Like in all the grand tours, I will be giving out daily reports of the stages of the Vuelta where I size up the ham-gazers and golden hams of the day. In honor of the Spanish market chain that specializes in pigflesh, I have called these the Museo de Jamon Reports. Also, like in this year's Tour de France, Crazy Jane will occasionally contribute a special section called Jamon Delicioso that will look at the lighter side of the race through the lens of fashion and beauty.
For those of you who don't know already, here's the definition I came up with for ham gazing that might clarify the slant of these reports:
ham-gaze verb: 1) in cycling, the practice of watching other riders make the race; to sit on while other riders take off down the road. 2) the act of staying in the peloton and watching the "hams" of other riders in front of you. 3) the visual aspect of going off the back when other riders increase the tempo. noun: ham-gazer. synonyms: ass-watch, rear-view. antonyms: attack, hammer.
Golden Hams of the Day
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- "Pretty Boy" Floyd Landis and the United States Postal Services presented by Berry Floor. Lance? Lance who? Before the race started, people were discounting their strength, saying that the BlueBerry Boys had sent their "B" team to Spain. Then today the "B" team spanked the entire peloton, taking 31" out of the second-placed squad and a lot more time out of everybody else. Floyd crossed the line first, and therefore got to put on the Gold Jersey of leadership at the end of the day. This is a huge victory and a great achievement for Floyd, and a powerful statement by the entire squad. They kept a disciplined formation and held on to seven men the entire stage: Landis, Michael "Take Off" Barry, "The Notorious VHP" Victor Hugo Peña, David "Brisk" Zabriskie, Manuel "Blue Meanie" Beltran, Benoit "Joker" Joachim, and "Mad" Max van Heeswijk all crossed the line in 30' 45". With van Heeswijk a major threat in the sprints, the Posties will likely try to hand him off the Gold Jersey tomorrow. If he has good legs, "Mad" Max should be able to hold onto the Gold until the first real mountains at the end of Stage 5. Then Landis and Beltran will have to see if they still have enough left in the tank after their great rides in the Tour de France to challenge for the final podium.
- T-Mobile. In a result reminiscent of the final outcome of this year's Tour de France, Alexandre Vinokourov and his powerful pinkos were able to take second on the stage, giving up only 31" to the Posties. Vinokourov has to be the biggest favorite for the GC, as only Landis and Beltran are in front of him and the rest of the GC threats are well behind him. Cadel "Hellraiser" Evans and Santiago "The Battler" Botero put in powerful rides today, as did that amazing sprinter the "Big E-Z," Erik Zabel. Over the next few days, Zabel will be the biggest threat to van Heeswijk in the battle for Gold between the sprinters. Zabel also has the legs to make it over the climbs on Stage 5 in good shape, so he could be wearing Gold through the end of the week.
- Illes Balears-Banesto. Spanish Champion Francisco "Neckbrace" Mancebo came out of today's stage in good position, only 56" behind Landis and Beltran. His team was the early leader, riding in a tight line and holding on to seven men at the line; by the end of the day, their ride was good enough for third. Mancebo has an injured hand, but if he can push through the pain he should be in a great position when his preferred terrain, the mountains, roll around later this week. His teammates Denis Menchov and Joan Horrach could also do some damage if he falters.
El Museo de Jamon Deliciosa
- Liberty Seguros. Manolo Saiz must have nearly blown out his vocal chords yelling "Venga!" at his boys today. For a team with so much talent, they did quite poorly as they came across in 8th at 1' 28" behind US Postal. Defending champion Roberto "Spanish Fly" Heras and last years second-place finisher Isidro "Nitro" Nozal are now 1' 28" down on Landis and Beltran, 57" down on Vinokourov and Evans, and 27" down on Sevilla and Hamilton. This is not how this race was supposed to start for the Liberty squad. Now they will have their work cut out for them in the mountains.
- Phonak. It wasn't a bad day for Phonak, as they came across in 5th at 1' 01". However, they were a team that could have won this stage. With Oscar "Flying Elf" Sevilla and Tyler "Nails" Hamilton both coming off of injury, things could have gone worse for Phonak… both Sevilla and Hamilton looked to be fit and ready to roll. But they won't like giving up so much time to their rivals so early on in the race.
- Quick Step. The team of GC hopeful José Pecharroman came in a dismal 19th, 2' 13" behind US Postal. That's a big chunk of time to make up for the man looking to rediscover his winning form after a year plagued by injuries. If he's at his best, he is a ferocious climber and a fierce time trialist, and that uphill time trial on the Sierra Nevada should suit him perfectly. And if he wants to win this race, he can't afford to have any more bad days like this one.
- Saunier Duval-Prodir. Joseba Beloki's attempt to return to the top of the sport took another hit today, as his team struggled to a poor 14th place at 1' 50" behind US Postal. This is progress for Beloki, who has had problems finishing races this year, but this is hardly the high placing he'd wanted to start off with. Still, there is a long road ahead, and Beloki could pull off some good results before Madrid.
Ah, Espana! Where Crazy Jane's Latin bias can be given free reign! My pretties, as usual, we are in for a un muy delicioso three weeks, because anytime you kit up the pros and send them off to do their duty in a three week jaunt around some country or another, here's what happens: Fast Bike Riding! Mad Skillz! Heroic Efforts! Teamwork! and as if that weren't enough to keep us riveted, (oh yeah, you know it) Fit Young Men in Lycra!
Cycling: the best sport in the entire galaxy!
What are we looking out for this time around? Well, the usual suspects, of course. That sparkly-eyed little Tinkerbell Roberto Heras is rocking bib number one, and he'll be seeing some challenge in his quest to re-claim his mountain pixie title from some tough, and good lookin' competition. My delicioso favorites? Well, I'm pretty excited to see young guns Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego duke it out. I can't say I'll sqwak if I have to look at Alexander Vinokourov's hard rig and epic blonde-ness, or Stephano Garzelli's sculpted eyebrows and clean-shaven pate. We all know how big my soft spot for Oscarlito Sevilla and Tyler Hamilton is; and girls, Postal appears to be led by Tour de France totally epic stud, Floyd Landis! It doesn't get much more delicioso than that, people.
There will be no belly-aching over here when Alessandro Petacchi fires up his hot, Italian, lycra covered guns, and I hope to see him hard fought by the likes of Stuey O'Grady, Angelo Furlan, and Max Van Heeswijk. Meanwhile, riding around in the peloton, we'll have Martin "Nekkid" Perdiguero, Giosue "Lady Killer" Bonomi, Michael "Cute, Eh?" Barry, and that charming Denis Menchov, to name only a few.
But bottomline, folks, today belongs to the bad boys in blue, who, let's face it, know what the heck they're doing in a Team Time Trial. Whenever this happens:
US Postal kills again
Photo courtesy of La Vuelta a Espana
You'll get no complaints from this race fan. I mean, look at this crew! This is a whole bunch of skinny guys with big goofy grins right here. I love that! Also, I'm still not over how Floyd Landis kicked SO MUCH BUTT in July, and all I can say is this: Pretty Boy Floyd is lookin' good big-timin' us like he is in that gold jersey.
¿quién es el corredor más delicioso?
As usual, Crazy Jane and the panel are standing by for your nominations for El Museo de Jamon at email@example.com