Giro d’Italia 2016 – week three

The Giro is over for another year and I’m feeling quite sad about it. I really, desperately wanted Esteban Chaves to win. He was one of my ‘Ones to watch’ at the start and unlike Tom Dumoulin (remember him?) and Ryder Hesjedal (nope) he was still in there at the end. I had brief hopes that he would win the Maglia Rosa, but it was not to be. Vincenzo Nibali had a very bad day on Thursday and it looked like all was lost, but he rose again over the last couple of days and entered today’s processional final stage as the winner. Nibali won the Giro for the head, but Chaves has emerged as the winner for those who love heart. The images of Chaves’ parents congratulating Nibali after yesterday’s stage spoke volumes about their family ethos and explained so much about their son. When Rigoberto Uran, riding for Cannondale, crashed today, Chaves was there to help his compatriot up. Chaves always thanks his Orica team-mates for their help. They in turn look genuinely happy to be working for him.

I’m an unashamed fan of Geraint Thomas. When the rumours started swirling that a British rider had failed a doping test last month, before it was confirmed that Simon Yates, a number of people on social media were concerned that it might be Thomas and seemed to be genuinely upset at the thought that he might be one of the bad ones.  I felt extremely unsettled. I believe that Thomas is clean and he’d be one of the very few that I would feel personally let down by if it emerged that he was anything else. I feel the same way about Esteban Chaves. I think he’s terrific and would love to see him win a Grand Tour one day. His day will surely come.

Of my other ones to watch, Adam Hansen finished his fourteenth Grand Tour in a row and will surely have his sights on the Tour. Joe Dombrowski came of age, appearing in many of the right moves in the last week and coming very close to a stage win. His fury at being called back by Cannondale to help Uran indicated that he believed he was capable of so much more. We believe it, too. Ian Boswell did stirlimg domestique work for Team Sky, helping Mikel Nieve to win the overall King of the Mountains classification. Sky will regard this as a good return, bearing in mind that they lost their team leader to illness very early on.

Every year the Giro intensifies my love affair with Italy and refuels my desire to go back there one day. I very much hope that at some point in the future I’ll be standing on the Dolomites roaring Geraint Thomas or Esteban Chaves on their way to overall victory. The Tour might be The Tour, but after this Giro it has an awful lot to live up to.

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Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 15

If yesterday’s stage was the grand tour equivalent of Christmas Day, today’s time trial was always going to feel a bit like Boxing Day. Fortunately everyone has a rest day tomorrow to recover. Normally I’m a big fan of time trials but I wasn’t really feeling it today. This time next week the Giro will be over for this year. The start in the Netherlands happened an ice age ago, or that’s how it seems.

For now. Rest. Sleep. Choose life. Catch up with One Born Every Minute. Watch the last stage of the Tour of California. Back to it on Tuesday for the final push.

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Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 14

If a well-known maker of (shit) lager made grand tour stages….Honestly. It could not have gone better for me today bearing in mind all of my inexplicable biases.

  1. Esteban Chaves won the stage (LOOK AT HIS LITTLE FACE!)
  2. Alejandro Valverde lost a bundle of time on his GC rivals (shaaaaaame)
  3. Vincenzo Nibali moved up to second on GC (meh), so he’s clearly managing to keep his (ahem) libido in check
  4. The Dolomites (tee-hee) looked bloody stunning (on the bucket list)

Darwin Atapuma rode the stage like he was attempting to tame a tiger – completely fearlessly and with great panache. On any other day I would have been willing him to win but I think Chaves is brilliant. During his interview afterwards Chaves thanked everyone at Orica-Greenedge for what they had done – the team must absolutely adore him.

Steven Kruijswijk (he of the insanely wide shoulders) moved into the Maglia Rosa, well-deserved after a week of placing well without reaping the big rewards.

Tomorrow brings another individual time trial (woohoo!), this time completely uphill (yayass). For now though: ESTEBAN!

