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Photo ©: Bettini

63rd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 30 - September 21, 2008

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Stage 1 - August 30: Granada - Granada (TTT), 7km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

Live coverage starts: 18:45 CEST
Estimated finish: 20:15 CEST

18:43 CEST   
Good evening and welcome to the kick-off of the Vuelta a España, the final Grand Tour of the year. The question is not so much whether a Spaniard will win, as which Spaniard will win? Will Alberto Contador take his second Grand Tour of the year, or will Carlos Sastre do that deed?

18:48 CEST   
We are opening tonight with a team time trial, a mere 7.7km through the city of Granada. The topography can be described very simply – flat! But it is a technically demanding city course, which may create problems.

18:50 CEST   
Since it is so short, we don't expect major time differences amongst the favourites. But they are dependent on their team-mates, even more so than in other stages.

18:52 CEST   
It is still hot and sunny in Grenada – 29° as Andalucía-Cajasur is the first to roll onto the course.

18:52 CEST   
The start times of the 19 teams racing.
1 Andalucía-Cajasur, 18:45
2 Tinkoff Credit Systems, 18:49
3 Team Milram, 18:53
4 Silence-Lotto, 18:57
5 Rabobank, 19:01
6 Quick Step, 19:05
7 Liquigas, 19:09
8 Lampre, 19:13
9 Xacobeo-Galicia, 19:17
10 Gerolsteiner, 19:21
11 Française des Jeux, 19:25
12 Euskaltel-Euskadi, 19:29
13 Crédit Agricole, 19:33
14 Cofidis, 19:37
15 Caisse d'Epargne, 19:41
16 Bouygues Telecom, 19:45
17 Astana, 19:49
18 AG2R La Mondiale, 19:53
19 CSC-Saxo Bank, 19:57

18:54 CEST   
Two more teams are underway already, Tinkoff and Milram.

18:56 CEST   
The teams will take off at four-minute intervals, and the ride is expected to be about nine minutes.

19:00 CEST   
And the first team out is the first to have a problem. Two riders from Andalucía-Cajasur touched wheels and went down. The team only has to finish with four riders, so the team doesn't have to wait on them. But it's sure not the way the team wanted to make its debut in the Vuelta.

19:03 CEST   
The first two teams are in, and Tinkoff (led by Mikhail Ignatiev) has topped Andalucía's time by 20 seconds. But Milram has already beaten Tinkoff's time at the intermediate time check.

19:05 CEST   
Milram wasn't able to hold on to its good time. Tinkoff still leads with a time of 8.33, with the German team three seconds behind them.

19:07 CEST   
Rabobank is now underway. They are led by youngster Robert Gesink, who will be going for the GC, while Oscar Freire is the fast man for the bunch sprints.

19:10 CEST   
Silence-Lotto is the next over the finish line, but with only five riders. One crashed in the last curve, and we aren't sure what happened to the other three. At any rate, their time of 8:41 isn't going to do them much good.

19:13 CEST   
Those crashing riders don't have to worry about getting speedy emergency help if they need it. This team time trial is apparently especially well-prepared for any medical problems. It is being run on the grounds of the Technology Park of Health.

19:14 CEST   
Quick Step is underway, with Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini being the big names there. Those two have won a race or two along the way, it seems to us...

19:16 CEST   
The Tinkoff team has some good track riders on it – like Ignatiev – and they set a very good time. Rabobank gave it a good try, but was unable to catch them, coming in one second back.

19:17 CEST   
Quick Step sets a new best intermediate time – but will they be able to keep it up to the end?

19:19 CEST   
The Vuelta has a lot of experience with Granada. 21 stages have started here, and 18 have finished here.

19:21 CEST   
Now we are getting some new best times. First, it was Quick Step, as Boonen and his speedy legs led the way over the finish line in 8:31. But behind them, Liquigas was setting a new best intermediate time.

Liquigas TTT in the Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

19:23 CEST   
And Liquigas just blasted on in, breaking Quick Step's time by a whopping 10 seconds! Daniele Bennati had a lot to do with their good time of 8.21. They only arrived with five riders, but that was enough.

19:25 CEST   
Lampre are unable to imitate their rival Italian team. Damiano Cunego's team could only manage 8.40, which puts them in sixth place at the moment.

19:29 CEST   
Over in the USA, David Zabriskie (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30) won the USA TT Championships.

19:30 CEST   
Française des Jeux is the next team to try its luck. It is another team with two leaders, namely Philippe Gilbert and Sandy Casar.

19:31 CEST   
As we all know, Gilbert will be riding for Silence-Lotto in 2009.

