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Hello and welcome the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 17 of the Vuelta a España, the crucial 46km time trial at Peñafiel.
Valentin Iglinsky (Astana) was the first man off, just a few minutes ago. The early riders are starting at one-minute intervals.
The final twenty riders start at two-minute intervals, and then there will be a three-minute gap between the last four riders.
The first of the big names down the start ramp is Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), who is the fourteenth starter, at 13:54 local time.
The last man to start is of course the red jersey Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) going off three minutes before him.
A full run-down of the starting order is available here.
Rodriguez's Katusha teammate Mikhail Ignatiev has just started. As a rouleur of some note, he will be expected to provide an early reference point for Rodriguez, as will Vladimir Karpets later in the day.
Cancellara rolls down the start ramp in his rainbow jersey. The official check points on the road come after 15km and 31km. At this early stage, Cancellara should record the fastest time when he goes through and we can expect his times to last a long, long time. As ever in this discipline, the Swiss is heavily fancied to take the stage win today.
Another one of the early starters was Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia). After an indifferent start in the sprints at this Vuelta, the Manx rider roared back in to form last week ahead of his major late-season objective, the world championships.
However, the Italian team was selected yesterday without a real sprinter, as Daniele Bennati was left out. Team manager Paolo Bettini maintains that the course will be too difficult for Cavendish. Time will tell...
David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) has just started his assault on the time trial. The American has been struggling for form this season, he'll be hoping for a good result here. He was in a lengthy breakaway with his teammate David Millar on Saturday, although Millar appeared the more fluid of the two on that occasion.
Iglinsky has reached the first time check at 15km in a time of 19:40. It will be interesting to see what kind of time Cancellara can manage on what appears to be a flat and straight strong man's course.
Interesting statistic. Out of the first 25 starters today (and accordingly, the last 25 in the overall standings), there is only one Spanish rider. That might suggest something about the relative motivation of foreign and home riders for the Vuelta.
Mark Cavendish has come through the first check with the quickest time so far of 18:28. He's 16 seconds clear of Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank).
Ignatiev has flown through the 15km point in 17:42, 46 seconds up on Cavendish and 38 ahead of Jacopo Guarnieri (Liquigas-Doimo). Cancellara's time will surely be a quick one on this course.
As expected, Cancellara has the best time through 15km, although only 15 seconds quicker than Ignatiev, who is riding a fine time trial.
Cancerlla's time of 17:27 gives him an average speed of 51.576kph through the first 15km.
David Zabriskie has just come through the first check already all of 30 seconds behind Cancellara. The Swiss' dominance of time trialling has reached new levels in recent seasons. Zabriskie's time is good enough for third place at the 15km mark.
Meanwhile, out at the 31km check, Lars Bak (HTC-Columbia) is the early pace-setter with a time of 37:30. Just three riders have gone through there so far but the signs are that we can expect some significant time gaps today. Bak is 1:58 up on Arnaud Labbe (Cofidis) and 2:59 ahead of the first starter Iglinsky. Who knows what size Cancellara's advantage will be at this point.
Ignatiev zips through 31km in 36:43, putting 47 seconds into Bak and 58 into Cavendish.
David Millar has left the start house. The Scot may have struggled on the final climb to Peña Cabarga on Saturday but he drove the breakaway on the flat run-in to that climb. His position on the bike was perfect and he was pedalling with the facility of a man who could make an impact on the standings of today's stage.
“For me it’s a test before the world championship. I’ve worked hard these past few days, so winning isn’t a goal today,” Millar said this morning. With Cancellara on the prowl, winning possibly isn't a realistic goal for anyone today, but Millar could well come close.
And on that note... Cancellara screams through the 31km chek in 35:30. The (metaphorical) engine is warmed up now. He was 15 seconds clear of Ignatiev after 15km but has opened out another 58 seconds on him in the following 16km. Phenomenal stuff, because Ignatiev isn't hanging around.
Lars Bak has reached the finish in 56:11. Cancellara has two minutes on him after 31km, so we should expect him to finish in a time of around about 52 or 53 minutes.
