clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Golden Power Poll!

Vuelta2_mediumSorry to interrupt the Lance festivities, but I see there's a wee bit of racing left on the calendar this week. Handicapping the outcome of this Vuelta is pretty hard right now: we've been treated to some first-week racing over decent but not too revealing climbs, so you can't get too excited about what's happened so far. At the same time, a lot of people are going to see their GC hopes rise and fall on the slopes of the near-vertical Angliru Saturday... but it's almost impossible to say who benefits, since the Vuelta hasn't raced there in six years. Still, in 2002, under dubious pre-Puerto circumstances, the time gaps started at 1.35 and quickly went out from there, so expect a demolition of some sort. W/o ado...

1. Alberto Contador, AST ↔

No cracks in the armor at present. A fit Accountant shouldn't falter on the Angliru, and in fact has every chance of crushing the field (as in, not getting crushed as badly by the grade as everyone else). And then there's the final uphill ITT, where he has stage winner written all over him. Finally, the Lance Factor, which I will include in every writeup. I think this helps him: his chances of being a team leader outside Spain just fell out the window, so he'll be motivated this weekend.

2. Carlos Sastre, CSC ↑

He's second primarily because he's 1.38 in the hole to a double-grand tour winner. Otherwise, the Tour champion showed little rust in his competent time trial, and can't be ruled out of anything after confirming his mountain goat cred on Alpe d'Huez. His Lance Factor is pretty neutral: it might remind him that he'd better hurry up and win, or depress him that he's had his last day in yellow.

3. Zeke Mosquera, XAC ↑

Hm, pretty thin resume at the top level. But it's all in Spain, and he's climbed well this year and last. Since nobody below him on this list looks like an Angliru winner, I see no reason to move him down. He's clearly on form: for a guy who can't time trial that well, he beat Anton, Moreno, and Bruseghin, among others. Looking good so far. The Lance Factor probably inspires him: Zeke got a late start at the top level, but will be pleased to know that he has another ten chances to win the Vuelta.

4. Igor Anton, EUS ↑

Riding well, no major concerns. He hasn't planned his year around the Vuelta quite as exclusively as Mosquera did, so I'll drop him below Zeke for now. But of the guys on the list, he's in the pure climber category. A complete wild card on the Angliru, he should do fine the rest of the time, and will be sniffing around for that last podium spot. Unfortunately, Lance's return will dim his hopes of wearing yellow for a while. I'll rate that as a downward factor, even if it's probably for his own good.

5. Levi Leipheimer, AST ↓

Does anyone have a worse Lance Factor than Levi? After ripping up the time trial, he is told to concede the maillo oro to one of his former domestiques, then spends the rest of the week watching his DS bump him one more rung down the ladder. If he takes a DNF on the Angliru, I wouldn't blame him. In reality, he'll probably do very well, though insanely steep grades aren't exactly his friend. After it's over, if Levi is sitting pretty, I'll be moving him up 2-3 spots.

6. Alejandro Valverde, GCE ↓

Still clinging to respectability at this Vuelta, on the strength of some solid climbing. Don't be fooled by his efforts on these modest peaks: they aren't a sign of what he can do Saturday. He'll have to summon every last fibre of grinta in him to hang around. The Lance Factor is positive though. El Imbatible could use a little less press attention.

7. Robert Gesink, RAB ↓

Another pure climber, you'd think he would rank higher up. But he's lost a full 2.22 to Valverde and 2.50 to Contador, so he only looks good for the overall if you expect him to fly away on the Angliru. Nobody is ruling that out, of course, but on both mountain stages he's left some gaps at the end, which isn't a sign that he's tearing it up right now. Given his age, you have to keep expectations low. His Lance Factor is fine, kids his age don't really understand or care about their parents' generation.

8. Daniel Moreno, GCE ↑

There's a definite drop-off here. Moreno is right in the thick of things, but his climbers' resume isn't quite as clear as Anton's or Mosquera's. He also presumably will be told to look after Valverde, a significant distraction. Then there's his Lance Factor: how many more veteran stage racers are coming back to soak up the captaincies? How many top riders will forget the Tour and focus on the Vuelta now? Yeesh.

9. David Arroyo, GCE ↑

I could easily repeat what I said about Moreno. But Arroyo is a little more of a scrappy vet, and maybe a little less of a climber. Same Lance Factor, although he's raced near Lance just enough to not be distracted.

10. Marzio Bruseghin, LAM ↑

My token Italian. Seriously, when's the last time an Italian cyclist finished in the top 10 at the Vuelta? Stefano Garzelli, in 2004. WTF? There have only been four Italian winners in Vuelta history (in reverse, only Indurain twice and Contador have won the Giro for Spain). Obviously there are a limited supply of Italians who can win the Vuelta, and those who do are almost certainly going to focus on the Tour and/or Giro first. But still, no top tens for four years? Bruuuuuse is looking solid, as usual, and in this field I can't see him faltering, unless he completely blows a gasket Saturday. Even then, he could crawl back in on the final ITT. Lance Factor: not his problem, he's Italian.