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Vuelta a España 2009: Stage 20

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Hola, and welcome back to the Vuelta. The end is in sight now, and there is only one little obstacle on the way to Madrid – and that is today's 27.8 km long time trial. Will we see any changes in the top five today?

The course today is more flat than not, but not entirely flat. There are a number of turns and corners, plus one fairly long straightaway.

The first rider took off at 14:29, and the last rider is due to start at 17:06. The riders go off at one-minute intervals, with the top twenty having a two-minute interval. The course is expected to take about 34 minutes.

That first rider was Damien Gaudin of Bbox.  He has just passed the second intermediate time check, so we don't have anyone yet finished.

We have two intermediate time checks today, at kms 10 and 19.5, so roughly at one-third and two-thirds of the way.

The weather seems to have taken a change for the better.  The forecast is for 21° and sun!

Who will win today? The time trial favourites have already checked out of the Vuelta to prepare for the Worlds next week, so we may see an outsider take it today.

Now we have our first riders over the finish line. Gaudin was first, of course, with a time of 38:39. Columbia's Frantisek Rabon topped that with a time of 36:49.

But who do you think will take it today? David Millar? Lars Boom? Cadel Evans? You can discuss it in our forums, at forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php

Maciej Bodnar of Liquigas has now moved into first place, 12 seconds ahead of Rabon. So far we have 17 riders finished, with the slowest being Astana's Assan Bazayev, who is 5:42 down.

When cycling fans think of Toledo, they think of Federico Bahamontes, the “Aguila de Toledo,” or “eagle of Toledo”. He won the 1959 Tour de France, the first Spaniard ever to do so. One of the best climbers ever, he won the King of the Mountains jersey six times at the Tour, twice at the Vuelta and once at the Giro d'Italia. But he never won the Vuelta overall title.

If today's course looks familiar, it's because much of it was used in last year's Vuelta. That stage was won by Paolo Bettini – remember him?

You really have to feel sorry for Robert Gesink of Rabobank. A crash in the Tour de France knocked him out of that race with a broken wrist. A crash in the Vuelta gave him eight stitches in the is left knee and finished off his good form, according to Rabo DS Erik Breukink. The 23-year-old Gesink dropped from second to sixth yesterday, and was, quite understandably, “very disappointed.” You can read more here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/vuelta-victory-dream-over-for-gesink

Astana's David Millar is now underway. He is a candidate for the win here today, and was second at the first time check, only three seconds behind Bodnar.

Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with more than 100 monuments, ranging from cathedrals to mosques to synagogues. The artist El Greco spent the last nearly 40 years of his life in Toledo.

Millar now has the best time at the second intermediate time check, 21 seconds ahead of Bodnar. And we hav a new leader, as Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoliel has come in with a time of 36:36, one second faster than Bodnar.

Once again, our look at our various leaders. Barring catastrophe, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) seems to have a lock on the gold jersey. He currently leads by 1:26 over Olympic Champion Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), with Ivan Basso of Liquigas third, 1:45 back. Rounding out the top five we have Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) in fourth at 1:59 and Ezequiel Mosquera of Xacobeo-Galicia at 2:11 down.

Andre Greipel of Team Columbia still hasn't tied up the points jersey. He leads by a mere 23 points over Valverde. However, it seems likely that the German will finish higher than the Spaniard tomorrow in the Madrid finale. No points will be awarded in today's time trial, by the way.

Millar has just blasted his way to a new best time at the finish, of 35:53. That is 43 seconds faster than Westra, who is now in second place.

Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) has set a new best time at the first intermediate time check, 31 seconds ahead of the time set by Bodnar.

Millar on top.

David Moncoutie has tied up the mountains rankings, with 186 points. Second is David De La Fuente (Fuji) with 99 points, and Julian Sanchez of Contentpolis is third with 73 points.

Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas moves into second place, with a time of 36:23, which puts him 30 seconds behind Millar.

The top riders at the moment...

1 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 35.53
2 Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) 36.23
3 Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) 36:36
4 Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) 36:37
5 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Fuji-Servetto) 36:48
Frantisek Rabon (Columbia-HTC) 36:49
Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) 36:56
Dominik Roels (Milram) 37:09
Anthony Roux (Française des Jeux) 37:24

Valverde also looks set to win the combination classification. He has 7 points, and second-ranked Mosquera has 16 points, closely followed by Sanchez with 17 points.

Sanchez climbs off his trainer and into the team bus.

Gilbert got off to a fast start, but perhaps it was too fast a start. He faded to being 36 seconds down at the second time check.

Gilbert is third at the finish.  HIs time of 36:23 puts him 43 seconds down.

Rabobank's Lars Boom comes in a bit slower than might have been expected. He is currently 11th, at 37:17.

