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WorldTour Wrap: the weirdest Grand Tour stage in history?

Chris Froome dominates the Vuelta, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been plenty to talk about...

As the Vuelta ploughed on into its second week, Chris Froome took an ever-more vice-like grip on seemingly every classification going. Not only is the Kenyan-born British rider wearing the maglia rojo for the overall lead, he’s also at the head of the points standings (for sprinters) and to go with his red and green ones, he’s also got the white jersey for the combination competition.

As far as we can make out, this is awarded based on a combination of factors including a rider’s star sign, their favourite member of The Beatles and their proficiency at household tasks like hoovering, dusting and declogging the U-bend.

Chris Froome is not only holder of the red jersey at La Vuelta, but also the green and the white too (Pic: Sirotti)

Such is Froome’s Godfather-esque domination of all facets of this race, there are now rumours circulating that if Davide Villella doesn’t surrender the polka dots soon he’s going to get a midnight visit from Ian Stannard, Wout Poels and a pair of concrete cleats.

Don’t think for a moment though that the Vuelta hasn’t been thrilling, despite Froome’s dominance – there’s been plenty of big top action, as well as plenty of sideshows in this most anarchic of travelling circuses. Oh, and let’s not forget the Tour of Britain kicked off yesterday with its most star-studded-est line-up ever.

The good book

The road book is a firm friend of the professional cyclist, containing within its pages the information vital to a successful race and the riders will pore over the pages well in advance of a Grand Tour, trying to glean some insight that will help them in the heat of battle.

For the stage hunters, it’s their best resource in terms of identifying a particular day that suits their strengths to target, while the general classification teams also rely on the road book for spotting potential pitfalls or spots for an ambush. It is not referred to as ‘the bible’ lightly.

Of course, sometimes the road book gets it wrong, or straight up lies.

Occasionally, it even trolls the riders.

But neither of these incidences were as harsh as stage 13 to Tomares. ‘One for the sprinters’ the road book said. Flat run-in, couple of roundabouts. Nothing to worry about. Maybe a slightly uphill finish.

And then, whammo, an incredibly steep ramp at about 2km to go. Puncheur smash-merchants like Matteo Trentin boshed it, while the pure sprinters vanished into thin air. Pity the Blythes and Modolos of the Vuelta, slogging through day after day of climbing mountains, all based on the promise that there’s a flat stage in week two. And then arriving at the finale to discover they have the Muur van Tomares to contend with.

While it’s not nice for the riders to experience this sort of duplicitous behaviour from the road book, as fans we can’t wait for Tuesday’s ‘flat individual time trial’.

What the riders don’t know yet is it’s actually a triple-split stage with a basket-weaving competition followed by ‘guess the number of beans in this jar’, and finishing with a contest to see who can eat the most hotdogs (Finally, a stage for Conor Dunne!).

TWGTSIH

You have to feel bad for Tomasz Marczynski. The Polish journeyman won his second stage of La Vuelta on stage 12, adding a second breakaway win – this time a beautiful solo – to the thrilling sprint he picked up a week previous.

But was anybody talking about that incredible achievement the evening after the race? Hells no. Why? Because TWGTSIH (pronounced ‘twuggitseh’, say it aloud, it’s fun).

You don’t need me to tell you that TWGTSIH stands for, ‘THE WEIRDEST GRAND TOUR STAGE IN HISTORY’, during which, not one but three surreal moments distracted from poor old marvellous Marcyznski.

The day began with some pretty shitty news for Aqua Blue Sport, who awoke to find that their team bus had been burnt to the ground.

To paraphrase Austin Powers, ‘Who burns a bus? Honestly.’

Then, as if to go one better on the weirdness scale, here’s a fan apparently diving in front of the moto that is following behind Alberto Contador.

And here’s that same moment from another angle, from which we see that in fact, the spectator was trying to run alongside Contador, before being body slammed, WWE-style, into the path of the motorbike.

As if all that wasn’t strange enough, news emerged after the stage that Maxim Belkov was pushed off his bike during the stage by a roadside spectator. It later transpired that the spectator has learning difficulties, and Belkov took to Instagram to say: “For me, this is more than enough reason not to undertake any further action against him.”

What would you do if I sang out of Theuns?

Ever wanted to see Belgian sprint-starlet Edward Theuns sing, La Bamba? No, neither had we. However…

— La Vuelta Stats (@lavuelta_stats) September 1, 2017

At least there’s finally a definitive way to tell Theuns from Dylan Teuns. Everyone knows Teuns’ karaoke number is La Macarena.

I have some questions about Taylor Phinney and ‘Terry the Scottish former champion’

OK, so this one is pretty self-explanatory from the heading. Here it is.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some questions.

Where is Terry now?

I hope the answer is that Terry just vanished into the crowd again after depositing Taylor back at the bus, like a ghost, or a Scottish ninja. Or the Scottish ghost of a ninja.

What did Terry and Taylor talk about?

Is Terry into Haruki Murakami like Taylor, or is he more of a Michel Foucault guy?

Is there scope for a sitcom out of this?

Trick question. The answer is obviously yes.

Did Terry bring any ‘nutrition’ with him?

Basically, did Taylor get to sample ‘tablet’, the finest Scottish delicacy known to man? Or any other famous Scottish dishes? I will donate £100 to the Cannondale crowdfunder if they post a video of Taylor eating a deep-fried mars bar.

What is the significance of a sawn-off baseball cap?

How did the sight of this ruined headpiece let Taylor know that Terry is cool? Is it some hipster signifier that only Taylor and Terry know about, like how the Masons have that secret handshake?

Is Terry a metaphor?

Are we all, in a way, Terry?

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