Jul 6, 2006

tdf - prologue through stage 5

Last year I posted something after every stage. This year I've been both out of town and without the daily spare time to do that. Not only that but there are plenty of good sites to catch up on stage recaps. But I did want to jot down some thoughts on the tour so far.

Hushovd wins the time trial. I was pretty surprised by this although I don't view him as a contender. Equally surprising is that Landis came in 9 seconds back. If you consider that he lost something on the order of 9 seconds because of a late start, he could have been the winner of this stage. This makes him more dangerous than I had previously expected. And then the other surprising result was Valverde finishing strong at fifth place. I had high hopes for my prediciton of him as overall winner until I saw what happened at a later stage. Hincapie takes second.

Stage 1
Hincapie takes the yellow jersey on a 2 second bonus that lifts him above Hushovd. Caspar steals the sprint from Boonen.

Stage 2
McEwen wins the sprint and Hushovd steals back the yellow jersey due to bonus points.

Stage 3
Kessler wins the sprint but Boonen who doesn't have a stage win takes the yellow and green jersey. But the news of the day is clearly Valverde out with a broken collar bone due to a hard crash. WTF? My joke about the lanterne rouge winning this year may not be far off.

Stage 4
McEwen wins the stage sprint again and Boonen starting to get pissed. McEwen also takes the points lead with this win. Boonen just can't pull in a stage win. It won't feel satisfying to win the Maillot Vert if he doesn't get a stage win. And then after the race Hushovd gets relegated for pushing a rider. His chances for green are now gone. I haven't found a replay of this push but apparently it was extremely dangerous looking.

Stage 5
Freire just beats Boonen for the stage win. Smoke starts to come out of Boonen's ears.

So where do we stand now?

Yellow Jersey
Boonen has the yellow but he's a sprinter. He's not going to win the final classification. If we whittle it down to contenders we've got Hincapie and Salvodelli (both with Discovery), Landis, Karpets, Evans, Moreau, Millar, Kloden, Julich, Popovyvch (Discovery), Leipheimer, and Azevedo (Discovery). They are all within 43 seconds of each other with Hincapie in the lead. I just don't know how to call this race anymore. We're just going to have to see who looks good on the first mountain stage. And then more importantly who looks good the next day. There have been too many stages where the winner of one mountain stage just craps out the next day. I can guess at who might crap out but I'd rather just watch now instead of guess. But the bottom line is the race is tight and there are some interesting Americans in the mix. Landis, Karpets, and Kloden seem promising to me but it is really wide wide open.

Green Jersey
McEwen is in the lead and has won 2 stages but Boonen is right behind him with 121 points compared to McEwen's 122. That's close but McEwen has demonstrated he can win stages. Freire is just back from those two at 115. It'll be one of those three unless disaster strikes. My money is on McEwen. He always seems more aggressive to me. This is an interesting contest.

Polka Dot Jersey
At this point without a mountain stage the standings are meaningless.

White Jersey (young rider)
Again too early to say anything here. Plus I don't know any of these names.

Team Leader
Discovery is in first but Team CSC, T-Mobile, and Caisse D'Epargne-Illes Balears are all tight. It's a bit early for this one but I've been impressed with Discovery's depth so far.

Anyone want to make some predictions?


Anonymous said...

Has is become so wide open that we should start considering a French rider for the yellow jersey? Any jersey? Naahh... it's not that bad yet. It must irk les Francais terribly that they can't offer a credible candidate for their own Tour - the biggest Tour - in this post-Armstrong / Operation Puerto era. But M. LeBlanc and the organizers are happy enough to stress that doping is a Spanish / German / Italian problem. Perhaps the French should add some dedicated training, organization and strategery to their clean living.

Predictions - I would not be surprised to see Discovery pulling for Salvodelli in the final week and putting him on the podium. I am also interested in what Kloden might be able to do. But I'll stick with Leipheimer for now (until everything changes after the first time trial). I agree that the second mountain stage is a key because of the recovery factor, but mostly because the run in to the finish on the first mountain stage is too long and flat and will let those who drop catch up.

C. Fuzzbang said...

There is no French contender that I can see. Moreau is a long shot. Brochard no way. Jalabert is done. And Voeckler is out of this year already.

I really don't know who is going to lead Discovery. I wouldn't count Azevedo out. He didn't look great last year but the year before he was an animal. Salvodelli has a chance. Hincapie is a wild card. If I see some animal instinct on the mountains then maybe. Overall I'm sort of rooting for Landis as a long shot guess and because I have a soft spot for Mennonites :)