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Photo ©: Bettini

59th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 4-26, 2004

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Commentary by Jeff Jones

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 15:15 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:15 CEST

15:19 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the third and final grand tour of the year, the Vuelta a España, which starts today in León with a 27.7 km team time trial. The first team (Ag2r-Prevoyance) will roll off at 15:27, with the remaining 20 teams following at 4 minute intervals, the last being Liberty Seguros, the team of defending champion Roberto Heras, at 16:47.

The top teams should be able to do the course in around 30 minutes, but with a 120m climb between km 5-11, it's going to be a challenge for the teams to keep all their riders.

The weather today is dry but humid after some rain earlier. Temperatures are in the low 20's and it's cloudy.

15:27 CEST   
Ag2r gets the countdown and rolls off the start ramp, all riders with rear disks and front semi-deep rimmed wheels.

15:31 CEST   
Estonian champion Erki Putsep leads his Ag2r team along as they get up to full speed.

Meanwhile, Alessio-Bianchi is on the start ramp. They set off through the crowds at a steady pace. There are a few corners in the first part of the course, so it's not flat out.

15:33 CEST   
Alessio is now at full speed with Italian champ Cristian Moreni prominent in his red, white and green jersey.

15:34 CEST   
The roads are fairly wide at the start, but there are a lot of roundabouts to be negotiated.

The next team to leave is Cafes Baque, riding Olmo bikes with Ambrosio rear disks/front carbon wheels.

15:36 CEST   
Cafes Baque is quickly up to speed as it heads out of Leon via the various roundabouts.

Ag2r is coming up to the first time check at km 11.

15:39 CEST   
Cofidis is next cab off the ranks, with Stuart O'Grady looking a little nervous as he gets ready to start. Watch for Luis Perez, who is typically good in this race.

The km 0 timing actually starts about 100m after they leave the ramp.

15:40 CEST   
Cédric Vasseur does a big turn on the front of the Cofidis train, stretching them out. Atienza is suffering on the back.

15:43 CEST   
Euskaltel-Euskadi will start after Cofidis, and are looking very focused. With Haimar Zubeldia as the main man, this will be an important stage. The Euskaltel boys are on their Orbeas with Mavic discs/deep dished front wheels, with the odd five spoke front wheel too.

15:44 CEST   
Ag2r's time at 11km is 13:38, which is not too bad considering the climb.

15:45 CEST   
Alessio-Bianchi has also passed the 11 km check in 13:38. Nothing in it!

Euskaltel is flying along, probably the fastest starting team so far.

15:47 CEST   
Fassa Bortolo is next, with Alessandro Petacchi, Dario Cioni, Aitor Gonzalez as the top men and six excellent helpers in Gustov, Ongarato, Sacchi, Sanchez, Trenti and Velo.

15:50 CEST   
Petacchi won't be able to repeat his feat of winning stages in all three major tours as he did last year, but he will at least be one of the few riders to start in all three tours again.

Cafes Baque has passed 11 km in 13:31, the best to date.

Illes Balears - Banesto is next off the ramp, with Mancebo and Menchov the top guys.

15:52 CEST   
Illes Balears sets off with Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta driving the train.

Ag2r is up to the 20 km check in 24'20.

15:53 CEST   
Mancebo is struggling with the early pace a bit, leaving a gap in second last wheel.

Cofidis is quicker than everyone at km 11, passing the check in 13:27.

15:55 CEST   
Next off is Lampre, which is starting with eight riders after Francesco Casagrande was ejected a few days ago from having a high hematocrit. Lampre will thus be relying on World Champion Igor Astarloa to put in a few good rides.

15:55 CEST   
Alessio-Bianchi is past 20 km in 24:34, 14 seconds slower than Ag2r.

15:59 CEST   
Costa de Almeria-Paternina is the next team off the ramp. Meanwhile, Ag2r-Prevoyance is driving it home and finishes with nine men in 32:34, 51.6 km/h. Not bad.

16:04 CEST   
Illes Balears is into its rhythm now, riding over the speed humps on the outskirts of Leon.

Next off is one of the favourites, Team Phonak, with Hamilton, Sevilla, Gonzalez, Grabsch, Gutierrez, Jalabert, Perez and Valjavec.

Alessio-Bianchi finishes in 32:45, a bit slower than Ag2r. Meanwhile, Fassa Bortolo has set the best time at 11 km in 13:13.

16:05 CEST   
Illes Balears has beaten Fassa's time with a brisk 13'02. Osa is sitting on the back though.

16:08 CEST   
Quick.Step-Davitamon signals for its last rider, Van Goolen, to get himself up to the start ramp in time. He does, and they're all set. Pecharroman, Bodrogi and Sinkewitz should be useful.

Cafes Baque finishes in 32:39 for second best time behind Ag2r.

