Stage 2 of the Giro began in Herning and ended in Herning. Herning? What the fuck kind of name is that? Some ancient Viking king who plied the sea lanes between Scandinavia and England, plundering the hapless forebears of Wiggins who cowered, britishly, under the wrath of the ruthless, fork-bearded marauders?
Herning was originally a heath, which is a barren wasteland. The heath accounted for millions of acres of land, all useless for agriculture, and all created as a result of the complete deforestation of the primeval forests by the Vikings, who clearcut the entire nation to build their ships. What they left behind was the medieval Superfund site otherwise known as Denmark.
In the 1860’s, when Denmark’s population began to explode, which is to say sometime after the Danes had been beaten to a bloody pulp by the Germans but before the discovery of porn, the starving and ill-tempered Scandinavians decided to reclaim the heath. “What we lost without, we will build within!” was the rallying cry.
Herning is one such reclamation project, created in the 1800’s, literally springing out of the waste of the earth.
That was then. This is now.
Not surprisingly, one of pro cycling’s biggest waste reclamation projects, “Mr. 60 Percent” Bjarne Riis, hales from Herning. A confessed drug cheat, architect of the T-Mobile systematized team doping program and general scallywag, it is only appropriate that the Giro would pay homage to its doping roots by kicking off 2012 in Mr. 60 Percent’s hometown.
Fortunately, Mr. 60 Percent and his Saxo Bank squad have put the terrible doping excesses of the 2000s, 90’s, 80’s, 70’s, 60’s, 50’s, 40’s, 30’s, 20’s, 10’s, and Aughty-Aught’s behind them, and have turned a new corner with clean cycling, except for the team’s star rider who is languishing under a doping ban for tainting his meat with clenbuterol and who was stripped of his 2011 TdF title and forced to write “I am a doping cheat” ten thousand times on the blackboard. But that is all ancient history.
The second page in the new history of clean sport and fair play from this year’s Giro was written by none other than Mark Cavendish, chubby sprinter dude who ate donuts and sucked wheel while the ten fastest guys in the pro peloton did all the work for 199k during Stage 2 and then delivered him safely to the last 200m, where he showed the power and speed of a smallish, angry, well-rested lardball that had been shot from a cannon.
This and other similar pre-arranged, predictable, stable return on investment-type finishes are programmed for the Giro’s entire stay in Denmark…or are they?
Elia, Ingvar Cronhammar, the Inverted Vault of Doom and the Danish Curse of “This is Bullshit”
Just a short distance to the east of the Master Start in Herning is one of the world’s great mysteries, rivaling Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids of Cheops, and Mitt Romney’s stance on healthcare.
It is Elia, the brain child of Ingvar Cronhammar.
Shaped like an inverted volcanic caldera, this hollow semi-sphere rises 30 meters out of the heath, where its top is punctuated by four massive steel cylinders. A furnace buried within the belly of the beast belches fire at random intervals, and the cylinders are made to especially attract lightning bolts. The acoustics of the beast’s empty bowels are such that they throw the growls of thunder back in the face of the gods from whence they were uttered.
The awe and majesty of this extraordinary “living” sculpture is captured on countless YouTube videos, where bored tourists and their colicky children can be heard off camera saying, “Is this it? We traveled all the way to fucking Denmark for this? This is bullshit!”
This, of course, is exactly what anyone looking for an actual sporting event is saying after a mere two days of Giro racing in Denmark.
Americans get all misty-eyed, the British stiffly shake hands, everyone else rolls their eyes
If you ever doubted the complete sporting fraud of modern pro cycling, Stage 2 didn’t even bother to hide the sham. Cav’s post race commentary said it all.
“[Teammate Ian Stannard] did 150 kilometers alone reeling in the break – he did incredible.” So pleased to know someone else did all the work, Mark.
“I was really looked after at the finish and kept sheltered. Geraint took me perfect and went exactly when he was supposed to. I was able to come off him and win the stage so I’m very, very happy.” So pleased to know that your race strategy consisted in being looked after. Did they warm your bottle and burp you prior to the lead out?
However, before Dick Fitzenceider sends me a snide comment reminding me that THAT’S CYCLING, it bears remembering that this awesome display of laziness and sloth by the reigning world champion is only a prelude to his true race strategy…pick up a few more wins and then quit.
“If Mark is thinking on the Tour and on the Olympics afterwards, as it’s the case, I think he will not finish the Giro.” Suspended meat-tainter Alberto Contador, on Cav’s near-certain withdrawal from the race.
The Manx La-Z-Boy rushed to his own defense in a roundabout way, claiming that Contador had been misquoted but then failing to confirm that he’d ride the race beyond the 13th stage, when the Giro goes from a donut feast to a force-feeding of nails and broken glass.
“I’ve planned to stay until the end. I never want to stop a race and leave the team.”
Check back on Stage 14 to see if “planned to stay” and “never want to stop a race” has equated to “willing to bust my ass for 22km up the Col de Joue and 27km more up to the finish at Cervinia at the end of a 205km stage.”
Wankmeister predicts that by the time the 14th stage concludes, the Manx La-Z-Boy will be sipping tea and chomping donuts back home in the Isle of (Not Quite) Man. Bets, anybody?