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60th Vuelta a Espaņa - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 1 - Saturday, August 27: Granada-Granada TT, 7 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Shane Stokes and Hernan Alvarez

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:30 CEST

14:35 CEST   
Welcome, dear readers, to sunny Granada for the kick-off of the 60th Vuelta a Espaņa, the last of the three grand tours this season. Today's 7 km prologue time trial marks the start of some 3300 km of racing around the Iberian peninsula, and with a stronger field than ever, we can expect to see a hard fought victory. But the mountains and the long time trials will decide the overall winner, and today's stage more of an aperitif, where the specialists in this discipline will shine.

The riders start at one minute intervals, with the favourites going last. First off is Luca Solari (Domina Vacanze) at 13:50, while defending champ Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) will leave last, at 17:06. Riders to watch today include Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Aitor Gonzalez (Euskaltel), Brad McGee (FDJ), Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner), Floyd Landis and Santi Botero (Phonak), Jose Azevedo (Discovery), and Tom Boonen (Quick.Step).

The weather today will not affect the race in a great way: it's sunny, without a cloud in the sky, and temps are around the 30 degree mark. There's only a light breeze blowing too.

Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Click for larger image

14:47 CEST   
45 riders have so far completed the 7 km, and the best to date is Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step), who clocked 9'46 for the distance. Not a real surprise as he is certainly a short-distance specialist. At 19 seconds behind Rik is Angel Vicioso (Liberty), while Iņigo Cuesta (Saunier Duval) is at 29 seconds.

14:58 CEST   
Verbrugghe still holds the best time with just over a quarter of the 197 riders in. Vicioso is also still in second place at 19 seconds, while Canadian Michael Barry (Discovery) has moved up into third at 28 seconds.

15:04 CEST   
Victor Hugo Peņa (Phonak) flies past our commentary point on the climb (yeah, we're grounded today) and looks very smooth. He might be on track for a good time.

15:13 CEST   
70 riders are home now, and there have been few changes at the top of the leaderboard. Rik Verbrugghe's average speed of 43 km/h is pretty slow for a short time trial, when you consider that he averaged over 58 km/h for a Giro prologue a few years ago. But, there is a sizeable hill in this course, the Cat. 3 Alto de Alhambra after 2.3 km. The riders have to climb 150m from the start to the top of this hill, and most of that is in the last 800 metres.

Charly Wegelius (Liquigas-Bianchi)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Click for larger image

15:16 CEST   
To ride a good time today, it seems desirous to be fast up the hill. Verbrugghe also has the best time for the first 2.3 km: 4'40. That's an average of 29.6 km/h, which gives you an idea of how fast he went. Not bad for a climb that averages 6.5 percent.

15:23 CEST   
Peņa's time is OK, but not good enough to unseat Verbrugghe. He comes home in 10:25, for 14th place.

15:32 CEST   
Italian climber Leonardo Piepoli has done the first 2.3 km well, clocking the third best time behind Verbrugghe and Vicioso. But his descent wasn't so good, and he finishes in 10:26, 40 seconds back from Verbrugghe in 21st place.

15:43 CEST   
Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel) has flown up the climb in 4'48, just 8 seconds off Verbrugghe. But he fades a little over the final part of the course and comes in fourth at 22 seconds.

Tom Danielson (Discovery) started a little more conservatively (7th on the climb) but has stormed home in 9'57 to take second place behind Verbrugghe.

15:52 CEST   
The top five so far, in what has been a fairly tough opening stage in Granada:

1 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic 9.46
2 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 0.11
3 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 0.19
4 Roberto Laiseka Jaio (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.22
5 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.23

108 riders have finished, with another 89 to come in.

15:59 CEST   
Matthias Russ (Gerolsteiner) is one rider who has had troubles with the early part of the parcours, which is quite technical. He took a corner way too fast and slid out. He sits in 105th place at 1'19 at the moment.

16:02 CEST   
Spanish TT champ Jose Ivan Gutierrez is tackling the climb at the moment, as Joaquim Rodriguez (Saunier Duval) starts. Unlike a couple of others, Rodriguez doesn't go too hard out of the start gate.

Juan Antonio Pecharroman (Quick.Step) is next off.

16:03 CEST   
Daniel Atienza (Cofidis) sets off, as the girl holding him up lets him go with a big flourish.

The descent is pretty fast for the most part, but there are a couple of tricky corners. Santos Gonzalez is flying down it, while Gutierrez is motoring towards the finish.

16:07 CEST   
Santos Gonzalez is on the flat now as Jose Ivan Gutierrez nears the finish. He's not going to beat Verbrugghe, as he comes home in 10'07, 21 seconds slower than Verbrugghe. He would have come very close had he not crashed on the second corner.