Vasili Kiryienka of Caisse d'Epargne is on the road now. That puts us in the top twenty.  You will remember that they now go off every two minutes.

Our Shane Stokes is, as usual, on the scene, and tells us that Robert Gesink will be at the start today.  He is not giving in to either his injury or to demoralization.

Spanish Professional Continental team Xacobeo-Galicia has taken over the lead in the teams classification and has a 23:13 lead over Caisse d'Epargne, with Astana third.

Cadel Evans is warming up for his start at 17:00.  He hopes to move up to second overall today.

There is every reason to believe that Alejandro Valverde will go on to win the Vuelta tomorrow in Madrid. "In cycling, you can't say anything until you have arrived at the finish line,” Caisse d'Epargne DS Alfonso Galilea told Cyclingnews. “At this moment, though, we are in a very good position. If we don't have a crash or any mechanical problems, we think that we are close to winning the general classification." More here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/caisse-depargne-quietly-confident

Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoliel is now underway.  The Dutchman has made his name in this Vuelta, with his participation in many break groups.  He has also been rewarded with a place on the Dutch team at the upcoming World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Gustavo Veloso of Xacobeo has moved into second position.  He is 20 seconds behind Millar, with a time of 36:13.

We have a new second placed rider:

Finish

1 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 35.53
2 Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 36:13
3 Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) 36.23
4 Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) 36.27
Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) 36:36
Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) 36:37
Fredrik Kessiakoff (Fuji-Servetto) 36:48
Frantisek Rabon (Columbia-HTC) 36:49
Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) 36:56
Dominik Roels (Milram) 37:09
Anthony Roux (Française des Jeux) 37:24

19.5km

1 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 26.06
2 Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 26:18
3 Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) 26.29
4 Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) 26:27
5 Jesús Del Nero (Fuji-Servetto) 26:34
Frantisek Rabon (Columbia-HTC) 26:38

10km

1 Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) 11:51
2 Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 12:21
3 Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) 12:52
4 Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) 12:55
5 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 12:55
 

Valverde is warming up now, too.  Quite literally -- he has on long sleeves, and just dabbed at his face with a towel.

Gesink had debated dropping out of the Vuelta, but has now decided to stay in the race and at least claim his sixth place tomorrow in Madrid.  More here:  www.cyclingnews.com/news/demoralised-gesink-wants-to-hold-vueltas-sixth-place

Juan Jose Cobo, who won yesterday's stage, is the next to go down the start ramp, and that brings us into the top ten.

Cobo powers along, motivated by his recent stage win, and eager to hold on to his overall tenth place.

Mosquera is getting ready for his ride, as Gesink stands in the starter house.

David Herrero crosses the finish line in fifth place, in  36:30.  That is 37 seconds behind Millar.

Herrero grabs provisional fifth.

Finish

1 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 35.53
2 Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 36:13
3 Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) 36.23
4 Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) 36.27
5 David Herrero (Xacobeo Galicia) 36:30

Evans sits in the shade and awaits his turn.  Mosquera takes to the course.

Only four more riders to go:  Evans, Basso, Sanchez and Valverde.

There's another race going on, remember? Michele Merlo of Barloworld won today's stage in the Tour of Britain.

And Evans takes off.

Evans is only 14 seconds behind Basso in the overall.  Will he be able to make up that time today and move on to the podium?

Basso is now on the course.

Olympic road champion Sanchez now prepares to take off, as Valverde moves toward the start house as well.

Sanchez is on his way, leaving us with only more rider to go.

And now Valverde goes!  All of our riders are now underway -- will one of them be able to beat Millar's time?

Valverde's gold outfits glints in the blazing sunshine.

104 pedal strokes per minute for Evans.

And 109 for Basso.

Evans was 33 seconds down at the first time check, putting him in fourth place there.

Times at 10km

1 Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) 11:51
2 Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 12:21
3 Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) 12:52
4 Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 12:24
Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) 12:55
David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 12:55
 

And Basso was 11th at that time check, 44 seconds down.

This is  a mostly flat course, as compared to an all-flat course.  Evans is now on an 8% non-flat section.

Bert Grabsch of Columbia dropped out of the race earlier this week to prepare for the upcoming worlds, where he hopes to defend his time trial title. He would have liked to have stayed longer, he said, but with the bad weather that was predicted, and which arrived, he decided it would be better to pick his bags and head home.

Valverde was 41 seconds down at the first time check.

Basso and Sanchez come through the first time check.

10km

1 Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) 11:51
2 Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 12:21
3 Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) 12:22
4 Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 12:24
5 Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) 12:25
6 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 12:25
David Herrero (Xacobeo Galicia) 12:28
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 12:31
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) 12:35
 

Evans is climbing again.  We can see the sweat streaming off his face.

