Tales from the peloton, April 14, 2009
Now that the biggest one-day Classic is out of the way, it's time to think about the season's grandest Grand Tour: the Tour de France. Our intrepid dozen has had another four weeks of preparation chalked off, and we're back to see how the group of contenders we devised in February have fared.
Just as we started to count Alberto Contador out after an uneven Paris-Nice, he came back flying in the Tour of the Basque Country. His teammate Levi Leipheimer is a close second after winning Castilla y Leon. The Astana team has clearly demonstrated its dominance, even if one Lance Armstrong hasn't shown himself yet.
Armstrong lost major ground on our ladder when he crashed out of Castilla y Leon before he could show any form. The biggest jump up the rankings came from Alejandro Valverde, who leapt from twelfth to seventh with two stage wins in the Castilla y Leon, but will he even be allowed to race in July? The biggest loser was Michael Rogers, who dropped from second to eleventh after a relatively anonymous performance in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. He put in a solid effort in the Basque Tour, but it wasn't quite what the rest of the contenders have been able to produce.
That's our second look at who-is-who this year. How will they do in their next races? Who will climb up the ladder of success or slide down into the pits? Heck, how should we know that? But we'll be back with another look soon.