clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dark Horses for the GC


Chris fashioned a nice post on the Tour GC faves. gavia did the same with the chase for the White Jersey which overlaps with Chris'. Now to complete the overlapping let's try to ID who are the second tier GC guys: riders who might sneak into the top-10 if all goes well. Some of them are also White jersey contenders. Let's look!... and please add more riders if I missed any. Oh- and these are in no order of likelihood.

AG2R has three ponies of a darker hue: Vlad Efimkin, Tadej Valjavec, and Cyril Dessel. Each one by themselves seems a long shot but if the team works well together one of them could contend for a top 10 placing. Of the three the least likely of course is Vlad Efimkin for no other reason than he's one of the Vlads who the Furies seem to hate this year. Oh well. As far as I can tell he's never raced the Tour before but he does have Grand Tour experience with the Vuelta (07- 6th), and Giro (06-36th) . That 6th place finish in last year's Vuelta is nothing to sneeze at- if your name wasn't Vlad. I can just see it: a "wind gust" plucking him off the top of L'Alpe d"Huez...

Chance of top 10: -1000%.

Tadej Valjavec is another contender. He just placed 13th in this year's Giro too. (I'd like to do a real breakdown of riders who raced in the same year's Giro and Tour to see how much it hurt them for the Tour, if any. I know the conventional wisdom is that its a bad idea but how bad?) Last year Tadej skipped the Giro for the Tour and finished a mildly disappointing 19th. I say mildly disappointing as he finished 17th the year before after a looked-like-he-was-training-for-the-Tour Giro effort of 34th. He was 15th in the 05 Giro and 9th the year before that so maybe the Giro is his kind of Grand Tour and that an upper teens Tour finish is the best that we can expect. <

Chance of top 10: 3.14%

The third member of the AG2R troika, Cyril Dessel, has the best Tour finish of all the dark horses I list with a 7th in 06. He bit the dust in the Pyrenees last year but perhaps he and his boot heels are back and ready to surprise again. Just imagine: like in 06 can't you see the big GC faves letting Dessel go on a long break in the Massif Central or Pyrenees as they are too busy eyeing each other? Yes you can, even you Hons. To add fuel to this hope, please note that Cyril placed 6th in the tune--up Dolphin race ahead of Astarloza, Monfort, Rodgers, Trofimov, Sastre, Szymd, Casar, and Di Gregorio among others. He looks ready to me.

Chance of top 10: 25%

Since Dessel is French lets segue over to some more riders of the French persuasion. Let's start with Sandy Casar who this year has a 13th in the Dolphin, a 6th in Romandie, and an 8th at Pais Vasco in his account. All in all this is a bounce back year from his poor 07 and is more like his previous solid several years. His best Tour finish though is only a 16th in 04 and since then has gone 29th, 69th, and 71st. L'ouch. Perhaps the Tour doesn't agree with this French guy?

Chance of top 10: 10%

How about Maxime Monfort then? He's a youngster, only 25, who this year finished 9th in the Dolphin and 5th at Pais Vasco. That last placing was pretty good. Kim Kirchen, and Frank Schleck, both of whom Chris mentioned in his Tour faves preview, would have liked to have finished 5th in that race. I don't see that he's raced the Tour before but last year he finished 11th in the Vuelta so it says here that this guy has to be taken seriously. He can climb fairly well and can chrono too.

Chance of top 10: 35%

Think Chris Moreau has it in him for one last run at the Tour? So far this year he hasn't been nearly as prominent as last year- which might be a good thing for this 37 year old. Chance of top 10: 30.3333333333333333%

A sort-of French guy (hey he's with Bweeg!) is Yury Trofimov, last sen lighting up the hills in the Dolphin en route to a 12th place finish. He can chrono too as his 7th @ the Dolphin TT can attest. He's never done a Grand Tour before so to me a top 30 placing would be great. I'm sure we will see him on a breakaway or two: how about a mountain break of Soler, Ricco, Di Gregorio, and Trofimov? Cool.

Chance of top 10: 1%

Enough with the French (if you think I'm gonna mention Voeckler, think again.) Let's go north of the border to Belgium where the Stijn Devolder lives. Being a parent of three boys I know how so many kids, especially boys in America are being medicated with Ritalin and if someone had suggested that one of my boys should be on the drug I would have gone Jens! on them but just maybe that would cure Devo of his, shall we say impulsiveness? We know he can climb. We know he can chrono. He should be comfortably in the top 20 and in the years ahead the top 10. He's never done a Grand Tour so maybe once he's done this one he'll understand what it really takes to win.[Brain fart edit! as umwolverine says in the comments, Devo's ridden the Vuelta. All I know is that he'll show us some stupid attacks.

Chance of top 10: either 100% or 0% you choose.

Before we leave France entirely there's LL Sanchez of the part French in name only Caisse d'Epargne. He's had a decent year so far with a 1st in the national TT- and a 28th in the RR. His only GT experience is in the Vuelta where he's done little of note but again he seems to be a rapidly improving youngster. He's also the first rider mentioned who's riding for one of the heavy faves (Valverde) so that will probably hurt his chances for a high placing.

Chance of top 10: 2%

Another dark horse riding for someone else is Kanstantsin Siutsou last seen riding a disappointing (to my VDS owner's eyes) DNF in this year's Giro. Last year he was on Barloworld where he finished 32nd in the Tour. In neither the Giro or Tour did he place higher than 19th- but that 19th was in this year's Giro stage 19. We know he can climb. He seems to be the anti-Devo in that he's innately conservative. He'll be riding for Kirchen. Perhaps not this year but down the line he could become a factor.

Chance of top 10: square root of 2%

Okay now we'll get serious with Roman Kreuziger and Vincenzo Nibali, both on Liquigas. Both can chrono and climb. Both are young. Neither have Tour experience though both have GT experience. I think that the Tour's climbs would fit Nibali better than the Giro's. Kreuziger may have peaked too soon in the Suisse Tour, but then again he had a similar result- 2nd place to Big Bird, in Romandie a month before so perhaps the quality we've seen from him this summer is a base level not a peak. (That's a scary thought. Oh and Big Bird is Kloden.) Both will be serious GC contenders for years. Perhaps this is the race that tone or both fully announce themselves.

Chance of top 10: Nibali- 20%, Kreuziger- 33.33%

Speaking of Italy, we come to the Lampre and Marzio Bruseghin. Of course he's on Happy Puppy's (Cunego) team so I doubt he will get much freedom but you never know how the race will unfold. For instance its wouldn't surprise me a bit if after the 1st TT Bruse is ahead of Cunego. Do they think lightning can strike twice in the same year with Bruse after his podium in the Giro? Kinda doubt it myself but he's a chronoman par excellence, can handle pressure real well and did some nice climbing in the Giro.

Chance of top 10: 5%

Last but not least (maybe) is Cobo Acebo of The Great Saunier Duval-Scott team who placed 20th last year in the Tour. How will he get along with Ricco? Will having Piepoli help him, as opposed to Mayo who finished 16th and was much more of a contender last year? This year Cobo's done squat with a 7th in the Dolphin stage to Morzine the best result. All I know is that with Ricco racing Saunier Duval-Scott will be fun to watch- and read about from gavia's gossip columns!

Chance of top 10: 1%

Okay- who did I miss? Who do you like?