Sanchez is losing time on Valverde, 10 seconds now.

Gesink is 24th, 1:27 down, at the second time check.

Cobo finishes as 16th, 1:23 down, in a time of 37.16.

Evans catches and passes Mosquera, who started two minutes in front of him.  That was right at the second time check, which Evans crosses as second-fastest, only 5 seconds slower than Millar.

Basso does not look like he is riding particularly well today.  He may well be tired, riding his second Grand Tour after sitting out for two year.

Evans comes through 2nd at the 19.5km check

1 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 26.06
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 26:11
Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 26:18
Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) 26.29
Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) 26:27
David Herrero (Xacobeo Galicia) 26:32
Jesús Del Nero (Fuji-Servetto) 26:34
Frantisek Rabon (Columbia-HTC) 26:38
...
Juan José Cobo (Fuji-Servetto) 27:07
 

Ivan Basso can say goodbye to the podium.  He was 46 seconds down at the second time check.

Sanchez is third at the second time check, 11 seconds behind Millar.

Basso, 41" off of Evans at the 19.5km

1 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 26.06
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 26:11
Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 26:18
Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) 26.29
Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) 26:27
David Herrero (Xacobeo Galicia) 26:32
Jesús Del Nero (Fuji-Servetto) 26:34
Frantisek Rabon (Columbia-HTC) 26:38
...
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) 26:52
 

Valverde is up out of the saddle on his way to the second time check.

He crosses that time check as 7th, 26 seconds down.

Gesink crosses the finish line in 26th place, 1:43 behind the leader.

Evans has now moved into virtual third place ahead of Basso.

Sanchez has now lost 17 seconds to Valverde.

Evans finishes second on the stage, only nine seconds behind Millar.  His time is  36:02.

Evans finishes a provisional 2nd

1 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 35:53
2 Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 36:02
3 Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 36:13
4 Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) 36:23
5 Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) 36:27
 

Mosquera finally crosses the finish line as 61st, 2:52 down.

We are still waiting on Basso, Sanchez and Valverde.

Basso grimaces as he crosses the finish line in 16th place.  HIs time of 36:56 is 1:03 down.

Sanchez crosses the line only five seconds behind Millar to take second place away from Evans.

Sanchez knocks Evans out of 2nd for the stage

____ Finish ____

1 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 35:53
2 Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 35:58
3 Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 36:02
 

Now it is up to the man in gold.

He is up out of the saddle as he approaches the finish.

Valverde raise his fist in victory.  Not for the stage, but for the overall.  He finishes the stage as 7th, 36 seconds down.

Congratulations to David Millar of Garmin-Slipstream.  It is hard to believe, but that is his first victory since taking the British time trial title in 2007.

Millar receives not only a bouquet of flowers, but also a sword fo wlinnig the stage.

____ Finish ____

1 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 35:53
2 Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 35:58
3 Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 36:02
4 Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 36:13
5 Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) 36:23
6 Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) 36:27
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) 36:29

Valverde goes into the final stage 55 seconds ahead of Sanchez. Evans is 1:32 back in third place, with Basso fourth at 2:12. Then there is a big jump to Mosquera in fifth at 4:27 down, with Gesink holding on to his sixth place with 6:40.

That's it for today.  Join us again tomorrow for Alejandro Valverde's victory parade into Madrid, and, we expect, another mass sprint.

____ Finish ____

1 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 35:53
2 Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 35:58
3 Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 36:02
4 Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 36:13
5 Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) 36:23
6 Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) 36:27
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) 36:29
David Herrero (Xacobeo Galicia) 36:30
Jesús Del Nero (Fuji-Servetto) 36:33
Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) 36:36
Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) 36:37
Fredrik Kessiakoff (Fuji-Servetto) 36:48
Frantisek Rabon (Columbia-HTC) 36:49
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) 36:56
Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) 36:56
Dominik Roels (Milram) 37:09
Juan José Cobo (Fuji-Servetto) 37:16
Anthony Roux (Française des Jeux) 37:24
Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 37:39
Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) 38:45


____ 19.5km ____

1 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 26.06
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 26:11
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 26:17
Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 26:18
Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) 26.19
Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) 26:27
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) 26:32
David Herrero (Xacobeo Galicia) 26:32
Jesús Del Nero (Fuji-Servetto) 26:34
Frantisek Rabon (Columbia-HTC) 26:38
...
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) 26:52
Juan José Cobo (Fuji-Servetto) 27:07

____ 10km ____

1 Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) 11:51
2 Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 12:21
3 Maciej Bodnar (Liquigas) 12:22
4 Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 12:24
5 Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) 12:25
6 David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 12:25
David Herrero (Xacobeo Galicia) 12:28
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 12:31
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) 12:33
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) 12:35
 

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