What Happened Guys?
It was a massive meltdown for the American favorites, as Floyd burned like the wick while the others dripped away… Julich’s race is done after crashing heavily – what caused it exactly we don’t know, Levi just disappeared altogether – another unsolved mystery, Dave Z failed to produce, but Christian Vande Velde put in an unexpected ride to finish 30th. Hincapie didn’t have the legs and is 1:30 back of the only homie left in the hunt – Floyd – who is the new marked man heading into next week’s mountain stages.
But sifting through the gc leader board gives a better idea of who to watch for, here’s my call:
• GC #1 Honchar**: Doesn’t have a solid Tour record to go on, (64th in ’02 last result), he did finish second to Cunego in the 2004 Giro, and was 6th in ‘05. He did lead the ’06 Giro after the TTT too. He’s a big engine, but without a Tour record we’ll have to wait and see, plus his T-Mobile team doesn’t exactly have a history of supporting non-German riders at le Tour.
**Note: After getting fully flamed by one reader for my incomplete assessment of Honchar’s palmares, I’ve revised my take on him.
• GC#2 Rogers (GC#3) – His best Tour finish was 22nd in ’04, plus a couple of 40-somethings in ’03 and ’05. He is the World TT champ – 3 years running, but the best glimpse of his current form might be his 2nd at the ‘0-6 Tour de Suisse – typically a good indicator of solid TDF legs. Still, as part of a T-Mobile that’s doing its best Headless Horseman impression, even without ‘der Kaiser’ leading the charge they’re wreaking havoc on the bunch, holding 5/11 top spots. But based on his Grand Tour results, I’m not holding my breath.
• GC#4 Sinkewitz is unknown – the former Tour of Germany winner is young and inexperienced racing at Tour levels, but could be put to good use supporting his T-Mobile captain(s).
• GC#5 Marcus Fothen – young and limited experience, he’s here to look after his Gerolsteiner team leaders. Well, okay, his team leader from yesterday is now in 62nd on gc, so maybe team management will give him a little more freedom?.
• GC#6 Kloden – finished 2nd in 2004 Tour, seems to have form but has done zilch all year… who knows? He’s a German on T-Mobile, so might qualify for favorable support.
• GC#8 Karpets – won white jersey in ’04 and was 13th overall, seems to have form, but lacks the team… wildcard at best.
• GC#8 Cadel Evens is in 8th now, 57 seconds behind Floyd – not bad, but will be a marked man in the mountains. He’s having a great year, but is only hope is to ride to a new level if he wants to ditch Floyd.
• GC#9 Denis Menchov is :60 back of Floyd, and finished 2nd in last year’s Vuelta until Heras got busted. He can climb and time trial, and best Tour finish was 2003 in 11th, when he won the White Jersey. Watch him like a hawk.
• GC #12 Christophe Moreau – the French hope at 1:07 back of Floyd. He’s showing good form of late, but don’t expect a gc threat.
• GC #13 Paulo Savoldelli – 1:10 back of Floyd – he’s a guy to watch. He’s got Grand Tour winner’s experience – both for himself at the Giro (twice), and last year learning from Lance. He can TT, climb okay, but descend like a… well, Falcon. I like his chances a lot more today than yesterday – expect some mano-a-mano with Floyd.
• GC#14 Eddy Mazzoleni – finished 13th last year, slowly creeping up the gc rankings – could surprise next week, but will likely be called to work for Klodi.
• GC #15 Sebastien Lang – The Gerolsteiner lad rocked today’s TT with the leaderspot for most of the day, but it’s his first Tour, so don’t expect much until the final TT.
• GC #17 Hincapie – A big question mark now. He did not deliver the goods today, but I’d say the oddsmakers have downgraded his gc chances. Still a fan fave, though.
Next up are two flat days sandwiching a rest day, then Wednesday we hit the big mountains in the Pyrenees with stage 10 to Pau, including two big climbs over the Soudet and Marie-Blanque, but the run in to Pau is 45km – all downhill – too far for a break to stick. Expect the big guns to save the ammo for Thursday though, with 5 huge climbs to a ski-top summit of Palt de Beret.