19:34 CEST   
Team Xacobeo-Galicia may not sound familiar, but you may remember its former name of Karpin-Galicia. It will probably not want to remember its time of 8.42.

19:36 CEST   
Gerolsteiner was a dark-horse favourite for this TTT, but they came in at only 8.39, a whole 18 seconds behind our current leader, Liquigas. Maybe the bad news about the end of the team was too much for the guys to deal with.

19:40 CEST   
Ouch – Française des Jeux came in 27 seconds down, at 8.48, putting them next-to-last.

19:43 CEST   
Now, this is a surprise. Euskaltel is, to put it nicely, not really known for its TTT abilities. But the Basque team put in the best intermediate time, and came into the finish in second place, at 8:29. Way to go!

19:44 CEST   
We have only seven more teams to go, but it surely doesn't seem unreasonable to think that one of those teams – oh, say, Astana or CSC, for example – may top Lampre's mark. Then again, maybe not. Who knows?

19:45 CEST   
Caisse d'Epargne is on the road now. Their captain Alejandro Valverde certainly wouldn't mind winning the Vuelta...

19:48 CEST   
Credit Agricole is over the finish line now, with a time of 8.44, which puts the team 23 seconds behind Liquigas. That keeps them out of the top ten, too.

19:50 CEST   
Cofidis gives us a time of 8.41, the same as Silence-Lotto, and 20 seconds slower than Liquigas.

19:52 CEST   
Astana is on the course now, and is a hot favourite to win this thing. They also have a hot favourite to win the whole thing, in Alberto Contador. And if he should have a bad day, his team-mates Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer are both capable to taking the title.

CSC Team celebrates in 2006
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

19:54 CEST   
The most recent team time trial in the Vuelta was two years ago, and the winner was – CSC, led by none other than captain Carlos Sastre. The team and the Spaniard would be more than happy to repeat that success tonight.

19:55 CEST   
Caisse d'Epargne has put in a good showing and come in with a time of 8.30, only nine seconds behind Liquigas and currently third place.

19:56 CEST   
Only four more teams to go: Bouygues Telecom, Astana, AG2R and CSC-Saxo Bank.

19:57 CEST   
Let's make that only three more teams! Bouygues Telecom is in, at 8.49, which puts them pretty far down.

"The Posties" in the 2004 Vuelta opening TTT, which saw Floyd Landis take the golden top of race leader.
Photo ©: Unipublic
Click for larger image

20:00 CEST   
There was also a team time trial in 2004 and it is interesting to look at the names associated with that. The win went to US Postal Service, followed by T-Mobile and Illes Balears – Banesto, with the leader's jersey going to Floyd Landis. You won't find any of those names around any more.

20:02 CEST   
8.35 for Astana, which came in with only five riders. Looks like Liquigas will take this stage win!

20:06 CEST   
AG2R comes in 20 seconds down. Filippo Pozzato of Liquigas, over the line first, can start dreaming of the leader's gold jersey.

20:07 CEST   
CSC is the only one left. Their Directeur Sportif is writing a Vuelta diary for Cyclingnews, so be sure to read his diary.

20:08 CEST   
CSC was six seconds back at the intermediate time check, so it doesn't look like they will steal the stage away from Liquigas.

20:09 CEST   
And that was it. CSC-Saxo Bank comes in at 8.32, 11 seconds down.

20:11 CEST   
Daniele Bennati can now proudly don the first gold leader's jersey of the 2008 Vuelta a España, as he led his team across the finish line in the best time. Second place goes to Euskaltel and third to Caisse d'Epargne.

A good job by those three teams, and we congratulate them all.

20:12 CEST   
That was it for today and the opening of the Vuelta. Join us tomorrow as Stage Two takes us 167.3km from Granada to Jaen, and thanks for reading along with us.

Provisional results

1 Liquigas                  8.21
2 Euskaltel-Euskadi         0.08
3 Caisse d'Epargne          0.09
4 Quick Step                0.10
5 CSC-Saxo Bank             0.11
6 Tinkoff Credit Systems    0.12
7 Rabobank                  0.13
8 Astana                    0.14
9 Team Milram               0.15
10 Gerolsteiner             0.18
11 Lampre                   0.19
12 Silence-Lotto            0.20
13 Cofidis                      
14 AG2R La Mondiale             
15 Xacobeo-Galicia          0.21
16 Crédit Agricole          0.23
17 Française des Jeux       0.27
18 Bouygues Telecom         0.28
19 Andalucía-Cajasur        0.32

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