Welcome to the penultimate stage of the 60th Vuelta a Espana!
Stage 20: Guadalajara - Alcala de Henares, 38.9 km (ITT)
Here are the General Classification standings going into today's time trial:
1║ Heras, Roberto Lsw 78:06:39
2║ Menchov, Denis Rab a 4:30
3║ Sastre, Carlos Csc a 4:50
4║ Mancebo, Francisco Iba a 5:48
5║ Garcia Quesada, Carlos Ecv a 6:22
6║ Sevilla, Oscar Tmo a 11:13
7║ Plaza, Ruben Ecv a 11:36
8║ Mercado, Juan Miguel Qst a 15:28
9║ Danielson, Tom Dsc a 15:50
10║ Ardila, Mauricio Dvl a 15:53
11║ Sanchez, Samuel Eus a 17:20
12║ Scarponi, Michele Lsw a 29:32
13║ Atienza, Daniel Cof a 32:32
14║ Jufre, Josep Ref a 32:46
15║ Blanco, David Ecv a 32:55
16║ Osa, Unai Iba a 32:57
17║ Moerenhout, Koos Dvl a 33:26
18║ Aerts, Mario Dvl a 34:11
19║ Serrano, Marcos Lsw a 36:26
20║ Lastras, Pablo Iba a 38:33
First an update from the Tour de Pologne: In Poland less than 35 km to go. Rubiera in the lead with 22 seconds on a peloton of about 30 riders which is led by Di Luca's Liquigas team. Actually Noe is the only one in the team here who is left for Di Luca. Di Luca caught by a Fassa and a Rabobank rider - it's Kirchen and Pieter Weening.
Sad news announced on the T-Mobile site this morning, that Dirk Reichl (Ex-Telekom) passed away after a motoring accident. He was 24 years old. Our condolences to his family and friends.
Now to the Vuelta: Serrano starts in Spain. Verbrugghe has the best time so far. Koos Moerenhout, the best Dutch ranked rider in the GC at 17th, is off the ramp now. And now the new Liberty Seguros rider for 2006 Unai Osa who starts. There are less than thirty riders left to start in today's time trial.
In Poland 21 km to go with Di Luca, Kirchen and Weening in the lead. The peloton in Poland at 15 seconds.
Fastest TT man so far today, Verbrugghe (Quick Step), has a time of 43' 16". Vicioso (Liberty Seguros) has beaten Verbrugghe's time at the first check at 15.8 km by 13".
It's now David Blanco from Santiago de Compostela who starts. He's the 3rd best Comunidad Valenciana rider in the GC after Carlos Garcia Quesada and one of the favourites for today's stage win, Ruben Plaza.
So the Comunidad Valenciana rider hits the road, and there are only fourteen men left to start. Josep Jufre from Relax starts now. Jufre will ride next year for Saunier Duval and rode a good Vuelta for the small team that is Relax.
Now the Swiss-Spanish-mouse named Atienza starts. Verbrugghe's time is beaten by Vicioso at the finish - he is 7 seconds faster.
Yesterday there was also the news that Rory Sutherland is tested positive during the Tour of Germany. It's not known which stuff he tested positive for, but during this case the rider remains on non-active status. Rory was also selected for the Worlds, so I think Neil Stephens has to change his selection a bit.
So the top finishers so far are:
1. Vicioso at 43' 05"
2. Verbrugghe @ 12"
3. Backstedt (Liquigas) @ 29".
Christian Vandevelde (CSC) and Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) are both setting some top times out on the road now.
Vandevelde has the best time at the 15.8 km check. He's beaten the previous best time of Botero (Phonak) by 11". That's flying for Christian.
At 26km, though, Vandevelde has faded to 2" behind Verbrugghe. Ardila is off the ramp now.
In Poland Di Luca, Kirchen and Weening are caught. Now Chavanel in the attack.
Tom Danielson is now off the ramp. Danielson has to do a good TT to secure his 8th position in the overall.
"The Notorious VHP", Victor Hugo Pena (Phonak), puts in a time at the 15.8 km point that is only 8" behind Vandevelde. He's flying. But not as fast as his teammate Pereiro, who has set the best time at the 26 km point by 13".
And at the second intermediate it's Stijn Devolder who has now the best time.
In Poland, now Rabobank in the lead of the group Di Luca. This group is about 15 riders strong.
Vuelta: Danielson is trying to finish off what has been a really solid first complete grand tour. He has a shot at moving up to 8th if he does well. He could also end up in 10th if he's not careful... Ardila is only 3" behind him.
Danielson, of course, had that painful knee injury when he tried the Giro earlier in the year, so that didn't really count.
