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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for September 5, 2005

Edited by Anthony Tan & Jeff Jones

Vuelta stage 9 wrap-up

Menchov back in gold

Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
Photo ©: AFP
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Not unexpectedly, prologue winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank) has bounced back into the overall lead of the Vuelta by winning the 9th stage time trial in Lloret de Mar. On a testing 48 km course, Menchov clocked 1:00:54 to beat an excellent Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana) by 9 seconds, with GC riders Paco Mancebo (Illes Balears), Carlos Sastre (CSC), Roberto Heras (Liberty), and Tom Danielson (Discovery) filling out the next placings. On the general classification, Menchov has the jersey by 47 seconds from Heras, with Sastre at 1'36 and Mancebo at 1'51. He'll need all of that and more to keep the jersey in the next two mountain stages.

The stage saw German Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) set the early best time with a 1:02:33, which stood for quite some time until Victor Hugo Pena (Phonak) bettered it by 3 seconds. But then Ruben Plaza smashed through all the time checks in the quickest times, eventually recording a time of 1:01:03 to put himself on top of the provisional leader board.

Menchov started second last, and rode a conservative pace up the first climb, but then increased his tempo on the second climb to move ahead on the provisional standings. His final gap over Plaza was 9 seconds, but that was enough to win the stage. Heras also started well, and was even better than Menchov in the early kilometres, but paid for it on the second climb and eventually lost 49 seconds to the Russian. He also was given a 10 second time penalty because he cut some of the course on the descent.

Also see:

Stage 9 full results, report & photos
Live report
Main
Stages & results
Map
Start List
History
Photos

"10 seconds don't mean anything," says Saiz

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros)
Photo ©: AFP
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Responding to the 10 second penalty awarded to Roberto Heras after the Liberty Seguros leader cut a few corners in yesterday's 45 kilometre individual time trial in Lloret de Mar, team manager Manolo Saiz seemed unperturbed by the outcome, saying: "These 10 seconds do not mean anything; for me, they have the same value of the six second bonus Roberto achieved before."

"These sanctions seem to me to be very sad, but the judges are those who give the orders and I do not say anything," added Saiz. "I hope that they continue applying the regulation with the same inflexibility in all cases. I did not hear on the radio the indication of where it was compulsory [to keep to one side], but I do not want to make a polemic."

Heras had a similar answer to the press: "I did not know that there was prohibited to do what I did; if I had known, I would not have done it, it has not been deliberate," he said. "I only hope that the Vuelta is not decided for these 10 seconds of sanction, but in any case, this does not affect me mentally."

Asked about the time trial itself, Heras was modest about his fifth-place performance, saying it was a good result with a natural though impressive winner in Denis Menchov. The three-time Vuelta winner also said the parcours wasn't as demanding as it seemed, with the first half favoured towards the climbers before having to 'defend' himself in the latter stages of the race.

"On the paper it is possible to say that the first four on the general [classification] are already the favourites for the final victory, but still, many things can happen in the mountains. We have four very hard stages like the ones in Andorra and Cerler, as well as Lagos and Covadonga. We are all very close in time, and I feel reinforced, even though I have lost the leadership," he said.

Saiz remarked that the differences between the best-placed riders was to be expected, but with Menchov regaining the race lead by a margin of 47 seconds, the following days is certain to create its share of uncertainty. "Now exists a complicated situation, because the [race] leader does probably not have the team best adapted to defend the maillot oro."

A team time trial win for CSC

Carlos Sastre (CSC)
Photo ©: AFP
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With Carlos Sastre 4th, Andrea Peron 11th and Jakob Piil 12th, Team CSC took the teams classification prize in the Stage 9 individual time trial around Lloret de Mar, affirming their position as one of the strongest squads in the race.

"Everything went according to plan, as we were counting on Sastre, Peron and Piil to do really well today and at the last intermediate time it even looked as if Sastre might take the second place, but unfortunately he stalled a bit towards the end," said directeur-sportif Kim Andersen on team-csc.com.

