It has been quite an eventful 6 days, if your counting the prologue, and the young riders have shown that they are no slouches when it comes to pulling some very big rides and high placings. First a white jersey update is needed because major changes have happened to the competition, a new rider has emerged while one has fallen off the back. Then we will play a game up 3 up, 3 down and 3 even to give you a better view of who is going well while some who are not going too well. There have been more classic white jersey battles with the maillot blanc being passed around like a hot potato but this year is shaping up to be better than in year's previous plus with other young guns doing battle elsewhere.
Something else that needs to be mentioned is that a young rider has featured in every break so far in the Tour, which is pretty explainable since most are hear for experience and not always hunting something in particular. Stage 1 was Boom and later Pliuschin, Stage 2 was Roelandts who had a spectacular ride, stage 3 was Kluge, Stage 4 was De Greef and today was El Fares. I know for almost a certain fact that a few young riders, maybe Frohlinger and Gautier might try their hand on Saturday or Sunday, most likely the former b/c G.C. men might be relaxing before the big show.
The white jersey has been passed only once though the standings have shaken up with riders impressing with strong early riders while one guy in particular is looking like he might have some trouble ahead.
So after the stage 3 exploits into Arenberg, two young riders made off very well in the likes of Andy Schleck and Geraint Thomas. Schleck was giving a major gift after his fall the previous day while Thomas was using his cobble skills to good use and able to follow in the same group. After riding steadily through the Tour so far along with a stellar prologue ride, as yours truly predicted, Geraint lifted the white off of unlucky half man, half tank Tony Martin who was was right behind Fränk Schleck when he kissed the cobbles and Martin, who was looking good all the way up to that point, had to wait for a bike change and finished in the main peloton thus losing the jersey to Thomas. Martin could probably still be close to winning the competition or at least have a healthy lead on Schleck if it wasn't for the stage 2 neutralization when he was one of the first riders to get up to Fabian and was 5 minutes ahead of Schleck before the slowdown occurred. Not that it would have changed anything the next day but its just an observation. I still don't know what will become of T-Mart because if he is dedicated to Rogers and Cav, it could take away from his own results but there will be opportunities ahead and maybe including another stint in white if he can pull something special off.
The standing currently look like this, my white jersey place prediction in parenthesis
1. Geraint Thomas
2. Andy Schleck (1)
3. Roman Kreuziger (2)
4. J.J. Rojas
5. Tony Martin
6. Arkaitz Duran
7. Jakob Fuglsang (4)
8. Kristjan Koren
13. Pierre Rolland (5)
17. Robert Gesink (3)
Obviously Gesink is the one that I did not see being this far down but it is explainable with the fracture that occurred to his ulna, bone that makes up lower half of the arm w/ the radius, during the stage 2 hi-jinx. His cobbles performance was actually pretty damn well considering but losing a further 2 minutes yesterday on a flat stage, being shepherded home by Moerenhout. He is now a whopping 5 minutes down on Thomas but more importantly 4:15 to Andy and 3 minutes to Roman...if his arm can be manageable and it doesn't affect his climbing, he might be able to pull back a little time but it will be some tough roads ahead for
A few guys that need to be put into the Maillot Blanc talk are Duran, Koren and even Geraint Thomas to see who can challenge for the 3rd spot and maybe even 2nd. Duran had a spectacular run-up to the Tour with strong performances at the Dauphine plus a very good day on the cobbles, especially for a Spaniard and clawed some precious time back. Koren will be domestiquing for Kreuziger but like Fuglsang he can still climb well afterwards and his TT isn't too shaby. Thomas can climb and time trial as we seen but it will be a matter of how well he can limit his losses to the flying leaders but his strong Dauphine could signal a new Wiggins-esque rider in the making with a Time Trial and flat land skills that will distance himself from others with improving climbing skills...something to look towards for the future but Sunday will be his big test with 2 Cat. 1's to climb.
In other area's the young guns are finally starting to come out and play. The prologue, it should be noted, was a great success with 4 riders; T-Mart, Thomas, EBH and Malori in the top 12 including 2nd for Martin and 5th for Geraint. Stage 1...was stage one and the best rider was Oss in 6th, who Chris... picked for an outside green jersey placing and has surprisingly held true so kudos. I'm not counting stage 2 because Bouet being 2nd is really nothing except selfishness but it should be said that Roelandts put in a hell of a ride and should be applauded for trying to stay with the obviously stronger Chavanel but there is more on this situation later.
As said previously, stage 3 was a success for the my young guys with Thomas and Andy, who surprised many with that gutsy ride, while others came in a bit early too like Rojas, who picked up valuable green jersey points
Once the ground became smooth and the roads wider, the young boys started to come out to play with EBH coming through the chaos in Stage 4 to nab 3rd and more points while Cavendish and Ciolek kind of gave up along the way but steady Rojas came in 7th for more points.
