Germany?s Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) is the new leader at Tirreno-Adriatico after winning the stage five individual time trial on Sunday.
The 25 year-old set a time of 27 minutes and eight seconds for the hilly 20.5-km stage near the Adriatic coast, using his power of the climb to pull back vital seconds on compatriot Andreas Kloden, who finished one second slower. Luxembourg?s Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) was third in 27:14, with Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) fourth at 13 seconds.
In the overall standings Schumacher now leads Kloden by three seconds, with Vinokourov third at nine seconds. Double stage winner and previous race leader Riccardo Ricco of Italy, finished 2:06 slower than Schumacher and slipped to 17th place overall.
?I didn?t think I?d win but I?m happy to see that I?m already on form,? Schumacher said.
?It was very windy during the time trial and I couldn?t tell if I was riding well or not. It was only at the top of the climb that I realised I was close to beating Kloden and so I went even harder.?
Schumacher is strong in time trials and in the mountains but is worried about the long climb to the finish of the 164-km sixth stage from San Benedetto del Tronto to San Giacomo on Monday.
?I?m hopeful about keeping the race lead but I?m also realistic and know that Astana and especially Kloden and Vinokourov are very strong. The top 15 riders in the overall standings could all be dangerous but I can?t control them all. I?ll use my instinct and follow one or two but I know it won?t be easy.?
Schumacher won nine races in 2006, including the Tour of Poland, and has high hopes for this season.
?Last year I discovered that I can do well in big races and so now I?m more confident about my ability. I?ve worked hard during the winter and this year I?m going to focus on more specific objectives. I want to do well this spring, in the Tour de France in July and then at the world championships in Stuttgart in September. They?re only 20 kilometres from my home and so are a special objective.?
World champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) recovered from his nasty crash during Saturday?s stage and finished the time trial after using his normal road bike. He has bruising on his left knee but is confident he will still be able to competitive in next Saturday?s Milan-San Remo.
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 20.5km in 27.08
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0.01
3 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile 0.06
4 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0.13
5 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems 0.21
6 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel s.t
7 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 0.24
8 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 0.33
9 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel 0.36
10 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) T-Mobile 0.40
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 19.25.51
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0.03
3 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0.09
4 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile 0.12
5 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel 0.27
6 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 0.30
7 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 0.39
8 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems 0.41
9 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) T-Mobile 0.46
10 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 0.57