One week down, and it's safe to say that this has not been a week of yawns. Many have often criticized the Tour de France for a propensity for boredom in the early goings - not so this year. Unfortunately, some of the suspense has been crash related, in fact, a lot of it has.
First off, a quick look back at the winners of the first seven stages.
Stage 1: Philippe Gilbert (Gilbert in Yellow)
Stage 2: Garmin-Cervelo (Hushovd in Yellow)
Stage 3: Tyler Farrar (Hushovd in Yellow)
Stage 4: Cadel Evans (Hushovd in Yellow)
Stage 5: Mark Cavendish (Hushovd in Yellow)
Stage 6: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Hushovd in Yellow)
Stage 7: Mark Cavendish (Hushovd in Yellow)
Garmin-Cervelo - Thor Hushovd, Tyler Farrar, Jonathan Vaughters, Slipstream - the first week has been a long time coming for the Argyle Armada.
Cadel Evans - Could the first week have gone any better for Cadel Evans? Heading into Saturday's first mountaintop finish at Super-Besse, Evans heads the list of GC favorites, he hasn't hit the pavement, he's in one piece, and he's got a stage win to boot. I think any rider would be ecstatic with that.
More than any of that though, Evans has looked excellent in any tough situation. He beat Contador head to head, steamrolled his BMC team to an excellent TTT finish, and was the only rider able to keep Gilbert seemingly in sight when the Belgian champion went on the rampage in Stage 1. Can he continue the magic when the race hits the mountains over the next two weeks? I think so. I think we'll be seeing Cadel on the podium. At least.
Mark Cavendish - One week down and Cavendish already has two stages and sits only ten points off of the top spot in the Green Jersey competition. A notoriously slow starter in Grand Tours, this is about the best start Cavendish could hope for - that's even taking into consideration his intermediate sprint DQ along with Thor Hushovd. This being Cavendish, it wouldn't be a Tour without a DQ for him, so hopefully that's all taken care of, and he can set about toppling Eddy Merckx's Tour record of 34 stage wins.
Philippe Gilbert - He came, he saw, he won a stage, and spent a day in the Maillot Jaune. His Stage 1 victory was vintage Fast Phil. He even managed to do something very, very few riders can lay claim to doing: leaving Fabian Cancellara looking a bit silly. The Swiss Champion put in a beautiful move, but had nothing when Gilbert bridged to him and countered. It brought back memories of a rocket launching on the Mur de Huy this April.
It was on the topic of Gilbert that the quote of the Tour so far was gifted to us by one Mark Cavendish on Twitter: "Just say today's last kilometer. Gilbert humbled everyone with the equivalent of pulling down his pants to reveal a 13-incher.
The Norwegians - Thor Hushovd and Edvald Boasson Hagen. Hushovd hasn't won a stage (yet), but nearly a week in yellow plus team time trial victory has made this Tour de France a resounding success for the World Champion. Hushovd's almost complete lack of early season success now seems like distant history.
As for Boasson Hagen - the multi-talented hardman finally got his maiden Tour victory. Expect many more in the years to come. Remember, he's still only 24.
The Schlecks - In a week defined by falling down, two of the pelotons most famous faller downers (well, Frank mainly) have managed to stay upright. Not only that, they've stayed upright, and they have lost nary a bit of time. They're well over a minute and a half up on Contador and rightly dreaming yellow dreams each night.
While I find myself rooting less and less for the Schlecks, I think this could be their ticket to glory in Paris. Barring bad luck (which is always a possibility), I think they're absolutely in the driver's seat.
Robert Gesink - If Rabobank's climbing prodigy isn't too badly affected from his nasty crash from a few days ago, I think we've got a major contender on our hands. He made it through the first week in one piece, his climbing is elevator-like, his time trialing much improved, and he's only 19 seconds behind Evans. Watch out.
Garmin-Cervelo's Overall Hopes - While the Tour has been a resounding success for Vaughters' boys so far, the hard truth that his two GC hopes have lost critical time in the opening week will soon become apparent.
Christian Vande Velde is almost two minutes back of Cadel Evans, and Ryder Hesjedal is almost four and a half back. That's not a good place to be. The chance of putting one of the two on the final podium looks extremely slim. A top ten is doable, sure, but that's just retracing old steps.
The GC riders that have fallen victim to the early carnage (and there are many): Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack), Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), Chris Horner (RadioShack), and those that have lost over a minute to the fortunate few that have gotten through unscathed.
RadioShack - It goes without saying that RadioShack are big, big losers heading out of the first week. The four-headed monster of GC hopefuls that comprised RadioShack is now down to about one and a half. Brajkovic is out, Horner is questionable to even start Stage 8, and if he does, he's over ten minutes back…then of course, there's Levi Leipheimer, who has had anything and everything that could possibly go wrong, well, go wrong. Despite that, he's still 4:28 behind Evans.
On the bright side - Andreas Klöden is only nine seconds behind GC favorite virtual yellow, Cadel Evans. If Klödi can continue what has already been a fantastic year, he could be a dark horse for the podium.
Alberto Contador - Contador can at least be happy that he's heading to tomorrow's first uphill finish at Super-Besse in one piece. That's about it though. The Giro d'Italia champion has had a rough go of it so far and sits 1:41 back of the GC overall contender virtual yellow, Cadel Evans, and 1:30 in arrears of arch rival, Andy Schleck. That's not a happy place to be. If anyone can make that gap up, it's Contador, but it's going to take a special two weeks of racing…oh, and of course, a favorable ruling from the CAS following the Tour. Oh, and that misfire on the victory salute in Stage 4? Not ideal.
The Breakaways - They haven't even come close so far this year. They'll get their time later in the Tour, but for now, the breakaways have been kept in check.
Team Sky - Things were looking up for Brailsford's Boys up until today. Geraint Thomas was the best young rider, the team got their first ever stage win via Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Bradley Wiggins was in perfect position to vie for a top overall finish when the race hits its first significant uphill obstacles on Saturday.
Then it all went to hell - Wiggins crashed out of the race today, and Thomas lost the Maillot Blanc. The question for Sky: what now?
Samuel Sanchez - Last year's 4th place overall finisher looks like he has had his chances of making an appearance on the final podium in Paris dashed before we see a real mountain. The Euskaltel captain is 2:35 back, and while that's not the end of the world, it's going to be really difficult to make that kind of time up on the likes of Evans, Team Schleck, and Van den Broeck.
Tom Boonen - No one was quite sure what to expect from Boonen, but an exit from the race in Stage 7 was certainly not tops on the list.
Frank Schleck +03
Andreas Klöden +09
Andy Schleck +11
Tony Martin +12
Robert Gesink +19
Alexandre Vinokourov +31
Jurgen Van Den Broeck +38
Ivan Basso 1:02
Nicolas Roche 1:11
Alberto Contador 1:41
Christian Vande Velde 1:56
Samuel Sanchez 2:35
Jerome Coppel 3:15
Ryder Hesjedal 4:27
Levi Leipheimer 4:28
Chris Horner 12:58
Bradley Wiggins (OUT)
Janez Brajkovic (OUT)
Today, we get our first whiff of the mountains.