SIX STAGES LEFT TO DECIDE THE JERSIES.
Fifteen stages down; six to go. Today (Monday) is the second rest day, time for each serious contender for the resepctive jersies to assess their predicaments.
- The polka-dot jersey seems to be sticking with Mickael Rasmussen of Denmark; he's built and guarded his mountain climbing points, as well as kept in the hunt for a third-place finish. Rasmussen, believing he will indeed be crowned "King of the Mountains," has for the last thre stages donned polka-dot shorts and helmet to match his maillot.
- The white jersey is on the back of Discovery Channel's Yaroslav Popovych and the Russian youth is likely to keep it, given his team's dominance.
- The green jersey, worn by Thor Hushovd since Tom Boonen crashed out of the race, is the least secure; I look for Robbie McEwen to try to steal it on the streets of Paris. The sprinters will have a heyday on Wednesday and Sunday.
COUNTDOWN TO PARIS
- As for the yellow jersey, Lance Armstrong maintains more than a 2-minute lead over Ivan Basso...and the opportunities to cut into the Texan's lead in the mountains are all but over. Basso has tried his best to shake Lance. T-Mobile's mountain-climbing triumvirate--Jan Ullrich, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Kloden--has thrown all its ammo at him. But Lance hasn't given an inch. It is surely disheartening as it begins to dawn on valiant maillot jaune hopefuls that their time to shine will be next year.
. Let's countdown the days to the finale:
- Tuesday is the last major mountain stage; expect one last barrage of attacks from would-be podium aspirants looking to salvage their pride and team leadership on the last "beyond categorization" climb of this year's Tour. Show us something, Levi Leipheimer! Out of the saddle, Floyd Landis!
- Wednesday is a flat stage; one for the sprinters to pick up green jersey points. Look for a bunch sprint finish. Is a fourth Robbie McEwen stage win possible?
- Thursday and Friday are diverse and rolling--more sprint points will be available, along with some smaller mountain climbing challenges.
- Saturday is the second individual time trial. Jan Ullrich will try to unseat Mickael Rasmussen for third place in the GC with a mighty time trial. But Lance gives nothing away. He has ruled the individual time trials of the Tour in recent years. This could be Lance's only outright stage win of his last Tour de France.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
- Sunday the Tour rides into Paris. Unless something very unusual happens between now and then, it looks like it will be nothing more than a victory lap for Lance, but an all-out sprint-fest to settle who wins the Green Jersey. I'm pulling for the rebellious and irreverant rascal from down under.
. I'm convinced the fireworks aren't over. It's looking like Lance, but it's far from finished. Anything can happen
. And if you've been following the TdF daily, you're aware that the unexpected is to be expected. Tomorrow morning, I will post my "What if..."
scenarios that could still put one of six GC/Yellow Jersey contenders on the podium in Paris.