Another set of the top ten.
1. Michael Rasmussen. He's ... I think, for me, he's given me something to root for. I mean, I really like Basso, but Rasmussen is something else. He's that underdog, not the 'dark horse' but someone known really sees until it's almost too late. He's good in the mountains, and I think he can be better. I think that Paul and Phil keep calling him young because they believe he has more potential in road racing than his age (31) would seem to let him have. I think we'll see him for a few more years, at least. I do hope he stays in third, though.
2. Jan Ullrich. He crashed. And then he crashed again. And then suddenly he's in fourth place. How did he do it? He's Jan Ullrich. I think that answers it. Sure, Lance Armstrong is tough. But Ullrich? He might not even make the podium, but he's been one of the most consist cyclists, especially during this second week of racing. He's managed to keep up with Lance almost the whole, even though he feel extremely hard during one of the early mountain stages. I'd like him on the podium, but not at the expensive of Rasmussen.
3. Georg Totschnig. There's not really a good reason for this. He doesn't lead the tour, his team isn't doing that great -- they're working for Levi, but he probably won't make the podium. But watching him cross that line, it was just amazing. Not just because he's 34. The way he reacted, how amazingly happy he was. It reminded me why I love the sport. And what makes the Tour de France, and all of the grand tours, so special. It's moments like these (and like when Rasmussen won, and even when Hincapie won), when these boys who you never really think about as stage winners cross the line. They remind us what this sport is really about. The joy of riding and the joy of winning. Thank you, Georg, for reminding us.
4. T-Mobile/Discovery. When they work together to attack, T-Mobile almost brought down Armstrong. And that's all I have to say on that until I discuss them again, below. As for Discovery? They have proven, day after day, that they are in this for the long haul, that though they aren't the same team Lance had last year, or the year before, they are strong. Perhaps not as strong, but they don't give up on their leader. It's impressive, as always.
5. Sprinters. I'm sorry Tom dropped (again, more below), but he turned this thing upside down. I like it. I don't like that Robbie is back in it, but I like that it's close and every sprint now really counts. It's exciting and that makes me happy. I hope that Thor wins, but who knows? It's a toss up and that's awesome.
6. Alexandre Vinokourov. I adore him. I really do. I want him to win the tour. But this year is just not his year. Though he was in peak condition, he just hasn't been able to keep his form. And instead of working with his team, he works against them (or so it seems). I think he needs to get out, to leave T-Mobile. I know he's been rumored to have said he'd only go to Discovery. And honestly? As much as I don't want it, I want it. He needs to lead a team, and he'll never be able to do that at T-Mobile. They won't give up Ullrich again. So, if it's Discovery? So be it. Just as long as he has a team to support him.
7. T-Mobile. For yet another year, they lack the team part of cycling. Though they attacked together a few times, they didn't really take advantage of it. And although their riders have, separately, proven that they can ride hard, they haven't accomplished much. If Vino and Kloden had been working for Ullrich, perhaps the top of the GC would be different. But, once again, too many leaders have ruined yet another chance at the yellow jersey for T-Mobile. Maybe next year will be different, especially if Vino leaves.
8. The "Rivals". They are not living up to expectations. Basso has the best chance and yet he's more than a minute back. And then there's Rasmussen, who no one expected. Ullrich is barely hanging onto fourth. And while the top ten has three Americans and a few other 'top Tour de France contenders' it's not at all close. Armstrong has once again seemingly walked over the rest of the field. Perhaps next year things will be different, now that he'll be gone. At least, I can hope they will be. I want truly exciting racing back. A GT akin to that of this year's Giro would be best.
9. Tom Boonen. Such a sad sight. I had wanted him to remain in green, but he, like Petacchi before him, just couldn't make it. Unlike Petacchi, though, Boonen was not brought down by too much racing in a season. Instead, he was brought down by falls and too much back pain and knee pain. Luckily, he'll be okay. I hope he'll race again next year. The tour could certain use him, as he's one of the most popular cyclists in Europe.
10. Doping. I don't have a lot to say on this, except that once again it happens. And I suppose that it will keep happening. I hope that something will change, only I don't know what that something is. But as long as they keep testing, they'll find people because they will always dope. Such is the nature of sport.