Good afternoon and welcome to the 60th Vuelta a Espana! Things get underway in Granada, with a 7 km time trial. Your commentator today is Jan Janssens. Refresh this page using your F5 key to view the latest information.
Stage 1: Granada - Granada, 7 km (ITT)
We join the time trial in progress. Rik Verbrugghe, former Giro prologue winner, is currently in the lead with an impressive time. We would regard it as the 'aiming time' for the big guns, but to be honest, there's a good chance no one will still touch this one.
The current top 3 is Verbrugghe in the lead with a time of 9'46", with Gutierrez second at 4", and - small surprise - Tom Danielson in 3rd at 11"!
Other favorites like Santos Gonzalez - one of the best flamenco guitar players in the peloton, who actually brought his guitar to the Vuelta - have failed to threaten Verbrugghe's time so far. But we still have a few prologue specialists to go, most notably Bradley McGee.
The small, very steep climb in the prologue is totally Verbrugghe's thing, who, as you might know, is a former winner of the Flêche Wallone which features a similar incredibly tough short climb with the Mur de Huy. Verbrugghe trained on the Mur as a young gun because he lives around there, so he knows hows to tackle such climbs.
Erik Zabel finishing here, with a non-descript 50th place, and Santiago Botero now at the departure, he's a favorite for today. One cannot help but wonder what Botero's goals in this Vuelta will be, though. Will he work for Pereiro, or Landis, or go for his own glory? No matter which, Phonak is here with an awesome team.
Now Nozal takes off for his prologue, it seems like we're getting to the bigger names now...Nozal was suspended for a short time after having a 50+ hematocrit value, will that affair influence his Vuelta?
Sammy Sanchez of Euskaltel with a nice time at the finish, 13th place! Isidro Nozal, unlike Botero, not out of the saddle on that steep climb.
Talking about superstars: Tom 'Bomb' Boonen goes for his race against the clock..but with this parcours and his objectives (getting in shape for the Worlds) we oughtn't expect anything from him today.
He's been downplaying his sprint chances a bit in the papers lately, because he hasn't really done much since dropping out of the Tour...and Petacchi's injured too. I predict a guy like Van Heeswijk might profit from that in the first stages.
Botero is going really good here, and he might beat Verbrugghe's time! 15 seconds left for him and 400 meters, so nope, he's not taking it either.
He's not even taking Danielson's second place, 4th place! So unlike what we reported before, Danielson is in second and not Gutierrez.
The top places so far:
1. Verbrugghe 9:46
2. Danielson a 11
3. Bernabeu a 14
4. Vicioso a 19
5. Gutiérrez a 21
6. Laiseka a 22
7. Perdiguero a 23
Nozal isn't anywhere near the finish line yet and already in 10th spot, this isn't going to be a great time. Wow, can you say 'abysmal time'? 141st - it's safe to say he isn't ready for the Vuelta.
So, Verbrugghe still in the lead with an 11 (!) second gap on the second time. That's a HUGE gap over 7 kms.
Boonen coming in with an average time, 10'35" , 66th place.
Tour disappointment Iban Mayo at the departure now, let's see what he can still do after his Tour. He says that he's here to ride for Aitor Gonzalez, but is that reality or just a way to keep the pressure off him? We'll see...let's hope he doesn't pull a Nozal here though.
Christian Vandevelde with, in good CSC tradition, a good prologue time: 10'05" and 5th place for him so far. And what to say about Jose Azevedo, Discovery leader here? 12th place with a time 10'09", that's a very good prologue for a GC candidate.
Former Vuelta winner Angel Casero lining up for Comunidad Valenciana...can he finally confirm his performance?
We're slowly nearing the real top GC guys, and here's Landis! Will he surpass last year's performance when he rode both the Tour and the Vuelta, but bombed during the end in Spain? Or does he have more energy left this time around? He's got a great team to support him if necessary, so that won't be a problem...this prologue will give us a better idea.
Oh! Beloki slips and crashes in the first turn of the time trial!! What an unlucky guy...his bike is broken, and so is his morale. So after Nozal and his horrible prologue, Beloki will do awful too due to this crash.
Mayo at the finish line....let's see this time. Mmm, not bad but but still relatively decent...32rd time.
The top ten so far:
1. Verbrugghe 9:46
2. Danielson a 11
3. Bernabeu a 14
4. Botero a 17
5. Vandevelde a 19
6. Pérez a 19
7. Vicioso a 19
8. Gutiérrez a 21
9. Laiseka a 22
10. Perdiguero a 23
Vila, Lampre's super domestique, with a nice 8th time here. He's here to help Simoni, but he might surpass his leader because the latter didn't come here on full confidence.