Today, was the coming out party them with sweeping the top 4 places with Cavendish finally getting his first stage with Ciolek just a bit behind followed by EBH and Rojas. Now that is how you do it boys!! Rojas has been the Steady Eddie of the sprints so far with scoring every day since the prologue and without having the kick to follow the others, he is still the highest young rider in the green jersey competition. Cavendish, while his win wasn't a surprise to me seeing as I predicted 3 of them for the Manx man, needs to turn off the faucet and get on with it...yes it was a nice win after the crap that has been going on but it isn't redemption. He is the greatest TdF sprinter of his generation and wins should be expected and losses only serve as motivation. While there is no crying in baseball, I know their is crying in cycling but its un-needed here. Also Ciolek is looking better and better these days so he might actually make my stage win prediction come true sometime in the next 2 weeks.
Stage 4 sprint photo- Most of the young riders are on the left starting from EBH then Cav, Oss, Ciolek and Rojas on the outside just for proof that I am not making this up.
The Green Jersey positions for the young riders include
4th. J.J. Rojas - 29 points behind
5th. Edvald Boasson Hagen - 38 points behind
7th. Geraint Thomas - 43 points back
So you can see, something drastic or constant higher placings will need to happen for there to be any serious green jersey challenges but all is not lost. If Rojas can keep placing in the sprints and EBH gets into a breakaway that stays to the line, the green jersey could fall into some young hands which is something that hasn't happened since Baden Cooke won in '03 and you have to go back another 11 years to see it again with Jalabert in '92.
3 up, 3 down, 3 even
Through the first 6 days, some guys have had very good Tours while others have had a mixed while others have gotten a kick in the gut so its time to rank the 38 who started the Tour and only a lucky few will be getting the opportunity to show themselves.
3 up :^)
Geraint Thomas- This is obvious after his great performance in the prologue followed by consistency in the Arenberg stage which propelled him into not only a 2nd place on the stage but into the white jersey. Things are looking up for the Welshman but the big day for him is on Sunday.
Andy Schleck- A gift is what he got and while we could argue all day about it, and we all ready have here at PdC, but it really was a gift from Contador, Fabian and co. that allowed him to not only come back to the front group but to allow him to even gain time! Stage 3 showed that Andy's bike handling is 10x ahead of his brother Fränk. Now he has 1:15 on Kreuziger in the white jersey comp.
J.J. Rojas- The Killa from Cieza has been steady, which is what you need in the green jersey comp and it is showing its dividends. What he needs to do is continue to place high and maybe even try his hand at a breakaway to distance himself from Thor. Rojas can climb pretty well so he is like Thor in that regard so if Petacchi and McEwen are dropped, then Rojas has the possibility to climb up the standings. He just can't let big points gaps open up between those two like happened on stage 5.
3 even :^/
Tony Martin- While he proved that his TTing skills are going to be ones that might challenges Fabian someday, he was dealt with bad luck all ready this Tour. He would have gained multiple minutes on stage 2 by being in the front group before the shit hit the proverbial fan and everybody slowed and again the next day when he crashed and lost more time that he would have. His TTing skills will bring him back a minute or two on stage 19 so he stills has a chance for a high placing in the white.
Mark Cavendish- He won today so that small weight is finally off his chest and he might have some confidence back now after the show he put on this week. After his lack of turning skills on stage 1 and then his absolute crap performance on stage 4, his green jersey hopes are looking very bleak at the moment and are probably shot. He can find solace in the fact that he is still very fast and has many more chances to show it.
Jurgen Roelandts- As I said previously, he put in a hell of a ride in Belgium like he stated he would try to do before the Tour. My biggest thing with him and why I put him here is that he should have worn the green jersey on stage 3 because of how it all went down on stage 2. He finished the stage 1 point down on Petacchi for 2nd place but if the judges had given the 2 points early enough for him finishing in the lead group on stage 2 when Ale-Jet didn't, he would have been resplendent in green the next day, even if he really didn't own it.
3 Down :^(
DNFs...Matthais Frank and Mickael Delage- Well there is enough said in the first acronym to know that these guys are down. Frank lasted a mere 8.9km and Cadel was probably cursing up a storm for losing such a valuable domestique. Delage crashed on the cobbled stage and Van den Broeck was probably sad also that he lost a strong guy like Delage.
Robert Gesink- Well this is explainable also. When you have a fractured ulna, your not going to be happy and seeing that he has lost a good amount of valuable time, he is in the big hole and will need a miracle to come out. It's time to focus on the Giro and Vuelta next year, Bobo
Kevin Seeldraeyers- He is completely off the map. No form to speak of. He hasn't finished higher than 147th on any stage including the prologue except stage 2, the go-slow stage! He needs to just try and finish this race and try to gain some experience from it.