Clasico RCN-Caja Popular Cooperativa, Cat 2.4

Colombia, March 15-24, 1997

1996 Results and Reports

  • Stage One
  • Stage Two
  • Stage Three
  • Stage Four
  • Stage Five
  • Stage Six
  • Stage Seven
  • Stage Eight
  • Stage Nine and Final GC

    Stage 1

    The Sunday papers of Colombia failed to give the results of Saturday's stage 1 of the Clasico RCN. However, the leader's jersey passed to Raul Montana of Caprecom. El Rambo, past winner of the Vuelta a Colombia and veteran of two years of racing in Italy, broke from the peloton in the final kilometer and blasted away for a convincing win. Only last year's winner, Israel Ochoa, was able to hang on his wheel. A small group responded, finishing 5 seconds down while the main peloton with the favorites was a full 16 seconds off. With the stage finish time bonuses, Montana's move gave him a big advantage which is certainly surprising to many. All in all, the first two stages have hurt the many race favorites who have seen Montana, the Telecom-Kelme riders, and the Todos por Boyaca, take out important seconds on the Orgullo Paisa squad and its favorites, Duban Ramirez and German Ospina.

    The flat character of this year's Clasico RCN is bound to benefit swift rolleurs of the Montana style and after his strong showings in the early season, Montana may be ready to challenge, despite a very weak team. Should the Orgullo Paisa, Telecom- Kelme, and Todos por Boyaca fail to unite against this speedster, they could find themselves on the outside looking in.

    Stage 2, Villa de Leiva-Mongum, 128 km:

      1. Razl Montaqa (Caprecom)                  3.06.40
      2. Israel Ochoa (Todos por Boyaca)             s.t.
      3. Libardo Niqo (Gaseosas Glacial)           + 0.05
      4. Alvaro Sierra (Todos por Boyaca)            s.t.
      5. Julio Cisar Aguirre (Kelme Telecom)         s.t.
      6. Hictor Ivan Palacio (Kelme Telecom)         s.t.
      7. Angel Yesid Camargo (Gaseosas Glacial)    + 0.16
      8. German Ospina (Orgullo Paisa)               s.t.
      9. Javier Zapata (Orgullo Paisa)               s.t.
     10. Juan Rammrez (Kelme Telecom)              + 0.18


      1. Razl Montaqa (Caprecom)                 6.40.05
      2. Libardo Niqo (Gaseosas Glacial)          + 0.07
      3. Israel Ochoa (Todos por Boyaca)          + 0.14
      4. Alvaro Sierra (Todos por Boyaca)         + 0.20
      5. Julio Cisar Aguirre (Kelme Telecom)        s.t.
      6. Javier Zapata (Orgullo Paisa)            + 0.21
      7. Hictor Ivan Palacio (Kelme Telecom)      + 0.25
      8. Angel Yesid Camargo (Gaseosas Glacial)   + 0.31
      9. German Ospina (Orgullo Paisa)              s.t.
     10. Miguel Sanabria (Todos por Boyaca)       + 0.33
    (all from Colombia)

    Stage 3:

     1. Victor Becerra, Gaseosas Glacial,   	     2.40.26
     2. Hector Palacio, Telecom-Kelme       		0.07
     3. Raul Montana, Caprecom              		0.08
     4. Libardo Nino, Gaseosas Glacial        		s.t.
     5. Duban Ramirez, Aguardiente Antioqueno
     6. Henry Cardenas, Gaseosas Glacial
     7. Alexis Rojas, Petroleos de Colombia
     8. Javier Zapata, Loteria de Medellin
     9. Angel Yesid Camargo, Gaseosas Glacial


