Velits wins as Rodriguez finds flat time trial an uphill struggle
September 15, 2010 4 Comments
With less than a minute between the top three riders – and less than five minutes separating first from tenth – the Vuelta a España‘s sole individual time-trial, a 46-kilometre loop around the city of Peñafiel, always had the potential for a major shake-up at the top of the general classification. But no one quite expected an outcome as dramatic as this, with HTC-Columbia‘s Peter Velits unexpectedly winning the stage and race leader Joaquim Rodriguez tumbling dramatically down the order and out of overall contention.
On a flat course with few corners, today’s stage was always likely to favour smooth, aerodynamic riders over punchy bike handlers. As FDJ‘s Christophe Le Mevel said before the stage:
It’s 100% flat. We go out, we come back, so it’s 99.9% certain the win is going to go to Fabian Cancellara.
Unsurprisingly Cancellara, wearing the rainbow colours of the world time trial champion, set the early benchmark with a time of 53:20. With the wind picking up as the afternoon wore on, Le Mevel’s prediction started to look increasingly accurate. So it was no small surprise when two-time Vuelta winner Denis Menchov put a forgettable race behind him, catching the two riders who had started ahead of him within sight of the finish line to not only beat Cancellara, but do so by a massive 25 seconds.
But an even bigger shock was to come as Velits, sixth at the start of the day, stopped the watch at a stunning 52:43 – 12 seconds quicker than Menchov and 37 ahead of Cancellara – to lower the benchmark to a level which none of the top five could get within 1:55 of.
The drama was far from over, however. Nicolas Roche and Fränk Schleck, fifth and fourth overnight, posted middling times. Ezequiel Mosquera put in a strong ride, finishing 19th on the day, 2:13 off Velits’ time. Then Vincenzo Nibali came home 18 seconds faster than Mosquera despite puncturing mid-stage, widening the gap between the two to 39 seconds.
There then followed an agonisingly long wait for the red jersey of Rodriguez to arrive. The Spaniard, by his own admission not at his most comfortable in a time trial situation and looking distinctly awkward on his bike throughout, dropped time consistently over the whole course and could only finish 105th, over six minutes slower than Velits. As a consequence, Rodriguez dropped from first to fifth, 3:45 behind Nibali, and he has now had to readjust his aspirations from the overall win to trying to snatch a podium place:
I knew when I went out on the course today it was going to be a hard day. I thought I would lose three or four minutes, so to lose six minutes was more than I thought. Maybe the victory now is complicated, but I can still fight for the podium. Bola del Mundo is so hard. Who knows what will happen?
To say the 25-year old Velits’ win came out of the blue would be an understatement. His most notable career result to date had been a second-place finish on the opening stage of this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné and, despite his high overall placing, you could have obtained extremely long odds on him claiming victory here. Even the Slovakian himself seemed surprised at his own performance:
This is my first time trial victory. It’s unbelievable that it happens at the Tour of Spain. I can’t describe it. To beat Cancellara who is the absolute top time trial rider makes it even more of a surprise.
He is now third overall, exactly two minutes behind Nibali, and a solid ride on Saturday’s final mountain stage should see him earn an extraordinary podium finish.
In summary, here is how the top 10 riders in the GC before the time trial performed:
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) 105th, +6:12 behind Velits
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) 15th, +1:55
3. Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) 19th, +2:13
4. Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) 51st, +3:55
5. Nicolas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale) 38th, +3:29
6. Peter Velits (HTC-Columbia) Stage winner
8. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Transitions) 14th, +1:53
9. Xavier Tondó (Cervelo) 11th, +1:29
10. Carlos Sastre (Cervelo) 13th, +1:47
Despite the massive shake-up, the top ten remains as tight as before, with just 29 seconds separating fourth from ninth, and Nibali knowing his 39-second advantage over Mosquera will come under heavy attack on the long, hard Bola del Mundo climb which concludes Saturday’s penultimate stage. It should make for some spectacular racing, with Mosquera and several others likely to commit to one final roll of the dice to try to improve their positions.
Before that, though, we have two flat stages to bring the sprinters back to the fore – with Mark Cavendish looking to consolidate his lead in the points competition.
Stage 17 result:
1. Peter Velits (HTC-Columbia) 52:43
2. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) +0:12
3. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) +0:37
4. Gustav Larsson (Saxo Bank) +0:50
5. Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d’Epargne) +1:03
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) 71:19:49
2. Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) +0:39
3. Peter Velits (HTC-Columbia) +2:00
4. Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) +3:44
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +3:45
6. Xavier Tondó (Cervelo) +3:45
7. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Transitions) +3:55
8. Nicolas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale) +4:03
9. Carlos Sastre (Cervelo) +4:13
10. Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne) +5:43
1. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) 111 pts
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) 93
3. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) 90
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) 89
5. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 75
1. David Moncoutié (Cofidis) 48 pts
2. Serafín Martínez (Xacobeo Galicia) 38
3. Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne) 25
4. Gonzalo Rabuñal (Xacobeo Galicia) 25
5. Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Eusakdi) 21
- Peter Velits stuns field with TT victory as Nibali leads Vuelta (velonews.competitor.com)