Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage of the Stage 8 of the Vuelta, a crucial time trial at the Ford (Almusafes) factory over 40,1 kms.
Our commentary today by Jan Janssens and podofdonny. Please refresh this page (F5) to view the latest information.
The first rider set off at 12.55 but the fastest riders to complete the course so far are:
1º 115 Grabsch 48:32
2º 137 Posthuma a 14
3º 114 González a 16
4º 179 Vandborg a 34
5º 148 Roesems a 53
6º 7 Hruska a 54
7º 117 Jalabert a 58
I had hoped Hruska would have scored some points for my fantasy team, guess not.
No he seems to be well off the pace this year - but the last man to finish so far today is Furlan, a massive 7:48 down on the early leader. He might have problems staying within the time limit then...
None of the big guns has started yet. Klaus Möller, who's currently at it, is probably the closes thing to a "big gun" we've seen.
Meanwhile Unipublic has decided to cancel the tribute to the late José Mª Jiménez Chava, planned for Monday´s stage in Xorret del Catí (Alicante). The race organisation has decided not to pay homage to the first cyclist to win a mountain stage in Xorret de Catí out of respect for the wishes of his widow.
I take back what I said about the lack of big guns; Jörg Jaksche now starts his TT. The two-time elbow breaker isn't in his best shape ever, but should certainly be able to put down a good result here.
There is one rider who's been a bit out of sight for this ITT: Laszlo Bodrogi. As an expert in this field he's not without chances here.
The start of Joaquin Rodriguez now, who wore the gold jersey for a few days last year. In about 6 minutes it's Joseba Beloki who will be lining up...will he continue to sneakily keep on par with the other favorites, like he did in the first week?
We often recieve e-mails from readers asking us about security at these races - a major race like the Vuelta has a massive security operation to ensure the safety of the riders and the public.
There are over two hundred agents of the Guardia Civil and the National police force on the roads in Spain. The National police force has 64 police on the roads under the orders of Daniel Salgado.
The 64 agents travel in 12 cars. They control security at the start line and finish lines of each stage, as well as the safety of the organisation and teams. They also have agents at the evening show, the Permanent office and in the press office. According to the Chief Inspector, Daniel Salgado, up to now, there have been no incidents that are under police jurisdiction.
The Guardia Civil has put 127 agents driving with the race. They have two busses, ten four wheelers, eight people carriers and fifty-eight motor-bikes. They also have a helicopter which informs them about problems further ahead, in the race. Up to now, they have identified the individual who threw the 5 kilo stone at the peloton during the León-Burgos stage and played a part in a case of domestic violence in Zaragoza. So not only the riders but also the police are fairly busy during the race.
Meanwhile, "El Rey," the great Miguel Indurain, considers this stage to be the first key stage: He thinks Alejandro Valverde is one of the big favourites, but said that "Until the Almussafes time trial (stage 8) we won't be able to see the true condition of the contenders."
"Valverde is in good shape, that's clear, and you have to remember that last year he did well, too, finishing third overall, and taking two stage wins."
If we look at the intermediate standings, we see that two young guns have put down a superb time! Dutchman Joost Posthuma and Dane Vanborg might be getting a nice top 10-20 placing today!
If Isidro Nozal pulls out the same performance as last year during the flat time-trials, he's gonna be hard to beat, even for the likes of Hamilton and TerminAitor...
And, at the 13km point, Jaksche takes first place! he's 14 seconds faster than his compatriot, Bert Grabsch.
However, is there a problem in the Liberty Segerous squad? Igor Galdeano has finished in 12th spot, 1'47'' down on the leading man - which is a surprise to me.
Yes, and if you take into account Hruska's time as well (who's supposed to be a specialist, too)...
Indeed - however Heras still seems happy with his team - talking on their website a couple of days ago he said, “The team’s being fantastic, working really hard and getting into the escapes.” So Heras seems happy with the team, but they don't seem to be firing on all cylinders today.
Oscar Freire is taking things easy, no surprise there.
At the first time check, Beloki gives in 40 seconds to Jörg Jaksche...that's not looking very good for ole' Joseba!
Ruben Plaza, in the strange CV Kelme colours, about to start off in the Ford factory.
The main question today is: will the USPS team be able to extend their hold on the golden jersey? With Landis and Beltran they have a few people that can TT with the best of them!
Indeed, as we see Koldo Gil set off, eyes will be on the US Postal men. Beltran certainly looked relaxed and happy in the peloton yesterday, even did a bit of work on the front of the peloton.
Now the wearer of the fishy jersey, Erik Zabel - hehe, even wearing fishy shorts today. (The first man to time trial in his pyjamas.)
A banded up Damiano Cunego at the starting platform now, and off he goes! In the Giro his TTs weren't spectacular, but he didn't have many experts to battle either there...so he will probably lose a lot more here.
He is still bandaged from his crash earlier in the week, not to be outdone by pyjama man Zabel, Cunego is wearing his footie socks...
