La Vuelta: Landis lands in leader’s jersey

History has a way of repeating itself at U.S. Postal Service and now Floyd Landis is hoping that trend continues after he became the first American to wear the leader’s jersey at the Vuelta a España on Saturday after his team roared to victory in the opening team time trial. “We didn’t have a particular plan about who would come across first, but we had a plan on how to ride the time trial,” said Landis, who enjoyed some quality time on the podium following the stage. “Johan called in on the radio in the last 500 meters and he was generous enough to give me the lead, so I wasn’t

Postal delivers another TTT

By Andrew Hood

Photo: AFP

History has a way of repeating itself at U.S. Postal Service and now Floyd Landis is hoping that trend continues after he became the first American to wear the leader’s jersey at the Vuelta a España on Saturday after his team roared to victory in the opening team time trial.

“We didn’t have a particular plan about who would come across first, but we had a plan on how to ride the time trial,” said Landis, who enjoyed some quality time on the podium following the stage. “Johan called in on the radio in the last 500 meters and he was generous enough to give me the lead, so I wasn’t arguing.”

Just six weeks after winning a record sixth Tour de France with Lance Armstrong, Postal Service entered the 59th Vuelta downplaying its chances for overall victory. Despite the presence of Landis and Manuel Beltrán as team leaders, the team doesn’t come with a major GC rider after the departure of defending champion Roberto Heras to arch-rival Liberty Seguros.

But Postal Service couldn’t help itself in the 27.7km course that hit a Category 3 climb 11km into the race. Landis along with the help of strong rollers Michael Barry, Dave Zabriskie and Victor Hugo Peña hammered the field, posting the fastest splits to roll to victory in 30 minutes, 45 seconds.

The real question is – which Landis is showing up at the Vuelta? If he’s the same Landis that smothered attacks so efficiently at the Tour de France, the Spanish riders will have something to be worry about.

“This is an exciting day. I’ll celebrate a little tonight and thank the team, but there’s still a lot of racing ahead. This is a three-week stage race. We’ll stay humble,” Landis said. “After the Tour, I went back to California with my family. I rode every day, but no stress. My form seems to be as good as the Tour, so we’ll see how long it will stay that way.”

Postal Service was the only team to finish under 31 minutes on the blustery course and gave a Texas-size drubbing to pre-race favorites Illes Balears (third at 56 seconds) and Phonak (fifth at 1:01). Heras’s Liberty Seguros could only muster eighth at 1:28 slower. Only T-Mobile at 31 seconds slower made it a race.

Will Postal Service defend the jersey in the flat first week of the Vuelta? No, Landis shook his head. Was he thinking about overall victory? Landis wasn’t counting out any possibilities.

“There’s always a chance. I have my own ideas of my fitness, but I come to the race without any pressure. We race one grand tour a year with pressure and that’s the Tour de France,” Landis said. “We come here to the Vuelta a little more relaxed and we will take it one day at a time.”

Posties deliver yet again
In the past two Tours, U.S. Postal Service has won the team time trial en route to overall victories with Armstrong. This is the first time Postal Service has won the team time trial at the Vuelta, but it did so in dominant fashion.

Photo: Graham Watson

“It wasn’t a very complicated course and we’re somewhat of a specialist in the team time trials,” said team sport director Johan Bruyneel. “I am very satisfied. We have come here to win stages and so if we won here today, we got off to a pretty good start.”

At the top of the Cat. 3 climb at 11km, Postal Service already had an 8-second lead over early best-time setter Illes Balears thanks to fine work by Landis. At 20km the lead widened to 20 seconds over the surging T-Mobile. They added another 11 seconds over the final 7.7km against headwinds for good measure.

“Everybody pulled as hard as they could. It was pretty fun. Johan was giving us the split times and that just made us go faster and faster,” said Dave Zabriskie, making his second Vuelta start. “Floyd did the whole thing up that climb and it was really steady. It wasn’t really a problem for us. The last couple of days we’ve been practicing.”

Teams were required to arrive early for pre-race medical screenings, so Postal Service took advantage of the extra time to practice the course several times since arriving in León on Wednesday.

“The last few days the team felt pretty good in training,” said Michael Barry, who came through second. “We started off quick today and it was smooth the whole way. Floyd was really strong and he did some awesome pulls. Everyone did their job today quite well, so it was a nice victory for the team today. … We have a great team here, Max for the sprints, Floyd and Triki for the overall. It’s a different approach than we’ve had before when we’ve come in with a strong leader like Heras.”

Hoping for more
Tyler Hamilton – not Floyd Landis – was the American on everyone’s tongue at the start of the 59th Vuelta. The 33-year-old New Englander is fresh off his gold medal performance at the Athens Olympic Games and huge crowds pressed in around his Phonak team bus to catch a glimpse of the American star.