Joseba Beloki finishes now in 12th spot for the moment. Now the big favourite of today, Ruben Plaza, starts, while the Notorious VHP sets the best time at 26 km! Remember, Pena won a time trial stage of the Giro d'Italia a few years back. He's fully capable of winning this today.
Poland: David Arroyo (Illes Balears) attacks, Arroyo reeled in again.
Chavanel now caught too in Poland. Weening, Chavanel, Stangelj, Arroyo and Kirchen now in the lead.
Spain: Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana) is down in a good position flying along, carrying the non-ProTour banner. Sevilla (T-Mobile) now leaves the start house. Only the top five riders left to go.
Sevilla is from the "Keebler" part of Spain, famous for its cookie making elves. Vandevelde now sets the best time and is 28 seconds faster then Vicioso.
Attack by Kirchen in Poland.
Kirchen caught again.
Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) is off. His fifth on GC so far is an excellent showing. His team will have two men in the top ten in Madrid.
It's now Mancebo who will start.
42' 35" for Vandevelde. Pena will be very close to that when he finishes... Pena was only a second or so faster at the last check. Vandevelde and Pena used to be teammates on U.S. Postal, of course. Now "Neckbrace" Mancebo, the attacking hero of many a fan, hits the road.
Poland: Kirchen and Weening in the lead. Boogerd, Di Luca, Dekker and L÷vkvist in the contra-attack.
Mancebo (Illes Balears) is 58" behind Sastre (CSC) and 34" ahead of Garcia Quesada. He'll try to climb over Sastre on GC, but that won't be easy. Carlos Sastre off the ramp now.
Now the best time is for Stijn Devolder, an average of more than 55 km/h...he comes across in 42' 01". Pereiro comes across in 42' 04".
So the top times are broken, bam bam, just like that! And what a great ride by Devolder!
Top 5 so far:
1. Devolder 42:01
2. Pereiro a 3
3. Vandevelde a 37
4. I. Cuesta a 1:02
5. Vicioso a 1:05
Menchov hits the road. One man left on the ramp. It's the race leader himself, Robertito Heras.
Poland: Kirchen and Weening still in front - they are in the last kilometers.
Devolder really smoked that last part of the course...but Pena sets a new best time! 41' 54" for the Notorious VHP! That's 7" up on Devolder. Phonak now has the 1st and 3rd fastest times.
Attack by Weening in Poland, last 500 meters...
It's Weening who wins the Tour de Pologne stage ahead of Kirchen, Thomas Dekker 3rd, Di Luca 4th, Boogerd 5th, L÷vkvist 6th at about 20 seconds.
A good ride from the young Dutch rider Weening. After his win in a Tour stage, he wins now a stage in Poland. That's quite a good finish to outfox men like Di Luca and Boogerd.
Menchov is the only man in the top five who really has a shot at winning this stage, really. He's a good time trialist... the rest are climbers, some of who can put in a decent time trial (like Mancebo).
It was L÷vkvist in 5th spot and Boogerd in 6th.
Spain: Heras is looking his usual tiny self in his solid gold time trial kit. His form has improved a great deal in this discipline over the years, it looks to me. Today will not suit his talents at all, though. As the leader board shows, it is the powerful roller types who are excelling on this course.
Early in the stage, Mancebo is about 9" up on Sastre. That's good, but he'll need a lot more than that to overtake Sastre for the last spot on GC.
In Poland there are very big differences between the riders. Still riders to finish, and the gap is more than 3-4 minutes in the meantime.
Ruben Plaza sets the new best time at 15.8 km, just 2" ahead of Vandevelde's time. Of course, Vandevelde faded a bit after that, especially after the 26 km check.
Mancebo now has 11 seconds advantage on Heras but that doesn't mean much for the GC. If Menchov has a bad day and Mancebo has a good day, he can finish 2nd on the final podium in Madrid.
Moorenhoot (Davitamon-Lotto) slides into the 7th spot so far at the finish. Not a bad ride for him.
Ardila is struggling... he's 1' 43" behind the fastest time at the 26 km point. He won't threaten Danielson for that 9th spot on the GC. Danielson comes through that check now, and he's 7th best, only 39" off the fastest time.
In the GP Misano (1.1) in Italy, it was all Panaria on the podium. Bongiorno won the race ahead of Grillo and Lancaster. Pretty much Orange (or what colour is it?) on the podium. I hope it doesn't affect the spectators' eyes... Well, they don't have to worry about anybody not seeing them.
Whoa! Mancebo has smoked the best time at the first check, 22" ahead of Plaza! Sastre 7 sec behind Paco there.
