Menchov back in gold
Not unexpectedly, prologue winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank) has bounced back into the overall lead of the Vuelta by winning the 9th stage time trial in Lloret de Mar. On a testing 48 km course, Menchov clocked 1:00:54 to beat an excellent Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana) by 9 seconds, with GC riders Paco Mancebo (Illes Balears), Carlos Sastre (CSC), Roberto Heras (Liberty), and Tom Danielson (Discovery) filling out the next placings. On the general classification, Menchov has the jersey by 47 seconds from Heras, with Sastre at 1'36 and Mancebo at 1'51. He'll need all of that and more to keep the jersey in the next two mountain stages.
The stage saw German Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) set the early best time with a 1:02:33, which stood for quite some time until Victor Hugo Pena (Phonak) bettered it by 3 seconds. But then Ruben Plaza smashed through all the time checks in the quickest times, eventually recording a time of 1:01:03 to put himself on top of the provisional leader board.
Menchov started second last, and rode a conservative pace up the first climb, but then increased his tempo on the second climb to move ahead on the provisional standings. His final gap over Plaza was 9 seconds, but that was enough to win the stage. Heras also started well, and was even better than Menchov in the early kilometres, but paid for it on the second climb and eventually lost 49 seconds to the Russian. He also was given a 10 second time penalty because he cut some of the course on the descent.