TdF 2016 -Stage 5

Two things:

1. Team Sky are definitely making an effort to come across as more ‘human’ during this Tour. The little videos on the bus (Wout!), Nico Portal (fresh off the set of Peaky Blinders) doing little previews and reviews of each stage, and Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas wishing the Welsh football team luck for their semi-final game in the Euros. I don’t think we’ll be seeing Chris Froome doing a karaoke version of The Final Countdown any time soon, but it’s an improvement on the whole Men in Black automaton schtick.

2. The use of the word ‘final’ as an abbreviation of the word ‘finale’, or as shorthand for ‘final moments/kilometre(s)/end/closing stages’. Is that a cycling thing or is it just a lazy habit that commentators and journalists have got into? It sounds wrong to me, like using the word ‘medal’ as a verb e.g. “It’s the first time Great Britain have medalled at that event”. Goodness knows. I’m still struggling with the word ‘Bonifications’ which is used as a substitute for ‘time bonuses’ though.

Here’s Nico Portal/Tommy Shelby preparing to deliver a hot take on Sky’s chances on tomorrow’s stage:

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TdF 2016 – Stage 3

The whole Mark Cavendish being back to his brilliant best thing is really messing with my fantasy team. I mean, it’s brilliant and all but I’m now kicking myself for choosing Marcel Kittel for my fantasy team, who was NOWHERE today. Marcel, darling, you may have magnificent hair, but you and I are going to fall out soon if you don’t start contesting the sprints a bit more convincingly.

Peter Sagan in the yellow jersey was everything you’d want it to be. He spent a lot of time at the front of the peloton today chatting to anyone and everyone and clearly having a lovely time. He also chose the correct attire and wore black shorts with the yellow jersey. I can’t bear the yellow shorts (socks, helmet, socks, sunglasses) thing. It’s just WRONG and makes them look like Bananas in Pyjamas. Not a good look.

*sigh* it wasn’t the most interesting day, unless you like playing ‘Spot the cyclist stopping for a wee at the side of the road’ for two hours. Lovely Tom Dumoulin even did an exaggerated yawn at the camera at one point. Velon should have played the Magic Roundabout theme tune over the Velon GoPro footage of today’s stage. I wouldn’t have been remotely surprised if Sagan had produced his etchings and passed them around the peloton.

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Mark Cavendish will be wearing the Green jersey tomorrow and Peter Sagan retains the yellow for another day. It’s a sprint stage and it would be unwise to bet against Cav, but Andre Greipel looks hungry so he might be a good pick.

TdF 2016 – Stage 2

Oh Peter Sagan! I really shouldn’t like him as much as I do. He’s the weird kid from school who does nothing except be odd for five years before discovering skiffle one summer, learning to play the guitar, cultivating his hair into a quiff and suddenly becoming the sort of boy that one of your mates decides she quite fancies, leading the rest of the group to shout at her “YOU CANNOT FANCY HIM! HIS GUITAR PLAYING IS EXCELLENT BUT HE’S STILL WEIRD!”

It’s very hard to dislike Peter Sagan but I probably shouldn’t like him at all. He first came to my attention when he pinched a podium girls’ bottom and I was incredibly scathing of his inappropriateness. However, he seemed genuinely sorry for his actions   and has done nothing since to trouble my angry feminist radar. I’m now of the opinion that if Sagan didn’t exist, cycling would have to invent him. I love his silliness, the way he rides a bike, the little giggle he does in interviews, the Grease video, the weird celebrations and the wheelies. I can even forgive him the Wolverine phase and the green hair. He’s still the weird kid from school at heart, but is now really rich, successful and brilliant at winning bike races.

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I’m SO smug that I tipped Sagan to win today’s stage last night and he duly delivered. Thanks for the fantasy league points, Peter.

What Peter Sagan hath given my fantasy team, Richie Porte hath taken away.

Porte is the perfect example of a ‘heart over head’ choice for my fantasy TdF team. I want him to do well, but….it’s complicated. He’s been such an integral part of Sky since I started watching cycling that it’s been quite hard for me to see him in BMC colours this year. The balance of my cycling universe feels wrong. I really dithered about including him in the Indecent Minority but my head was overruled.

