Let's start eight days ago when PdC turned its collective eyes towards the Giro and I posted a preview of the GC contenders. Remember? I kinda like the preview: pretty comprehensive, placed the contenders into tiers, etc. Well received by folks here too.
And then Jennifer Grey got busted. And Teddy Valjavec. And some guy with hemorrhoids. Woke up the next morning and crossed off names on my post. Oi.
All right. I can handle that. Doping happens and the best thing for a writer is to move on to another preview: sprinters! Yeah that will be more fun! While letting a day go by so that other posts got their deserved viewing at the top of the page, I started thinking of who I wanted to feature and who I wanted to have a photograph of. (You know where this is going, right?) I thought of two riders: Oscar Freire and Daniele Bennati. You may have heard of them: Oscarito: MSR winner enjoying a nice late autumn come-back season. Benna, two years removed from winning the Giro points jersey (over mark Cavendish, I might add) and I hear he's easy on the eye.
You know what happened: they both dropped out. By this time I'm wondering if I have some Black Unicorn blood on me. Fortunately White Unicorn intervened and broke my computer. Yeah! So I haven't been able to write much until today. So here I go wondering if who I favor will end up in a ditch along the perfectly straight TTT course, never to be seen again. Writing for PdC is too stressful.
A word on the rankings. Obviously we're two stages into the race so the little arrows you see next to the rider names indicates how they are doing compared to what I thought of their chances before the race started. Since I'm the only one who knew that I can put arrows going most anywhere! Excellent. To the Rankings!
1. Tyler Farrar ↑
Three riders could claim the top spot: Brownie, Wouter, and the Wenatchee Wonder here. I picked WW because of his convincing win on stage 2 and that it was just the luck of the race that he got caught behind a crash on stage 3. Essentially I see him as 1 for 1 and his was the most convincing win: text book leadout by his train lead to a strong finish where he wasn't really challenged.
2. Wouter Weylandt ↑ ↑ ↑
Several comments already have mentioned that Wouter may have just earned another year at Quickstep with this win and I'm sure they are right. Considering how non-existent he's been since...hmm....his last win was last year on stage 2 of the Dreidaagse van-West Vlaanderen and shortly before that, Le Samyn-hardly the stuff that Giro stage winners are built from. But that finish today-wow! Forget who he was racing against: when he saw that opening he exploded into the lead, like Tom Boonen's understudy should. Will this give him confidence? More on the flip..
3. Graeme Brown ↑ ↑
Is it any coincidence that the top three riders are all cobbles vets? Got the red points jersey for home team Rabobank with his 2nd place finish today so he has to be ranked up high. Now the question is how long can he hold it, which makes me think of another question: can a sprinter win this year's Points competition?
You might recall that last year four GC riders finished ahead of the first sprinter, Petacchi. Do the sprinters have much of a chance to win the Points competition this year? I say no. Let take a closer look at why I say that:
We just did two sprinters stages; by my reckoning we have five more to go: stages 5, 9,10, 12, and 18. Stage 18 will be tricky though as the sprinters will have just spent a week getting worked over in the mountains so the odds of a breakaway there are great.
Now for the GC/climby guys, I see seven, possibly eight stages where they and not the sprinters will get points: 8, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, and probably 7. Now to me the nature of these stages is such that the top 2-3 GC guys will probably dominate them, meaning that they will get points on several of these stages.
Finally I see three stages which could be won by sprinters but the odds aren't great: 6, 11, and 13. Look for breakaways for these stages, which means that they won't favor either the sprinters or the GC men.
So add up these and its possible that a sprinter could win but unlikely. What would need to happen is one particular sprinter needs to win several stages to withstand the onslaught of the mountains. They could happen; maybe Farrar reels off 4-5 more wins; maybe Greipel gets turned around. More likely is that the wins will continue to get spread around. Also once we hit the Dolomites, a few sprinters who've earned points will drop out.
Last year, Killer snagged 170 points to temporarily win the Points competition. Menchov had 144; Garzelli 133. Petacchi won 104, and EBH 103. 100 points is four stage wins, or three more than Farrar has now. But that won't win him the Red Jersey. He'd need more-a couple more stage wins. I can't see it. Look for Evans or Nibali or Sastre (86 points) or even Basso (74 points) or Garzelli to win it. Okay, on with the sprinter rankings.
4. Andre Greipel ↓↓↓
Free fall. Forget any Farrar vs Greipel rivalry. Forget Cav dissing him for a sec. Wonder instead about the condition of his mind tonight. He still has plenty of time to turn it around but unless his stomach is recovering, he's gonna spend a lot of time wondering what's happening and the TTT won't make him feel better as he gets dropped and has to wander into the finish by himself.
5. Matty Goss ↑ ↑ ↑
He's only this low because he's working for Greipel. If he were on another team he'd probably be #4 at least and very possibly be holding the Red Jersey right now. Depending on how the Greipel drama plays out, Goss might be the big beneficiary.
5. Fabio Sabatini ↑
Caught up in the echelons today but what he has going for him is that Liquigas is showing that they can keep several guys at the front in all conditions for him to take advantage of.
7. Alessandro Petacchi ↓↓
Can't wait to get back to Italy, I'll bet. Besides getting dropped early on today's stage, he finished a very unthreatening fifth yesterday. Will home cookin' get him back to the front of the peloton? Or is the Lampre equivalent of Goss, Hondo?