Ok folks! And there we go, the first sorting at Le Tour is done! Some not-so-surprises, and a couple of surprises. The first surprise was how highly Cadel was placed, but now that has sorted itself out. The second big surprise, but not such a big surprise, was Lance. In the last two years, he's shown himself to be riding "on the rivet" - at or right on his limits. Now he's suffered some very bad luck - in two critical stages. Part of that is almost certainly because he's been riding at his limit. Just go back over Tour history, and pay attention to how many times the #2 or #3 at the moment suffers a significant crash. There is just a fraction of one's energy that has gone over from paying attention to hazards to just staying with the pace. But it also could be just dumb luck. He had a good run - even last year he was showing some of that good luck when that tactical break went in his favor. So now he is way back, and any chance of him getting back to the yellow jersey would be so slim that the odds are likely a million to one.
What is really magnificent about Lance's ride this year is that he is showing us he is a true champion and a gentleman. He is riding well, strongly, and intelligently. I believe it enhances his status to keep riding - even when he is beyond winning. He is still one of the strongest men in the peloton.
Cadel is almost certainly gone, as well. Wiggins, too. They will be riding for top ten finishes now. Levi - originally not on the board, since he was riding for Lance - is now the top ten hope for Radioshack. Vino has shown his strength, and it is mighty, but not enough. At the end of the Alps - the Tour's "first stretch" - we have Schleck and Contador, with Schleck by a nose. We still have two more stretches to sort things - the Pyrenees, where Contador has been saying the Tour will be won - and the final time trial.
Things could change for another surprise, but don't count on it. Basso, Leipheimer, etc are in a battle for third on the podium in Paris. One and two will be Schleck and Contador. I give my odds to Contador, but he is not unbeatable, and Schleck has looked very much like he can beat Contador. I don't think Contador can beat Andy in the mountains, like he can everyone else. They were very evenly matched in the Alps this year, and last year, too. But all he needs are a few seconds to tie things up. Then he can beat him in the time trial. We will see.