By Antonio J. Salmerón
Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) will front up to today's time trial confident he can take time out of current race leader, Spain's Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears).
Currently sitting in fifth place on GC some 1.46 behind the flashy Spaniard, Vino said, "I hope to take an advantage over Valverde today. It is very difficult to calculate the time, but I expect a minute at least," said the Astana leader. Vinokourov said he would have preferred a longer time trial, "of about 45 kilometres".
However, he admitted that "Valverde will be very motivated, because he has the gold maillot and the route profile is better for him". But, the best thing is, in Vinokourov's opinion, is that he is also in very good condition.
He is conviced he is achieving his ideal form going into the third week of the race. "Today's stage in Cuenca will not be decisive for the General Classification (GC)," he said. Rather, Vinokourov believes that "the final stages in Calar Alto and La Pandera climbs will be where I can fight against Valverde, but, mainly, in the last time trial in Viciamadrid".
Andrey Kashechkin, Vino's team-mate and fellow countryman at Astana, is even closer to the lead. Sitting in second on GC and only 35 seconds behind Valverde, the Kazakh is also optimistic for today's stage,where he hopes to obtain "a good result and even take the leader's jersey".
"I believe that it is a good route for me," said Kashechkin. He said of himself compared to the current race leader, "I do not believe that there are many differences with respect to Valverde".