Cancellara's average speed after 31km is 52.394kph, he's warming up for the Worlds in some style.
Christophe Le Mével summed it up rather succintly this morning: "It’s all flat with no curve. Cancellara has 99 chances out of 100 to win.”
For his part, the Frenchman will use a 54 x 11 gearing today.
Ignatiev is doing well to stay this close to Cancellara, who is hurtling around the course. Ignatiev's main goal today s to provide a frame of reference for his teammate Joaquin Rodriguez.
“For now there’s almost no wind," he said prior to his start. "But after 2pm, it might change and become not favourable for the favourites. I have good legs, so I want to do as well as at the Tour de France last year.”
The Russian was third behind Contador and Cancellara in Annecy. Katusha’s directeur sportif Claudio Cozzi will take Ignatiev's time every two minutes and relay the information to Dimitri Konyshev, who will follow Rodriguez.
At the finish line, Cancellara has the best time, 2:34 ahead of Ignatiev.
Cancellara covered the 46km in 53:20 for an average speed of 51.750kph. He pace dropped ever so slightly in over the final 15km of the course, perhaps a sign that the wind is rising somewhat.
With a time triallist of Ignatiev's quality so far behind Cancellara, it's hard to see who might beat or even seriously challenge the Swiss rider's time.
Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish arrives at the finish with the 4th best time so far. At just 3:16 behind the flying Cancellara, Cavendish hasn't done at all badly today.
David Zabriskie had a fantastic finish to the time trial, he dosed his effort well. He was 30 seconds down on Cancellara after 15km, 45 seconds down after 31km, but the American has just crossed the line with the second best time to date, just 33 seconds down.
He pegged back 12 seconds on Cancellara in the final 15km, so that might offer solace to some of the riders still out on the course.
David Millar is among them, and at the first check he's in 4th place, 24 seconds behind Cancellara, but 6 ahead of his teammate Zabriskie.
Before he started the time trial, Cancellara said: “I don’t like it. I prefer when there are some hills. I have a little bit of a cold, but it should be OK." It seems to have been a little more than OK...
Meanwhile his Saxo Bank directeur sportif Bradley McGee reckoned that the course simply a case of “head down and go. For a directeur sportif, it’s quite a boring course actually. There’s not much to tell the rider.”
Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma-Lotto) comes through the second time check with the second best time, 37 seconds behind Cancellara.
Hoste was the 31st starter today. David Millar's will be the next time to take note of through the second intermediate check.
David Millar came through the second time check 53 seconds behind Cancellara in 4th place. He's slowed quite a bit in the second section of the course and It doesn't look as though he will threaten Cancellara's time at the finish
Ignatiev rode the course to provide a point of reference for Rodriguez. He began very quickly to reach the 15km point 15 seconds down on Cancellara, but then he faded dramatically over the remainder of the course to finish 2:34 down. His leader Joaquin Rodriguez will be hoping not to suffer a similar fate later on this afternoon.
Cancellara's (relative) fade in the final third of the course and Zabriskie's steady improvement throughout suggest that it might well be worth keeping something under the saddle for the final 10-15km today, especially if the wind rises.
Leif Hoste has finished the stage with the second fastest time to date, just 30 seconds behind Cancellara.
The Belgian pulled back 7 seconds in the final 15km of the course.
Christian Vande Velde is currently in the early section of the course.
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is about to take the start. The Belgian has marked himself out as one of the major favourites for next month's world championships with his form at this Vuelta and he admitted this morning that he is aleady thinking ahead to Australia. “I have had a good rest day but the time trial isn’t part of my preparation for the world championship,” he explained.
Another man headed for Australia is Floyd Landis. He will be among the speakers at what looks set to be a very interesting conference on doping and cycling at Deakin University in Geelong the week before the world championships.
Yesterday was of course a rest day, which gave the riders a chance to check out today's course. Some were more diligent than others...
Writing in the Irish Independent this morning, Nicolas Roche detailed how he rode the time trial course twice, once on his road bike and once on his time trial machine, before putting in two hard 10km intervals behind a team car. He had also intended planned a 90-minute spin with his AG2R teammates, but was dissuaded from doing so by his father and former Tour de France winner Stephen Roche.
