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The Tour Through a VDS Lens

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Le-tour-sm_mediumThought I'd see what each team looks like with their VDS points to see if anything interesting pops up and before Chris does his initial team ranking. And lo! Look at that! Of the 20 teams only two of them are fielding squads where every rider has won VDS points this year. Any guesses which two? Okay, I can already hear you thinking, "Columbia" and, yes, that's one of them. You get no credit for that answer. But the other? No. Keep guessing. No again! No AGAIN!  Jens- NO it's not Cofidis! Man if this were hangman you'd be almost dead! Okay here's a hint: Nikki. Riiiiiight!

Vds2_medium1. Garmin-1130 VDS points. As I mentioned in my VDS team update, Garmin is having a funny season. No one rider is having a great season but as a team they are much improved over last year. The same is true for this Tour squad too. Tyler Farrar owns the most VDS points for Garmin with a (as you will see) paltry total of only 265. But not only does every other rider have VDS points, only two of them (Millar (40 points) and Dean (20) have less than 100. Even mighty Columbia has three riders with less than 100.  Math alert! Skip the rest of this entry if you are math challenged or just done surfing! If you plotted each team on a graph with the y-axis being the VDS points and the x-axis being each rider, most teams would have a big peak where their captains' totals were, like Rabobank with Menchov's 1425 points. Garmin's plot would be practically a flat line with all riders being close to equal- and that screams Stage Hunting as any of them could go off at almost any stage.

2. Columbia-2651. As I mentioned Columbia also clocks in with every rider earning VDS points and as you see they have in total a lot more points than Garmin. They aren't however bringing the most points to this race. We'll get to that team next but for now let's note that of their two leaders, Cav has 1001 while Kirchen's got 160. Hmmm.  (Rogers has 301.)  Actually Kirchen's low total, due to injury, makes me think he'll do better than expected as he has less miles in him than his rivals. Still, and as we already know, Columbia says Stage Hunters just like Garmin. Time trials, transitional stages, smaller mountain stages are all in play for Columbia and after the Tour of Switzerland you gotta believe that there will be at least one Columbia guy in the mix for every one of those stages. That's a hint for of you playing not only our PdC VDS competition but also Cyclingfever's game.  

3. Cervelo-2979. Yep, the boys in white have the highest VDS total for this race. But if you look at their rider breakdown the question that we all have-Is this a GC team or a sprint team-stands out even stronger. 

-Three of the riders haven't scored a VDS point: Lancaster, Cuesta, and Gustov.

- Two more have scored less than 100 points: Marchante (60) and Roulston (40).

- That leaves four with basically all of their points. Sastre has 505 and stands in seeming opposition to Klier (320), Haussler (982) and Hushovd (1072). H+H in fact have 69% of the team's points. 

So what we have here is the opposite of Garmin and Columbia with an extremely top-heavy team, probably the biggest disparity between the captains and the helpers.  This is like the Cervelo all-star team and I'm not saying that in a good way. 

Okay we tackled three teams. Let's zero in on the big GC teams. The one with the most points is...

4. Rabobank-2845! Lead by Menchov's 1425 points this team has more than Astana, Saxo, or Liquigas.  Only one rider has no points: Grischa Niermann. Just looking at this team makes me think even more that Menchov will try hard to get a lead by the end of the Pyrenees and hold on because this team has the chops to hold that lead for him. This is a team that can control the flats, the hills; practically everything: Gesink (410), Ten Dam (90), Clement (120), Garate (20),  Posthuma (125), Fletcha (455), Freire (200): can't you just see this team driving the peloton day after day with Menchov in 6th position in yellow? 

5. Astana-2530 is next and if Menchov hadn't won the Giro, Astana would have the most points for a GC-focused team. Basically an eight man team (does Muravyev speak English?) and only one of them, Rast (82), has less than 100 points. So if Rabobank is solid, Astana looks bulletproof. It says here that no one is gonna take the lead away from them if they get it: Contador (1176), Leipheimer (532), Kloden (331), Paulinho (0), Popovych (117), Zubeldia (150), Armstrong (142). Oh yeah, that Lance-Bert thing...

6. Liquigas-2261. I wonder: is the Italian press playing up Liquigas for the Tour? I ask because this is also quite a strong team and in the English press they seem under the radar. I'm reading not much at all about Benna (275) or Jen Grey 670) or Kreuziger (586) or Nibali (250). I like how even this team is VDS-wise, especially the three GC guys. The others: Kuschinski is already on a break hoping to improve on his 200 points, Sabatini(40), and Willems (240) round out the scoring with Vandborg and Vanotti not scoring yet.

7. Saxo Bank is next at 1949 and I'd bet that last winter no one would think that this team would have so few points leading up to the Tour. But injuries have messed with this team, keeping their VDS total artificially low. Speaking of injuries, has anyone heard how Frank Schleck's knee is doing?  The point totals: Schlecket-720, Big Schleck-225, Cancellara-585, Jens!-272, Arvesen-140, and CA Sorensen-57. Nikki Sorensen, O'Grady, and Larsson all have zip.

Next we got five teams in the middle.

8. Silence Lotto-1213. I've been saying that Lotto's team looks like it will give more help to Cadel this time but I sure can't say that while looking at the VDS point disparity. Just look at that. They are spotting 1632 points to the Rabos, 1467 to Astana, 1048 to Leeky, 1064 to Saxo. Damn that's a big gap. And at 723 points, Evans has 60% of Lotto's points, easily the highest percentage for any serious GC hopeful. In fact only three other riders have any points: Van Summeren (225), Van Avermaet (240), and Van den Broeck (25). Dekker had 40 but let's not go there, shall we? Charlie Wegelius has zip, Scheirlinckx has zeno, Delage, zilch, and Lloyd squat.  Molly I think has 10.