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Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 13

Finally! After two weeks of messing about with sprint stages and time trials, the Giro organisers jacked the road up and sent the riders up some proper mountains. Not the Dolomites. Not yet. The roads definitely went uphill today in quite a serious manner though.

The peloton was BLOWN TO PIECES (Millar!) early on and we were treated to extended footage of spectators in ill-advised costumes chasing cyclists up steep climbs. Joe Dombrowski was given carte blanche by Cannondale to go up the road and fight for the stage win. For a little while we watched his beanpole frame tower over the comparatively diminutive Mikel Nieve. The height disparities between cyclists never fails to childishly amuse me. Nieve is one of Sky’s ‘Embarrassment of riches’ riders. In any other team he’d be given more chances but he’s such a brilliant little mountain goat that he’s become the ultimate domestique (Side note: if I ever become a superstar DJ my name will be Superdomestique. All one word.)

Vincenzo Nibali continues to be there or there abouts, circling like a….you get the idea. I simply cannot take him seriously any more thanks to Daniel Friebe’s nightly readings from Nibali’s autobiography on The Cycling Podcast. The snippets have been chosen to emphasise the worst, most lavicious bits of course, but he comes across as a man who uses his (ahem) libido as a spiritual guide. Nibali that is. Not Friebe. I have no idea about his libido.

I’m really please to see Team Sky giving it a proper go and chasing stage wins. I tend to get a bit frustrated with Sky when their Plan A doesn’t work out, the computer says no, the numbers can’t be crunched and they don’t appear to have an alternative strategy. I have noticed a certain loosening up of their self-imposed constraints this year, which is pleasing. Of course, losing Landa has rather forced their hand but it does Sky no harm to loosen the shackles of their worker bees from time to time. Nieve’s stage win today is evidence of that.

Andrey Amador (Movistar) moved into the Maglia Rosa, the first rider (ever?) from Costa Rica to do so. I hope Valverde is grumbling like Muttley (vasher-smashed-vas her) in a hotel room at the foot of the Dolomites this evening as a result.

Tomorrow the race moves to the Dolomites properly and I finally get to write DOL-O-MI-TEE-HEE. Hurrah!

Wtw has been a gif-free zone for a couple of days (it’s hard to top crying Dawson) but as I’m about to watch the Tour of California, appropos of nothing, here’s Seth Cohen from The OC!

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Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 12

So, there wasn’t an entry for Stage 12 originally because it was a sprint stage and there were virtually no sprinters left and Andre Greipel won it and went home so that’s it really.

The only thing of any real note was Rob Hatch getting fantastically cross on Eurosport. Every day the host broadcaster breaks off from showing the stage live to cut away to the finish line, where four women saunter towards the camera, pouting, each wearing a different race jersey. Naturally they are all slim and pretty with long swishy hair. At best it feels anachronistic and, frankly, it’s just a bit weird. It’s the kind of thing that was last seen as acceptable back in 1997 when Loaded and FHM Magazine were required reading for, well, pretty much everyone.

Anyway, twelve days of this nonsense was clearly too much for Hatch, who sighed audibly and apologised profusely to the viewers for what they were seeing. His frustration was obvious and understandable. He is paid to commentate on the unfolding race, not on women who are at the race at the behest of the organisers purely to give horny cycling fans watching Eurosport in their underpants something to put ‘in the bank’. So I’m applauding Hatch for highlighting the oddity and unleashing his inner feminist.

While I’m on the subject, podium girls. Cycling is not the only sport that has them – see also Motorsport but I’m not sure that makes it any better. If they have to exist (where did the tradition start? Were they originally an offering to the victor?) there needs to be some parity. Next time Lizzie Armitstead wins a race I’d like to see her kissed on the podium by two incredibly buff topless men wearing Calvin Kleins. At the final stage of the Tour de Yorkshire, the podium ‘girls’ were ladies of middling age, wearing nice trouser suits and sporting sensible hair. At least they tried to mix it up a bit.

