...but by whom?
OK, it's not dead certain that Friday's seventh stage, a 34km rolling individual time trial, will do the deed. See Will's Queen Stage discussion. If things aren't sorted by this time tomorrow, then they'll get dealt with Sunday.
But the climbs over the weekend have the potential for stalemate, at least among top contenders who are climbing well enough. And a 34k time trial is enough of a stage to make for some significant time gaps. Let's look at the top twenty riders and do some quick handicapping of their crono skills, shall we?
To ze flip...
Oh, and Fabian Cancellara lies 29 minutes back, so he and his impending stage victory won't be discussed here.
- Rui Costa, +0.00 -- Good chance he will still be in the leader's jersey after tomorrow. Costa has shown a pretty consistent ability to do well in time trials, including coming tenth at last year's Dauphine 42km ITT around Grenoble, a stern test. His Tour de France efforts have been forgettable, but under more comparable circumstances, e.g. Pais Vasco and the like, he's been good.
- Frank Schleck, +0.08 -- Generally an unmitigated disaster. He's also now his team's leader for the Tour de France, so while he might want to dispel some doubts, he might also want to avoid overheating the engine in June.
- Roman Kreuziger, +0.15 -- We discussed this in the Giro; he's hard to predict. Longer seems to be worse, but this is in his range. Also the climbing probably helps him some, though that's true of the entire top 20. I'll guess he doesn't drop much, but loses a little time to Costa.
- Thibault Pinot, +0.19 -- VERY intriguing. He's so young that data points don't exist in meaningful doses. He was very good in the short 16km Romandie ITT, coming in 8th among the big boys; not many positive results before that. But at 22, we can assume he's got a chance to improve a lot over his neo-pro efforts. And that Romandie prologue... you don't suck at the discipline and beat Gustav Larsson.
- Nick Roche, +0.21 -- Occasionally competent, but generally mediocre. Unless he's on special form, he should drop some time.
- Thomas Lofkvist, +0.21 -- About on par with Roche, though trying to guess how Lofkvist will do next is no way to make a living.
- Alejandro Valverde, +0.23 -- It's hard to know what to do with old results, but generally Valverde has done well in time trials when he's been hunting for the overall classification, as he presumably is here. Maybe he decides he can't risk his Tour form and doesn't go all out, but if he does, I bet he gets top ten. Does better when uphills are involved, or when it's in Spain. He's definitely not on par with the great cronomen, but I don't see any of them on this list yet.
- John Gadret, +0.24 -- You'd think a crosser could be good in a man vs watch effort. In this case, you'd be wrong. He can do them when they're completely uphill, but that will only get him to the first split tomorrow.
- Mikel Nieve, +0.26 -- A good bet to finish in the top 100. Maybe.
- Tom Danielson, +0.29 -- Generally quite competent, including tenth at the Tour's final ITT last year, although by then only a few guys are still chasing results. He should move up a few spots though, and challenge Rui Costa.
- Robert Kiserlovski, +0.32 -- Pack fodder.
- Jakob Fuglsang, +0.33 -- Another guy likely to move up. He has a pretty solid record of strong results at this distance, apart from end-of-Tour stuff. Definite challenger for the podium after tomorrow.
- Levi Leipheimer, +0.37 -- Which Levi do we get? One version of him would be a clear threat to win the stage and the overall. Obviously this year has been a rough road, but he did manage 6th in Cali with very few miles in his legs. Hard to believe he's near his best, but I bet he's close to the leaders.
- Chris Anker Sorensen, +0.40 -- Mediocre. Sorry.
- Giampaolo Caruso, +0.41 -- Apparently allergic to the aero position. Typical Italian climber.
- Steven Kruijswijk, +0.47 -- Pretty decent number of top 20s already. My guess is he moves up a bit.
- Damiano Cunego, +0.57 -- Not gonna make up that kind of deficit. He's good in the purely uphill ones, mediocre in the flats. Probably saving his legs for the Tour anyway.
- Vlad Gusev, +0.58 -- I'm sorta done guessing with him. He was great in the Bayern Rundfahrt, but regardless he won't make up a minute.
- Robert Gesink, +1.09 -- Let's just move on...
- Moreno Moser, +1.13 -- Minimal experience but he's been good against his fellow kids. Intriguing...