Sunday, June 9, 2024

Biased Blow-By-Blow - 2024 Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 8


Bike races are becoming hard to watch, in every way. First, you have to subscribe to a different streaming service for practically every event. Second, so many races seem to be dominated by a single rider, it’s getting super boring (e.g., Tadej Pogacar winning the Giro d’Italia by almost ten minutes, picking up six stage wins in the process). Finally, our eyes are getting bad … at least, mine are. And the Critérium du Dauphiné is particularly hard because the coverage starts at 4:00 a.m. Pacific time. So if you’re looking at all the text on this page and thinking, “Oh, it’s so long, and there are so many photos, I’m not sure I can commit,” consider that it could be much, much worse.

(The good news is, as I’m adding this particular paragraph after the fact, I can tell you today was not boring! Read on!)

Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 8 - Thônes > Plateau des Glières

As I join the action I’m pleased to hear Christian Vande Velde and Bob Roll announcing. The guy Peacock has narrating the replays sounds lugubrious, and of course Phil Liggett has become nonsensical. Not that Bob’s commentary is always scintillating. “That is the peloton,” he now says emphatically. Not sure whether his emphasis is this French term, or he just really wants us to understand what’s going on.

As early as I arose this morning (4:40 to be precise), the riders have just 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) to go. Fortunately it’s all uphill as they approach the Category 1 Plateau des Glières.

Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) is taking like six bottles from the team car. Not sure why on earth he’d do that so close to the finish, except maybe these bottles contain PEDs. (This is Ineos, after all.) It’s also puzzling that he’s even being allowed to take bottles because the supposed rule is no feeding after the 20-kilometer-to-go mark. Maybe Kwiatowski ran afoul of team management and is being made to haul these up the mountain as ballast. Kind of the equivalent of dropping and doing twenty pushups, which protocol they’d have to modify because as everyone knows, most pro cyclists are incapable of doing pushups.

There’s a breakaway of nine riders with just over a minute on the peloton. They’ll probably get overwhelmed. I don’t think the term “overwhelmed” has been used for describing a break being caught but it’s actually the perfect word. Let’s see if it catches on.

Wow, the gap is plummeting. I’m not even going to learn the breakaway riders’ names. They’re like temps in an office. Do companies still hire temps? Like the Kelly Girls of old? Let’s revisit that later.

The peloton is still pretty huge. I guess race leader Primoz Roglic’s Bora-Hansgrohe team hasn’t decided to lay down a fast tempo yet. The GC favorites are waiting until the last minute, totally ignoring their moms’ perennial warning. These guys!

As usual for France, the towns and countryside are gorgeous.

Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) is in the breakaway. I guess he didn’t learn his lesson yesterday when he soloed from like 40 km out and then got caught with just a couple kilometers to go. He lost like seven minutes on the last climb. D’oh!

The breakaway is dissolving like animal crackers in hot soup. I don’t believe that metaphor has been employed before. Fellow race commentators take note.

Sean Quinn, an American on EF Education First Easy Post Whatever, is leading the breakaway, wearing some kind of stars-and-stripes jersey. Either he won a national title or he’s just hella patriotic.

Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) attacks! He sits ninth on GC so we can presume he’s just looking for a stage win.

I’m kind of rooting for Ciccone right now because he seems to be such a good sport about riding with the equipment he’s given, which includes in this case these totally goofy handlebars and levers that stick out at a crazy angle, bringing to mind fallen arches. I would refuse to ride with such silly equipment but he’s not only getting on with it, but trying to solo!

Looks like all the breakaway riders have been stubbed out in the race ashtray. Ciccone has 22 seconds on the GC group which has maybe 15 riders left.

Here’s what’s gone on in this Dauphiné this past week. Nothing major happened on GC until the time trial which Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick Step) won handily. Then there was a massive crash in Stage 5 following which they neutralized the race. The yellow jersey changed hands in Stage 6 which Primoz Roglic (Bora-Hansgrohe) won (typically enough), and then the GC got really boring when Roglic won Stage 7 as well. I’m only deigning to watch today because Roglic does have a knack for losing stage races on the final day.