So these climbers are going out fast... but honestly, I'd be very surprised if they could hold this to the finish.
At 26 km Ruben Plaza has the best time, 5 seconds faster than the Notorious B.I.G - uh, I mean VHP.
The director of Illes Balears shouts some "Venga Paco" encouragement at his riders back. Meanwhile, Menchov sets the 2nd best time behind Mancebo at the first check.
Heras is flying down a fast section of the course, not worrying that much about the battles in front of him on the road. He's 4th best, 14" behind Mancebo at the 15.8 km point.
In Poland it's Weening who is the new race leader.
Menchov is 6" behind Mancebo, Sastre is 7" back at that point. Well, these GC leaders could just be that much stronger than everyone else at this point in the race.
But that last 12 km has really separated the times out, so we'll see if these climbers hold onto their lead over the rest of the field all the way to the end. Garcia Quesada is 1' 07" off the best time at the 26 km point.
Now here comes Mancebo to the 26 km point. He is in second spot, 1 second behind Plaza there. This indicates he is slowing down.
Sastre comes up to that point now. Sastre has the same time as Plaza there, and is 1 sec faster than Neckbrace Paco. So Sastre has picked it up a bit and closed down Mancebo's early advantage. A great ride for him!
Tour de Pologne Provisional Stage Results
4. Di Luca
Menchov, in the Combination Jester Jersey, coming through that 26 km check...he has the best time, 8" faster than Plaza. He is on his way to his 3rd stage win.
Heras is coming to the 26 km point and is 1 sec faster than Menchov.
Holy Cow! Who would have guessed that? The King of the Mountain Smurfs, setting the best time in a flat time trial! Maybe he really did pay attention to Armstrong those years with U. S. Postal.
Ruben Plaza is at the finish in 41:31 and is 23 seconds faster than Pena.
Top finish times so far:
1. R. Plaza 41:31
2. V.H. Pe˝a a 23
3. Devolder a 30
4. Pereiro a 33
5. Danielson a 48
6. Vandevelde a 1:07
7. I. Cuesta a 1:32
8. Vicioso a 1:35
9. Moerenhout a 1:41
10. Verbrugghe a 1:45
Heras should use the new handlebar which has more advantage in the dynamic resistance. Liberty Seguros is riding on BH bikes - http://www.bhbikes.com/.
Danielson sets a respectable time at the finish, good enough to hold his 9th spot at least. That time is actually good enough to put Danielson in 8th on GC, I think.
Mancebo now at the finish in 41:41 and is 2nd, at 10 seconds off Plaza. Danielson was only 32" behind Mercado, so he will climb over Mercado on GC today.
Mancebo really did put in a great time trial. That's an outstanding time for him.
So the big question: Can Menchov and Heras challenge Plaza's time? That final 12 km is a killer. Sastre comes in at the finish in 41:35 and is 2nd at 4 seconds off Plaza. Sastre remains 3rd in the GC.
Great ride for Sastre! And Mancebo will finish again 4th in a GT this year. After the Tour, now also in the Vuelta.
Really, that is amazing in this day and age. Top five in two consecutive grand tours in the same year... a rare feat.
Last year he was 6th in the Tour, I guess, and 3rd in the Vuelta. So actually he did much better in the Tour and less well in the Vuelta. Although this year he won a stage in the Vuelta and was in the top 3 a couple of times in stages.
Menchov at the finish but Plaza's time is better. Menchov finishes in 3rd so far, 3" behind Sastre.
Heras has 10 seconds left to defeat Plaza's time. He is flying. He could set the best time! What an upset that would be! And a great way to go out with his 4th Vuelta win.
Plaza is going to make it - Heras in at 2nd at less than 1 second. Alas, but still a great performance for Heras! He is the unquestioned champion of this race.
Ruben Plaza of Comunidad Valenciana wins the time trial!
After the way he faded at the end of last year's Vuelta, this is a great way to finish. He just seemed to get stronger and stronger the whole race. He was the big favourite before the stage, and he realizes it. A great performance by the Comunidad Valenciana rider.
What a close top five for this stage! How often do you see a grand tour time trial of this distance so close?
Not so often.
And for this team it's the 3rd stage win after Eladio Jimenez and Carlos Garcia Quesada. Another coup for the not-"good"-enough-for-the-ProTour Comunidad Valenciana.
The difference between Plaza and Heras was 0.5 seconds.
Of course, it has nothing to do with them being good enough performance-wise for the ProTour. Due to the financial problems they had last year, they didn't get a ProTour license.