It was gutting to watch Porte getting a wheel change from neutral service today at a crucial point in the stage. A small voice in my head speculated that if the same had happened when he was at Sky, Henao would have swapped bikes with him thus limiting the time damage. BMC seem to be operating a dual team leader policy, which I’m not sure is what Porte signed up for. I wonder what would have happened if Van Garderen had the same problem today. I could go full tinfoil hat on this and continue writing absolute conspiracy theory bollocks for daaaays, so I won’t.

Stage 3 is one for the sprinters, so I’d like to see another straight fight between Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish s’il vous plait. Bonne nuit.

 

TdF 2016 – Stage 1

I’m taking part in the Velogames fantasy Tour de France. So is Mr (Dr) FtW. He’s hoping that his ‘Mostly Team Sky plus Kittel plus a random’ team will trounce my ‘Carefully chosen but with more heart than head deployed’ team.

Neither the Indecent Minority (my team) or the Chatteris Climbers (his) contain Mark Cavendish. I’m convinced that I’m going to somehow jinx my riders simply by favouring them (sorry Tom, Marcel, Peter, Richie, Wout, Adam, Steve, Mikel and Tony.) Therefore, to give Cav the best chance of winning gold in the Omnium in Rio and not ending up in a heap on a roadside near Utah Beach, I simply couldn’t include him.

There’s a great interview with Peta Cavendish (Mark’s wife) in the book ‘101 Damnations’ by Ned Boulting, in which she says that her husband “holds [The Tour] up on a pedestal, in an ivory castle, with unicorns surrounding it”. Until today he had never worn the yellow jersey at the TdF. This was his third opportunity and he grabbed it from Kittel, Sagan and the rest. Cav is famous for crying at some point during every TdF he has taken part in. The tears were those of the joyous variety as he took his 27th TdF stage win and donned the yellow jersey for the first time. One suspects that this jersey will have a very special place in his home, mounted in an ivory frame, housed in a turret, probably guarded by unicorns with yellow horns.

As a cycling Johnny-come-lately I’m not familiar with the pre-marriage and  children Mark Cavendish. I’ve read stuff of course – the tantrums, the petulance, the colander, the generousness, the former Miss Italy – but the 2016 Cav comes across as a man that knows he is basically winning at life. The plain speaking, fury and sweariness is still there, but they’re part of what makes him…him and not a platitude-spouting robot.

When Cav finally decides to retire from cycling  (not just yet, eh?) I would really, really, REALLY like him to be a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing. He used to be a ballroom dancing champion of course (of course!) but that’s no more of an issue than any number of celebs who have been to stage school. He would be brilliant entertainment, his pro dancer would adore his work ethic and he’d probably win the entire show.

Anyway, I’m getting distracted. This is really about my fantasy team (and Cav.) In other news there were a couple of big crashes, the first of which involved Alberto Contador. Nope, nothing to say about that at all. Geraint Thomas was caught up in the second crash, which is the least surprising news since we learned that moths really, really like flames. Luckily he’s fine and astonishingly bouncy for a grown-up.

The TdF may be the largest annual sporting event in the world but it still retains an air of the village fete at times. This was apparent at the start of the race this morning when the peloton went to Mont-Saint-Michel and was directed to double back on itself for no obvious reason other than to frame the island commune as a pleasing backdrop to Chris Froome, Vinceno Nibali and the rest looking slightly confused for a few minutes while the various important cars and motorbikes performed elaborate three point turns. A ribbon was eventually cut. SIR Gary Verity appeared on screen, apparently summoned by a yellow-trousered genie in a lamp imported from Ilkley (without a hat.)

Tomorrow’s stage goes as near to Jersey as it’s possible for the TdF to get without becoming part of a Guy Martin world record attempt. I’m hoping for a sighting of Jim Bergerac and/or Charlie Hungerford. It’s flat(ish) with a cat. 3 climb near the end. In the interests of the Indecent Minority I’d like Sagan to win, produce a pair of scissors and chop his mane off whilst shouting I AM NOT SAMPSON! I AM SAGAN!

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TdF 2016 – team presentation

I followed the presentation via Twitter because actually watching it would have resulted in chewing my own arm off. Plus I was too busy WILLING Jermey Corbyn to resign, watching British politics eat itself and worrying about my children’s future. Standard.

This tweet, posted by Luke Rowe on Twitter, is all I need to see though. I’m captioning it thus:

The Boogie Wout-y Bugle Boy of Company B.

Having fun at the team presentation with @WoutPoels 💂🏻💂🏻💂🏻 http://twitter.com/LukeRowe1990/status/748582009883234305/photo/1

Ithankyou *bows*

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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