FGR Wrap #30

End of an era—one sight we’re not likely to see again: Armstrong leading Contador.

Well this is one time the FGR won’t be settled immediately. We’ve got nearly two weeks to see how this will shake out, but they are, after all, two weeks we’ve been waiting for since last August.

Interestingly, in your comments, There’s really only consensus on two classifications. With two exceptions each, everyone thinks that Thor Hushovd will take the green jersey, just as he did last year, and Andy Schleck will double up on the white jersey as well.

Alberto Contador was the only rider to come up with more than one vote for the yellow jersey, so it seems we must acknowledge that he remains the favorite. Interestingly, Andy Schleck was the only rider to get votes in three classifications: overall, mountains and best young rider. An inobservant reader might believe that to be an indication of his completeness as a rider, but it really doesn’t back us into a larger belief that he has the potential to wear yellow in Paris.

Eight stages in, a new question is worth asking: With Lance Armstrong’s GC hopes dashed, Christian Vande Velde out of the race, Bradley Wiggins unable to deliver as he did last year in the blue, white and orange of Garmin, if we assume that Contador, Evans and Schleck are the likely podium, who do you think will round out the top five or six?

Armstrong’s demise also spells out a very surprising development: Levi Leipheimer is finally the GC leader for a Johan Bruyneel-led team at the Tour de France. I don’t think anyone ever thought those three details would line up. It’s as if a one-armed bandit came up Bar-Bar-Bar for Santa Rosa’s favorite athlete. Go figure.

And as a corollary to my previous question, do you think Ryder Hesjedal can pull off what Wiggins did last year? Sky doesn’t seem to have figured out Wiggo the way Vaughters and White did. Rather an interesting development, given the way he badmouthed Garmin on his way out.

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11 comments

  1. grolby

    Ryder has proven to be very good, even if transitioning into a strong road racer took several years. Good enough for top-5 at the Tour? I have my doubts, but I wouldn’t have expected Brad Wiggins to make 4th last year, either. Wait and see; top-10 doesn’t seem impossible, but there are still two weeks to go.

    As for Sky and Wiggins, some part of it may be the Sky management not really knowing how to work with him. There also seems to be a problem with whoever is driving the car – which is a bit surprising, because isn’t it Sean Yates? But nonetheless, the tactics from Sky yesterday were baffling. When Wiggins was asked after the stage why they rode so hard, his answer was something like “if we didn’t do it, we knew someone else would.” Can you imagine that coming out of the mouth of a Bruyneel or a Riis or one of their riders? It seems probable that Wiggins would have been dropped before the finish anyway, but the lack of tactical brilliance from Sky all season seems symptomatic of the problems that Wiggins is having now. Maybe I’m missing something, but I can’t remember a single moment all season when Sky made a move, as a team, that surprised or impressed me. The organization is absolutely lacking a certain je ne sais quois; whether the problem is on the road, or the problems on the road are coming from higher up the food chain is still unclear to me.

    Okay, so I think Hesjedal has a decent chance at a top 10; top 5 would surprise me, but it would rock. Levi might make the top 5, but I think it would be a distant top 5. Roman Kreuziger is one of the big names to watch for the top 5; Basso might be able to get there, or close, but he’s got to make up time on a lot of guys. I don’t think Denis Menchov has it this year; Rabobank played down his getting dropped in the Dauphine, but I’m guessing he’s going to crack and lose several minutes, if not on Stage 9 than in the Alps. Jurgen Van Den Broeck is also riding high at the moment, but I think he’s in for same fate; he’s not a serious contender for the top 10. Top 10 for Sastre, but I don’t expect any better than that. He’s lucky to be here, and I suspect that he’s here under pressure from Cervelo. Jumping back into a Grand Tour just a couple of weeks after recovering from a herniated disc (or whatever it was) is insanity.

  2. grolby

    …and by “in the Alps,” I of course meant in the Pyrenees. Damn mountain ranges are getting me confused!

  3. Eric

    Very good comments from the above writer. Makes a lot of sense, but not certain. I wouldn’t count Wiggins out quite yet. I think the psychological battle does not favor him, but you never know. I thought Kreuziger seemed to to have a quiet Spring and did not see him doing well, but he’s proving me wrong. I can’t quite figure Basso out. I think he has the tools but it seems one day he’s super and the next he’s mediocre. Hard to know with him. I’d like to see Leipheimer do well, but I just don’t get the impression he’ll finish any higher than 4th or 5th. I’d like to see Ryder do well, but I think the same of him. Not sure he’ll be able to hang day after day in the Pyranees and will be lucky to stay top 10. Sastre, god bless the man, may yet again come top 10, but probably lower in the order. Keep it up, big guy!

    Kloden? Just don’t think he’s got it this year. He may surprise, but he doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies.