16:08 CEST   
Gonzalez is right behind him, sprinting for the line and coming home in 10'12 for 9th.

16:11 CEST   
Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) sets off now, riding a bike with no special aero wheels. He's followed by Mauro Gerosa (Liquigas-Bianchi), who has a disk wheel and a deep dish front wheel on.

16:13 CEST   
Joaquin Rodriguez finishes in 10'09, 23 seconds slower than Verbrugghe but still OK for a top 10.

Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) is next cab off the rank.

16:15 CEST   
Andreas Matzbacher (Lampre) starts, has a slight problem with his gears, but is going again. He takes the first two corners well and starts the climb.

Benjamin Noval (Discovery) comes home in a decent sort of time: 10'12 for 11th.

16:16 CEST   
Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) wobbles off the start ramp and gets his machine up to speed. Time trialing isn't really his thing but he'll enjoy it when it goes uphill.

Fabio Sacchi (Fassa Bortolo) is next.

16:21 CEST   
The lanky figure of Francisco Perez (Illes Balears) sets off. He's a new rider for Illes Balears, having spent time with Milaneza-Mss in the last few years. Well, taking out the 18 months he was suspended for taking EPO.

Erik Zabel finishes in a sub 10'30 for 53rd.

Santi Botero is on his way now. He's followed by Isidro Nozal (Liberty Seguros).

16:23 CEST   
Botero tackles the climb, with its 10 percent plus gradients in places. He keeps a solid tempo to the top. Isidro Nozal is on that bit too now, really grinding it out.

Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) finishes in 10'13 for 13th. Not bad.

16:25 CEST   
Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) starts his ride now. The hill will kill his chances of winning this stage, although he can turn in a good time trial when he wants. He changes from the big to the small ring as he meets the hill.

Bertagnolli (Cofidis) is next off, followed by Simoni (Lampre).

Nozal doesn't appear to have a small gear. He's pedaling at about 75-80 rpm, maximum.

16:26 CEST   
Garcia Quesada finishes in 10'42, nearly one minute slower than Rik Verbrugghe.

Santi Botero takes the second tricky corner on the descent smoothly, and is now down on the flat.

16:28 CEST   
Botero keeps his compact, forward position as he nears the final kilometre. He flies around another corner, and another.

16:29 CEST   
Botero doesn't go quick enough to beat Verbrugghe, but still comes home in a time of 10'03 for fourth place. Not too bad for the Colombian.

16:33 CEST   
Nozal has done a very ordinary time. He definitely wasn't looking too flash on the climb. He finishes in 11'08. Shockah! It's not quite the slowest time - Haselbacher (11'39) has that honour - but it's not reminiscent of his stunning rides in the Vuelta of two years ago, where he finished second overall.

16:36 CEST   
Tom Boonen finishes in 10'35 which will put him in the top 70. Meanwhile, Fred Finot (FDJ) and Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) set off. Mayo is at the foot of the climb.

Christian Vandevelde (CSC) has ridden well to finish in 10'05 for 5th so far. No-one has gotten close to Verbrugghe, who has the best time in 9'46.

The top five:

1 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic 9.46
2 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 0.11
3 David Bernabeu (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 0.14
4 Santiago Botero Echeverry (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.17
5 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Team CSC 0.19

16:37 CEST   
Azevedo follows Vandevelde in, but is a little slower in 10'09. Not bad, but not as quick as his teammate Danielson.

16:42 CEST   
Here's one of the favourites: Floyd Landis (Phonak), looking very quick as he flies through the first two corners and gets on the bars straight away. He'll benefit as much as possible from the aero bars before the climb.

Next off is Joseba Beloki, who has also ridden the Giro and Tour this year.

16:43 CEST   
Oh no!!! Beloki crashes on the second corner. That can't be good for him. His director helps him back on the bike and he's off. Nope, he needs a new bike. Beloki is not happy.

16:44 CEST   
Beloki loses about 40 seconds just like that, but isn't caught by Cadamuro behind. He looked to be taking that second corner too tightly. Jose Ivan Gutierrez crashed there too.

Beloki is now powering away up the climb.

16:45 CEST   
Iban Mayo finishes his ride in a reasonable time of 10'23 for 35th.

16:46 CEST   
Beloki is really motoring on the climb, being cheered on by thousands lining the road.

Patxi Vila (Lampre) has done a good ride for 8th, in 10'06. It's pretty hard to break the 41 km/h barrier - that's how tough this course is.

Landis is nearly at the top of the climb.

16:48 CEST   
Landis is pretty slow on the climb, recording the 107th fastest time. He gets in a huge gear at the top of the descent and winds it up.

Angel Casero finishes in 10'39 for 89th. A far cry from the Vuelta winner of 2001.

