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 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 1

So. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll be able to do a post on every stage because, y’know, life and stuff but the beginning is always a good place to start.

Italy! Oh Italy! I love you so. Your food, your mountains and your accents. HANG ON. We’re in Holland for the first three stages. Accents? Yes(h). Food and mountains? Not so much. No Wout Poels, either. That’s sad. I’m guessing he’s on the Dauphine-TdF track this year and probably still basking in the glow of winning Sky their first Monument at L-B-L a few weeks ago.

There are no British riders at the Giro either, so it’s a case of following people I like for a range of hard to pin down and highly subjective reasons. In no particular order: Adam Hansen, Esteban Chaves, Tom Dumoulin, Ian Boswell, Ryder Hesjedal and Joe Dombrowski. Having named them as ones to watch will immediately put the mockers on them. I can only apologise in advance. Note that I wrote this after Dumoulin won the time-trial and the Maglia Rosa this afternoon. If he ends up coming to grief in a race-ending crash tomorrow I will blame myself.

I know there are A LOT of people that don’t really like time trials in Grand Tours. I’m an incredibly boring person with a trackie heart so I LOVE them. They’re an ideal way to give each of the 198 riders a moment in the spotlight, they’re an excellent introduction to the event itself and they’re 98% less likely to result in someone getting a bit overexcited in a bunch sprint and playing an ill-advised game of human and bike dominoes. I prefer an ITT to a TTT because it’s always a bit painful to watch some poor sod get distanced after the first corner and struggle like a salmon swimming upstream to desperately latch on to the bike-n-bum immediately in front.

The main problem with the ITT is that you have to sit through a lot of cyclists who clearly hate time trialling and have just been told to get to the end in the least onerous manner possible to get to the really good ones. I was once shown Tinder by a young, single work colleague (having been married for the last 12 years this stuff has passed me by, thank god) and after my initial horror at the objectification and general awfulness found myself shouting YES! NO! HOT! OH GOD NO! SWIPE THE OTHER WAY! WHAT IS THAT? NO! It reminds me of that, a bit, in the sense that there’s some diamonds amongst the dross but they might ultimately disappoint you by sending over a photo of their man-parts. (See, they might win the ITT but they won’t win the whole shebang, capisce?)

Anyway. Dumoulin won today. I know I shouldn’t, but whenever I see him I spend several seconds assessing whether he’s good looking or not. Half of me thinks yes and the other half thinks Canadian tennis player of the mid-late 1990s (not Rusedski. The other one. Nestor.) I mean, it’s entirely irrelevant but I can’t help it. The main thing is that he’s a bit good at time trialling and the Vuelta showed he can also do mountains so he might do ok.

Tomorrow involves sprinting and possibly some difficult wind, so I’m off to eat some Edam and a crepe in preparation.

 

 

 

 

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.