Latest News for September 12, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones
ONCE versus US Postal showdown looming
By Jeff Jones
After the first individual time trial in Zaragoza, the general classification of the Vuelta is starting to take shape. Six stages have been completed, and the top eight riders are separated by five minutes. It's likely that the overall winner will come from one of these riders, with the rest being considered outside chances at best.
With six uphill finishes (including the final time trial) and one long, flat time trial to come, the balance will now be shifted in favour of the climbers in this year's Vuelta, and that points to riders like Manuel Beltran (3rd at 2'42), Roberto Heras (5th at 4'35), Francisco Mancebo (8th at 5'02), Luis Perez (14th at 6'13) and Juan Miguel Mercado (17th at 6'17). The time trialists such as Isidro Nozal, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONCE), Klaus Möller (Milaneza), Dario Frigo and Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa) and Angel Casero (Bianchi) will have their work cut out defending their leads.
Tactically, ONCE-Eroski hold the cards at the moment with Nozal and Gonzalez de Galdeano in the first two GC positions. However they are not considered pure climbers like Heras or Mancebo, and US Postal also has the Manuel Beltran card to play. Beltran can certainly climb, as he showed in the Tour, and it's clear that he can time trial. He currently holds a two minute lead over his teammate and captain Heras on GC, but whether he keeps that over the next three stages remains to be seen.
Although early days yet, it does seem that Oscar Sevilla (30th at 7'26) is too far down to be a threat to the overall. The Kelme rider came into the Vuelta with just 4000 km in his legs after a long layoff due to injury, and combined with his crash in stage 3 he has been suffering so far.
"It knew it wasn't going to be my day that important thing was to finish. The wind punished me a lot and I was in terrible pain. It was more important to get to the finish than worry about the time gaps."
The next three stages in the Pyrenees will be crucial. Beginning with today's 190 km stage between Huesca and Cauterets, the riders face three mountain top finishes in a row. Saturday's eighth stage is from Cauterets to Pla de Beret/Val d'Aran (1920m), and Sunday's ninth stage is between Vielha and Envalira, finishing at the dizzying altitude of 2,410m. This last climb is 26 km long at an average of 5.1 percent, and the differences created in the time trials could easily come to nought on this mountain. And there are still 12 stages to come after this one.
David Millar has Hamilton in mind
David Millar added an unexpected podium finish to his palmares when he finished second in yesterday's stage 6 time trial in Zaragoza. A Vuelta stage win is still part of the Scottish time trial specialist's game plan, and then there's a bigger target, as he told Hernán Alvarez Macías.
David Millar showed his ability in the first individual time trial in the Vuelta a España 2003 in the streets of Zaragoza yesterday. Sitting at 172nd on GC meant that Millar was one of the first riders away in the TT, and his extraordinary time made him virtual stage winner for almost three hours. In the end, only Isidro Nozal, with an amazing tempo, could beat him in the last ride of the afternoon.
Even though he didn't win the stage, Millar seemed very pleased with his second place and showed once again that he is among the top three specialists in this discipline. Although he missed out this time on the flowers and the kisses from the podium girls that are the stage winner's reward for vanquishing everyone, Millar knows the sweetness of success in the Vuelta with two victories here in 2001. His next opportunity will come on stage 13 in Albacete with the Vuelta's second ride against the clock, and as he told Cyclingnews in an interview, that's just one of his remaining objectives for the season.
Three down for Saeco
The Saeco team, which has so far lost Giosué Bonomi, Nicola Gavazzi and Ivan Quaranta during the Vuelta, is the team that has suffered the most retirements during the first six stages of the race. In addition, Quaranta abandoned during the first stage team time trial, being the first rider to retire from the race.
Telekom is next on the retirement list, with seven riders left after the departure of Cadel Evans and Jan Schaffrath. Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze-Elitron), David Plaza (Team Bianchi), Oscar Mason (Vini Caldirola) and Alessandro Cortinovis (Lampre) are the other riders to have abandoned the race so far.
Botero announces 2004 plans
Santiago Botero (Telekom) will change his training plans next season with the aim of bettering his disappointing performances this year. After pulling out of the Tour due to illness, Botero is not racing any more this season and will not defend his World Time Trial title in Canada.
He will split his 2004 into several blocks. "I will do the first block [in Europe] the months of February, March and April, then return to Colombia for a month and prepare for the second block which will be the Tour de France, Olympics, and shortly after the Vuelta and the World's," he said.
Herman Versele remains in jail
The court in Kortrijk has ordered private soigneur Herman Versele to be held in jail for the time being over the José Landuyt affair. Investigators to not want the soigneur from Merelbeke, who was questioned on Wednesday, to come into contact with other people involved in the investigation.
"I can't say anything concrete," his lawyer Michael Verstraeten told journalists yesterday. "I only know that this is the start of a complicated case. There are continual developments. New people will be questioned, but perhaps there will also be people who have been wrongly named. My client has also declared that he has had nothing to do with this affairs."
Belgian World's squad announced on September 24
Belgian national coach José De Cauwer will make the selection for the elite men's World Championships team on September 24, nine days after the juniors and U23's are announced. The women's team is already decided, with Sara Peeters and Loes Sels riding the junior events, and Corine Hierckens, Evy Vandamme, Veronique Belleter, Cindy Pieters, Heidi Van de Vijver and Sharon Vandromme all part of the selection.
Due to visa requirements in Canada, De Cauwer has had to call a number of riders whom he thinks may be selected for a digital photograph for ID purposes. De Cauwer has not revealed any names, although Kevin De Weert was one of those who received a call.
Italian time trialists gather pre-World's
Italian technical director Antonio Fusi has named the following riders for a gathering in Salice Terme between September 15-18. The meeting will be used to determine the best Italian riders for the World Time Trial Championships in Hamilton next month.
Dario Bennati (Ima Veneta Cuc.Brugnotto Team)
Wallaard to Axa
Arno Wallaard will ride for the Axa cycling team next year. A past Dutch U23 champion, Wallaard will transfer from Quick.Step's U23 team to Axa. He has a one year contract.
Jacques-Passage Fitness interested in Wadecki
Polish rider Piotr Wadecki, who did not have his contract extended by Quick.Step, is in the picture for Noel Demeulenaere's new Chocolat Jacques-Passage Fitness team. So far, no contracts have been signed however.
Fothen to Gerolsteiner
German rider Marcus Fothen will ride next season for Gerolsteiner. The U23 European time trial champion currently rides for TEAG Team Kostritzer.
Polish rider Sylvester Szmyd (Mercatone Uno), will ride for Saeco in 2004.
No renewals for Engels and Beat Zberg
Two Rabobank riders, Addy Engels and Beat Zberg, have not received contract extensions for next season.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)