Well, we have a pretty good idea now of where this is headed. Chances are we have a serious two-man nailbiter on our hands, with maybe a third insurgent in the mix. And there are a lot of places for that story to change rather dramatically still. Here goes:
1. (2) Denis Menchov, Rabobank ↑
Last time: "Menchov is content to make early moves and hold on. If he bests Levi on stage 10 or 12 and gets into pink, they'll have to literally rip the jersey off his back."
Now: Good god! He's the story of the Giro so far, by a longshot. Yeah, Di Luca's exploits were exciting from a day-by-day kind of view, but there has been one decisive mountain stage and one decisive time trial, both won by Menchov. And now they will have to literally rip the jersey off his back. I'm not sure his team is terribly weak either; he has Ten Dam and Ardila to help him over the hills. Losing Horrillo, a true hammerhead, hurts more than just to think about though.
Girbecco Says: "Hm, those Rabobank jokes don't seem very funny right now."
2. (1) Levi Leipheimer, Astana ↓
Last time: "His advantages over Menchov in the remaining stages are slim to nothing, so he will have his work cut out, but I see two factors in his favor [final ITT, third week peak]."
Now: Well, he had better be saving something, because he will need it. His advantages over Menchov are practically nil. In general you might argue that he's a slightly better climber and cronoman, but the difference was always marginal and so far Menchov looks stronger in both. If Levi can use his team to draw even in the mountains, that Rome ITT will be one of the most exciting grand tour stages ever. But between the double-GT winner and the guy who shoots for podium places, whom would you favor?
3. (5) Danilo Di Luca, Lpr ↑
Last time: "Even if it comes down to Rome, he won't have the luxury of battling an aging Simoni to hold his lead; instead it'll be a guy like Levi or Menchov, who could eat his lunch."
Now: Adios, lunch. The Killer will remain dangerous, and if the mountain stages continue to be just semi-selective, he could claw back into pink on time bonuses. He also has a tough, frisky, veteran Giro team at his disposal. This thing isn't done. But I really, really don't like his chances in the final ITT.
4. (3) Carlos Sastre, Cervélo Test Team ↓
Last time: "If he stays close on the Cinque Terre ITT, then he has a clear shot to duplicate his Alpe d'Huez glory on the Block Haus."
Now: Hm... his pink dreams are on the brink of extinction, but not dead. He trailed the Tour at a similar point last year by about 1.30. Now he's got to make up double that, without a monster team or an Alpe d'Huez on the schedule. Probably just out of reach unless he trims at least a minute heading into the Block Haus, and even then he'd need 40" in hand to hang on in the final ITT. Plenty of racing left, lucky for Carlos, but he's a bit of a longshot.
5. (10) Franco Pellizotti, Liquigas ↑
Last time: "Still, ol' Save Ferris is only 1.27 down and far too threatening to allow up the road. He is still very valuable to Roberto Amadio as a card to play, when everyone is parked on Basso's wheel."
Now: Who's the Liquigas captain now? I suppose Basso, but the fact that Pellizotti moved up so high in the classification today makes him all the more dangerous when team tactics begin. I doubt either one will ever get into pink, but as far as chasing that last podium spot, this is going to be one damned interesting week.
6. (4) Ivan Basso, Liquigas ↓
Last time: "His whole race hangs in the balance of Stage 12, or a HUUUUGE mountain escape."
Now: Heh heh... I suppose that could read "a huge escape or several small ones." Given his time trialing, there's almost no way he crawls out of a three-minute hole without some help from Levi and Mencho. Maybe he can send some extremely cold ice water to their rooms right after the race today. Still, for all the disappointment leveled his way, I would say presumably-undoped-Basso is right about where you could hope to find a guy coming off a two-year hitch. He did respectably today, so he should manage well in the coming week.
7. (6) Michael Rogers, Columbia ↓
Last time: "Given his history of injuries and bad luck, it's almost impossible to predict how he'll fare over the remaining mega-tests (stages 10, 12, 17). If the Pais Vasco is any guide, the answer is meh-solid!-meh, which probably doesn't get it done."
Now: Solid turned to meh today, which should tell you all you need to know about Columbia's hopes of ever seeing the maglia rosa again. Champions of week one again... and probably have another stage in them. But a GC team they are not.
8. (NR) Marzio Bruseghin, Lampre Ngc ↑
Last time: crickets...
Now: Seems to be getting stronger as the race goes on, and he should like most of what's to come, except maybe the Block Haus. He's a solid candidate to move up a spot or two at the end, maybe even threaten the top five, though I doubt it.
9. (8) Thomas Lövkvist, Columbia ↑ ↔ ↓
Last time: "I'm struggling with when to pull the trigger on my Holy-Shit-Lövkvist-is-the-real-deal post. Am still holding off... Tommy Lov just hasn't had the responsibility in a grand tour before."
Now: Am still holding off. There are only a handful of youngsters who rocket to grand tour stardom with so little experience, and Tommy Lov isn't one of them. He will have a race to be proud of when it's all done, and is a decent candidate for a final-week stage someplace.
10. (NR) Lance Armstrong, Astana ↑ ↔ ↓
Last time: cough
Now: Getting stronger... flying higher... gonna fly... FLY... FLIIIIIIIIIIYYY!!!