Leipheimer Wins Time Trial, Takes Yellow Jersey
Levi Leipheimer (Astana) has won Stage 5 of the 2008 Vuelta a Espana. The Olympic time trial bronze medalist came from behind in the last 14 km to snare the flat, 42.5-km race of truth in 50:57. French time trial champion Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) finished second at 0:12, and Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) took third at 0:33. Leipheimer is the new yellow jersey.
During the first half of the out-and-back course, Leipheimer rode into a headwind. The American conserved his energy and then went full throttle on the homeward leg. The Astana man overtook Quinziato and held off Chavanel to win the day's honors.
Today's time trial was an early barometer of form for the GC contenders. Leipheimer's teammate Alberto Contador was one who passed the test. The Giro d'Italia champion, who has recently used a new time trial position, finished fourth at 0:49. He moved into fourth overall at 0:47.
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), another rider with high hopes for the 2008 Vuelta, was satisfied with his time trial. Valverde faded in the closing km but still finished fifth at 0:59. The Spaniard is third overall at 0:30.
Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (CSC) said that he was satisfied with his performance, but one wonders whether he was putting on a brave face. Sastre finished 15th at 1:30. He is now seventh overall at 1:27.
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was a rider whom no one expected anything of. The Belgian, who is not known as a time trialist, turned in a performance that probably surprised even him. Boonen finished fourth at 0:32.
Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) won both time trials at the 2008 Tour de France, but he has lost the form that carried him to those victories. Schumacher finished 13th in Beijing and could manage only 1:21 for 11th place today.
Andreas Kloden (Astana) lost more than four minutes in a Stage 4 crash. Ordinarily, the German is a strong time trialist, but his injuries might have held him back today. Kloden finish 12th at 1:24.
Damiano Cunego (Lampre), who lost more than two minutes in the same crash that took down Kloden, finished 80th at 3:52. The Italian is not a racer against the clock, but he had GC hopes. Cunego's disappointments on consecutive stages, however, have destroyed those aspirations.
Leipheimer stated that his victory had not changed Astana's Vuelta pecking order. "Alberto is the best climber in the world," Leipheimer said. "He's won the Tour, he's won the Giro, and now we're going to work so that he will win the Vuelta. No one's going to be able to follow him up the Rabassa and Angliru climbs. He skipped the Tour, so he's fresh and motivated. I'm here to help him."
In the overall, Leipheimer leads Chavanel by 0:02 and Valverde by 0:30. Stage 6 will probably not change matters. The flattish, 150.1-km run from Ciudad Real to Toledo should end in a sprint. Who will take it? Boonen? Oscar Freire (Rabobank)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!