Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sussing Le Pre-Tour

Well, we’re getting close now. It’s about that time of the year when friends start shooting suss looks at each other and polarising to opposite ends of the table. It’s when the colours come on and the gloves come off. When the sly digs at other people’s favourite riders emerge like rats from a flooded drainpipe. And when perfectly rational adults are transformed from “supporters” to hysterical teenage fangirls at a Jonah Brothers concert. Jonas Brothers, whatevs.

Yes... it’s Tour de France time...

I’m excited. Well, I’ve been excited for about 11 months and six days, but now I’m getting REALLY excited. This is the highlight of the year for any cyclist or cyclist fan. Especially if you’re a cyclist fan who has been denied her fix of cycling all year because her TV stations don’t show fricken anything. Except Paris-Roubaix, but that was a waste of time because Boner won and he’s gotta be the World’s Biggest Cycling Bimbo Of All Time. So anyway, point is, I’ve been unjustly deprived of most of the cycling calendar and consequently am very much looking forward to live, unedited, Phil Liggett-commentated 5-hour long stints of pure Tour de France. Bliss.

Top Five Cyclists Who Will Probably Win the Tour de France.

CADEL EVANS. I don’t care how much he’s loathed (unjustly I might add – all he did was bash people), Cadellio deserves a break. He’s thankfully not the favourite this year, which will remove the pressure that was obviously chaffing a bit last year. So with the spotlight on The Favourites, Cadel should be free to breakaway on Mont Ventoux with his ever reliable silence lotto boys. Sweet sweet justice.

ALBERTO CONTADOR. I don’t want him to win, but I’d be living under a rock not to have noticed his undeniable favourite status. So, Bertie, you do what you have to do; use up the old ones first (as in Masterlance), and have some sprint-offs with fellow youngen’ Andy Schleck. While you’re there, you and Andy can have a text-messaging competition – first one to text 100 girls in a mountain stage wins. Hopefully then Bertie won’t notice Cadel slipping away on Ventoux...

DENI MENCHOV. The Legendary Russian is just getting started. After a stellar Giro, he’ll be on the angry Russian rampage and gunning for the overall. And he’s so interesting that he really doesn’t need any more superlatives than that.

FRANK SCHLECK. He’s been a little overlooked with all the Team Masterlance and Andy Schleck Is Mercx Incarnate excitement, but underestimating him would be retarded. He’s done almost as well as Andy this year – won a few stages here and there, then the Tour of Luxembourg. He’s going under the radar because he doesn’t look scary and because he isn’t particularly aggressive. But give him a chance and Team Masterlance will be staring at Frank’s (and Saxo Bank’s) burnt rubber. And I mean, simply on a personal level, how hard must it be for Frank? I’d be such a jealous asshole if I was him.

[Picture it: Your little bro Andy swans straight into CSC/Saxo Bank (and Overlord Riis’s good books) at a much younger age than you at the time, and never has to go through various Italian drug-cheating teams before making the Big Break. Then, after you having been the best-looking in your family for most of your life, Andy suddenly blossoms into undeniably The Hottest Schleck Ever. Then everyone calls him Mercx Incarnate, interviews him, and ignores the fact that you’re STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO HIM AND PROBABLY DID BETTER IN THE BLOODY RACE ANYWAY. Then Andy goes and receives all the marketing deals, and the plethora of fangirls abruptly stop ogling you and go and mob your little brother instead. Frank’s been updated, methinks. There’s a Younger, Hotter, More-Talented and Possibly More Interesting version in town, and Frank’s been relegated to the shelf. Until he wins this year’s Tour, obviously.]

LEVI LEIPHEIMER. So he’s a good rider. So he can win some things now and then, namely the Tour of California. He doesn’t seem to be able to win anything else, and while I’m sure he is a serious contender for the overall, I just can’t take him seriously. Usually, I forget he’s on the planet, let alone in the peloton. And while I won’t discount his riding ability, if he wins the Tour I’ll be mighty annoyed. It’ll make the Tour de France just as boring as last year’s. SURELY someone with a personality can win; is that too much to ask?

Top Five Riders Who Should Win the Tour de France But Wont.

CARLOS SASTRE. He’s washed up without a Schleck Express. But that’s not the only reason he won’t win. I’ve really come to dislike this man. It started when he callously pinched the Maillot Jaune off Frank. Then he went on to not even bother thanking him and Andy for winning him the freaking Tour. It got worse when he deserted. I was on Overlord Riis’s side for that. Riis: “Hey, Sastre, we won you the Tour! Let’s party like it’s 1999!” Sastre: “Or not. I’m throwing a temper tantrum STRAIGHT AFTER I won the Tour de France because the Schlecks are your priority. Coz you totally backed Frank and not me on Alpe d’Huez. You bastardo. I’m off.” But there’s more. Sastre went on to defect to Cervelo, a team far too good for him, and then he selfishly and single-handedly destroyed a teammate’s dreams of winning a stage during the Giro. Unforgiveable. And then – wait for it – he prevents Simon Gerrans (a stage winner in both last year’s TdF and this year’s Giro) from riding in the freaking TOUR DE FRANCE because Sastre (and I quote) “wanted a Spanish rider”. *stunned silence* That’s why Sastre won’t win the Tour. He’s a selfish little man who ruins hopes and dreams of young riders. And he’s already won a Tour. Move over and give someone else a go.

ANDY SCHLECK. He’s good, but I don’t think he’s going to win this year’s Tour. He’ll win some other year’s Tour, and maybe more than one, but not this time. Too young, too inexperienced, too unpredictable. If Frank gets a millisecond ahead of Andy, Bjarne will bank the whole team behind older bro. And that means Andy’s relegated to domestiquing. Because I think, while the public adore Andy the most, Bjarne won’t ignore Frank because they’re best pals and Frank is still Maillot Jaune-experienced. Sorry Andy. Book in early for next year’s Tour. It’s probably yours already.

ROMAN KREUZIGER. Good – really good - but probably not good enough. He’ll get close. He’ll challenge for stage wins and he’ll challenge for the white rider’s jersey (again), but he won’t win. His team is not equipped for supporting a champion. Even if Roman gets himself into a yellow jersey, Liquigas won’t help him keep it because they simply don’t have a bloody clue how to. Instead, they’ll help Bennati win (and lose) sprints (to Cavendish).

KIMMI K. I don’t care enough to even comment. He won’t, just coz.

MASTERLANCE ARMSTRONG. He’s in decent enough form, but let’s face it: he’s not going to challenge the leaders. He’ll have a few flashbacks to his glory days over the 3 weeks, where he’ll break away in the mountains, looking sort-of invincible, but they’ll probably only last 1 or 2 kilometres and then he’ll get caught again by a sniggering Bertie. Or Andy in between texting all his girlfriends. Or Roman K. No matter who, Masterlance will be upstaged by the young upstarts. It just will happen.

So crack open the tia maria and put on the footy franks - its Tour de France time! For me it means 3 straight weeks of graveyard shifts because the TdF starts, for Australians and other southern hemisphereans, at 10pm and finishes at 2am (if you include Taste Le Tour, which any sane person would because Gabrielle Gate is just such a freaking legend). So I’m going to stock up on numerous forms of caffeine (coffees, mochas, hot chocolates, cold chocolates, hard chocolates, soft chocolates, every chocolates), and incalculable packets of chips, and then I’ll pull up a rug and entrench myself on the couch for 24 days. Sounds good to me.

...Relevant disclaimers and all... photos aren't mine, big surprises...

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