OK, it's not that we're not paying attention, more like we're stranded between teenagery and retirement and just can't post every day. After 7 stages the race is at the foot of the Alps, so now's a good time to post thoughts on the first week.
Contador is the man to beat, and nothing in the first week would suggest otherwise. Evans is almost a minute ahead of him thanks to a time gap on the cobblestones of stage 3. That's a nice advantage to have going into the Alps, but there's no reason to think Contador won't take that and more the first time he attacks in the mountains (note to Evans: why not attack first?). The one fault I can point to Astana is that on Stage 7's easy mountains at the doorstep of the Alps, they sent their team to drive the peloton, and all two of their guys cracked before the top of the mountain. OK, they are behaving like favorites, but everyone knows the team is lacking, so they waste energy on a tune-up stage in which none of the big guns brought any bullets to the range. Not bright.
Meanwhile, RadioShack let its domestiques take it easy in the back of the peloton during the climbs. Phil & Paul were halfway worried that Lance was all alone--they just didn't see Leipheimer and Horner lurking in the back. Don't be silly, guys. RadioShack wouldn't leave Lance alone unless they knew he would get a flat tire on the cobblestones. Oops!
I did a little research, and Fabian Cancellara has worn the yellow jersey 21 days in his career, which is remarkable considering he's neither a sprinter nor a climber. He is, however, a time trial stud who can limit the damage on the flat stages, plus he has a team that knows how to defend the jersey. Even so, the loss of Frank Schleck is huge for Saxo Bank. Remember last year the Schleck brothers threw repeated attacks against Contador in an effort to find a weakness to exploit. Well, instead of having Frank to do that, it's Voigt, Cancellara, and Sorensen, who just are not the class of climber to fit the bill. Should Saxo Bank have to defend the lead, I think they'll have a fine shot, but taking the lead from a great climber will be too much for them. Really, they'll have to rely on Andy out-climbing Contador one on one.
Then again, that's what we figured on day one, not just for Schleck, but all the contenders.Podium Girl with the master of the first week (photo from cyclingfans.com.)
And congrats to Sylvain Chavanel. For years I poked fun of him because he was billed as France's great hope to win the Tour, which is laughable, but then it wasn't his fault people said that about him. Now he's matured into a cyclist who knows what he can and can't do. And, apparently he can win two stages in the first week, win the yellow jersey, lose it, and get it back. Not bad.