By Shane Stokes in Lugo
Denis Menchov's victory in last year's race plus his good showing in the Tour de France prompted hopes that the Russian would challenge for the Vuelta title this time round, but his disappointing form means that the Rabobank team are now chasing stage victories rather than the overall classification.
Menchov lost time on both mountain stages and will begin stage 9 in 52nd place, 16'51 behind race leader Janez Brajkovic. His team-mate and the current Australian road race champion Will Walker confirmed that the team have changed their focus.
"As Denis Menchov is not up overall, the team is just going to go for individual stages," he stated. "Nobody is worried about GC, we will just go for a stage win. Maybe someone will have a go in the mountains tomorrow."
Walker is building experience in his first grand tour and seems happy enough so far. "Today was good, we were just cruising along in the peloton. The first hour was fast and then one guy got away, settling things down. So that was pretty good.
"I just rolled in with Menchov at the end. It was a pretty tough finish - we went across the line with eight kilometres to go and the speed was pretty solid. Then the last kilometre was uphill again. If you didn't have good position, you might as well not try. The plan is to try to get over the mountains tomorrow - with seven big climbs, it should be a bloody tough day. After that, we will see."