"The funniest time trial ever!"

Gerolsteiner's Thomas Ziegler prepared himself rather casually for yesterday's Stage 9 time trial at the Vuelta, "not as thoroughly as I would if I were going for the win. But what happened was the funniest time trial ever!" he told German Radsportnews in his daily diary.

"Bram de Groot started directly after me. We know each other and get along well. He caught me after only 11 km. Then we rode along together. Nothing illegal, just together. Sometimes one of us in front, sometimes the other. After 17km we caught up with the Spaniard Garcia Acosta. So now we were a group of three... We joked so much underway, that at times we could barely ride for laughing! We attacked each other as if it were a regular road race. I've never experienced anything like that before. One time I passed three riders in front of me in a time trial, but to be caught myself - and that the two of us together caught another rider - that doesn't happen very often."

"Time trials can be pretty long when you're out there by yourself. But the 48km today flew by. We'll have to see what the race commissaires have to say about our trio. We didn't actually do anything irregular. We were careful not ride in front of each other. But my soigneur in the team car said it looked pretty funny and not much like a time trial."

Clearly not amused, however, were the Spanish riders who were penalised by the race commissaires for cutting the course by disrespecting some witches hats. While Roberto Heras was given 10 additional seconds, Illes Balears' Paco Mancebo received just a two second penalty. "It's a crying shame!" team director Eusebio Unzué proclaimed after the race. "Mancebo only cut one curve and I think it's insulting to treat him like Heras - those who have seen Heras on TV told me that he was much more impudent!"

Courtesy Susan Westemeyer

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