Moreover, the result should provide the team with renewed confidence as the peloton heads into the high mountains over the following days; two consecutive mountain-top finishes will no doubt decide who's serious about a podium finish two weeks from now.

Gutierrez abandons

By Hernan Alvarez Macias

Injuries to both his body and morale prevented Illes Balears rider Jose Ivan Gutierrez from continuing in this year's Vuelta a España, who chose not to start Sunday's Stage 9 time trial in Lloret de Mar. The previous stage [Stage 8], Gutierrez crashed with 47 kilometres to go, going over his bars and into a ditch, with the brunt of the fall taken by his right leg. Standing up with great difficulty, team director Eusebio Unzue got out of his car and helped Gutierrez back on his bike, where he went on to finish the stage in the peloton.

However, Saturday's accident wasn't his first, the 26 year-old having found himself on the ground on two previous occasions earlier in the week. While Gutierrez is normally among the favourites for a race against the clock, he decided not to take part in today's chrono early this morning.

Petacchi has Madrid in his sights

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo)
Photo ©: AFP
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Alessandro Petacchi would generally be the number one bet as the winner in a bunch sprint. And this week has been no exception, with the Italian already prevailing three times in the Vuelta a Espana. Ale Jet won in Puertollano, Argamasilla de Alba and Lloret de Mar. His 'harvest' of wins seems to come from an everlasting pot of honey, bringing his career stage wins at the Vuelta to 15...and counting. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez Macias caught up with the Italian super sprinter after his third triumph in the Vuelta in Lloret de Mar.

Petacchi is just 22 days shy of possibly his biggest challenge of the year; the elite road race at the World Championships in Madrid. With multiple victories at the Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, as well as Milan-San Remo earlier this year, it’s the only title missing in his collection. And if he wins in the Spanish capital, he'll equal Mario Cipollini’s sensational 2002 season when Super Mario won both Milan-San Remo and the World title.

Cyclingnews: How was today’s stage?

Alessandro Petacchi: Things went well, very well. When I looked at it on the map, the route seemed flat all the way, but we spent the whole day going up and down.

CN: Is it a goal for you to win three times at the Vuelta?

AP: Of course, I like to win. The first win was the one I liked it most because I didn’t actually know in which condition I was. I didn’t race much after the Giro. Besides, I had fallen off the bike recently and broken one finger. I wanted to know how I was at the moment.

CN: The heat was an important factor during the Vuelta’s first week. Do you like the heat or do you prefer cold weather?

AP: I don’t like extreme heat or cold. I like an even temperature. We had three hard stages with heat and a dry weather. Today, fortunately, it wasn’t too hot, around 30º. Today was a little easier in terms of heat than other days.

CN: You said you don’t want to talk about the Worlds any more. But you can't really overlook it; how are you feeling in the leadup to the race?

AP: I feel pretty good. I have to work some more for the Worlds. We still have less than a month to prepare ourselves but I think I have time to train, to work, and then to race. I hope I keep the good condition going all the way to the actual race.

Click here to read the full story.

Botero stays with Phonak

Although Phonak team manager John Lelangue gave his three leaders the option of an early release in light of the team's uncertain future beyond 2006, 32 year-old Colombian Santiago Botero has been the first to announce his return in Phonak colours for next year.

"Because it is still open at the moment who will be our main sponsor, we wanted to give the pros a clear signal that we didn't want to stand in the way of their accepting a multi-year offer from another team," said Lelangue in a team statement, although clearly very happy at Botero's decision.

Regardless of whether Phonak continues sponsoring the team, the former Deputy Competition Director of ASO is confident that ARcycling, whom he manages, will be able to put together an equally competitive team in future to ensure their existence past 2006. "What our team has done up to now is impressive. Of course, we want to be as far ahead at the end of the season as possible. That would also be a very motivating starting position for everyone involved and for possible sponsors," he said.

