Friday, May 17, 2019

Biased Blow-By-Blow - 2019 Tour of California Stage 6


Sportscasters covering professional cycling have a massive challenge: how to describe the action while continuously biting their tongues. They’re not allowed to bag on dopers, so they have to pretend that it’s exciting to watch a totally lubed rider destroy everybody. The Tour of California, however, runs concurrently with the much more prestigious Giro d’Italia, where the heavy hitters are. The TofCA is bound to be a cleaner race, so the announcers have got that going for them. Which is good.

So yeah, you could watch the coverage live, using the Amgen Tour of California Tour Tracker which really is the greatest streaming video platform ever. I’m so stoked on it, I feel like supporting Amgen by buying a bunch of their EPO. But even with this great tracker, the coverage is in the middle of your workday, so you don’t have time, and if you try to watch the highlights later, they’re going to give the outcome away in the first five seconds for some reason. You don’t want that.

Besides, maybe you’re a bit disgruntled by the sport, like I am, so you like my snotty remarks. Of course you do … you wouldn’t be here otherwise. So read on for my biased blow-by-blow report of the all-important, GC-deciding Tour of CA Stage 6, which finishes atop Mount Baldy in southern California (motto: “Don’t you dare walk here, we’ll ticket your ass!”).

2019 Tour of California Stage 6 – Ontario to Mount Baldy

I join the action way, way late. I took the whole day off work, went for a bike ride, went too slow, got home late, and then had a nice lunch at a Tibetan restaurant were the service was so slow, I almost wonder if they hired the cook after taking our order. Only 14 kilometers remain in the whole race, so I’m going to have to really rush here, which means typing “km” instead of “kilometers” from here on out, and not taking time to change kms to miles for you. Also, if I need to talk about the weather, I may express the temperature in Kelvin.

There’s a breakaway. Behind, some Bora-Hansgrohe guy has attacked the peloton. He’s trying to bridge up to the break, which only has like 30 seconds on them. That’s not a lot when at least half the remaining distance is uphill. The Bora guy is Felix somebody. With a first name like that, you don’t actually need a last name … “Felix” is distinct enough. I have a pal named John and I told him his name is useless. He agreed: “It’s a fcuking disaster.”

Okay, Felix’s last name is Großschartner. I admit I was stalling just a second ago, because that’s a really hard name to type. had it as Grossschartner which I knew couldn’t be right. I mean, three Ss in a row? Nobody would have such a name. You couldn’t say it without hissing. Everyone would hate you.

Felix has a teammate in the breakaway, Maximilian Schachmann. So if Felix bridges up successfully, he’ll be able to help Schachmann win, obviously. I don’t know if there are time bonuses in this race because I was barely aware it was even happening until two days ago. Someone mentioned it was going on this week, so I looked for the Tour Tracker and happened to check out the final 10 km of the Morro Bay stage, which had apparently been super boring until the last 8 km. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Felix is on the short descent to the base of Mount Baldy. The top ten riders are all within like 30 seconds of each other in the general classification and there’s no time trial in this race, so this climb will be absolutely decisive.

The breakaway is Schachmann, Hugo Houle (Astana Pro Team), Matteo Fabbro (Katusha Alpecin), Pawel Bernas (CCC), Lennard Hofstede (Jumbo-Visma), and one other guy whom I’ll call John because hey, why not.

Schachmann is only 22 seconds off the GC lead, so this break is probably doomed. Tejay’s EF Education First team will surely reel them in, and even if they don’t, the race officials will bend the rules until Tejay comes out on top. They did that already in the Morro Bay stage, where Tejay crashed, then took a wrong turn, then blatantly drafted a support car for a really long way, and then only caught up to part of the peloton—specifically, the riders who were on the ground due to another crash—and because this was inside the final 3 km the officials gave Tejay the same time as the entire peloton: that is, as the part of the peloton that hadn’t crashed and was way, way ahead of Tejay. Meanwhile, this was actually 3.2 km from the finish, but the officials didn’t really care. I think they want a known rider, and an American one, to win the race because it looks better. I mean, if Hugo Houle won, what would that do for the sport? Everyone would remember it as “a foreigner called Huge Hole won,” and they’d shrug and go back to NASCAR. At least, that must be the thinking of the commissaires. As if this sport weren’t a big enough joke already.

Lawson Craddock is leading the chase for Tejay. He’s a great ungodly godlike domestique. I wish I could get him to work for me. Not in my races, of course, because those are few and far between. I could really use him for some light filing, maybe going through my mail and throwing out all the junk. Running errands. Things like that. I wonder of Craddock does that for Tejay during the off-season.

Wow, Schachmann has dropped the break and is trying to solo! He’s only got like 6 km to go, but also 2,000 vertical feet. And it’ll be hard to pedal effectively with such big balls crowding the crotch of his shorts. He looks like he’s pretty cool and calm, but that could just be a poker face.

Okay, the announcers just said there’s a 10-second time bonus for the win. But is that really going to happen? Tejay is really fast, obviously, and I think his teammate Rigoberto Uran Uran is in that field with him, and on a good day Uran is almost matchless on the climbs so he should pace Tejay quite effectively. (I guess I should hedge a bit though and point out that I haven’t watched a road race since last year’s Tour de France, where Uran crashed out, so for all I know he’s gotten too old to go fast.)

This stage is such a great one to watch, because there are plenty of GC hopefuls who haven’t had much opportunity to do anything in this largely flat stage race and have put all their hopes on this climb. Another rider to watch is Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), who had so many not-normal performances with Team Sky that the only thing holding him back today would be not being able to find a fresh vein to inject himself in. I guess maybe his new team is clean though. Maybe he’s a really good guy and Team Sky was just a bad influence.