     1. Raul Montana, Caprecom                           9.20.35
     2. Libardo Nino, Gaseosas Glacial       		0.11
     3. Israel Ochoa, Todos por Boyaca          		0.18
     4. Hector Palacio, Telecom-Kelme           		0.21          
     5. Julio Aguirre, Telecom-Kelme            		0.24
     6. Alvaro Sierra, Gaseosas Glacial         		s.t.
     7. Javier Zapata, Loteria de Medellin      		0.25
     8. Angel Camargo, Gaseosas Glacial         		0.35
     9. German Ospina, Loteria de Medellin     		s.t.
    10. Miguel Sanabria, Gaseosas Glacial       		0.37
    11. Duban Ramirez, Aguardiente Antioqueno   		0.42
    *I am not sure why Orgullo Paisa riders are showing up with
    different team names (Aguardiente Antioqueno and Loteria de
    Medellin).  It may be that there was a team size-limit in
    the Clasico and they are riding as split squads.)
    NOTES: German Ospina, of Orgullo Paisa and winner of two of
    the six sprint classics, has an average EPO of 56%.  His
    totals are apparently standard for the Colombian riders
    given their training and racing at 10,000+ feet over the
    past few weeks.  None of the riders have been sanctioned
    by the UCI for these totals since all ride with exceptions.
    Two other countries are represented in this year's Clasico
    besides the German and Cuban teams.  They are Bolivia
    with Marco Turrico and Genaro Agostapa and Mexico with
    Aulogelio Lopez.  The latter were picked up by Jose Luis
    Vanegas when he rode in Ruta Azteca.  The former paid their
    own way.
    Sprints: Jairo Perez, Todos por Boyaca
    KOM: Raul Montana, Caprecom
    Points: Raul Montana, Caprecom
    Teams: Todos por Boyaca

    Stage 3

    Since the October 7th of 1995 when the World Road Race for amateur riders was raced, the name of Victor Angel Becerra hasn't been heard so loudly and often. "Becerra, Becerra, Becerra", shouted once and again the narrator, Rodrigo Vasquez, when he saw him finish ahead on the third stage of the Clasico RCN-Caja Popular Cooperativa. Raul Montana, remained the overall leader and the race remains wide open.

    Victor Becerra, of Gaseosas Glacial, bronze medalist in the 1995 World Espoire Road Race, made a successful break from the peloton just 7 kilometers from the finish and held on to take the third stage of Colombia's fastest multi-stage road race. He was followed to the line by Hector Palacio (Telecom-Kelme) and race leader Raul Montana (Caprecom).

    The finish is not what the leaders of Orgullo Paisa (Aguardiente Antioqueno-Loteria de Medellin), Todos por Boyaca, or Telecom-Kelme had in mind when they came to the front of the peloton and set a demonic pace of 50 kph+ over the first 90 minutes of the course. Determined to break leader Raul Montana and his small Caprecom team, they worked together to set the inhuman pace. And then it only got worse for Montana when a small group of elite riders jumped off the front (German Ospina, Libardo Nino, Elkin Barrera, Juan Diego Ramirez, Alvaro Sierra, Jose Luis Vanegas, and Julio Bernal). Any one of this group could have taken the yellow and representing all the major teams EXCEPT Caprecom, they seemed destined to take the stage and the race away from Montana. As the Glacial, Paisa, Boyaca, and Telecom riders slowed the pursuit pace, it was up to Montana and his small team to move to the front and push the pace again. And they did. Winding it up again into the 50kph+ range, they finally reeled in the break just seven kilometers from the finish. Exhausted from the effort, the boys relaxed only to have two new riders, Victor Becerra of Glacial and Diego Garavito, jump free. Garavito would suffer a flat and be eaten up by the peloton in the final kilometer. But Becerra was able to make his attack stick.

    For Montana and Caprecom, it set up a potentially decisive day. The stage average of over 48kph showed they could meet the challenge but today's stage, from Barbosa to Piedecuesta, 203 kilometers long and with a brutal clijmb to El Alto de Curos nine kilometers from the finish, could be too much for this little team after yesterday's heroics. Can Montana find the legs to not only withstand the escapes over such a long stage and then make the harsh climb and following descent?

    Stage 4, Barbosa-Piedecuesta:

     1. Hector I. Palacio, Telecom-Kelme     5h14m27s
     2. Javier Zapata, Aguardiente Antiogueno   st
     3. Raul Montana, Caprecom
     4. Miguel Sanabria, Todos por Boyaca      at 3s
     5. Luis Espinosa, Petroleos de Colombia    st
     6. Julio C Aguirre, Telecom-Kelme
     7. Celio R Roncancio, Bono del Ciclismo
     8. Juan Ramirez, Telecom-Kelme
     9. Jair Bernal, Todos por Boyaca
    10. Alvaro Sierra, Todos por Boyaca
    Major losers: Libardo Nino and Angel Yesid Camargo
    at 1:08 and Duban Ramirez and Israel Ochoa at 2:07.


