Light blogging today and tomorrow, thanks to work conflicts, but hey, you get what you pay for. Let's do a quickie review of the Dauphiné Libéré and its take-home points. And remember, "losers" refers to riders' verdict in regard to their goals; nobody thinks that someone who can propel himself over the Alps slightly slower than the fastest riders on Earth is in some grand sense a "loser."
- Christophe Moreau
It's becoming a regular tradition here at the Podium Cafe to anoint the winner of a race as a, well, winner. But Moreau, like most guys who win, rode with strength and class, even finishing off a couple stage wins. Too bad the Tour is still three weeks off, or he might be a podium contender once again. Instead, he'll be on the downslope of his form in all likelihood by the time we reconnoiter in the Pyrenees. But he scored a fine win of a big race on home soil, so well done! Verdict: winner!
- Cadel Evans
Cadel came on very, very strong at the end, and if the race were a couple days longer, it may have been his. Being a Tour captain, the message is a little mixed: he looks very fit and confident.. but it won't be time to cash in those chips for a while.Verdict: winner... for now.
- Denis Menchov
Fourth overall is a good result, especially for a guy who really raced like a Tour contender-in-training. I didn't see every KM, but Menchov didn't burn too many matches, and didn't blow up anyplace. That's pretty much exactly what you want to accomplish in the Dauphine if you're prepping for the Tour. Right now, he looks like a slight favorite for yellow. Verdict: winner... tomorrow?
- Levi Leipheimer
What's in the water on the Discovery Channel bus? Leipheimer came here to work on his form and wound up depleted and on his backside. He raced aggressively enough, for a defending champ determined not to overdo anything prior to Le Tour, but had no luck whatsoever, and probably didn't get the confidence boost he was looking for. He also lost a key lieutenant for July in Danielson (though Contador moved up). Verdict: Hard luck loser.
- Dave Z
Hey, he can climb! He's not looking like a time trial champ in waiting, but he showed he's got a place on a Tour team looking for all-round riders. Zabriskie will be VERY useful to Riis in July. Verdict: winner!
- Alexandre Vinokourov
Hey, he can blow himself up on climbs! Vino came here to either work on his training, or maybe send a message down the spines of his rivals... and looked good for doing so after a few days. But if his effort on the Ventoux looked casual, his ride on Saturday's queen stage looked more ominous, to the point that he had to turn back into swashbuckling Vino Sunday just to take the edge off the previous day's defeat. All he accomplished this week is implanting in his rivals a sense that they can break him on long climbs. CN has a story that he's frantically trying to get out of the Kazakh national championships so he can fix the problem. Not good. Verdict: surprise loser!
- Andrey Kashechkin
I'll try to be fair to Astana here and get off my high horse about the need to respect the Dauphine as something more than training. But when Kashechkin got dropped Saturday and lost the race, claiming he was just here for training sounded like a hollow excuse. Why was Vino touting his chances all week? Why were they defending the jersey until the team crumbled Saturday, leaving Kashechkin isolated and in trouble? On the other hand, it gives me an idea of what to say every time I blow up in our local weekly crit. I'm saving it for a more important, unnamed race later. Verdict: loser!
- Caisse d'Epargne
Valverde drank from the Discovery water supply and went home. Pereiro inspired rumors of his exclusion from the Tour and references to Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream with his body shape -- both of which might be untrue, but still. The Tour's other power squadra isn't looking like much right now. Of course, their plan C may be better than most team's plan A, but as I said above, this is about grading what people got out of the Dauphine in comparison to what they wanted to get. Verdict: losers!