Vuelta 15: Perez wins mountain TT

Santiago Perez boosts himself right into overall contention with victory in the Sierra Nevada mounta

Santiago Perez boosts himself right into overall contention with victory in the Sierra Nevada mounta
PICTURE BY LAVUELTA.COM Santiago Perez won his second stage in consecutive days when he finished a clear winner of today's mountain time trial up the slopes of the Sierra Nevada that overlooks Granada. The 27-year-old Spaniard finished more than a minute clear of second-placed Alejandro Valverde, with pre-stage favourite Roberto Heras only third and almost two minutes down on Perez. At the end of a stage where Heras was hoping to extend his lead on his preferred terrain, he was instead just five seconds clear of Valverde, who would have taken the gold jersey if he could have sustained his pace during the last two kilometres. But both men will be looking over their shoulders at Perez, who jumped himself up to third place, ahead of Paco Mancebo. His deficit on Heras is a substantial 1-45, but with two summit finishes to come the Phonak rider cannot be counted out. There were impressively large crowds on sections of the course, with Granada taking the opportunity to remind the cycling world that it is hosting the opening stages of next year's Vuelta. But any of the crowd who had turned up hoping to see sprint king Alessandro Petacchi tackle the almost 30-kilometre climb up the mountain would have been disappointed when the winner of four Vuelta stages did not start. The best time among the earlier riders was set by the resurgent Alexandre Vinokourov. The Kazakh's effort of 1-05-35 was not threatened until the last few riders began their ascent. Perez was off sixth from the end and his two check times were staggeringly quicker than the best that had gone before. Vinokourov had looked good, but ended up an awesome 3-06 down on the flying Asturian. Valverde was the only rider who threatened to deprive Perez of another stage win. The Murcian was just five seconds down at the first check, but steadily lost time thereafter. However, he will have been pleased to have overtaken his two-minute man, Isidro Nozal, which effectively puts the hard-riding Liberty Seguros man out of overall contention. Heras had bike problems early on, forcing him to switch to a new machine, but even that change did not stop his deficit increasing on both Perez and Valverde. The rider from Bejar had spoken a couple of days ago about his need to gain time on the Sierra Nevada and at the two summits still to come because he knows he is likely to lose time to most of his rivals in the final Madrid time trial. This wasn't how it was supposed to be today for him. The momentum now seems to with Valverde and Perez, and particularly the Phonak rider. Yesterday he paid tribute to his late girlfriend, Vanesa, who died in a car crash in December 2002, by kissing the medal she had given him as he crossed the line. "I was looking for a big win with which I could pay tribute to her," he said. But after today's showing that big win may well come next Sunday in Madrid. Stage 15, Granada-Sierra Nevada time trial 1 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak 29.6km in 1.02.29 (28.42kph) 2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) CV-Kelme 1.07 3 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 1.51 4 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 3.06 5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 3.18 6 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) CV-Kelme 3.24 7 Angel Gomez (Spa) Costa de Almeria 3.59 8 David Blanco (Spa) CV-Kelme 4.00 9 Isidro Nozal (Spa) Liberty Seguros 4.24 10 Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Spa) CV-Kelme 4.28 11 Ivan Parra (Col) CV-Kelme 4.30 12 Hernan Buenahora (Col) Cafs Baqu 4.31 13 Marcos Serrano (Spa) Liberty Seguros 4.45 14 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 4.47 15 Jorge Ferrio (Spa) Costa de Almeria 5.05 16 Eladio Jimenez (Spa) CV-Kelme 5.07 17 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola 5.10 18 Luis Perez (Spa) Cofidis 5.21 19 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 5.23 20 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel 5.24 23 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 5.53 28 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco 6.21 43 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile 8.27 Overall standings 1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 54.04.25 2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) CV-Kelme 0.05 3 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak 1.45 4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 2.02 5 Isidro Nozal (Spa) Liberty Seguros 3.45 6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 6.12 7 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 8.21 8 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal 8.44 9 Angel Gomez (Spa) Costa de Almeria 8.51 10 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) CV-Kelme 8.59 11 David Blanco (Spa) CV-Kelme 9.43 12 Luis Perez (Spa) Cofidis 11.21 13 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola 13.58 14 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco 14.06 15 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 16.26 16 Marcos Serrano (Spa) Liberty Seguros 17.43 17 Francisco Lara (Spa) Costa de Almeria 18.28 18 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Saunier Duval 19.48 19 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel 23.24 20 Luis Pasamontes (Spa) Relax-Bodysol 24.30 46 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile 55.55 Points classification 1 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile 148 2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) CV-Kelme 126 3 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 97 Mountains classification 1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 87 2 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 72 3 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak 71
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