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60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 20 - Saturday, September 17: Guadalajara-Alcala de Henares TT, 38.9 km

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

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

Alcala de Henares
Photo ©: Hernan Alvarez
Click for larger image

14:28 CEST   
Welcome to the final individual time trial in this year's Vuelta a España, the last real chance for the general classification to be changed. Today's stage measures 38.9 km between Guadalajara and Alcala de Henares. The course is fairly flat and it has intermediate time checks at km 15.8 and km 26.

Second overall, Denis Menchov (Rabobank), has a chance to cut the advantage Roberto Heras has over him, but the Liberty Seguros race leader has a big buffer. Heras will take the stage seriously in order to leave nothing to chance tomorrow. He's not a bad time trialist either, and a top five finish today wouldn't be out of the question.

Top 10 on GC:

1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 78.06.39
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 4.30
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 4.50
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 5.48
5 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 6.22
6 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile Team 11.13
7 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 11.36
8 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic 15.28
9 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 15.50
10 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon - Lotto 15.53

A look at the top 10 on GC reveals that the top five is pretty much wrapped up, although Paco Mancebo is an outside chance of moving into third overall, if Carlos Sastre has a slightly bad day. But if Sastre has a really, really good day, he might challenge Menchov for second, as only 20 seconds separates the pair.

Oscar Sevilla will probably lose sixth place to Ruben Plaza, who is the better time trialist, while Tom Danielson should be able to move into eighth overall ahead of Juan Miguel Mercado. All will be revealed later.

14:41 CEST   
The first rider to set off was Yohann Gène (Bouygues) at 14:02, and he was followed by compatriots Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) and Jimmy Casper (Cofidis). Vaugrenard has the quickest time after 15.8 km with 20.25.

The last 20 rider on GC will leave at 2 minute intervals, with Heras the last to go at 16:27. He should finish at around 17:15.

14:51 CEST   
Vaugrenard has now gone through km 26 in a decent time of 30.23, on track to setting a good time at the end of 39 km. Meanwhile, Magnus Bäckstedt (Liquigas) has clocked 20'20 after 15.8 km, the fastest to date.

14:51 CEST   
Although Heras is an excellent climber (and a flyweight, in terms of kilos), he's not bad at all at time trials. The equivalent stage last year, for example, saw him finish fourth, just 13 seconds behind Santi Perez of Phonak. The stage had been seen as a showdown between the two, but Heras fended off Perez's charge with few problems.

14:55 CEST   
If he's on the same sort of form today and providing he avoids a crash/series of mechanicals/alien abduction, he looks set to take what would be a record fourth Vuelta win. Menchov's a pretty mean time trialist, but he'll need to use a motorbike to erase his 4'30 deficit.

15:00 CEST   
Bäckstedt came into this racing hoping to build form after having to withdraw ill from the Tour de France. He's talking about a bid for the world hour derny record later this year, and also would like to do a ride in the worlds.

15:03 CEST   
Speaking of worlds, a rider who usually performs well there has just posted a good intermediate check. Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) was seven seconds ahead of Bäckstedt at km 15.8. Both moved above Vaugrenard at the next checkpoint, where the advantage had swung back in Bäckstedt's favour. He's two seconds up on Peschel with Vaugrenard 18 seconds further back.

15:08 CEST   
It will be interesting to see how the two fare at the finish. Vaugrenard is fastest there.

Going back to the Heras-Menchov duel today, the Russian may be a bit too far back to challenge for the overall win. However, he's taken the two other time trials in the race and so he'll aim to add another victory today to his haul from this year's Vuelta. He's certainly made an impressive return from his disappointing Tour de France.

15:17 CEST   
As expected, Bäckstedt takes the provisional best..he's 24 seconds up on Vaugrenard.

15:30 CEST   
The start times of some of the ‘names’ in the race are as follows:

15:19: Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Caffita)
15.30: Joseba Beloki (Liberty Seguros-Wurth)
15.41: Oscar Pereiro (Phonak Hearing Systems)
15.45: Victor Hugo Peña (Phonak Hearing Systems)
15.57: Unai Osa (Illes Balears – Caisse D’Epargne)

The first rider from the top ten, 2004 Tour of Britain winner Mauricio Ardila (Davitamon – Lotto) starts at 16.09. He will be followed by the others at two minute intervals. Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel) goes at 16.11, Juan Miguel Mercado (QuickStep – Innergetic) at 16.13 and Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana) at 16.15. T-Mobile’s Oscar Sevilla (16.17), Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana, 16.19) Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears – Caisse D’Epargne, 16.21) and Carlos Sastre (Team CSC, 16.23) follow, before the big two of Denis Menchov (Rabobank, 16.25) and Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros, 16.27) get underway.