Now the hero of last year Nozal, sets off.
Let's not forget that Cunego's team, Saeco, doesn't have an invitation yet for the Pro Tour, with only one spot left. It's almost unimaginable that Cunego won't be a part of the Pro Tour.
Now Carlos Sastre of CSC sets off; he had a puncture yesterday which caused some panic for his team. Klaus Möller arriving at the finish, at a mediocre place around 30th...if he has a surprise it'll be in the mountains.
Garzelli at a 48th place at the 30 km mark, and Roberto Heras, climber extra-ordinaire, starts his ride for today!
Aitor Gonzalez, who will be looking for a new team next year, is gone and away! At the first mark (13kms) it's Ruben Plaza who improves Jörg Jaksche's time!
The Olympic Time Trial Champion is taking off! Tyler Hamilton is the favourite for today, even with his banded hand...Jaksche is arriving at the finish line, but he's overestimated himself! 3rd time, just ahead of his Danish teammate. And Sevilla has the 13th time at 30km mark, some 50 seconds back, an average time that.
Now we will start to see Posties taking off, with Victor Hugo Peña starting his chore for today. He's cut out for this type of work, so we should keep an eye out for him.
So a reminder of the final best times so far:
1º 115 Grabsch 48:32
2º 137 Posthuma a 14
3º 114 González a 16
4º 175 Jaksche a 28
5º 179 Vandborg a 34
6º 148 Roesems a 53
As we see Joachim setting off and Beloki is coming into finish - well, he is not pulling trees up today - 32nd about 52 seconds down.
Meanwhile the "Terminaitor" is still on the course, but Nozal is setting good times. And we see Cadel Evans set off, lying 5th overall and very quick off the mark.
Hamilton the Olympic champion takes the tricky roundabout very well; better, it must be said, than the Terminaitor, while at the 13 km mark Nozal is looking very good.
Aways goe Valverde, to huge cheers - he takes a different line completly to all the other riders.
Top 5 at the 13 km checkpoint so far are:
1º 2 Nozal 16:28
2º 19 Plaza a 9
3º 175 Jaksche a 10
4º 115 Grabsch a 15
5º 137 Posthuma a 15
Other racing news: young Belgian Nick Nuyens wins Paris-Brussels, ahead of Philippe Gilbert and Johansson. Wow, young guns in control in Paris-Brussels...
Yes, and cool to see how Bettini helps him win it and is very happy about it - reminds me of the Mapei team.
Sevilla finishes in 14th spot - as we see Landis away, straight into a big gear and TT position. Landis was fourth in the Tour, behind Armstrong, Ullrich and Klöden, so he damn sure knows how to take this kind of work on.
But Quickstep is the heir of Mapei, anyway, and they are always competitive - they have been very active in Vuelta this year too.
Gutierrez of the Phonak team coming in at a 5th place, so Dutch surprise Posthuma is still in position number 2!
Hamilton is storming round the course - he sets the 13km mark 7 seconds ahead of Nozal.
Away goes the man in Gold!
He's smiling and looking very relaxed...and indeed, what does he have to lose? His specialty is still to come!
Though Beltran does seem to have a problem with his radio, or his cigarettes in his back pocket.
Peña equalling Hamilton's best time at the 13km mark!!
So, currently 1) Hamilton 2) Peña and 3) Nozal @7' at the first time check.
There's a lot of wind again today, which doesn't bode well for the flyweights among the peloton. At the 30 km mark Nozal positively destroys Plaza's previous best time, with a good half minute. Can he repeat his trick from last year?
David Blanco (CV Kelme) sets a great time at the finish - comes in fourth.
Beltran, the man in Gold, finally settles into his groove, he does not look over comfortable but it is very hard to judge the speed of these riders...Plaza takes the lead!!!!!
Plaza is the first rider in a looong time to improve the best time, but he takes a good 11 seconds off Grabsch's time.
Valverde is already 24 seconds behind Hamilton at the 13 km mark...not very good, but not awful either for a man with his TT capacities. Heras 7th fastest at the 30 kilometre mark, 7th at 50 seconds! Good ride from Roberto.
Landis puts 4 seconds on Hamilton and Peña at the first time check!
Dirk Demol (USPS DS) said that the only thing he's afraid of is that Landis will have a bad day or two, like in the Tour. Other than that he's a full-fledged GC candidate! But Landis sets the pace at the 13 km mark!!!!!
Cadel Evans is about 38 seconds down on Landis so far, as Nozal comes to the finish - the first man under the 48 minutes today, 47.53!
Floyd is pushing a huge gear, 1st spot...not exactly the prettiest sight, but very effective! Very un-Lancian, too.
But Hamilton is coming for him, taking away first spot at the 30km mark.
well well, Peña has divided his TT well! second at the 30 km mark, behind Hamilton (@ 4 seconds) but before Nozal!