Landis is riding a bad prologue here, looking very cramped too...because of his crash a few days ago?
Casero with a bad time, not what he used to be...89th place at 53" off Verbrugghe.
Who do we have that could still threaten Verbrugghe? There's maybe Bettini, then Sastre, Peschel, McGee and Pereiro. It's looking good for the Belgian, these guys are good but not top prologue material, apart from McGee.
Landis in 34th place at 35" off Verbrugghe...not as bad as he looked to go during the prologue, but still not a great time. Phonak isn't really putting in what was expected from them so far.
TT specialist Uwe Peschel starting now. But this prologue is probably too short for a man like him to make his mark. And Oscar 'babyface' Sevilla, the ladies' favorite is here!! With his boyish charm he will smite the opposition!
Beloki is here with the 173th time...no surprise after that crash.
As if they're going for the contrast effect: Backstedt right after Sevilla. At the 2.3 intermediate check, Menchov is close to Verbrugghe! 3" behind there. And now the favorite: Brad McGee...can he handle that mountain in the prologue?
And after him, the DP forums' favorite for the overall win in the Vuelta, if we have to believe the forum polls - 'TerminAitor' Gonzalez. Euskaltel's GT hope in dark days...
Sastre is going to get a good time, second place!! 2nd at 6" second from Verbrugghe.
Now Simoni taking off...his deal with Quick-Step isn't finished yet, but no matter where he goes, we'll get to see him conquering mountains in this Vuelta! This prologue isn't normally speaking the 3 time Giro winner's cup of tea, but hey.
Menchov takes first place!!! What a performance!! By one second, he looks totally knackered, but he's got it, best of the GC guys so far by a broad margin.
Here's Alessandro Petacchi! Hasn't won a race since the last Giro stage, but he's looking to get in shape for the Worlds in this Vuelta, like Boonen. Voeckler off (does he ever stop riding?!), only Pereiro, Mancebo and Heras left now.
The Tour's 4th place at the departure, Francisco 'skewed' Mancebo. Can Pereiro make up for his teammates' rather disappointing performances? Sevilla at the finish, 38" from Menchov...not great.
There's Roberto Heras!! His challenge in this Vuelta is to become the sole record holder of Vuelta wins, by racking up a 4th win. He has to split the record with Rominger at 3 Vueltas now.
McGee overtook Backstedt, but 'only' takes third place; very close to Menchov, though! Aitor Gonzalez nearing the finish, but oh, this isn't a great time! 17th at 26 seconds from Menchov!
Gibo in the house!! 8th place at 20 seconds!! For Simoni that's a glorious prologue!
Go Gibo! Was he playing hide and seek with the press in Portugal? Maybe he's going for the GC here after all.
David Plaza is going past Hushovd here, with a great 6th time at 13".
Looks like the Scandinavian giants aren't feeling too well on this parcours, both of them have been overtaken by the guy starting after them.
Mancebo is here, let's see his time, Pereiro isn't far behind! That's gonna be a good time. Mancebo 20th at 26", that's decent, nothing more nothing less for him.
Damn, Pereiro's time isn't that great at all...57th place!! 39 seconds from Menchov, looks like Phonak collectively failed.
Heras is close to the finish, great ride from the 3-time winner!! 7th place with 15 seconds!!
MENCHOV WINS THE OPENING TIME TRIAL!!
2. Verbrugghe @ 1"
3. McGee @ 3"
4. Sastre @ 7"
5. Danielson @ 12"
Menchov was a bit unexpected to win this, Verbrugghe and McGee confirming their prologue capacities, and Danielson with his first good showing in a top Euro race. Nice rides all!!
This prologue was one of surprises, a lot of favorites or would-be favorites losing over 30 seconds to a guy like Menchov. And surprises like Menchov (duh), and of course, Gilberto 'Gibo' Simoni! You can count Sastre too, really, as a surprise. Phonak totally failing, Liberty too except for its leader - not really a team that collectively was doing better than the rest, like there used to be in the past with ONCE and Banesto.
So, the Vuelta a Espana is underway with a great time trial result! Join us right here tomorrow for Stage 2 - Granada to Córdoba, 189.3 km, a "Bettini-ish" stage, or maybe a Van Heeswijk sprint stage...we will see!