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Romandie: Previewing the Time Trial

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[editor's note, by chris] Updated for accountability...

Handicapping tomorrow's potentially decisive 18km individual time trial at the Tour de Romandie requires a mixture of elbow grease and clairvoyance. Regarding the former, there are about 40 guys within a minute of the overall lead -- a change from the usual Romandie format where about a dozen guys hit the streets for a final-stage ITT with any chance to win. As for the latter, the usual caveats about not really knowing who's here to win.

But that doesn't mean it's not worth trying. So here goes. Remember, this list is culled from the current GC, cut off at one minute. Any time trial aces lying further back are probably screwed, not on form, or both.

The Current GC Top Three

Current leaders Michael Albasini, Maxim Iglinsky, and Markus Zberg have a history of time trial efforts ranging from mediocre to bad. Enjoy your day in the sun, boys. It's over tomorrow. Update [2008-5-2 14:0:3 by chris]: They all finished 1.04 - 1.20 back.

A Bunch of Other Guys You Can Forget About

Ranging from spotty to (as Gavia would say) Gah! Morris Possoni, Haimar Zubeldia, Alexander Efimkin, Wim Van Huffel, John Gadret, Oliver Zaugg, Manuel Beltran, Alexandre Botcharov, Ruben Lobato, Mario Aerts, Daniele Bennati. Update [2008-5-2 14:0:3 by chris]: Best of the lot: Efimkin at 1.14.

Some Non-Horrible TT'ers Who Still Probably Won't Do Much

As Gavia would say, meh: Oscar Pereiro, Jussi Veikkanen, Rubens Bertogliati , Juan Manuel Garate, Patxi Vila, Sylvester Szmyd, José Angel Gomez Marchante. Pereiro has thrown down occasionally, when he's felt like it. Virtually all the Spaniards on this list would do well if there were more than one tough climb. But still... meh. Update [2008-5-2 14:0:3 by chris]: Pereiro 11th, not bad. Bertogliati 18th, Garate 22nd, etc.

The Greenhorns

A decent number of kids straddling the US drinking age are still within a minute of the lead: Steve Morabito, Rein Taaramae, Bauke Mollema, Mauro Santambrogio, Johann Tschopp, Matthias Frank, Thomas Frei, and Eros Capecchi. It's hard to know much about any of them, based on results at lower levels of competition. Frei, Frank and Tschopp have no track record of time trialling success yet, and Santambrogio doesn't appear to have even attempted a time trial in his pro career before this week's prologue. [How is this possible?]

But Taaramae, Mollema and Capecchi might turn out OK. And Morabito is one to watch: racing at home, growing up in the Astana chronoman factory, and having won the Jayco Herald ITT last time he laced up the bodysuit. The course sounds a bit tricky though, and inexperience will hurt. Update [2008-5-2 14:0:3 by chris]: Mollema and Capecchi dropped 2'; Santambrogio was kind of a train wreck. But Taaramae was excellent, 10th, 2" behind Menchov and Pinotti. Morabito was a solid 16th.

The B-List Contenders

Roman Kreuziger was 6th in the Lausanne TT last year. Bernhard Kohl looks like a top 20 guy, and is on form after the classics to boot. Mikel Astarloza's ceiling is top 10. I'd give Sandy Casar a puncher's chance based on his 9th in Lausanne last year. Update [2008-5-2 14:0:3 by chris]: Kreuziger the big winner from this group, 6th on the stage and lying 3rd on GC.

The Favorites

When Jens! Voigt turns on the motor, he's a threat to win a TT of this distance and shape. And as we know, Jens! turns on the motor every day that Bjarne neglects to tell him not to.

Vladimir Gusev, reigning Russian TT champ, has had a balky spring, but is a true chronoman. Marco Pinotti, the Italian TT champ, is about in the same class.

Denis Menchov's form and motivation are a mystery this week, but this is a guy who's used the time trial to win two Vueltas. Thomas Dekker is maybe THE favorite, based on his current form and his win in Lausanne last year. His time trialing prowess portends greatness. But my pick is Andreas Klöden, a guy who is never outside the top 5 when he shows up to race against the clock. Toss in the Astana revenge factor, and presto! winner.

Update [2008-5-2 14:0:3 by chris]: Heh heh... well the top two were easy picks, so gloating about which one came first is like celebrating a successful coin flip. Jens! wasn't great but the others were all top 10.