Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Chasing The Consolation Prizes

I completed today's route counter-clockwise.

Grand Tours often begin with a short time trial and end with a more-or-less processional stage that serves as a lap of honor for the overall champion. And as these stages typically occur on weekends they draw the largest numbers of TV viewers and in-person spectators … who must be bored and/or confused. There’s nothing especially interesting about a short time trial; such stages exist only to put someone in the race leader’s jersey so that there will be a modicum of order on the road the next day. And the last stage of a Grand Tour is almost always a day for the handful of sprinters who managed to drag themselves over the mountains; the overall champions who keep out of the fray are greeted with bewildered applause by onlookers who don’t understand why the guy who won the stage isn’t the guy who won the race.

Things are otherwise in this year’s Vuelta a España, that cruel consolation prize for the men whose seasons haven’t gone as well as they had hoped. The Spanish tour began on Tuesday in Spain rather than in the Netherlands, where it had no business in the first place. (You can’t convince me that a Grand Tour should ever begin in a country with which the host nation doesn’t share a border.) In the pre-coronavirus plans, the Vuelta was supposed to spend its first three days in the Netherlands. Now shortened to 18 stages, the Vuelta began yesterday with a full-on battle for the general classification. And that battle continued today. We already have a legitimate leader in Primož Roglič and we already have big time gaps between contenders and pretenders. We’ve seen plenty of Grand Tours in which a GC favorite was happy to lose the jersey of race leadership after taking it early. After all, the leader and his team have responsibilities that the other riders don’t have, and those responsibilities are a drain on their energies. Strategically, it’s usually best to take the jersey as late as possible. But if he’s smart, Roglič will defend this one with everything he has. Europe is starting to quarantine again as the coronavirus regathers momentum, and there’s no guarantee that an already shortened Vuelta won’t be shortened further. Whatever may occur, I’ll be watching: each stage will be on NBC Sports Gold.

I have not been watching the Giro d’Italia, now in its final week. I haven’t found streaming coverage that isn’t locked down. I’ve tried all the usual tricks including a VPN tunnel to circumvent geographical restrictions, but no luck. Honestly, though, it’s not a compelling field this year. Looks like a two-man race now between Joao Almeida and Wilco Kelderman, and I can’t get worked up for that.

I’m having a hard enough time getting worked up for my own rides. Bad weather is the main reason for that, and now seasonal chores are demanding a chunk of my time. Tomorrow is the final curbside brush collection day of the year in West Bend, so I’ve been trimming trees and shrubs. There’s grass to cut and soon enough there will be leaves to rake. Too soon there will be snow to shovel, and next week is our last week this year on Daylight Saving Time. It’s getting harder to find time for everything. I came into this week 100 miles short of my 5,000-mile goal for the 2020 season, itself a consolation prize of sorts. Today I collected 34 of those miles. I’ll get shut out tomorrow by an all-day rain and then try to come back on Friday and Saturday to finish things off. Next week’s forecast offers only more misery, so there’s every reason to wrap things up as soon as possible.

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