     1. Raul Montana, Caprecom               14h34m58s
     2. Hector Palacio, Telecom-Kelme           at 15s
     3. Javier Zapata, Aguardiente Antioqueno   at 23s
     4. Alvaro Sierra, Todos por Boyaca            31s
     5. Julio Aguirre, Telecom-Kelme               st
     6. Miguel Sanabria, Todos por Boyaca          44s
     7. Jair Bernal, Todos por Boyaca              st
     8. Carlos Contreras, Telecom-Kelme            49s
     9. Juan Diego Ramirez, TElecom-Kelme          st
    10. Luis Espinosa, Petroleos de Colombia     1:06
    KOM: Raul Montana, Caprecom
    Points: Raul Montana, Caprecom
    Sprints: Jairo Perez, Todos por Boyaca
    Teams: Todos por Boyaca

    Stage 4 Report

    It was a mean stage in this year's Clasico RCN as top-level pros found themselves creeping through sections of road filled with sharp gravel. The end results were to be expected: dozens of flats, and several mass falls as cyclists tried to squeeze their peloton through spaces too small for so many riders. In the end, the stage was won by Hector Palacio, bleeding from numerous cuts and scrapes caused by one of the falls, in a sprint over ex-teammate Javier Zapata. Caprecom's Raul Montana hung on to his lead in the overall.

    The 4th stage from Barbosa to Piedecuesta began as expected. The men of Telecom-Kelme, Orgullo Paisa, and Todos por Boyaca pushed the pace well over 50 kph. Attack after attack off the front spread the peloton out in a long stream. But the road from Barbosa to San Gil was in desperately bad condition and the high rate of speed led to a number of severe crashes, one which left Telecom's Hector Palacio bleeding from numerous wounds. Not only had the road practically desintegrated into gravel and potholes, but the small rocks also wreaked havoc on the fine tires of the racer's bikes. Dozens of flats resulted, including five for the very unfortunate Orgullo Paisa speedster and pre-race favorite, Duban Ramirez. Israel Ochoa, of Todos por Boyaca, also hit the ground twice and suffered several flat tires. In one case, a rider hit a pothole so hard that his bike snapped in two, sending the unfortunate cyclist flying through the air. With the carnage growing, the team leaders called an end to the attacks and the fast pace, slowing everyone down until they could get past San Gil and the worst of the bad roads.

    The pace picked up again as the peloton began the steep climb to Chiflas and a local boy, Olmedo Capacho, winner of a stage in the Itagui Classic, broke free and opened up a significant lead. As the sharp descent began down to San Gil and through the valley of the Chicamocha, Capacho lost control of his bike and slammed head first into the side of a narrow bridge, and was out of the race. [NOTE: Yes, he was wearing a helmet, and yes it appears that he will survive with no more than a severe concussion.] In the fierce descent to San Gil, a number of the stars fell off the pace as they again suffered punctures or falls: Duban Ramirez, German Ospina, Israel Ochoa, Henry Cardenas, and Elkin Barrera. It was almost as if Telecom's Raul Meza and Raul Montana's diminutive Caprecom team were receiving divine assistance in putting all their major competitors out of the race.

    Tomorrow's stage will be a long, flat, humid, and extremely hot stretch from Bucaramanga to Colombia's oil capital, Barrancabermeja.

    Stage 5, Bucaramanga-Barrancabermeja:

      1. Razl Montaqa, Caprecom-Zapatos Kioo's,            3.45.30
      2. Javier Zapata, Loterma de Medellmn
      3. Miguel Niqo, Todos por Boyaca-Loterma de Boyaca
      4. Cisar Goyeneche, Bono del Ciclismo-Montanari Kross
      5. Vmctor Hugo Peqa, Telecom-Internet-Kelme
      6. Julio Bernal, Ciclistas de Jesucristo 
      7. Pedro Pirez, Cubana de Aviacisn
      8. Giovanni Garcma, Cicloases Cundinamarca
      9. Juan Diego Rammrez, Telecom-Internt-Kelme
     10. Alexis Rojas, Petrsleo de Colombia              all s.t.


      1. Razl Montaqa                                      18.19.18
      2. Javier Zapata                                       + 0.27
      3. Hictor Ivan Palacio, Telecom-Internet-Kelme         + 0.35
      4. Alvaro Sierra                                       + 0.41
      5. Julio Cisar Aguirre, Telecom-Internt-Kelme            s.t.
      6. Miguel Sanabria, Todos por Boyaca-Loterma de Boyaca + 0.54
      7. Jair Bernal, Todos por Boyaca-Loterma de Boyaca       s.t.
      8. Carlos Contreras, Telecom-Internet-Kelme            + 0.59
      9. Juan Diego Rammrez, Telecom-Internt-Kelme             s.t.
     10. Luis Espinosa, Petrsleo de Colombia                 + 1.16.

