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Malori wins stage 5 time trial at Tour de San Luis

Phinney misses stage win and Gaimon gives up overall lead in Argentina

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Adriano Malori won the stage 5 individual time trial at the Tour de San Luís on Friday in San Luís, Argentina. Malori (Movistar) took advantage of equipment issues for pre-stage favorite Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) to set the fastest time on the mostly flat 19.2-kilometer circuit.

Malori set the winning mark in 22:11. Phinney was second, at 2.7 seconds, and Jorge Giacinti (San Luís Somos Todos) was third, at 29 seconds. American Larry Warbasse (BMC Racing) was fourth, at 49 seconds.

“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to win because Phinney was focused on taking the win here and was the top favorite,” Malori said. “But once I got into the race, I realized I was rolling strong. I knew the course from last year’s race, when I finished fifth, and I knew my time was going to be good because I was feeling well. I did another [reconnaissance] this morning behind the team car and was determined to perform well, because I liked the route.”

American Phil Gaimon (Garmin-Sharp) ceded the leader’s jersey he’d worn since his stage 1 victory to Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Quintana, the best young rider at the 2013 Tour de France, leads Gaimon by 26 seconds ahead of Saturday’s decisive summit finish at Mirador del Sol. Sergio Godoy (San Luís Somos Todos) is third, at 1:01. American Peter Stetina (BMC Racing) is sixth overall, at 2:58.

“I had no idea how I would time trial compared to these guys. I never really have, so I didn’t really have any basis to prepare anything going in,” Gaimon told VeloNews. “I haven’t really done many stage races this long, so I’m feeling fatigued. I didn’t blow up or anything. I felt pretty fast and I know I used everything up at the end.”

Gaimon entered the stage with a four-second buffer to his Colombian rival, but could not match his pace. The American neo-pro was disappointed at the finish, but said he had no unrealistic expectations ahead of Friday’s TT.

“It was hard to pace because it was so different going out versus going back, but it was pretty straightforward; I just got beat, you know?” he said. “A lot of people were saying I could put time into Quintana, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to try, but based on what is that assumption?'”

Phinney, meanwhile, took to the start with every expectation that he would stand atop the podium as stage winner after the roughly 20-minute effort. But according to Phinney’s mechanic, Ian Sherburne, the American was unable to shift into his 11-tooth cog during the stage.

“It wouldn’t go into the 11 is what he said. We checked it right now and it dropped into the 11 fine,” Sherburne told VeloNews. “It’s also one of those differences between when you adjust something in the stand, you’re obviously not putting 500 watts through it. That’s why we usually have them do the [reconnaissance] with the full race setup and check it out and, ideally, inform us if there’s any situation.”

Phinney blamed his result on his own decision to forgo a 55-tooth or larger front chainring.

“I personally am quite disappointed,” he told VeloNews. “I definitely wanted to win today. I made a tactical error on my part by not asking the mechanics to put a 55- or 56-tooth chainring on my front set. You know, I rode it this morning and thought it wouldn’t be necessary, but I got up to 75, 78K an hour on the downhill section and had to stop pedaling a couple times.”

Regardless of the reason for his gearing issue, Phinney said he did not want to make excuses and credited Malori for his win in the first big TT showdown among the sport’s top teams in 2014.

“I knew Malori would be strong, but I’m quite disappointed,” said Phinney. “My power was there in the time trial, my pacing strategy was good, just not having those extra gears on the way down, that cost you some extra seconds. Whether that cost me the win, we’ll never know, but it’s pretty personally disappointing.”

In the race for the GC, Quintana led Gaimon by 15 seconds at the intermediate time check and drove home to take the orange leader’s jersey with two days remaining.

“I was coming into this time trial a bit more with focus on not losing time and testing my legs against the clock, but I felt strong during the race, and the result proves it,” Quintana said. “Though I was riding for the first time with this TT bike, I felt really well. It’s an amazing bike and the legs responded well, too. This gives me confidence for the days left in the race.”

The Tour de San Luís continues Saturday with the 184km sixth stage, from Las Chacras to Merlo. The penultimate stage finishes on the Cat. 1 Mirador del Sol, which climbs for 7km above the summit of a Cat. 3 ramp near the Merlo. The race wraps up Sunday with a seventh stage likely to end in a bunch sprint in San Luís.

Neal Rogers, on assignment in Argentina, contributed to this report.