But just like at the Tour de France, Phonak couldn’t quite find its rhythm in the team time trial. Unlike the Tour race, however, the team didn’t suffer from crashes or mechanicals. Instead, it was just a lack of cohesion in the early part of the race.

“I’m disappointed,” Hamilton said. “We had a slow start. We gave it everything for this guy (pointing to Oscar Sevilla), the plan was for him to finish first. That was my idea to have him finish first and hopefully with the jersey. He’s had a rough couple of last years and it would have been good for confidence to have gotten the jersey.”

T-Mobile takes second

T-Mobile takes second

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Instead of having Sevilla in the jersey, Hamilton finds himself 1:01 behind Landis and 30 seconds adrift T-Mobile’s Alexandre Vinokourov and Cadel Evans. While Landis and Hamilton will be racing together next year on Phonak – as Landis is set to join the Swiss team for a two-year contract – but they’re still rivals. Hamilton admitted he was expecting more from the performance.

“We got here on Tuesday and rode the course every day. We did three laps Friday on it, we did our homework for sure. We were a little off,” he said. “A few guys were a little bit nervous. It wasn’t as a smooth start as I hoped, five seconds behind those guys I started in the train second-to-last and I was definitely pedaling easy and my first pull wasn’t until after five minutes, so it wasn’t hard enough for me in the beginning, but it’s hard for some of the new guys.”

Another team expecting more was Liberty Seguros, which could only must eighth at 1:28 back. Even more disappointing was Saunier Duval, which came through 14th at 1:50 slower despite (or because of?) the recent addition of hobbled Tour de France podium man Joseba Beloki.

Finishing last was Euskaltel-Euskadi, which stopped the clock at 2:27 adrift. Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme, led by emerging star Alejandro Valverde, had a strong ride to finish fourth at 58 seconds back, just one of three teams to finish within one minute of Postal Service.

The 59th Vuelta continues Sunday with the rolling 207km second stage from León to Burgos. Expect U.S. Postal to keep its word and not chase if unthreatening riders go on the attack, but also expect the sprinter teams to keep a lid on things to set up a mass sprint.

With such a big head start, Landis might find himself kissing the podium girls for a few more days even if he doesn’t want to.

1. U.S. Postal 30:45
2. T-Mobile, at 0:31
3. Banesto, at 0:56
4. Kelme, at 0:58
5. Phonak, at 1:01
FullresultsTo see how today’s stage unfolded, simply open up our LIVE UPDATE WINDOW.