16:50 CEST   
Landis is now starting to look better, but he's lost too much time on the climb to threaten Verbrugghe today.

Bouygues' Pierrick Fedrigo, French national road champ, is home in 10'13. That's decent.

16:52 CEST   
Landis hits the corner at 400m to go already in 9'46. He sprints home in a massive gear to finish in 10'21 for 34th. A much better second half than the first.

16:53 CEST   
Beloki was slowest to the top of the climb, not surprisingly given his crashing and bike changing shenanigans.

Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) is now on his way, followed by baby face Oscar Sevilla, who appears to be sporting five o'clock shadow.

16:54 CEST   
Beloki's final time is 11'29 for 173rd. That was unfortunate for him.

Magnus Bäckstedt (Liquigas) is ready to roll.

16:57 CEST   
Brad McGee gets going, taking the first two corners fairly gently and now powering up before the climb. He's only raced once since the Tour (last weekend) and is going to see how he goes today. He's also thrown away his ambitions of ever winning or placing in the top 3 of a grand tour, as he told us yesterday. But prologues will remain his thing.

Aitor Gonzalez follows McGee - another big favourite.

16:59 CEST   
Carlos Sastre (CSC) has done a great ride to finish in 9'52 - second place behind Verbrugghe. That moves Danielson into third.

Manuel Beltran (Discovery) finishes in 10'25 for a top 50. He's followed by Denis Menchov (Rabobank), who powers home in 9'45.9!! Menchov the best so far!

17:00 CEST   
That was a great ride by Menchov, who wants to erase his bad Tour.

17:01 CEST   
Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) is next to leave, but is not going flat out as he approaches the climb.

17:03 CEST   
Aitor Gonzalez is over the top of the climb, as Paco Mancebo (Illes Balears) starts his ride. Thomas Voeckler, who has ridden every race on the calendar it seems, is also on his way.

17:03 CEST   
McGee is fourth over the top of the climb, at 7 seconds.

17:04 CEST   
Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) sets off now, really motivated. He gets around the first corners OK.

Sevilla finishes in 10'22 ish.

17:05 CEST   
And last, but not least, is triple Vuelta winner Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros). He too manages the first two corners OK and is en route to the hill.

McGee has caught Bäckstedt on the way to a 9'48 - third best.

17:07 CEST   
Aitor Gonzalez' time of 10'11 puts him in 17th place. Not a great ride by the Tour de Suisse winner and 2002 Vuelta winner.

17:07 CEST   
Gilberto Simoni is good today, finishing in 10'05 for 8th! That's an excellent ride by him.

17:10 CEST   
Pereiro is over the top of the hill now.

Ruben Plaza has also ridden well for Comunidad Valenciana, clocking 9'58 for the 7 km, even catching Thor Hushovd for a minute.

Heras crosses the climb at 7 seconds slower than Verbrugghe.

17:11 CEST   
Petacchi rolls home in 10'36. Heras is now at the base of the descent, on track for a very good time also. It won't be a winning time though.

17:13 CEST   
Mancebo finishes in 10'11 for 20th, and he is followed by Pereiro. Heras is in the final kilometre now. No problems for him today.

17:15 CEST   
Pereiro's finishing time is 10'24 for 57th. A little disappointing for him.

Heras has had a great ride though, and completes the distance in 10'00 for 7th! He's one of the best GC riders today, along with Sastre, Simoni...and Menchov, who is the winner of the first stage of the Vuelta. The Russian is back!

17:24 CEST   
Well, that's it from the first stage of the Vuelta, where Denis Menchov just managed to knock Rik Verbrugghe out of the hot seat to win the stage. Third place goes to Brad McGee, who will probably be satisfied with that, given his lack of racing. Also Carlos Sastre (4th), Roberto Heras (7th), and Gilberto Simoni (10th) did good rides for their GC chances.

Join us again tomorrow at 14:30 local time for the second stage, between Granada and Córdoba over 189 km. It's up and down the whole day, but there's more down than up.

Intermediate timing

km 2.3
 
1 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic                          4.40
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                          0.03
3 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir                 0.07
4 Bradley McGee (Aus) Franįaise des Jeux                                    
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                              
6 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                  
7 Roberto Laiseka Jaio (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                          0.08
8 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                             
9 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre - Caffita                                    
10 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                 0.09
 
Finish - km 7
 
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                          9.45
2 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic                          0.01
3 Bradley McGee (Aus) Franįaise des Jeux                                0.03
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                          0.07
5 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel                                 0.12
6 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                         0.13
7 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team              0.15
8 David Bernabeu (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                                 
9 Santiago Botero Echeverry (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems                0.18
10 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre - Caffita                               0.20

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