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Post-Pyrenees Power Poll: Maillot Jaune

Letour-sq2_1__medium1. Cadel Evans
Previous Ranking: 1
Current deficit: 0.00
Odds of winning: Strong, for now
His lack of a team and potential suffering from injuries has the sharks circling. Also, a one second lead is nothing to write home about. The team part is survivable, since his path to glory consists of managing the climbs and crushing the chrono. That injury part though... 

2. Denis Menchov ↑
Previous Ranking: 5
Current deficit: 0.57
Odds of winning: middlin'
Folks are talking him up, but I still think his best chance of dropping Evans was in the Pyrenees. Having let that one pass, Menchov needs Evans to come undone, or grow wings in the Alps. Or beat him soundly in the final ITT. Nobody should be printing yellow Rabo kits yet.

3. Carlos Sastre ↑
Previous Ranking: 4
Current deficit: 1.28
Odds of winning: foreseeable
Sastre is the bellwether for team cycling. Compared straight up, it's unlikely Sastre's climbing advantage over Evans would outweigh his ITT deficit. But if Evans can be destroyed through teamwork, that's precisely what will happen.

4. Christian VandeVelde 
Previous Ranking: 12
Current deficit: 0.38
Odds of winning: The dream lives!
Too great a story ... I'm afraid to talk about it. Let's just say he's looking great, and if things fall his way... no, I'm not going there.

5. Frank Schleck ↑
Previous Ranking: 13
Current deficit: 0.01
Odds of winning: Volatile
CSC's plan seems to be to launch different riders in different phases. Schleck's almost-yellow position has to do with the fact that he was the team's weapon in the Pyrenees; Sastre will be the guy when the race is truly settled. Don't look for the team to literally defend Frank's spot here once the final strategy is unfurled, and I still don't think he can get away from Evans in the remaining big stages. Still... respect.

6. Riccardo Riccò ↑
Previous Ranking: 14
Current deficit: 2.29
Odds of winning: can lightning strike?
I actually view this as a conservative ranking. In theory, he's got a better chance than anyone to dethrone Evans. The remaining contenders are all guys whom Evans can (probably) match in the mountains and hold off in the final ITT. Ricco though... what if he's feeling great? What can Evans do to stop him? Add in his cadre of dominant climbers, and this is CSF all over again, without the insurmountable distance from the lead. Recent Tour history has included a lot of conservative racing, matching wheels, pressing small but certain advantages. But the longer history is full of pure climbers flying away and gaining chunks of time large enough to survive their crappy time trialing. For once, we have to at least consider this possibility.

7. Mikel Astarloza 
Previous Ranking: 9
Current deficit: 3.51
Odds of winning: still only technically a positive number
But for his team I might be trying to dump him out of the poll. Still, climbing isn't his strong suit and he managed his effort decently enough, so I should point out that, all things considered, he's having a solid Tour. Headed upward? Not too likely. Maybe Sanchez will wake up and lend some assistance.

8. Kim Kirchen ↓
Previous Ranking: 6
Current deficit: 1.36
Odds of winning: fading fast
Already covered yesterday. I hope he goes all-out for the Green Jersey. It's not a sprinters' jersey, there's more to it than that, and a Kirchen win would hammer that point home.

9. Bernhard Kohl ↑
Previous Ranking: new
Current deficit: 0.46
Odds of winning: Whoa... huh?
Little history to go by, so the possibilities range from flash-in-the-pan to the evolution of a new grand tour threat. In the '07 Tour he was bad in the Alps and solid in the Pyrenees. So we'll see if there's a weakness in Alpine climbs, or if the past just means nothing here. Honestly I have no idea.

10. Vlad Efimkin 
Previous Ranking: new
Current deficit: 2.32
Odds of winning: A French team? Sacre bleu!
Probably giving snarky looks to his former Caisse d'Epargne teammates over the hotel buffet as we speak. He's ranked higher than all of them, for now anyway. Like VandeVelde, this captaincy thing is a tad new. Unlike VandeVelde, he's likely to be headed the wrong way in the time trial.

11. Alejandro Valverde ↓
Previous Ranking: 2
Current deficit: 4.41
Odds of winning: Moving along...
Little to add. Are there guys who climb well in the Alps but not the Pyrenees? Not many. Maybe Sastre.

12. Vincenzo Nibali ↑
Previous Ranking: new
Current deficit: 4.18
Odds of winning: Nil.
Nibali, a Tour rookie, deserves a lot of credit for a terrific race so far. Hell, he's hardly ever raced in France. With Kreuziger dropping over seven minutes yesterday, Nibali becomes the team captain. The hope of a Sicilian Tour de France champion in my lifetime isn't dead.

13. Damiano Cunego ↓
Previous Ranking: 3
Current deficit: 5.37
Sinking like a stone all week. I look for him to battle on, as he did yesterday to limit his losses, but he just can't stay in his top gear consistently enough. If he drops enough time, he could be allowed to go for a stage win. Problem is, that Prato Nevoso stage will come before he can create that deficit. Ah well...


14. Sammy Sanchez ↓
Previous Ranking: 7
Current deficit: 4.46
Odds of winning: none... WTF?
This is rapidly turning into a lost season for Sammy. He's got one more downhill mountain finish to have some fun, but the podium is disappearing fast.


15. Juan Jose Cobo ↑
Previous Ranking: new
Current deficit: 2.10
Odds of winning: nah
Looks great, but he's working for Ricco. Eh, hard to say who's working for whom. Piepoli says Cobo's the captain. Probably comes down to whoever's feeling strongest on the big day(s).

OUT: Lovkvist, Soler, Andy Schleck, Zubeldia