On the other side of the spectrum, there's the inimitable David Moncoutie. Says his Cofidis DS Alain Deloeil: “David has only seen the last 20km, but it's totally flat like so often at the Vuelta.”
It should be remembered, however, that Moncoutie has ridden a fine Vuelta to date and remains on course for a third successive mountains title. To each his own...
Roche, meanwhile, is riding the race of his life, and is seeking to hold a top 5 place all the way to Madrid. "I’ve fought like a dog to get fifth and I’m keeping it," he said. The Irishman continues to improve year on year, and if he manages to defend or even improve his position before the finish, his ambitions will be higher again for next season.
David Millar has finished with the 4th best time to date, 50 seconds down on Cancellara. Meanwhile, Nicolas Vogondy (Bbox-Bouygues Telecom) has come home in 5th, 1:22 behind.
Millar managed to steady himself in relation to Cancellara in the closing stages of the course and pulled back 3 seconds over the final 15km but he'd left himself with too much to do in the finale.
Marzio Bruseghin is the next man off. He was only able to try out his time trial bike this morning for a little while. He’s still badly injured since the crash that put Igor Anton out on stage 14. “Just to ride this bike slowly hurts me tremendously,” the Italian said. With his overall aspirations crushed, he is now in preparation for the world championship as he was confirmed as part of Paolo Bettini's team yesterday.
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is currently out on the course. He'll be looking to salvage something from a disappointing Vuelta before he leaves for Geox next season.
His Rabobank teammate Grischa Niermann made up 36 seconds on Cancellara in the final 15km to finish in provisional 6th place at 1:24. The wind over the final section of the course has clearly become more favourable as the day has gone on.
Katusha's Vladimir Karpets rolls down the start ramp. Meanwhile, his teammate and race leader Joaquin Rodriguez is warming up on the rollers and looking concentrated. He needs a huge performance today to keep that red jersey and he knows it.
At the 31km mark, Denis Menchov is 5th at 59 seconds. He won't beat Cancellara today. Even though the wind near the finish appears to suit the later starters, we are running out of capable time triallists the closer we get to the top of the general classification. It's really been a climber's race.
Carlos Sastre has just rolled down the start ramp. He'll be racing to be the first Cervelo man in Madrid. His teammate Xavier Tondo is just two places ahead of him.
Disaster for David Garcia (Xacobeo Galicia) right at the start. He had to stop as soon as he rolled down the ramp to get help with a problem with his front tri-spoke wheel.
Tondo has just started. He has just 10 seconds of an advantage over his teammate Sastre, who had to start one place earlier as the rules state that two riders from the same team cannot start consecutively.
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Transitions) is off. He is 7th overall and has a decent chance of maintaining that position. He's solid against the watch and could well make up the ground on the 6th-placed Peter Velits. Read his feelings on the time trial here.
Peter Velits is next off, and he is looking both to defend his two-second advantage over Danielson and peg back some of his deficit to Nicolas Roche.
Menchov has beaten Cancellara's time!!
Incredible stuff from the Russian. He's made up over a minute in the last 15km. We (OK, I) had him written off at the second check point but he put the hammer down in the finale to pull off major upset.
Wind conditions over the end of this out and back course certainly appear to be suiting the later riders, but that said, Menchov appears to have timed his effort perfectly today. Zabriskie set the template earlier by steadily pegging back Cancellara over the 46km, but he just didn't have the legs. Menchov clearly did.
52:55 for Menchov at the finish. He's dealt out a 25-second beating to Cancellara. That's a turnaround of 1:23 over the final 15km. Amazing stuff.
While we've been scrambling around for superlatives to describe Menchov's feat (and, to be completely honest, while we confirmed that the times on screen were accurate, we're not used to seeing Cancellara beaten like that), Ezequiel Mosquera and Frank Schleck have started.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) is now taking the start.