So some movement in the top ten on GC. The top five remained the same, but the bottom five saw a lot of change. Plaza climbed over Sevilla into 6th on GC. Danielson climbed up to 8th, Ardilla up into 9th. Mercado fell to 10th.
Heras picks up another Gold Jersey. Uh oh, Heras also has a commanding lead in the race for the Fishy Shirt...
Heras now has 169 points, Menchov in 2nd with 142, Petacchi in 3rd with 132. I think that gives Heras an unassailable lead in the points competition.
Have to say that Heras does that fishy shirt the most justice. He looks positively good in it.
Yes, Heras does look good in that Fishy Shirt, but that has a bit to do with the fact that the blue of his team kit matches the blue of the Fishy Shirt. Those Rabobank shorts clash badly with the Fishy Shirt.
Provisional General Classification
1. HERAS, Roberto ESP LSW 78:48:10
2. MENCHOV, Denis RUS RAB a 4:36
3. SASTRE, Carlos ESP CSC a 4:54
4. MANCEBO, Francisco ESP IBA a 5:58
5. GARCIA QUESADA, Carlos ESP ECV a 8:06
6. PLAZA, Ruben ESP ECV a 11:36
7. SEVILLA, Oscar ESP TMO a 13:22
8. DANIELSON, Tom USA DSC a 16:38
9. ARDILA, Mauricio COL DVL a 18:19
10. MERCADO, Juan Miguel ESP QST a 18:31
11. SANCHEZ, Samuel ESP EUS a 20:16
12. SCARPONI, Michele ITA LSW a 31:44
13. BLANCO, David ESP ECV a 34:57
14. MOERENHOUT, Koos NED DVL a 35:07
15. JUFRE, Josep ESP REF a 35:33
16. AERTS, Mario BEL DVL a 36:18
17. ATIENZA, Daniel ESP COF a 36:23
18. OSA, Unai ESP IBA a 37:14
19. SERRANO, Marcos ESP LSW a 38:13
20. LASTRAS, Pablo ESP IBA a 40:49
So Lollipop kids everywhere celebrate as Heras has another great day. He is finishing this Vuelta in dominating fashion.
And in the Daily Peloton forums, some overzealous American fans start talking about how Andy is a limey git and Danielson will destroy Ullrich and Basso in next year's Tour de France...
If Danielson ever wins something big, I want to do the call like this: "And Danielson raises two fingers to the sky, and I can read his lips: 'Bite me Andy, you stupid bastard' I think he's saying..."
Stage 20 Results (provisional)
1. PLAZA, Ruben ESP ECV 41:31
2. HERAS, Roberto ESP LSW m.t.
3. SASTRE, Carlos ESP CSC a 4
4. MENCHOV, Denis RUS RAB a 6
5. MANCEBO, Francisco ESP IBA a 10
6. PEĐA, Victor Hugo COL PHO a 23
7. DEVOLDER, Stijn BEL DSC a 30
8. PEREIRO, Oscar ESP PHO a 33
9. DANIELSON, Tom USA DSC a 48
10. VANDEVELDE, Christian USA CSC a 1:07
11. CUESTA, I˝igo ESP SDV a 1:32
12. VICIOSO, Angel ESP LSW a 1:35
13. MOERENHOUT, Koos NED DVL a 1:41
14. GARCIA QUESADA, Carlos ESP ECV a 1:44
15. VERBRUGGHE, Rik BEL QST a 1:45
16. SERRANO, Marcos ESP LSW a 1:47
17. BACKSTEDT, Magnus SWE LIQ a 2:02
18. BLANCO, David ESP ECV a 2:02
19. AERTS, Mario BEL DVL a 2:07
20. SORENSEN, Nicki DEN CSC a 2:09
21. PERON, Andrea ITA CSC a 2:09
22. SEVILLA, Oscar ESP TMO a 2:09
23. SCARPONI, Michele ITA LSW a 2:12
24. PESCHEL, Uwe GER GST a 2:15
25. SZMYD, Sylvester POL LAM a 2:15
26. LASTRAS, Pablo ESP IBA a 2:16
27. PASAMONTES, Luis ESP REF a 2:17
28. GONZALEZ DE GALDEANO, Igor ESP LSW a 2:21
29. P╔REZ, Francisco ESP IBA a 2:26
30. ARDILA, Mauricio COL DVL a 2:26
That concludes our coverage for today, and tomorrow is the final stage of this Grand Tour. The riders will have the opportunity tomorrow to preview the World Championship Men's Road Race course, as it is the final part of tomorrow's stage in Madrid. So please join us then, and thanks for being with us today!
Commentary today by Bart Hazen of Cyclingfx.nl, and our own Locutus.