Also, who’s to say that all of the male cyclists enjoy being kissed by women? (I’m sure they get so used to it over the years that it becomes as routine as stopping their Garmin they cross the finishing line, but still.) It’s a fair bet that in any given peloton there will be a proportion of riders that would rather be congratulated by a bloke who looks like Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston rather than a woman who looks like  Jennifer Lawrence or Scarlett Johansson. It’s just basic statistics.

This is the trouble with sprint stages in grand tours. They give you space to get cross about stuff. On to Stage 13 and the mountains!

 

 

 

Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 11

Put Careless Whisper on the turntable. Play Back for Good on repeat. Lovely Tom Dumoulin has left the Giro, taking his saddle sores with him. What a difference a week makes. Last Wednesday Dumoulin and Kittel were still in the race and I was all joy and Top Gun Gifs. Now I feel like Dawson (from the Creek, obvs.)

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As we’re now half-way through the Giro, let’s see what’s happened to the riders I said I would watch out for at the start of the race:

  1. Adam Hansen – there’s been a serious lack of visible Hansen in this Giro. I’m hoping that changes in the next few days.
  2. Esteban Chaves – currently 8th overall, nearly 3 minutes behind Bob Jungels. Looking forward to seeing how he goes in the mountains
  3. Ian Boswell – doing well in domestique hell
  4. Joe Dombrowski – doing well in domestique hell
  5. Ryder Hesjedal – currently 13th, nearly 4 minutes down. Hoping he goes hunting for stage wins in the last week of the Giro. Looked feisty today which bodes well.
  6. Tom Dumoulin – retired, injured *wails*

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Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 10

Lovely Tom Dumoulin has got a sore botty. He certainly looked very uncomfortable on the bike during today’s stage. It’s been a few years since I last treated nappy rash but I recommend some Sudocrem on the less sore bits and Metanium on the really red parts (I was going to write this as a joke and it turns out that nappy rash creams are actually recommended as a way of helping to treat the early onset of saddle sores.) They’re certainly more wholesome remedies than the testosterone cream that He Who Shall Not Be Named was getting retroactive prescriptions for in The Bad Old Days.

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Team Sky’s poor run at the Giro continues. They must have done a deal with the TdF god (Prudhomme) at some stage, in which they clearly agreed that they would sacrifice their chances in May for glory in July. I don’t think that Landa ever looked like he could challenge Nibali, <grits teeth> Valverde <ungrits teeth>, Amador and the rest. Giulio (not related to Madonna) Ciccone won today’s stage and Bob Jungels from Etixx has moved into the Maglia Rosa. I’m going to predict that Nibali will win the Giro this year, but will never live down the embarrassment of having snippets of his autobiography read out each evening on The Cycling Podcast.

Other news away from the Giro: in the least surprising transfer news since Mark Cavendish joined Dimension Data, Owain Doull has signed for Sky and is due to join them after the Olympics. It’s too early for transfer speculation but my first thought after hearing this news was BUT WHAT ABOUT TAO? Tao Geoghegan Hart was a stagiere for Sky towards the end of 2015 and is riding for Axeon this year. I wonder if long-term a team like Cannondale might be a better fit for him ethos and personality-wise but Sky are difficult to turn down if they come after you.

Jess Varnish is contesting the decision to remove her from the British Cycling setup and has vowed to fight for her place in the Rio track team. BC can’t have ever thought that she would go quietly and now it’s a big old mess of a situation. I’m torn on this. Her performance record is good, and difficult to argue against. However, as a big fan of Becky James I wouldn’t want her place in the team to be in jeopardy.

Luckily I don’t have to decide on any of this stuff – I can just comment from my sofa.

Back to the Giro. Tomorrow’s stage is a flat-line for the first 200-ish km and then a bit uppy-downy-wavy at the end. It looks like it could be a fight between the puncheurs and the sprinters. As there are literally two sprinters left in the race, goodness only knows what’s going to happen.

Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 9

I think today proves, if proof were needed, that when it comes to cycling predictions I need to go home and rethink my life. Yesterday/this morning post-Eurovision I suggested that Dumoulin was saving himself for the ITT today by way of explanation for the wheels falling off his Giro yesterday. Of course, I did not factor in the weather effect. It rained cats, dogs and locusts on most of the riders, which had a huge impact on the times posted.

