Since this is all about accountability, let's recap the pre-race rankings:
- Boasson Hagen
Argos-Shimano backed Kittel in stage 1, and it paid off, meaning Degenkolb is on the outs for now. Bouhanni got sick and then crashed, so don't look for him and his whopping 8 points anytime soon. Gilbert looks like a guy who will be contesting stages now and again, at most.
Sprints have been hard to come by, at least your basic bunch gallops, but we have certainly learned a few things in the first five days of the Tour. Cavendish is still very fast. Sagan is still very versatile. And there are enough other guys around to make things very interesting, to say nothing of the crashes and other surprises that happen when you go out into the world for a major sporting event. Given where we are, and as we start in on the real sprint phase of the Tour, let's see how the deck has reshuffled since the initial rankings. As always with power polls, the ranking is a forward-looking projection based on where things stand so far. Sometimes people believe that the poll should be purely objective. If you want a purely objective ranking, here are the points standings.
1. Peter Sagan, Cannondale, 111 points
Missed stage 1's conclusion, two seconds and a third. Taking care of business in the intermediates.
I had stages 2, 7, 9, 14, 15, 16 and 20 as days when he'd be there at the intermediates, and maybe the finish, while perhaps Cavendish would not. In reality it was stages 2 and 3 so far, and the crash on stage 1 nullified Cav's advantage that day. So circumstances have been on Sagan's side, while his team has also delivered him to the line very well. Sagan himself hasn't shown the speed to get it done, but if he can find that extra gear, this sucker is over.
2. Mark Cavendish, OPQS, 76 points
Maybe OPQS can get him to three or four of those intermediate sprints and a few of the finales too. Maybe OPQS, the cleverest team in cycling when it comes to low-elevation stage tactics, can get enough guys up the road to take points off the table before Sagan can get them. Lefevre will have plenty of tricks up his sleeve. He'll need them all, and a perfect performance by Cavendish, to pull this off.
Doing well in intermediates but only made it to the finale for the first time today. Stage 1 wasn't his fault, at least.
Bronchitis slowed the world champion, along with the opening day crash, but Cavendish showed today why he remains a serious threat to win. No, not the speed, we knew about that, but the leadout and the teamwork. If Sagan is a step slow and Cav can win a lot, then things do get interesting. With Quick Step in charge, you have to like his chances for stage wins... when he's around.
Stages 6, 10, 12, 13 and 21 all look golden for Cavendish (with only a slight concern for stage 13). So if nothing goes wrong, and he can put 10-15 points into Sagan each time, that alone more than makes up the 35 point deficit currently in place. Let's say he wins all five and Sagan finishes third each time -- that's 75 extra points for Cav. With Greipel around and Boasson Hagen looking fast, this isn't far-fetched. But it's hardly certain, and it's hardly the whole story. Without Stage 1, the reality is that Cav's razor-thin margin of error has actually shrunk.
3. Andre Greipel, Lotto-Belisol, 65 points
He sometimes beats Cavendish, head to head, no gimmicks. He's consistent and very, very fast. He's been doing this for a while.
Fourth today, his only result. Which is a testimony to his work in the intermediates.
Shocking that he lost to Sagan in today's finale. It's just one sprint, and there are always a million little things, but if he is actually running slower than Sagan in the last 30 meters, he has no chance to move up. Stay tuned. Also, it's clear that Cannondale and OPQS mean business. Everyone else is at their mercy.
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sky, 58 points
What he's about to do: Completely fall out of contention and free his enslaved FSA DS owners.
Looks like he's sitting out the intermediates, which is idiotic, because he totally has a chance at this. He was lightning-fast today, and hasn't missed a sprint except for the Stage 1 mess. If nothing else, the race for Best Norwegian looks like a hell of a competition.
As usual, the question is what does he want to do. I get that some guys are more productive in a secondary role, out of the spotlight, and Eddy Boss has spent his whole career trying to be one of those guys. And for the one thousand millionth time, it's too goddamn bad, because he could do some pretty exciting things if he decided to. And by "decided" I don't mean that he goes out tomorrow and tries to win, he'll do that. I mean if he decided on a career path where the team is in service of him. Godverdomme.
5. Alexander Kristoff, Katusha, 76 points
He has exactly zero record of achievement in points competitions that would suggest something big is about to happen. Fifth in the Tour de Suisse? Do you even get a cheese wheel for that?
Second in stage 1, seventh today. Obviously getting some intermediates too. Unlike his countryman, I think he wants this.
Hm, Kristoff's advantage is the ability to make it to some finales that the flatlanders can't. So where was he on Sunday and Monday? Seventh in the bunch is nice if you can poach points on a non-Cav day. It's mediocre if you can't. Still, he's currently second overall and it's not like he lost the ability to climb. Remains a wild card, but so far he doesn't do anything that Boasson Hagen can't do as well or better.
6. JJ Rojas, Movistar, 53 points
Fifth with some luck. No whiff of a stage unless he falls way out of contention and goes on some breaks.
Stage 1: 9th; Stage 3: 3rd; Stage 5: 10th. Mr. Consistently forgettable.
We've seen this show before. It should end the same way it always does. I say he goes stage-hunting in week 2.
7. Marcel Kittel, Argos-Shimano, 57 points
What he's about to do: Shock the world. But only for one day.
Shocked the world! And then disappeared. As good as he was on that day, I came out looking better.
He and Goss were held up in crashes today. But since his opening victory, worth 45 points, Kittel has only added another 12. That's pretty minimal production, suggesting he's losing points on the intermediates, and generally not mounting a serious campaign for the Tour's "most consistent" prize.
8. Matt Goss, Orica-GreenEdge, 13 points
He's easy to overlook. I wouldn't.
Been easy to miss. His top finish so far is 146th. Not entirely his fault, and the team is in fabulous shape, so maybe nobody cares, but he's not really a part of this competition.
Honestly, I'm just being a softy by including him here. He too was held up today, but what's his excuse everywhere else?
And that's about it. Next would be Danny van Poppel, all of 19 years old, and really just with one strange result to his name, a third in the stage 1 crashfest. Kwiatkowski? Boom? Not really competing. Anyone else you think will show up before Paris?