So everyone through the 13 kilometre spot - the top 5:
1º 194 Landis 16:17
2º 112 Hamilton a 4
3º 196 Peña a 4
4º 2 Nozal a 11
5º 193 Joachim a 16
Beltran is losing time, as is Evans. But, they're doing better than Valverde, who's at the 15th spot at the first time check.
Dario Cioni, the Italian from Britain, finishes his race in 20th spot - but Sastre is storming in - 3rd spot for the Dummy man.
I don't know what gear Landis is working, but wowee.
Okay, he's switching to a slightly smaller gear, but he's obviously been to the Ullrich school of gearing.
Now Heras - great time for the mountain man, it's a huge effort and he finishes 7th. This is taking a serious option on the final victory!
Benoit Joachim with a good, 9th time at the 30km mark...1.01 behind. Good job! The USPS team is doing great so far, with the possible exception of Beltran.
Beltran, though, can climb, so it is early days yet in this race. This stage is an indicator, but when the roads go upwards it can all change again.
Aitor Gonzalez in 7th spot, but Hamilton is tearing up the tarmac. Hamilton is positively sprinting to the finish line!! He takes first position, 26 seconds faster than Nozal!! Wow! Let's see if Landis and Peña can kick him from that first spot!
So the man who rides with more bandages than an Egyptian mummy, Tyler "the accident" Hamilton, the olympic champ, sets the bench mark for those still out on the road. There's Peña! He won't touch Hamilton's time, but a top 3 is within sight. Pena in 2nd spot, and Landis is now falling back a bit at the 30 km mark!
Looks like we were right about his gear...
Indeed, he started with express delivery when maybe first class would have been a better stamp...
Landis seems to be suffering a little out on the course now; there is no place to hide in the race of truth. Hamilton will have to be 50 seconds faster than Landis if he wants to take the gold jersey. It'll remain to be seen if Landis can still take some time back or will bonk completely.
Menchov being clobbered at the 30 km mark - he has dropped 1'42''. But Mancebo is doing a solid ride - 4th fastest at the finish.
The general classification will be shook up like a can of peas at the end of the day. Beltran is beginning to speed up, 5th fastest at the 30 kilometre mark, 28 seconds behind Hamilton! That's pretty darn good for a climber!
Indeed, the riders have forgotten to remember who are supposed to be climbers and who are supposed to be testers...
Landis isn't looking too good, we can expect a fall back in the last part of the race...Cadel Evans going to the finish line now! He's not putting down a good time, but it's not bad for someone with his climbing skills, and the support of a recovered Vino. 16th spot, at 1.49 from Hamilton.
The Great Spanish Hope is there! Valverde putting in maximum effort - it's a great effort and an excellent top 10 position at 48.48.6.
Landis has come back a little from his bad patch , he loses 18 seconds to Hamilton, but Landis is the new GC leader! A great ride!
Now all eyes on Beltran, past the scenic beauty of the Ford factory... 2 km to go for Beltran.
Now Menchov came in about 28th spot - a bad day in the office for the Russian.
From tiny things, like the the way he takes his turns, you can see that Beltran isn't one of those TT monsters...but, he's going great nevertheless.
1km to go for Beltran, out of the saddle, he finishes in 4th spot, a whopping at 28 seconds from Hamilton!!
Hamilton wins the stage! Pena second, Landis then Beltran and Nozal. And Landis back in gold! So another huge day for Postal.
Tyler "The Accident" Hamilton, classic position on the bike, great smooth style and display, moves up to third in the GC.
The GC: 1) Landis 2) Beltran @ 10' 3) Hamilton @32' 4) Peña @ 44' 5) Mancebo @ 1"18'.
Landis and Beltran swap positions at the top of the pile; strange that US Postal are dominating this race and yet their USA supporters cannot watch it on TV. The Only Lance Network seems to have little interest in the Raiders of the Spanish Car Factories...
1º 112 Hamilton 47:16
2º 196 Peña a 15
3º 194 Landis a 18
4º 192 Beltrán a 28
5º 2 Nozal a 37
6º 81 Mancebo a 57
7º 19 Plaza a 1:05
8º 171 Sastre a 1:09
9º 115 Grabsch a 1:16
10º 137 Posthuma a 1:30
11º 114 González a 1:32
12º 11 Valverde a 1:32
13º 193 Joachim a 1:35
14º 71 A. González a 1:37
15º 1 Heras a 1:37
16º 12 Blanco a 1:42
17º 175 Jaksche a 1:44
18º 116 Gutiérrez a 1:44
19º 183 Evans a 1:49
20º 179 Vandborg a 1:50
21º 148 Roesems a 2:09
22º 7 Hruska a 2:10
23º 117 Jalabert a 2:14
24º 122 Bodrogi a 2:15
25º 95 Garate a 2:15
Thanks very much for joining us today, and join us again tomorrow for live coverage of stage 9, a very rough climbing stage with a mountaintop finish!