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Vuelta a Espańa Cycling News for August 27, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, with reporting from Shane Stokes in Cordoba

McEwen motivated, may ride World's

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Tour de France maillot vert Robbie McEwen has started his third Grand Tour this season and said at today's start in Málaga that the thoughts of a win in each of those is a target. "I am going to try to win a stage here," he said. "Kind of like the Tour, I am aiming to get going early and aim for a victory. I won't be doing much of this race, I will stop before the end."

Although the world championship course looks to be tougher than Madrid last season, the Australian is toying with the idea of going anyhow. "I'd like to ride, but I am going to see how I feel after this first week. It has been a long season, I have been tired but I will see how I am going, how I am feeling after a week of racing here. Then I will decide if I do the World's or not.

"It is kind of a hard course and even on an easy course, you need to be one hundred percent. Otherwise it is not worth going. So if I don't feel that I will hit good form, I will give up my place. I'd end the season then, rather than doing Paris-Tours. I'd maybe just do a couple more crits towards the end of September, probably keep going for a couple more rides, and then have my real off season after I get back to Australia."

Hushovd gunning for a stage win

He topped the podium twice
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

One rider McEwen will be up against in the bunch finishes is Norwegian Thor Hushovd, who managed to get the better of him to win on the Champs Elysées this year. The Credit Agricole rider talked about his aims at the start: "I am feeling okay. I had time to recover after the Tour de France and I am pleased to be here. My goal is to win a stage, like I did last year. Then I am happy.

"After this I will do the World's and Paris-Tours. I have only seen the World's course on paper…I know it is hard, but I hope I will go there in good shape."

One rider who will be following his progress is his friend and teammate Saul Raisin. Hushovd said that he is progressing well in his recovery from a very bad crash earlier this year. "I spoke with him four days ago. He is good, he has been training and he is feeling much better. He wants to come back. I think he can do it, he is so motivated… he wants to return so much that I think he will make it."

Millar relaxed

Saunier Duval rider David Millar has come into this race in a relaxed frame of mind but said that he will target a good stage performance and a strong ride in the world time trial championships later this season.

"I feel good to be here. To be honest I don't really know how my form is," he said in the Village Depart this morning. "I am very relaxed, I have got my eyes on the second half of the Tour [of Spain] and the world championships. I am coming into this race with a relaxed frame of mind…I will try to just enjoy it and ride myself into very good form.

"I will try something in the second half of the race. I see about a road stage and the time trials, obviously. It will be like a mini world championship with Cancellara and those here, so it will be a good test."

Millar said that he enjoyed yesterday's team time trial. "It was fast, very fast, but also a lot of fun. We've done team time trials of about 15 kilometres before but nothing that short. The team were well-drilled…they are not the strongest for that kind of test but I think they showed that if you get it right, if you work properly, then you can get a good time. I think seventh for us is exceptional. We were really pleased."

The Scot has already been to the world championships course in Austria and liked what he saw. "I went and saw it three weeks ago. It is beautiful, a super course. Worth of the world time trial championships. The road race is going to be a good course as well, it is a classic sort of course, but the time trial is exceptional."

Horner in the dark as regards his form

American Chris Horner was in his customary good mood prior to the start of stage two, and said that the next few days would tell him much about where his condition is at. "I don't know how I am going," he admitted. "Yesterday was a simple day, it wasn't much of an effort to put out as it was just seven kilometres. So it is hard to tell where the form is.

"After the Tour I just went home and did a couple of criteriums in the States, in Chicago. Then I came back here. I don't know what I will be aiming for here, it depends on my condition…but we will see soon enough how it is! Basically, the fifth stage will probably tell me where the form is, maybe sooner. I probably won't know until then."

When asked what the Davitamon-Lotto team's goal is, Horner said they had a clear one in mind. "Robbie McEwen, for sure. He is going to stay for the whole first part, the first nine days or something. Then he is scheduled to stop it there, he is not trying to do the whole thing.

"As for me, I will do the World's after this race, then Zurich. After that, I will ride some cyclo-cross races on the East coast and then head back to Europe for Lombardy. I haven't seen the World's course yet, just looked at the profile. It looks hard there. That's better for me, I don't want anything that is flat. That is for sure!"

Stephens: it's a long race

Alexandre Vinokourov
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

The Astana team of Alexandre Vinokourov finished sixth in yesterday's time trial, conceding 12 seconds to Carlos Sastre's CSC squad. Directeur sportif Neil Stephens spoke to Cyclingnews before CSC and second-placed Caisse d'Epargne finished, but at that point he said he was relatively happy with their ride.

"We are fourth at the moment, four seconds behind," he stated. "I knew we would be about there. We made one little mistake and that cost us some time; one rider lost the wheel at a critical point so I think that made a difference. But things like that can happen.

"It is a three week race so we are looking at things long term. We will see how it goes."

Caisse d'Epargne DS content

Race favourites Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro also lost time to Carlos Sastre yesterday, dropping seven seconds, but their directeur sportif Alfonso Galilea said he was happy with his team's runner-up position. "We had the best time, but CSC have just gone quicker," he said at the finish. "We think that we have done a very good TTT but CSC has come to the Vuelta with a team of very, very good time trial riders. It is a short team time trial and it is very difficult to fight against a team like that here.

"But in this moment we are happy. We will place second or maybe third, depending on how Rabobank get on [They were yet to finish at that point]. So I think it is a very good time for us. I am happy with that."

Rebellin crashes in team time trial

By Susan Westemeyer

Davide Rebellin
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Gerolsteiner seems to have its problems with Grand Tours. The Vuelta got off to a bad start for the team as captain Davide Rebellin crashed entering a roundabout during the opening team time trial. The team ended up finishing in 13th place, 19 seconds behind winner CSC.

"After Davide's crash we had to find our rhythm again, especially since Marcel Strauss, who was riding behind Davide, also fell behind. In the end, we have to be satisfied with our results, considering the circumstances," said directeur sportif Reimund Dietzen. "We did the best we could."

Rebellin and Strauss ended up finishing dead last, 2'50 down. The team went over the finish line with only six riders, as sprinter Robert Förster couldn't keep the pace and finished 40 seconds down, or 21 seconds behind his teammates.

Rebellin's crash apparently won't have any lasting effects. "Davide has a lot of scrapes and bruises, but will start," team spokesman Jörg Grünefeld told Cyclingnews Sunday morning.

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