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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for September 9, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Beltran continues US Postal's gold rush

Manuel Beltran
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

After finishing ninth in today's first mountain test in the Vuelta, Manuel 'Triki' Beltrán claimed the golden leader's jersey, taking over from his teammate Benoît Joachim, who finished 56 seconds down. Beltrán thus became the fourth Postie to wear the golden fleece in the first five days of the Vuelta, and with Floyd Landis on the same time as the Spaniard, US Postal still have a strong grip on the race.

"I have never seen anything like this," said USPS team director Johan Bruyneel. "The only time we did something close to this was last year (at the Tour de France) when Victor (Hugo Peña) took the jersey following the team time trial. However, it's quite logical it happens because if you win the team time trial stage with a margin like we had, it's quite possible the jersey goes around in the team. Plus, our tactics make it easier by putting riders in breaks and taking advantage. It's a great opportunity for some guys who are never get in the spotlight, and it motivates them even more.

"It started with the team time trial and now four different guys have taken the race lead without even defending the jersey. We just took advantage of each situation. Again, I'm so happy for the guys who normally do the work for the others. To wear the jersey, it finally puts them in the spotlight."

On Beltran taking the jersey, Bruyneel said, "He was very emotional. I think he's never dreamed of wearing the leader's jersey at the Tour of Spain. For him, it's huge. He's a Spanish guy and is very popular with the people because he is such a friendly character. Now, even if it's only one day in the jersey, it's huge for him. I'm very happy for him; he's a guy who always gives it all for the team."

On the team's tactics today, Bruyneel explained, "The breakaways are a matter of design for us. Three or four guys are designated before the stage to go in the breaks and when they get away, it's always good for us. Today, we had Victor in the first group. If the break stayed away, Victor would have taken over the race lead. Then the next big group went away and we had Antonio (Cruz) in there. If that stays away, he gets the jersey. Nothing stayed away, so Triki and Floyd then picked it up at the end."

Bruyneel added that while the event will get more difficult in the coming stages, the team will still take it day by day, stage by stage. "There is more selection to come," said Bruyneel. "But still, we have what we have. There are other top teams here - such as Kelme and Liberty - that really want to dominate the race. We'll try and take advantage of their tactics and save the team for later in the race."

Vuelta Stage 5 - Full results, report & photos, Live report
Stages & descriptions

Start list

Aitor is back

2002 Vuelta winner Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) was in good form in today's fifth stage that finished atop the medieval walled town of Morella, taking second place behind Russian Denis Menchov (Illes Balears). Gonzalez was one of the most active riders during the stage, attacking on the Cat. 2 climb of Torremiró with 15 km to go to help reduce the front group in size, then again with 1.5 km to go to the finish in a bid to take the stage.

"I really didn't expect the attack of Menchov because just before, I turned around and I saw everyone strung out. He surprised me. Thinking over it, perhaps I messed up the timing. Today I tried to win the stage but in my head I only have the general classification. It's been a long time since I've felt like this. I started this Vuelta in good shape and in good health. I don't have to prove anything to anyone, I only have to go as strongly as I did two years ago."

See also: Aitor Gonzalez interview: I'll be back

T-Mobile loses three

Was it the salmon mousse?

The first riders to withdraw from this year's Vuelta were all from T-Mobile, as Steffen Wesemann, Torsten Hiekmann and Santiago Botero all abandoned during the fifth stage. "All three of them have presumably caught food poisoning", T-Mobile's team doctor Andreas Blum was quoted on the team's website as saying.

The first rider to feel sick after dinner at the team hotel on Tuesday evening was Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov, who complained of diarrhoea. In the early hours of the morning, Torsten Hiekmann and Santiago Botero reported having the same symptoms. "They had started at the race, but were so exhausted that they had to drop out", said Blum.

Steffen Wesemann experienced problems during the race and Torsten Hiekmann quit at km 85, while Santiago pulled out at the feed zone in Alcani (km 100). Vinokourov and Andreas Klier, who also suffered the symptoms, managed to finish the stage but ended 17 minutes down.

"We are glad they have made it through the stage. We will try everything to stabilize their health in the course of the tour. Especially Vino, who may be able to fight for one or more stage wins," said Blum. "The two of them fought bravely today and will do everything to race tomorrow, too."

It wasn't all bad news for T-Mobile though, as Cadel Evans finished sixth in the stage and is now in fifth overall, just 16 seconds behind the leader Beltrán.

Sunderland out too

Scott Sunderland
Photo ©: Lars Rønbøg
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Cyclingnews diarist Scott Sunderland's Vuelta finished prematurely when he had to abandon during stage 5, suffering from a bad headache and stomach problems. He told us that he hadn't felt 100 percent since the start of the race and suspects a virus of some sort. He will likely stay in Spain for a few days to recover before travelling back home to Belgium.


43 blood tested

The UCI tested 43 riders before the start of the Vuelta's fifth stage in Zaragoza, selecting the teams of Saeco, Vini Caldirola, Lampre, Cafés Baque and Saunier Duval. No rider was declared inapt to start.

No break for Artetxe

There was some good news for Euskaltel's Mikel Artetxe, who feared a broken bone or two after crashing in stage 4 yesterday. But x-rays taken on Tuesday evening revealed that he had not broken anything, and was able to continue the race. He was obviously still feeling some effects of the crash today as he finished in 181st position, 17'06 down.

Rasmussen happy with Menchov signing

Danish rider Michael Rasmussen says that he is happy with the signing of Russian talent Denis Menchov to the Rabobank squad for next season. "I am for sure quite happy that we are now stronger in the mountains with as strong a rider as Menchov," Rasmussen told from his home in Italy. "Especially after Leipheimer has now left for Gerolsteiner."

Menchov's signing makes up for the loss of Levi Leipheimer to Gerolsteiner, which Rasmussen regrets. "Apart from being a skilled rider he [Leipheimer] is also a nice teammate," he added. "So I am of course a bit annoyed about it. But those are decisions made in other places in the system, and they have not managed to make the financial ends meet."

Rasmussen is looking forward to getting to know Menchov a little better. "I have spoken with him a couple of times just before he signed, because I knew that the team had been negotiating with him for the last month," he said. "So I asked a little about how negotiations progressed. There is really not much to it, because I am counting on him to be able to fit in with us. He has managed to do so in Spain, and I guess that he will do so in Holland."

The Danish rider's next goal will be the World Championships in Verona, which is very close to his home. He is currently getting back to full fitness again after having some problems with his right knee and a case of the 'flu.

Camenzind banned

Despite retiring from cycling when he returned a positive test for EPO shortly before the Athens Olympics, Swiss rider Oscar Camenzind has been banned for two years.

The 1998 world champion was sacked by his team, Phonak, after a test conducted July 22 revealed traces of EPO in his urine A sample. He was withdrawn from Switzerland's team for the Olympics and announced his retirement from cycling the following day.

Nevertheless, the Swiss Olympic Association said Camenzind was suspended as of August 19 and would be fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($7,868) and ordered to pay costs.

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