2016 Tour de France meta-preview: Get off my lawn!

The first few days of the Tour are really about funny previews, the scenery and the dark art of peloton survival:

The latter is important, because massive sprinter Peter Sagan thinks all these noobs are ruining things (VeloNews):

Now in the group everybody is riding like they don’t care about their life — it’s unbelievable! … Before there was respect. When someone did something stupid, everybody throws their [water] bottle on him or beats him with [tire] pumps.

But VeloNews has already prepped us for these quotes with a handy cliche translator:

There’s no respect in the peloton — I’m not as young as I used to be / Get off my lawn.

And save the rough stuff for the peloton and not, say, a random punch-up with some drunk people, as Podium Cafe reminds us.

VeloNews also has a fun read on the so-unsung-they’re-actually-overrated men of the Tour, the “lead-out men” who get their team’s top sprinter in position for a Tour win.


Want to watch but don’t have cable or a dish any more? NBC has a package of the Tour and a lot of other races for $29.99.

I did promise funny previews. Take your pick (or read both):

NYVelocity: The “Tour de Schmalz” isn’t the daily riot it used to be, but he’ll still chime in from time to time. He explains why Chris Froome is the overwhelming favorite:

The 2013 and 2015 Tour Champion is coming off a win at the Dauphiné and is looking like a wobbly-elbowed juggernaut backed by a team of Rahpa-clad robots hellbent on delivering victory via a panache-smothering, soul crushing stomp through France. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2016 Tour de France, brought to you by Skynet.

Don’t worry — you’ll catch up to the lingo quickly, and it’s worth the effort. He’ll help you put a human funny face on an unfamiliar group of names.

Podium Cafe offers a day-by-day approach, weighing whether to catch the day’s action live or go play cricket, which sounds like a pair of options I wish I had. Today, I believe he’s out at the wicket:

There’s nothing like a long, boring, flat stage to bring the Tour de France south to the mountains.

And don’t forget, you may see some of these same people in Rio later this summer, where the velodrome is done … sort of (VeloNews again).

Monday Myriad, Feb. 25: Nordic gold! Nordic gold!

Headlines from myriad sports this week:

– Sarah Hendrickson won the world championship in women’s ski jumping.

– Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won the world championship in cross-country skiing’s team sprint, the first skiing title for the USA in Nordic World Championship history.

– The USA also won two world titles in the track cycling world championships. Not bad for a one-woman team, Sarah Hammer.

– Slovenia’s Tina Maze clinched the Alpine skiing World Cup title with nine races left.

– The U.S. men’s freestyle wrestling team went to the World Cup in Iran, building up some diplomatic goodwill but also wrestling pretty well.

The videos, features and tweets of the week:


Top athletes? Tough to beat Paralympians for all seasons

Allison Jones (Credit: USOC/Long Photography, Inc.)

Michael Phelps’ medal tally is impressive. But can he ski?

Somewhere in our ranking of great athletes, we have to set aside a place for those who manage Olympic medals in two different sports. And beyond that, we have to have another place for those who win gold medals in winter and summer Games.

That’s why this Tweet stands out today:


@Jonezyrocks is Allison Jones, who won a road cycling time trial gold today to go with her Alpine skiing medals, including gold in Torino.

Alana Nichols won gold in wheelchair basketball in 2008 and added a skiing gold in 2010.

Can any athlete match that in the Olympics or Paralympics?

The Olympics have had a few multisport athletes. This incomplete list (swimmer/triathlete/modern pentathlete Sheila Taormina was missing until I added her, so I don’t fully trust it) includes a lot of cyclists doubling up on winter sports that also require massive thighs. We also have a few combined-event athletes competing in a subset of those events (modern pentathletes in fencing, etc.) and a few track and field/bobsled folks.

Then we get some unusual combos. Bobsled and sailing. Bobsled and judo. Ice hockey and softball (add that to “things I’d forgotten about Hayley Wickenheiser.”)

The most accomplished dual-season Olympian is surely Canada’s Clara Hughes. She won two medals in cycling in 1996, tried again in 2000 and then shifted to speedskating. She claimed four medals in three Winter Olympics, then made another run in cycling just a few weeks ago in London. At age 39, she finished fifth in the time trial.

Paralympic records aren’t as widely tracked, but the Paralympic Hall of Fame includes one Jouko Grip, who doubled up on track and field plus cross-country skiing. He managed five gold medals in 1984, back in the days in which Winter and Summer Games were held in the same year.

Bo knows? Jouko knows.

Lance Armstrong saga brings out the vitriol

Yoda-speak: Hate leads to anger, anger leads … to writing about Lance Armstrong.

As with the opinion on Jon Jones v UFC, mainstream punditry seems to have shifted. Or maybe it just depends on what news organization you read. You’re read my take — either nuanced or wishy-washy, depending on how charitable you are. And I already mentioned George Vecsey’s take, in which the great columnist thinks Armstrong likely wasn’t doing anything others weren’t doing as well.

Let’s see what else is out there:

At USA TODAY, my excellent former colleague Christine Brennan bluntly labels Armstrong a cheater.

The Washington Post, on the other hand, aims both barrels of anger at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Tracee Hamilton: “Either a drug test is the standard, or it isn’t.” (To which Marion Jones could respond, “Wait, I didn’t have to go to jail?”)  Sally Jenkins, who duly gives the disclaimer that she has written with Armstrong, says curiously uses alleged World Anti-Doping Agency misdeeds and ties them to what she sees an overzealous U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which is a bit like throwing Sepp Blatter’s problems at Sunil Gulati’s feet.

Jenkins also implores Congress to step in and do something about “the WADA-USADA system,” calling it “simply incompatible with the U.S. legal system.”

So … I guess we won’t be sending any more athletes to the Olympics?

That said — Jenkins raises and repeats valid concerns about WADA and international arbitration. But thinking Congress can sort it out sure feels like betting on the wrong horse.

(Update: The Post is far from unanimous — Mike Wise calls Armstrong’s move a vindication of his longtime critics. One point worth mentioning: Armstrong’s critics don’t gain anything financially. Far from it. They stand to lose a lot. It’s not like the old WADA days where Dick Pound used his position to keep his name out there and occasionally tweak Americans.)

How do Armstrong’s sponsors feel? Former USA TODAY colleague Mike McCarthy finds Michelob Ultra sticking with him, and Oakley basically says “Prove it.”

Slate offers two takes — Josh Levin says Armstrong has managed to keep a core of true believers (looking around the Web and my own Facebook feed, I’d argue it’s more than a small core) and his “righteous indignation.” Jeremy Stahl, who has covered cycling, echoes the points Vecsey and I have made — if you strip Lance, who of the other suspected or convicted dopers will take his titles?

The Economist’s Game Theory blog, a good quirky read for those of us who like quirky sports coverage, views the Armstrong saga as a tragedy.

Let’s leave it to Mike Lopresti, a pro’s pro among columnists, to add some gray to the black-and-white case:

What Lance Armstrong shows us is that human nature will never be as straightforward as a box score or a talk show. We are quick to build up and even quicker to tear down, because to do either draws attention. But sport, like life, is almost always somewhere in the middle. Too bad, Armstrong’s story is not neat. They seldom are, those epics cluttered by flesh-and-blood. No matter how much we yearn them to be.

Metric, one of my favorite bands, has this lyric on their new album: “They were right when they said we should never meet our heroes.”  Perhaps it’s not so much that we shouldn’t meet them. Perhaps we need to be careful not to see them in absolutes.