Russian riders dominated proceedings in Friday?s mountain time trial stage of the Tour of Catalonia – and are now in a commanding position overall.
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) was the fastest on the 17.1 kilometre mountain time trial at Ordino-Arcalis, with Caisse D?Epargne?s Vladimir Karpets crossing the line just four seconds slower than his compatriot. Third place went to promising French climber Remy di Gregorio (Francaise des Jeux), 24 seconds back.
Overall, the Russians also triumphed, as Karpets is now back in the lead he lost on stage two, whilst Menchov is second, 16 seconds back. Just 48 hours before the finish in Barcelona, Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) is in third, 40 seconds adrift.
Overnight leader Oscar Sevilla (Relax-Gam) struggled badly and is now fourth overall, 1-06 back. Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) was best Brit, riding to a solid 29th place.
With just two days to go and the Pyrenees now over, can Menchov wrest the Tour of Catalonia lead from Karpets – who, as chance would have it, is his close friend and who lives a mere five minutes away from him in the Spanish city of Pamplona?
Saturday?s 177 kilometre stage from Llivia to Lloret de Mar is not likely to see any major upsets – Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) has already said that he hopes to take a second bunch sprint stage win in the coastal resort, although there are some nasty climbs at the start for the fastmen to get over. But Sunday has an uphill finish, on the Mont Tibidalbo in Barcelona, and could make for a tense finale.
?I?m pleased with this win but I?m not optimistic about pulling back that time.? Menchov, never the most cheerful of souls, said afterwards. ?I?m not predicting I can win either, it?s all too close.? Karpets, an equally upbeat sort of guy, added. Watch this space.
TOUR OF CATALONIA: STAGE FIVE RESULTS
(Sornas – Ordino-Arcalis)
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 17.1kms in 38-58
2 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse D?Epargne at 4sec
3 Remy Di Gregorio (Fra) Fdjeux.com at 24sec
4 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at 28sec
5 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile at 40sec
6 Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Fdjeux.com at 41sec
7 Dimitri Champion (Fra) Bouygues Telecom at 54sec
8 Juan Jose Cobo (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir at 1-11
9 Peter Weening (Hol) Rabobank at 1-16
10 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile at 1-19
29 Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Cofidis at 2-13
50 David Millar (GBR) Saunier Duval-Prodir at 3-10
176 Mark Cavendish (GBR) T-Mobile at 8-16
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FIVE
1 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse D?Epargne 15-34-55
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 16sec
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile at 40sec
4 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Relax-Gam at 1-06
5 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2R at 1-34
6 Francsico Mancebo (Spa) Relax-Gam at 1-49
7 John Gadret (Fra) Ag2R at 2-19
8 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery at 2-28
9 Marcos Serrano (Spa) Karpin-Galicia at 2-29
10 Laurens Ten Dam (Hol) Unibet.com at 2-32
112 David Millar (GBR) Saunier Duval-Prodir at 22-39
118 Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Cofidis at 24-16
179 Mark Cavendish (GBR) T-Mobile at 40-59