Week 1 was all for the stars: stage wins by puncheurs like Alejandro Valverde and Paolo Bettini, while Sylvain Chavanel crept his way into Gold, separated the all-star sprint battle between Tom Boonen and Daniele Bennati. And Levi Leipheimer won the time trial. But not even Leipheimer's effort should lead our thought astray: this was top-shelf week 1 entertainment, nothing more. The notion of seeing Chavanel or Valverde at the front in Andorra can't be completely dismissed, but it's a sucker's bet. Leipheimer's frisky time-trial win probably means he's playing rabbit for Alberto Contador, who's hoping his rivals will get distracted by his American teammate. If you've seen someone's cards already, it's a pretty sure sign they don't have a winning hand.
I have no idea what's going to happen tomorrow, starting with the (open) question about whether this will even be the stage that launches the battle for Gold. It's a long 220km route which features some middlin' climbs and two turns up La Rabassa, which we previously described thusly:
the first km is 10%, then kms 3-5 and 7 are all in the vicinity of 9%; the final 6km are in the 4-6% range. The Naturlandia adds 200 meters of altitide in 4km, an average of 5%. So the lower slopes will put the hurt on the peloton, twice, with a long, non-awful grind to the finish.
Enough to draw out Contador, Sastre, et al, on stage 7 of a three-week affair. I'll bet that something will happen, but more in the way of shedding the pretenders (coughvalverdecough) than in gaining serious gaps on other favorites. Same goes for the next day, the climb up to Pla de Beret over a shorter and less-highly-rated course. Keep the powder dry for another week. There is one near-certainty for tomorrow: the Maillo Oro will continue its daily rotation. On whose shoulders it will rest by evening... that's the big question. Whoever it is will jump straight to the top of the Podium Cafe Golden Power Poll, if he's not there already. Predictions?
Housekeeping note: I'm done with two trips in three weeks, and hope to catch up on a lot of the detail work that goes on here, like the Vuelta VDS scoring, as well as that for the D-Tour. Also, getting to the post office to send out the prizes from summer. That'd be nice. Finally, sometime next week I'll repost the Angliru Quick Challenge contest, which you can check out now, though it's still early.