So who's gonna win?
I love this about Pro Cycling. What other sport do you have such completely different conditions/courses used to figure out who's best? Tomorrow gives us this hilly, technical ITT course followed the next day by the Hobbsian (nasty, brutish, not nearly short enough though) Paris-Roubaix? It'll be a wonder if we don't pull our eye muscles.
So it's a good TT tomorrow as the top 13 all have chrono chops and are close to each other in the standings- within 1:36 in fact. Below I lay out how I see the TT will unfold with final GC placings with the number in parentheses is their GC standing after stage 5 (today).
1. (1) Contador
2. (2) Sammy Sanchez- 8 seconds down
3. (3) Evans- 8 seconds down
The top three stand alone. I give Bert a 70% chance of winning due to his stellar chrono-ing abilities he's shown lately. He also beat Evans on a similar course here last year by 20 seconds. The upset here is I pick Samu over Evans. That isn't to slight Evans who is definitely a better all-round chronoman than Samu. It's just that this course is right in Samu's wheelhouse: technical and hilly, plus it's his home TT. If anyone other than Bert were ahead right now, I'd favor Samu.
4. (5) Cunego- 27 seconds down
5. (4) Colom- 8 seconds down
This course also fits Cunego pretty well and since Colom is a relative unknown, I give the nod to Happy Puppy. Still, Colom had a very respectable 14th two years ago plus was 8th at the short (9 km) TT at Paris-Nice this year. He's good and may hold on for 4th.
6. (6) Gesink- 32 seconds down
7. (7) Lulu Sanchez- 35 seconds down
Lulu is the Spanish TT champ. It's very close between Bobo (Gesink) and Lulu and to keep Gesink ahead of Sanchez is also an upset. I say Gesink's noticeable improvements in the TT keep him ahead. He doesn't quite make sense to me as he looks like an overgrown puppy on his bike- all arms and legs all over the place. But he's steadily improving on his TT bike and came in 5th on the Pais vasco ITT course last year. Clearly he likes hills. Now all that would come to naught against Lulu but with this race, Lulu's early season is over and he looks to me to holding on. Maybe on a flat course he'd pass Gesink in the standings, but not on these hills.
I must add that's entirely possible that both Gesink and/or Sanchez might pass Cunego.
8. (10) Casar- 54 seconds down
9. (9) Nibali- 54 seconds down
10. (11) Rogers- 1:11 down
11. (8) Kreuziger- 54 seconds down
These four are hard to choose between. Casar, Nibali, and Kreuziger have a 17 second advantage over a very good time trialist in Rogers- but those three are also decent in the art as well. Casar is picked first here because this also is his type of course, more than Nibali to my mind who I think is slightly overrated as a chronoman. Nibali is good, not great. Kreuziger is still building his form, but hone stly any of these guys could come out first in this group- or last.
After Rogers there's a gap...
12. (16) Kessiakoff- 1:34 down. Don't know much about him but he finished 12th on that tough Tirreno-Adriatico 30 km ITT course this year- 3 seconds ahead of Nibali. Question: Do all Swedes TT well?
13. (17) Fuglsang- 1:36 down. Kid has chrono abilities- and the rest of these guys don't. Just think. On a Saxo team with both Schlecks, both Sorensens, Larsson, Kolobnev- it's the kid who finishes at the head of them all. I can't wait to see him in the Giro.
14. (11) Knees- 1:11 down. Poor TT guy who finished 11th on that tough Suisse uphill TT last year.
15. (15) Lopez- 1:11 down. Poor TT guy but placed 23rd here last year. That's something I suppose.
16. (12) Egoi Martinez- 1:11 down. Poor TT guy and I have nothing redeeming to say after that.
17. Vlad Efimkin- 1:53 down. Okay. Now we are grasping at straws here...