Olympic cycling preview – the road races

Well, I say preview. This is more of a random collection of thoughts and vaguely relevant Gifs that I’ve chucked together. Are you sitting comfortably? The let me begin. 

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The Olympics. Massively corrupt? Yes. Run by a bunch of people that love money and power but hate sport? Oh yes. But. BUT! The sheer scale and spectacle of the thing. Lots and lots of sporty people coming together (mostly metaphorically, some literally) to showcase their life’s work. The hope! The achievement! The agony! The ecstasy! All human life, etc etc. I adore the Olympics like a constantly straying yet seriously hot boyfriend. I know he’s probably going to cheat again (and again) but when he’s with me…its just the best thing in the entire world and he even looks beautiful in those sunglasses that he always wears indoors.

What’s better than the Olympics? CYCLING AT THE OLYMPICS *breathes into a paper bag* Best of all, there’s track cycling AND road cycling. Show me a sporting event that can do both…

Road Race – Men

On Saturday the cycling begins with the men’s road race. My loyalties are a little bit divided. I should be supporting the GB team as it is full of incredibly strong riders. Geraint! Froome! Cummings! (A) Yates! Stannard! However, my heart has been a little bit stolen by the Netherlands team which looks incredibly strong. I’m a little biased because it features two of my favourite cyclists: Wout Poels and Tom Dumoulin, plus Steven Kruijswijk and Bauke Mollema.

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Behold this incredibly terrible composite, not at all photoshopped picture of the Dutch  cycling team for Rio!  

However the Olympic road race always seems to be a bit of a lottery and in the absence of Peter Sagan (going for glory in the mountain biking event) the following candidates seem to be as good a bet as any: Alejandro Valverde (sigh), Dan Martin (if only he was 94% less grumpy than he always is), Vincenzo Nibali (he cruised around this year’s Tour as he’s specifically targeting the Olympics), Wout Poels (he’s been racing and winning this year like he’s really, really trying to impress someone and has managed to impress everyone in the process), Chris Froome (not a one day rider, but never rule him out), Julian Alaphilippe/Romain Bardet (maybe), and finally Richie Porte (the dream podium: Poels, Porte, one of Froome/Cummings/Thomas in any order you like.)

Road Race – Women

Until Tuesday of this week I was willing to bet quite a large quantity of chocolate that Lizzie Armitstead would win the women’s road race. She still might but the three missed tests…she’s never been a rider that has worried my doping antennae but to miss one test is fairly common…two can happen but three missed tests without a sanction is incredibly rare. I suspect there’s more to the story than we have been told and I’m not convinced that she deliberately missed the tests to avoid providing a positive sample. She’s very much an alpha female but when the family proverbial hits the fan, Type A personalities can find it hard to deal with life (I speak from experience.) However, cycling has such a chequered history of lies and liars that for many people, anything Armitstead achieves in Rio will have an invisible asterisk next to it. Christine Ohuruogh missed three tests, served a suspension (one rule for one…) won an Olympic gold medal in the 400 metres and some people still have suspicions about her.

Again, the Netherlands team featuring Marianne Vos and Anna Van Der Breggen looks incredibly strong (I might just wear an orange top and have done with it), as does the US line-up that includes Kristin Armstrong. It depends on Armitstead’s state of mind. She’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t so she may as well try and win and seek to be as honest as she possibly can be about her testing hit rate (the number of tests she’s missed versus the number she’s actually had), biological passport and other factors that may enhance or impair her performance. I’m sure she wishes more than anyone that she could change the situation she’s found herself in.

Coming up next week: the time trials and *fanfare* the track cycling. Hurrah!

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TdF 2016 – Stage 21

They think it’s all over….it is now. The Tour de France for 2016 is done and dusted. Chris Froome won his third Tour and surely a Knighthood awaits. Team Sky have now won four Tours in five years, which is a phenomenal achievement. I’m not sure what they give Sir Dave Brailsford now – a Damehood to complete the set?! Adam (yeah) Yates won the white jersey for the best young rider and has grown into a confident GC contender over the last three weeks. Peter Sagan inevitably won the green points jersey yet again. If he keeps this up ASO will have to rename it the Peter Sagan jersey. Rafal Majka won the  Polka-dot jersey after the departure of Contador gave him the chance to contest the King of the Mountains competition.

So, shall we do some hugging and learning now?

1. Kellan Froome is ADORABLE, even when teething and grumpy. Michelle – I have been there and I feel your pain. It gets easier. In about three years’ time.

2. Never, EVER write off Mark Cavendish. He’s a phenomenon and I’m so glad he’s ‘ours’.

3. I’m sad that we won’t get to see Lovely Tom Dumoulin in Rio. His duel with Chris Froome in the time trial would have been great to watch. Lovely Tom might just win a Grand Tour one day

4. As might Adam Yates

5. As might Super Wout Poels. Did I mention that he’s my favourite? I’ve been very quiet about it. Almost stealth. *whispers* he’s awesome.

