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The Last Maillot Jaune Power Poll!

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Yep, no more power polls; by Wednesday the only contingencies will be the outcome of the final time trial, and I don't get off on discussing arithmetic. Also, to fight against the ever-present danger of post formats getting stale, I've come up with a new barometer: the snowball's chance in... [fill in the blank]. Scale runs from Everest (done deal!) to Haiti (big trouble), and measures the possibility that a given rider will make the podium. Oh, and I'm putting all of this into a flowchart. Check back in a spell. update: no flowchart... I tried, it was awful.

Narrative version on the flip, if you can't wait.

 

1. Cadel Evans 
Previous Ranking: 1
Current deficit: 0.08
Snowball's Chance in: Patagonia
The prospect of him blowing a gasket at the foot of Alpe d'Huez and fading to irrelevance can't be completely discounted. A better bet though is that he follows wheels competently enough, limits his losses, and crushes the entire peloton next Saturday. Considering the performance Sunday of the acknowledged favorite, on the so-called easy day of the Alps, this looks like a wide-open Tour and will be an incredible nail-biter right to the end. Evans is still the best bet to win, for now.

2. Denis Menchov 
Previous Ranking: 2
Current deficit: 0.38
Snowball's Chance in: Antarctica
[Yep, better than Evans'.] Boy, after Sunday I can't see him dropping far. Of the contenders, he looked the strongest, even if the olive oil coating on the Italian roads claimed yet another victim and thwarted a positively wicked attack. If Evans can stick to his wheel the next two stages, then Menchov's more likely in second. But if the Aussie doesn't deliver, Russia becomes the next heavy favorite to bag its first Maillot Jaune. Gotta root for the guy, if only for the entertainment value of seeing Rabobank win the Tour. I mean, what happens in the already-bitter Astana camp? Does Johan Bruyneel's head explode in the Versus commentary box? Will Contador bag less than ten stage wins at the Vuelta? A few unsolved frame-pump-in-the-spokes incidents? This could be history's greatest spite tour, and there's no telling how long it'll run.

3. Christian Vandevelde ↑
Previous Ranking: 4
Current deficit: 0.39
Snowball's Chance in: Norway
And still nobody's really watching him.[Note by Chris..., 07/21/08 2:31 PM PDT ]  Evans now swears he's watching CVV. He looked pretty comfortable Sunday, even able to try an attack or two, albeit unsuccessful. One wonders if he could afford to be more aggressive and spill some blood in that final group... but the smarter play is to follow Evans or whoever's in/near the front... then use his advantage in the ITT to cement his place on the podium. I'd rate him a 75% chance of surviving the Alps without a blowup; another 30% chance that Evans explodes, and a 90% chance that nobody flies away with the Tour this week. That gives him about a 20% chance of winning the Tour. Well, or Menchov. My head hurts.

4. Frank Schleck 
Previous Ranking: 5
Current deficit: none!
Snowball's Chance in: Iceland
All props to the maillot jaune, but like Iceland -- whose chilly name describes an unusually thin crust of Earth atop a massive reservoir of superheated geothermal steam -- he's not what the packaging says. Putting a handful of seconds into his rivals in the last 300 meters won't get it done in the long run, given his infirmities in the long ITT. And can anyone see him building up a three-minute advantage before Saturday? Negative. 

5. Bernhard Kohl 
Previous Ranking: 9
Current deficit: 0.07
Snowball's Chance in: Austria
Somewhere there's a way forward for the Revelation of the Race... er, well, the young revelation. Unlike his fellow surprise companion in the final selection (CVV), Kohl has a Schleck-like track record in the time trial. He climbed beautifully Sunday, so his position behind Schleck is perhaps more a courtesy than a reality. But no matter how close he gets to yellow, even in it, he'll need no less than 2:30 in hand going into Saturday to hold off Evans, VandeVelde or Menchov. 

6. Carlos Sastre 
Previous Ranking: 3
Current deficit: 0.49
Snowball's Chance in: Sweden
Let's see... Norway > Sweden, WRT latitude and elevation anyway. In other words, I would expect him fourth before it's all said and done. He did manage some aggressive riding Sunday, all the way to the line. Less likely to melt down than most of the guys on this list, and not completely hopeless in the time trial. But at 49" down he really needs to find something like three minutes minimum, or at least hope CVV and Menchov each have a jour sans.

7. Roman Kreuziger 
Previous Ranking: new
Current deficit: 7.15
Snowball's Chance in:  France
If you throw a dart at the map of France, you're not likely to hit a glacier, but hey, worth a shot. Kreuziger, like Kohl, looked fabulous today and might catch fire. Unlike some of the other longshots, he's got a chance in the time trial. But those seven minutes won't come off his record painlessly. He needs to risk it all Wednesday.

8. Alejandro Valverde ↑
Previous Ranking: 11
Current deficit: 4.11
Snowball's Chance in: the Cascades, i.e. melting fast
I suppose I should refrain from certain bold pronouncements, like when I said Valverde simply can't climb in the highest mountains. Showed Sunday he can do it, and he still has some support. I'm not sure why he's so inconsistent though. Maybe it's the crashing. BTW, he's not my favorite, but get well Oscar Pereiro.

9. Kim Kirchen
Previous Ranking: 8
Current deficit: 2.48
Snowball's Chance in: New York
Kirchen, in contrast to Valverde, continues validating my theory that he's just outside the top echelon of mountain men. He's almost certain to keep hanging around, but he won't move up so much as hold still while others fall. BTW, I know the Olympics are poorly timed, but Luxembourg could field one hell of a team at the Worlds this fall.

10. Andy Schleck 
Previous Ranking: new
Current deficit: 9.01
Snowball's Chance in: Haiti
His position here is debatable versus the rest of the g.c.; I just wanted an excuse to talk about his work today. Mein Gott! Frank may have the jersey, but as Schlecks go, Andy is by far the most convincing. Of the CSC riders too. The fiendish look on his face as he drove the heads-of-state like livestock was priceless. Every day CSC nominate a rider to devour the front of the race. If it were the same guy every time, he'd have a 15-minute lead. Anyway, Andy's time is coming, soon.