Speaking of Team Ineos (née Sky), its leader Gianni Moscon, wearing bib #1, is going out the back! So I guess the peloton is already going pretty damn fast. That being said, Schachmann has increased his lead to 35 seconds with only 5 km to go.

Tejay looks pretty comfortable. That yellow jersey looks so much better than the pink ones EF riders wear. In this one instance, I wouldn’t fault Tejay for wearing a yellow helmet to match the leader’s jersey. But a black helmet would be even better.

Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) is now leading the peloton. He would be wearing the leader’s jersey today were it not for the clowns officiating this race (as described above). He must be impatient with the EF team or something, or maybe he’s trying to crack them in Merckx style instead of attacking. That worked pretty well for Merckx … everyone since him, not so much.

Shirtless idiots have arrived to run alongside the riders. I hope one of them gets smacked. Not hard or anything. Just a smack.

Whoooooah, Tejay is cracking! Dude is just getting shelled, with his own teammates ahead of him! Who’d have thought! I guess he’s getting old or something. It happens to the best of us. Heck, even Chris Horner kind of sucked toward the end, not that I blame him. I feel so old myself now, talking about riders who have retired. I confess I kind of lost track of this sport after Chris Froome was exonerated and I could no longer bear to watch.

Wow, Asgreen has been dropped! He looked so good earlier.

Now George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) makes a dig and gets a bit of a gap before anyone can react. He’s being joined now by Tejay’s teammate Sergio Higuita, and not far behind it looks like Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates). I think that’s Porte struggling along behind them.

Higuita attacks!

Higuita is hauling ass and there’s no poker-face here, he’s just drilling it, his face a pitcher of pansies. You didn’t think I was gonna say “picture of pain” did you? I would never do that. His face is a pitcher. A patchwork. A bun. A bane. And more.

Porte is having bike problems. Good.

It’s only 1.6 km to go! Higuita is still really motoring. It’s hard to tell how far behind he is from Schachmann. Do I care who wins? Not much, though I don’t like Higuita’s neon green shoes. His Pepto-Bismol-pink jersey is ugly enough without introducing neon green to the outfit. Behind Higuita, Pogacar and Bennett keep up the chase, Porte having been totally distanced.

The break has completely dissolved, every man in it for himself. Like all the rest of us. Except moms. They’re in it for their kids. But I digress.

It looks like Pogacar is catching Higuita. He looks really smooth, and started the day only 16 seconds behind Tejay on GC.

Pogacar and Higuita are together now and look like they’re kind of crawling. The camera makes these grades look way flatter than they are. It must be insanely steep. I’m so glad I’m just sitting in this armchair typing, not out biking with these fools.

OMG, there’s 100 meters to go and still no sign of Schachmann, which means they must have passed him at some point. I’ve been thinking he was up the road this whole time! Maybe he was abducted by aliens or something. Crazier things have happened in this sport, like Froome getting off the hook after testing positive.

It’s the final sprint, and Bennett is coming back! And now Higuita overcooks the final curve, taking it too wide!

Pogacar comes blasting through! He’s freakin’ flying! He’s got proper black shoes and he’s blowing Higuita out of the water!

Pogacar’s got the wine! I mean win! He’s got the win! He’ll get the wine later. See how these typos work?

And now we wait to see how far back Tejay finishes. Wow, it’s not good. He’s clearly lost the GC. And he’s so tired, his arms are all crooked.

Gosh, Pogacar is super young. He looks like he’s about 15 years old. I think he cools himself the way dogs do. Maybe all the young humans are being made this way now. Okay, they’re saying he’s actually 20 years old. Too young to buy booze, which is surely why he had that extra edge today. I love to drink beer and look how slow I am. (No, you can’t actually look. Nobody is filming me. Thank God.)

Tejay’s daughter is too young to realize just how badly her dad fcuked this up today. She still loves him. That’ll change. When she’s a teenager she’ll read this blog (like all the cool teens will), and then she’ll be like, “Dad, the beginning of the end was Mount Baldy. Speaking of which, how’d you get so bald? You’re, like, a living fossil! And your chain of auto dealerships is failing.”

So, Pogacar not only has the yellow jersey, but rumor has it he’s going to get a video game made in his honor. Here he is getting his yellow jersey. Note that the podium girl doesn’t kiss him. Maybe she’s afraid she’ll get in trouble. Or maybe they’re not doing that anymore.

Man, Pogacar is so fricking young, some thoughtful race official got him a teddy bear! That is so fitting! They’ll have cookies and milk waiting for him later. I love the thought of him snuggling with that teddy bear tonight, maybe wearing his medal over his Star Wars pajamas.

They’re interviewing him now. “I was really strong and that made me go fast. Strong means fast, I have noticed. Higuita took the turn too wide. This black stuff you see at the corners of my mouth is Oreo. I just ate like five of them really fast. In Slovenia we have no Oreos. Also I have won very many bike races back home but nobody ever gave me a bear. I love America.”

Note: as you probably already figured out, I totally made all that up. He did say something about going fast and being strong, but after that it got really boring. “Thanks to my team blah blah blah.” It’s possible that my freestyling got us closer to the real truth. Though you must not quote me on the Oreo thing. I just did some light fact-checking and discovered this blog post, all about Oreos in Slovenia. I did not make that up. Click the link.

Now they’re doing the team podium. Here are the top three teams:

Wait, how did that get in there? That’s not just the wrong race, that’s the wrong sport! What you see above is the Albany High Cougars mountain bike team celebrating their victory in the team overall for the season. How that photo made it into this report is beyond me … probably some kind of online tampering. I’m going to leave it though, because they’re even younger and more fresh-faced than Pogacar. And that’s saying a lot.

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