N.B., this was scheduled for next Monday, but I flipped it with the Maillot Jaune poll due today, to maximize the relevance of both.
1. Tom Boonen ↔
Tommeke warrants a mere horizontal arrow, but it would be an up arrow if he weren't previously holding the top spot. As described below, today's sprint shows that he's not just steadily bagging points, he's got the speed to win too. And on a broken bike, no less. Is it my imagination or does he seem to break bikes faster than Rene Haselbacher?
2. Erik Zabel ↑
He sits 2nd overall at 130 points, a mere 11 back of Boonen, and like a wily vet he's taking things one day at a time. His 3rd today shows how incredibly consistent he's been: 13th, 7th, 2nd, 5th, 4th and 3rd. Zabel may be the only rider not to miss a single sprint, making it over the hills yesterday (respect!) and avoiding the crash on stage two (hiss!). This alone makes him dangerous to Boonen, who can't get over certain climbs. There are six predictable sprint stages left (stages 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 20), and of them, stage 10 looks like danger for Boonen and opportunity for Zabel. Stage 12 also includes a problematic climb for Boonen, though it's far enough out. We'll see. If Boonen can stay in the same peloton as Zabel, no way Zabel wins.
3. Oscar Freire ↑
Oscarita is looking better every day, and would be my pick to win if things were just getting started. His speed is as good as anyone's, and he can get over any hill that Zabel can. Second today and third overall at 114 points, so if Boonen falters on a climb, Freire could sneak around Zabel and win it all. Update [2007-7-13 23:17:49 by chris]: h/t nix... Rabo's website is apparently saying he's taking a DNS tomorrow. Not enough sprints left, and his soreness is not getting better. This is definitely the Tour of the Ass so far. And I haven't even seen McQuaid yet.
4. Robbie Hunter ↑
Is there still a pro-Hunter groundswell? He's clearly in the mix now, but he faded in today's sprint despite being in good position, finishing 8th. Currently 4th overall, 38 points back, but I fully expect the next poll to have a down arrow here. Sorry.
5. Thor Hushovd ↔
He's simply having a strange Tour. While he's got a fine grand tour makeup, he's iffy on the hills. That and an apparent stomach bug left him out of the points again yesterday, for the second time... just after proving he belongs with a very cool win on stage 5. Sitting fifth overall 40 points down. He'll need some luck to have a chance.
6. Sébastien Chavanel ↑
Séb's been as consistent and frisky as his kid bro, scoring another impressive 4th today and sitting 7th overall, a mere 3 points behind Robbie McEwen. And unlike McEwen, he's not frantically plugging leaks. Expect Séb to be in the mix, though just far enough back not to challenge, for the rest of the Tour. He deserves to pick off a stage someplace (Paris?).
7. Daniele Bennati ↑
Return of the Living Dead! Bennati had his last rites read to him after stage 2, and Danilo Napolitano took over the Lampre sprinting duties... until Benna magically reappeared and stole third yesterday. He was 6th today too, confirming he's good enough to continue. Obviously he's out of the points race, but not the stage hunt. Good for him to hang around and get some experience. Of course, now that I said this, he'll probably bail from the race in the Alpes.
8. Robbie McEwen ↓
Money quote: "I'm having big trouble with my neck, back and knees." Hm, at least his ass is OK, right? I mean, it could be worse, right? Unfortunately, today was a tailor-made Scarlet Pimpernel stage, and Robbie was boxed in. He'll be a threat for a stage again before we're done, but the green magic has rubbed off. And that's even before considering what stages 10 and 12 would've done to his ranking.
9. Robert Förster ↔
From his results (7th today, 8th overall), you'd assume he was just filling out the race roster. But he was right in position today, with a great leadout from Sven Krauss, so he gets credit for animating the sprints. Could still bag a stage, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
10. Romain Feillu ↓
Back to Earth for the young Frenchman. He was 9th today, but his ride in the Autobus yesterday put paid to his Green Jersey dreams. Expect to see him in the mix on stages 11, 17, 18 and 20, but no headlines.