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Ronde Recap: Grading the Contenders

So as not to make this too redundant, let's turn this into an accountability moment instead. Here is my favorites list from last week, plus their rating, along with a final assessment of how accurate that rating was:

  • Tom Boonen -- Rating: ★★★★★

The surprising success of team tactics mean we'll never know the answer to one question: who was the strongest rider today? Might have been Boonen. In another week we should know more. Verdict: rated!

  • Alessandro Ballan -- Rating: ★★★★★

Certainly one of the top five riders in Belgium today. He hit the deck, he drew plenty of attention, but he still at least tinkered with attacking. Verdict: rated!

  • Philippe Gilbert -- Rating: ★★★★

Was seen a lot between kms 200 and 230, but he clearly was out of gas too soon. Another possibility: this isn't a great race for him, regardless of tactics. Verdict: slightly overrated [And to be clear, "overrated" means ONLY that he wasn't as strong a favorite for this race as I'd said, This is a referendum on me, not him.]

  • Fabian Cancellara -- Rating: ★★★★

Be realistic, this is what you should expect here: rode strongly with the favorites but never advanced beyond marking Boonen. Verdict: overrated

  • Filippo Pozzato -- Rating: ★★★★

Sixth? I saw him once all day, and he got sixth? Well, I guess it shouldn't be a surprise. His strength is following wheels til the last 5km, then trying something. Never got his chance, I guess, but he was in position.Verdict: rated!

  • Leif H\o/ste -- Rating: ★★★★

Hey, it beats finishing second again. He'll probably sleep better blaming his derailleur instead of himself. Verdict: slightly overrated!

  • Juan Antonio Flecha -- Rating: ★★★

A stone's throw away from Man of the Race. It just goes to show how unscientific assessments of a rider's "suitability" for a race can be. Strength is what matters. He's usually better at Paris-Roubaix, but not this year. Verdict: underrated!

  • George Hincapie -- Rating: ★★★

Eerily similar to 2006: he was strong, he was in position, and before the Muur he was left watching the winning move. Sounds like he was pretty cooked. Verdict: rated!

  • Sylvain Chavanel -- Rating: ★★

Fortunately I refrained from getting caught up in Chava-mania when I wrote the earlier column. He was good, but that's it. Verdict: rated!

  • Nick Nuyens -- Rating: ★★

For the first time, he looked capable of winning here. About freaking time. Verdict: underrated!

  • Andreas Klier -- Rating: ★★

Hm, a quiet 20th. Hink was the leader, and Klier bided his time, occasionally lending some work. I refuse to downgrade him for that. Verdict: rated!

  • Vlad Gusev -- Rating: ★★

I heard that he went down in a crash. Sums it up. Verdict: INC

  • Stijn Devolder -- Rating: ★★

If you think there's anything more to say here, you haven't been reading this site. Verdict: grossly underrated!

  • Martin Elmiger -- Rating: ★

Almost too quiet. But he made the Boonen group, and finished ahead of Cancellara... second-best Swiss in the race, after the solid-looking Greg Rast. Verdict: rated

  • Thor Hushovd -- Rating: ★

Followed a late attack with Langeveld before fading. Verdict: slightly underrated

  • Gianni Meersman -- Rating: ★

Never seen. I suppose it's fortuitous that I only staked one star's worth of my credibility on him. Verdict: INC