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63rd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 30 - September 21, 2008

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Stage 5 - September 3: Ciudad Real - Ciudad Real (ITT), 42.5km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Shane Stokes

15:02 CEST   
The first individual time trial in this year's Vuelta will start and finish in Ciudad Real. The 42.5-kilometre course is mostly flat and the biggest obstacle will be the winds in La Mancha. Winds that already drove Don Quixote crazy. But the power riders won't mind a bit of a breeze. Anything to blow the little climbers off the road before heading into the mountains.

Ciudad Real – or Royal City in English – was a walled city that featured 130 towers to protect the mix of population, made up of Christians, Moors and Jews. Today, only fractures of the wall, once four kilometres long, remain. A Don Quixote museum will keep the tourists entertained, but many opt to quickly hop on the AVE train that stops here and go either to Madrid or down to the Andalucian coast.

15:03 CEST   
Good afternoon and welcome to coverage from stage five of the Vuelta a España, an individual time trial starting and finishing in Ciudad Real. It's 42.5 kilometres in length and should open up some gaps in the general classification.

15:03 CEST   
This will be the first real pointer to form in the race, revealing just how the GC contenders are going.

15:08 CEST   
The test will show just how Carlos Sastre has recovered from the demands of winning the Tour de France; has he been able to keep his focus in face of distractions and demands of the media and others?

How has Alberto Contador fared in missing the Tour? Is he short on sharpness, or full of reserves? The same question applies to his Astana team-mates Levi Leipheimer, a previous podium-finisher in the Vuelta, and Andreas Klöden. Also, how is Alejandro Valverde's form at this point of the season?

These and other questions will be answered - at least partly - today.

15:11 CEST   
Klöden may be somewhat demoralised after yesterday's stage; he was involved in a crash and lost 4'12". He is now back in 96th place overall, 5'10" back. Hard to know if he'll be fired up to perform today, or have a lack of motivation due to losing so much, so early.

15:14 CEST   
He's actually out on the course now, having begun his TT at 14.54 Spanish time. That was two minutes after compatriot Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) who, if on his Tour de France form, will be the rider to beat today.

15:21 CEST   
Tinkoff Credit Systems rider Mikhail Ignatiev showed his speed by taking an early lead in the TT. He is a known time trialist and so that is not surprising.

15:25 CEST   
However his time was then bettered by Bouygues Telecom rider Dimitri Champion, who posted 52'25" and went 24 seconds quicker. Stef Clement was third with 53'01".

15:30 CEST   
Those times in turn didn't last long; Martin Velits (Milram) went quicker, then Manuel Quinziato blasted in with 51'30". Michael Blaudzun (CSC) was also fast, but couldn't match the Liquigas rider. He came up 34" short, but edged out Velits by eight seconds.

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) is not going at Tour de France speed for the moment
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:31 CEST   
Klöden was only sixth at the first time check, running with a time 26" behind the current leader. Schumacher is also off the pace - he was two places and ten seconds further back there.

15:40 CEST   
Some start times of interest:

15:04 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre
15:42 David Moncoutié (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone
15:46 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
15:53 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
15:56 Iñigo Landaluze Intxaurraga (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
16:10 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
16:14 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana
16:16 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC - Saxo Bank
16:24 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Silence - Lotto
16:28 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
16:36 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone
16:38 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
16:46 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre
16:50 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
16:52 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
16:54 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
16:56 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
16:58 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas

15:41 CEST   
So Cunego is underway. Will he aim for a quick time? He didn't seem too upset at losing time yesterday, his quotes afterwards suggesting that stage wins are his priority in the race.

Of course, he'd love to perform well in the worlds, especially as it's on home soil. Quite a few riders in the Vuelta are here to prepare for the Worlds, including past victors Paolo Bettini and Oscar Freire.

15:43 CEST   
Klöden and Schumacher were over a minute back at the next time check, in eighth and eleventh place respectively. So it's not their day to shine...

15:48 CEST   
Ignatiev really faded; he was second-fastest at the km 28 check, but is sixth in the finish ranking.

15:50 CEST   
Ouch...Cunego was only 64th at the first check, a full 1'41" back. He's either not trying, or he's on a bad day...

Damiano Cunego lost time yesterday due to blocked roads and looks to lose time due to blocked legs
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:57 CEST   
Schumacher improved in the latter part of the TT. He's fifth, two seconds behind team-mate Sebastian Lang, and 48 behind Quinziato. Klöden is sixth, 51 seconds off the fastest pace.

16:07 CEST   
Philippe Gilbert is on the start ramp, and will be followed by a potential victor of this stage (and this race), Levi Leipheimer.

16:07 CEST   
Robert Gesink is coming up to the first time check...let's see how he does..

16:09 CEST   
He's an exciting talent, but more so due to his climbing rather than his TT abilities.

Leipheimer is about to start...

16:11 CEST   
Leipheimer was third in the recent Olympic Games TT. He's got one of the most aero positions in the race against the clock.

16:12 CEST   
Contador and Sastre will go shortly...the 2007 Tour de France winner at 16:14, and then this year's champion two minutes later.

