Any given week, there are oodles of cycling stories flying around in the news. So here’s a quick-hit summary of this week’s happenings, plus my own garbage opinions on each. Much like my gambling advice, these takes are for entertainment purposes only!
Critérium du Dauphiné has got to be cycling’s most passive-aggressive week. Nearly every star in the French race is pretending they don’t care. They claim they aren’t quite fit. The Dauphiné is just for training, they say. Deep down, you know they want to get a result.
So I’ve whipped up a special “Dauphiné excuses” edition of garbage takes. Yes, I’ve taken it upon myself to overanalyze the pre-Tour comments hitting the newswires this week to sift out the best excuses, deflections, and other psych-out speak. Are these my peak garbage takes? Probably not. But just like these riders, I still have three weeks of rigorous take training to find my best garbage form before the Tour.
‘Three weeks until the Tour’
Turns out the top GC guys are keenly aware of the calendar. Here are three very similar quotes from three top riders. Let’s rank each for its quality as a passive-aggressive way to downplay the importance of the Dauphiné.
Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo): “Today [my TT bike] felt a little strange, but we still have three weeks before the Tour.”
I’ll give this four out of five indifferent shrugs by a French bartender. Pretty solid. Contador gets bonus points for riding well in that stage 4 time trial but also hinting that the result was mediocre.
Richie Porte (BMC): “I’m really happy with where I am at three weeks before the Tour de France.”
Hey Richie, chill out man. This is one out of five indifferent shrugs. Porte needs to play it cool. Yeah, you won the race, so you’re obviously fit. Maybe say something about how your stomach didn’t feel so great, or that your radio earpiece was broken.
Chris Froome (Sky): “I’ve still got three weeks now after the Dauphiné in terms of time trial work.”
This is why Froome is the champ. Five out of five shrugs — maybe even six. It is as if he rolled up to a local time trial series race after three hours of base miles, pockets full of ride food, and cracked a joke before starting 10 seconds late.
French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) has had some rotten luck when it comes to the Tour. He crashed out in 2015. Bouhanni didn’t start in 2016 because he got into a fight and broke his hand. This year wasn’t looking so great either, because just last month he suffered a concussion at Tour de Yorkshire. But Bouhanni is back! And he’s better than … Well, he’s better than he was with a broken hand last year. “Third, it’s not the win, but I was in the fight and that’s a good sign,” Bouhanni said after stage 2. Of all the Tour sprinters, I think Bouhanni gets a pass for this comment. If he can simply start the Grand Boucle this year, I’m calling it a victory for him. Sir, you are free to continue making excuses this week.
Fabio Aru missed the 100th edition of his home tour, the Giro d’Italia, due to a knee injury. What a pity. This means Aru has now focused his season on the Tour de France. But already Aru is hitting the excuse buffet pretty hard. “Certainly, you don’t prepare for the Tour following the path I’ve taken,” Aru said. Do Aru’s comments hint at a lack of confidence in his form? If so, it’s a real bummer, because a fit Aru could animate the steep climbs along this year’s Tour route. In my opinion, Aru needs to calm down with the pre-Tour excuses, even if he’s not feeling 100 percent. Maybe he should focus on his Giro excuses for 2018, just to psych out Vincenzo Nibali. That would be astonishing, the work of a master tactician.
Richie Porte crushed the Dauphiné’s stage 4 time trial. It was impressive to everyone, except Chris Froome. The race’s defending champ said, “I’ve done everything right up to now, and I’ll just keep going up until the Tour,” hinting that he is not worried at all about Porte and his winning form. Ouch. Should Froome have such a cavalier attitude? I don’t know a lot, but I do know that you never poke a bear. There are no bears in Australia, but I’m sure you do not want to poke a Tasmanian Devil either. So, if Porte attacks every climb in the final three stages of the Dauphiné, you’ll know that Froome gave him some bulletin-board material.