Bad news. Lovely Tom Dumoulin tiptoed around today’s course like a giraffe on ice, in complete contrast to his efforts last weekend. Marcel Kittel didn’t even start today’s stage, stayed dry (one can only imagine the horrors that ensue when his hair is exposed to precipitation) and took his magnificent barnet home to Germany to recover and re-bouff before the TdF, presumably. This means that I’ll have 94% less reason to post Top Gun Gifs *sobs*. He seemed so sad in his post-race interview. I just wanted to go and give him a hug.

Unrelated side note: Jakob Fuglsang looks like the love child of Brian O’Driscoll and Mark Durden-Smith. That’s unexpected.

My reflex action when I see Alejandro Valverde is to do a full-on sucky lemon cats bum face, usually followed by an audible tut. I just…..I just can’t. As soon as I hear that someone has what I shall politely refer to as ‘A Past’, I simply cannot bring myself to be warm to them (yet I like Ryder Hesjedal which I suppose makes me a massive hypocrite), particularly if they are unrepentant, or unwilling to admit that they did anything wrong.

Poor Ilnur Zakarin. He had what can only be politely be described as ‘A total mare’ including multiple bike changes, at least two falls and a very holey skinsuit by the time he got to the end. He was a one man Wacky Races.

Primoz Roglic won the stage and teeny tiny Gianluca Brambilla retained the Maglia Rosa and takes it into the rest day. The race resumes on Tuesday and mountains are promised.

Now for the (Amgen) Tour of California. SAGAN!

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Giro d’Italia 2016 -Stage 8

Distractions. Everything stops for Eurovision. I saw the last 50km of yesterday’s stage live (well, on my iPad, in the kitchen, helping the children to make cake pops) so I know that Gianluca Brambilla from Etixx won and took the Maglia Rosa from Tom Dumoulin.

There was A LOT of bellowing on the commentary about Dumoulin blowing up, losing it, fading. I wonder if, when it became apparent that he couldn’t keep the pink jersey without expending considerable effort, he decided to save himself for today’s individual time trial. We’ll find out later this afternoon.

More distractions. Tonight (in the UK), the Tour of California starts. When I looked at the Giro start list I struggled to find a handful of riders to take an interest in. I have no such problems with the ToC: Phinney, Wiggins, Geoghegan Hart, Cavendish, Brammeier, Eisel, Coquard, Boonen, Degenkolb, Kennaugh, Peters, Tennant, Dibben, Doull, Blythe, Sagan. Sagan! He’s a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, but he’s always entertaining. The ToC stages can be a bit variable – watching a bunch of cyclists trundle along a massive freeway for several hours at a time gets a bit dull – but the mountain stages and time trial more than make up for it.

Back to the Giro, I’m looking forward to the ITT although I won’t be able to watch it live. I’ll catch up this evening.

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Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 7

Marcel Kittel did not win on International Top Gun Day. Instead, Andre Greipel won his second stage in three days and Lotto Jumbo’s third consecutive stage this week. Last night The Cycling Podcast mentioned yesterday that last year they had written Greipel off as a fading force. In my Friday afternoon haze, after Greipel crossed the line, I casually tweeted CP to remind them, only I said ‘Spent force’, not ‘Fading force’. It’s semantics really as both phrases mean essentially the same thing, but anyway…

I’m really quite relaxed about getting things wrong. Even really really small things.

Anyway. Lovely Tom Dumoulin is still leading the GC and he wants to keep hold of the pink jersey as much as I want to crack 4:30 for a marathon i.e. he’d actually kill to be wearing it this time next week, despite what he says about just being there for the time trials.

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Tom Dumoulin is breezy like Monica about the whole GC thing. 

Tomorrow’s stage is politely described as ‘a bit hilly’. A bit…uppy downy with an uppy at the end.

I can’t finish this post, on today of all days, without a Top Gun gif so here’s Slider playing volleyball topless for no apparent reason at all.

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