This is interesting: David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) is going out the back. He was kind of considered a GC contender this year and was his team’s protected rider. He’s one of many promising racers who just fizzle out. Also of note is that he’s cooling himself off … this might be the first hot day of the race. The only interesting thing Roglic said in his post-race interview yesterday was, “When will summer be here?” I’ve been wondering the same thing.

Laurens de Plus (Ineos Granadiers) is leading the GC group and they catch Ciccone. Ciccone’s brake levers were just scooping up too much wind for him to be able to stay off. I hope he learns his lesson and switches to more aerodynamic equipment after this.

Whoa, this is interesting! Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Granadiers) is driving the pace on the front, and Roglic has let a gap open up! Best yet, the American Matteo Jorgenson (Team Visma – Lease A Bike), who sits second on GC just 1:02 behind Roglic, is right on Rodriguez’s wheel! This could actually get interesting!

(Jorgenson is a baller, by the way. He won this year’s Paris-Nice stage race, as well as the Dwars door Vlaanderen. He was born in Walnut Creek, right here in the Bay Area. He’s young enough to be my son, and  he stands 6’2” which is pretty rare for a dude who can climb so well. Amer’ca!)

Cicconi tries to close the gap, with Roglic sucking his wheel. Where are Roglic’s Bora-Hansgrohe teammates?

Derek Gee, the Israel-Premier Tech rider on the front, has been riding a great Dauphiné, having won Stage 3. Moreover, he’s sitting third overall, just 11 seconds behind  Jorgenson and 1:13 behind Roglic. He flicks his elbow but nobody pulls through. By “nobody” I mean Jorgenson and Rodriguez (who is very hard to see … probably part of his strategy). All the others are gone.

The break now has 15 seconds. That’s a quarter of what Jorgenson needs, but there are only 3.6 kilometers to go. It’d be a long shot for him to unseat Roglic but you never know. Now Jorgenson comes to the front and you can see Gee is really suffering.

Roglic, who takes over from Ciccone, is going pretty well but his socks are the wrong color and they’re too tall. They’re kind of a lemon yellow and the jersey is more canary. I can’t root for a rider with such poor aesthetic taste. Maybe he’s colorblind? But then, why hasn’t a teammate or staffer jumped in with sartorial advice? Are they afraid of him? Is he a tyrant? Probably.

Evenepoel, who was evidently dropped at some point, starts to close the gap to Roglic. Evenepoel got totally shelled yesterday. He’s like that … he does a huge effort and then pays dearly the next day. Roglic’s heroic domestique, Aleksandr Vlasov, is on Evenepoel’s wheel and if they catch up, maybe he could help Roglic. Vlasov was amazing yesterday.

There’s still a chasing duo behind the leaders. It’s De Plus and Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious), but they won’t catch back up. As if to prove my point, Buitrago chooses a very poor time to engage in literal naval-gazing, which is not only annoying but non-aerodynamic.

Up in the break, Jorgenson attacks!

Gee is dropped but Rodriguez manages to close the gap.

The two leaders are under the 1-kilometer kite! They’ve got almost 40 seconds, and there’s a 10-second bonus! Jorgenson needs only another 11 seconds to take the GC win!

Heading for the line, Rodriguez is stronger and Jorgenson can’t come around! Rodriguez takes the win!

He almost forgets his victory salute, but pulls it out! Look how dejected Jorgenson is … he needed that first-place time bonus, and of course a stage win would’ve been nice, particularly if he doesn’t manage to steal the GC.

Roglic drills it, knowing full well he could totally lose this Dauphiné!

He’s gotta be shitting bricks. He lost the 2020 Dauphiné on the last day, remember, by crashing like two or three times. And then he famously lost the 2020 Tour de France on the final stage, with his silly time trial helmet creeping off his head. To lose this second-rate stage race on the last day simply by not managing to ride fast enough … that would be just too humiliating.

Roglic crosses the line and it looks like he made it just in time to hang on to his GC. Note the silly piece of tape Ciccone has on his nose, which is somehow supposed to improve his breathing. I’ll bet he has a really dorky tan line there (which I find just as interesting as Roglic winning another stage race).

Here’s the stage result.

