Friday, December 17, 2010

When All Is Said And Done...

So, another year, another Curacaon holiday. Another gathering of the Cool People in Cycling. Too bad this year was kind of a wash out (or shall we say a ‘blow out’?) because of various cyclones and tornadoes and hurricanes in the area. Those pesky forces of nature really affected the amount of scuba diving that could be done, but at least it didn’t stop the boys from doing anything serious, or anything original, like prancing about in print board shorts (again), or staring poutingly into the sunset (again), or swimming with flippin’ little dolphins (again), or riding on flippin’ little dolphins (again), or flippin’ with flippin’ little dolphins (again), or making sandcastles (again), or perhaps even posing on one of those sandy beaches (again).

Yeah. Curacao sure had changed this year. I was shocked. I was shocked by the change in the Schlecks’ activities, and I was shocked by the staggering array of activities Curacao had to offer. I’ve got to get me there one day, because I don’t think my life will be complete until I ride one of those flippin’ little dolphins and make it flip for me. At least six times.
Curacao is Da Bomb. Who needs any of the other, say, six thousand tropical tourist locations around the world when you have Curacao? No one, that’s who. And certainly not Frandy.

Training camps
I’m fully prepared to jump ship and swoon over luxo-coloured lycra for the next cycling season rather than gawk in horror as a certain Spaniard plays the maracas clad in the ultra sexy saxo colours. But there has been a complete FTA of information regarding the Luxo-Leopard team and their kits/name/race schedule/whatever the hell else is all being kept a ‘secret.’ Newsflash, dudes. No one cares as much as you think. It’s not the unveiling of the bloody Mona Lisa. Sure there’s curiosity and excitement from some corners, namely from chubby middle-aged men who don’t shave their legs as much as they should, but from the rest of the world, there’s a big, fat ‘who gives a shit’ factor that Nygaard doesn’t believe could possibly exist. Get over yourself, pal. It’s not like Branjelina adopted another starving African baby. It’s just a cycling team. Get some perspective, dude.

Saxo Bank Sungard, on the other hand, courtesy of Tim de Waele (happy snap extraordinaire), has been busy capturing every glorious moment of sun, surf, and man-tower building you could hope for. The newly Spanish Armada-ised Saxo Bank team has windsurfed, paddled, and rescued fair maidens Baywatch-style to the delight of Tim de W’s lens. Also captured for all eternity are the ‘balance-the-plate-on-the-stick’ sessions that looked fun as anything, plus ‘touch-the-fire-and-therefore-overcome-your-fear’ sessions. I’m pretty sure I never saw these activities in any Saxo Bank team camp before, so maybe Bjarne thought he’d pull out all the stops to give Da New Boyz a treat. A bit of a stiff middle-finger salute to the Schleck boys. Bjarne: “Did I ever let YOU BITCHES have ‘balance-the-plate-on-the-stick’ sessions? I don’t think I did, Frank and Andy. I don’t think I did.”

Another thing Bjarne has treated Da New Boyz to that he never liked the Schlecks enough to bother with is the Man Towers. Wow. How much fun do they look? Pile three dudes on the ‘ground-floor,’ then add two more on the ‘second storey’, and then one more for the ‘penthouse’. That is really something. And not only is it a bonding session for Da Boyz, being that they have to get close to each other (as in, on top of each other), it is also LITERALLY team building. Get it? As in, ‘I’m building a team’s morals, and I’m building a team’s talent, and I’m building a team TOWER!’

Take THAT, Schleck bitches! (courtesy of Bjarne)

Oh, and there was Bjarne in Budgie Smugglers. The Schlecks could never look that good in Budgie Smugglers. No Siree. Hot, Bjarne. Hot.

With regards to The Luxo-Leopards, we do know that the training camp was ‘awesome, everyone was amazing and friendly, we have such good management, and we’ve just got a great bunch of guys together.’ Everyone who ever goes on a team camp will always, until the end of time, say the same thing. If a volcano erupted and took out the village they were staying in, or a serial killer prowled about the premises, or Jakob and Andy had a punch-up, they’d say ‘the training camp was awesome, everyone was amazing and friendly, we such good management, and we’ve just got a great bunch of guys together.’ EVERYONE was amazing and friendly? Even the serial killer? Hmmmm. It’s called sportstalk - designed to never get you sued for telling the defamatory truth. Not that I’m suss of Team Luxo-Leopard – I’m just saying sportstalk tells regular Joes like us abso-bloody-lutely nothing. Just saying.