Nibali looks like a man on a mission. If he wants to win the Vuelta, he knows he has to take the red jersey here and by a handsome margin. The final climb of the race to Bola del Mundo on Saturday should suit Rodriguez's punchy style better, especially if Nibali's problems in Monday's finale are any sort of a guide.
He fancies today's course. “I like it really”, he said. “There are a lot of straight sections where you really need to push a big gear. I believe the minimum time I should gain over Rodriguez is one minute, but if it becomes windy this afternoon, it could go up to three minutes.”
Joaquin Rodriguez rolls down the ramp, the last of the riders to start. He was looking anxious before the off and is clearly aware that he has to ride the time trial of his life today to limit his losses to keep him in contention to win the race.
“I don’t want to lose my red jersey,” he said this morning, although he would probably settle right now to cede the jersey and up to a minute to Nibali today and then try and make up the deficit on the penultimate stage.
In the final time trial at the Tour de France, the Katusha rider clocked the 154th time out of the 170 remaining riders. He lost 10:17 to Fabian Cancellara and 6:26 slower to Denis Menchov that day. He knows he's up against it today, although defending the overall lead of the Vuelta should offer a significant motivational boost to his performance.
Ezequiel Mosquera is battling with his machine and not looking at all smooth. He has still to reach the first check.
Nibali's shoulders are rocking slightly as he come through the 8km point. 3 minutes behind him on the road is Joaquin Rodriguez is looking a little smoother so far, but it's all about speed. There are no points for style.
Problem for Nibali!!!
He punctured and had the worst wheel change in history.
Nibali's mechanics couldn't decide whether to change the wheel or the bike. They eventually opted to change the wheel, but only after considerable confusion that must have cost him up to 30 seconds.
The mechanic had removed his bottle from the bike too thinking that he was about to change machine, but luckily for Nibali he still has a bidon. That could have been a critical error.
Meanwhile, Gustav Larsson has crossed the line in 3rd, at 0:38.
In fairness to Nibali, he was the coolest man on the roadside and he seems to have refound his rhythm very quickly. We'll see how costly that puncture was at the first check point.
Tondo comes through the second time check 2:06 down, 18 seconds clear of his teammate Sastre.
Nibali is 1:35 down at the first time check, just ahead of Mosquera.
Roche is at 1:46.
We're awaiting news of Joaquin Rodriguez.
Mosquera has only lost 2 seconds to Nibali thus far. If he can limit his losses in the final 30km, anything is possible on Saturday.
Vladimir Karpets has crossed the line in provisional 9th place.
Rodriguez has lost 1:18 to Nibali in the first 15km, even allowing for Nibali's puncture. In the virtual GC, Nibali has 45 seconds over Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is getting out of the saddle intermittently to keep that big gear going. After a good first 5km or so, he's beginning to look more and more ragged.
Mosquera trails Nibali by 2 seconds on the stage and 22 seconds in the virtual GC.
Nicolas Roche is 54th after 31km, but crucially seems to be pulling back some time on Frank Schleck.
Nibali's tail is up now, as he comes through one of the few technical sections of the course. Meanwhile, Rodriguez is really starting to battle with his machine.
It's a lonely road for Rodriguez now. There's barely any shelter, so the effects of the slightest crosswind are amplified.
Carlos Sastre finishes in 11th place, in a time of 54:30. That's a great time for a climber like him, he lost just 1:35 to Menchov
Mosquera is riding an excellent time trial. At the 31km point he's 32nd and more importantly is still looking smooth. If things continue in this vein, we're set for a Nibali-Mosquera dual for overall victory on the Bola del Mundo.
Rodriguez is battling to stay in contention at this point.
Nibali has fully recovered from that puncture and is opening out his gap on Mosquera a little now. Nibali's 2:33 down on the stage at the 31km point but riding into red.
Rodriguez is approaching the second time check now, this will tell us a lot about his chances of winning this Vuelta.
Nibali's shoulders are still rocking slightly but he's showing no real signs of flagging just yet.
Peter Velits almost catches Tom Danielson at the finish line.
He's got the fastest time at the line, 12 seconds quicker than Menchov!!!
