Before the Tour, we attempted the impossible ? to predict how the top ten would turn out in Paris.
Using a combination of factors, ranging from informed opinion to complete guesswork, we picked these guys?
And you know what? There may be some absolute shockers in there and we didn?t see Carlos Sastre actually winning, but we still managed to identify six of the eventual top ten. Some of the others were blighted by some truly terrible luck. Here?s how they did.
|1 Cadel Evans|
Where he finished: 2nd at 58 seconds
Best moment: The Cholet time trial. Valverde had a bad day and Evans thought he was set for overall victory.
Worst moment: Take your pick from any one of the moments he lost it with television camera crews ? from the head butt to the bizarre ?Step on my dog I cut your head off.? Showed signs he cracking under the pressure?
Verdict: Might have won it if he hadn?t crashed on the stage to Bagneres-de-Bigorre. And been quite so odd.
|2 Alejandro Valverde|
Where he finished: 9th at 7-12
Best moment: Winning the opening stage at Plumelec.
Worst moment: Getting dropped before the top of the Tourmalet. Game over. It was as if he?d run up the white flag.
Verdict: This is the new Valverde ? not the 2005 model that outsprinted Armstrong at Courchevel. Lower reaches of the top ten is his Tour level.
|3 Damiano Cunego|
Where he finished: DNS stage 19
Best moment: Calling it quits on the morning of the final Friday must have been a relief.
Worst moment: Numerous. Getting dropped on the first day in the Massif Central. Crashing and losing more time on the second. Getting double dropped in the Pyrenees. Crashing and finishing last on stage 18.
Verdict: Mental note to self: Cunego?s 2004 Giro d?Italia win means nothing in terms of his current potential. Let?s not make any jokes about the strength-sapping powers of his ?I?m Doping Free? tattoo.
|4 Denis Menchov|
Where he finished: 4th at 2-10
Best moment: Getting back on after being dropped on Alpe d?Huez.
Worst moment: Losing time behind the crash on stage three; bottling it on the descent of the Bonette-Restefond. Going after Sastre?s attack at the bottom of Alpe d?Huez and probably thinking: ?Oh no, this wasn?t a good idea.? In Russian, of course.
Verdict: Bingo. Right man in the right position. Menchov had ?solid fourth place? written all over him.
|5 Carlos Sastre|
Where he finished: 1st
Best moment: Either crossing the line at Alpe d?Huez or at Saint-Amand-Montrond.
Worst moment: When everyone gave him grief for celebrating his win at the top of Alpe d?Huez. ?Those few seconds he wasted could have cost him the Tour? blah, blah, blah.? They didn?t.
Verdict: We thought Sastre would be CSC?s best man but we didn?t see him actually winning it.
|6 Haimar Zubeldia|
Where he finished: 45th at 1-27-00
Best moment: None. He didn?t even try to finish in the top ten.
Worst moment: None particularly bad. He just rode round.
Verdict: Rubbish. He took anonymity to new heights, if that?s not a contradiction in terms.
|7 Kim Kirchen|
Where he finished: 8th at 6-55
Best moment: Getting the yellow jersey for a few days.
Worst moment: Whenever it was towards the end of the second week when he realised he?d done far too much
Verdict: Far exceeded expectations. Looked to be making a play for the green jersey too, at one point, but that melted away.
|8 Frank Schleck|
Where he finished: 6th at 4-28
Best moment: Attacking on Hautacam to take back a lot of time, followed by getting the yellow jersey at Prato Nevoso.
Worst moment: Being told he still wasn?t the CSC leader.
Verdict: A very good Tour, but one which proved that if a Schleck is to win it, it?ll be Andy.
|9 Juan Mauricio Soler|
Where he finished: DNF stage 5
Best moment: The first 185 kilometres of stage one, where he stayed upright.
Worst moment: Crashing 12km from the end of stage one, fracturing his wrist. Every moment from then on was bad, but falling again in the neutralized zone at the start of stage five was particularly galling.
Verdict: Every year a big name hits the deck on the first road stage. Soler drew the short straw. Mind you, considering what happened to other members of his Barloworld team he got away lightly.
|10 Oscar Pereiro|
Where he finished: DNF stage 15
Best moment: Attacking briefly on stage 11 over the Col de Portel.
Worst moment: A very bad crash and a broken leg on stage 15. It could have been a lot worse.
Verdict: Was having an unspectacular Tour before the most spectacular of crashes.