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1. U.S. Postal 30:45

2. T-Mobile, at 0:31

3. Banesto, at 0:56

4. Kelme, at 0:58

5. Phonak, at 1:01

6. CSC, at 1:24

7. Fassa Bortolo, at 1:25

8. Liberty Seguros, at 1:28

9. Saeco, at 1:38

10. Relax, at 1:41

11. Lampre, at 1:46

12. Ag2r, at 1:49

13. Cofidis, at 1:49

14. Saunier, at 1:50

15. Cafes_Baque, at 1:54

16. Alessio, at 2:00

17. Paternina, at 2:01

18. Vini Caldirola, at 2:12

19. Quick Step, at 2:13

20. Rabobank, at 2:16

21. Euskaltel Euskadi, at 2:27

Overall, after Stage 1
1. Floyd Landis (USA), U.S. Postal – 30:45

2. Michael Barry (Can), U.S. Postal

3. Victor Hugo Pena (Col), U.S. Postal

4. Manuel Beltran (Sp), U.S. Postal

5. David Zabriskie (USA), U.S. Postal

6. Joachim (Lux), U.S. Postal

7. Max Van Heeswijk (Nl), U.S. Postal, all s.t.

8. Erik Zabel (G), T-Mobile, at 0:31

9. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kz), T-Mobile

10. Tomas Konecny (Cz), T-Mobile

11. Santiago Botero (Col), T-Mobile

12. Cadel Evans (Aus), T-Mobile

13. Torsten Hiekmann (G), T-Mobile

14. Stephan Schreck (G), T-Mobile

15. Steffan Wesemann (G), T-Mobile

16. Antonio Cruz (USA), U.S. Postal Service

17. José Luis Arrieta (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto

18. Antonio Colom (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto

19. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto

20. Pablo Lastras (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto

21. Denis Menchov (Rus), Illes Balears-Banesto

22. Mikel Pradera (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto

23. Joan Horrach (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto

24. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca

25. Eladio Jimenez (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca

26. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca

27. David Blanco (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca

28. Rubén Plaza (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca

29. Francisco Cabello (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca

30. David Latasa (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca

31. Carlos Garcia Quesada (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca

32. Oscar Sevilla (Sp), Phonak, 1:01

33. José Gutierrez (Sp), Phonak, 1:01

34. Santiago Perez (Sp), Phonak, 1:01

35. Nicolas Jalabert (F), Phonak, 1:01

36. Tyler Hamilton (USA), Phonak, 1:01

37. Santos Gonzalez (Sp), Phonak, 1:01

38. Bert Grabsch (G), Phonak, 1:01

39. Andreas Klier (G), T-Mobile, 1:02

40. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CSC, 1:24

41. Jörg Jaksche (G), CSC, 1:24

42. Vladimir Gusev (Rus), CSC, 1:24

43. Frank Hoj (Dk), CSC, 1:24

44. Frank Schleck (Lux), CSC, 1:24

45. Peter Luttenberger (A), CSC, 1:24

46. Manuel Calvente (Sp), CSC, 1:24

47. Fabio Sacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo, 1:25

48. Julián Sanchez (Sp), Fassa Bortolo, 1:25

49. Dario David Cioni (I), Fassa Bortolo, 1:25

50. Marco Velo (I), Fassa Bortolo, 1:25

51. Volodymir Gustov (Ukr), Fassa Bortolo, 1:25

52. Aitor Gonzalez (Sp), Fassa Bortolo, 1:25

53. Alberto Ongarato (I), Fassa Bortolo, 1:25

54. Roberto Heras (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 1:28

55. Koldo Gil (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 1:28

56. Marcos Serrano (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 1:28

57. Igor Glez. Galdeano (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 1:28

58. Isidro Nozal (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 1:28

59. Giampaolo Caruso (I), Liberty Seguros, 1:28

60. Damiano Cunego (I), Saeco, 1:38

61. Danilo Di Luca (I), Saeco, 1:38

62. Sylvester Szymyd (Pol), Saeco, 1:38

63. Eddy Mazzoleni (I), Saeco, 1:38

64. Marius Sabaliauskas (Lit), Saeco, 1:38

65. Alessandro Spezialetti (I), Saeco, 1:38

66. Juan Fuentes (Sp), Saeco, 1:38

67. Xavier Florencio (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 1:41

68. Josep Jufre (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 1:41

69. Jose Luis Rebollo (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 1:41

70. Luis Pasamontes (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 1:41

71. Nacor Burgos (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 1:41

72. Johan Van Summeren (B), Relax Bodysol, 1:41

73. Alberto Martinez (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 1:41

74. Juan Manuel Garate (Sp), Lampre, 1:46

75. Alessandro Cortinovis (I), Lampre, 1:46

76. Manuel Quinziato (I), Lampre, 1:46

77. Michele Scotto (I), Lampre, 1:46

78. Daniele Righi (I), Lampre, 1:46

79. Nicolas Inaudi (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, 1:49

80. Iñigo Chaurreau (Sp), Ag2R Prevoyance, 1:49

81. Stephane Goubert (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, 1:49

82. Erki PÜtsep (Est), Ag2R Prevoyance, 1:49

83. Christophe Oriol (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, 1:49

84. Mikel Astarloza (Sp), Ag2R Prevoyance, 1:49

85. Stéphane Berges (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, 1:49

86. Julien Laidoun (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, 1:49

87. Andy Flickinger (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, 1:49

88. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Cofidis, 1:49

89. Luis Perez (Sp), Cofidis, 1:49

90. Iñigo Cuesta (Sp), Cofidis, 1:49

