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Maillot Jaune Power Poll!

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Letour-sq2_1__medium1. Cadel Evans
Previous Ranking: 1
Current deficit: 0.21
Odds of winning: Stay upright, follow wheels... looking great.
Evans' first week has a certain Lance-like precision to it, as if he's super strong and is getting himself into whatever position he likes. And that when he's ready, he'll take the jersey and keep it. Unfortunately that might not be til stage 20, but he showed today on a time trial that didn't give him much advantage that he's in control.

2. Alejandro Valverde ↑
Previous Ranking: 5
Current deficit: 1.27
Odds of winning: Puncher's chance.
The immediate reaction to his first split today was that he'd lost it. A faster middle portion and decent final leg showed that his first split may have been more tactical error than the end of his awesome form. He can get a minute back on Evans in the mountains. But can he find another three?

3. Damiano Cunego ↑
Previous Ranking: 6t
Current deficit: 1.26
Odds of winning: a Hail Mary, in football terms. Not out of the question.
Like Evans, Cunego is showing excellent preparation and form, limiting his losses pretty handily today in his weakest event. But for stage 20, I'd prefer his chances to Cadel's perhaps. Like Valverde, his way home consists of a huge day in the Alps.

4. Carlos Sastre ↔
Previous Ranking: 2t
Current deficit: 1.43
Odds of winning: glimmer of hope.
Arguably the top-placed pure climber, Sastre predictably limited his losses today too. Nothing not to like here; all things considered Carlos is where he needs to be. Also, there shouldn't be any question about team leadership. Maybe there never really was. I still have trouble picturing him dropping the peloton on Alpe d'Huez, but it wouldn't shock me.

5. Denis Menchov ↔
Previous Ranking: 2t
Current deficit: 1.12
Odds of winning: fading fast, almost gone.
He's got six days to win the Tour now. Yesterday was one of those things, and today was respectable enough, but he's not better than Evans in either the Alps or the long time trial. He arguably is better than Evans in the Pyrenees, and has the track record to prove it. That gives him til Hautacam to catch and pass Cadel, or it's over.

6. Kim Kirchen
Previous Ranking: 6t
Current deficit: 0.12
Odds of winning: lightning-strike levels.
Well now... this is a conservative ranking for the best-placed GC rider. Color me skeptical about his chances in the high Alps. But he was great today, and maybe we're in for a real surprise in that final time trial. I can see him attacking at Super-Besse and doing well in the Pyrenees, potentially into yellow. But that third week... I'll believe it when it happens.

7. Sammy Sanchez ↓
Previous Ranking: 2t
Current deficit: 1.31
Odds of winning: infinitesimal... but the podium is in range.
Today was about what you'd expect from a decent time-trialer like Samu. He's quietly put himself in position. I can only guess that he'd like to lay low til the third week, like he did in the Vuelta, and storm the podium when everyone else starts to crack. The Pyrenees are more his style though. Stay tuned.

8. Andy Schleck ↑
Previous Ranking: new
Current deficit: 1.27
Odds of winning: Almost nil; he's got other duties.
Aside from Jens!, Andy is the top-placed CSC rider, but unlike Euskaltel don't go looking for Bjarne to change his plan. I know I've been speaking out of both sides of my mouth about CSC, but right now Sastre looks plenty good enough to ignore Schleck the Younger's fine ride and future arc.

9. Mikel Astarloza
Previous Ranking: new
Current deficit: 1.42
Odds of winning: only technically a positive number.
Good ride for Astarloza today, as you might expect, given his chrono abilities. Reality awaits, though probably not til the Alps, and even then you never know what a crafty team can cobble together. 

10. Haimar Zubeldia ↓
Previous Ranking: 6t
Current deficit: 3'+
Odds of winning: Nil.
Do Euskaltel have the patience to stay with the plan? Or is there a conversation going on at the hotel right now as to who's riding for whom? Zubeldia's performance was a disappointment, and his chances at a podium are very weak, whereas Sanchez and Astarloza both kept themselves well in the mix. Zubeldia's best hope now is along the lines of top-five, with back end of the top ten looking more likely.

11. Thomas Lövkvist
Previous Ranking: new
Current deficit: 0.47
Odds of winning: Pretty hard to comprehend
All of Sweden needs to take a deep breath... ahhhh. Let's keep our expectations under wraps here. Like his teammate and captain Kirchen, things look great for Lövkvist so far, and that white jersey is no illusion. Yellow? Let's just block it out for another week, and then maybe check back in.

12. Christian VandeVelde
Previous Ranking: new
Current deficit: 0.37
Odds of winning: If only...
What is it about Americans and time trials? Is this cycling's version of rugged individualism? The power of the stars and stripes on the Tour's ITTs is undeniable. Not just from Vandevelde's performance; he's shown the ability before. Look at Columbia: you get a mix of mostly Europeans and a few Americans who think they're joining a German team, suddenly change the address labels and kits, and presto! three of the top 11. Anyway, David Millar was the best of the GarMen today, but Vandevelde deserves equal credit for those yellow numbers they'll be wearing for a while.

13. Frank Schleck ↓
Previous Ranking: 9t
Current deficit: 2.08
Odds of winning: D-U-N
Nothing to be ashamed of; he's just not a time trialist par excellence, or a mountain goat. Look for him to bag a stage someplace though.

14. Riccardo Riccò ↓
Previous Ranking: 11
Current deficit: 4'+
Odds of winning: Same as ever: nil!
Those three minutes he blew today should be enough to convince him to push aside thoughts of the white jersey and start thinking of polka dots instead. It should also give him license to attack alone, the time-honored method of winning the KOM. Not that I know what the Cobra ever has in mind. Just think it'd be a better use of his time.

15. Juan Mauricio Soler ↓
Previous Ranking: 9t
Current deficit: 14'
Odds of winning: Left them back on the roads of Brittany.
Pretty simple now: if his hands or pain threshold are up to the task, it's KOM time.

Honorable mention: Vincenzo Nibali (nice work today), Stijn Devolder (OK but can he climb?), Maxime Monfort (Kid's alright), Marzio Bruseghin (Bruuuse!), Sylvain Chavanel (top Frenchman at 2').