52:43 for Velits, the final 15km are clearly far quicker this afternoon as a result of the rising wind.
Rodriguez has blown completely. He's 5:27 down at the 31km point. That puts him 2:21 down overall in 3rd and dropping like a stone. Mosquera is provisionally 2nd overall at around 40 seconds, while Velits leapfrogs Roche and Schleck into 4th on the road.
It's going to be fascinating to see what Nibali, Schleck, Mosquera and Roche can do over the final 15km. Velits has really thrown down the gauntlet. He'll certainly move ahead of Rodriguez this evening.
Roche finishes 3:29 down on Velits, so he is now 2 minutes down on the Slovak overall. The Irishman will be disappointed with that. He hasn't ridden a bad time trial, but Velits has put in the ride of his life. Mosquera is also putting in a solid shift.
5km to go for Nibali. He looks destined to take the red jersey tonight, but he won't know that Mosquera and perhaps Velits will have replaced Rodriguez as his main rival for overall victory.
Frank Schleck has 26 seconds to Nicolas Roche but will stay ahead of him overall. Nonetheless, he may well have lost 4th place overall to Velits.
Mosquera comes home in 54:56. A fine time for the Spaniard, he lost just 2:13 to Velits and should be Nibali's main threat from here on in.
Nibali is approaching the finish line and will take red tonight.
54:38 for Vincenzo Nibali. He only took 18 seconds out of Mosquera, so his overall lead will be just 38 seconds tonight. It's all to play for on the Bola del Mundo...
Just one man left to finish. Joaquin Rodriguez is riding in the painful knowledge that he has lost the Vuelta a Espana today.
It can so often be a cruel sport. Rodriguez is 4:10 down on Nibali with some distance still to travel. A day that started with such high hopes of staying in contention to win the Vuelta is ending in bitter disappointment.
Into the final kilometre for Rodriguez. His morale will be low but he knows he has to keep fighting if he wants to keep his hopes of a podium place alive.
Rodriguez comes home 6:12 down.
It looks set to be a Nibali-Mosquera battle on Saturday. Will Nibali regret saying that Mosquera wasn't a threat after the Lagos de Covadonga stage?
Peter Velits now lies 3rd overall, just 2:00 behind Nibali.
That puncture could prove very costly to Nibali in the grand scheme of things. His overall lead would probably be over a minute had it not happened.
1 Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC-Columbia 0:52:43
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:00:12
3 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:37
4 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:50
5 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 0:01:03
6 Leif Hoste (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:01:07
7 David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions 0:01:10
8 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step 0:01:14
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:01:24
10 David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Transitions 0:01:27
General classification after stage 17
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 71:19:49
2 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia 0:00:39
3 Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC-Columbia 0:02:00
4 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:03:44
5 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:03:45
6 Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo Test Team 0:03:45
7 Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Transitions 0:03:55
8 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2R-La Mondiale 0:04:03
9 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervélo Test Team 0:04:13
10 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 0:05:43
There's also the question of how Nibali recovered his bidon during the wheel change. One of the mechanics removed it from his bike and he appeared to set off without it, yet he finished the stage with a bottle.
Of course, he may well have been able to take one from the roadside when he wasn't being shown on screen.
To recap, the intermediate time checks on the stage were as follows:
Intermediate Time Check, 15 km
1.Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 17.27
2.Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) +0.15
3.Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +0.20
4.David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) +0.24
5.David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) +0.30
Intermediate Time Check, 31 km
1.Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 35.30
2.Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +0.37
3.David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) +0.45
4.David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) +0.53
5.Denis Menchov (Rabobank) +0.58
Velits put the hammer down in the final 15km to snatch a fine victory.
Beyond the battle for the red jersey, just 28 seconds separate the riders placed between 4th and 9th overall, it's going to be a thrilling finale on Saturday.
Thanks for joining our live coverage of today's time trial. We're back again with live coverage of stage 18 to Salamanca, usually one of the grandstand sprint finishes of the Vuelta. In the meantime, full results, reports, news and pictures from today's action at the Vuelta will be on Cyclingnews in due course.