15:32 CEST   
Now Rik Verbrugghe (QuickStep) shows his class, racing to first in both those intermediate checkpoints. He was second to Menchov in the prologue and should be motivated today.

At the finish, Bäckstedt leads Peschel by 13 seconds. Verbrugghe was 38 seconds up on the Liquigas rider at km 26, though, so he should take over at the top.

15:34 CEST   
Victor Hugo Peña told Cyclingnews a few days ago that he was aiming for a big ride today. He was seventh in the last TT but hopes to go six places better this time round : )

15:41 CEST   
And Verbrugghe does it, going 17 seconds quicker. That time of 43.16 could stand for a while today.

15:49 CEST   
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty Seguros) is known as a good time trialist and sure enough, he's third fastest at the two intermediate tests. He is 38 seconds back from Verbrugghe at the second of those, though, so he'll need to accelerate if he's going to top the standings.

15:56 CEST   
The weather conditions today: It's 19 degrees and overcast. The wind will blow light northeasterly in the morning but increasing to some high northeasterly winds later, i.e. for all the riders. The wind will be strongest for the last riders in the TT.

It's a tailwind at the start. It will be from right side from the exit up to Torrejon del Rey and favourable from there down to the arrival in Alcala de Henares.

16:00 CEST   
Liberty's Angel Vicioso is in good shape, going 13 seconds quicker than Verbrugghe at checkpoint one..not bad going...

He was back in 62nd in the stage 9 time trial.

Beside Menchov, another to watch today is Ruben Plaza Molina (Comunidad Valenciana). He was second on stage 9, 9 seconds down. The top six from that race against the clock was:

1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.00.54 (47.29 km/h)
2 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 0.09
3 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 0.39
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 0.41
5 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 0.59
6 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 1.16

16:05 CEST   
Vicioso fades somewhat, dropping to second at the next time check. He went through 30 seconds slower than Verbrugghe.

Of note is Joseba Beloki's fifth place at the first intermediate point. That's not bad at all. He started today 29th overall so while he's nowhere near the level he was at before his bad fall in the 2003 Tour de France, he'll be hoping that the block of racing he did this year will help him to come back in top shape next season. He's certainly shown a lot of determination in soldiering on through some tough times.

16:07 CEST   
But Vicioso rallies, posting the fastest time at the finish! That's a great ride, going ten seconds quicker than the QuickStep rider.

16:09 CEST   
It looks like Verbrugghe lost pace in the final third of his TT. He was 38 seconds up on Bäckstedt at km 26 but then just 17 seconds quicker than the Swede at the finish.

16:15 CEST   
Tom Danielson is underway now, racing to what he hopes will be eighth place overall. He's had a great Tour of Spain, looking set for a top ten finish in his first complete Grand Tour. Of course, he also started the Giro this year but had to pull out with a knee problem.

Danielson will update Cyclingnews this evening with his Vuelta diary. For him, 2005 is all about building experience as while he is 27 years of age, he hasn't done much racing at the top level yet. The Discovery Channel team are hoping that his strong climbing and time trialling will see him develop into a future winner of three week Tours.

16:16 CEST   
Mercado and Plaza have also left the start house, so we are well into the top ten now.

16:19 CEST   
Victor Hugo Peña is doing a pretty fine ride out there... He was second behind CSC's Christian Vandevelde at the first check, but then moves into the lead at km 26. Stijn Devolder (Discovery) is on the same time, with Phonak's Oscar Pereiro third and Verbrugghe now fourth.

16:22 CEST   
Vandevelde goes best at the finish, doing a time 28 seconds quicker than Vicioso and a further ten up on Verbrugghe. That's a nice ride...

Mancebo is about to start, crossing himself for luck/strength/salvation. He accelerates out of the start house and gets his TT underway.

16:25 CEST   
Sastre is next to go, looking pretty determined. He's into a nice aero tuck straight away and should do a decent ride.

Pereiro finishes, going best! He does a 42'04... Then Devolder does a 42.01.9! It's all go now...

16:26 CEST   
Now Menchov prepares for his start. He's out of the start house and underway. Can he take TT win number three this afternoon?

16:28 CEST   
Victor Hugo Peña was on the same time as Devolder at that second time check, so it will be interesting to see if he can take the lead at the finish.

Heras is in the start house now, still wearing that knee bandage after his crash earlier in the race. The Maillot Oro gets underway, pedaling quickly as he gets up to speed.

16:32 CEST   
Peña does it! His time of 41.54 is a full seven seconds quicker...he'll be pleased by that.

