How the Tour favourites are doing
Alberto Contador wins, Tour de France 2009, stage 15
Before the Tour de France started in Monaco on Saturday July 4, we predicted the ten riders that we thought would end up in the overall top ten in Paris on Sunday, July 26.
With two weeks of racing completed, and the final week still to go we take a look at how our picks have fared so far. Some of our choices were bang on, and others have fallen by the wayside - literally, in some cases.
The new race leader is Alberto Contador (Astana) who stamped his authority on the 2009 Tour de France on Sunday's stage to Verbier with a perfectly-timed attack on his rivals followed by a masterclass in climbing.
One rider that we, and everyone else, missed out of our predictions for the top ten was Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream). The British rider has been the revelation of this year's Tour without a doubt and now lies third overall. He has not just kept up, on occasions he has set the pace and shaped the race with an exciting display of riding.
The top ten is starting to resemble the final classification in just under a week's time - but there are a lot of kilometres and some decisive stages to go yet. Thursday's individual time trial and Saturday's mountain-top finish on Mont Ventoux will both play a very large part in deciding who will wear the yellow jersey on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Sunday.
1. Alberto Contador (Spain) Astana
Current top ten position: Leader
Why did we pick him? The 2007 Tour winner has always been one of the best climbers, now he's one of the best time triallists too.
How's he doing? After placing second in the opening time trial in Monaco, Contador has not been out of the upper reaches of the overall classification. He's ridden conservatively when he's had to, and ridden hard when he needed to. He's in the yellow jersey, and it's hard to see him giving it up before Paris.
2. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto
Current top ten position: 14th, at 4-27
Why did we pick him? Second last year, Evans has what it takes to wins a grand tour. If only his team realised.
How's he doing? Our faith in Evans appears to have been misplaced this year. He's off the pace all round - losing time in the team time trial underlined the Aussie's perennial problem - his team. He kept up with the favourites on Verbier, but didn't have the gas to launch the attack that he needs to claw back time. He'll get in the final top ten, but only just. A team change must surely be on the cards for 2010.
3. Carlos Sastre (Spain) Cervelo Test Team
Current top ten position: 11th, at 3-52
Why did we pick him? He won last year and had a good Giro.
How's he doing? Defending 2008 Tour champ Sastre has been the invisible man in this year's Tour so far. He missed the decisive move on Verbier on Sunday, and had to play catch-up to simply finish in the same time as his rivals. He'll have to attack early on Ventoux to gain time, but a win is now out of the question.
4. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) Saxo Bank
Current top ten position: 5th, at 2-26
Why did we pick him? He's the next big thing. Bjarne Riis told us.
How's he doing? Schleck was the only rider to respond to Contador's devastating attack on Verbier on Sunday, but he looked like he was struggling. He's the second-best climber in the race, then, but his time trialling is still a weakness. Looking good for a podium place all the same.
5. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
Current top ten position: 2nd, at 1-37
Why did we pick him? He's won it seven times.
How's he doing? The talking point of this year's Tour has been the internal power-struggle between Armstrong and Astana team-mate/nemesis Alberto Contador. After Sunday's stage, Armstrong has conceded that he's not the man he once was and can't compete with Contador for the overall. For an old bloke, second place isn't bad and he'll finish in the top five.
6. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank
Current top ten position: 29th, at 11-23
Why did we pick him? 2009 Giro d'Italia winner Menchov always features in the Tour top ten, and his performance in Italy in May showed he was having a good year. So we thought.
How's he doing? Badly. Menchov had a horrendous opening week, peppered by crashes, missed opportunities and uninspired riding. The Russian usually has a bad day or two, not a bad week or two. He's out of the running and will be lucky to figure in the final top 20.
7. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spain) Caisse d'Epargne
Current top ten position: 18th, at 5-27
Why did we pick him? He looked good at Paris-Nice and with no Valverde, he's free to have a go for himself.
How's he doing? Things started well for Sanchez, and he looked like he was living up to the early promise with a win on stage eight. Since then, he's gone backwards, slipping down the overall classification. He's currently the only Caisse d'Epargne rider in the top 40, a poor show for such a strong team.
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
Current top ten position: Withdrawn
Why did we pick him? He can climb, he can time trial, but not well enough for the overall perhaps.
How's he doing? Leipheimer was fulfilling his super-domestique duties with aplomb when a freak crash at the end of stage 12 to Vittel resulted in a broken wrist and early shower for the American. Not only was Leipheimer's 2009 Tour over, but Armstrong lost a close ally right before the Alps. Not sure Contador will miss him, though.
9. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Slipstream
Current top ten position: 12th, at 3-59
Why did we pick him? A good result last year, and it's about time Garmin had a good result this year.
How's he doing? Another solid ride this year sees the American sit just outside the top ten, but his performance has been surpassed by team-mate Bradley Wiggins. It's likely that Vande Velde will now switch to helping Wiggins place as high as he can.
10. Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic) Liquigas
Current top ten position: 16th, at 4-40
Why did we pick him? He's young, and we reckoned this year would be where he shows what he's got at the Tour.
How's he doing? One of the young Liquigas riders was going to come through in this year's Tour and make an impression, unfortunately we picked the wrong one. Vincenzo Nibali has marked himself out to be the man for Liquigas, and currently lies seventh overall. Better luck next year. For us and Kreuziger.
Overall classification after stage 15
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana in 63-17-56hrs
2. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 1-37
3. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin-Slipstream at 1-46
4. Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana at 2-17
5. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 2-26
6. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r at 2-30
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 2-51
8. Tony Martin (Ger) Columbia-HTC at 3-07
9. Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Francaise des Jeux at 3-09
10. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 3-25
Stage 15: Contador wins in Verbier as Tour explodes into life
Stage 14: Ivanov wins as Nocentini clings onto yellow
Stage 13: Haussler braves rain for victory in Colmar
Stage 12: Sorensen wins in Vittel as Cavendish goes for green
Stage 11: Cavendish takes fourth win to equal Hoban's record
Stage 10: Cavendish spoils Bastille Day party to take third stage win
Stage nine: Third French win as contenders content with ceasefire
stage eight: Sanchez wins from break as Tour favourites cancel each other out
Stage seven: Feillu wins at Arcalis, Nocentini takes yellow, Contador leap-frogs Lance
Stage six: Millar's brave bid denied on Barcelona hill as Hushovd triumphs
Stage five: Voeckler survives chase to win his first Tour stage
Stage four: Astana on top but Armstrong misses yellow by hundredths of a second
Live Tour de France stage four TTT coverage
Stage three: Cavendish wins second stage as Armstrong distances Contador
Stage two: Cavendish takes first sprint
Stage one: Cancellara wins opening time trial
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TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 PHOTOS
Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four TTT photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Andy Jones
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Team presentation by Andy Jones
Team presentation by Graham Watson
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