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Latest News for September 16, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Vuelta rest day summary

Time out for the tired peloton

By Hernán Alvarez Macías

ONCE in the lead, always in the lead
Photo: © AFP
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After 10 days, after mountains, flats and sprints, after 1,416.8 kilometres of racing, the racers' bodies ask for a break. Surely every man competing in this Vuelta España 2003 must be thankful for this rest day. Some are very tired, some are sick, some are injured; there’s always a reason to enjoy this rest day without thinking of the time and the rivals. Although most of them will "rest" by riding their bikes, the rides will be short and easy.

There’s no doubt that thus far, the Vuelta has seen the ONCE-Eroski team’s greatest dream accomplished. The team of Manolo Saiz holds the top two places in the general classification with Isidro Nozal and Igor González de Galdeano, ONCE has won three stages (Stages 1, 6 and 8), and it currently leads the team classification. The men in yellow are devastating their opponents. That was something predictable in a way taking into account the ONCE's history in the Vuelta España, and Saiz's desire to see his team leave the professional peloton on the highest possible note.

What surprises much more is the excellent race ridden by Isidro Nozal so far. He arrived to Gijón as Igor's supporter and he became the team leader within the first week. Not only did he win the individual time trial in Zaragoza, but also he stoically resisted the attacks and tactics of the climbers in the three Pyrenean stages. In the mountains he was still supporting González de Galdeano and going back to the team car for bidons. Even helping and working for his teammate, he showed outstanding form. From this point on, he will have the chance to show he is capable of winning a three week long competition.

Unexpected leader
Photo: © Unipublic
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In the beginning of the Vuelta in Gijón, ONCE demonstrated that it was once again the best team in the world against the clock. ONCE prevailed over its rivals with perfect coordination and team spirit. ONCE reclaimed its bragging rights, beating US Postal Service and avenging its defeat in the Tour de France team time trial in July.

In the third stage it was the turn of Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) as he achieved a victory on Spanish soil and equalled an old record of winning stages in the three grand tours in the same year. Petacchi proved that in his third grand tour of the year he is still the fastest sprinter of the moment, and declared his ambitions to finish the Vuelta in Madrid with the points jersey on his back.

In the Stage 6 individual time trial, everybody was expecting the triumph of David Millar, Jan Hruska or Igor González de Galdeano. In the end it was Nozal who proved he was there to stay and he destroyed other's times with an amazing tempo. Manuel Beltran (US Postal Service-Berry Floor) also had a very good time trial considering his talent in the mountains.

Dark horses
Photo: © AFP
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The Vuelta offered no chance for recovery after the time trial because the next day was the first real mountain stage with difficult climbs like the Col d'Aubisque in France and an uphill finish in Cauterets. Roberto Heras (USPS) attacked trying to hurt ONCE's men, as did Beltran, but Nozal once again maintained his composure and didn't lose much time against his closest rivals.

The other two days in the Pyrenees were more of the same: "EL Guri" Nozal was protecting his designated leader González de Galdeano, while Heras, Aitor González (Fassa Bortolo), Félix Cardenas (Labarca 2-Café Baque), Aitor Osa ( and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) continued attacking but never really got a good gap against the leaders.

In the midst of these big days of racing we have seen deserved victories of Luis Pérez (Cofidis), Rasmussen and Alejandro Valverde (Kelme-Costa Blanca). Pérez showed a huge improvement in this edition of the Vuelta, as well as "Chicken" Rasmussen. Valverde is a name to take into consideration; he has become Kelme's new team leader after Oscar Sevilla's crash and struggle just to stay in the race. Valverde is just 23 years old. Sevilla and Angel Casero (Team Bianchi), two animators in the last editions of the Vuelta, are very far from the leaders in the general classification due to injuries, and won't remember this Vuelta with much affection.

The Vuelta resumes on Wednesday with Stage 11, a rolling 162km transitional stage from Utiel to Cuenca.

Ullrich has three offers

In the German newspaper Tz, Jan Ullrich has confirmed offers received by three teams, notably his former employer Team Telekom. Although Ullrich has indicated an inclination to stay with Team Bianchi, he at the same time is eager to see the team's plans solidified for the coming season, and is willing to entertain other offers.

"At the moment I've been given three offers," Ullrich said. "I'm not ruling anything out."

