Saturday, May 20, 2017

Biased Blow-By-Blow - 2017 Giro d’Italia Stage 14


What happens when a professional race announcer is in a bad mood, and doesn’t feel like biting his tongue and pretending that this or that rider, usually on Team Sky, isn’t totally lubed?  Answer:  he sucks it up and tries to say nice things.  Sometimes journalists use innuendo, e.g., “Froome has really injected some pace into this stage.”  But they’re professionals … they have to be nice, even to the obvious dopers, so you have to put up with a lot of BS.

I’m not professional, I’m not “responsible,” and I’m in a really bad mood this morning.  I’m sick, for one thing, and I’d still be asleep but my back hurt too much to stay in bed.  Then, when I was already very late in tuning in to the race, all my Internet feeds were dead., my normal go-to listing of feeds, said, “No Unrestricted live English Eurosport links due to rights issues.” was equally useless.  Fortunately, my East Bay Velo Club teammate Mark Dawson had suggested, a couple weeks back, that I try Cycling Today and man, what a relief!  I couldn’t even get anything in Italian or French earlier, and this has the good English-speaking guys—not Phil and Paul, but Sean Kelly and that other guy (Carlton?) whose name I can (obviously) never remember.  So, huge shout-out to Mark today!

Alas, my PC sound was somehow not working, making me even more livid.  I even tried the Bluetooth headphones … no dice.  So for now, I’m cussing freely, watching the race on the crummy backup PC, on the slower network, while rebooting.

2017 Giro d’Italia Stage 14 – Castellania to Oropa

As I join the action, they have Juan Antonia Flecha doing a recon of the big climb at the end of the stage.  In the background they’re playing porno music.  (Not that I’ve ever seen a porno movie, by the way … it’s the music that other people always say sounds like porno music.)  The recon, of course, is worthless.  Flecha is an idiot.  He’s wearing a blank pink jersey, a little too small for him, and you know what, Juan?  There’s only one presentable pink jersey in existence, and you have to earn it.  “Here the climb gets steeper, which will make it harder for the riders,” he says.  Oh, is that how that works?

The peloton is just hitting the base of the climb.  I think it’s about 13km to go but my feed is so blurry, it’s hard to read the over-pixilated number.  Okay, I’ve got my good PC going here, this is better.  Vincenzo Nibali’s Bahrain-Merida teammates are getting him to the front.  He has a lot of work to do today, being pretty far down the GC.  In fact he’s in fifth, but a full 2:47 behind the leader and 24 seconds behind the guy we all think is actually going to win this Giro.  (What, you don’t know who that is?  Good, I’ve created suspense!)

This climb, the Cat 1 Oropa, features over 2,000 feet of gain.  That’s it’s full name:  Oropa.  Not the Passo Oropa, just Oropa, like Cher or Madonna.  This climb is kind of unique in that it includes some cobbled sections.  I haven’t seen that before.

Only 11 km to go.  Laurens ten Dam (Team Sunweb) is moving the front, supporting race leader Tom Dumoulin.  I raced against ten Dam once.  He nipped me at the line, atop Alpe d’Huez, by about an hour.

To fill you in on what you may have missed since my last dispatch, odds-on favorite Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) took the race lead on the first big mountain stage, soloing and spanking the entire peloton.  Dumoulin took the pink jersey away from him in the first time trial, which was about 40km and suited him perfectly because he’s a great big burly man (by bike racer standards).  We’ve seen this before and the question is, can Dumoulin save on his car insurance?  You bet he can!  GOD it’s boring, the predictability of the things that need to be pointed out.  I’d never be a real journalist.

Some Movistar guy is setting tempo for Quintana.  Now it’s a full-on attack, Jose Rojas either leading out a teammate who isn’t Quintana, or being led out, I can’t tell and it doesn’t matter because just like that, it’s all back together.  I think that was less an attack than a pace that was so overly fast they accidentally dropped everybody.

Team Sky hasn’t been a factor in this Giro, after a big crash took down their GC guys.  But recently they made the news anyway; I saw some headline about “Will Team Sky wear their new white jerseys in Stage 14?!”   The answer, I can now say, is no.  My corollary is who gives a shit what those Sky dirtbags do?  

Speak of the devil!  Sky’s Diego Rosa has now broken away.  I’ve not heard of this guy before because I’m such an amateur, an armchair journalist with a failing blog.  It’s disgusting.

The climb still hasn’t truly begun.  I guess it starts in about a kilometer.  They’re saying Rosa only has six seconds, but he’s almost out of sight of the pack.  I guess this would make sense if they were going like 200 mph.  Anyway, six seconds isn’t much when you’re the kind of nobody that the chief editor of albertnet has never even heard of.