New Riders
With new teams clearly come the abandoning / desertion of various riders, as well as the arrival of new ones. Saxo Bank Sungard has turned into an All American (Spanish) Affair, and the Luxo Leopards are semi Italian, French, Luxo, Belgium, German, Nederlandical (Dutch), Australian, and probably even Tongan. You name it, they’ve got it. No trend to speak of, nor riders that I know, or care, about. This opens up a whole lot of opportunity for random unwanted people to use up Tour Down Under spots. New riders on Saxo Bank include most of Astana, like Jesus Hernandez, his boss Bertie Bott and various other Spanish dudes that ride bikes. They’ve also got a new Italian called Manuel Boaro, who I’m scoping, if I’m honest.

In fact, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it; I think Saxo Bank Sungard’s team is hotter than Luxo Leopard’s Team. Sure, Frandy is aboard. But who else that is actually good-looking? Saxo Bank Sungard have the Haedos. And this Boaro dude. And Bertie Bott, obviously. And the best and second best looking Sorensens.

Take THAT, Schleck bitches! (courtesy of Bjarne, again)

Tour de France as a wrap:
Frank was good. For three days. Cheers, Frank. I mean, it’s not like Andy blames you for losing him the Tour, but it helped him about as much as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick helped him. So thanks, Frank. Cheers for nothing.
Andy impressed me, the little tacker. He’s just growing up so quickly, isn’t he? Turning into a real little man, winning bike races, and being a gracious winner / loser like a true gent. God bless his “my stomach is full of anger” statement. I would have liked to see the ‘behind-the-scenes’ locker bashing (or team-bus-bashing, I’m sure he had rage enough for both), but alas, we only got to see a pissed Andy stomp past the camera, jaw set, eyes blazing. And; unimportant sidenote - did anyone ever tell Andy that it’s not proper English to say one’s ‘stomach’ is full of anger? Oh well. It was cute. Sportstalk after all.

I developed a rather healthy loathing of Contador in this year’s Tour. That Chain Moment was disgusting. A champion should never win a Tour through someone else’s bike chain coming off. A champion should win the Tour by waiting, and attacking at a later point when the playing field is level. A dirty cheat with no morals should win the Tour by attacking someone’s mechanical failure, and then pretending he had NO IDEA about it. What, Contador? You rode right past Andy yanking at the bike and hollering at the team car, but you thought he’d just stopped, on a mountain, in the yellow jersey, for a perusal of the scenery? Contador, Contador, Contador...

Relevant disclaimers and all. Photos from Tim de Waele, thanks dude. And Corbis and someone else. Please dont sue. We're broke.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sussing le Tour de France 2010

As in every year, we suss the Tour de France. We rip it, we roll it around and then we slaughter it. And when the slaughtering is over we come back here and ring that victory bell……..Well, the winner does anyway (courtesy of Grease, for those who aren’t so culturally aware). Which is what brings me to The Potentials Of Le Tour. The Favourites. The Fully Loaded Men. So, who is going to win this years Tour, I hear you ask? Here is where I conjecture, speculate, abuse, discount and, ultimately, champion the various potentials.

The Obvious Dudes

Alberto Contador (nn. Bertie Bott, Best Cyclist Of All Time, Spanish whiz-kid on the two-wheeler, and so on). I don’t want him to win his millionth TdF, but unless you’re totally retarded, you’ve probably noticed he’s a bit of a Favourite with a capital F. The Favourite status would probably have something to do with the fact that Contador wins every Grand Tour he’s ever looked at, and even the ones he hasn’t. But I’m not daunted by his undeniable Favourite status. I think, in the words of the indomitable Kevin Rudd, “it’s time for a change, Australia”. So, if Schlecks F and A can work together up mountains, and Cadel can beat his arse on timetrial bikes, and Masterlance bitchslaps him one just for luck, then hopefully Contador won’t kill this year’s Tour like he’s killed every other.

Andy Schleck. (nn. Schleck Jr, etc) If Andy strikes form like a vein of gold in a mountainside, then Eureka! He really could win. Unhappily, Andy striking said form so damn quickly is about as likely as me striking a vein of gold in a mountainside, not least because there aren’t any mountains where I live. Andy’s lead-up to this year’s Tour has been dismal, to put it generously, and so if Andy doesn’t have a sudden and unexpected form-strike, then he can’t win. Contador is seemingly in better form, has a more effective kick when climbing, and is more consistent overall. And everyone knows how the episode entitled “Out-of-Form Andy vs In-Form Contador” ends. Answer: Not well.