    Ultimately, the top 2 I see as most people do, Shleck and Contador. They seem to be a little bit better than the rest. Of the two, I think Contador opened the door to the vultures around him seeing hop and possibilities. I think he’ll have a harder time shaking those around him that saw him falter against Andy’s attacks. I think it’ll give them strength and he’ll need some very strong moves to reestablish a sense of invulnerability. Andy does have the advantage on some level, but it’s so bleeding hot out there and they’re all going fast. Way too early to tell yet. Interesting race. Stage 9 isn’t a mountain top finish, but I think we’ll see some more testing going on and perhaps that’ll set us up for the real fireworks in the Pyranees. Looksing forward to watching the show!

  4. James

    I’m not sure it wise to dismiss Menchov. If he can stay upright the potential for a surprise is high. Do you remember a couple of years ago he made a move in the Tour going to Italy (I can’t remember the name of the place)? Anyway, had he not slipped on the wet road he would have been gone! If he pulls that again without falling… Plus he’s very good in the time trial (again, if he doesn’t fall over!). I think Denny has a surprise in store for the peloton.

    Good luck to Levi! Hopefully he can stay upright also!

  5. Champs

    No love for Menchov? He and Gesink could be the one-two punch that Saxo Bank lost. Maybe not for first, but everybody is fighting for second, maybe third.

  6. cthulhu

    grolby, I disagree. While Ryder seems a nice guy and a fighter, I don’t see him finishing in the TopTen. He seems more like a hilly classics guy to me and I guess will pay for his couraguous riding, but watch VDB, he is a TopTen rider, with a bit of luck even TopFive. I have to concur with Champs about Menchov and Gesink, though I’m not so sure about Menchov and TopTen or TopFive. He usually has a bad day at the Tour which destroys all his good work before and after, but so far he is doing fine and is under the radar of the attention. As is Basso, though I believe Kreuzinger is a bit better at the moment, but definitely a duo to watch aswell. I doubt Sastre can do any challenge to the podiums contenders but he is riding pretty well so far and is good for a stage win.

    My predictions for the top five:
    AC-Ändy-Menchov-Kreuzinger-VDB

    Now bash me for kicking Cuddles out of them… ;)

  7. grolby

    Heh, nope, it’s looking at the moment like I way overestimated how much Evans had left in the tank after the Giro… no bashing today!


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks everyone for the great comments.

      The only thing I have to add for now is that while I don’t think Hesjedal really is a GC guy, I’d love to see him crack the top-10 for no other reason than what it would say about Vaughters. If he could guide Ryder to a top-10 finish, his ability to turn any good ride into a GC contender would be sealed, especially if Hesjedal rode to a better finish than Wiggins. Think then what that would mean for Garmin’s ability to secure a real podium player.

  8. Touriste-Routier

    While at the moment, it looks like a two horse race between Contador and Schleck, with Schleck riding aggressively and Contador riding conservatively. I suppose the ultimate questions are, baring any misfortune, is who is going to crack whom in future mountain stages, and if Contador cracks, will he lose enough time to make up for Schleck’s less than stellar TT abilities? Still we have many stages to go, and a lot can happen.

    FWIW, Andy had a great quote in English today, stating that if he had attacked one more time, he would have dropped himself. While humorous, I doubt that they were intentional; I attribute it to being a non-native English speaker under the pressure of an interview with Versus. I assume he was expressing that one more effort and he would have blown up. Something I don’t think I would have admitted in public…

  9. Big Mikey

    Wiggins – done. Was never going to seriously compete in the TdF. His ride last year won’t be repeated. Plus, bad karma is due him for his antics in leaving Garmin.
    Ryder – if he makes the top 10, that’s the ride of his life. He’s due a big win, and it’s coming, but he isn’t a rider for the TdF GC. Stud riding on his part.
    Menchov – don’t know how he does it, but he’s in play for third on GC right now.
    Levi – top 5 probably. He isn’t the rider to challenge AC/AS, not that anyone is.
    Kloden – what the hell happened to that guy? When is the last time the guy factored in a race?

    Navarro of Astana – is someone going to test this guy? Obscene how strong he’s been, and I’m not aware of him ever doing anything remotely close to that kind of riding.

  10. Robot

    Cadel out of contention with a busted elbow. I can forgive him that. Poor bastard.

    I also think the question that remains is who will finish third. No one looks so compelling at this point. Could be any one of the riders mentioned above.

    I also think folks are giving Schleck too much credit. Remember that Contador is going to put a minimum of two minutes into him in the time trial, and probably more. Andy’s got to pad his lead ASAP. If Contador’s form improves before the Pyrenees, Schleck is toast. If he stays the same, Schleck is probably still toast. Dani Navarro might well be the domestique Contador has been missing, and without Fränk, Schleck is on his own.

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