One climbing stage isn't a whole lot to go on, but since it's all we have...
1. Denis Menchov ↑
He's back! Sure, Sastre looked friskier, but Menchov conceded nothing, and has the best chronoman resume of the favorites. And he's a former winner. The only former winner still on the bike. Sorry folks, but there's no rational argument for ranking him lower. Yet.
2. Carlos Sastre ↑
Answered the biggest question about him today: his energy level. Sastre was the protagonist today, blazing his way up the hillside. Of course, he didn't make any actual gains, but he sure looks like a top contender.
3. Cadel Evans ↔
Can he time trial his way to victory? Maybe. And by time trial, I mean in both the chrono stages and the mountains, where he routinely lets the favorites go on attack, and slowly grinds his way back to them. I know I bumped him down two spots, but I'll call this a horizontal arrow for now, because this is precisely what you'd expect to be seeing from him so far.
4. Stijn Devolder ↑
Third today, essentially tied for second overall, and with no teammates challenging his leadership internally. He was good today, though partly because of the early escape, but there's no shame in that, particularly where he still had enough to sprint it out with Piepoli at the end. Also he can ride a time trial. He could move up, but the loss of a solid teammate and his lack of experience make me want to wait a little longer.
5. Sammy Sánchez ↓
Kind of at a loss here. Since Spanish TV didn't show him even once until he crossed the line, it's hard to know what happened to him today. Even the CN recap says nothing. Dropping 1.30 to Sastre & co. is hardly fatal for a guy who can ride a time trial, but it doesn't fill me with confidence about his form.
6. Vlad Efimkin ↑
Man of the Hour. He'd better enjoy it while it lasts. Sure, he may have evolved into a Grand Tour winner while I wasn't looking, but there's nothing in his history which says so. Also, though he was clearly great today, he won by a minute with a two-minute head start. If he does it again, fine, he's a favorite. Until then, enjoy your turn at the front Vlad.
7. José Ángel Gómez Marchante ↓
Limped home with Sanchez today. Not an inspiring performance, and he doesn't have any time trialing skills to fall back on. Somehow I don't think the sponsor wanted to see JAGM abdicate his captaincy at the Vuelta to an Italian.
8. Leonardo Piepoli ↑
Speak of the devil... he's in this spot for the time being, but there's little to recommend here. He was 14th in the Giro, his home Tour; no reason to think the Vuelta looks better. He also ditched his captain today, and spent the summer arguing about whether he relies too heavily on his inhaler. With Gomez Marchante's negative result today, he could stop chasing stages and start hunting for GC placing, but I'll buy that when I see it.
9. Maxime Montfort ↑
The next time I learn something about this Cofidis rider -- now tied for second overall -- will be the first. If someone can explain to me why he should or shouldn't be here, I'm all ears.
10. Chris "the Anchor" Sørensen ↑
Our ceremonial spot for a guy who kicked serious ass on behalf of someone else today. So much so that he's still eleventh overall. He got in the early break, dropped back to assist Sastre, helped make the race selection, and only faded at the very end. I don't suspect he's the next Andy Schleck, but his heroics need mentioning.
Dropped out: Tom Danielson, Jani Brajkovic, The Kid Cunego, Oscar Pereiro.