All Chicken, all day... Hey, at least we're talking about something he can actually win here. But the door is wide open to the challengers, and the intrigue is unexpectedly, pleasantly running very high this year.
1. ~8> Rasmussen ↔
The Chicken has actually moved up a slot from last week, but only because Sylvain Chavanel fell back to Earth. Well, and because he went on his annual climbing bender to Tignes. But with the maillot jaune comes at least the delusion of glory, and a big fat target. This is a heavy burden for a man after KOM points, who's accustomed to riding time trials at a leisurely pace and barely raising a glance when you attack. So while he still has the jersey and could keep it if that were his wish, the fact is he's gonna be one tired chicken come Sunday. And on the shortest possible leash... assuming he's still in the race.
2. Yaroslav Popovych ↑
My pick to win! Yaro-pop has a few advantages. He's sitting over 8' down on GC, 90 seconds behind Soler, and is universally regarded as a team helper, not a GC rider. Soler may not have the same luxury. I also think he's riding better right now. If Soler were the same explosive climber we saw last Tuesday, Popovych would not have easily come past him for leftover KOM points in today's climb.
3. Mauricio Soler ↑
Probably the most deserving winner, if only because the world seems in order when you have a Latin American rider in polka dots. His climbing exploits over the hardest slopes of the Tour to date made for a glorious day, one we can all celebrate a bit. Unfortunately for him, I think he's tired, and also that kind of notoriety will make people a little anxious about letting him go. Also, unlike Popovych, he can't count on any real support in a tight battle for points, so if they're neck-and-neck coming out of the real mountains, Yaro-pop can draw on his whole team to help him scoop up the cheaper points in the final stages, which may make all the difference.
4. The field ↓
Everyone else seems to have given up. It's an unexpectedly great three-man race now, but the battle for fourth is nonexistent.