And then there were three. This is more of a rant than a rating. W/o further ado...
1. Tom Boonen ↔
Still the odds-on favorite to win, but Boonen got schooled today. Astana & co. handed him the ultimate gift, splitting the peloton behind him and leaving almost all the sprinters, including his closest competition, helplessly gasping for air. Hunter was there, but with no break up the road, Boonen was a mortal lock for top three, and a heavy favorite for a win. Either way, he was about to run away from his maillot vert competitors and hide.
If you didn't see it, he got caught behind a last km spill and slowed just enough to miss the sprint, coming in 37th while Hunter won and jumped into second place. Boonen is now worse off than when the day started. This is an appalling error on his part, being so far back in a winding finish, when crashes are more than just foreseeable. His job is to race from the front.
There are three possible explanations why he was so far back. The first two are that he got boxed in or that he wasn't paying attention -- two pretty unflattering assessments. The third, and my bet, is that he wanted to time his move to the last second so he could win. This is a rookie mistake, one Zabel would never make. Stage wins aren't his job! Assuring max points is, meaning getting as close to victory without putting yourself in spots where you risk missing the sprint. Update [2007-7-19 14:14:5 by chris]: Hunter thought Boonen hit the corner too fast and had to brake. That's not especially cool either.
Tomorrow there's a cat-2 climb 55km from the finish, which means he's in danger of Zabel leaving him behind. If he keeps this up, he could wind up third on points by the time we get to Paris. Foolish. Oh, and those five points he let Steegmans take from him don't look so smart either, do they?
2. Robbie Hunter ↑
Last time I said I expected to have a down arrow next to Hunter here. Like I've often said, people just assume that since I run this site I actually know something about Cycling. There's not much of a case to make that Hunter can outsprint Boonen; he just did outsprint Fabian Cancellara today. But Hunter deserved a stage someplace, and has ridden the smartest Green Jersey quest among the group. Just look at today: he could have been caught out when Astana split the pack, or from the sprint pileup, but nope. He raced from the front, and as icing on the cake, there were no other real sprinters to come past him, so he got the stage too. He's been in position every day. That is how you win the Points Competition.
3. Erik Zabel ↓
Hm, he's been riding smartly to make up for his lack of closing speed, but missing the split today was bad. Only luck saved his place in the competition. His last chance to move up comes tomorrow, on a course that just might put Boonen into difficulty. After that, he has to count on Boonen not learning any lessons (unlikely) and on Hunter to slip up as well.
4-10. Thor Hushovd , Sébastien Chavanel, Robert Förster, etc. ↔
Hushovd is fourth, 50 points behind Boonen. These guys are all just hunting for stage wins now.