16:39 CEST   
Heras goes through a big roundabout, cutting the corners perfectly. He's looking both aero and fast, riding well.

He's really shaving the curbs, looking for every second. Of course that got him into a bit of trouble in the stage 9 tt, the Spaniard's practice of cutting inside the traffic cones along the route leading to a time penalty of ten seconds. Of course, he could pick up a few of those today if he really wanted...he's got a nice buffer now.

16:43 CEST   
Ruben Plaza goes 3 seconds faster than Peña at the first time check. Ardila goes through that point, not looking particularly fast. Now Danielson...he's 7th quickest here, so Ardila's chance of taking back the three seconds between himself and the American and moving up to ninth overall looks slim, to say the least.

Mancebo now goes quickest at the 15.8 km point with a time of 19.13! His position on the TT bike looks pretty brutal, but he's going fast nonetheless.

16:50 CEST   
On the road, Mancebo is 5 seconds quicker than Sastre. The CSC rider started today third overall, some 58 seconds up on Mancebo, so it looks like he should hold onto that today.

There seems to be a strong wind out there, pushing the riders along and leading to some very fast times today.

16:53 CEST   
Sastre goes through the second check marginally quicker than Mancebo. Plaza is still best, but Sastre is just fractions of a second slower. It will be interesting to see how Menchov does here.

16:55 CEST   
And here he comes...he's looking fast. Yes, five seconds quicker than Plaza! Is he on his way to a third win against the clock?

16:57 CEST   
Or maybe not! Heras goes one second quicker...wow...

16:58 CEST   
Plaza finishes the TT with a new best time. He's 26 seconds quicker than Victor Hugo Peña.

17:03 CEST   
Heras' form in this year's Vuelta is a complete contrast to his anonymous showing in the Tour de France. There's suggestions next year that he might ride the Giro before the Tour in order to come into the latter event in full form. His team DS Manolo Saiz feels that he needs two Grand Tours to get going. Heras has been a bit ambiguous about his plans for 2006, however, even suggesting after this year's Tour that he might miss the race altogether. So we will see.

Quesada finishes now, taking tenth on the stage. Now Mancebo hurtles in, taking a provisional second place. He was ten seconds off the time of Plaza.

17:06 CEST   
Sastre is next, racing in to pip Mancebo for provisional second. He's six seconds quicker in the end.

Menchov is really driving it, looking for the stage win. He's got a great TT position on the bike.

17:07 CEST   
And now Menchov hits the line...41:37.6. So he's really faded towards the end, slipping to third. So can Heras take the stage?

17:08 CEST   
Heras goes under the kite about 1'15 quicker than Plaza's time...so if he really floors it, he should do it..

17:10 CEST   
Here he comes! Looking good...ooohhh...he just misses out, going .5 slower than Plaza! So the Comunidad Valenciana rider wins the stage.

Superb ride by Heras, though, defending his jersey in real style. That's a great TT from a climbing specialist.

17:13 CEST   
Danielson finishes ninth on the stage, so he should hold onto his ninth place overall. Heras, Menchov and Sastre should take top three tomorrow (barring any problems).

17:17 CEST   
Correction..Danielson overtakes Mercado for eighth...very good performance by the Discovery Channel rider. This and his Tour de Georgia win has shown Fassa Bortolo that they should have had more faith in him last season, rather than leaving him on the sidelines.

17:20 CEST   
That TT was scorchingly fast, due to a strong tailwind. Sean Kelly won a TT with an average of 54.88 km/h in 1988, but this is quicker..

Intermediate timing

km 15.8
1 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne      19.13
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                 0.06
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                 0.07
4 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team     0.14
5 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                0.23
6 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Team CSC                          0.25
7 Victor Hugo Peña (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems                0.26
8 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel                       0.27
9 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems               0.30
10 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team        0.36
km 26
1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team    28.56
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                 0.01
3 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                0.06
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                     
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne       0.07
6 Victor Hugo Peña (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems                0.10
7 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel                           
8 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems               0.16
9 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic                 0.29
10 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Team CSC                         0.31
Finish - km 38.9
1 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana               41.31
2 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team         
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                 0.04
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                 0.06
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne       0.10
6 Victor Hugo Peña (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems                0.23
7 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel                       0.30
8 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems               0.33
9 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel                        0.48
10 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Team CSC                         1.07

General classification after stage 20

1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team 78.48.10  
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                 4.36
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                 4.54
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne       5.58
5 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana             8.06
6 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana               11.36
7 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile Team                           13.22
8 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel                       16.38
9 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon - Lotto                 
10 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic      

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