Post Stage Analysis

Cancellara Unstoppable
Swiss time trial ace wins in Valencia and takes back Gold Jersey

9 Big Photos from Stage 7sirotti

Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank demonstrated his world-beating time trial style on the wet roads of Valencia and won today's Vuelta a España stage by 32 seconds over David Millar of Garmin-Slipstream. Current World Champion in the time trial, Bert Grabsch finished third, 36 seconds behind the flying Swiss talent. The Saxo Bank rider also took back the race lead, which he conceded to André Greipel of Columbia-HTC two days ago. Cancellara leads Tom Boonen by 51 seconds and Pedro Herrero by 59 seconds in the general classification.

After two days of heat, the Vuelta found stormy conditions in coastal city of Valencia. Rain made for slippery roads and treacherous conditions, and the riders faced a headwind on the return lap of the out-and-back course. Despite these obstacles, the flat 30 kilometer course perfectly suited the specialists. David Millar of Garmin-Slipstream set an early best time, which held until very late in the day. Sprinter Daniele Bennati of Liquigas-Doimo, who began the day close to overall lead, set the fastest time at the first check point, but the Italian faded on the back half of the course. Tom Boonen of Quick Step, who started the day second in the general classification, also did a big ride, though a crash in one of the final corners cost him a chance to take over the leaders' jersey.

Still, no one could challenge Fabian Cancellara. Though he started out slowly, Cancellara powered over the straight, wide roads of the course, which included a lap through the Formula 1 course in Valencia. Cancellara said later that he rode slowly during the early kilometers of the course, because the rain had made the corners very slippery. Until today, Valencia had not had rain in quite some time, and the roads carried an extra layer of oil and grime. Fortunately, the majority of riders managed to keep it upright and ride safely to the finish.

After the stage, Cancellara said he wanted "to go fast like a Formula 1 car" on the track at Valencia. "I went easy in the corners at the beginning, because there was a lot of turns and the road was slippery," he explained. Then, on the wider roads, "I really tried to push it there to get a difference." When asked if he would ride the Vuelta a España all the way to Madrid, Cancellara evaded the question, and said he would take it "day by day." The Saxo Bank rider is preparing for the World Championship races in his home country of Switzerland and is widely expected to leave the Spanish grand tour early.

The time gaps among the general classification favorites remained close, thanks to the short distance in this time trial. Of the favorites, Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto is the best-placed in sixth overall. Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d'Épargne sits just 2 seconds behind the Australian in seventh. After a strong ride today against the watch, Tom Danielson of Garmin-Slipstream is eighth and trails Valverde by 1 second. Samuel Sanchez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, who had the best ride in today's stage out of the favorites, is just 1 second behind Danielson. We can expect a close battle among these four riders as the Vuelta heads into the mountains tomorrow. Looking further down, Haimar Zubeldia of Astana trails Evans by 31 seconds, Ivan Basso lags by 40 seconds, and Dutch climbing talent Robert Gesink is 45 seconds behind the Australian. The young Danish climber Jakob Fuglsang is currently 51 seconds behind Evans, and has his work cut out for him, if he wants to ride high in the overall standings.

André Greipel, meanwhile, continues to lead the Points classification, while Juan Antonio López Gil of Andalucia-Cajasur leads the Mountains classification. According to the official results, Dominik Roels of Team Milram has taken over the White Jersey and leads the Combination classification, though yesterday's leader Serafín Martínez Acevedo of Xacobeo-Galicia received the jersey on the podium. We will eagerly await tomorrow's stage start to see who actually wears the White Jersey.

Tomorrow, the Vuelta heads into the mountains in a big day for the general classification riders. The stage finishes on the Especial Alto de Aitana after passing over seven categorized climbs. It's a hard one tomorrow, and it should upend the current general classification. For more details on tomorrow's stage, please turn the page.

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Course Preview

Stage 7 Valencia - Valencia

Terrain Type: Flat time trial.
GC Importance: Most definitely. The general classification riders must race today.

The Vuelta heads to Valencia for a 30 kilometer time trial stage. The theme for the Vuelta time trials is motor-sports courses, and the Valencia time trial starts and finishes with a lap around the Valencia Street Circuit, which hosts Moto GP and Formula 1 events. The profile is flat, and this stage will suit the power riders and time trial specialists, the men who live to push the 55x11.

Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, sits on the Mediterranean coast in Southeastern Spain. The Romans settled there during the 2nd century BCE, and named the city Valentia, Latin for valor. The Barrio del Carmen area of the city retains buildings from the Roman era and the later period of Muslim rule. Valencia fun fact! Paella originated in Valencia. Valencia also boasts a landmark modernist museum complex, the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciènces, designed by Santiago Calatrava. Situated on the water, the rounded museum building resembles a giant blinking eye.

Valencia has frequently played host to the Vuelta a España. The most recent visit came in 2004, when a sprint stage finished in the Mediterranean city. Alessandro Petacchi celebrated the stage victory. The most recent time trial in Valencia took place in 1987, and Sean Kelly won the stage.

Profile Details

The course starts and finishes on the Av del Ingeniero Manuel Soto not far from the harbor in Valencia. The profile is flat for this time trial and the course follows wide roads. Though the course passes through several roundabouts, it is not especially technical.

After the start, the course takes a lap on the Valencia Street Circuit, which is used for Formula 1 racing. The circuit runs around a marina, where with sufficient funds, you can hire a slip and watch the racing from your private yacht. After exiting the Street Circuit, the course follows and out-and-back track toward El Saler, which lies southwest of central Valencia. The time trial finishes with another lap around the Valencia Street Circuit. The course should produce very fast times.

Who to Watch

Though short, this time trial suits the specialists with its flat profile and open roads. Fabian Cancellara will find much to like about this course and is a clear favorite here. Of late, the Swiss rider has been nearly unbeatable against the watch, and his rivals will find it difficult to best him on this course.

World Champion in the time trial Bert Grabsch of Columbia-HTC has the lightbulbs for this flat Valencia course, but will likely find the distance a bit shorter than he would like. Grabsch has tended to thrive in longer time trials, and 30 kilometers may not be enough to get his engine revved up. Grabsch’s Columbia-HTC team-mate František Rabon could challenge for a high placing. Over at Garmin-Slipstream, meanwhile, David Millar should put in a strong ride here, though in recent seasons he has not proved able to match the level of riders like Cancellara or Grabsch. Young riders Ignatas Konovalovas of Cervélo TestTeam and Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas-Doimo should also ride well in Valencia.

Of course, the general classification riders will also need good legs in Valencia. The time trial clocks in at only 30 kilometers, and the time gaps among the general classification riders should not be huge. At the same time, none of the general classification riders can take this stage for granted. For the most part, this Vuelta is stacked with talented climbers rather than time trial aces. Cadel Evans should ride the best of the general classification riders, though he may wish that the stage continued 10-15 kilometers longer. Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez have also both shown well in flat time trials, relatively speaking, but neither will likely challenge the specialists.

Though Basso has struggled against the watch since his return to racing this season, he should not lose too much time over 30 kilometers in this company. Likewise for Andy Schleck, who has steadily improved his riding on the time trial bike over the past two seasons. Schleck’s team-mate Jakob Fuglsang, meanwhile, finished 23 seconds down on Cancellara in the Assen prologue. Fuglsang could be the surprise package of this stage among the general classification contenders.

Robert Gesink of Rabobank, Igor Anton of Euskaltel-Euskadi, and Ezequiel Mosquera of Xacobeo-Galicia will not find much to like about this stage, and will all be dreaming of the mountain stages to come.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->