While Floyd Landis and Oscar Pereiro will make their future known within the coming days, Lelangue believes the 2006 line-up will have a better balance than what currently exists. At present, there are 21 riders under contract with ARcycling for next year, with further negotiations underway in order to reach the ProTour-stipulated minimum number of 25 riders. The possible departure of Pereiro or Landis would be offset by new recruits.

"With Axel Merckx and Koos Moerenhout the team is getting two experienced riders, and with the young pros Luis Fernandez Oliveira and Florian Stalder, we're giving two big talents a chance to get a foothold in professional cycling," said Lelangue.

The 2006 Phonak Cycling Team (as of September 1, 2005, listed by nationality):
Aurélien Clerc (SUI), Martin Elmiger (SUI), Gregory Rast (SUI), Johann Tschopp (SUI), Alexandre Moos (SUI), Sascha Urweider (SUI), Steve Zampieri (SUI), Florian Stalder (SUI) (new), Axel Merckx (BEL) (new), Koos Moerenhout (HOL) (new), Luis Fernandez Oliveira (SP) (new), Santos Gonzalez (SP), José Enrique Gutierrez (SP), Ignacio Gutierrez (SP), Miguel Martin Perdiguero (SP), Santiago Botero (COL), Victor Hugo Peña (COL), Bert Grabsch (GER), Nicolas Jalabert (FRA), Uros Murn (SLO), Robert Hunter (RSA).

Déjà vu at MTB World's

Over in Livigno, Italy, there was a serious case of déjà vu happening as all four defending champions in the downhill and cross country races regained their titles at the MTB World Championships. On Saturday, it was an all-French affair as Anne-Caroline Chausson and Fabien Barel successfully defended their rainbow jerseys in the Downhill, with Chausson's ninth elite title also marking the end of her professional career. However, the margins were awfully slim - 0.37 seconds for Chausson over Sabrina Jonnier, and 0.77 seconds for Barel over Australia's Sam Hill.

"I'm very happy to win, in this my last championship," Chausson said. "The difference was very small today. I had a crash in the first part of the race and at that moment I knew that it would be difficult to win. But I just concentrated harder until the end of the race."

"There were maybe five or six guys who could win," admitted men's winner Barel, "so this is a big victory. Waiting at the bottom is a big stress. I did an early ride as a tactic because of the weather, but then watching Greg [Minnaar - South Africa] and Sam [Hill] come very, very close to my split was very, very stressful."

Said a disappointed Hill: "I have always dreamed of winning a World Cup, so that was a big victory. This race was my other focus for the season, but Fabien was faster today. It was definitely a disappointment not to win, but someone's got to, so you just have to take it, suck it in."

Yesterday (Sunday), world and Athens Olympic champion Gunn-Rita Dahle made it look easy on her way to cross country world title number three, the Norweigan not offering her rivals any encouragement for the future, either - announcing in the post-race press conference that she intends to keep racing until the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

"Achieving another rainbow jersey makes this a perfect day for me," said Dahle. "It is still unbelievable for me to win a rainbow jersey. Today, I think I had my best race of the year. Everything came down on me at the podium, with all my family there it was an unbelievable moment."

In contrast, Frenchman Julien Absalon had a much tougher time in the men's cross country; both Absalon and silver medallist Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) suffering flats, the winning margin just 18 seconds in the end, with Spain's Jose Antonio Hermida rounding out the podium. Said Absalon: "I had a rear flat on the second lap and I didn't realize it right away. After my wheel change I took a bath in the river after I fell off the bank! then I started to get cramps, so it took great concentration to continue to the end."

Second-placed Sauser felt that he made a tactical error which cost him the title. "I cornered too hard, and lost some pressure in my wheel - not completely flat but slower, harder to ride. I should have taken (the time) to use a CO2 cartridge in the first zone, but I decided to tell the team, so that they could have it all prepared at the next zone," he said.

"But this slowed me down a lot to get to the next zone and I lost concentration, and when I got there I saw Julien just pulling out and realized he had a mechanical problem also. If I had taken the cartridge (earlier) I think I would be world champion now."

Click here for full race coverage, including results, reports & photos.

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