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Power Poll: Teams!

Letour-sq2_1__mediumBecause you can never get enough lists of vaguely factual-sounding tidbits...

1. Team Columbia ↑
Previous Ranking: 4
Super powers: sprinting, being everywhere
Weakness: high mountains
Sure, it can't last, but nobody has shown up every day with more cards to play than Columbia. And they've played them. Kirchen solidly in green...are you kidding? And yes, I will be writing valentine posts to them on a monthly basis.

2. Caisse d'Epargne ↔
Previous Ranking: 2
Super powers: everything with an incline
Weakness: experience?
The giant stirs... I fully expect them to take the top spot soon, based on what we've seen the last two days. Suddenly the slopes of the Massif Central are awash in frisky, black-clad Spaniards. Sanchez was awesome today. Pereiro looks like a podium challenger. [dear god...] Valverde's crash was the only onion in the ointment so far, but he should be OK in time to make his run.

3. CSC-Sexy Back ↓
Previous Ranking: 1
Super powers: hard work, intimidation
Weakness: probably can't contain Caisse d'Epargne in the mountains
It's tempting to ask, where's CSC? The answer, though, would be laying back, playing it smart. They tried applying a little pressure today, but quickly realized it wasn't going to work, and went back to laying low. Might resume the top spot before it's all over, but Sastre's helpers include far fewer mountain goats than Valverde's.

4. Euskaltel-Euskadi ↓
Previous Ranking: 3
Super powers: attacking
Weakness: powers increase and diminish according to distance from Spanish border.
Zubeldia has until Monday to justify his team leadership; otherwise the better-placed and better-looking (on the bike, ahem) Astarloza and Sammy Sanchez can start feeling around for possible results. Still, three guys in the mix, and they haven't expended their support resources at all yet.

5. Saunier Duval
Previous Ranking: are you kidding?
Super powers: climbing, attacking
Weakness: until this week, everything; now, de la Fuente's descending
Better late than never. Riccardo Ricco's surprising post-Giro form has given their roster of great support climbers a reason to live. Suddenly, for every steady surge by Caisse d'Epargne, there are two Redbirds probing the front for a chance to escape. Great 1-2 punch by Piepoli and Ricco yesterday; great job launching de la Fuente and Jufre Pou today.

6. Liquigas ↑
Previous Ranking: n/a
Super powers: Little bit of this, little bit of that
Weakness: major results, hair jokes -- update: might be kicked out of Tour due to Beltran positive (see below)
They're certainly involved, for now, be it challenging for stages or towing Pippo back up to the peloton. Launching Nibali was a nice move; he was the white jersey on the road at one point, or close to it, as well as a solid stage win threat. Hopefully they'll get something for their troubles before it's over, i.e. a stage.

7. Rabobank
Previous Ranking: 5
Super powers: depth, prizes to chase
Weakness: history?
We'll know more about the Orange Order soon enough, but they did a decent job rescuing Menchov from disaster on Stage 2, and have a lineup built to shepherd him around when the going gets tougher -- CSC Lite. But what was Menchov doing in the back? Bad idea. Freire has been a little disappointing.

8. Garmin-Chipotle ↑
Previous Ranking: n/a
Super powers: time trialing
Weakness: high mountains
Am I overrating them? Well, this poll is more backward-looking than anything else, and they've had a terrific week, wearing the yellow numbers for four days (though not tomorrow). Smartly went after stage 3, and showed great muscle in the ITT. Vandevelde is riding for a GC slot now.

9. Gerolsteiner
Previous Ranking: n/a
Super powers: protecting Schumacher
Weakness: keeping Schumacher upright
For a team with no expectations, grabbing yellow for two days was good tonic. They get this slot partly by default, but also by virtue of their hard work on stage 5, defending Yellow on a day when they had little help and lots of KMs. If Schumacher weren't such a [fill in blank], he and they would be looking at more like five days in the lead... and a possible sponsorship lifeline. Ah well.

10. Credit Agricole ↑
Previous Ranking: n/a
Super powers: chasing... Smashing!
Weakness: Climbing
It's been a miserable week for sprinters' teams, but at least Credit Ag have gotten their man to the line a couple times -- once for the win -- which is more than the other sprint teams can say.

Dropping out: Silence! Lotto
No soup for you.