It is said that ultimately the jerseys of the Tour de France are decided in the third week in the run-up to Paris, which makes complete sense given it's the final week of the Tour. But you can't help but wonder if we're already seeing who will hit the Champs Elysees in the colored jerseys.
The 2014 edition of the Tour is only 10 stages old as the riders take a well-deserved rest day after a punishing mountain stage on Monday. Still, it's clearly shaping up that the current holders have a real shot to keep them.
Obviously it comes with the very large caveat that anything can happen in the second half of the race and you never know when a rider might be forced to abandon (as two major riders have already) but if form keeps, then these guys will all be tough to beat.
So on this rest day let's take a look at the races for the four jerseys in this year's tour and handicap the fields a bit.
Yellow Jersey (Overall)
Even if Chris Froome and Alberto Contador hadn't already crashed out of this year's Tour you'd have to wonder if this wouldn't be Vincenzo Nibali's to take into Paris. He has yet to have an off day or show any sign of weakness. He has had a couple of rides of his career in this Tour and we're only halfway finished.
Nibali and his Astana team let the Yellow slip away for one day, which was largely by design. But that just further proved how hard it will be to take away the Yellow from Nibali for good because it cost Tony Gallopin so much to make the move to grab the Yellow that he had nothing left the next day and was left in the dust by Nibali and the other top riders.
When you look at the group of riders around him you wonder if there is anybody with the chance to pick up time the rest of the way as the gap is already becoming tough to bridge with the way Nibali is climbing. Richie Porte is a great climber as we've seen alongside Froome but does he have the acceleration to make a move past Nibali? We haven't really seen it. Alejandro Valverde might have that uphill burst but he nor his Movistar team have been able to show much yet.
There are still a lot of mountains to climb and seconds to be gained/lost but it's getting to the point of being hard to see anybody in this race being able to take that Yellow back from Nibali for good.
1. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA)
2. Richie Porte (AUS) +2:23
3. Alejando Valverde (ESP) +2:47
4. Romain Bardet (FRA) +3:01
5. Tony Gallopin +3:13
6. Thibaut Pinot +3:47
7. Tejay van Garderen (USA) +3:56
8. Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA) +3:57
9. Rui Costa (POR) +3:58
10. Bauke Mollema (NED) +4:08
Green Jersey (Points)
Peter Sagan is not the best sprinter in the Tour but he is undoubtedly the best competitor for the Green Jersey. He rides for it and can do things the other sprinters can't to get maximum points. He's closer to an all-around rider, which makes him so perfect for this competition.
Sagan has already won the Green Jersey the past two years and he's well on his way to making it three. His move on Monday was a perfect example. No threat to the overall lead, Sagan joined the early breakaway group with the sole intention of winning the max points at the intermediate sprint on the stage, which he did. Whenever there are points, he goes for them with much more gusto than any other rider.
For the first week of the Tour, Sagan finished in the top five on each stage, even tougher stages that ate up riders like the cobblestones on the Belgian border. He's so far ahead already that it shouldn't be a competition at all.
1. Peter Sagan (SVK) 287 points
2. Bryan Coquard (FRA) 156 points
3. Marcel Kittel (GER) 146 points4. Alexander Kristoff (NOR) 117 points
5. Mark Renshaw (AUS) 101 points
Polka Dot Jersey (King of the Mountains)
Usually this is a battle that doesn't really come into focus until that final week as breakaway groups can really affect the points, as can strong hilltop finishes like Nibali had on Monday. But the man who just seized the Polka Dot Jersey could be incredibly tough to displace.
Knowing that it means nothing to top riders/climbers like Nibali, Porte, etc., it's there for Joaquim Rodriguez to run away with. Normally a rider who would be mentioned in the same breath as the other top riders for the Yellow, injuries and terrible luck in the first week of the Tour forced Rodriguez to readjust his goals. Now one of the top climbers and a guy who would normally be riding with the peloton is free to chase the mountain points without interference from the peloton.
When you look at the standings it appears as though it's only going to be a two-man competition with Thomas Voeckler trying for it as well but as Monday showed, Voeckler doesn't have the pure uphill speed that Rodriguez does to challenge him on climbs. He's going to have to get more creative and aggressive to beat Rodriguez. With Voeckler, though, those characteristics are always present.
Still, if Rodriguez wants it, he'll probably get it; it's rare to have climbers of his class going full throttle for this title.
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) 51 points
2. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) 34 points
3. Tony Martin (GER) 26 points
4. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) 20 points
5. Blel Kadri (FRA) 17 points
White Jersey (Best Young Rider)
As of now, this looks like the most (and perhaps only) battle that's truly up in the air with a pair of Frenchman going for the glory on their home soil.
Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot both have tremendous potential as hopefuls for the home country that is just begging for a top rider again in its tour. Bardet and Pinot are both in the top six in the Yellow Jersey class, of course they're in front in the White Jersey race too. But right now less than a minute separates them.
Don't forget about Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski either as he's only 1:38 behind Bardet after Stage 10. He got aggressive on Monday and it cost him as his breakaway attempt drained the life out of him and then he was passed up by Bardet, Pinot and the other top climbers.
It's much tougher to pick a favorite from this trio right now and obviously Bardet is in really good position at the top right now but certainly watch out for Pinot, he's capable of some nice bursts and even though is still a young rider, has shown his potential in previous Tours.
1. Romain Bardet (FRA)
2. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) +0:46
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) +1:38
4. Tom Dumoulin (NED) +12:18
5. Tom Jelte Slagter (NED) +37:41