All over but the VDS shouting now. This list sorta tracks the current general classification, though with a few wrinkles in the hopes of at least pretending there's a reason to read it.
1. Alberto Contador, AST ↔
Dominant. Massive. An impregnable fortress of gold jersey-ness. He very likely is the rider of his generation. How much more evidence do we need?
2. Levi Leipheimer, AST ↑
I said this in the live thread: nobody in the GC sector of the current peloton knows his body better than Levi. Sastre is comparable, and what I mean by this is these guys know how to nurse their strength to maximize performance. Both seem to hold back for weeks at a time in order to strike when it matters. Both also know how to ride when the course is just a little too much for them. Levi also completely kicks ass in the time trial realm, which is the difference in the direction of their arrows. Love him or not, his riding is pretty respectable.
3. Carlos Sastre, CSC ↓
Third is pretty a propos for a guy who not only won the Tour, but presumably had to go on the speaking and criterium circuits, unlike the two guys he's looking up at. This wasn't exactly his ideal parcours, with shorter and steeper stuff than the Tour routes on which he excels. And anything he can do, Contador can do better. So, well done Carlos, he wore his CSC jersey honorably right to the end.
4. Zeke Mosquera, XAC ↓
Zeke didn't quite light up the Angliru, as I'd predicted he would (while the bigger names marked each other). For that, I have bitterly marked him down a peg. A more generous assessment of his performance might argue that he was better the next day than a lot of guys, and that his 4th overall is a fair improvement (and best of the Conti-Pro guys)against a superior field to the 2007 crowd in which he was 5th. But after six months of covering races, my reviews now consist largely of personal valentines and vendettas. Be faster next time, Zeke.
5. Alejandro Valverde, CDE ↑
In fairness to Valverde, the complaint about him in grand tours is that he's not really a threat to win. This doesn't mean that he sucks at them; au contraire, two top-10s at the Tour, and now 2nd and probably 5th in the Vuelta means he's a potential winner in one of those years where the field is noticeably thin or banged up. And in Spain, or Italy, not France. If his game is showing the colors, racking up points, and bagging some stages to go along with his one-day mastery, I'd say he's doing a fabulous job. Cycling Quotient would agree.
6. Bob Gesink, RAB ↑
The Rookie holds an 11-second lead over Valverde heading into the final stage of consequence, a not-terribly-hard uphill time trial. I say he doesn't hold. Fine job in the last uphill stage, and if he suffered the day before on the Angliru... who can blame him?
7. J-Rod, CDE ↑
This is either a shocker or a barometer of how the Vuelta isn't the Tour. Joaquin Rodriguez is a devastating classics rider and former Champion of Spain as a consequence. But top ten in a grand tour? I suppose if there were a flat 50km time trial, he'd get blown out the back of the GC, but this course consists of short, sharp pains and a whole lot of little else. Well, a few surprise uphill finishes, which also suit J-Rod. Anyway, he was excellent on the Angliru, and that alone should earn him some respect. So, here you go:
8. David Moncoutie, COF ↑
Token Frenchman riding aggressively in pursuit of a minor jersey. Not complaining, he's doing his thing, which unlike 2007 includes being on a bike. At 32, this seems to be his ceiling: KOM jerseys and stage wins. Doesn't get me overly excited, but he knows what he's doing.
9. Marzio Bruseghin, LAM ↑
Currently 11th, I'm looking for a big time trial from him on Saturday, where on gentler slopes he can easily pull back a minute on Zaugg and two minutes on Egoi. He's not exactly an ace chronoman, but he did win the Giro's long, flat ITT and placed seventh in the Plan de Corones ITT. Aside from Levi and Bert, that's as solid a resume as you'll find in this list.
10. Egoi Martinez, EUS ↔
A note on ratings: Egoi was unrated before, so arguably the correct arrow is ↑. OTOH, since the last power poll he fell from first overall to 9th. Also, if history is a guide, he's about to get his head handed to him in the Navacerrada ITT; his past results usually begin with an "8" and don't stop there (81st, 89th, etc). Still, with a minute in hand on Oliver Zaugg and 90 seconds on Daniel Moreno, he just might hang onto that last top-10 spot. Anyway, he's had a nice adventure for the otherwise disappointing Euskaltel effort, so I'll grant him that last place. Hell, if Igor Anton made it through that fateful corner, the orange jersey would have been well represented on this list.