News for September 15, 2000

55th Vuelta a Espańa news

Vinokourov profits from Laiseka vs. Acosta

Alexandre Vinokourov
Photo: © AFP

Telekom's Alexandre Vinokourov went one better than he did in the Tour, by winning today's stage 18 in the Vuelta. Just a couple of days shy of his 27th birthday, Vino recorded his first win of the 2000 season and his 14th in his three year career.

Today's win was a little unconventional however, as he caught the two escapees (Laiseka and Garcia Acosta) with just 300 metres to go and flew past them. The two had essentially wrapped up the stage over the last climb as they had two minutes on the bunch. However, an argument between the two as to who was doing the work led to their downfall and Vinokourov's gain, as the Khazakh had bridged up to them in the final 15 kilometres.

According to Banesto's DS, Eusebio Unzúe, Laiseka (Euskaltel) was the villain, not keeping to the pact that he and Acosta had agreed on. When he attacked the Banesto rider with three kilometres to go, Acosta was furious and chased him down and did not do another turn. They slowed and were caught by the charging Vinokourov.

The 'pact' was clearly that Laiseka would take second on the stage to Acosta, but gain time on GC as he was 11th overall coming into the stage. However, the two didn't work particularly well and squandered their lead.

"Roberto Laiseka has fulfilled the word that he gave to Chenté and neither has won or gained anything. We remain idiots," said Unzúe. "It was clearly the aim of Laiseka to arrive at the finish with the greatest time gap possible and to give Chenté to win. Far from collaborating so that Vinokourov did not catch them, they played tactics in the final kilometres."

"I believe that there was a commitment on behalf of Laiseka that was not fulfilled. The attitude of Laiseka has given the victory to Vinokourov," he finished.

Laiseka on the other hand said that there was no pact, and that he "did not give his word to anybody". When Vinokourov caught them in the final few hundred metres "he was faster than us and in the end he took away our victory. We saw him coming and started to sprint but it was too late."

Of his three kilometre to go attack, Laiseka said that "I knew that there was a rise and I tried to attack him, but as soon as it was flat I couldn't go any longer. The wind was against me and I don't have the advantage of his weight."

With regard to the supposed pact, "I did not give my word to anybody, we both wanted to win and we were not able to," he finished.

Heras gets a send off

Race leader and native of Béjar (where the stage started today), Roberto Heras, held onto his 3'41 advantage by the finish of the stage. Not that that was unexpected, as the Kelme train kept things smooth during today's "complicated" mountain stage.

Heras was honoured by his town's citizens before the start and is now within three days of realising his goal of winning the Vuelta. "It is the dream of any Spaniard and this year I have it in my reach," he said.

He described the stage as nervous, difficult to control and dangerous. However his team once again performed excellently and he did not need to stretch himself. Tomorrow's flat stage will not be an easy one for them though, as there is the potential for a lot of wind.

Casero and Tonkov steady

The general classification did not change a great deal at the top today, despite the mountainous stage. Kelme did not set such a fierce pace over the climbs and a reasonably large group (30) came in to Ciudad Rodrigo behind the three breakaways.

Angel Casero and Pavel Tonkov are the likely contenders for second and third places, but who gets what will not be known until the end of the final time trial in Madrid on Sunday. Casero commented that Tonkov was trying hard today to gain time, without success. Saturday's mountain top finish could see the gap change however.

Casero also commented on his non-selection for Sydney, indicating that he could have played a role there. "Every day I'm improving and after a Vuelta you tend to do so even more. With two to three days to recover from the flight, you go like a shot," he said.

Andorra in 2001

The tiny principality of Andorra will once again host a stage of the Vuelta a Espańa next year, it was announced today. An Andorran government spokesman, Enric Pujal welcomed the news, coming after the disappointment of not having a Tour de France stage in recent years (or the next). Unipublic, the organisers of the Vuelta, intend to help promote the country by giving it a stage finish as was the case this year (stage 11 to Arcalis). In future, there is the possibility of hosting more stages, a finish and a mountain time trial and perhaps one of the rest days.

Team News

The Coast coup

German division II team Coast took many by surprise yesterday when they announced their plans to move to division I. In doing so, they added several top Swiss riders to their roster, including Alex Zülle, Niki Aerbersold, and Roland Meier with Mauro Gianetti a potential signing. This is in addition to Hans Kurt Brand and Alexander Aeschbach, as well as Jan Bratkowski, Simone Mori and Jason Phillips. More announcements are expected soon.

The team is presently sponsored by a specialist clothing company with 20 outlets in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. The sponsor is looking to expand its business and wants to use the team to spread the word a little more widely. They have a five year commitment to the team, and will sign a number of co-sponsors in order to meet their budget.

Of course, they have designs on a Tour de France start, and may well come close to that if they can add some more points to their roster. Team coach Wolfram Linder is considered to be quite successful in cycling and the team hopes that he is the one to help Alex Zülle win the Tour.

Mercury confirms Tonkov

As reported earlier in the week, US team Mercury will have Pavel Tonkov as their 21st rider (or 1st depending on how you look at it) next season. The official announcement was made by team director John Wordin today and will almost certainly mean the team makes division I next year. Tonkov is riding with Mapei at the moment and has a good chance of finishing on the podium in this year's Vuelta, with second place a strong possibility.

"He gives us great experience and has a great work ethic. He will help the development of our younger riders. Besides Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich, he is one of the best grand tour riders in the world," said Wordin of the signing.

Tonkov facts

Born: February 9, 1969 at: Ichevsk
Pro Since: 1992
31 Career Victories
1st overall in Giro d'Italia (1996) and Tour de Suisse (1995)
Several top 5 finishes in Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana

Major Honors, 2000 season

4th G.P. Portugal Telecom
14th Vuelta a Aragon
17th Giro del Trentino
12th Tour de Romandy
10th Volta a Catalunya
2nd Russian Road Championship
6th LUK Cup Buhl
12th Vuelta a Burgos
9th Vuelta a la Communidad Galega
5th Giro d'Italia

VDB's looking

Both Frank and his uncle, Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke are looking for new teams next year, and the latest round of negotiations between Frank and ONCE have once again broken down. Frank's future is unknown but as far as his uncle Jean-Luc is concerned, he wants to start a new team with French connections. The French departement, Nord-Pas de Calais have offered BEF 60 million ($US 1.4 million) but that will not be enough for VDB's plans.

Dutch neo pros

Belgian team, Lotto-Adecco have signed Dutch rider Fulco van Gullik for next season. 21 year old Van Gullik lives in Rotterdam and currently rides for the Westland team. David Orvalho and Bram Tankink (currently with Löwik Meubelen) will ride for Domo next year as neo-pros.

Vini Caldirola-Amica Chips

There are rumours that these two Italian teams will merge next year after the former is losing some of its top riders such as Francesco Casagrande and Romans Vainsteins.

Saeco reinstates Cipollini

Mario Cipollini's suspension from his Saeco team has been lifted after a meeting held today between the sprinter and team management. He was suspended "indefinitely" by the team after a punching incident in the Vuelta a Espańa involving Vitalicio's Francisco Cerezo. Following which he was immediately ejected from the race. The duration of his suspension came to 15 days, however Cipollini has not yet decided on his next race.

Last race for Oregon 2000

This weekend (September 16-17) will see the last road races in Oregon, USA for the 2000 season. The Hutch's Bicycles Eugene Celebration Omnium include two road races, and a time trial. Many categories are catered for (Cat. 1-5, Women, Juniors, Masters 35+) in this last round of the Oregon Cup (just for Women and Category 1-2 racers).