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Vuelta a España 2009: Stage 7

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Welcome back to the Vuelta a Espana. Today we have the first real test, a 30 km time trial in Valencia. We expect to see a winning time of about 36 minutes. We'll start our live coverage at 15:00 CET.

Rabobank's young Lars Boom has the fastest time so far, 37:40 minutes.

What is today's course like? Well, “flat” is the word that comes to mind. And “auto racing” is another word that comes to mind. OK, that's two words. The ITT starts and finishes on Valencia's Formula One street racing course. It takes us on a loop out of town and back again. And the finish line is none other than the Formula One finish line!

The first rider off today, at 13:24, was Jose Ruiz of Andalucia-Cajasur. He is absolutely last in the rankings, over 27 minutes down. He came in with a time of 40.25

Bert Grabsch, the World Time Trial Champion and German national champion, is now underway. The Columbia-HTC rider could do well today.

Who is the top favourite today? Can you say “Fabian Cancellara”? But let's also look to Columbia's Bert Grabsch, and even Astana's Alexander Vinokourov might be up there, too.

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the …. Vuelta. It poured all morning, but has fortunately stopped now. At least for the moment. It is also a bit cooler today, “only” about 26° Celsius.

An even bigger problem than the rain may be the wind. They are pretty strong right now, and since part of the course goes right along the coastline, the guys can expect quite a bit of wind today

If you want to know who is starting when, look no further. Well, click on this link and then look no further: www.cyclingnews.com/news/vueltas-valencia-stage-start-times

We have a new leader. Christophe Riblon of Ag2r has moved into the lead with a time of 37:34, which is six seconds faster than Boom.

Now here's a big surprise:  it's raining.  How lovely....... not!

The riders are, as usual, going off at one-minute intervals, with the top 30 going off two minutes apart.

As might be expected, Columbia is putting in a strong effort. Grabsch was second-fastest at the first time check. His teammate Adam Hansen, a former Australian national champ, is third fastest at the second checkpoint.

We talked to Hansen recently about how things are going: www.cyclingnews.com/news/hansen-enjoying-the-vuelta

There are two intermediate time checks along the way, at 11.2 and 21.4 kms.

Grabsch is living up to his World title, and is really flying around the course. He just busted Boom's best time at the second time check by 14 seconds.

We are down to 192 riders out of the original 198 who started a week ago today up north in the Netherlands. Six teams have lost one rider each: Andalucia-Cajasur, Astana, Contentpolis-Ampo, Fuji-Servetto, Silence-Lotto and Columbia-HTC.

We have some more big names on the course right now. David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) might have good chances today. We don't expect that from Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), as time trialing is not really one of his strengths.

Grabsch has now moved into the lead. He finished with a time of 37:17, which is 17 seconds faster than Riblon.

Millar has topped Grabsch's best time at the first time check by two seconds.

The time trial is taking place on portions of the city circuit used in the Grand Prix of Europe Formula One auto race. This race was held on August 23 and won by Rubens Barrichello of McLaren. This will no doubt inspire the cyclists, but we sincerely doubt that they will reach the same speeds as this swift cars.

Andy Schleck has finished, and is 1:26 slower than Grabsch. Not a good performance for the young Luxembourger.

Two more big names are underway, Spanish riders who hope to have a shot at the overall title: Samuel Sanchez of Euskaltel, and Ezequiel Mosquear of Xacobeo Galicia. And let's not forget Alexander Vinokourov, of Astana.

Millar stays two seconds ahead of Grabsch at the second time check.

The weather today looks truly awful. Very wet and rain, dark gray skies, and lots of wind.

Vinokourov came through the first time check second to Millar, with the same time, probably tenths of a second down.

The Vuelta has visited Valencia more than 30 times. The most recent visit was 2004, when Alessandro Petacchi won a mass sprint. The last time trial here was in 1987 and won by Sean Kelly.

Finish
Bert Grabsch (Columbia-HTC) 37:17
Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) 37:34
Lars Boom (Rabobank) 37:40
Jens Mouris (Vacansoleil) 38:01
Adam Hansen (Columbia-HTC) 38:02
Frantisek Rabon (Columbia-HTC) 38:11

11.3km
David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 13:13
Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 13:13


19.8km
David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 24:04
 

Conditions appear to be a bit better at the start and finish than they do underway. The road is very very wet, with lots of water on the road. No doubt a lot of riders will be willing to take it easy and lose the time rather than taking the chance of crashing.

