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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Vuelta Cycling News for September 18, 2005

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Vuelta stage 20 wrap-up

Plaza smashes Grand Tour TT record

Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana)
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

A brilliant ride, a flat course, and a tailwind has helped Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana) to break the record for the fastest ever non-prologue time trial in a Grand Tour. Plaza, who finished second in the last long Vuelta time trial, clocked 41'31 for the 38.9 km at an amazing average speed of 56.2 km/h, marginally better than race leader Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros), who was half a second slower. Carlos Sastre (CSC), Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Francesco Mancebo (Illes Balears) rounded out the top five, all finishing within just 10 seconds of each other. Thus, there were no great changes to the general classification.

The times showed continual improvement all day as the riders flew between Guadalajara and Alcala de Henares. Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas), then Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step), and Angel Vicioso (Liberty) posted quick times, but were bettered by the later riders. Victor Hugo Peña (Phonak) set an imposing mark of 41'54, which eventually gave him sixth place. But then the top riders on general classification battled with each other and Ruben Plaza to fight it out for the stage honours. In the end, Plaza's time was just good enough, although Heras showed that he was the best rider in the race by beating everyone else.

Also see:

Stage 20 full results & report
Live report
Stages & results
Start List

Almost perfect day for Plaza

By Hernan Alvarez Macias in Alcala de Henares

Stage winner
Photo ©: AFP
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Comunidad Valenciana’s Ruben Plaza had an incredible day. In Gualadalajara this morning, he renewed his contract with his team for another two years: 2006 and 2007. In the afternoon, he flew to Alcala de Henares in the third and last Vuelta a España time trial. "It was a heart-stopping finale and from now on, I have to taste this win in calm to enjoy it," said Plaza talking to the many journalists in the press room.

Plaza is included in the Spanish team for the World Championships and will race the time trial. "The key in the World’s will be to recover the best I can from the Vuelta. And after the recovery, I must be concentrated and focused on the competition. After a three-week tour, it won’t be easy to recover in three or four days. You have to be focused enough to fight for the maximum prize in the time trial."

The Spanish rider is not among the favourites to win in the race against the clock in Madrid. "Every time I ride a time trial, I look for the best position I can achieve," said Plaza. "Then, until the race ends, you never know. My goal in every time trial is always the same: to win. We'll see if I can make it or not."

Plaza is currently sixth on the GC of the Vuelta, as he passed Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile) with his performance today. He also perfomed a tremendously well in the stage 9 time trial in Lloret de Mar, where he finished second behind Denis Menchov (Rabobank).

Heras tasting the fourth Vuelta

By Hernan Alvarez Macias in Alcala de Henares

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros)
Photo ©: Hernan Alvarez
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Take him or leave him, but Roberto Heras (Liberty-Würth) will not change. The overall winner of (almost) four Vueltas doesn’t have that appealing charisma the cycling fans and media love: He’s rather quiet and doesn’t show his feelings much, whether he he wins or whether he loses. In today’s stage 20, no one expected that the rider from Salamanca would finish second by just 0.577 seconds. Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana) took the win today, but Heras surprised everyone - he was considered to be a typical Spanish climber, but now, he can be seen as a versatile rider with definite time trial capacities.

Heras dedicated today's success and his imminent fourth overall victory to his team and his family in the post-race press conference in Alcala de Henares. About his outfit, he said, "There were many difficult stages to control the race like the one in the mountains of Madrid [stage 17] or Avila [stage 18], especially the Madrid stage. The advantage that we got in Pajares [stage 15] was important and this one is maybe the calmest week of the four Vueltas I achieved."

Heras talked about his impressions of this last few days of the Vuelta. "The stage characteristics weren’t for a climber, but it’s the last week of the Vuelta and strength is very important. A specialist like Plaza won, but I had the mentality to win. I almost won, it was so close. But I’m confident thinking of the future because of what happened today."

The Salamanca cyclist also said that his improvement against the clock was largely due to his team. "Here at Liberty Seguros-Würth I improved my time trialling a lot. And the truth is that it’s a very positive factor for me."

About the Vuelta he said, "At the beginning we had doubts. We saw a very strong [Denis] Menchov, but we knew the Pajares stage [15] was the queen stage and I felt very good. I couldn’t get rid of Menchov before, but I had confidence in my capabilites. We haven't seen a stage like Pajares in many years. I think this brings back the fans' excitement, that we really need," he added.

Meanwhile, Heras is not sure if he will race the 2006 Vuelta. "We will enjoy this fourth victory," Heras said, also talking about his team. "In the winter we will see if there’s a fifth or if we go for other goals."

His best memory of this Vuelta will be "after the Colladiella with my team waiting for me after the descent. Caruso, Vicioso, Scarponi, Beloki, they were all waiting for me. We had the best team and our strategy worked well," Heras commented, still clueless about the reason why he performed so well in the Vuelta not in other races like the Tour de France. "The Vuelta gave me everything," he shrugged.

Alexander Vinokourov will become his teammate in 2006, and Heras was happy about that. "Our philosophy is comradeship. He will be a team mate, we will be mates as the word says; he will be welcomed," concluded Heras.

Heras in the Giro d’Italia

Liberty team director Manolo Saiz assured the media that Roberto Heras will ride the 2006 Giro d’Italia. "Someone laughed at me when I said it, but I think that Roberto is a rider for second efforts," said Saiz. Therefore, he will participate in the Italian Grand Tour in 2006 and then decide if he rides the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España afterwards.

"It’s a race I rode just once but I liked it very much," Heras said about the Giro. "It’s a very nice race. I think it has a very demanding mountainous part, then the time trials are not too long. It’s a race I liked the year I went."

Sastre four seconds down

Carlos Sastre (CSC)
Photo ©: Hernan Alvarez
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Team CSC's Carlos Sastre did not succeed in advancing to a second place overall in the Vuelta, but the Spanish stage race specialist kept a firm grip on the third place in the last time trial. It was a close race today and Sastre was a mere four seconds from the victory, which was snatched by Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana). Sastre finished third and the overall leader, Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros), took a fairly surprising second place in the flat time trial.

"We knew improving to second place would be hard, but Carlos did really well today and like last year he came frighteningly close to winning the Vuelta's last time trial," said sports director Kim Andersen. "Menchov did well as expected and that didn't leave us much hope. But it was a tough fight out there and we're happy the podium spot is ours without hassle."

The Danish CSC squad, just like in the first long time trial in this year's Vuelta, has won the stage's team competition today as Christian Vande Velde was the next best in 10th place, while Nicki Sørensen and Andrea Peron finished 20th and 21st respectively.

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