Favourite Menchov slides out of contention

TOTANA, Spain, (Reuters) – Double champion and  leading favourite Denis Menchov’s dismal start to the Tour of  Spain continued  yesterday when he lost one minute 23 seconds to  the other contenders on a seemingly straightforward stage.   

Accustomed to punishing his rivals on major mountain passes  in the Alps and Pyrenees, the Russian lost contact with his main  rivals on the gentle 4.8 kilometre climb of La Santa towards the  end of the third stage.   

The Geox rider’s sports director Joxean Fernandez said  Menchov, who was third in 2010 Tour de France and a top-10  finisher in this year’s Giro d’Italia, had no illness concerns  that might be causing him to have a rough ride in Spain.    

“It’s a bit of everything — average form, he was a bit too  far back on the climb and then he had a problem with his saddle  just when the bunch split,” Fernandez told Reuters.   

“He chased hard on the descent but by then it was too late.”   
Coupled with his losses after Geox’s poor performance in the  opening team time trial on Saturday, where they finished second  last, Menchov is now 75th, four minutes and one second down yesterday’s stage winner Pablo Lastras of Spain.   

The Russian veteran is also trailing two minutes and two  seconds overall behind the other top contender, 2010 Tour of  Spain winner Vincenzo Nibali of Italy.  
Other big names who suffered on yesterday’s exceptionally hot  stage were double Tour de France runner-up Andreas Kloeden of  Germany, who finished 12 minutes and 19 seconds down, and  British sprinter Mark Cavendish.   

“If you look at all the guys who had a rough time with the  weather today, you’ll see they’re all northern Europeans,”  Cavendish’s team manager Jens Zemke told Reuters.   

“Physically, he’s fine but if you’re from the Isle of Man  like Mark where it’s about 20 degrees cooler than here in  August, you’re always going to suffer in this heat.”

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