9. Then we come to Caisse d'Epargne and their 1033 points um point to how odd this team is without Valverde. I have to think that they are better than that, but there it is. They really have overemphasized the Green Bullet, haven't they? Plus, to be fair, this has some really young riders too.  Maybe we should consider this practice for next year? Lulu Sanchez is easily their highest point getter with 488 and yes, I will be looking for his name to see how he keeps up.  Cd'E's answer to Boss Hog, Riggo Uran, has 125 points, Costa 190, JJ Rojas 30, and Plan B. David Arroyo 190.

10. Katusha-1920. What to say? Their man two points leaders Pozzato (935) and Ivanov (615) are not suited for Grand Tours leaving the Colom-less Vlad Karpets (290) to lead the team. He's even more alone than Evans so, just to be contrarian, it would be cool to see Mullet grab the yellow on day 1.  Unibrow has 40 points and Trussov, 40 too. Botcharov, Vandenbergh, Horrach, and Ignatiev all have nothing for this most uncompelling of teams.

11. Quickstep-1968 points with Davis, 2513 with Boonen. Not a great lead-up to the Tour is it? Boonen in court limbo, and old pal Sinking Dope (Patrick Sinkewitz) singing about the good old days-which the team is of course denying. Geez. Lefevre suing ASO for Boonen and Sinkewitz' allegations being made public after WADA sat on it for one and a half years? Uh-huh. Stay classy WADA and ASO! Not a good way for Chavanel (618), Pineau (265), Rosseler (40), de Jongh, Tosatto, or Vandewalle (all with no points) to prepare. Devo (565)? I have no idea what's going through his head. BTW what's the odds for a Devolder win?

12. Milram-1376. Stage hunters. Wouldn't it be great if we saw this team out front competing for every stage, getting in all the breaks? They sure are built like that, just like Garmin, Columbia, and Quickstep.  Wegmann (475), Peter Velits (150), Terpstra (336), Wrolich (66), Knees (120), Gerdemann (120), and Ciolek (25) should all be stage hunting. Frohlinger and Fothen are along for the ride. Hey-wasn't Fothen in competition for the white jersey while on Gerolsteiner just in 2006? Different training regimen since then I guess... Good.

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So far we have two groups of teams:

- The big boys: Columbia, Cervelo, Rabobank, Astana, Saxo, and Liquigas.

- The mid-majors: Katusha, Milram, Quickstep, Caisse d'Epargne, Silence Lotto, and Garmin.

Finally we get to Division III or the Directional Techs. None of these teams has a true GC or Green jersey contender. A couple got possible KOM winners. Otherwise maybe-maybe-they get a stage. Doubtful though. And no, the two radio-free stages won't give them an extra opportunity as is hyped. Think about it. Just two transitional stages, radio free. For those two stages the teams with real GC and Green jersey hopes will seriously crack down on breaks, knowing that they won't have to do that in the other stages nearly so much. 

13. Euskaltel-745.  Nice little team using the Tour as Vuelta prep without their leader, Samu. Astarloza has 260 points, Anton zero. Martinez, 245; Oroz, 40; R. Perez, 30, Fernandez, 140, Verdugo, 30 and the rest-Txurruka and A. Perez, diddly and squat. I can't see them trying to compete outside of Astarloza (until be gets dumped) and the occasional break. Like I said: Vuelta prep.

14. Francaise Des Jeux-695.  Maybe Casar (25) should try for the KOM jersey? The rest will pretend to be relevant: Hutarovich and Vaugrenard (210), Coppel (70), Geslin (150), Joly (10), Le Mevel (20), and Veikkanen and Roy (0). They will fail.

15. Skil Shimano-580. I'm actually excited to see these guys get the invite to play. In particular Hivert (105) I'm remembering from Paris-Nice and Van Hummel (165). Lemoine (230) could be interesting as well. Rounding out the squad are Geschke (10), Rooijakkers (70), Hupond, Beppu, and de Kort, all with zero points. De Kort of course will give me lots of VDS points.

16. BBox-475. Maybe Voeckler (135) will make an early run for KOM. The way the course is set up I think someone like him can get up big early and make a serious run.  In fact that's the main thing the Pyrenees will do this year. Otherwise you have Trophy Mom (130), Fedrigo (190), Arashiro (20) with Pichot, Haddou, Rolland, and Bonnet looking for their first VDS points, probably in vain.

17. AG2R-405. Yeah me too!  I thought they'd have a few more points coming into this race. Vlad Efimkin (5-yes five points) will stage a fierce battle for the highest placed Vlad on GC. The rest? Hey I'm getting tired of writing names. Dessel (0) will do something. No, Bastille Day is a flat stage day.

18. Agritubel-245. Le Lay has 185 of these points. 

19. Lampre-195. Italy's answer to the French Pro Tour teams clocks in with Bruseghin in his 592nd straight Grand Tour start with 185 points and Furlan with 10. Yes-every other rider has not scored this year.  And yet they still live-even that guy in the rainbow.

20. Cofidis-150. 100 of them by Moncoutie, 30 by Auge, and 20 by Minard. Moncoutie is a serious KOM threat and that's all we need to know.