Team Telekom's manager Walter Godefroot has announced that he would happily welcome Ullrich back to the team, however Ullrich's mentor (and Bianchi directeur sportif) Rudy Pevenage would not likely be part of the package. Pevenage left Godefroot's side at Telekom to follow Ullrich to Team Coast, then Bianchi. Ullrich, for his part, said that the quality of the team is the most important factor in any decision.

"It's not a question of money," he insisted. "For me, what's always been most important has been the sport. For that reason, Bianchi needs to give me confirmation of certain things: who are the sponsors? Who are the other members of the team? We still need to discuss these issues."

Mondory signs with Ag2R

Already a stagiaire with Ag2R-Prévoyance, Lloyd Mondory has been offered a two year contract with the team. Team manager Vincent Lavenu was sufficiently pleased with the 21 year old's results over a tough weekend of racing, including 20th in Paris-Brussels and 24th in the Grand Prix de Fourmies, that one month as a stagiaire was enough for Mondory to earn a full-time spot on the team.

Fothen to Gerolsteiner

European U23 time trial champion Markus Fothen has signed with Gerolsteiner, his first professional contract. The 22 year old German, winner of the Ronde de l'Isard last year, is seen as an investment in the future for the Gerolsteiner team.

"We have an obligation to develop the next generation of German talent," Gerolsteiner manager Michael Holczer told Radsport-News. "Markus is an outstanding time trialist, and also does well on the long climbs. We'll develop him carefully for the higher speeds and longer distances."

Julian Dean for Cycling Tour of Southland

New Zealand's greatest Road Cyclist of recent times, Julian Dean, will be back in the country in November to ride the Tour of Southland. The Powernet sponsored race is New Zealand's premier cycling event and organiser Bruce Ross confirmed Dean's entry Monday.

"Naturally I'm delighted. He'll certainly add tremendous interest to the Tour," Ross said. Dean currently rides for Team CSC and has completed a good European season, with two victories to his name. In the United States in June he won the Wachovia Classic in Trenton, New Jersey and in August he won the five Stage Tour de la Region Wallone in Belgium. Last year Dean finished tenth in the world championship road race in Zolder, Belgium, New Zealand's highest ever placing.

Bruce Ross also announced some changes to this year's Tour. The inner city criterium stage, which has signaled the start of the tour for the past two years, will be replaced by a nine kilometre team time trial around Invercargill's Queens Park. Mr Ross said that while the criterium stage had been spectacular the time and effort involved in setting up the closed circuit had been too significant and the strict traffic management requirements were also a factor in the decision to delete the stage.

A full field of ninety riders, made up of New Zealand's best and overseas competitors, is expected for this the 47th Tour of Southland. The tour gets under way from Invercargill on November 3rd and finishes back in the city on November 9th.

Mende bids for Tour stage

The French town of Mende is once again in the bidding to host a stage of the Tour de France. After the passage of the Tour de l'Avenir this year, the town has submitted its candidature for the 2005 Tour, which would mark ten years since the Tour last visited. Laurent Jalabert, wearing the green jersey of points leader, won on Bastille day in 1995 outside of Mende atop the climb of the Causse.

Eugene Celebration Cycling Classic

Now entering its third decade of existence, the Eugene Celebration Cycling Classic- long a staple of Pacific Northwest racing- will take place on September 20-21, 2003. While the race retains its two-day, three-stage format, two of the three have undergone significant changes. Both of Saturday's races, the Stage 1 road race and Stage 2 time trial, have moved from the Crow Valley to new courses in the Lorane Valley, just southwest of the college town of Eugene. The Lorane Valley Road Race will be held on a challenging 11.4 mile circuit that includes two major climbs and finishes on a slight uphill.

The Lorane Valley Time Trial, held on an abridged version of the same course, and using the same start/finish, is an out-and-back event, 8.2 miles in length. Sunday's popular Skinner Butte Park Criterium remains unchanged. Taking place in downtown Eugene on an 0.85-mile circuit in the town's biggest park, It promises an exciting finish to what should be a weekend full of national-level racing action.

Both the Pro/1/2 Men's and Women's events will feature some of the region's top racers in what is widely considered the finale of the Pacific Northwest racing season. Since its inception as a one-day event more than 20 years ago, the Eugene Celebration Cycling Classic has become one of the Pacific Northwest's biggest races. In 2000, it drew more than 320 competitors, placing it second behind only the Tour of Willamette in terms of popularity in Oregon.

Besides the Pro/1/2 Men and Women, there are men's events for Category 3, 4/5, and Masters 35+. Several children's races will also be held. For more information on the Eugene Celebration Cycling Classic, please visit

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