Okay, I found the Sky jersey article.  “Will Team Sky wear new white kit at Tour de France?  Rumors of special edition Castelli jersey surface.”  Criminy.  Front-page news, right at the top.  I wonder how much Castelli paid to generate that “news.”  Yeah, yeah, I know, I got it wrong initially, the white jerseys would be for the Tour, not the Giro.  I’m sorry, okay? Forgive me for thinking the latest news would be about the race that is actually in progress right now.  I guess this is just the first of many articles Cyclingnews will do over the next six weeks as they follow this all-important sartorial matter.

Wow, Rosa has quite a gap on the field.

Wait, I take it back.  I got distracted for a few seconds and suddenly it’s all back together, with Movistar’s Winner Anacona setting the pace on the front, with a pretty great poker-face.  I think most of these teams are using Botox now, so that their rivals can’t tell when they’re suffering.

Igor Anton (Team Dimension Data) attacks!  No Botox there, he really looks like he’s suffering.  And now—what a shame, he’s been caught.  Botox 1, Grimace 0.

Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) cracks!  He’s cracked in most of the important stages of this Giro, it seems.  I think he even cracked on the way to sign-in yesterday.  At this point he’s kind of the Humpty-Dumpty of the race.  It’s a pity, I was hoping he’d have a great race.  He’s one of the only Americans.  Another is Peter Stetina, sitting in 31st, here to help his Trek-Segafredo team leader Bauke Mollema, who currently sits in third overall, just 15 seconds behind Quintana.

The French hopeful, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), isn’t doing so well today.  Not only is he visibly struggling, but he just looks … blurry.

Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) attacks!  It makes a difference, too, as suddenly Mollema looks really bad!  And now Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) attacks!  It’s so cute, he’s just a tiny little guy with a teddy bear face!  He looks like a child!  He could be on a BMX bike!  And now Quintana goes after him and straight past him!  Quintana’s all, “Wake up, bitches!”  (I’m paraphrasing his body language here.)

Wow, the field is blown apart!  Ilnur Zakarin (Katush-Alpecin), still an outside GC contendor), tries to bridge up to Quintana, but nobody else even bothers!  Back in what’s left of the field, Dumoulin is leading the chase, his worthless team nowhere to be seen!  His shoulders are rocking but he can take this, just like he can (I assume) hold his booze, because he’s no little pocket climber, he’s a big Dutchman!

And now, with 3.5 km to go, my feed freezes!

While I refresh this feed (wish me luck!) I should point out that by Dutch standards, Dumoulin is only a little taller than average.  Why do I care?  Because I’m always tempted to think I’m too tall to be a bike racer, and it’s been ages since guys like Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain demonstrated otherwise.  So I always root for the bigger guys, unless of course they’re doping, and so far Dumoulin seems to deserve the benefit of the doubt.  (He has been happy to share power data, has been outspoken in criticizing Bradley Wiggins’ TUEs, and has an unblemished record so far.)

Okay, my feed is back.  Wow, Quintana is still really far ahead!

The road is suddenly going downhill (or is at least flat—video footage warps things a bit) which was not in the course profile (do you see a flat or downhill section in the schematic?) and I wonder if Quintana is as pissed about that as I am.  Not that I’m necessarily routing for Quintana, mind you, I just don’t need any more confusion today. 

Okay, the road is going uphill again, and in fact they’re saying the grade is 11%.

What the hell?  I’ve got dueling feeds now, a tenth of a kilometer apart, fighting for my oh-so-limited bandwidth!  Look, below is not two snapshots, but a snapshot of the pair of feeds.  What could be the point of having two at once?

Pinot and Mollema are both off the back.  That’s good news for everybody else, especially their siblings who are watching this coverage at home and only pretending to be bummed.  It would be such a drag to be the sibling of a World Tour racer.  They must be insufferably proud of themselves.

Dumoulin and those sucking his wheel are about to catch Quintana, and in the process of chasing have cracked Nibali!  He’s gotta be so bummed, as the defending champion.  He’s probably looking for a team car right now, to hang on to.

Wow!  Dumoulin attacks fricking Quintana!  On a climb!  He’s got such balls!  DAAAAAAMN!  That would be like one of my kids trying to eat a burrito faster than me!

It’s under 1km to go!  There’s a small group, comprising Dumoulin, Quintana, Mikel Landa (Team Sky), and Zakarin.  Dumoulin is leading this little group the whole time, consolidating his lead over Nibali and psychologically oppressing Quintana!

Zakarin attacks about 200 meters from the line!  But it’s a long 200 meters, being uphill and also cobbled!  What a cool final stretch!  And Zakarin has opened a good lead! 

But now Dumoulin is gaining on him!  He’s going for the pass!

Meanwhile, Quintana fricking cracks behind him!  Unbelievable!  And now it looks like Zakarin can’t respond!