Millar tops the charts...

As expected, Millar brought in a new best time. His 37:13 is four seconds faster than Grabsch.

So much for Mosquera's chances. Sanchez has just caught and passed him.

Tom Danielson of Garmin-Slipstream is also underway in the rain.

Looking at the GC going into today's time trial, we see that we still have a whopping 53 riders all within one minute of the lead.

Sanchez is second at the second time check, one second behind Millar.

USA's Danielson records 13:27 at the first time check.

We expect to see a change in the overall rankings today, in fact, we would be extremely surprised if it did not happen. This means that Columbia's Andre Greipel will have to say good bye to the gold jersey he has worn for two days. He was overall leader coming into today's stage, six seconds ahead of Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and nine seconds ahead of Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream). Today's heavy favourite Fabian Cancellara started the day fourth, with the same time as Farrar.

The green points jersey currently belongs to Greipel, as well, although he hasn't been wearing it. He has 84 points, ahead of Tom Boonen with 70 and Tyler Farrar with 67.

Road World Champion Ballan takes this course very carefully.

Sanchez takes a wet corner carefully, trying to find the right balance between all-out speed and careful riding.

The mountain jersey won't change shoulders today, since there is nothing even remotely resembling a bump in the road on today's course. That means it will stay with Andalucia-Cajasur's Jose Antonio Lopez another day. He has 20 points, ahead of Aitor Hernandez (Euskaltel) with 10 and Lars Boom of Rabobank with 9.

Vinokourov crosses the finish line in fifth place.

Sanchez is in now, too. His time of 37:22 puts him in third place, 15 seconds behind Millar.

Veloso bumps Vino down a spot on the final standings.

The white jersey for the combination classification belongs to Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo Galicia), with 105 points, ahead of Milram's Dominik Roels (141 points) and Rabobank's Boom (160 points).

Jacob Fuglsang of Saxo Bank is on the road now. Let's hope there are no trucks parked along the way...

Are you hungry or thirsty? You don't need to be: this city offers more than 8000 restaurants and bars.

Danielson finishes 18 seconds slower than teammate Millar, making him fourth at the moment.

Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) 37:31,  4th best time so far.

It's good that Quinziato is wearing that flourescent pea-green Liquigas jersey, it make it easier to pick him out on this wet gray yucky day.

Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto is the next to go out on the course.  That means we are now in the top ten, as he came into the day in ninth place.

Riders are starting in two-minute intervals. 

We are only aware of one crash today, but imagine there have been more. Xavier Tondo of Andalucia – Cajasur went down, but still managed to finish only 1.27 down.

Alejandro Valverde and Ivan Basso are now both underway.  Yesterday's stage winner Borut Bozic will be the next to go.

Fuglsang makes the u-turn at the first time check and is significantly back.  He may be bothered by his leg injury.

Evans is riding along the shore now.  He won't look over to his left to see the water and beach, but in this weather the view isn't really worth it anyway.

The absolute top favourtie is on the road now, Fabian Cancellara.  Will we see him back in the leader's jersey this evening?

Cervelo's Ignatas Konovalovas won the closing time trial in the Giro d'Italia. He is looking to do well here, and use it as training for the upcoming World Championships: www.cyclingnews.com/news/vuelta-time-trial-konovalovas-last-worlds-test

Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream is underway now, too, and the next to go is Daniele Bennati.

Yes, it's still raining, it's still wet, it's still gray.

Evans is 10 seconds behind MIllar at the first time check.

There are only two riders left to go, a pair of sprinters:  Tom Boonen and Andre Greipel.

The rain has reduced the number of road-side fans.

Boonen is underway and Greipel, resplendent in gold, is ready to go.

Valverde has lost a bit of time, hitting the first time check at 20 seconds down.

Basso is the next at the first time check.  His time of 29 seconds back puts him way down in 45th place.

Robert Gesink of Rabobank crosses the finish line 1:01 slower than Millar, making him 19th at the moment.

 We understand that Danielson now has the virtual race lead, narrowly ahead of Millar.

Cancellara was only sixth at the first checkpoint, but that is only four seconds down.

Valverde gets up out of the saddle to power along.

Kiryienka is riding well. We will have to see what his finish time is.

