missing mojo, on an unusually sprint-stingy Tour de France Hommes.  Still, he stuck it out over hill, dale, and Alpe, with his loyal teammates shepherding him in pretty darn comfortably ahead of the time limit no matter how punishing the day's terrain.  Can the race organizers give this guy a nice wheel of cheese or something for effort, at least? 

Raise the Red Lantern (Rouge) Prize: yeah, save your snark, you wusses, the last freakin' finisher in the Tour de France is *still* one of the most bad-!@# athletes on the planet and can *still* drop you like a stone before you even finish getting your chamois cream on.  Caleb Ewan and Lone Meertens, take a bow—and a nap!

Tiiii-iiiiime Is On My Side (Yes It Is) Award: Look, we don't expect much of sprinters in the high passes, and even stage winner Fabio Jakobsen is no exception.  But making the time cut on Stage 17 by *15 seconds*?  *That* is cutting it close.  Nice save--and I trust your teammates all got a round of beers from you that night!

Breakout Star of the Tour(s)!: Not familiar with SD Worx's Marlen Ruesser, despite her Olympic silver in the time trial?  Well I'm ashamed to say I wasn't, because she smashed Stage 4 by over a minute and a half over her nearest (or more accurately, farthest) competitor. Way to stamp it on the newly most prestigious race in women's cycling--and we'll be looking for more next year! 

!@#$ Crash o' the Tour (Jaysus H. Christ You're Supposed to Be on My Side!) sure, the men had a coupla problems with one moto causing one guy to crash and the succeeding moto and team car pinching the next guy in and making *him* crash, but let's be honest, that's par for the course these days. What's *particularly* *not* supposed to happen is yer own team car running up yer !@# and knocking you over. UAE—Mavi Garcia’s supposed to ride ahead of you, not be pushed ahead *by* you!

Total Sexist Bull!@#$ o' the Race (Commentator Edition): Orla Chennaoui, or specifically, her !@#$wit troglodyte detractors, who somehow couldn't get over the fact that she wore, y'know, *clothes*, that apparently deviated just a little too much from the Official Commentator Bro Uniform of Short-Sleeve Button-Down with Slightly Wacky Pattern, Skinny Jeans, and Fashion Kicks, and accordingly, were incapable of paying attention to a !@#damn thing she said for three weeks in their outrage over something totally irrelevant.  Look, I don't give a crap if Robbie McEwen is up there in the GCN box wearing pasties and a G-string, I want to know what he thinks about the *race*.  Fly your freak flag, people, but for heck's sake fans, keep your eyes on the prize here!

Total Sexist Bull!@#$ o' the Race (Peloton Edition): oh my gerd, for the first time in the entire history of cycling on Earth, a buncha riders went down in a pile.  But it's the Tour de France Femmes Avec Swift, so of course, some asshat posted a pic with an apparent caption slagging how those wacky women drivers just can't even ride a bike without coming down.  Now, I don't read French, but I *do* read "Jackass", and by that guy's standards, the !@#$ing whole men's peloton shouldn't even be allowed to navigate a shopping cart in a supermarket, much less a bicycle at 50 kph an eyelash-width's away from other people.  Oh, and I'm pretty sure Van Vleuten could hunt you down within a millimeter like a starving raptor from 100k out going blindfolded over pave.  Jerk!

Domestique o' the Tour(s)!: It's not often that a, what, three time? stage winner grabs this one, but damn, Wout van Aert can do it all.  When anyone else would be crying on the massage table and begging his team doc for some fake stomach-ailment diagnosis, Wout not only broke free on most every stage and bagged a pile of them, but, sensing blood in the water like Jaws on swimmer, he absolutely broke any last resistance left in the legs of defending champion Tadej Pogacar to ensure his teammate Jonas Vingegaard the stage, *and* the overall win in Paris.  You could do worse for a worker bee, amiright?

Drama From Another Mama Award: okay, I'm personally much more interested in the occasional St. Bernard or livestock that they hand up to the riders, but in the broader scheme of adorable podium shots with adorable spawn in adorable tiny team kit, it *was* heck funny that Lorena Weibes hoisted someone else's baby entirely up there for the inaugural maillot jaune of the Tour.  Still prefer baby goats though!

