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 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 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.

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne! Disco Inferno!

Eurosport are running an advert for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, which takes place next weekend and every time I see it I sing along to The Traamps disco classic because THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE.

I’m not sure if it’s deliberate, but it’s better than one of those voice overs in which the speaker sounds like their voicebox is stuck on shop demonstration model (via Eddie Izzard crossed with the Polucemon from Allo Allo) “The siycolong is bek thus weekund freoum Speihn as the teup roeders pruphare for the Sprong Clissix”.

I absolutely love Eurosport. They showed  the European Figure Skating Championships a few weeks ago (I enjoy a quadruple toe loop) and I discovered the frankly bizarre sport of Tower Running thanks to their coverage on a slow Friday night last winter. They also show Diamond League athletics, where you can play the ‘Spot the drug cheat’ game (I KNOW), the Revolution Series AND aquatics events (I refuse to call them ‘meets’, yuck.)

However, I don’t *quite* understand why Eurosport show so much siycolong…sorry, cycling when Sky sponsor a whole ruddy World Tour team and could probably pay for the rights for all the Grand Tours, one day races AND the Tour of Langkawi with the change found down the back of Rupert Murdoch’s recliner. Conflict of interest? They show the Tour Down Under on Sky. Anyway, I’m not knocking the current state of affairs in cycling television rights. Apart from anything, in their guise as ‘The Home of Cycling’, Eurosport part-sponsor The Cycling Podcast and my love of CP has been well-documented elsewhere.

In any case, if Sky got the rights to all the cycling they’d have to set up a dedicated channel (Sky Sports Cycling) and everything would be presented by  four identikit presenter-men wearing co-ordinated grey and pale-blue shirts and chinos, unless they got Orla Chennaoui to anchor the whole shebang. The pre-race build up (several hours’ worth) would include the following features:

  1. Taylor Phinney in a paint-off with Banksy (both wearing cycling helmets and balaclavas)
  2. Chris Froome and Richie Porte on a Wallace and Gromit-style motorbike and sidecar trip around Monaco (Porte angrily shouting ‘Look! You’ve replaced me with Ian Boswell. I’ve seen the photos of you training together! I thought I was your special training friend!’ while Froome  maintains an enigmatic silence )
  3. Peter Sagan in conversation with Hugh Jackman (both dressed as Wolverine)
  4. Alex Dowsett showcasing his vehicle and loafer museum (wearing a Movistar onesie and slippers with a big M on them.)
  5. The whole of the Cannondale team on penny farthings playing bicycle polo, with Jonathan Vaughters refereeing in a tweed weskit and plus-fours.

A few times a year ITV4 stop showing re-runs of Midsomer Murders and Columbo and give us excellent coverage of key races: the Dauphine, the Tour of (not de. No.) Yorkshire (or, as Mr W insists on referring to it, ‘T’Tour’T’Yorkshire’), the Tour, the Vuelta and the Tour of Britain. The cycling season isn’t right without a shot of Ned Boulting being buffeted around by a stiff breeze while David Millar towers over him, wafting like a beanpole in a ludicrous hat. I love that they don’t take themselves too seriously: playing On A Ragga Tip by SL2 to mark a stage victory by Romain Bardet (Bardet! Bardet!) last year, and Gary Imlach cocking a snook at more shouty sporting coverage on a regular basis. They’ll miss Matt Rendell this year, as he’s gone to Movistar to be the most entertaining press officer in the peloton now that Chris Baldwin has left Astana. They need a replacement that can speak 54 languages and actually has a good relationship with Mark Cavendish. Daniel Friebe, perhaps?

Its a piecemeal affair, being an armchair cycling fan. It feels like a tiny victory to find live coverage of a race on telly on a random Sunday afternoon. TiVo is a blessing as well – I infuriate my husband by recording random stages of obscure races and watching them at odd times of night. Of course, we’re lucky to have access to the paid-for channels so we can watch as much as we do. I appreciate that other fans aren’t as lucky and end up playing Russian Roulette with dodgy online feeds, or relying on social media for updates.

If the K-B-K/Disco Inferno mashup was intended by Eurosport, I hope it continues thoughout the season. So far I’ve only come up with You Should be Dauphine, but I’m sure there are more Saturday Night Fever OST cycling puns out there. Night on Teide Mountain, anyone? Maybe not.

(I’m really sorry if you were actually looking for a preview of K-B-K (burn that mother down y’all) next weekend. I actually wrote an entirely different post on a completely different subject last week that’s sitting in my drafts folder but it’s depressed me so much that I wanted to write about TV coverage and silly things instead.)

***Update****

I watched Het Niewsblad on a channel called Bike yesterday, which I had no idea existed until Team Sky helpfully tweeted about it. The picture quality was dreadful (my Friends VHS videos from 1998 looked HD in comparison) but the commentator was Rob Hatch who always sounds considerably less northern on telly than he does when he pops up on the Cycling Podcast. There wasn’t a co-commentator, which frankly I thought was a blessing (I’m sure Hatch wouldn’t agree) but they showed nothing of the women’s race, which Lizzie Armitstead won in the rainbow stripes. Wish we could have seen at least the finish, but maybe that would have been so tokenist as to render the exercise meaningless. The TV coverage of women’s cycling is unbelievably crap. I thought Peter Sagan would win the men’s race but I completely forgot that he always comes second unless he gets it wrong, wins and becomes world champion in the process. Therefore Greg Van Avermaert won. Today it’s actually K-B-K (Disco Inferno!). Heart says Boonen, head says Kristoff, probably completely wrong on both counts as I know nothing about anything.