Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) forged on towards the world championships with a victory that he had not initially counted on, a time trial stage at the Vuelta, but which will do his morale no harm whatsoever.
Should Cancellara finally concentrate on taking a fifth Worlds time trial title in Venice in a few weeks' time, his victory over Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) will provide a welcome reference point. And Cancellara hinted as much when he said that it is "always nice to win, but it's how it looks on paper that counts more" - as an indication, presumably, that in the grand scheme of things, Cancellara remains a huge force to be reckoned with in the time trials. In the Classics, Cancellara's victories in E-3, Paris-Roubaix and Flanders speak for themselves.
"Winning - I know what that is like, it's how many seconds other riders lost [that counts]."
Looking at the win itself, Cancellara said, "In the end I've just done my homework. It's all about looking at the details, where I took time."
The Swiss champion said his third time trial win of the season - after a stage victory in the Tour of Austria as well as the Swiss national championship - was worth the two-hour long wait at the winner's podium whilst the overall contenders completed the course.
"If I lost, all this waiting around would be a waste of time and I would just go off to the hotel. But having won, I'm really happy about it, and I can see I'm on the good road."
The good road to where, though? The world time trial, road race or trade team time trial? Despite such a blistering chrono result, Cancellara visibly weighed his words when asked what his objective would be in a month's time.
"This course was very different to the Worlds so it's difficult to give it a value," he said. "In the end I'm just focusing on myself, not Nibali, not Tony Martin, just concentrating on myself. My ride, my condition."
One of his biggest worries, he said, was that he did not know how he would react after the rest day and the change of pace from racing to easing back to going flat out again, but in his case, he had no problems.
Asked again about his targets, Cancellara said he had not made any decision yet about whether he would make a planned abandon of the Vuelta, although given his form is so good, there is speculation he may do so.
"I'm just looking at the Vuelta, then I'll look at the Worlds. I'm not thinking about which one I'll do. This is great preparation for those races, and if I think too much about the Worlds then it's a lack of respect for this race.
"It's got all sorts of terrain - sprints, climbs, everything - which is really good for me [in terms of training]. Let's just enjoy this race for now."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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