And Last But Never Least, Punk-!@# Move o' the Race: Usually, this goes to an actual rider-on-rider deliberate cutoff or post-stage minor slapfest, but this year, it's different.  Y'know, there were about 7 Americans in the Tour de France Hommes this year, several of whom rode incredibly strongly but only one of whom was paraded all over NBC in a grotesque, fawning, context-less lovefest, Twitter racist ignoramus Quinn Simmons.  Yap, his team made him apologize, yap, he's surely since grown as a person, yap--you coulda been singing the praises of, say, Neilson Powless, who rode at least as strongly, for three weeks.  Hang your head in shame, NBC--and try a better pick next year!

All right folks, there's absolutely more I could cover, but frankly, I've wasted your time this long.  Congrats to the winners, consolation to the losers, and now, it's time for the Vuelta--aupa Mikeeeeeeeeeeeel!

Thursday, June 30, 2022

It's Yer Tour de France in Preview: Part The Only One You're Gonna Get!

 All right, between work, women being reduced to livestock in my country, Covid-cautious family visits, and general tomfoolery, I'll admit, it's been a bit of a week.  But after like 15 years of Grand Tour previews, I would be grievously failing both my loyal readers if I didn't at least mega-halfassedly pay homage to that gloriously tacky Show of Shows, the Tour de France.  And mercifully for you, this means you get a major edit on my usual blathering posts about (1) the Course; (2) the GC Contenders; and (3) the 'Nother Guys.  So what've we got, this lively Tour edition? This!

1. UCI's new Covid protocol.  Near as I can tell, it means "you really should get out if you're Covid-positive, but we'll leave some wiggle room so any pestilence-ridden GC contenders can weasel up an excuse to stay in and infect the rest of the peloton, race organizers, staff, and occasional fan who runs too close too long, but the rest of you plebes, you're !@#$ed."  As a result, the last 72 hours have been a mad scramble of rider regret-Tweets, last-minute flights, and special Tour team-kit sewing jobs.  How the hell are you clowns gonna enforce this fairly?   

2. The Bahrain-Merida hotel raids.  FFS. Look at how many records are falling like dominoes the past couple years, and that's *with* all the supply-chain interruption bull!@#$. Bahrain-Victorious is the *least* of the peloton's problems right now, so what the hell?  And yes, I'm biased because of Mikel, who is innocent, you faithless freaks.  Pro tip: lawyer up anyway!

3. The mountains.  I'm sure they're great, though the Giro and Vuelta's are better.  What's *really* gonna be interesting is if Rogla cracks and a certain jailbait superdomestique unilaterally decides to change the team leadership.  No more Mister Nice Guy--Movistar, this could make you all look like amateurs! 

4. The Team Kit Controversies.  Okay, so some look like an acid trip, some look like someone hurled after an acid trip, some are dull as hell, some have a rather lovely twilight (evening, not vampire) vibe, and some, for entirely mysterious reasons, incorporate anime dinosaurs.  *Now* how are we gonna recognize anybody the first week?

5. Putting Cav's giant green-jersey arms-raised-in-triumph photograph behind the Tour team he'd been embarrassingly excluded from is just next-level trolling.  Whoever got paid whatever to sneak that slide in--they oughta double it!

6. Speaking of whom, I'm betting the chances that Pat Lefevere slags Cav to the press without him even being in the race as approximately 100% the first full day, plus 10% more each day thereafter.  Your odds?

7. We all want to see Tibo win a stage.  Maybe they'll let him bring a coupla his baby goats up on the podium!

8. Alaphilippe out just plain sucks.  Glad he's resting up and not ruining the rest of his season aggravating his injuries, though!

9. Simon Clarke for a stage win.  Hope I haven't just cursed 'im.

10. Chris Froome for the--nah, even I won't pile on a guy that low down.  I'll wait til he finally gets popped for a career of donkey-to-racehorse performances instead.

11. Euskaltel.  !@#dammit race organizers, fix this !@#$ in 2023.  Frankly, it's not like a French squad's gonna pick up the slack!

12. Race motos--you've been on quite a rampage lately with these fragile rider bodies.  Back the !@#$ off!

Welp, there's your preview in brief.  Hope everyone stays happy, healthy enough to satisfy the race organizers, and safe! 

