Friday, July 3, 2009

Handicapping the Prologue, Part Four

Phew! Last post on the Prologue (pre-Prologue, that is) which makes these posts some kind of Ur-Prologue, or Proto-Prologue. Here are the last of the twenty riders I see making a possible impact on Saturday, although most of the guys mentioned here are more top ten figures than top five types. I know little about them, so the posts here will be pretty brief. Go back to Part One if you'd like to review the rules of my little game, but essentially you're picking the top five riders in the prologue tomorrow. You get bonus points if you get any of the top three in the correct finishing order (it's a lot like The Kentucky Derby betting in that regard). Alright, without further ado (and there sure has been a lot of ado on these pages the past few days).

Gustav Larssen:Whoa, you're thinking. Gustav Larssen is a graph? Well, in prologues and time trials riders really are graphs. You aren't racing anyone but your own training ability, and here's a great way to see a rider's ability to push watts. I'd point your attention to the lower left portion of the picture, where you see the number "561" under "Avg. Watts." Yes, Larssen averaged 561 watts for an hour and twenty three minutes during the Solvang Time Trial at the Tour of California. He only came in 6th with that kind of effort. He is a bigger man (around 170 lbs. O.K., he's big for a cyclist), and that TT is pretty hilly, which will amplify one's watts. Still, holding that kind of wattage for that amount of time is nothing short of, well, remarkable. Larssen could, with a massive effort, squeak into the top ten, but I think there's just too much talent ahead of him.

Mancrush Factor: His wattage number are dreamy, and his name is Gustav, for god's sake. Rides for SaxoBank...hmm...a respectable 7.

EuroScore: Again, spiky, blond, goes by a Viking's name. Pretty Euro. 4.

Team Scandal Score: What have I been giving all these SaxoBank guys? 9s? 9.

Form: He is your Olympic Silver medalist, and he came in second at the Criterium International, behind only Jens Voigt. I'm gonna lend him an admirable 13.

Course Suitability: 5. Take another look at that graph.

GL Total Score: 38, putting him on par with Lance Armstrong? I may need to rethink my numbers.

Yaroslav Popovych:Popovych is a domestique with the abilities of a GC man, which means that he fares pretty well at the ITT. He was 4th in the discipline on the final day of this year's Giro. He's been in the top ten at the Tour before, in 2007. He can climb. He can certainly descend (he's got one of those awful Phil Ligget given nicknames like Contador's "Cobra" or something—maybe Popovych's is the Pelican, for his diving ability; that sounds like good old Ligget to me), doing things on downhills that scare the crap out of his peloton-mates.

Mancrush Factor: I like domestiques, especially if they're from Eastern Europe...Western Russia...whatever. 6.

EuroScore: Ukranians are a bit more willing to be continental, I believe. Ukraine isn't in the EU, but I'd append a big old yet to that description. They've had a democratic revolution (European) and then a terrifyingly Soviet attempt at assassination when President Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned. Poisoned! What is this, the late 1800s? Anyhow. Let's give Popovych a 6.

Team Scandal Score: Astana. 4.

Form: If you're riding in 4th place at the end of the Giro, you've got form. He hasn't raced much since then, but let's assume he's on the same kind of plan as Lance and figure his form is red hot. 13.

Course Suitability: Watching Popovych on this course will be fun, as his bravery on technical descents will net him some time through those tough corners towards the end. 5.

YP Total Score: 34.

Michael Rogers:Rogers is all the way down at 80-1 in some of the betting sites out there, which surprises me, as he's good on the TT bike. He's lower than George Hincapie, perennial bridesmaid, which also strikes me as odd. Hincapie is, what, 50 by now? Rogers is a three time time trial world champion, but he hasn't done too much recently. I do think he should be mentioned, however.

Mancrush Factor: Hmmm...Australian, tall. Kinda boring, though. 5.

EuroScore: Australians can sometimes be Euro, unless their names are, like, Cadel Evans. Witness my friend Tim Berkel, who looks like a girl much of the time. Rogers looks like he could be Euro, but he also looks like he could have stepped out of an Iowan corn field. 5.

Team Scandal Score: Columbia-HTC (anyone out there know who "HTC" is? I'm getting tired of typing it without knowing what I'm saying). Boring. 10.

Form: Gee, who knows? He was 8th at the Giro. Tired? In shape? 12.

Course Suitability:4.

MR Total Score: 36.

Jose Ivan Gutierrez: I'm slowing down, here, at the end of all this noise, so these last two might be kinda quick. Gutierrez has been Spanish National Champ at the TT, so he know's what he's doing. He deserves a look and will certainly be in the top 20 tomorrow, I'd say.

Mancrush Factor: He's Spanish, but he's listed in Velonews as 5'11.5." Who lists himself as 11.5 inches? Just have some huevos and call yourself 6 foot. 7.

EuroScore: The Spanish are quite European. They may even have defined the term, along with the Germans. 3.

Team Scandal Score: This is Alejandro Valverde's team, remember, and Caisse d'Epargne has never really been able to get out of their own way. How far away was Operacion Puerto? 5.

Form: 10?

Course Suitability: 4.

JIG Total Score: 29. Yikes.

Sylvain Chavanel: Chavanel gets in here ahead of folk like Vladimir Karpets (now there's a name. Dude should be a sketchy rug dealer) and George Hincapie because I like him, and he's the only person in France that seems to know how to ride a TT bike. He's wildly aggressive, in Jens Voigt territory, always trying, it seems to get a win for his country instead of his team. Chavanel alone seems to want to erase the many years of French mediocrity in the sport that country adores. Other French riders like Christophe Moreau and David Moncoutie seem to give the good old Gallic shrug at their MOP status. He's won his country's TT championship twice and always always always attacks, even when it seems there cannot be any hope of victory. He's the kind of rider you love to love.

Mancrush Factor: Anybody who gets out there as SC does has more than my respect: 9.

EuroScore: He's French, but he's really tough, and racing for a Belgian team. 7.

Team Scandal Score: Can you imagine what the QuickStep-Innergetic parties are like: mountains of Tom Boonen's blow abounding while all the other guys get bamboozled on Belgian brew? Yikes. 5.

Form: If you're going to attack all the time, your form eventually suffers. 11.

Course Suitability: Chavanel is good at climbing and descending, but I think someone with a bit more power might prevail on this course. 4.

SC Total Score: 36.

O.K., that's it! Leave me a comment with your picks. Winner gets virtual recognition.

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