6. I will never, ever forget the sight of Chris Froome running up Mont Ventoux. Accompanied by Ned Boulting’s now iconic commentary. “The yellow jersey is RUNNING up MONT VENTOUX!” It was utterly surreal.

7. Despite finishing on the podium, Nairo Quintana never really looked like a contender.

8. It would be interesting to see what Romain Bardet could do in a different team. Somewhere like Orica, perhaps.

9. Chris Froome. What else can be said? He’s a unique human being. One day, if we’re very lucky, we’ll look back and fully appreciate what he’s done.

10. Dan Martin managed to be nice about Sky. I nearly fell over. Perhaps he’s drunk?

11. The Tour is The Tour.

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Fin. Almost.

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Fin.

 

TdF 2016 – Stage 19

OH GOD. The rain! The slippery, sketchy roads. The potential for ‘Doing a Gove’ was extremely strong.

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It was inevitable that Chris Froome would Gove today. Like dominoes, once one rider went down, he was a dead cert to have his own oopsy-daisy moment. Fortunately  for him, Sky had a plan for such an eventuality (of course they bloody did) and Geraint Thomas handed over his bike to his team leader. However, the Sky team car couldn’t make it up to Froome to swap the borrowed bike for one of his own. Fear not! Super Wout came to the rescue (YET AGAIN) and he did everything he could apart from give Froome a backie to the line. I don’t know how much Sky are paying Wout Poels, but it’s quite clearly not enough. Oh Sky, please build a team around Wout and let him loose in the Giro or Vuelta next year.

Oh and their little arms around each other at the end was totes adorbz. So adorbz, in fact, that I’m busting this little gif out:

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It wasn’t a great day for the other Dutch cyclists though. Bauke Mollema lost a lot of time and tumbled down the GC and out of contention. Lovely Tom Dumoulin fractured his wrist doing a Gove and is now a doubt for the Olympics. *sadface* Here’s Gloria again:

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So, there’s one more Alpine stage for Super Wout to nurse Froome through and then he can have a nice day out in Paris on Sunday.

Oh! Geraint Thomas has been doing daily Gifs to express his feelings on the day’s stage. I see you G&T. I. See. You.

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TdF 2016 – Stage 17

Oh the Alps are sooooo pretty. Well they look pretty when viewed from a camera on a helicopter. I’m sure they’re an absolute bugger to cycle up. Of course, Wout doesn’t find them hard. Nor does Richie. My boys! Adam Yates doesn’t find them difficult either. He just cracks on with being twelve years old (ish) and brilliant.

This might come back to bite me in the next couple of days but Nairo Quintana has been crap this year. I still stand by my Weekend at Bernie’s theory.

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Movistar popping Nairo onto his bike this morning. 

Opposition to Chris Froome has melted away and only a massive cock-up, a crash, Bauke Mollema (or as I think Ned Boulting once referred to him, Malcolm Bollema), Romain Bardet (BARDET! BARDET!) Adam (yeah) Yates or Richie (look) Porte on a flier can stop him taking yellow all the way to Paris.

Oh! Peter Sagan did a wheelie across the line, simply because he could. He also released a new video today because he is Peter Sagan and this is what he does. I can’t wait until he becomes a father, recreates the birth of Simba scene in the Lion King and sings Circle of Life. HUUUUUUNNNNYYYYYAAAAA!

Time trial tomorrow. Tom or Tony – I’M RELYING ON YOU TWO.

 

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 2016 – Stage 12

 

So it turns out that everything is insane everywhere, not just in the UK right now.

1. Richie Porte versus the motorbike reminded me of this:

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Poor Richie.

2. Chris Froome running up Mont Ventoux reminded me of this:

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And this:

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3. Wout Poels hurting himself in the service of Froome on Ventoux made me feel like this:

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All Of Teh Feels.

How on EARTH do their partners feel when they do this to themselves? When random stuff happens to them? I’m going nuts watching it all and I don’t know any of them. Ultimately the sensible thing was done and Froome and Porte didn’t suffer, jersey or time-wise.

Tomorrow’s time trial will feel like a rest day in comparison.

 

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 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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TdF 2016 – team presentation

I followed the presentation via Twitter because actually watching it would have resulted in chewing my own arm off. Plus I was too busy WILLING Jermey Corbyn to resign, watching British politics eat itself and worrying about my children’s future. Standard.

This tweet, posted by Luke Rowe on Twitter, is all I need to see though. I’m captioning it thus:

The Boogie Wout-y Bugle Boy of Company B.

Having fun at the team presentation with @WoutPoels 💂🏻💂🏻💂🏻 http://twitter.com/LukeRowe1990/status/748582009883234305/photo/1

Ithankyou *bows*