Millar Wins Stage 20 Time Trial
David Millar (Garmin) has won Stage 20 of the 2009 Vuelta. In the absence of Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), who won the race's first two time trials, Millar held off the efforts of Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) and Cadel Evans (Silence) to win the rolling, 28-km time trial in and around Toledo in 35:53. Sanchez finished second at 0:05, and Evans took third at 0:09. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), who finished seventh at 0:36, remains the overall leader and is poised to win his first Grand Tour when the race ends in Madrid tomorrow.
Maclej Bodnar (Liquigas), the Polish time trial champion, set the early standard with a 36:37. Millar was 0:03 faster than the Pole at the first checkpoint (10 km) and 0:04 slower at the second (19.5 km). The Garmin man burned up the road in the last 8.5 km to take the lead. Then, Millar, an early starter, waited for the heavy hitters to finish.
Two riders had much to ride for. One was Sanchez, who began the day in second overall and could have caught Valverde with a great ride. The other was Evans, who began the day in fourth overall and could have caught Ivan Basso (Liquigas), who started the stage in third overall, with a decent ride. A great ride would have taken second place from Sanchez.
Evans was only 0:06 behind Millar at the second checkpoint, but that was as close as the Australian got to the Scot. Evans finished 0:09 behind Millar and 0:04 behind Sanchez. Just as important, he finished 0:54 ahead of Basso, who dropped from third to fourth on GC.
Sanchez rode well but not nearly well enough to overtake Valverde. The Euskaltel man did ride well enough to keep his second place and close to within a minute of Valverde.
In the overall, Valverde leads Sanchez by 0:55 and Evans by 1:32. Stage 20, a flattish, 110-km run from Rivas-Vaciamadrid to Madrid, will be a procession for the winner and a final opportunity for the sprinters to shine. Look for Liquigas, which has not won a stage, to do everything that it can to put Daniele Bennati across the finish line first. Look for Columbia, which has won four sprint stages, to do all in its power to put Andre Greipel in position to win a fifth. Which team and which man will succeed? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!