Alejandro Valverde?s stunning time trial performance at the Dauphiné Libéré has certainly made people sit up and take notice ? not least Cadel Evans, who could have thought of himself as the best time trialist in this year?s Tour de France until he realised he?d lost 20 seconds to the Spaniard.

The 28-year-old Caisse d?Epargne rider is certainly no slouch against the clock but this was the first time he?s ever performed in a major time trial outside his native Spain.

Now Valverde looks set to defend the yellow and blue leader?s jersey until the Dauphiné?s conclusion on Sunday.

And, with only the short 29.5-kilometre time trial at Cholet standing between him and a clear run at the mountains, Valverde suddenly looks a big favourite for the Tour.

Here, we look at Valverde?s time trial results in all flat or rolling races over 20 kilometres or more since the 2004 Vuelta a Espana.

He?s always been good in short time trials but has frequently been found wanting at the longer distances.

Our analysis excludes mountain time trials and prologues but it?s possible to spot a trend. Valverde has done very well on home turf ? winning some important time trials at the Tour of Murcia, where he knows the roads, and finishing consistently well in the Vuelta a Espana.

Until yesterday it?s been a different story elsewhere ? his performances at the Tour de France and previous editions of the Dauphiné Libéré have placed him squarely in the second tier.

But amid all the excited murmuring about yesterday?s result and how it spells bad news for Evans, it is important to remember the stage was 10 kilometres shorter than the equivalent stage in last year?s race, where he was ninth, losing 39 seconds to Evans.

VALVERDE AGAINST THE WATCH

How the Spanish rider has fared in time trials longer than 20 kilometres since the 2004 Vuelta a Espana?

2008

DAUPHINE LIBERE

Stage 3: St Paul-en-Jarez

Distance: 31km Valverde?s time: 44-59 Average speed: 41.34kph Position on stage: 1st

Main rivals:

BEAT Leipheimer by 19sec; Evans by 20sec

TOUR OF MURCIA

Stage 4: Alhama ? Aledo

Distance: 23km Valverde?s time: 33-32 Average speed: 41.15kph Position on stage: 1st

Main rivals:

BEAT Contador by 6sec; Menchov by 43sec; Dekker by 47sec

2007

TOUR DE FRANCE

Stage 19: Cognac ? Angoulême

Distance: 56km Valverde?s time: 1-06-21 Average speed: 50.64kph Position on stage: 17th

Main rivals:

LOST TO Leipheimer by 3-37; Evans by 2-26; Contador by 1-19

TOUR DE FRANCE

Stage 13: Albi

Distance: 54km Valverde?s time: 1-12-42 Average speed: 44.56kph Position on stage: 46th

Main rivals:

LOST TO Evans by 4-54

DAUPHINE LIBERE

Stage 3: Anneyron

Distance: 41km Valverde?s time: 53-26 Average speed: 46.03kph Position on stage: 9th

Main rivals:

LOST TO Vinokourov by 1-18; Evans by 39sec; Menchov by 38sec; Leipheimer by 7sec

TOUR OF MURCIA

Stage 3: Alhama – Aledo

Distance: 23km Valverde?s time: 32-57 Average speed: 41.88kph Position on stage: 1st

Main rivals:

BEAT Menchov by 1-23

2006

VUELTA A ESPANA

Stage 20: Rivas Vaciamadrid

Distance: 27.5km Valverde?s time: 33-58 Average speed: 48.57kph Position on stage: 3rd

Main rivals:

LOST TO Vinokourov by 19sec; Sanchez by 13sec

BEAT Karpets by 11sec; Gusev by 30sec

VUELTA A ESPANA

Stage 14: Cuenca

Distance: 33km Valverde?s time: 41-07 Average speed: 48.15kph Position on stage: 4th

Main rivals:

LOST TO Millar by 13sec; Cancellara by 13sec; Vinokourov by 8sec

BEAT Devolder by 13sec; Karpets by 50sec

DAUPHINE LIBERE

Stage 3: Bourg-de-Peage

Distance: 43km Valverde?s time: 54-50 Average speed: 47.19kph Position on stage: 9th

Main rivals:

LOST TO Zabriskie by 2-02; Landis by 1-09; Leipheimer by 46sec

TOUR OF ROMANDIE

Stage 5: Lausanne

Distance: 20km Valverde?s time: 27-21 Average speed: 43.87kph Position on stage: 14th

Main rivals:

LOST TO Evans by 1-02

TOUR OF THE BASQUE COUNTRY

Stage 6: Zalla

Distance: 24km Time: 32-50 Average speed: 43.85kph

Position on stage: 2nd Main rivals:

LOST TO Gomez Marchante by 6sec

2004

VUELTA A ESPANA

Stage 8: Factoria Ford, Almusafes

Distance: 40km Valverde?s time: 48-48 Average speed: 49.18kph Position on stage: 12th

Main rivals:

LOST TO Hamilton by 1-32; Landis by 1-14

DAUPHINE LIBERE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage three: Valverde takes control of Dauphine

Stage two: Hincapie outclasses bunch in Dauphine

Stage one: Valverde takes classy win

Prologue: Leipheimer soars to Dauphine prologue win

NEWS & FEATURES

War weary Wegelius battles on in Dauphine

Hushovd: Boonen affair “not good for cycling”

Flat start for Dauphine Libere

Dauphine Libere 2008 preview

PHOTOS

2008 Dauphine Libere photo gallery. New photos added daily>>