Thursday, July 2, 2009

Handicapping the Prologue, Part Three

Out of the following five riders, maybe one should find his way into your own top five. These riders display talent at time trialling, but maybe have dimmer GC hopes or less overt power on a bike with aerobars. Still, many of them are solid picks.

Kim Kirchen: Kirchen is an odd rider, with surprising highs and lows. He's worn the yellow and green jerseys in the TdF, so he's got talent, but he also displays a penchant for getting hurt. He's good against the clock but not outlandishly good, as this article from points out. He placed 2nd and 3rd in the time trials from last year (and would have done better, I believe, if a certain rider in blue and white hadn't appeared out of nowhere to crush the clock) and could pose a threat to the big time GC contenders from Part One. He's had a lot of adversity to fight this year, however.

Mancrush Factor: 5. He's one of those good, solid guys you never get crushes on. He's probably great at doing the dishes and taking out the garbage, though.

EuroScore: Kirchen is squeaky clean, a requisite for being Euro. His jeans drawer is probably out of this world. 3.

Team Scandal Score: Columbia—Highroad (although I think they're now "HTC", the new co-title sponsor. Maybe now they'll get rid of those awful Saunier-Duval knockoff kits). 10.

Form: Coming around, but dealing with a broken collarbone from the Giro. 10.

Course Suitability: For someone who is improving at the TT, climbing+technical can be difficult, although he did well in the straightforward (but up-and-down) long TT in last year's Tour. 4.

KK Total Score: a solid, if pedestrian, 32.

Thor Hushovd: The "God of Thunder" (could someone really have come up with a less inspired nickname for a dude named Thor?) has had a good spring, coming home to the Cervelo Test Team (best kits and bikes in the peloton, if you ask me). He won the Het Nieuwsblad this year (that race used to be called Het Volk) and a stage of the Tour of California. He's very good against the clock, can sprint, and sometime can get away in a breakaway. He's Norwegian, too. What more can you ask?

Mancrush Factor: As usual, I like riders that reflect my own tastes and abilities. Hushovd and I are basically the same size (he makes me feel better about myself when I see pictures of him on the bike and hear comments from the two riders drafting me like "He's like a double-wide!"), and we both like skinny bikes with extensions. He gets a 9.

EuroScore: He's Norwegian, blond, and spiky. Sorry, Thor. 4.

Team Scandal Score: I'm amazed the CTT is even a team, there's so little news coming out of their camp. They're not as squeaky as Garmin, perhaps, but I doubt there's much needling going on over at Cervelo. 10.

Form: He's done very little since winning Het Volk, so I've got to downplay his numbers a bit: 9.

Course Suitability: He does weigh 180 lbs, but he can also bend the cranks on his bicycle. 4.

TH Total Score: 36.

Christian Vande Velde: Despite the goofy, un-ironic Rock-n-Roll gestures deployed at left (or is Vande Velde mimicking Kevin Spacey as Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects, as Kint tries to make the devil horns in Agent Kujan's face while trying not to cry?), CVV has the tools to be a GC contender, which means that he needs to be mentioned here. He's recovering from some horrific injuries, but he got away from everybody during Stage 4 of Paris-Nice this year, and that shows that he's got some form in 2009. I think you'd be better suited to pick DZ as a #5 guy, but hey, you might like Vande Velde a lot, and he's one of few Americans to ever wear the pink jersey in Italy, courtesy of a brilliant TTT (note: not an ITT) in 2008.

Mancrush Factor: Meh. I've been reading the tennis news recently, and there's a touch of Andy Roddick to CVV: a few touches of brilliance and then a lot of, well, mediocrity. He does look good in pink. 4.

EuroScore: Vande Velde resides in Spain, which ups his ES a little bit, and his name sounds more Belgian than Midwestern (Illinois). In the above photo, however, he looks like he's auditioning for a spot on In Living Color's "Mo Money" sketch. 6.

Team Scandal Score: It'll be just my luck if it turns out Jonathan Vaughters (TD at Garmin-Slipstream) is spinning his riders' blood down every evening, since I'm talking so much about their dedication to cleanliness. 10.

Form: Gosh, who knows? 8.

Course Suitability: He can climb, and deals with technical stuff well. Knows how to mete out efforts. Might not be strong enough for this particular TT. 4.

CVV Total Score: 32

David Millar:How did I let Millar fall so far to this spot? He's presently running at 25-1 in the betting out there, which makes him four times as likely to beat CVV, who resides at 100-1 odds (that makes sense to me). Also, check out that kit! Is that pimping or what? He's totally putting whomever he's riding with to shame (that guy seems to have a selection of insoles sticking out of the left seam of his jersey, anyway). Millar is a strong rider and a moral exemplar, having returned from the darkness of doping (I hope). I believe him because he's got the zeal of the convert, although you could say you don't believe him because he protests a bit too much, youthinks. Who cares, with a disc wheel upon which the queen would be proud to roll around?

Mancrush Factor: Accent, and the ability to push 400 watts for close to an hour. Swoon. 9.

EuroScore: Hmmm, British, like BW, but pretty Euro in appearance and affect. I gotta split the diff on this one: 5.

Team Scandal Score: Garmin, Garmin, blah blah blah...10

Form: He cracked the top ten in the Tour of California's prologue, but that was a real prologue, and this is a TT, one of his specialities. He's not done much else of note recently, though...10.

Course Suitability: 5. He's got the power to make that first climb, sustain it through the middle section, and the savvy to get through the technical sections towards the end. 5.

DM Total Score: A very impressive 39, albeit inflated by his TSS. I still don't see him beating Lance.

Andreas Kloden: Kloden currently resides at 33-1 in the odds, but I kinda wish I didn't have to include him here. I used to love Kloedi (as he's referred to in Hell on Wheels, when Erik Zabel says, hilariously, "Kloedi's got cotton in his nose!" to a hideously beat-up AK. But then the whole thing with T-Mobile broke a few years ago, and the riders I used to admire (Kloden, Rolf Aldag) suddenly lost a bit of their lusters. There have been some rumors about Kloden that he just can't seem to shake, too, which doesn't help my suspicions. Still, he is quite fast on a TT bike, and deserves a quick look.

Mancrush Factor: I just don't trust the guy any more. 3.

EuroScore: German. Likes white sunglasses. Has a girl's name. 1.

Team Scandal Score: Astana, once again, is danger for me. 4.

Form: unquestionable, at this point. Many wins and top five finishes at this point in the year. No huge races, but he's been going quite well. 14.

Course Suitability: AK can climb, descend, and break his pedal spindles easily. 5.

AK Total Score: 27, brought low by some bad early figures.

Last five tomorrow! Thanks for reading.

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