Rest day, post-TT analysis

The overall contenders? Everytime I do this, I seem to lose of the mentions to a crash or otherwise. You know it's an upside-down, hard-to-predict Tour when Al Trautwig is still in the lead in the OLN yellow jersey picks competition. The convential wisdom for yesterday was a day of Americans, but Landis was the only rider to answer the call. More on Floyd "Tougher than Tyler" Landis in my next entry.

Discovery: They were the strongest team of the opening weak... until the time trial. The time trial, which Discovery is supposed to have a technological advantage in, was instead the stage where Discovery got beat by the likes of T-Mobile, Phonak, and Gerolsteiner. They handed the title of strongest team over to T-Mobile and are in no position to take it back anytime soon. The reports seem to indicate that Lance will be making an unplanned visit to the Tour. Is it time to rally the troops? Discovery now has an important decision: who is their leader? Bruyneel knows that he can't win the overall trying to protect two horses; though maybe he knows that the overall is already looking a lot less likely. Savoldelli (13th place, 2.10), multi-Giro winner, seems the probable choice now, though Hincapie (17th, 2.30) is the sentimental favorite. Popo (23rd, 3.27) doesn't seem strong enough, and Azevedo (33rd, 4.09) is hard to judge until the mountains. Savoldelli's top ranking among the team seems a surprise probably even to Discovery -- in the pre-race commentary, Johan himself was discounting Savo's chances due to Giro fatigue.

T-Mobile: Six of the seven T-Mobile riders are in the top 20, so it doesn't seem to matter that they started the Tour two riders down. Everything I said about Discovery winning the overall because of their strength as a team appears to be transferred to T-Mobile, though a lot of their riders will be dropping down the standings when the mountains hit. Daily Peloton picks Michael Rogers (3rd place, 1.08) as their man, but I think their man is the rider with #21 on his back: Andreas Kloden (5th, 1.50). Although 'inconsistent' according to many a commentator, he has the experience of filling in for Jan's shoes and has been atop that Tour podium; experience matters.

CSC: Carlos Sastre (6th place, 2.27) becomes the man for them as he should be able to climb well in the mountains and is put in a good-enough time trial. Zabriskie (9th, 1.53) has decent overall position but he won't be able to hold in the mountains and he's been busy doing domestique duties every day. The CSC team is very weakened: no Basso or Julich; O'Grady riding with an injured back; Voigt, as it turns out, intentionally finished last-place in the time trial to save up for a breakaway on Stage 8, but that fizzled. T-Mobile was able to rally from their pre-race decapitation, but CSC has had a lot of extra punches thrown at them.

Gerolsteiner: If you didn't look at Levi's (63rd place, 6.17) performance, you might have thought their day wasn't half bad. Sebastian Lang has the top time for most of the day, but it's hard to celebrate when your leader put in a time trial worse than his lieutenants. I'm always discounting Levi's podium chances because he always seems to make the critical mental mistake, but these usually happen near the end; this one was early enough to eliminate his chances for the podium at the end of the first week. Levi says he hasn't been feeling well, but isn't very specific about it other than indicate that he may have peaked to early or otherwise flubbed his training. He's looking forward to the mountains, but we'll see what form recovers by then.

Phonak: I get more and more impressed with Landis (2nd place, 1.00) every day. With Discovery dropping down the overall rankings and losing that strategic leverage, that would put Landis in my #1 spot, though I didn't anticipate a headless T-Mobile to look so strong. I think Landis is now the man to beat, given that Kloden is still a bit of a wildcard. I was impressed with Floyd Landis' interview last night. Landis has plenty to complain about, from the UCI waiting until stage 7 to tell Landis he had to change his aerobars, to the fact that his aerobars snapped on course and forced him to switch bikes on course. Landis made it clear there was no excuses necessary as he lost by a minute, i.e. Gonchar was the better rider on the day no matter what. Landis has now had two mechanical issues that he didn't panic over and performed well through. Mentally, he seems strong (see next entry). Physically, he seems strong. We just have to see if he has mountain legs.

Lotto: Cadel Evans (8th place, 1.52) vaulted himself up the standings by doing a decent time trial yesterday. This puts him in podium contention, but I don't seem him atop that podium because Lotto has two riders to watch over: Evans and McEwen. I don't think a team can successfully defend both green and yellow jersey, and McEwen has a definitive lead in the green jersey competition.

Rabobank: Denis Menchov (10th place, 2.00) has good credentials as the de facto winner of the Vuelta last year. He also has a great team to follow him into the mountains. Rasmussen may have to sacrifice some of his KOM glory in exchange for protecting Menchov in the mountains, but it may well be worth it.

Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears: Caisse brought a good team to the Tour, and like many of the other teams this year lost their leader, Alejandro Valverde, to unforeseen cirumstances (crash). That leaves young rider Vladimir Karpets (7th place, 1.52) in a possible position to compete for the overall with Caisse's Spanish armada at his side. Karpets seems a bit young to me to win this year's Tour, but hey, nothing seems very predictable about this Tour.

related articles: Tour de France 2006
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