Thursday, June 02, 2022

It's Yer Incredibly Prestigious 2022 Giro d'Italia racejunkie Awards!

Yes, another hot-pink extravaganza has wrapped, and let's be frank--it was a bit of a weird one, amirite?  But it's still the fabulous Giro d'Italia, it *was* still a three-week festa of travel porn, grinta, and the occasional act of derring-do, and darn it, there's lots to celebrate!  Ergo, it's time for Yer annual Incredibly Prestigious Giro d'Italia racejunkie Awards!  Prizes--I swear on Mikel Landa, so you *know* there's no bull!@#$ing you here--for anyone so desperate, ecstatic, or hung-over from post-race partying as to claim 'em: (1) a dashing custom-embroidered racejunkie cycling cap to impress yer pals and cover up that godawful helmet hair; (2) a passel of handsome racejunkie stickers to deface yer bike, yer helmet, or yer ungrateful smack-talking DS's face; and (3) a genuine sports-related trophy from my local tchotchke shop, either custom-engraved with yer name and award, or with same written on it in permanent Sharpie with darn near the best penmanship you'll ever find outside maybe one of those terrifying parochial-school classrooms where the teacher whacks the crap outta yer knuckles with a ruler for your transgressions til you can barely even hold a pen.  Oh right, and eternal internet glory, and, if you've *really* got nothing else positive going on in yer life, bragging rights.  So what's the good, the bad, and just plain embarrassing of this year's Giro d'Italia?  Well slap on yer most stylin' pink partywear, try not to kill yerself uncorking the Prosecco, and let's find out!

Monty Python French Castle Guard Mockery Award: look, Richard Carapaz, besides being a Movistar backstabber *and* an all-time champion wheelsucker, is also a highly dependable, if accordingly disreputable, sandbagging punk.  And who wasn't having it on stage 17, after a long, hard slog to Lavarone?  *That's* right, perpetual peloton nice-guy we love Mikel Landa, who in response to Carapaz' latest horse-hockey body-rocking pain face, and totally coincidental refusal to work to protect his own damn maglia rosa, ostentatiously pulled off and played like a delicate steel-corseted Victorian lady in imminent need of smelling salts to prevent her fragile self from fainting dead away on the tarmac.  Elbow flicks are for weenies--you *go*, Mikel!

Punk-!@# Move o' the Race: in a related award, while this is typically captured for a single grand gesture of d*****baggery, this one goes to near-winner Richard Carapaz of the already odious Ineos squad for clinging to every other teams' wheel, avoiding every obligation to work when his own boys finally dropped off the map, and helpfully allowing the other GC riders to superdomestique him until he was the only one left with energy to come around and attack. "Conserving energy" and "tactical prudence" my !@#--ride like a tick, get plucked off like a tick, you punk!

What the Absolute !@#$ ? Result o' the Race: Yeah, you know who it is, and no, despite like one clairvoyant cycling journalist's Nostradamusly obscure and accurate pick, neither you nor I saw this coming.  Jai Hindley in the final maglia rosa.  What, like this award isn't as cool as the Trofeo Senza Fine?

Gut-Wrenching Retirement o' the Race (Freakish): so you thought it was a one-off when van der Poel harmlessly whacked himself popping a Prosecco cork right after his Stage 1 victory?  Hell to the no, as revelation of the season and future Winner of All Races In the Universe Biniam Girmay damn near took his own eye out with a flying celebratory bubbly cork after his thrilling Stage 10 win and, while mercifully his eye'll be fine in the long run, still hadda drop out of the race right on the heels of his own personal glory.  That didn't stop him from patching up and heading right back to the hotel to thank and celebrate with his teammates, though--class, kid!

Gut-Wrenching Retirement o' the Race (GC-Impacting): sure, maybe in reality there was a 90% chance Romain Bardet was gonna crack in Yatesian proportions anyway, but my, it certainly didn't look that way til, well, Liquigas took him outta the Giro on Stage 9.  Aw, rats--he really looked like a rare French final podium hope for a few days there! 