Dumoulin takes the fricking win, for huge glory and panache, not to mention ten bonus seconds!

In the process of this glorious stage win, Dumoulin has taken serious time out of Nibali, Pinot, and Mollema!  What a badass! 

Now that is how you handle a climbing stage when your Achilles heel is that you “can’t climb!”  Of course the brutal final week is still ahead, but you know what?  This is the kind of performance that turns a guy from a damn good rider into a hero.  Cadel Evans did this on the Strade Bianche in the 2010 Giro, and Floyd Landis created the optical illusion of doing it on Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France.

Mikel Landa has taken third on the stage, 9 seconds out of first.  Dumoulin’s sprint was so fast, he took 3 seconds out of Zakarin.  Remarkably, though Quintana looked to be in contact at the beginning of the sprint, Dumoulin took 14 seconds out of him by the end!

Pinot comes in fourth, a full 35 seconds down, looking mighty oxygen-deprived.

Wow, just like that, my feed stopped!  They want me to click on the ads.  They’re holding my feed hostage for two minutes.  You know what, I’m fine with that.  At least they waited until the race was over.  That’s pretty classy by streaming-video standards.

It’s been eight minutes since Dumoulin won, and the clean riders are starting to trickle over the finish line.  Okay, sorry, cheap shot.  For the record, I’m not casting aspersions on any of the top finishers today.  Yes, Dumoulin’s performance is eyebrow-raising, but then this wasn’t that long a climb, wasn’t that steep, gave him a flat-to-downhill section to catch up on, and anyway Quintana probably isn’t in peak form yet since he has Tour de France ambitions.

Here’s are the stage results and the general classification:

Look how fresh and composed Dumoulin looks post-race, as he warms down on a trainer.  Even his hair looks good, and he’s not even sponsored by Alpecin caffeinated shampoo anymore!  I’m just so thrilled to see a non-goblin, fairly non-emaciated rider winning, who doesn’t look like that weird lizard-man creature in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings or whatever book that was that I obviously never read.

Dumoulin aces the post-race interview by not complaining about any fans and implicating their countrymen in the process.  (Yeah, the bar has been set pretty low, hasn’t it?)  “You dream about it, about hitting back,” he says.  “I was quite relaxed, but I couldn’t follow the first attack by Quintana so I had to do my own pace.”  Then at the end he was just trying to mark Zakarin, he says, until he heard Quintana was gapped, so then he found something extra.  I’m paraphrasing because this guy talks too fast for me to keep up.  Not that he actually talks fast, but there’s not the normal number of “ums” and “ahs” that I normally can count on with riders from other parts of Europe who aren’t fluent in English.

Up on the podium, Dumoulin shows that, unlike most winners of mountain stages, he can easily lift the giant champagne bottle.  Surely that needless upper body muscle will cost him dearly during the final week of this Giro.

My wife has actually come over to see what’s going on.  This is almost unheard of.  “I heard you cackling,” she said.  I explain about the non-goblin thing.  “Let me see,” she says.  I show her the warm-down photo.  “Oh, yeah, he’s good looking!” she says.  This is also unprecedented.  (The last time she said anything of the kind was when she met Edvald Boasson-Hagen, like ten years ago.) 

My wife continues, “Look at that hairline—he could be a movie star!”  Ouch.  It’s not like the hairline is what women generally look at, as far as I know.  I thought they looked at, like, abs.  You don’t often hear the word “hairline” thrown around at all (not that I read Entertainment Weekly or Us).  Was this a subtle dig at my receding hairline, which might more properly be called a “fleeing hairline”?  My father-in-law had an incredible hairline, an Errol Flynn hairline.  Damn it, maybe I should try Alpecin.

They’re interviewing Quintana.  “Zakarin was really strong,” he says, “but right now most of the riders are in about the same time.”  I guess he’s pretending not to notice Dumoulin’s big win.  Kind of like my family’s cat growing up, who got so old he wouldn’t even defend his turf against other cats.  An enemy cat would come right in the house, and our cat would turn his entire body around and sit down, facing away, to make sure we all knew he just didn’t see the other cat.

“He’s got the cuddling toy, he’s got the flowers, he’s got the jersey!” says the Eurosport announcer.  I love it!  It’s like poetry!  I’m going to make that sentence a meme within my household.  We’ll use it every time somebody pulls off something really impressive.  Like, my kid will get into a good college, and as she waves the acceptance letter over her head triumphantly, I’ll say, “She’s got the cuddling toy, she’s got the flowers, she’s got the jersey!”  Please support your unpaid blogger by helping to widely promote this excellent new expression.

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1 comment:

  1. Awesome...glad I read your blog rather than watching it on the stupid TV. You da mahn Albert.