16:14 CEST   
Contador's in the start house now, being held up by a Spanish gal in a short white skirt. He doesn't look too steady, and wants to hold onto the barrier.

He crosses himself and gets ready for the TT. He said yesterday that the course didn't suit him particularly well, and that he was waiting for the mountains to make a difference.

16:16 CEST   
Now Sastre is ready, looking focussed. He's off...

16:17 CEST   
Leipheimer is seriously low on his bike. He's got short limbs and so can really get into a serious aero tuck.

Sastre did a lot of work on his TT positioning/training, the benefits of which were seen in the Tour. Few expected him to hold off Evans.

16:17 CEST   
Contador has a nice TT position, although he's not as low as Leipheimer.

16:19 CEST   
Sandy Casar finishes 15th, 1'47" behind. That's a solid ride.

16:24 CEST   
Yaroslav Popovych gets ready now.. If he's in his Tour de France form, he won't be a contender in the race. But if he's in decent condition, he might...

16:25 CEST   
Leipheimer goes through the first check - he's fifth, 22 seconds back. That's a surprise. Some riders start slow and build up, though. Now, how about Contador and Sastre?

16:25 CEST   
The latter is on a slight climb, and rises out of the saddle to maintain his momentum.

16:26 CEST   
Contador is taking time out of Sastre - he's 19 seconds quicker at this point!

16:28 CEST   
Sastre is approaching the time check; Contador is ahead on the road, having started earlier. How will he do here?

16:28 CEST   
Not bad...he's eighth, 30" behind Quinziato.

16:29 CEST   
Of the Astana riders, Leipheimer was fourth, Klöden seventh and Contador eighth.

16:30 CEST   
Hmmmm....Sastre is losing time here..

16:31 CEST   
He's 35th, 59 seconds off the fastest pace...

16:32 CEST   
Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) and Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) will be the next to go.

16:38 CEST   
Sastre tends to get stronger as a stage race progresses. He was 25th in last year's early time trial, losing 4'03" to Bert Grabsch (T-Mobile Team), so it's probably not surprising he ain't setting the roads alight today.

16:39 CEST   
At the first time check, Popovych is 22nd, 48" back.

16:41 CEST   
Contador is pedalling more quickly than Sastre, and is 32" quicker at this point. Meanwhile Rubiera finishes, 2'38" behind.

16:43 CEST   
Astarloza is not particularly enjoying the TT - he's 34th at the 11km point.

16:44 CEST   
Contador is catching his minute man, Nikita Eskov (Tinkoff Credit Systems). He's 34" quicker than Sastre.

16:47 CEST   
Freire finishes back in 84th place, 4'55" down. He wasn't really going for it today, needless to say.

Van Goolen (CSC) finishes, taking provisional second! He put in a great burst at the end but finished 33" behind Quinziato's time.

Leipheimer was third at the second check, 42" behind the leader. Ignatiev remains second there.

16:48 CEST   
Contador has a nice rhythm going on this slight descent. He is getting closer and closer to Eskov.

16:50 CEST   
Having a rider in front of you is certainly a psychological boost. Contador catches him now, and goes straight by.

16:51 CEST   
He quickly gets a gap on the Russian. He was eighth at the second time check, 1'06" back. That's not bad...

Meanwhile French TT champ Sylvain Chavanel goes through the first time check in eighth place, 26 seconds back.

16:53 CEST   
The last riders to go:

16:50 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
16:52 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
16:54 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
16:56 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
16:58 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas

Sastre was 24th at the 28km time check, 1'51" slower than Quinziato.

16:54 CEST   
Who's in da (start) house? Valverde's in da house...

Now he's out of it...down the ramp, TT underway.

16:55 CEST   
He looks pretty aero on his TT bike.

Contador has to be happy with his test thus far. Limiting losses was his biggest priority. He's also 48" up on Sastre right now. How will Valverde fare, compared to them?

16:57 CEST   
Boonen gets his TT underway; only Bennati to go, now. Neither are likely to trouble the TT specialists. Their time at the top of GC is gone now, so stage wins and the points jersey will be the priority.

16:58 CEST   
Contador catches another rider - Gilbert, who started six minutes ahead of him!

And now Bennati gets underway, clad in a yellow/gold skinsuit. Closer to yellow, to be precise.

17:01 CEST   
Ballan is putting in a solid enough ride, taking 14th at the first check, Meanwhile, Leipheimer finishes - new best time!! He was a full 33" quicker than Quinziato there...wow...

17:02 CEST   
He was a full 42" back at the 28km checkpoint, so that's a stunning turnaround..

17:03 CEST   
Valverde's time will be of interest, needless to say..he'll be at the first time check soon...

17:05 CEST   
Valverde doesn't look particularly fluid...let's see what his time is like.

Anton is 30th, 54" back at the 11km check.

17:05 CEST   
Contador finishes....wow..! He's third, 49 seconds behind Leipheimer...

17:07 CEST   
How about Sastre...he was 24th at the second check, 1'51" behind the best time. At that point he was 45" behind Contador.

