PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Alexandre Vinokourov guaranteed himself a stress-free final day ride around the Vuelta's final stage in Madrid on Sunday when he won the race's key final time trial this afternoon to stretch his overall lead to more than a minute over Alejandro Valverde. The Astana team leader, who is 33 today, finished six seconds clear of Samuel Sanchez on the 27.5km at Rivas Vaciamadrid, with Valverde a plucky third at 19 seconds.
It was the Kazakh's third stage win of the race, and one that was especially pleasing for him as it came on his birthday and all but confirmed a first ever major tour victory. "This has been a great present," he said of the victory. "This morning I was really motivated to win."
He also admitted he hadn't come to race expecting to challenge for victory, but simply "to do well". He seemed to be well out of contention when he lost two and a half minutes on the first mountain stage at La Covatilla, but felt the Granada stage on Thursday when he got clear of Valverde and took the lead was crucial.
"Valverde's mistake that day was not getting anyone in the breakaway, which left him without any support. Of course, I also got stronger coming into the final week. Perhaps I benefited from not doing the Tour," said 'Vino', who described his Vuelta success as "sporting revenge for what happened at the Tour", referring to his team's exclusion from the race after several members were implicated in the Puerto affair.
Valverde felt that experience was the main difference between him and Vinokourov. "The course was harder that predicted beforehand. It was necessary to do it all at top speed. I started very quickly, which allowed me to post the best time in the first intermediate point, but Vinokourov demonstrated again how strong he is.
"I know he has turned 33 today, and it's sure that in this Vuelta the experience he has is what I lack. The result I obtained today gives me confidence for my future in the major tours because it is one more sign than I have improved a lot in this speciality. Now I am going to concentrate on the World Championships in Salzburg. I do not believe that the efforts I have made in the Vuelta will have a negative effect because I am finishing the race feeling pretty good, although the last week has been a very hard one."
Stage 20, Rivas Vaciamadrid time trial
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 27.5km in 33.39
2 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel 0.06
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.19
4 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crdit Agricole 0.26
5 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 0.30
6 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) CSC 0.32
7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 0.44
8 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel 0.49
9 Torsten Hiekmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.55
10 Sbastien Rosseler (Bel) Quick Step 1.00
11 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 1.04
12 David Millar (GB) Saunier Duval 1.05
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 77.42.17
2 Valverde 1.12
3 Andrei Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana 3.12
4 Sastre 3.35
5 Jos Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval 6.51
6 Danielson 8.09
7 Sanchez 8.29
8 Karpets 10.36
9 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel 10.47
10 Luis Perez (Spa) Cofidis 11.32
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM