TdF 2016 – Stage 4

Before the stage: 

Wout Poels does dad dancing on the Team Sky bus.

During the stage: 

Rob Hatch breaks his desk while commentating on the final moments of the stage, carries on like a total pro.

After the stage: 

Marcel Kittel does his Iceman thing again. Probably.


Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 12

So, there wasn’t an entry for Stage 12 originally because it was a sprint stage and there were virtually no sprinters left and Andre Greipel won it and went home so that’s it really.

The only thing of any real note was Rob Hatch getting fantastically cross on Eurosport. Every day the host broadcaster breaks off from showing the stage live to cut away to the finish line, where four women saunter towards the camera, pouting, each wearing a different race jersey. Naturally they are all slim and pretty with long swishy hair. At best it feels anachronistic and, frankly, it’s just a bit weird. It’s the kind of thing that was last seen as acceptable back in 1997 when Loaded and FHM Magazine were required reading for, well, pretty much everyone.

Anyway, twelve days of this nonsense was clearly too much for Hatch, who sighed audibly and apologised profusely to the viewers for what they were seeing. His frustration was obvious and understandable. He is paid to commentate on the unfolding race, not on women who are at the race at the behest of the organisers purely to give horny cycling fans watching Eurosport in their underpants something to put ‘in the bank’. So I’m applauding Hatch for highlighting the oddity and unleashing his inner feminist.

While I’m on the subject, podium girls. Cycling is not the only sport that has them – see also Motorsport but I’m not sure that makes it any better. If they have to exist (where did the tradition start? Were they originally an offering to the victor?) there needs to be some parity. Next time Lizzie Armitstead wins a race I’d like to see her kissed on the podium by two incredibly buff topless men wearing Calvin Kleins. At the final stage of the Tour de Yorkshire, the podium ‘girls’ were ladies of middling age, wearing nice trouser suits and sporting sensible hair. At least they tried to mix it up a bit.

Also, who’s to say that all of the male cyclists enjoy being kissed by women? (I’m sure they get so used to it over the years that it becomes as routine as stopping their Garmin they cross the finishing line, but still.) It’s a fair bet that in any given peloton there will be a proportion of riders that would rather be congratulated by a bloke who looks like Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston rather than a woman who looks like  Jennifer Lawrence or Scarlett Johansson. It’s just basic statistics.

This is the trouble with sprint stages in grand tours. They give you space to get cross about stuff. On to Stage 13 and the mountains!




Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 5

Today I want to talk about accents and language. I’m embarrassed that I can only speak a small amount of French – enough to get me by as a tourist in Paris but no more – and learning Italian and Spanish is very much on my bucket list. The main barrier I have is my embarrassment about sounding ridiculously English at all times.

I once went on a school trip to Boulogne and, piling all my courage up inside my ears like Roobarb from ‘and Custard’ fame, ordered a couple of soft drinks in my very bestest, politest French. The man behind the counter replied in *perfect* English and I wanted to die on the spot. In fact, every time I’ve tried a bit of a foreign language in a different country I have failed spectacularly. In Rome I taught myself a few key phrases and didn’t get the chance to deploy them as whenever we were in a restaurant  the waiting staff addressed us in English. Perhaps the pale skin and bad teeth gave us away.

As a result I am always super-impressed by people that can speak not just one foreign language, but several. It’s not just their mastery of the languages, but the effort they put into getting the pronunciation and inflections right. Daniel Friebe is a master of this, as is Matt Rendell. The joy with which they hurl themselves into Italian and Spanish without a hint of embarrassment is infectious and admirable. Friebe speaking Italian into my ears each morning on The Cycling Podcast is really quite something.

90tswjvcyuzfyIt’s like I’ve just discovered Gifs. 

Even more embarrassing to me is the ease with which riders from a variety of countries in which English is not their first language speak ours. There are always certain phrases that jar slightly – ‘for sure’ instead of yes or definitely is one – but then I’m not trying to think of the right words to say in a different language at the end of a stage when I’m knackered. So many of the riders speak brilliant English that I find myself being irrationally grumpy with those that tend to speak their own language. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Vincenzo Nibali utter a word of English in an interview and that’s entirely his prerogative. I’m just grateful that Rob Hatch and Carlton Kirby are on-hand to provide on the spot translations, although they could probably say anything that vaguely sounded like some suitable platitudes and I’d believe them. It’s probably for this reason that I’m under the impression that Nibali speaks solely in meaningless soundbites. I’m sure he goes down a storm in Sicily.

Today Andre Greipel won a stage designed for the more hardy variety of sprinter. He conducted his post-podium interview with Eurosport in English. So did Tom Dumoulin. Yesterday Ashley House and Juan Antonio Flecha interviewed Diego Ulissi in Italian, switching back and forth between to English to translate to the viewer. I remain simultaneously impressed and embarrassed.

I didn’t get much of a look at birthday boy Adam Hansen today *sadface* but here’s a classic Hansen moment:


Tomorrow we go to the mountains for our first summit finish of the 2016 Giro. Dumoulin wants to keep the Maglia Rosa more than I want to beat my current plank PB (4 minutes, in case you were wondering) but I suspect we’ll see some first shots fired by the GC contenders. Expect to see Marcel Kittel hangin’ in the grupetto like a boss.