Osa is dropped from Illes Balears. He'll have to ride the last 12 km on his own, as they don't want to wait. If he finishes within 35 percent of the winner's time he won't be eliminated.

16:11 CEST   
Most teams are choosing for a single paceline today, as that's generally the most efficient way to ride a team time trial.

Two Euskaltel riders have been dropped and have been caught by the Fassa Bortolo train before 20 km. Fassa is past that point in 24:02, the best time to date.

Cofidis finishes with 5 riders in 32:34, fractionally slower than Ag2r.

16:13 CEST   
Rabobank sets off next, as the remnants of the Cofidis team come across the line.

Top teams so far:

1 Ag2r-Prevoyance 32.34
2 Cofidis
3 Cafés Baqué 0.05
4 Alessio-Bianchi 0.11

16:14 CEST   
Relax Fuenlabrada-Bergasol's nine riders mount the start ramp, with Johan Van Summeren looking a little anxious.

Illes Balears has smashed Fassa's time at 20 km with 23:36, on track to the best time.

16:17 CEST   
Euskaltel comes home in the slowest time of 33:12, almost catching a couple of Cofidis riders. Euskaltel finished with seven, but it wasn't a good time.

16:17 CEST   
Phonak is past 11 km in 13:13, a little off the pace of Illes Balears but still in second position.

16:19 CEST   
The Fassa squad finishes in a nice time of 32:10, with eight riders intact. Best time.

Saeco sets off, with Cunego leading out.

16:20 CEST   
Phonak is down to eight riders but only has 10 km to go, and is looking good to push Illes Balears for the best time.

16:21 CEST   
Cyclingnews spoke to Cofidis' Stuart O'Grady before the start today, and he said that he is here to "take it day by day and see what happens. No pressure, no expectations."

16:22 CEST   
Illes Balears storms home with seven riders intact, finishing in 31:41 (53 km/h). That's quick.

Saunier Duval is next off.

16:25 CEST   
Saunier's main man is Joseba Beloki, who has hopefully recovered some of his form after his crash in the Tour last year. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero, Juan Carlos Dominguez and Leonardo Piepoli are all pretty handy as well.

16:27 CEST   
Phonak is five seconds slower than Illes Balears at 20 km, but still in the hunt for the best time.

Team CSC starts next.

Lampre finishes with just five riders in a time of 32:31, third fastest.

16:29 CEST   
Thomas Bruun leaves a gap on a corner and has to chase hard to get back to the CSC train. That will hurt now and later on.

16:31 CEST   
The magenta jerseys of T-Mobile are lining up on the start ramp now. Vinokourov, Evans, Botero and Zabel are the guys to watch. It's a strong team.

16:31 CEST   
Paternina-Costa de Almeria finishes with all eight of its riders in a time of 32:46, eighth best.

16:33 CEST   
Astarloa (Lampre) finishes alone, but well within the time limit. No waiting for the world champion today!

16:35 CEST   
Phonak drives home with seven riders, but they can't beat Illes Balears. The finish time is 31:46, five seconds slower.

US Postal-Berry Floor is about to head off. Landis looks to be the team leader here.

16:37 CEST   
US Postal is into its rhythm right away, with Barry, Peña, Beltran, Joachim, Joachim, Mikhailov, Cruz, Van Heeswijk, Zabriskie and Landis its nine Vuelta riders.

16:39 CEST   
Vini Caldirola, the third last team, is next to head off. Garzelli is the top man here, but also watch for Pavel Tonkov.

Relax Bergasol passes the 20 km check in 24:00, third fastest. Impressive work.

16:40 CEST   
Quick.Step-Davitamon finishes with all nine riders in a time of 32'58, definitely not brilliant.

16:42 CEST   
US Postal is looking very slick as it negotiates the first part of the parcours, via the speed humps. These can hurt at 50 km/h, especially if you don't see them!

16:44 CEST   
Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme, sporting slightly different green and blue colours than normal, sets off as the second last team. With Alejandro Valverde in the ranks, this team is one of the favourites to win the Vuelta.

Rabobank finishes with just five men in a time of 33'01, again not brilliant.

16:45 CEST   
Mikhailov is dropped from Postal's train on the climb. He'll have to finish in about 42 minutes to avoid the time cut.

16:47 CEST   
The last team to start is Liberty Seguros, which contains defending champ Roberto Heras as well as runner up Isidro Nozal and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano.

T-Mobile is the second best team at 11 km in 13:06. Still Illes Balears with the top time.

Relax-Bergasol finishes in 32:16 for fourth best. Good riding.

16:49 CEST   
No problems for Liberty Seguros in the first few corners. All riders stick together.

US Postal has gone fastest at km 11 with 12:54!

16:52 CEST   
Saeco finishes with the fourth best time of 32:23, seven riders left. That will be good for Cunego.

