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.

 

Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 4

Italy! Oh Italy! You were looking terribly sexy today. Certainly much sexier than the very grey, rainy London I was in. I like a foreign Grand Depart as much as the next girl but it’s feels *right* when the race goes back to its country of origin. I’m really not sure about the idea of a grand tour start on an entirely different continent. It effectively creates two distinct races: one consisting of three stages, a (realistically) 2-3 day gap to allow for travel, jet lag, etc., then an 18 stage grand tour. It would be a logistical challenge for the teams, too. The big teams (Sky, BMC and Etixx) could probably afford to have two sets of staff working on the race but it would be more difficult financially for the smaller teams unless it was subsidised by the race organisers.

The race took a 3 hour trip from The Netherlands to southern Italy yesterday by aeroplane. I suppose it would have taken too long for the riders to pile into the Vengabus and do a road trip. The crowds on the roadside were considerably smaller than in Holland but it is the middle of the working week. I suppose that if a massive cycling race comes to your town every 2-3 years you get complacent about it. I wouldn’t. I’d be one of those overexcited people jumping up and down on the roadside wearing a mankini and screaming in the riders’ faces. (I have form with this – TdF 2014 – although thankfully I wasn’t wearing the mankini at the time.)

Today Diego Ulissi won a stage that was designed for the puncheurs. Lovely Tom Dumoulin finished second and took the Maglia Rosa back from Marcel Kittel who, despite finishing a few minutes down still managed to style out an interview with Ashley (I remember him from Fame Academy) House and Juan Antonio (Friendly Bond villain) Flecha on Eurosport wearing a pair of sunglasses that made him look like Val Kilmer in Top Gun. I can’t take any credit for this one. Rob (sounds 95% less northern on telly than he does on The Cycling Podcast) Hatch highlighted the likeness on Eurosport the other day. Mr WtW and I now disagree on who Kittel looks like most. He’s sticking with Justin Bieber.

I’ll just leave this here.

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It’s International Top Gun Day on Friday (really) so this is a theme that I may well revisit. I’m sure Tom Dumoulin would let Marcel Kittel be his wingman anytime.

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As we’re only four stages in it’s hard to see how things will play out in the general classification. Nibali has adopted a watching brief. He’s always where he needs to be but isn’t making a nuisance of himself yet, like a shark. Apt. I suspect that Landa isn’t quite in the form that he needs to be and he’s going to struggle in the upcoming time trials. It’s difficult to discount Valverde (but I always try to) and I’m pleased to see that Esteban Chaves is nicely placed in the top ten.

Stage 5 looks distinctly lumpy so goodness only knows what’s going to happen. I predict a breakaway, a couple of crashes, a sighting of Adam Hansen and possibly a riot. Maybe one for the sprinters.

 

 

No more heroes

I have a policy of not having individual sporting heroes. Not these days. Certainly not current sportspeople. Frankly, I’m too old and cynical to indulge in hero worship of anyone.

When I first got into cycling, we were watching the highlights of a race one evening (I forget which one) and my husband piped up from his end of the sofa ‘There’s no-one in cycling for you to fancy really, is there?’ I thought about it for a bit and concluded that it wasn’t relevant and didn’t matter. There may have been a bit of ‘How very dare you!’ for good measure.

Of course, there are some members of the peloton that are generally considered to be quite fanciable: Adam Hansen (clever, hard as nails, 13 consecutive grand tour finishes and counting) and Tom Boonen (reformed bad boy, dad of twins, Classics specialist) immediately spring to mind.

Others stand out for different reasons. Marcel Kittel has magnificent hair (see also Owain Doull.) Esteban Chaves is adorable and I’d like to adopt him. Taylor Phinney (also has good hair) is too cool for school but you’d be glad if one of your children bought him and/or Alex Dowsett home. Peter Sagan is an absolute gift to cycling and probably one of the few characters along with Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Laura Trott to transcend the sport.

As I’ve got older I find that I value solidity over flashiness. I’m convinced that once you have children you’re more impressed by someone that can get shit done rather than one that spends more time getting ready to go out than you do. I’m referring to Tony Martin, along with the Sky quartet of Wout Poels, Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas. So impressed was I by the latter’s contribution to the success of Sky that last year I did a presentation for the Group Dynamics and Leadership module of my Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology course in which I argued that he was the prototypical team member and was therefore the future of the team, along with Richie Porte…

…who now rides for BMC. Awkward. Anyway.

Stage 3 of the 2014 Tour finished in London. My sister and I decided to watch the Tour at the Olympic Park in Stratford. My sister wrote Va Va Froome in chalk on the pavement and we spectacularly failed to nab any of the freebies that were flung in our general direction by the Caravan. By the time we realised that the arrival of the peloton was imminent I was slightly hysterical, to the amusement of my husband who had come to join us. It was the first time had been to watch the Tour – deliberately at least. It came right past our flat in 2007 but I was pregnant, sick and grumpy and didn’t really understand cycling back then.

The noise increased. The motorbikes came by and then the peloton was rushing towards us. I held up my phone to take photos. In my hysteria I screamed. In fact, I threw my head back and screamed at ear-splitting volume:

COME ON RICHIE!

To this day I cannot explain why I did it. It’s become a meme in our house. Every time there’s a bike race on and Richie Porte is participating I wait for my husband to screech COME ON RICHIE in a shrill approximation of my voice. It’s become A Thing. It is absolutely hilarious apparently. I find it significantly less funny.

However, I have no cycling heroes apart from the ones mentioned in this post. Maybe a few others. I’m sure there are plenty of people I’ve forgotten to mention. At some stage I need to do a whole separate post on the female cyclists that I find inspiring. This is definitely a ‘to be continued’.