    Stage 5 Report

    Stage 5 of the 37th running of the Clasico RCN began in controversy and ended in the same. Riders, angry over the poor state of the roads between Barbosa and San Gil (Stage 4) and the low primes for stage wins (all of $90 after taxes), engaged in a slow-in on the long flat stage from Bucaramanga to the oil capital of the country, Barrancabermeja.

    Cruising along at less than 40kph, the peloton recovered from its injuries, sang songs, and generally had a good training ride until they entered Barrancabermeja. With two circuits of the city to the finish line, the peloton threw off its angry lethargy and blasted off hitting speeds of 65kph. Entering the finishing stretch, four riders had manuevered to the front through the insane (and, given the state of Barranca's roads, suicidal) pace: Javier Zapata, of Orgullo Paisa, Cesar Goyeneche of the bankrupt Bono del Ciclismo-Montanari Kross, Olaf Pollack of Germany's Rad Team Adler Brand and the yellow jersey holder, Raul Montana of Caprecom. It was Goyeneche who jumped first, pulling Pollack on his wheel. As the riders swayed from side to side, Pollack began to drift to the right, eventually pushing Goyeneche into the wall. Meanwhile, coming up fast from behind, Raul Montana blasted by on the outside hitting the line ahead of the German who had already lifted his arms in the victory sign. To add insult to the German's injury, the UCI officials determined that he had fouled the tiny Montanari-Kross rider Goyeneche and sent him to the end of the stage standings. For Raul Montana it was a great win, adding seconds to his lead and helping set the stage for the crucial time trial to Los Patios in stage 10.

    Today's stage will be the most brutal by far. 230.4 kilometers from Barrancabermeja to Puerto Boyaca along dusty, flat, and extremely hot roads. I do not exaggerate when I say that it can easily hit 130+ fahrenheit on that stretch.

    Stage 6, Barrancabermeja-Puerto Boyaca:

      1. Olaf Pollack, (Ger-Brandemburgo)    5h18m51s
      2. Cesar Goyeneche, Bono del Ciclismo      st
      3. Miguel Nino, Todos por Boyaca
      4. Javier Zapata, Aguardiente-Antioqueno
      5. Diego Garavito, Petroleo de Colombia
    [Mass finish for the 108 riders still in the race]


      1. Raul Montana, Caprecom                23h39m09s
      2. Javier Zapata, Aguardiente Antioqueno   at 27s
      3. Hector Palacio, Telecom-Kelme              35s
      4. Julio Aguirre, Telecom-Kelme               41s
      5. Alvaro Sierra, Todos por Boyaca            st
      6. Miguel Sanabria, Todos por Boyaca          54s
      7. Jair Bernal, Todos por Boyaca              st
      8. Juan Diego Ramirez, Telecom-Kelme          58s
      9. Carlos Contreras, Telecom-Kelme            59s
     10. Luis Espinosa, Petroleo de Colombia      1:16
     Sprints: Uberlino Mesa, Todos por Boyaca
     KOM: Raul Montana, Caprecom
     Points: Raul Montana, Caprecom
     Teams: Todos por Boyaca

    Stage 6 Report

    Over the brutally hot 230 kilometers in the flats of the Magdalena River valley, a young German named Olaf Pollack continued to insist that he did NOT foul at the end of stage 5 and that his win had been legitimate. And then, just to prove it once and for all, Pollack took his antagonist of yesterday, Cesar Goyeneche of Bono del Ciclismo, to the line and pipped him for a win in stage 6 of the Clasico RCN. Pollack's win was the first for a foreigner in this year's edition, with the Bolivians already gone and the Cubans and Germans underperforming. Raul Montana held his overall lead.