91. Cedric Vasseur (F), Cofidis, 1:49

92. Guido Trentin (I), Cofidis, 1:49

93. Joseba Beloki (Sp), Saunier Duval, 1:50

94. Constantino Zaballa (Sp), Saunier Duval, 1:50

95. M.a. Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Saunier Duval, 1:50

96. Juan Carlos Dominguez (Sp), Saunier Duval, 1:50

97. David CaÑada (Sp), Saunier Duval, 1:50

98. Joaquin Rodriguez (Sp), Saunier Duval, 1:50

99. Ivan Parra (Col), BAQ, 1:54

100. Aitor Perez (Sp), BAQ, 1:54

101. Heberth Gutierre (Col), BAQ, 1:54

102. Felix Cardenas (Col), BAQ, 1:54

103. Francisco Garcia (Sp), BAQ, 1:54

104. Hernan Buenahora (Col), BAQ, 1:54

105. David Plaza (Sp), BAQ, 1:54

106. Peio Arreitunandia (Sp), BAQ, 1:54

107. Ricardo Serrano (Sp), BAQ, 1:54

108. Cristian Moreni (I), ALS, 2:00

109. Angelo Furlan (I), ALS, 2:00

110. Klaus MÖller (Dk), ALS, 2:00

111. Ruslan Ivanov (MDA), ALS, 2:00

112. Martin Hvastija (SLO), ALS, 2:00

113. Vladimir Miholjevic (CRO), ALS, 2:00

114. Pietro Caucchioli (I), ALS, 2:00

115. Ellis Rastelli (I), ALS, 2:00

116. David Fernandez (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 2:01

117. Carlos Torrent (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 2:01

118. Ion Del Rio (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 2:01

119. Jorge Ferrio (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 2:01

120. Angel Gomez (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 2:01

121. Joaquin Lopez (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 2:01

122. David Herrero (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 2:01

123. Francisco José Lara (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 2:01

124. Matthew White (Aus), Cofidis, 2:03

125. Pavel Tonkov (Rus), Vini Caldirola, 2:12

126. Stefano Garzelli (I), Vini Caldirola, 2:12

127. Roberto Sgambelluri (I), Vini Caldirola, 2:12

128. Marco Zanotti (I), Vini Caldirola, 2:12

129. Patrick Calcagni (Swi), Vini Caldirola, 2:12

130. Mauro Gerosa (I), Vini Caldirola, 2:12

131. Steve Zampieri (Swi), Vini Caldirola, 2:12

132. Pedro Horrillo (Sp), Quick Step-Davitamon, 2:13

133. Luca Paolini (I), Quick Step-Davitamon, 2:13

134. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun), Quick Step-Davitamon, 2:13

135. Bram Tankink (Nl), Quick Step-Davitamon, 2:13

136. José Garrido (Sp), Quick Step-Davitamon, 2:13

137. Kevin Hulsmans (B), Quick Step-Davitamon, 2:13

138. J.antonio Pecharroman (Sp), Quick Step-Davitamon, 2:13

139. Patrick Sinkewitz (G), Quick Step-Davitamon, 2:13

140. Jurgen Van Goolen (B), Quick Step-Davitamon, 2:13

141. Tadej Valjavec (SLO), Phonak, 2:16

142. Robert Hunter (RSA), Rabobank, 2:16

143. Pieter Weening (Nl), Rabobank, 2:16

144. Oscar Freire (Sp), Rabobank, 2:16

145. Ronald Mutsaars (Nl), Rabobank, 2:16

146. Maarten Den Bakker (Nl), Rabobank, 2:16

147. Bert Roesems (B), Relax Bodysol, 2:26

148. Haimar Zubeldia (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 2:27

149. Samuel Sanchez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 2:27

150. Aitor Silloniz (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 2:27

151. Roberto Laiseka (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 2:27

152. Iñaki Isasi (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 2:27

153. Mikel Artetxe (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 2:27

154. Alberto Lopez De Munain (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 2:27

155. Dario Andriotto (I), Vini Caldirola, 2:27

156. Scott Sunderland (Aus), ALS, 2:35

157. Simone Bertoletti (I), Lampre, 2:39

158. Marco Milesi (I), Vini Caldirola, 2:40

159. Bingen Fernandez (Sp), Cofidis, 2:41

160. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval, 3:14

161. José Garcia Acosta (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto, 3:15

162. Guido Trenti (USA), Fassa Bortolo, 4:47

163. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo, 4:47

164. José Julia (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca, 5:07

165. Unai Osa (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto, 5:12

166. Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus), U.S. Postal Service, 5:13

167. Dariusz Baranowski (Pol), Liberty Seguros, 5:20

168. Rene Andrle (Cz), Liberty Seguros, 5:25

169. Jan Hruska (Cz), Liberty Seguros, 5:25

170. Rafael Casero (Sp), Saunier Duval, 5:30

171. Fabian Jeker (Swi), Saunier Duval, 5:30

172. Thorwald Veneberg (Nl), Rabobank, 5:31

173. Kevin De Weert (B), Rabobank, 5:31

174. Joost Posthuma (Nl), Rabobank, 5:31

175. Jan Boven (Nl), Rabobank, 5:31

176. José Miguel Elias (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 5:51

177. Igor Astarloa (Sp), Lampre, 6:20

178. Arnaud Coyot (F), Cofidis, 6:23

179. Daniel Atienza (Sp), Cofidis, 6:23

180. Gonzalo Bayarri (Sp), Phonak, 6:27

181. Paolo Fornaciari (I), Saeco, 6:27

182. Giosue Bonomi (I), Saeco, 6:27

183. Mariano Piccoli (I), Lampre, 6:47

184. Thomas Bruun (Dk), CSC, 6:58

185. Brian Vandborg (Dk), CSC, 6:58

186. Joseba Albizu (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 7:01

187. Josu Silloniz (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 7:01

KOM- Overall
1. Floyd Landis (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 6 Pts.

2. David Zabriskie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 4 Pts.

3. Manuel Beltran (Sp), U.S. Postal Service, 2 Pts.

4. Benoit Joachim (Lux), U.S. Postal Service, 1 Pts.