it's weird, but klöden seems to be totally cool with being a #2 (or 3 or 4 or 5) rider for a team. has he ever been the leader? telekom, t-mobile, vino-era astana?
He was leader when Pereiro won. That's when he podiumed at #2 (after Landis DQ'ed). He would've won that if not for one lazy stage.
Anyway, about stage 7. I've said it before a few times, but I'll say it again. There's no way the Astana 4 will all survive on top of the GC. I think LL is the weakest of the 4. He peaked during the ToC, then tried to peak during the Giro but found himself already on the decline. I just can't see how he could have the legs now (and keep my post 'clean').
I think the second one to peel off will be the old guy. 3.5 years away from the sport, and looking at him during the Giro, I just can't see how he'd do it. I still think he tried to attack during week 3 for a stage win (after Popo failed and LL was out of contention) but was reeled in very easily. After his 'time-out', Basso couldn't come back to where he was during the Giro. I don't see how the old guy could do it (barring of course the big scary 'D').
Kloden looks strong. The shadow of Freiburg is looming over him, he might just go full out and surprise everybody. Might be his last chance to do it.
AC is the favorite of the Astana 4. And here we need to cut to the heart of the matter. The rift in the team is not a media stunt. It's real. More so because of the apparent show of unity now. But what about the TTT I hear you asking! Well, a good ride benefited all of them, so it was in everybody's interest. The drama before the TTT is far more telling.
For AC, the worst which can happen is an Astana train (slowly) dragging up the old man and no attacks. If no attacks, then LA will get yellow (assuming they do shed Canc) and unwritten rules will make life hard for AC. I think AC should try to get more time into the Schlecklet and Kreuziger, if he has the legs (if not he should be happy about the train). But he really can attack only if they shed Lance first.
Will others attack? Likely. But will others attack at opportune moments for AC? As AC, I wouldn't count on it. What AC needs is someone from another team who attacks (and sheds LA) at a point of AC's choosing. That's why I think someone will make a call to someone else this evening, and tomorrow, at one point, you'll see Sanchez attack, AC to counter, and LA going backwards. (Thanks for the Dauphine btw.)
Who else will play a role? Hard to say who's in shape before the first mountain. Conventional wisdom says Evans, the Schlecklet, Menchov, Sastre. Reasonable other choices are T. Martin, Kirchen, VdV, Nibali, Kreuziger and probably a few more. Some of them will disappoint (Menchov, they're on to him and he's not risking it), some of them will not be in top form (usually the Euskaltels) and some might even surprise (the Leakyguys maybe).
Bring it on.