Today’s individual time trial takes place in Salamanca, the capital of the Spanish province of the same name in the region of Castilla-Leon, located 118 kilometres east of the Portuguese border and 204 kilometres to the north west of Madrid. This is a beautiful historic city boasting the oldest university in Spain and some truly magnificent ancient buildings. Its streets and plazas are brimming with history and humming with vibrancy thanks to the large Spanish and foreign student population. UNESCO has declared the entire city a world heritage site and in 2002, along with Bruges, it was a European Capital of Culture.
They call Salamanca “La Dorada” ( the Golden City) because its buildings are made from the Villamayor golden sandstone which shimmers with ever-changing hues according to the position and strength of the sun. Even the more modern buildings have been constructed from this special stone which at times appears almost golden though you might also see shades of ochre, red, pink and yellow depending on the sunlight. It’s also called the Land of the Bulls because Spain’s fighting bulls are reared in the pastures beyond the city.
Salamanca’s historic centre is confined to a smallish area, surrounded by wide roads that keep most of the traffic out. There is something beautiful to see around every corner. First stop, the Plaza Mayor, arguably the finest main square in Spain, and where today’s stage finishes, dating from the early 18th century, is the heart of the city, to which all roads seemingly lead, and is surrounded by colonnaded walkways containing 88 semi-circular arches. Most of the arches contain cafes and bars, whose tables spill out on to the square.
While Salamanca had been important in Roman times and the centuries thereafter, the turning point in its history was 1218, when the university was founded. The period around the end of the 15th century was the city’s high point, which lasted well into the 17th century. The architecture from this era remains throughout the city, and it seems every street has a building decorated with elaborate plateresque (lavishly ornamental) and Renaissance plasterwork.
I have spent most of the Vuelta keeping a look out for my two friends who are riding. Both perform similar support functions within their teams and. therefore, unsurprisingly are positioned well within the pack and not too far apart from one another on GC. While both are good time-triallists, they prefer a more undulating parcours. Today is definitely one for the specialists: Cancellara, Martin, Phinney and Grabsch. These four will have fresher legs than some of the GC contenders. Nonetheless, I would expect Bradley Wiggins to challenge strongly and seize the opportunity to put time into his GC opponents.
Individual time trials: just a man and his bike, against the clock. Well, not exactly, you also have to ride quicker than the competition. The later you start, in theory, the better as you’ve everyone else’s time checks. The weather conditions are secondary as the GC contenders all ride within a short time period of one another. This is the only individual time-trial and coming midway in the tour will give those who will inevitably lose time here today an opportunity to attack in the remaining stages. This time-trial puts riders such as JRod on the back foot but potentially could lead to exciting racing in the coming days.
I think it’s fair to say that today’s stage went pretty much as anticipated with one very BIG exception. Tony Martin won the stage but the man in second place pulled on the red jersey. No, it wasn’t Wiggo, he’s 3rd on GC. It was, surprise, surprise, his Kenyan born, UK registered Sky team mate, Chris Froome ,who has been ever-present at Bradley’s side during the Vuelta. Has this set the cat among the pigeons, or what? It’s certainly got the British presenters waxing lyrical about Robert Millar in his heyday, and his successes in the same race.
How did my friends fare? Amazingly, they finished one after the other.
Here’s the top 20 on GC after today’s stage:-
|Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling||38:09:13|
|2||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek||0:00:12|
|3||Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling||0:00:20|
|4||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||0:00:31|
|5||Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Pro Team Astana||0:00:34|
|6||Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek||0:00:59|
|7||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||0:01:07|
|8||Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC||0:01:47|
|9||Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team RadioShack||0:02:04|
|10||Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack||0:02:13|
|11||Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Movistar Team||0:02:15|
|12||Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||0:02:21|
|13||Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC||0:02:35|
|14||Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team||0:03:23|
|15||Sergio Pardilla Belllón (Spa) Movistar Team|
|16||Tiago Machado (Por) Team RadioShack||0:03:28|
|17||Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale||0:03:47|
|18||Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||0:03:52|
|19||Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team||0:03:59|
|20||Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard||0:04:07|