CSC has picked it up a bit at the 20 km check, passing in the same time as Fassa in 24:02 (fourth).

16:54 CEST   
Jose Cayetano Julia is dropped from the Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme train on the climb, and is on his own. Team director Vicente Belda drives straight past him.

T-Mobile, riding a double paceline, comes up to 20 km in 23:26, the new best time! That's good for Vinokourov.

16:55 CEST   
Saunier Duval finishes with just six riders in a time of 32:35 for ninth. That's already nearly a minute slower than Illes Balears.

16:58 CEST   
Rene Andrle is dropped from the Liberty train, again on the uphill. Comunidad Valenciana has done the fourth best time at km 11 in 13:09.

US Postal continues to drive hard, passing 20 km in 23:06, easily the best time.

16:59 CEST   
CSC finishes off in a very respectable time of 32:09, for third so far. Seven riders finished.

17:00 CEST   
US Postal is now on the descent and has the pace cranked up over 60 km/h. What can Liberty Seguros do?

17:01 CEST   
Liberty is past the 11 km check in 13:03, nine seconds slower than US Postal, which looks to have this TTT well in hand.

17:02 CEST   
T-Mobile finishes with eight (well close enough) in 31:16, the new best time!

17:04 CEST   
Vini Caldirola comes up to the 20km check in 24:36, one of the slowest times so far.

Comunidad Valenciana is still hanging together, and will do a good time at km 20.

17:06 CEST   
US Postal is into the final straight now and will do the best time today.

At the finish, there are still seven riders there. Landis leads them over in 30:45, which will probably give Landis the first golden jersey. Landis looked very strong there.

17:08 CEST   
Liberty Seguros is now down to six riders with 8 km to go. That's going to slow them down a bit.

Comunidad Valenciana passes the 20 km check in 23'41, the fourth fastest and the same time as Phonak.

17:12 CEST   
Liberty comes up to the 20 km check now, clocking 23:49 for sixth best. That's a fairly ordinary performance by Manolo Saiz's boys, who make a habit of winning team time trials.

Vini Caldirola finishes in a time of 32:57 for 16th. That's not going to help Garzelli and Tonkov.

17:13 CEST   
Just two more teams to finish and at the moment it looks certain that Floyd Landis will take the first leader's jersey in the Vuelta after US Postal rode a fantastic TTT to finish in 30:45. T-Mobile's 31:16 is looking like the second best time, then Illes Balears in 31:41.

17:14 CEST   
The green and blue jerseys of Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme fly home with Valverde near the front. Their finishing time is 31:43 for fourth, 58 seconds slower than Postal.

17:17 CEST   
Liberty Seguros limps home with its six riders left. Gaps appear in the final kilometre and this is definitely not one of Manolo's better efforts in the team time trial. Nozal is still there, as are Heras, Gonzalez de Galdeano and Serrano.

17:20 CEST   
Liberty finishes in 32:13 for 8th, losing 1'28 to US Postal. That's going to hurt Heras.

But the winners are US Postal-Berry Floor with Floyd Landis taking the leader's jersey. T-Mobile, Illes Balears, Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme and Phonak round out the top five.


11 km
1 US Postal Service-Berry Floor    12.54
2 Illes Balears-Banesto             0.08
3 Liberty Seguros                   0.15
4 T-Mobile                          0.12
5 Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme        0.15
20 km
1 US Postal Service-Berry Floor    23.06
2 T-Mobile                          0.20
3 Illes Balears-Banesto             0.30
4 Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme        0.35
5 Phonak                                
Finish - 27.7 km
1 US Postal Service-Berry Floor    30.45
2 T-Mobile                          0.31
3 Illes Balears-Banesto             0.56
4 Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme        0.58
5 Phonak                            1.01
6 CSC                               1.24
7 Fassa Bortolo                     1.25
8 Liberty Seguros                   1.28
9 Saeco                             1.38
10 Relax-Bodysol                    1.41
11 Lampre                           1.46
12 Ag2r-Prevoyance                  1.49
13 Cofidis                              
14 Saunier Duval                    1.50
15 Cafés Baqué                      1.54
16 Alessio-Bianchi                  2.00
17 Paternina-Costa de Almería       2.01
18 Vini Caldirola                   2.12
19 Quick Step -Davitamon            2.13
20 Rabobank                         2.16
21 Euskaltel-Euskadi                2.27

General classification after stage 1

1 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor      30.45
2 Michael Barry (Can) US Postal-Berry Floor
3 Victor Hugo Pena (Col) US Postal-Berry Floor
4 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor
5 David Zabriskie (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor
6 Joachim (Lux) US Postal-Berry Floor
7 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) US Postal-Berry Floor
8 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile                      0.31
9 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile
10 Tomas Konecny (Cze) T-Mobile

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