News for September 14, 2000

55th Vuelta a Espańa news

Casero doesn't give up

Today's stage from Benavente to Salamanca was flat and fast, however a potential splitting of the bunch near the end was averted by Telekom, who drove the second group back up to the leaders. The general classification remained the same and Roberto Heras still leads by 3'41 from Angel Casero, with Pavel Tonkov in third at 4'50.

Casero commented that he still hasn't given up hope of winning the Vuelta, despite Heras' upper hand at the moment. With two mountain stages and a 38 kilometre time trial to come, Casero will have to somehow take time out of Heras on the hills if he is to have any hope in Madrid.

"It is difficult, but dreaming is free and you always dream about the Maillot Oro," he said. "I will try to win the last time trial," he added, in order to demonstrate to the national coach that he should have been picked for the Olympics.

Olano wants it as well

One rider who he will have to beat is ONCE's Abraham Olano, who is now nowhere near podium contention at 18th position, nearly 16 minutes behind. Once again, the steep climbs have taken their toll on the former World Champion, who admitted that he is now thinking of the Olympic Time Trial rather than the Vuelta.

The Basque rider will use the stage in Madrid to test himself against the clock and try and repeat his victory of stage 9. However, it may not be an all out effort: "I am thinking more about Sydney than the time trial in Madrid. If on Sunday I feel that I need to recover my strength, I will do so. I am doing what I feel is best for me," he said.

On his overall results in the Vuelta, he added that "Before the Vuelta I was resting more than training. In order to ride a good Vuelta it is necessary to be one hundred percent," he added.

Again into the hills

Tomorrow's stage 18 takes the race back into the mountains, leaving Roberto Heras' home city of Béjar and travelling 159 kilometres to Ciudad Rodrigo. En route are four categorised climbs, with the toughest being the category 1 Alto de el Portillo at kilometre 92 (12 km averaging ~6 percent). A category 2 rise follows, and then a category 3 at kilometre 126 before a fast downhill run into the finish in Rodrigo.

Roberto Heras commented that the stage might be a little tricky due to the terrain, but he has no fear. He said that a small group of strong men might well take the stage, but that he and his team would be content to control matters. Heras will also be honoured before the start by the locals in Béjar as the "virtual winner" of the Vuelta this year.

You will be able to follow the stage live on once again.

El Angliru

Fancy a trip up the feared mountain? You might need a "rotisserie" gear on, if the pro gear selections are anything to go by. Some teams used as low as a triple chainring (53/39/30) with a 25 tooth cog on the back(!), while others opted for the more conventional 53/39 with a 29 to adorn the rear. It's only the last 11 kilometres that are the steepest...

Percent grade

A short note on percentages: these are calculated by dividing the units of altitude gained by the horizontal (not actual) distance travelled and multiplying by 100. For example, a climb 10 kilometres long (10,000 metres) rises 1000 metres. Using a little trigonometry, and assuming a constant gradient, it means that the horizontal component distance travelled is 9,950 metres. So the average grade is actually (1000/9950 * 100 = 10.05% not 10%). This discrepancy is pretty much negligible at lower grades/percentages and as far as riding up them is concerned, it matters not one iota.

Team News

Zülle to Coast

One of the biggest team changes has come from Swiss rider, Alex Zülle, who has ridden for Banesto for the past two years. He will join the German division II team Coast in 2001 after a surprise announcement today by his agent, Marc Biver. Zülle, 32, will have compatriots Roland Meier (Cofidis) and Niki Aebersold (Rabobank) along with him in the team as well as Alexander Aeschbach, Mauro Gianetti (possibly) and Hans Kurt Brand.

The team, sponsored by a jeans manufacturer is another second division squad that are aiming to sign enough points for division I next year. The team is trained by Wolfram Lindner, who was partly responsible for Oscar Camenzind's World's victory in 1998 and Pascal Richard's Olympic Gold in 1996, hence the Swiss connection.

The move is considered quite a coup for the team who have had moderate success this year. Zülle is currently ranked 69th on the UCI scale with 591 points.

Banesto's loss

Losing Zülle and the continued non-performance of Jimenez in major tours means that Banesto will have to look to their younger riders (Francisco Mancebo) to take the mantle, as well as other more established talent.

Manager, Jose Miguel Echavarri, commented today that Zülle "could not confirm his class with Banesto," expressing his disappointment with the Swiss. "I knew that they [Coast and Zülle] were in negotiations. I understand the position of Alex because it is in the last years of his career."

Banesto did not renew Zülle's contract before the Vuelta, after a meeting between Toni Rominger (who also represent's Zülle) and Echavarri in Malaga. Team Coast came onto the scene with a desire to sign more Swiss talent as well as enough points to make division I next year. Zülle will be the team leader but they will concentrate on the smaller tours rather than on the Grand Tours, and the Swiss should perform somewhat better.

Farm Frites and Van Moorsel

World number eight, Olympic hopeful and winner of 42 races this year, Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel rides for the powerful Dutch Farm Frites-Hartol squad. She received a boost before she left for Sydney after it was announced that Farm Frites would sponsor the team for another year.

Piet de Bruijne (Farm Frites) talked with her team manager Michael Zijlaard and Leontien just before they left: "I'm glad we can give women's cycling in the Netherlands an extra push," said de Bruijne.

In other Farm Frites news, it appears that Serguei Ivanov will leave to join Italian Fassa Bortolo next year.

Telekom adds

Team Telekom have definitely secured the signature of Farm Frites rider, Andreas Klier for next year. In addition, they have acquired ex-Vitalicio rider, Santiago Blanco who has been on the scene for several years, but done very little of note.

French transfers

Thierry Loder has left Cofidis and will ride for Ag2r-Prévoyance with a two year contract. Also, Australian Marcel Gono will no longer ride for Crédit Agricole, but instead be with the British Linda McCartney team. Lithuanian rider Linas Balciunas (St Quentin) will make a move up to Cofidis.

French Champion, Christophe Capelle will ride next year again with Big Mat Auber 93, who also extended the contracts of Jeremy Hunt and Alexandre Chouffe.


There are rumours that US Postal's Tyler Hamilton may be leaving the team to join the Spanish ONCE squad next year. Dauphine Libere winner Hamilton was (and is) a key member of the outfit that helped Armstrong to his second tour win this year. The move could help to explain the influx of Spanish and Colombian climbers into Postal next season.

More Postal news

The new vans...
Photo: © US Postal Service

The US Postal Service (the service, not the team) is sporting a new look for 10,000 of their delivery vehicles as decals of Lance Armstrong are now being displayed on their sides. The vans and trucks will be used in Atlanta, Austin, TX (Armstrong's hometown), Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

The decals feature a photograph of Armstrong and the words, "Lance Delivers. Again!". However they are actually of the new $3.20 Priority Mail flat rate envelope being printed by the Postal Service. Millions of the envelopes, featuring Armstrong's image, will be distributed to post offices across the country.

Cipollini and Saeco-Valli&Valli

After being expelled from the Vuelta in the first week for a punching incident, Saeco's Mario Cipollini was also given an indefinite suspension by his team. Tomorrow (September 14), he will face his team manager Claudio Corti over the affair, and the two will discuss the sprinter's immediate and long term future, and the pending lawsuit from Vitalicio's Francisco Cerezo.