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Looking at Who's Left

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From the ever-honest Andreas Kloden: "It's too bad we gave Pereiro that gift of nearly 30 minutes."

Ya think?

Others have started this process, but I thought I'd better log the contenders, if only to fill in a few gaps.

1. Oscar Pereiro

We may be looking at one of the most shocking, and truthfully, nauseating upsets in Cycling history. Apparently CBB VW has found some historical parallels, posted below, but in my experience the Tour is full of interlopers who never quite make off with the grand prize, to the relief of all. Remember Claudio Chiapucci? Andrei Kivilev? These guys had in common that the peloton let them and others away for huge chunks of time, only to eventually bring them back. Pereiro belongs in this company, the only dissimilarity being that he put himself into a 30-minute hole first, before being allowed to get level. Ask yourself, would you appreciate Landis if the peloton gave him a 12 minute flyer tomorrow and he went on to win? It would be less than half as bad as Pereiro's situation. The only sense of justice from this is that in fact people all knew Pereiro could ride, and still didn't do anything about it, so you get the jersey you deserve.

2. Carlos Sastre (at 1:50)
Lost 2:10 in the ITT, just seconds more than the other top competitors, which makes him a decent bet to win it all. Sastre, like Pereiro, has come out of nowhere but with a reputation of being a threat. The difference, of course, is that Carlos's time is beyond dispute, and his reputation at this point must be too.

3. Andreas Kloden (at 2:29)
Probably the best remaining time trialer, at least among the living, but it's no bet at all that he could put 2.5 minutes into Pereiro right now. He has looked better in week three than week two, so by that logic he is a) peaking on time, and b) likely to do a better ITT Saturday. Owner of the most support among the remaining contenders, so tomorrow is an opportunity they had better not miss. But then, it's the T-Mob.

4. Cyril Dessel (at 2:43)
Impressive appearance out of nowhere... but unlike Pereiro he should really have been expected to return by now. Unlike the top three, however, I really can't like his chances of making up any more time, not after he dropped 3:42 in the first time trial.

5. Cadel Evans (at 2:56)
My original pick to win it all, and maybe on par with Kloden to win the ITT. I dunno, I don't see him going on the attack tomorrow, but it's possible he'll just tail Kloden tomorrow in a decisive break and go head to head for the win Saturday.

6. Denis Menchov (at 3:58)
Fork please. Barring the truly unpredictable, his minute-plus gap to Sastre and Evans and Kloden will hurt him Saturday... and that's assuming the trio dispatch Pereiro first, far from a certainty.

9. Levi Leipheimer (at 7:46)
Only merits a mention here in that his "daring escape" today really blew up on him. It'd be nice for the TV audience if riders attacked each other all day, but the cold reality of these Alps stages is that going before the final climb usually doesn't work. If Levi felt so great, he may have been up there with Sastre at the end, rather than watching Carlos -- and half a dozen others -- catch and pass him before the line.

11. Landis (at 8:08)
Hey, if all else were normal, he should win the ITT Saturday. Unfortunately, he needs a pretty massive food poisoning outbreak between now and the Joux-Plane for Saturday's result to help him. Floyd fought bravely, and deserves applause. But he himself concedes it's over.