This race, the first 3-week grand tour of the year, was a crashing bore, and epitomizes what has gone completely wrong with professional cycling. I have no idea what is going on pertaining to the doping front, but something has happened to turn such a beautiful race into the homogenized piece of crap we've just witnessed.
First of all, sprinters used to be a workmanlike group of "brutos" from various Eastern Block countries (with the odd Italian or Belgian ham-and-egger thrown in for the sake of diversity) who made their living doing the only thing they could do besides working in a textile mill or a coal mine back in the old country. They were usually not cut out to be domestiques and were too heavy to climb a staircase, so they OD'ed on testosterone and sat in the back of the bunch on the flat stages until some of their teammates dragged them to the front for their 45 seconds of glory. These cats fought it out like demons because failure meant no contract for the next season, so there was a lot at stake.
Even amongst these proletariat working-class grunts we had the stylish, elegant and supremely talented Mario Cipollini, who made sprinting a lovely affair to behold. Now that he's gone, we have British bulldog Mark Cavendish, the guy with the name that sounds like he should be running an Irish pub somewhere in Cork, Ireland. He's short, built like a stack of granite blocks with the looks to match, talks crap in a manner that is neither endearing nor comical, and has all the panache of a terminal illness diagnosis. To make things worse, even though he's the best sprinter in the peloton by a leap, he lost the sprinter's jersey at the Giro by one fucking point. Nice try there, asshole.
And don't tell me any of you were at the edge of your seats watching the exploits of American Great White Hope Taylor Phinney. This glorified track cyclist held the jersey for a few days in the beginning before his audition for the Ice Capades began in earnest. He crashed more times than the Facebook IPO in as many days, and wound up as just another anonymous rider gasping to see the end in Milan.
The mountain stages were a trifling affair, and I cannot recall any of the winners to save my life. In the end, the most compelling drama having to do with this series of interminably monotonous funeral processions was the conclusion of a farce that was in the making ever since this great race ended in 2005. José Rujano ingloriously pulled out of the race on stage 19, while having done nothing to distinguish himself in the only stages that were suited to his physique.
And don't think his team manager sat idly by while making excuses for him. Rujano's exit was followed closely by a well-deserved diatribe as only the Italians can mete them out-
“Thankfully, his contract with us ends at the conclusion of the season,” Savio said. “I was the one who brought him to Europe and nursed him through the 2005 Giro, when he was third. After all of his problems, no one wanted to touch him. And then I gave him a second chance last season. After this, there will be no more chances. We are finished.”-Gianni Savio, team manager of the Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela.
But wait, there's more-
“He (Rujano) didn’t do a thing during this Giro. When he came to the start, he was singing to all the world that he was going to win stages, reach the podium, even win! My team doctor, who is a very serious man, told me that he saw no physical problems that would keep him from continuing. Rujano has a sore throat, but so do I! He said he didn’t feel good and simply quit.”
“We asked him, during the stage to Cortina, to demonstrate something for his pride. And what does he do? He finished more than 30 minutes back!” the exasperated Savio said. “We asked him again today to show his character. And what does he do? He quits.”
Rujano rode like a true "culi-cagao", disgracing not only himself but his country of Venezuela, desperate for good news aside from the impending death of democratically-elected pseudo-strongman Hugo Chavez. As one of the few cats capable of lighting the race up in the mountains, it became obvious very quickly that he was only out to disappoint. The slack was not going to be picked up by the likes of 2010 Giro winner Ivan Basso. I've yet to figure out why he even showed up to ride if he was going to put in such an uninspired performance. Definitely nothing like what he had done in 2007 when he stormed the mountains to the chant of "extraterritorial" from guys like Gilberto Simoni, but it's pretty obvious what caused such a disparity in his, um, ""form".
So the overall went to Ryder Hesjedal, a Canadian who didn't win one stage and sucked wheels and hedged his bets on the mountains long enough to take back the 30 seconds he needed to gain on eventual runner-up Joachim Rodriguez on the very last time trial into Milan. We as cycling fans have been royally gypped, and don't think the Tour is going to be any better.
You cannot call yourself a cycling fan and say with a straight face you are looking forward to the mano-a-mano clashes between these pack of Bowery Bums-Cadel Evans, The Schleck brothers,and Bradley Wiggins. What do these guys all have in common? No panache, no sense of urgency, no nothin'. I'd rather watch those bitches from "Mob Wives" screeching at each other than what's in store for us this coming July.
I can just imagine the Evans/Wiggo duel in the high mountains-talk about epic stuff for the ages. Two clowns trying to "consolidate" their positions while watching each other all the way to the line, with the obligatory "ATTACK" 500 meters from the line. And right beside them are the Brothers Schleck, whose moments of cycling derring-do have left many fans gasping at the side of the road from sheer excitement (insert sarcastic smirk HERE).
I can't wait. It's going to be the best Tour in years. (Someone says this every year, and when they do, guaranteed it was because it was one of the worst). I'd rather go down to The Bowery and watch the bums race each other for a slab of salami and a pint of Wild Irish Rose than have to be subjected to another Tour without an in-form Alberto Contador making the race for everyone else.