Frank Schleck. (nn. Franklin, The Other Schleck Brother). Less attractive, less youthful, less talented and less confident than Andy, Franklin seems like the outsider of the Main Pack. The outlier. The unwanted. The red-headed stepchild. The Other Brother. But this year, more than any year, is Form Time for Schleck Brunette. He’s been spanking that tarmac a lot more effectively than his little bro, and hell, if he can beat Andy, then beat Andy. If Franklin can also take on Bertie Bott Contador and win the actual Tour de France itself, then go for gold. Frank is the Dark Horse of this year’s Tour. Watch out, Unsuspecting Plebs, coz he could take it.

Lance Armstrong. (nn. Masterlance, The Boss. THE BEST CYCLIST OF ALL TIME) The Big Man is back in business now that he’s got Loveshack and a new team of Bitches to do his every bidding. Life is good for Masterlance. A new Babychild on the way too. But can he win the Tour de France for an eighth time? Can he relive his glory days? Can he pretend he’s 28 again and get something more out of those tired old pensioner’s legs of his? Can he take back the title of Best Cyclist In All The World from his BFF Bertie Bott? Is his team good enough? Is he stronger than Contador, stronger than the Schleck brothers combined? Is he The Lance Of Old? No, dude, he aint. But he’ll give it a fair crack, bro. He’ll try his ASS off, and he’ll do what it takes to come out on top. But that ‘top’ probably don’t mean a TdF win is on the cards, man. He’s Masterlance, hell yeah. But he’s also a human, dude, and he’s, like, 39. Unlikely, bro.

Ivan Basso. (nn. Not applicable) I have to acknowledge Mr. Basso’s position as a Tour de France favourite here. I can’t get away with ignoring it, because a handsome 6” Italian dude charging up the Italian Alpes in lime green lycra is hard to ignore. Especially given the fact that he’s only recently returned from a 3-year drugcheat suspension. That’s also hard to ignore.

Cadel Evans. (nn. Cadellio, Little Aussie Battler) Yes. You’re right. Last year’s Tour for Cadellio sucked. But everyone has their bad days, months, even years. And he’s obviously not having one of those this year: this year he’s got a Fleche Wallone under his belt, as well as roughly 40 second-places to various Italian drugcheats. He’s also World Champion, in case anyone forgot, and did I mention he’s Australian?

The Not So Obvious Dudes and the Dudes I Cant Stand The Thought of Winning

Bradley Wiggins. (nn. Friggins) Will Not Win. I’ll shoot myself first. He needs to get back inside his cozy velodrome and stop pretending he can road race like the real men.

Denis Menchov. (nn. Deni, Rampaging Russian) I love Deni for the simple fact that he has so much personality. He’s just so emotional, so outspoken, and so good-humoured. And he’s Cadel’s partner-in-shithouse-form (of last year’s forgettable TdF fame), so perhaps he and Cadel can, together, bring the house down with twinsets of bitchin’ good form.

Carlos Sastre. (nn. The Sastrinator, Boringest Waste of Time To Ever Win A Tour De France). Ha, that was a joke, but a joke I did not, and still do not, find very effing funny. Go suck off Cervelo’s wheel, and see how far that gets you, pal. Not far at all, I can tell you, because a lucky strike on a lucky day with the lucky addition of being thrown up the mountain by two much better teammates only comes around once in a blue moon. And you’ve already had your blue moon, buddy, which is more than even the luckiest loser in the world should ever have gotten. Not that I’m bitter.

Christian VandeVelde.
(nn. V-da-V) V-da-V is one of those dudes who I’ve heard a lot about, but never actually seen doing anything worthwhile. It’s like he decides to suck when I’m watching. Which, if you go by that way of thinking, means that if I’m watching the Tour de France, he can’t possibly win it. I’m sure he’ll be respectably placed in the top twenty again, along with all the other bridesmaids, and I wish him luck.

Kreuziger Roman. (nn. He wishes) He’ll keep up on a few of the big mountain stages, but then he’ll falter on one that really matters, at which time he’ll watch his AMAZINGLY TALENTED BUT TOTALLY NOT ON DRUGS team leader Ivan Basso shoot off the front and leave him to die on the roadside. If its Kreuziger or Nibali, it doesn’t really matter. They’ll come roughly 7th-ish, give or take ten places.

Well, it’s a few days before the Biggest Cycling Race Of Them All, actually tonight for Southern Hemisphereans like moi. Time has flown since writing and posting this, so let’s barricade ourselves on the couch with our hot chocolates, croissants, and Haighs, and enjoy a Tour de France that is actually worth enjoying this year.

Pictures from Tim de Waele and Roland Miny if you couldn't tell. Hope its not illegal.