Menchov off to a flyer

Tour de France chump Denis Menchov turned champ in the first stage of the Vuelta a Espana in Granada

Tour de France chump Denis Menchov turned champ in the first stage of the Vuelta a Espana in Granada
Denis Menchov proved that he had put his disappointing Tour de France campaign behind him as the Russian claimed the first leader's jersey of the 2005 Vuelta a Espana in Andalucia on Saturday. On a hilly, 7km prologue time-trial course around Granada, the 27-year-old Rabobank star pipped Rik Verbrugghe to victory by a single second, with Australia's Brad McGee coming in third, a further two seconds adrift. Menchov was one of a host of climbers to turn in fine performances, with Roberto Heras and Gilberto Simoni surprisingly finishing in seventh and tenth position respectively. It was also a good day for procycling columnists Carlos Sastre and Tom Danielson, who came in fourth and fifth. With the category-three Alto de Alhambra to overcome just 2.3 kilometres into the Granada course, today's prologue may provide useful pointers as to who may excel on a mountainous Vuelta route in the next three weeks. Among the pre-race favourites, the Phonak pair of Oscar Pereiro and Floyd Landis will be hoping that this isn't the case, as they struggled home in 46th and 58th place respectively on Saturday afternoon. Landis may have been feeling the ill-effects of a crash in training on Thursday which left the American nursing road rash and grazes to both arms. Joseba Beloki waited until the Vuelta got underway to take his latest tumble in a major tour. The Liberty Seguros rider fell in the first kilometre this afternoon and lost at least half a minute as he stopped to change his bike. Beloki cut a dishevelled figure as he struggled home in third-to-last place, 1-44 down on Menchov. On the eve of the race, Beloki's team manager, Manolo Saiz, could scarcely conceal his outrage at the series of events which led to Lance Armstrong being accused of using EPO in the 1999 Tour de France by L'Equipe earlier this week. After apparently discussing possible protest gestures with his fellow team bosses in a meeting on Friday, Saiz wouldn't reveal what resolutions had been made but said that "cycling's image has been tarnished yet again". Saiz also insinuated that L'Equipe had deliberately timed its scoop to coincide with the beginning of the Vuelta "in order to to damage the event". Sunday's 189.3km stage two will take the peloton from Granada to C¢rdoba and is expected to play host to the first, eagerly-awaited skirmishes between the sprint trio of Thor Hushovd, Alessandro Petacchi and Tom Boonen. Stage 1, Granada-Granada prologue TT Results and general classification 1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 7km in 9.45 2 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quick Step 0.01 3 Bradley McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux 0.03 4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 0.07 5 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 0.12 6 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 0.13 7 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.15 8 David Bernabeu (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 9 Santiago Botero Echeverry (Col) Phonak 0.18 10 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre - Caffita 0.20 20 Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.26 21 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 46 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.36 58 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak 0.39 195 Joseba Beloki Dorronsoro (Spa) Liberty Seguros 1.44
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