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German champ Grabsch wins stage but Devolder takes control of overall

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Bert Grabsch (T-Mobile) with the winner's trophy

Bert Grabsch (T-Mobile) with the winner's trophy (Image credit: AFP)
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Devolder during his all-out effort

Devolder during his all-out effort (Image credit: AFP)
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Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) suffered from sickness

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) suffered from sickness (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Devolder during his all-out effort at the end of the race.

Devolder during his all-out effort at the end of the race. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Bert Grabsch (T-Mobile) with the winner's trophy

Bert Grabsch (T-Mobile) with the winner's trophy (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Grabsch was still exhausted after his great ride but the ladies were able to administer some first aid.

Grabsch was still exhausted after his great ride but the ladies were able to administer some first aid. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) in gold and a dream come true.

Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) in gold and a dream come true. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Devolder is all smiles as he realizes that he will now have the chance to defend the jersey all the way to Madrid.

Devolder is all smiles as he realizes that he will now have the chance to defend the jersey all the way to Madrid. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval) said he didn't like the course at all as it was only for specialists and finished over six minutes down.

Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval) said he didn't like the course at all as it was only for specialists and finished over six minutes down. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was happy with his ride and said he was motivated by having Galdeano in the team car behind.

Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was happy with his ride and said he was motivated by having Galdeano in the team car behind. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC) during the eight stage in the Spanish desert.

Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC) during the eight stage in the Spanish desert. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) suffered from sickness and could not deliver his best performance.

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) suffered from sickness and could not deliver his best performance. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) is not keen on riding time trials.

Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) is not keen on riding time trials. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) is in the top ten.

Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) is in the top ten. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) used a good time trial to get himself into sixth place overall.

Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) used a good time trial to get himself into sixth place overall. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) was hoping to not ride over thorns which can be found in the area.

Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) was hoping to not ride over thorns which can be found in the area. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Evans did not have his best day and could not ride for victory.

Evans did not have his best day and could not ride for victory. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Devolder with the Spanish country side in the background. The outskirts of Zaragoza were a reason to ride faster and get home.

Devolder with the Spanish country side in the background. The outskirts of Zaragoza were a reason to ride faster and get home. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) in the Spanish nom-man's land, but he knew exactly where he was heading.

Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) in the Spanish nom-man's land, but he knew exactly where he was heading. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) knew that he would concede time and be out of the GC picture, which wasn't his goal anyway.

Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) knew that he would concede time and be out of the GC picture, which wasn't his goal anyway. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Maxime Monfort (Cofidis) started with a power gel tucked underneath his left sleeve, which gave him enough energy to finish 14th.

Maxime Monfort (Cofidis) started with a power gel tucked underneath his left sleeve, which gave him enough energy to finish 14th. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) was the last to go and the only ones behind him were the photographers.

Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) was the last to go and the only ones behind him were the photographers. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Bert Grabsch (T-Mobile) on his lonely way to victory.

Bert Grabsch (T-Mobile) on his lonely way to victory. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) did a great ride but couldn't keep up wit Devolder.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) did a great ride but couldn't keep up wit Devolder. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Carlos Sastre was realistic before the start and said that it's not going to be a good day for him.

Carlos Sastre was realistic before the start and said that it's not going to be a good day for him. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Efimkin struggled but is still in third place overall.

Efimkin struggled but is still in third place overall. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Russian is not a time trial specialist.

The Russian is not a time trial specialist. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Grabsch on the podium.

Grabsch on the podium. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The German is enjoying the attention. He has gotten 4tn and 5th before but never won a Vuelta time trial.

The German is enjoying the attention. He has gotten 4tn and 5th before but never won a Vuelta time trial. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Miguel Indurain handed out the golden jersey to Stijn Devolder.

Miguel Indurain handed out the golden jersey to Stijn Devolder. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Devolder enjoyed the moment with the famous 5-time Tour winner. "It was very nice," he said.

Devolder enjoyed the moment with the famous 5-time Tour winner. "It was very nice," he said. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Devolder smiles as he realizes the jersey fits well. Now he wants to keep it.

Devolder smiles as he realizes the jersey fits well. Now he wants to keep it. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Devolder deservedly gets the attention of everyone on a special day.

Devolder deservedly gets the attention of everyone on a special day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Golden girls and boys

Golden girls and boys (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) took it easy in Spain.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) took it easy in Spain. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Santiago Pérez (Relax-GAM) struggles in the heat.

Santiago Pérez (Relax-GAM) struggles in the heat. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Daniele Bennati (Lampre) is more used to sprinting than riding all by himself.

Daniele Bennati (Lampre) is more used to sprinting than riding all by himself. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Freire is like Bennati and prefers a bunch.

Oscar Freire is like Bennati and prefers a bunch. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne) grits his teeth in the desert.

Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne) grits his teeth in the desert. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) wished for a few hills pointing upward, not just downward.

Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) wished for a few hills pointing upward, not just downward. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) during his impressive time trial.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) during his impressive time trial. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) is not a specialist and he tried to limit his losses, but he will be eager to tackle the mountains now

Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) is not a specialist and he tried to limit his losses, but he will be eager to tackle the mountains now (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) in his last kilometres in the golden jersey. For now.

Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) in his last kilometres in the golden jersey. For now. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Efimkin rides along on Spanish roads.

Efimkin rides along on Spanish roads. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The signs are ready. Hopefully the racers are as well.

The signs are ready. Hopefully the racers are as well. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The landscape was slightly more interesting than in the Tour of Qatar.

The landscape was slightly more interesting than in the Tour of Qatar. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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It was hot, hot, hot as the interstate didn't offer much shade, except for the occasional bridge.

It was hot, hot, hot as the interstate didn't offer much shade, except for the occasional bridge. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A three-man team time trial under Spanish sun? Getting three riders at the same spot is a rather rare occurrence but it does happen. Apparently.

A three-man team time trial under Spanish sun? Getting three riders at the same spot is a rather rare occurrence but it does happen. Apparently. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Thomas Lövkvist (Française Des Jeux) can be doing well in time trials, but was over four minutes back this time.

Thomas Lövkvist (Française Des Jeux) can be doing well in time trials, but was over four minutes back this time. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) fully concentrated as he races along the interstate on the outskirts of Zaragoza.

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) fully concentrated as he races along the interstate on the outskirts of Zaragoza. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini always takes it easy in the time trials as he doesn't compete for the overalls. His mind is now solely on the Worlds in Stuttgart.

Paolo Bettini always takes it easy in the time trials as he doesn't compete for the overalls. His mind is now solely on the Worlds in Stuttgart. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Bradley McGee (Française Des Jeux) prefers shorter distances like in a prologue.

Bradley McGee (Française Des Jeux) prefers shorter distances like in a prologue. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Good for the specialists, but otherwise the course didn't offer too much variety.

Good for the specialists, but otherwise the course didn't offer too much variety. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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No drafting allowed!

No drafting allowed! (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A 'cross-team pursuit' developed between these three riders.

A 'cross-team pursuit' developed between these three riders. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Tom Boonen (Quick.Step - Innergetic) looks good in the time trial and actually finished high up for a sprinter in 20th place.

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step - Innergetic) looks good in the time trial and actually finished high up for a sprinter in 20th place. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Laszlo Bodrogi (Crédit Agricole) is the Hungarian champion and he showed why, being on the leaderboard until Grabsch blasted through.

Laszlo Bodrogi (Crédit Agricole) is the Hungarian champion and he showed why, being on the leaderboard until Grabsch blasted through. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) usually has a lead-out man with him, but this time his shadow was the only companion.

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) usually has a lead-out man with him, but this time his shadow was the only companion. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) in his home country but he didn't quite feel at home in the time trial today.

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) in his home country but he didn't quite feel at home in the time trial today. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) has stylish sun glasses to go with his stylish bike and his stylish riding style.

Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) has stylish sun glasses to go with his stylish bike and his stylish riding style. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) during his time trial.

Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) during his time trial. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Aussie has had better days in time trials. The season has been long and he will be happy to take some time off soon.

The Aussie has had better days in time trials. The season has been long and he will be happy to take some time off soon. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) clearly gave all he could as his face of pain was showing for multiple kilometres.

Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) clearly gave all he could as his face of pain was showing for multiple kilometres. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) en route to the mountains, which he prefers to the time trialing.

Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) en route to the mountains, which he prefers to the time trialing. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Maxime Monfort (Cofidis) never goes too far away from his power gel.

Maxime Monfort (Cofidis) never goes too far away from his power gel. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

German time trial champion Bert Grabsch confirmed his strength against the clock by setting a blistering 55 km/h pace to take the win in the stage eight time trial on the long, flat, draining course in Zaragoza. On a day which clearly favoured the time trial specialists, Grabsch edged out the Hungarian time trial champion László Bodrogi (Credit Agricole) by 34 seconds to take his first Vuelta stage win. "I knew that after the Tour I had good form, but the win does come a bit surprising," Grabsch told Radsportnews.com. "I had been fourth and fifth at a Vuelta time trial before. It's nice that it was enough this time to win."

Coming into the day, Caisse d'Epargne's Vladimir Efimkin held a 1'06" lead over five riders in the overall classification: Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) and Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir), and with neither time Grabsch nor Bodrogi a threat for the overall, the fierce battle for the overall classification took place between third placed Devolder and Menchov.

Devolder came up with the goods in the second half of the race, overtaking Menchov's time by the midway point and gaining 30 seconds on the Russian by the finish, and now leads Menchov by that same margin in the overall. Efimkin dropped to third place overall, 1'28" back.

48 seconds slower than the day's winner, but ahead of all the GC contenders, Devolder was satisfied with his effort, telling TVE, "I will always remember Zaragoza, for sure. It's a very beautiful day for me taking the [leader's] jersey, especially to receive the jersey from a great idol like [Miguel] Indurain."

He is now getting ready to fight for the win in Madrid, and despite seeing threats from his close rivals like Menchov or Sastre, the Belgian said that he would like to win. "I hope so. It's a long way to go. I know there are two hard days tomorrow and the day after. If I go through those two hard days, maybe there is a possibility. I will do it the best I can."

Devolder went on to say that he fears his competitors more than he fears the tough terrain to come. "For sure, the riders, not the mountains. I guess Menchov is the closest behind me and then there are a lot of Spanish great riders like [Gomez] Marchante, Sastre. I guess Sastre will be the hardest one."

Euskaltel-Euskadi's leader Samuel Sanchez had help from a former Spanish time trial great, but still was at his limit to finish 19th, and is now in 11th overall, 4'09 back. "I had very good sensations especially because I had the luck to have Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano [following me] in the car team," Sanchez said. "He was the one who was pushing me all the time in psychological terms; he didn't let me lose concentration for one minute. He asked me all the time to remain concentrated, not to look to the front, to look at my shadow, to think of the way I was riding. It was a time trial to be strong psychologically because the Zaragoza straight lines can make you suffer easily."

There were no changes in the points and mountain classification, but Devolder also took over in the Combination classification and leads Efimkin by two points. Caisse d'Epargne is still leading the teams classification, but Discovery Channel moved up into second place, thanks to Devolder's good ride, along with Jason McCartney, who came in seventh and Jurgen Van Goolen in 13th.

How it unfolded

The first rider to take the start in Cariñena was Vincent Jerome (Bouygues Telecom). The Frenchman set out at 12:50pm for one of the longest time trials in the history of the Vuelta at 52.2km. On the mostly flat or downhill course, the time trial specialists had an advantage and the climbers were in fear of the long, hot, flat windy roads ahead. Saunier Duval's GC hopeful José Ángel Gómez Marchante was pessimistic about his chances before the start, stating that "I don't like the route at all - it's a fully flat course for time trialists only. We climbers will find it difficult."

The early fast time was set by Swedish champion Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas) who clocked in at 58 minutes and 42 seconds, but Bodrogi soon bettered that time, coming in 1'03 faster at 57 minutes and 39 seconds.

The desert-like setting didn't draw many spectators and the group of ten people waving flags at one of the exits was about as much as it would get until they hit Zaragoza. There, the crowds were thicker and the cheering louder.

As the German champion, Bert Grabsch can certainly be considered a specialist and set the best time on all four time checks. He pushed Hungarian Laszlo Bodrogi off the top of the leader board, beating the Hungarian's time in the first two intermediate checks and at the finish line by 34 seconds, finishing in 57 minutes and 5 seconds. This was much better than his recent experience in the Regio Tour, where he had to fight against the hills and technical descents and even crashed, leaving him without chance to win. This time, everything went right and the course was just perfect for the powerful German rider.

The German's performance was the big reference when the riders at top in the overall classification started riding. Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) was one of the favorites coming into the Vuelta, but but he didn't begin very well. In the first intermediate check at km 12, he was 42 seconds slower than Grabsch. In the end, the Australian ended up 11th losing 2'20'' with the German TT champion.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) was clearly on a good day, and at the first check he was just nine seconds slower than Grabsch. Menchov could see his two-minute man, Carlos Sastre, after about 25 kilometres. The sight clearly lifted the Russian's game another notch as he pounded through the 27-kilometre time check in third place, 28 seconds down but having the satisfaction of passing Sastre. The Spaniard tried to stay close but eventually conceded over four minutes to Grabsch and 2'45" to Menchov.

But Menchov's great time trial still wasn't good enough against the storming Belgian, Stijn Devolder. Deprived of wearing his Belgian road championships jersey in the time trial he was determined to change his jersey colour for the remaining road stages from black-yellow-red to gold. With his helmet showing drawing of a shark's sharp teeth the Discovery Channel rider showed all the aggression necessary to get the leader's jersey. Gritting his teeth he came out of the saddle after the last turn to get every ounce of energy out of his tired legs.

Tomorrow the riders will check out the Pyrenees, going from Huesca 167 kilometres over two category two and one category three climb before finishing off with the HC climb up ton the skiing station of Cerler. The average gradient for the final climb is 5.5 percent, with a maximum of 9.5 percent. Not the steepest climb, but at 1,887 metres high it will certainly once again shake up the overall classification.

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