Gut-Wrenching Retirement o' the Race (Sentimental Favorite): look, after his visible shock and disappointment with his nonetheless-very-fine third place in the inaugural time trial, it was perhaps inevitable that Tom Dumoulin wasn't gonna make it through to Verona.  But he darn well did his best, and though I maintain he is one phenomenally unlikely high-mountains champion, he *did* still come back bravely from his temporary hiatus, and I hope he's not so psyched out he doesn't at least finish up the year.  Valiant effort, Tom!

Things That Make You Go "Hmmmmm....." Award: okay, I don't know much about numbers, but what I *do* know is that an awful lotta people who do were seriously shocked by what heretofore-talented-but-not-rocket-fueled Jai Hindley was putting out when he finally cracked Richard Carapaz like a walnut and absolutely obliterated previous records set on the fearsome Fedaia on Stage 20.  Not that I wasn't delighted about it--but geez, it's amazing how much of a difference fluffy new pillows and carefully calibrated sock heights can make these days!

Weird-!@# Meme o' the Giro: look, we're all accustomed to wisenheimers in syringe suits or butt-flashing exhibitionists in Speedos running alongside the riders either taunting or encouraging them.  Hell, even the constant waving of one's own flag into the face of a passing rider who isn't even from there don't raise an eyebrow.  But this !@#$ with people dressed up in chef's outfits and fist-pumping pineapples right at riders who weren't even involved in the whole bizarre van der Poel pineapple-pizza abomination?  That's a whole new level of odd.  Next year, can we tifosi all agree we're gonna *honor* a local Italian dish, not make a hideous mockery of one?

Corollary Abomination Against God Award: yep, pineapple pizza. I mean, that $%^&'s barely tolerable in the culinarily classless United States.  Aren't you guys just supposed to be carbo-loading, anyway?

Shark Week (Three Weeks, Whatever) Prize: he's won the Giro d'Italia twice, bagged countless stages, and made some of the toughest men in cycling flat-out wet themselves on his flying descents.  Vincenzo Nibali, despite a few cracks in the armor, you honored your final (waaaaaaah!) Giro, in your hometown and everywhere else you went, with every single pedal stroke.  Addio, lo Squalo, we'll miss you next year!

Fan !@#$wit Award: Miraculously, no dumb#$% with an errant child, wandering dog, protruding selfie stick, or massive highway billboard managed to take out anyone in the peloton this year.  But for sheer "Oh !@#!-ness", not to mention chutzpah, this year's award goes to the gentleman who *actually joined the race on his bike alongside the riders* on the decisive stage 20. Can you imagine the bloody carnage, and history-making total disaster, if this uncontrolled eejit had touched wheels with someone on GC.  Yeah, we all wanna win on the Fedaia--keep your wannabe fantasies in your head, and off the damn road while the big boys are riding, you clown!

Social Media Star o' the Race: now, normally this'd go to some bored superdomestique looking to release the tension with some daily Twitter wiseassery, but this year, the Giro d'Italia itself just nailed the prize.  From amusing photo captions to direct engagement with swooning fans to actually offering to eat a "pizza" disaster after Van der Poel single-handedly horridly disgraced hundreds of years of Italian culinary tradition, the race organizers stepped out of the pedestrian swamp of overwhelming if necessary details that go into such a massive production, and had a little fun to boot.  Way to go Giro!

What the Stupid Sexist !@#$ Was This? Prize: look, you can like or dislike the various' feeds' commentary, and let's be real, there's lots of compliments and justifiable approbation to go along on both sides.  And certainly, personal presentation is understandably part of the show.  But while the occasional Twitter wag tried to suss out a source for Robbie McEwen's t-shirt or questioned Brad Wiggins' swinging sartorial cred, none of this remotely approached the constant crap Orla Chennaoui got for what she was or wasn't wearing *every* *single* *day*.  Do you !@#$wits even *hear* what she's saying about the race while you're obsessing over ruffles or shorts length?  No?  Then shut yer damn outraged eyes, you pigs! 