The latter and Leipheimer both sped up considerably in the second half of the time trial. Can the 2008 Tour champion do the same?

17:08 CEST   
Wow...Valverde is doing much better than he appeared... he's third at the first check, just 11" behind Quinziato!

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) leads the time trial and looks to win the stage
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

17:09 CEST   
Sastre finishes...12th, 1'30" back... That's pretty solid!

17:11 CEST   
That's handy...Boonen was fourth at km 11, 17" back!

17:12 CEST   
It will be interesting to see if Valverde can hold this pace. The Astana riders went out at a certain pace and then ramped it up as the test continued; if Valverde does the same, he'll have a very good time indeed.

Bennati is the only rider yet to reach the time check. He's already slower than Boonen here. Again, not bad...he was 23rd, 42" behind Quinziato's mark.

17:13 CEST   
Hmmm....looks like Boonen is intent on trying to get the race lead..he's completely focussed at this point.

17:17 CEST   
Boonen's got a pretty flashy rear disk...black with a red/pink design on it.

Valverde settles for a plain white one. He's out of the saddle, hoofing along.

17:18 CEST   
Popo finishes, taking 38th. He's 2'52" behind his former team-mate Leipheimer.

17:21 CEST   
Chavanel was running third at the km 28 intermediate point; his finish time will be worth noting.

17:25 CEST   
Boonen is really focussed, pushing hard.. We hope he has rediscovered his full focus; he had a sensational 2005 season and a good 2006, but hasn't continued to progress as he has got older. Of course, he has won some big races this year but if you look at what he was doing three years ago - at a young age - he hasn't improved as much as you might have expected.

Certainly some Belgian journalists have suggested that he tended to become a bit 'distracted' at times. Perhaps his problems of the summer will have helped him become fully focussed again, and to make the most of his ability.

17:27 CEST   
He's giving it loads at the moment, looking low and powerful on his TT bike.

Chavanel finishes...he's sprinting for the line, but won't do it. Second for now, 12" behind Leipheimer. Good ride by the Frenchman...

Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) had a great ride and is currently second
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

17:32 CEST   
Valverde was 6th at km 28, 51 seconds back. He's started too quickly in TTs before - it will be important for him to speed up to match Leipheimer and Contador's finishing burst.

17:32 CEST   
Boonen was only 18th at that second check, 1'26" back. So he certainly started too quick.

17:34 CEST   
Bettini finishes; he's not a time trial rider, and places 105th. He's 5'16 behind Leipheimer there.

17:36 CEST   
At this point, it looks like Valverde is riding into the gold jersey. He's nine seconds ahead of both Boonen and Chavanel in the virtual GC, with Leipheimer next in line.

17:39 CEST   
Bennati looks very steady on his TT bike.

Valverde goes under the 6km to go banner... Shortly afterwards, Boonen goes under that for 8km. And Bennati passes under the 10km marker.

17:41 CEST   
Four kilometres for Valverde, six for Boonen...

17:42 CEST   
Garate finishes now, crossing the line in 63rd place. Valverde's due in shortly...

17:43 CEST   
Bennati was 2'27" back at the second check, so he's not going to be in the Maillot Oro this evening.

Neither is Igor Anton, who finishes 36th. He's 2'35" behind Leipheimer.

17:45 CEST   
Valverde's racing hard, trying to get every last bit out before the line...

17:46 CEST   
He rounds a sweeping right hand bend and sprints for the line.. Here he comes...

Good time - he's fifth, 59" behind Leipheimer. That's a very solid time trial from a rider who hasn't enjoyed them too much in the past.

17:47 CEST   
Contador beat him by ten seconds, but Valverde was ahead of him in GC anyway.

17:47 CEST   
Bennati and Boonen are the only two riders left on the course now...

17:48 CEST   
Boonen looks to be trying harder. He's hoofing a big gear and takes the right hand bend...here he comes...

17:48 CEST   
He gallops the whole way down the finishing straight for a nice time... Thirteenth, 1'27" behind. Not bad at all..

17:49 CEST   
Bennati is slower, and passes under the 2km to go mark.

17:52 CEST   
Bennati finishes now, placing 50th. He's 2'55 behind Leipheimer and waves goodbye to the race lead.

17:54 CEST   
So it's Leipheimer who take the Maillot Oro, edging out Chavanel by just two seconds! Valverde is third, 30" back.

17:55 CEST   
Boonen drops to fourth, 32" down, while Contador and Sastre are fifth and seventh. They are 47" and 1'27" back respectively.

18:12 CEST   
That's a great showing by Leipheimer, who showed he's one of the fastest time trialists out there today. He burst onto the Grand Tour scene in this same race in 2001; seven years later, he's scrapping it out for the win. He and Contador both impressed today, and should be strong in the mountains.

18:14 CEST   
That completes our live coverage for today; we'll have more results and a report shortly. The race continues tomorrow with a mainly flat 150.1 kilometre stage from Ciudad Real - Toledo. It's the last one before the rest day, and also the last chance for the sprinters to reign before the mountains begin.

Thanks for reading, and hasta pronto!

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