Nobody could describe any of the top three Spanish contenders for the Vuelta a España as a pessimist, with Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank - Tinkoff) all saying after Tuesday’s flat stage through Galicia that the 39.5 kilometre time trial on Wednesday is good for them. Interestingly, all three - as well as Britain’s Chris Froome (Sky) - say the 39.5 kilometre stage, which has a third category climb and which they all went to reconnoitre on yesterday’s rest day - is a tough, technical one, too.
"I like it," an upbeat Contador said after the stage. “It suits my characteristics. But that doesn’t mean I will win it, I think it suits all of us."
Contador said that the stage to Sanxenxo had been “fairly calm, and good to stretch my legs for the time trial." Predictions for tomorrow? He responded with a laugh that he "would be away in a break, all by myself for 40 kilometres." Presumably getting caught by Chris Froome (Sky) who starts behind him in the time trial, does not form part of tomorrow’s plan...
Intriguingly, Contador tipped Valverde, not known for his time trialling skills, as one of the favourites for tomorrow.
"Alejandro won’t lose a lot of time," agreed Valverde’s Movistar teammate and 2011 Vuelta winner Juan José Cobo. "The whole of the time trial is about that climb in the middle."
"It’s very demanding," added Valverde, "I definitely prefer time trials like that to anything a flatter. But I’m not going to say how much time I think I could lose, the less the better."
"If I could have designed a time trial, it would be like that," said race leader Joaquím Rodriguez. "It’s really tough and it’s got a dangerous descent. But that doesn’t mean I won’t lose time and doesn’t stop it being very difficult for me."
"It’s definitely one for the climbers, that climb has a very technical descent and we’ll have to be careful," Britain’s Chris Froome concluded.
"It would be very different if it was 40 kilometres long and flat. As things stand, riders like Rodríguez won’t lose so much time."
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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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