They’re interviewing Rodriguez.

INTERVIEWER: You picked up the stage win. So I guess your parents were wrong about you.

RODRIGUEZ: I felt really good. As hard as the team worked, we had a plan, yeah, get in a breakaway, try to go for the stage win.

INTERVIEWER: That’s not really a plan, per se, that’s just a goal.

RODRIGUEZ: After that I just raced as hard as possible in the finale, on the last climb. I couldn’t do enough to get on the podium so I wanted the stage win.

INTERVIEWER: You kind of ignored my last comment. That really hurts my feelings.

RODRIGUEZ: The legs feel good. This result was for my teammates. See you at the Tour.

What the interviewer evidently doesn’t realize is that nobody is translating the questions for Rodriguez, so he’s just saying whatever he feels like. Also, I’m just typing whatever I feel like. So it’s a win-win.

Here’s the final GC result. I’m tempted to say it was a nail-biter, but I refuse to normalize that disgusting behavior. Let’s just say it was a close one (in fact the closest in Dauphiné history).

Now they’re Interviewing Roglic.

INTERVIEWER: Yesterday you said something interesting about the weather. Do you think you can do similarly well today, or will we be back to your mind-numbingly boring, anodyne statements like “my team did great”?

ROGLIC: No, not really, it was quite crazy actually, I’m happy to be able to win the Dauphiné, with everything happening in between, it’s beautiful.

INTERVIEWER: Did they tell you [Jorgenson] was gaining time?

ROGLIC: Yeah, exactly. Both dudes in the car were spouting off, like, “Primoz, you fool, he’s destroying you!” and I was like, “Shut your pie-holes ye bleedin’ pricks!”

INTERVIEWER: Were you suffering?

ROGLIC: Did you really just ask me that? [Note: the interviewer actually did.]

INTERVIEWER: Are you confident for the Tour de France?

ROGLIC: Definitely. But, one is Dauphine, other is Tour. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

INTERVIEWER: What does that even mean?

ROGLIC: I have no idea. They switched to a teleprompter this year and I think someone is screwing with me. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have got to take out these contact lenses. My eyes are getting really dry as I age.

David Gaudu smiles incessantly as his fans pose with him for photos. What’s he so happy about? He’s supposed to be a GC favorite and he didn’t even crack the top ten today. He finished all the way down in 30th, over four minutes behind. Still, that’s better than his teammate, the hapless Chris Froome, who was third-to-last almost 27 minutes down.

They’ve just announced that the team director of Bora-Hansgrohe suffered a fatal heart attack while watching Roglic almost lose the GC. Okay, I made that up. It was just a joke. Was that in poor taste? Perhaps. Could I delete this paragraph? Yes. Will I? Obviously not.

The camera loves Roglic. They just keep zooming in on his face, trying to get some footage with actual emotion in it. Here’s perhaps the best they could do.

Not a bad shot, really. In fact, when he sees this post perhaps he’ll download that picture. He could use it as his new profile photo.

Rodriguez mounts the podium to celebrate his stage win. After eschewing podium girls entirely, the race organizers are gradually bringing back approximately half of the tradition. The new UCI rules dictate that there can only be one female; there must also be a dumpy man; the female must be called a “podium woman”; and, she must look like Taylor Swift.

Jorgenson takes the podium having sealed his victory in the best young rider competition. Will he lead Visma-Lease A Bike for the Tour? Who knows. I haven’t been following the sport too closely now that put up a paywall, the bastards. All I know about Visma’s prospects is that last year’s Tour winner Jonas Vingegaard may not even race it this year as he continues to recover from a bad crash in the spring, and last year’s Vuelta winner Sepp Kuss was sick during this Dauphiné (and didn’t even start today), so it’s impossible to know how his form is.

And now, Roglic steps on to the podium for his final yellow jersey presentation. As he likes to do, he drags his kids up there, little realizing how confusing and upsetting this surely is for them. His younger son nervously bites his fingernails. How sad to be taking up this disgusting practice at such a very tender age. Roglic tries to intervene, but it’s surely too late for this kid. Oh well. At least the Slovenian champ has another stage race victory to add to his palmarès.

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