You may ask yourself why I keep writing one power poll after another. Whether I am capable of doing anything besides collecting names of cyclists or teams and assembling them in some sort of order. Whether this is a writing style or a neurological disorder. Well, don't ask. The answers simply aren't important. Your time is better spent thumbing through the Tour de Suisse overall contenders in a highly significant order. And looky here...
1. Tony Martin, HTC
It all makes sense. Not because he has the jersey. No, it's because this is the year -- we all write off the HTC juggernaut as a two-year episode at the first sign of a bump in the road. We decide Cavendish's luck has run out, and reality won't be quite as easy as it's been. Oh, and they never could win stage races. Except then they do, like the Tour of California, which isn't quite on par with the Tour de Suisse, but not that far off. And Germans love winning in Switzerland. And Martin has already busted out with his time trial win in LA. Unlike most guys who try NOT to be on form in June, Martin is there. It's on.
Then there's the rest of the squad. Michael Albasini, because every team needs a climby, useful Swiss guy. Monfort and Roulston add support, and if/when Cav goes home Martin will have help from Renshaw and Eisel as well. Calling pre-Tour races is a bit of guesswork and alchemy, and this feels right.
2. WAIT! How about the guys who aren't here to win?
This is always total guesswork. Even when you get statements from the riders saying they're not in shape, they often suddenly get in shape when it's the penultimate day and they're sitting 20 seconds out of the lead. So you never know, but...
- Lance Armstrong: Lance is one of the least effective sandbaggers alive. After The Look, I think he burned that tactic. Still, he won the Team Radio Shack online poll for who will win the TdS, so I guess you never know.
- Levi Leipheimer: Why won't they let Levi ride? Ah well, he seems to like his day job, riding about a half-dozen races a year.
- Michael Rogers: easy one, he went home already.
- Thomas Lofkvist: I could imagine him trying to win, but he took all of May off, so the idea of him peaking is a bit far-fetched.
- Jakob Fuglsang: Says he's timing his peak for July because it's his first Tour. Call me gullible but I believe him.
- Andy Schleck: Not a great race for him anyway, in terms of the Crono/Climb gap ratio. Have I just invented a new statistic? Is it time for me, Majope and Ursula to call in sick?
- Roman Kreuziger: after-effects of his health problems have left one of the ideal challengers still looking for good form. He's more or less out of contention after dropping two minutes yesterday.
Um, OK, so who does that even leave? Back to the poll:
2. Robert Gesink, Rabobank
No good performance can come without a dark cloud for Rabobank, who lost Laurens Ten Dam for the time being in a nasty crash two days ago. But Bauke Mollema has been pretty active so far, and that's all just a prelude to the massive attack Robert Gesink has in store for Thursday. Sure, he will probably give up a spot or two on GC in the time trial, but, I dunno, this just feels like a winnable race. And he could use a win.
3. Jonathan Castroviejo, Euskaltel
If you can say you know much about him, I bow to you. To me he's a mystery, except in that he's had some decent time trials, he' d certainly cheirish a win, and you don't get an orange shirt if you can't climb.
4. Nicholas Roche, AG2R
Looking feisty so far. Irish Peloton is a better source for all things Roche, but the guy is coming into his prime and has results like fifth in Catalunya and 10th in Paris-Nice that suggest he could be on the podium here. One big plus is his time trialing, since a lot of the guys on this list aren't exactly big engine types.
5. Rigoberto Uran, Caisse d'Epargne
The future is now, apparenlty. Maybe Rui Costa will make the podium too! OK, not. Uran has some mileage on his legs at the moment, coming off the Giro, but he's shown some initiative here, doesn't have to save it all for July, and should look good over all the decisive stages.
6. Fabian Cancellara, Saxo Bank
This race may be his last hurrah for a while, so don't be terribly shocked if he manages to limit his losses and stay in range of a top result after the final time trial. Not a great climber? Sure, but he kills the descents when he needs to... and all the big stages have descents, including the final stretch of Thursday's queen stage. Suddenly the scenario doesn't look far-fetched. I should've known when Cancellara, whose diverse array of skills includes top-notch work with the sandbag, denied that he would have any shot at the win.
7. Joaquin Rodriguez, Katusha
Running out of climbers who have no hope next month. So he gets on the list. I am very uninspired about this pick and should probably stop the poll now but...
8. Frank Schleck, Saxo Bank
It'd be a great story if he could turn the tables on Switzerland and win their national Tour, just two years after going over the rail in dit ees ein drama fashion. His team is loaded too: Larsson, Voigt and O'Grady backing everyone up, Breschel yelling at the mechanics, Riis making stealth calls to potential sponsors. Anyway, nobody else is here to kick total ass, so it's hard to overlook the squad with 50% of the stage wins and four guys in the top 16.