Tales from the Peloton, September 19, 2005
The thing most people don't realise is that the term "Vuelta a España" is Spanish for "Lesser-Known Evil Stepchild of the Tour de France." In fact, it can be safely said that apart from the fact that it exists, very few people know anything about the Vuelta at all. Just kidding, actually nobody even knows it exists.
Except, of course, hardcore pro peloton geeks like yourself. You followed every single second of this riveting race, right? Right? Well, we'll just see about that. With the 2005 Vuelta in the history books, it's time to find out: are you one of the great cycling unwashed? Or do you have what it takes to pass the Fat Cyclist's 2005 Vuelta a España Stage-by-Stage Quiz?
Stage 1: The prologue to this year's Vuelta was unusual for what reason?
a. It was conducted on unicycles.
b. It was conducted indoor, in a roller rink.
c. It was only 7 kilometres long, which, when converted to miles, is once around Lance Armstrong's living room.
d. Roberto Heras, utterly convinced that he would eventually win the Vuelta, demoralised his opponents by wearing hip-waders and carrying a fishing pole for the entirety of the ride, saying, "I know of a good fishing hole along the way; I may stop and try my luck."
Stage 2: Brad McGee won this stage of the Vuelta. What other notable things happened on this day?
a. Brad became the first Australian to wear the leader's jerseys of all three grand tours. (Sadly, nobody informed McGee that it was bad form to wear all three of the leader's jerseys at the same time, and he would show up the following day woefully overdressed.)
b. Um, actually, Brad didn't win the stage. That was Leonardo Bertagnolli, who apparently didn't get the memo that it was Brad's turn to win.
c. The Devil - the real one, not the guy who looks like Santa in a Satan costume - remarked, "It is actually hotter than Hell here today. I'm going back to Hades to cool down a bit."
d. Brad McGee would realise what colour the leader's jersey is in the Vuelta. "I'm so pleased to wear the yellow jersey," McGee quoted. "Uh, it's golden actually," Heras replied. "Looks yellow to me," said McGee. "I know. It is yellow. We just pretend it's gold," conceded Heras.
Stages 3, 4, 8, 12, 21: Pro bike racing fans were astonished - astonished, I tell you - when what happened on each of these stages?
a. Alessandro Petacchi won in a bunch sprint, his team delivering him to the perfect position to demonstrate he is the undisputed sprint kinzzzzzzzzz…oh, I'm sorry. I dozed off there for a minute. Here's the problem with bunch sprints in Grand Tours: they're boring. They're great to watch in real life, they're great to watch on TV, and they are deadly dull to read about in print.
b. Cyclists had to repeatedly douse themselves with water in order to avoid bursting into flames in the 40-degree C weather (umm, that's 104 degrees F).
c. The water in riders' bottles instantly turned to steam, exploding with a loud pop.
d. Stage 8 was actually just a rerun of parts of stages 3 and 4, just to see if anybody noticed. Well, did you?
Stage 6: On this stage, Roberto Heras took the golden jersey. What were the implications of this?
a. It means that Heras woke up that morning and remembered, "Oh, yeah. I had almost forgotten that I'm one of the greatest climbing cyclists of all time. I guess I'll go kick some butt today."
b. McGee would be forced to hand over the jersey. "I'm disappointed there is actually only one leader's jersey this year, and we have to pass it around to whoever the leader is. What Heras doesn't realise is that I've spilled ketchup on the jersey and the stain won't come out."
c. Did you notice I skipped stage 5? Yeah, well if you did, you were the only one.
d. All of the above.
e. None of the above.
f. One of the above, but I refuse to say which one.
Stage 7: Max Van Heeswijk won a bunch sprint in this stage. What other notable events occurred on this day?
a. Floyd Landis abandoned the Vuelta, citing "ennui" as his reason for leaving the race.
b. OLN TV spokespeople called each and every American cycling enthusiast who had sent in petitions, e-mail, and letters talking about the big American renaissance in cycling, saying "Um, so apart from Danielson, who were you talking about?"
c. Phonak released its schedule for 2006, detailing on which days each of its racers would be suspended on doping charges.
d. Someone, somewhere, raised his hand and asked, "What's up with all these bunch sprints in the Vuelta?
Stages 9, 20: Roberto Heras did not win either of these two time trials, but he was extraordinarily fast - fifth and second place, respectively - showing remarkable form. What are the appropriate responses to these results?
a. Evidently, someone told his much-slower identical twin that he could no longer have his turn racing.
b. Or maybe it's that they got Heras bike-riding look-alike robot working properly, finally.
c. Heras now has the second-fastest time trial average in a grand tour, ever? Heras? Was it a time trial off a freakin' cliff?
d. Seriously. Heras? 38.9 km in 41'31"? Heras?
Stages 10 - 14: Which of the following did not occur at least once in these stages:
a. Pettacchi wins a bunch sprint. Again.
b. Roberto Heras has a "serious accident" adding much-needed "drama" to the mid-Vuelta doldrums. Never mind that this accident does not cost him even a second during the following stages.
c. Laiseka wins a stage. So does Mancebo. So does Ardila. Nope, strike that, make it Sanchez.
d. GC standings between Heras and Menchov changed drastically. OK, by even a second. (C'mon guys, it's the mountains! Somebody attack already!)
Stage 15: By the time this stage had ended, Heras' overwhelming victory had triggered which of the following events?
a. Once again, the broaching of the question, "So could someone please explain to me exactly where the hell was Heras during the Tour de France?"
b. Racers, acknowledging the Vuelta was now over, held a vote whether to make it official and end it early so they could all go find some air conditioning, for crying out loud.
c. Race organizers offered Floyd Landis a "get back in race free" card if he wanted to come back and see if he could beat Heras now that he'd had a couple of weeks off.
d. Heras read a brief, self-effacing statement along the lines of, "This race is far from over," which not a single person in the world believed.
Stages 16 - 21: What were the most important events in the final six stages of the Vuelta a España?
a. Average speed of the final time trial was actually faster than the speed of sound.
b. Petacchi won another bunch sprint. (Memo to Petacchi: this will eventually get tiresome, you know.)
c. Racer promoters, trying desperately to generate some excitement about a race with a foregone conclusion, declare Stage 17 "Wear a Rodeo Outfit" day for racers.
d. Cyclingnews.com offers US$25 prize to any racer who can beat Heras and become the new race leader.
e. Race organisers agree to shorten Vuelta to three-day mini-grand tour for 2006.
Haven't had enough nonsense? Read more of Elden Nelson's cycling satire, ill-formed opinions, weight-loss obsessing, and bad advice at Elden Nelson's 'Fat Cyclist' blog