This week's edition is all about the GC chase, now that we actually have one to discuss.
1. Caisse d'Epargne ↑
Back into the top slot. Valverde is poised to take over the yellow jersey, and the squad hasn't flexed too many of its mighty muscles yet. Oscar Pereiro, arguably the defending champ, is so expendable they can leave him back to keep an eye on Vino and the secondary threats. Vlad Karpets, David de la Arroyo, Francisco Perez and Jose Ivan Gutierrez are all available to shepherd or attack, and will make quite an armada when it comes time to defend yellow.
2. CSC ↓
Down a spot this week, what with Stuart O'Grady crashing out, Sastre looking asleep at the switch, and the Schleck infatuation passing. They still have a reasonably fresh Jens!, Cuesta, and Arvesen, Cancellara might recover and should win at least one time trial. Still an all-star squad. But nothing illustrates better how worn out they are than the sight of Dave Zabriskie battling for the Lanterne Rouge.
3. Discovery ↑
Probably should be #2; they're actually wearing the yellow numbers at the moment as the overall fastest team. Also, Contador and Leipheimer are reasonably comfy in their positions, without trashing themselves too much. Gusev is an extremely useful rider, as is Popovych (assuming he doesn't start chasing polka dot points). But I still think one day of good (ok, great) tactics doesn't quite make up for some pretty nonsensical team management. Maybe JB has a plan to start helping Levi win the Tour, but I haven't seen it. Contador is looking more and more like the guy they want to showcase.
4. Saunier Duval ↑
Not the deepest bench, but Iban Mayo's emergence as a real GC threat has given them life and purpose. Suddenly David de la Fuente and JJ Cobo are coming up and working the front. Obviously I have no way of knowing, but I bet these are exciting days aboard the SD bus. Mayo's comeback was a bolt from the blue, and THE happy surprise story of the Tour so far.
5. Astana ↓
Well it's been mostly triage lately... except suddenly maybe Klöden is ready to contend again. With Vino leaking body fluid and Kashechkin looking unready, both of these guys should join Maxim Iglinsky in support roles. Not too shabby. But Klödi has to make up some time in Albi before we get too excited.
6. Rabobank ↓
Ugh... Just a week ago they had an inside line on all four jerseys. Now they've played their cards into an impossible situation regarding yellow, letting the Chicken take over the team on the basis of one fine day knowing full well he's going to get fucking pulverized in the time trials... all while leaving Menchov blowing up from working the front, and with no help to catch him back. They've also watched Oscar Freire leave the race, and sent Dekker back for bottles. Oh, and their DSs don't seem to agree about who they're riding for. Chapeau boys! They have plenty of firepower still, but I'm embarassed for them.
7. Predictor-Lotto ↔
I wanted to bump them over Rabo, but I can't honestly do it. Evans is looking fine, but he's going it largely alone. Everyone loves Chris Horner, and he's been useful at times. Ditto Cioni. But they can't outmuscle any of the teams above them.
8. Quick Step ↓
Apples and oranges, but Quick Step is doing a very good job of keeping the green jersey comp under control. Boonen has been well managed in the mountains, and they didn't do anything stupid today, sending Vasseur up to take a stage and get the points race out of the hands of the peloton. Good stuff.
9. T-Mobile ↔
So. What can possibly happen next? It's not easy being clean. But I can't knock them off, Burghardt is awesome, canine road furniture be damned.
10. AG2R ↑
A one-man show. Calzati has been active, but that's about it. Too bad, because Moreau has been a real protagonist in the old school mold, and could use a little help.