Post Stage 3 Analysis

Three stages and a prologue done have told us a little bit more about how things are shaping up. We have yet to hit the first time trial or mountain stage to really shake things up, but the prologue and today's classics-style stage have allowed the contenders to rise up a bit; they also provided enough time for the early Tour-jitter crashes to do their damage:

  • Valverde (collarbone): overall favorite according to the bookies.
  • Rodriguez (collarbone): McEwen's leadout man. Robbie can grab anyone's wheel, but this could tip a stage or two Boonen's way.
  • O'Grady: Has worn the yellow and green jerseys and has two stage wins. He was within easy striking distance of another yellow jersey.
  • Dekker (collarbone and face): Four Tour stage wins, certainly a big loss for Rabobank
  • Horner (not out, but injured hand): It looks like Horner will continue on, but after thinking he broke his hand, who knows what this will do to Horner's breakaway potential.

Depending on your definition of 'contender', either all the major contenders made it up the Cauberg climb in the same group or a couple (Mayo, Cunego) fell behind. I'm mostly watching my picks, so here are my thoughts on them:

  • Discovery: Discovery has come out strong as expected, with Hincapie currently looking to be their favored rider. I'm having a hard time with my pick of Discovery as number one: I believe Discovery will win, but I have a hard time believing Hincapie will win, yet looks the most likely right now. Slightly surprising is the fact that Savoldelli appears to be very strong despite having trained for the Giro instead. Popovych had a poor showing in June's Dauphine and, while not looking bad, hasn't shown leader-level strength yet. Martinez looks like he'll be a strong domestique. The Discovery standings are:

    3 George Hincapie 0.05
    5 Paolo Savoldelli 0.15
    21 Yaroslav Popovyvch 0.27
    22 Egoi Martinez 0.28
    28 Jos� Azevedo 0.31
    50 Jos� Luis Rubiera 0.45

    Hincapie on final approach-1 Savoldelli during warmups
    That's pretty good, eh? The time trial will knock a couple back, but so many riders within striking distance of the yellow jersey should put Bruyneel in a great tactical position come mountain time. He could send Martinez, Azevedo, or Rubiera up the road to go for yellow and let the peloton pull Hincapie/Savo/Popo up the road, he could make the other teams Savo downhill to the stage 10 or stage 14 finish (stage 10 might be a bit too far), or he could just do the traditional blue train and see how many contenders he can blow off the back of a climb.

  • Floyd Landis7 Floyd Landis 0.15: Any doubts lingering from his poor Dauphine performance are mostly erased in my mind, though we haven't hit that first mountain yet. He was very strong in the prologue and he made the soft selection up the Cauberg today.

  • Bobby Julich Warming Up19 Bobby Julich 0.25: The injury to O'Grady probably isn't doing much for CSC's morale. Jens Voigt went on one of his traditional breaks, but he was atypically dropped from the break. A strong performance by Bobby J and/or Dave Z in the time could easily turn things around, but for now CSC is waiting for its moment.
  • Alejandro Valverde: Spain had its best chance dashed by a loss of concentration on a hot day.

  • Levi descends25 Levi Leipheimer 0.28: His prologue performance was less than stellar, 'sluggish' in his own words. He'll have several more stages to ride into shape, so this isn't a big concern just yet, but with such a wide open Tour, a little bit of sluggishness may be the difference between a podium finish and a top five finish (at least according to my predictions).

Other riders (look, non-Americans!):

  • 11 Cadel Evans 0.20: He won this year's Tour de Romandie, but I kept hearing his name in 2005 and never saw him deliver, so I'm still thinking top ten finish for him.
  • 16 Andreas Kl�den 0.24: I haven't been watching T-Mobile's top-remaining rider, but I should probably pay a bit more attention. T-Mobile is obviously weakened with the loss of Ullrich and Sevilla, but Kl�den did finish second while presumably working for Ullrich, so that always makes him a threat.
  • 32 Denis Menchov 0.33: Menchov has experience with doping-scandal Grand Tours, as he became the de facto winner of the 2005 Vuelta as a result of Heras' suspension. The title of Vuelta winner requires much respect as do his combined climbing and time trialing skills.

related articles: Tour de France 2006
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