Sure, we're down to one lonely day of point-scoring in this year's Virtual Directeur Sportif, and from the standings it looks like the top spot is more or less in the bag. After that, things get very, very murky:
|1.||tgartner||Sleeping Maiden Velo||12386|
|2.||Frinking||Vino, Vidi, Vici||11781|
|4.||dan beringhele||ORB, Inc.||11720|
|5.||Albertina||The Txapela wearing Txirrindulariak of Txindoki||11598|
|9.||Tommy Ventoux||The Knackers||11389|
Top nine? Is this a conspiracy to deny Ursula his moment of (self-dealing) fame? No, but positions 10 - 446 (coughNicknorcocough) are all at least 600 points from a precious podium spot, so let's rein in the conversation at this point.
On the flip: See what the hubbub is about! Meet the teams and players! And of course, wagering is encouraged...
You can start sizing up tgartner for the winner's jersey. Holding a 605-point lead over his nearest competitor, this multi-year PdC member has his Sleeping Maiden Velo more or less off the front, hammering like Cancellara, with three minutes on the pack as he enters the velodrome. Sure, he could slip in a turn and refuse to get up, but absent a conscious choice to lose it's hard to see any other result. The kicker? His Lombardians include J-Rod, Nibali, Evans, Horner, Santambrogio, and Kolobnev. Game over.
From there, it's at least a three-way race for the next two podium spots; and an eight-way mashup isn't out of the question. Let's do this in groupings. Oh, and remember, this is what's on the table Saturday for points: 350, 300, 275, 250, 225, 200, 175, 150, 125, 100, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5. Big scratch.
Off the Front
Sleeping Maiden Velo. Zip up the jersey.
First Chase Group
- Young Frinking has the inside position with his Vino Vidi Vici squad. Frinking is a longtime member, defying the tradition whereby longtime members and seeming experts utterly shame themselves in the course of the VDS. And to think, what might have been had fate not cruelly spilled Igor Anton on the roads of his kinda-sorta home nation, depending on how Basques think of Spain. Anyway, Frinking could have serious problems closing the door here. Robert Gesink was a nearly sure bet for big points until he left to be with his injured father. I assume it's pretty bad for him to miss a monument, but De Telegraaf hasn't any news, so hopefully pops is OK. Anyway, after being deserted by countrymen and foreigners alike, Frinking is relying on old reliable Oscar Freire, a somewhat mercurial Andy Schleck, as well as Paul Martens, Bauke Mollema, Rigoberto Uran, and the inefficiency of the Spanish judicial system. Forecast: a handful of points. Drops a spot or more.
- Dallsopp is next, with Maxpower just 32 points off the pace of Frinking. The manager is a first-time VDS player, it appears, and beginner's luck is a powerful force around these parts. So too is inertia: the likelihood of either Alberto Contador or Ezequiel Mosquera giving back any points in time is up there with ASO securing the testimony of a few clenbuterol-huffing Spanish cows as material witnesses. But not all is rosy, as Maxpower need to come around V-V-V with some guys not found on Frinking's team -- namely, Domenico Pozzovivo, Francesco Masciarelli, Peter Sagan and Tom Danielson. Forecast: more inertia.
- Dan Beringhele is close on Maxpower's heels, with ORB, Inc. another 29 points in arrears. Dan is another newbie in 2010, but no fool -- if ever he was tempted to drop Philippe Gilbert for a shiny Edvald Boasson Hagen, he resisted it, which is more than you can say for some people [can I go now?]. Gilbert teams with Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Vincenzo Nibali, Enrico Gaspa... who cares? Gilbert and Nibali alone are going to eat up that 61-point deficit quicker than you can say Colma di Sormano. Forecast: a Great Leap Forward!
Desperately Bridging the Gap
- Next on the scoreboard is longtime member Albertina, whose Tx-Tx-Tx of Tx (dear god don't make me spell that) are a full 122 points out of the conversation and 151 from the final podium spot. Albertina not only brings a seasoned presence to the competition but a clean (seeming), admirable team, so it's only right that she's getting completely rooked out of a potential overall win. First there was Igor Anton's switch from 600-plus-point Vuelta winner to hospital patient. Then, when she was on the verge of recovery, came Gesink's skeedaddle, depriving her of a potential podium sweep in Lombardia. Nibali and Gilbert can still get her past the comparatively idle Frinking and Dallsopp teams with relative ease. But it will take something special -- Oscarito? Santambrogio? Carlos Barredo? Sylvester Szmyd? -- to come around ORB, Inc. too. Forecast: The final podium step!
- FrankV's Vlammende Vedetten is back for another bite at the apple, after a pretty strong rookie season in 2009 before fading a bit late. To speed things up, let's just say that his chances hinge almost entirely on Domenico Pozzovivo and Bauke Mollema finishing 1-2. Forecast: Since that isn't happening, let's congratulate Frank on another solid season.
- Grater's Greats need something of a miracle to make up 340 points on Frinking and pass the other teams on this list. The team's success is more about depth than stars (after Tyler Farrar and LuLu Sanchez), so that miracle would have to look something like this: 1. Richie Porte; 2. David Moncoutie; 3. Gorka Izagirre; 4. Amets Txurruka; 5. Stephane Auge. Forecast: thanks for playing. Update! I just noticed Boasson Hagen is on the startlist. Doesn't change my prediction, but given my own unhealthy relationship to Eddy I figured it was worth mentioning him.
- ChefSpijker is even worse off. The more we go down this list, the fewer guys you find who aren't also on one of the teams they need to pass en route to glory. Capecchi's Wizards, who have done exceedingly well this year on the strength of Farrar, Contador, Gesink, and Frank Schleck, but they have almost no unique riders, thanks to Footon-Servetto's exclusion from the event. Forecast: Ah, Dutch hegemony. If Chef, Frank and Finking all finish strongly but just outside the podium, will it remind you of any Pro Tour teams we know?
- Over at Tommy Ventoux's Knackers, the math isn't quite as hopeless as you'd expect for a team that sits nearly 400 points out of the money. In theory, a podium of J-Rod, Alessandro Ballan and Xavier Tondo gets it done. Funny, after Sleeping Maiden, the Knackers are the only other team here to plunk down a bargain price of 14 points for Rodriguez. Less funny, from rookie Tommy V's perspective, is the near certainty that Gilbert, Nibali and some of the other guys listed above that aren't working for the Knackers will get it done Saturday. Forecast: No spoils, but a nice bump up.
A few other notes... one of my favorites for the glory is Dan Martin, but curiously you have to look all the way down to Flying Dog, in 15th place, before you can locate one of Martin's DS's. The Dog might make a Top Ten move if my hunch is right. Another rider that we all collectively slept on a bit is Cadel Evans. Yeah, OK, he cost 28 points and world championships carry a terrible curse. But don't be shocked to see UUNNNGGGHH! move up to the top twenty Saturday.