Last But Not Least, the Movistar Memorial Impenetrable Team Tactics Award: look, you can't really fault Bahrain Victorious *too* much, in a way: even after losing Tratnik's phenomenal engine just a coupla stages in, they got some impressive stage wins from unexpected quarters, only let Mikel hit the deck once, *and* got we love Landa on the final podium by an extremely satisfactory margin.  But what boggled my !@#$in' mind *every* *day* was how, even after Carapaz' robotic Ineos squad finally burned out their circuits and, worse, lost Richie Porte to illness when Carapaz needed him most, Bahrain relentlessly set the pace for Carapaz up every crucial race-deciding climb and cocooned him like a robin's egg so the little rugrat could conserve his energy to drop Mikel in the last few hundred meters of *every* !@#damn finish.  You guys maybe wanna hit up Ineos for the money they owe you for working for them so beautifully?  Jaysus!

Well, that's yer Giro d'Italia 2022.  So claim yer prizes, slink home in ignominy, and remember, only 11 1/2 months left til Giro 2023!  

Monday, May 16, 2022

It's Yer Giro d'Italia Rest Day Due Roundup!

 Okay, it's still a little weird that it's actually the second rest day already after just Stage 9, but Giro's gotta make money having other countries host the gig no matter how inconvenient for the riders, so here we are.  So what did we learn this fateful first week, (both) my faithful readers?  Let's review!

1. You did *not* see Yates winning that opening time trial.  I mean, you thought he'd do well, but be honest--not that well!

2. You did *so* see Yates cracking.  Not because of his knee, though that is what happened this time--but like clockwork, he'll do it at least once every Grand Tour anyway.  Heal up soon--and props to him for being determined to at least start tomorrow to honor the race!

3. Tom Dumoulin.  Frankly, I still don't see how a guy with his build can possibly ever have won a race as cruelly (and beautifully) mountainous as the Giro.  And seeing him just gutted after his time trial third place--which for almost anyone else would be a career highlight--really sucked.  But the way he worked like a dog then celebrated wholeheartedly for his young teammate and virgin Grand Tour stage-winner teammate Koen Bouwman was genuinely a thing of generosity.  You could do worse than the proud owner of the Trofeo Senza Fine for a worker bee, buddy!

4. Thomas De Gendt.  Like you weren't screaming your damn head off willing him to take that stage?  Own it, Pinocchio, you were so either!

5. Biniam Grmay.  Okay, he dithered around with van der Poel when he could've bridged up to the break just before the line, and misjudged a coupla sprints.  He *just* won Ghent-Wevelgem for !@#&'s sake--can we give him 10 minutes to get adjusted to the Giro before we vilify the poor kid when we all *know* it's just a matter of time?  Jaysus!

6.  Juanpe Lopez.  Dang, calling nature breaks for the entire peloton already? That kid's learned to wield the power of the maglia rosa pretty quick!  

7. Don't even say it.  Don't even say it.  I don't want to curse him. Mikel cra--entirely voluntarily chose to caress the glass-smooth surface of the brand-new tarmac *twice* yesterday.  Plus, he sorta owned up to being mildly dented, which stands to reason when you hurtle at said tarmac at like 70 kph.  Tratnik's out. Pello's scraped up pretty good. But Mikel *did* stick with Hindley Bardet and Carapaz the whole way up--and even attacked, woot!--the Blockhaus climb nonetheless.  Mikel, heal up fast--we believe!  And Bahrain, get your !@#$ back together and protect this boy.  Landismoooooooooooooooooo!

8. Y'know, I really like and admire Richie Porte.  But watching Carapaz's relentless blue train crushing the rest of the GC as their own high-quality helpers dropped off in exhaustion gave me instinctively creepy Discovery-Postal throwback vibes.  Plus, they're working for Carapaz, who is the nails-on-the-blackboard, hovering-mosquito, punk-!@# Landa backstabber in my ear.  Argh!

9. I am still trying to get my head around the dance portion of the Giro opening ceremony, though as i adore the Giro without reservation and in every way possible, it's clearly my fault for being a low-rent, cultureless American clod.  But--ah, forget it, it's clearly my fault!

10. Cav is !@#$ed without Morkov, which means he'll prove me wrong, take all the remaining sprint stages, and wear the points jersey on the final podium in Verona. Oh well Caleb--if you can avoid being spit out the back tomorrow, there's theoretically a chance the break'll choke and you'll come back and take your win!

11. Bauke Mollema.  You've still got plenty of time.  But we're waiting!

All right, that's the first week down.  Next up--well, it basically only *does* go up from here.  Aupa Mikeeeeeeeeeel!