Vasili Kiryienka comes into the finish one second faster than Olympic road champ Sanchez, which puts him in third at the moment.

Bennati puts in a new best time at the first check, four seconds ahead of Millar.

Greipel approaches the first time check.

The slowest time today, by the way, goes to Vincent Jerome of Bbox, who is currently over six minutes behind leader Millar.

Time trialing is not really Greipel's thing.  He was signficantly behind at the first time check, but then again, he expected it to go this way.

Herrero takes third spot .

Cancellara is catching riders

Cancellara has picked up his speed and crosses the second time check some 19 seconds ahead of Millar's time.  That gives him the virtual overall lead.  He has also caught Bozic, who started two minutes ahead of him.

The final three riders now approach the second time check.  Greipel's time in gold is dwindling away.

Bennati couldn't hold on to that speed.  At the second time check, he was 35 seconds behind Cancellara's best time, putting him in 7th place.

Evans finishes exactly a half a minute slower than MIllar, which puts him in 9th place.

Also Boonen was 35 seconds down at the second time check, making him 8th.

Valverde sprints to the finish line, but it doesn't help.  He is 33 seconds behind Millar's best time, which makes him 11th at the moment.

We still have seven riders on the road.

Greipel is over a minute and a half down at the second time check.

Basso nears the finish.  He didn't do himself any favours today as he finishes 1:11 down, in 33rd place.

Cancellara should be the next one in.

BEnnati just lost all his chances for a top finish today.  A mechanical takes his time away.

And Cancellara takes the lead, as he is over 30 seconds faster than Millar at the finish.

His time was 36:31, making the Olympic champion the only one to break the 37 minute mark.

Tyler Farrar should have finished by now, but no one seems to want to give us any info on him.

Oh there he is, he cross the finish line seconds ahead of Bennati, who started two minutes behind him and lost time with a mechanical.

Bennati finishes

Our two sprinters Boonen and Greipel are still underway.

And there comes Boonen.  He puts in a good time, finishing 1:03 behind Cancellara, making him 11th.

Gold Greipel is the only left now.

Greipel continues on his lonely (and slow) way in the rain.

The stage is over!  Greipel crosses the line 2:32 down on Cancellara, in a time of 39:18, which makes him 67th on the day.

Another win for Cancellara, and he gets back the gold jersey.

Our top three are Cancellara, Millar and Grabsch.

The top five in GC is now:  Cancellara, Boonen, Herrero, Bennati, and Kiryienka.

Don't expect to see Cancellara decked out in gold very long though.  We start up into the mountains tomorrow!

That's it for today.  Thanks for reading along and join us again tomorrow.

————————————————————————————————————————————
Finish

Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 36:41
David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 37:13
Bert Grabsch (Columbia-HTC) 37:17
David Herrero (Xacobeo Galicia) 37:21
Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d'Epargne) 37:27
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 37:28
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) 37:31
Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) 37:34
Lars Boom (Rabobank) 37:40
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 37:43
Jesús Del Nero (Fuji-Servetto) 37:45
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) 37:46
Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 37:50
Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 37:53
Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) 37:53
Haimar Zubeldia (Astana) 37:59
Jens Mouris (Vacansoleil) 38:01
Adam Hansen (Columbia-HTC) 38:02
Frantisek Rabon (Columbia-HTC) 38:11
Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 38:14
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) 38:24
Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) 39:00

11.3km
Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) 13:09
David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 13:13
Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 13:13
Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) 13:15
Haimar Zubeldia (Astana) 13:15
Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d'Epargne) 13:15
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 13:18
Bert Grabsch (Columbia-HTC) 13:21
Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) 13:21
Arkaitz Durán (Fuji-Servetto) 13:22
Linus Gerdemann (Milram) 13:22
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) 13:23
Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) 13:24
Daniel Moreno (Caisse d'Epargne) 13:24
...
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) 13:27
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) 13:42

19.8km
Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 23:45
Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d'Epargne) 23:50
David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) 24:04
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 24:05
Bert Grabsch (Columbia-HTC) 24:06
Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) 24:20
Lars Boom (Rabobank) 24:20
Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) 24:24
Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 24:25
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) 24:27
Gustavo César Veloso (Xacobeo Galicia) 24:30
Jesús Del Nero (Fuji-Servetto) 24:32
Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) 24:33
...
Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 24:39
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) 24:53

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