Caisse d'Epargne happy

Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde (Image credit: Sirotti)

Race leader Alejandro Valverde successfully defended his maillot oro in the stage 14 time trial in Cuenca, conceding just eight seconds to Alexandre Vinokourov and taking time out of all his other GC rivals. His team manager Eusebio Unzue was very pleased with the showing. "This result delights me, because Alejandro confirmed its progression in this difficult discipline by conceding only eight seconds to Vinokourov, and barely any more to true specialists [David Millar and Fabian Cancellara]. The Vuelta remains nevertheless very open, with very small gaps considering the difficulty of the stages which are still to come. However today's result is very important for Alejandro's confidence and that of his team-mates in the fight to keep the yellow jersey in the team."

Valverde was very upbeat. "It is not a surprise for me", he stated. "This year, I had already shown that I had improved considerably in the time-trials, although I still had to prove it in a really important one.

"I started very quickly but it was in the Castillo, on the climb as well as in the descent, that I really gave it all. At the beginning of the downhill, I had a small mechanical problem, but nothing important. I wanted to change the gear-ratio and the chain jumped. I had to put it back with the hand before going again.

"I then descended as quickly as possible, taking some risks, yet all of them were controlled ones. The objective was to gain as much time as possible but, after being informed of the gaps at the top of the Castillo, I understood that I could perhaps even fight for the stage victory. So I decided to go for that too, even if it was not the principal objective.

"I am conscious that my good result of today is another step towards the final victory," he continued. "Yesterday, I was the one who gained 8 seconds on Vinokourov thanks to the time bonuses and today the Kazakh gained those seconds back. On the whole, I believe that the balance is in my favour because many people, Vinokourov included, thought that I was going to concede much more time in the time-trial. I believe I have achieved an excellent result and all that I hope for now is to continue in the same way until the end of Vuelta."

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