Valverde inches closer to Soler

Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde pulled himself to within seconds of the lead in the overall...

Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde pulled himself to within seconds of the lead in the overall classification at the Vuelta a Burgos on Friday, when he won time trial on the penultimate stage. Valverde scorched the 15 kilometre course around Ribera del Duero, beating Russian time trial specialist Mikhaïl Ignatiev by 22 seconds. The Colombian leader, Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) was fifth, 40 seconds behind the flying Spaniard.

"I really liked the course", explained Valverde. "This morning, I went to see it and I knew it would suit me pretty well. I started very fast, the same way I might in a prologue. I am very happy with the result." Valverde's weakness in past stage races has been his time trialing abilities, something he has worked hard to hone over the past year.

Valverde has been victorious in three time trials so far this season, but all of them have been less than 25 kilometres long. He won the 23.3 kilometre test in the Vuelta a Murcia in March, a course which was predominantly uphill, and the 9.7 kilometre time trial of the Clasica a Alcobendas. Still, the win gives Valverde a bit of confidence he lost in the discipline following his poor performance in the long time trials of the Tour de France, especially the race in Albi on stage 13 when he was caught for three minutes by then yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen.

It will be difficult for Valverde to unseat Soler in a race without time bonuses, but he remained optimistic, saying, "There is only one stage left, but considering the little gap to the leader, nothing is impossible."

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