TdF 2016 – Stage 16

One day, if we don’t have to endure 10-15 years of confessions, recriminations and tell (mostly) all books, we’ll look back and reflect fondly on what an excellent generation of cyclists we had in the 2010s. Star names abound: Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, Tony Martin…I could go on. I won’t.

Today was a Tony Martin day. He didn’t win the stage – Sagan did (of course) – but he was in a two man breakaway with Julian Alaphilippe for most of the day. Unlike other cyclists, Tony doesn’t attempt to hide his suffering. When he’s on it, the bottom lip sticks out, drool and snot trail down his face and drip off his chin, and his eyes are those of a man who has been to many, many raves and doesn’t remember a single second of any of them. I look fairly similar when I get to the end of a 20 mile training run. It isn’t pretty, but it is bloody effective. Well it is for him. I’m just a whole heap of mess and hurt.

Today was relatively quiet for the GC contenders. It meant that their domestiques a got a bit of a day off too. Or so it seemed. It probably didn’t feel like much of a rest to them. 

Over the last few days I have been hugely impressed with Wout Poels. He became one of my top 5 favourite cyclists during last year’s tour and now I think he might just have hit the top spot. He’s a bit unsung, which seems slightly unfair as he won Liege-Bastogne-Liege earlier in the year. Oddly, Team Sky didn’t really seem to give the achievement the fanfare it deserved. He only gave them their first Monument victory after all. I know they prize the Tour over everything, but some riders and team base their whole existence on a single monument win. In contrast, Vasil Kiryienka won the world time trial championships last year and Sky mention it aaaaaallllll the time. Dan Martin won L-B-L for Garmin a few years ago and he’s only *just* stopped wanging on about it. Then there’s Wout, hauling back errant breakaway riders seemingly at will in the high mountains at the behest of his team leader and dicking about adorably on the team bus and no-one really mentions how great he is. It’s the Team Sky first would problem of an embarrassment of riches I guess. See also: Mikel Landa, Michal Kwiatkowski, Segio Henao, Mikel Nieve, Geraint Thomas, etc etc etc.

Side note: after an unfortunate mishearing last year, Mr FollowingtheWheels calls Wout Poels ‘Wagbo’ (the Harry Hill character.) Don’t ask. No really.

Tomorrow is an actual rest day.

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Wagbo. Not a cyclist.

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Wout Poels. Definitely a cyclist.

TdF Stages 6-11

Everything is currently BATSHIT in the UK. It’s been so crazy that I haven’t even wanted to ruminate whimsically on the TdF via the medium of Gifs. I’ve been watching it religiously of course but the urge to find a gif of a topless Marcel Kittel has gone. Things really are bad here.

As things stand, unless he falls off his bike, goes mad or A Very Bad Thing happens, Chris Froome is (probably) going to win this year’s edition. I keep waiting for Nairo Quintana to do…..something….but there he sits, day after day, with the same expression on his face. I’m worried he’s dead and Movistar just prop him up on his bike every day, Weekend at Bernies-style.

My fantasy team is doing ok, thanks to stage wins from Steve Cummings, Lovely Tom Dumoulin, Marcel the Magnificent and of course the irrepressible Peter Sagan. My pick of Richie Porte is going to come back to haunt me and I’m regretting picking Mikel Nieve over Sergio Henao. I have NO regrets about picking Wout Poels. I’m confident he will come into his own later in the race.

Tomorrow is MONT VENTOUX DAAAAAAAAYYYYY! Except. Due to the high winds (we can only apologise for Boris Johnson – just be grateful he’s not on a zip wire) the stage will finish 6kms from the top. This makes me sad again. I’m going to have to cheer myself up with my current favourite gif.

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COWS!

 

 

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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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 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 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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Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 6

I must confess. I have not seen even a moment of today’s stage. The highlights clashed with the second Eurovision semi final which I absolutely have to watch live. (Yes, we have TiVo but I didn’t have a chance to set it.) It’s actually quite hard to watch every stage of a Grand Tour (live or highlights) if you’ve got a. A job and/or b. a life.

According to the official app Tim Wellens won the first mountain stage of this years’ Giro, the second stage win in a row for the Lotto Soudal team after Andre Greipel’s victory yesterday. Tom Dumoulin retains the Maglia Rosa in the #fightforpink

Tomorrow’s stage is one for the sprinters and it’s International Top Gun Day so I’m expecting a win for Iceman Kittel.

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Can’t stop, won’t stop the Gifs.