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Vuelta a Espana Cycling News for September 9, 2006

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Edited by Gerard Knapp

Vinokourov and Kashechkin aim to defeat Valverde

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) will front up to today's time trial confident he can take time out of current race leader, Spain's Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears).

Valverde and Kazakh shadow
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Currently sitting in fifth place on GC some 1.46 behind the flashy Spaniard, Vino said, "I hope to take an advantage over Valverde today. It is very difficult to calculate the time, but I expect a minute at least," said the Astana leader. Vinokourov said he would have preferred a longer time trial, "of about 45 kilometres".

However, he admitted that "Valverde will be very motivated, because he has the gold maillot and the route profile is better for him". But, the best thing is, in Vinokourov's opinion, is that he is also in very good condition.

He is conviced he is achieving his ideal form going into the third week of the race. "Today's stage in Cuenca will not be decisive for the General Classification (GC)," he said. Rather, Vinokourov believes that "the final stages in Calar Alto and La Pandera climbs will be where I can fight against Valverde, but, mainly, in the last time trial in Viciamadrid".

Andrey Kashechkin, Vino's team-mate and fellow countryman at Astana, is even closer to the lead. Sitting in second on GC and only 35 seconds behind Valverde, the Kazakh is also optimistic for today's stage,where he hopes to obtain "a good result and even take the leader's jersey".

"I believe that it is a good route for me," said Kashechkin. He said of himself compared to the current race leader, "I do not believe that there are many differences with respect to Valverde".

Millar unsure of chances in time trial

Flying Scot admits he's 'a bit nervous'

Shane Stokes reports from Cuenca

While Fabian Cancellara (CSC) nominated David Millar (Saunier Duval) as one of his likely rivals for today’s 33.2 kilometre time trial in Cuenca (see profile), the Scot told Cyclingnews yesterday that he wasn’t sure how he would perform.

“I am a bit nervous about the time trial, actually. That is something that I don’t usually get,” he said prior to the start of stage 13. “I still don’t know. I have felt really good this year and then gone badly in time trials. I am lacking a little bit of confidence, mainly because I haven’t done anything in a TT in over two years and I am still waiting to have a result. That’s why I don’t want to predict anything.”

Millar was very impressive in the opening week, driving the bunch along in support of his Saunier Duval team sprinter Franciso José Ventoso and also having a go himself on a couple of occasions.

He said the legs are good but still didn’t know what to expect. “The thing is, I am flying, so I won’t understand anything if I don’t get a result tomorrow. But that could happen. We will have to wait and see how things go.”

Devolder aiming for a good ride

Discovery Channel’s Stijn Devolder will start the time trial 17th overall, 6.44 behind race leader Alejandro Valverde. He has been climbing strongly and is now hoping for a strong performance in the race against the clock.

“The mountain stages went well, I felt good,” he said prior to the start of stage 13. “These [intermediate] stages are just about making sure there are no gaps, but then we have the time trial, which may be good for me. Last year I was seventh in the final time trial, so I will try to do a top ten again.”

The American team has got five riders in the top twenty, something Devolder feels could be of great benefit tactically in the next few days. Janez Brajkovic is sixth overall, Manuel Beltran 7th, Tom Danielson 16th, Devolder 17th and Egoi Martinez 19th.

“The team is pretty good, with a few guys quite high up. We can certainly do something in the last week.”

O’Grady to decide during ITT

CSC rider Stuart O’Grady was unsure yesterday as to whether he would ride the time trial flat out or hold something back.

“I will probably decide what to do as I go off the start ramp. Fabian [Cancellara] is there and he will be up for the win. I will make up my mind tomorrow," the Australian said.

“I am feeling good at this point, although it feels like we have been racing for two weeks. Everything is going pretty well, I can’t complain. The mood is nice on the team – Carlos is still feeling good, the whole team is behind him and we have been riding pretty strong when we have had to. The last few days we have tried to keep back a little bit, though, to chill out.”

Horner to try in last week

One rider who won’t be digging in too deep today is Davitamon Lotto’s Chris Horner. He is currently 28th overall, 15’09 back, and is willing to lose more time in order to chase his goal of a stage win.

“The time trial should be a fairly easy day for me. I am going to take it handy. Most likely I wouldn’t win the thing anyways and I am not going to move up on GC significantly. So there wouldn’t be any reason to go hard.

"I will lose a few more minutes and then go into Monday 16 – 18 minutes down, and try to make a win from there. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are my only chances, that is it!”

Horner went clear early on in a break on stage 12 but the group was hauled back, something he still has difficulty in understanding.

“I was robbed…it was terrible! I heard the Cofidis guys were just put on the front because they missed the break. They were being taught a lesson, or something. That is the most stupid thing I have ever heard in a three week stage race! It’s like, ‘let me see, let’s just go ahead and wreck everybody’. And then they all missed the move anyway!

“Also, what were the sprinters’ teams doing helping them to bring it back? I understand bringing it back, but you don’t bring it back 60 kilometres into the race when there is 140 or 150 kilometres in the stage. I thought I would have a shot at winning the stage and gaining ten minutes, thinking ‘this is perfect,’ but then that happened.”

He is generally perplexed by some of the decisions teams are taking in the race. “It’s weird, they are letting so many potential GC riders go up the road. Illes Balears [Caisse d’Epargne] are just getting so many guys up there! On stage 12 it just didn’t make any sense – even with Vinokourov’s team riding.

"If you are going to chase, why don’t you chase when it is at two minutes, just put two guys on the front and run them at 40, 45 kilometres per hour, instead of letting the move get 11 minutes and then chase it at 60? ‘Let’s kill them even harder’ – what philosophy is that? Okay, they didn’t gain a whole lot of time, but they have got another guy there who is near GC again.

"When we get to the mountain stages, just wait – you will see those guys go up the road again and then they will get five minutes. The next thing you know, they will be going for the lead.”

Kemps getting through his first Vuelta - OK

This year’s Vuelta is the debut Grand Tour for Astana’s young Australian rider, Aaron Kemps. The first year pro will have his 23rd birthday on Sunday and said yesterday that he is trying to recover before then in the hope of doing something on stage 15.

“I am starting to get tired, as you do. I will just try to get today in the best shape possible, and then I will have a sort of a rest day tomorrow in the time trial. I will just take it easy as possible there, but then hopefully I can have a go on stage 15.

“I will see how the breaks work out. Of course, if there is a break up the road and there is no-one dangerous on GC, we are not going to chase. The main priority is for the general classification [Vinokourov and Kashechkin] and of course if it comes down to a sprint, then I will get an opportunity. If not, I will just have to work for the boys.”

Kemps said that although he has pinpointed that stage as one he would like to do well in, he doesn’t do anything special beforehand in terms of focussing.

“I still prepare the same as other stages. If the opportunity comes then I try to take it. You can sort of see by half-way what is going to happen at the end, if it is going to come down to a sprint or if a breakaway is going to take the race. If it is going to come down to a sprint, obviously I will save my legs more, try to do a little less work for the other guys and then be right up there in the last 20 kilometres.

“As regards the sprinters on the team, me and Assan [Bazayev] are about the same. He won a stage at the Tour of Germany, I won a stage at the Tour of Burgos. So we will both try to have a go, whoever is feeling a bit better gets helped by the other. The other day, for example, he was feeling a bit better than I so I gave him a lead out to the finish.”

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