    The stage was hot. Infernally so. Domestiques went back and forth between their teammates and the cars carrying the precious water that kept them going. Photos show riders spraying each other, or calling out for water for a struggling member of the deathmarch through the valley. A small group of six, ignoring the heat, jumped off from the peloton: Jorge Otalvaro, Raul Gomez, Carlos Cabrera, Uberlino Mesa, Misael Orozco and Adolfo Rico. But with no favorites in the group, and with the heat, the peloton yawned as they sped away, staying out in front for over 100 kilometers. As Puerto Boyaca shimmered in the distance, the peloton jacked the pace up into the low 50s (the average for the long day was 44kph) and by the time they hit the concluding circuit the heat was ignored because the battle was even hotter: riders screamed through the streets at over 60kph, battling to position at the front for the sprint. And, in a near replay of yesterday, but this time without a foul, Pollack took Goyeneche and the stage.

    Tomorrow's stage will be the first major selection of the race. Going from Doradal to Guatape over 164 kilometers, in the homeland of the Orgullo Paisa and about a third of the peloton, this stage will go through 4 major mountain passes as it winds its way out of the steamy Magdalena river valley and up to the mild-high plateau of central Antioquia. The descent into Guatape is very steep and highly technical and the stage should set up the final array of riders who will contest the title in Sunday's ITT in Bogota.

    Stage 7, Doradal-Guatape:

      1. Libardo Niqo, Gaseosas Glacial                     4.34.08
      2. Hictor Ivan Palacio, Telecom-Internet-Kelme
      3. Argiro Zapata, Aguardiente Antioqueqo-Loterma de Medellmn
      4. Alvaro Lozano, Bono delCiclismo-Montanari Kross
      5. Razl Montaqa, Caprecom-Zapatos Kioo's
      6. Javier Zapata, Aguardiente Antioqueqo-Loterma de Medellmn
      7. Alvaro Sierra, Todos por Boyaca-Loterma de Boyaca
      8. Juan Diego Rammrez, Telecom-Internet-Kelme
      9. Luis Espinosa, Petrsleo de Colombia
     10. Israel Ochoa, Todos por Boyaca-Loterma de Boyaca   all s.t.


      1. Razl Montaqa                                       28.13.15
      2. Javier Zapata                                        + 0.29
      3. Hictor Ivan Palacio                                  + 0.31
      4. Alvaro Sierra                                        + 0.43
      5. Miguel Sanabria, Todos por Boyaca                    + 0.56
      6. Jair Bernal, Todos por Boyaca-Loterma de Boyaca      + 0.56
      7. Juan Diego Rammrez                                   + 1.00 
      8. Carlos Alberto Contreras, Telecom-Internet-Kelme     + 1.01
      9. Luis Espinosa                                        + 1.18
     10. Celio Roncancio, Bono del Ciclismo-Montanari Kross.

    Stage 7 Report

    In a day marked by constant attacks on leader Raul Montana, it was the attackers who finally had to surrender to his masterful and timely responses as the peloton humped its way up and over four major mountain passes. Moving from the grotesque heat of the Magdalena River valley to the cool chill of the Antioquian highlands, the peloton pushed hard, trying attack after attack as each major team launched itself in an effort to wear down the small six-man Caprecom team lead by Montana. With second man Jose Luis Vanegas (winner of the Ruta Azteca of Mexico), climber Julio Rangel and domestiques Freddy Moncada, Gregorio ladino and Nelson Rodriguez, Caprecom responded quickly and energetically to the attacks launched on the sharp climbs out of the valley.

    In the end, the attacks failed and failed miserably as the attackers fell off the pace. Each major team sacrificed an important figure in the effort to get a jump on Montana. Orgullo Paisa made effort after effort off the front with their sixteen horses but the person most damaged by their efforts was their own top GC contender Javier Zapata who finally had to call for a halt on the attacks that he himself couldn't follow. Telecom-Kelme launched top 10 figure and potential ITT threat Julio Cesar Aguirre who opened up a lead but was reeled in and then spat out the back of the peloton for a harsh 6+ minutes loss on the day. Todos por Boyaca tried attacks by Alvaro Sierra and Israel Ochoa and even last year's Vuelta winner, Miguel Sanabria, but each time Montana and his lieutenants Vanegas and Rangel reeled them back in. The stage ended in a mass sprint between the members of the "super-peloton" and was won by Gaseosas Glacial's Libardo Nino for that teams first win of the race.

    With two relatively "easy" stages left before the tough climbing ITT on the final day of the Clasico, it now appears that the time trial will be the final determinant of this race. And if Montana is as strong as he seems to be, then this will be his second RCN win and a clear indication that he is back in the form he showed before his tough two year calvary in Italy.

    Stage 8, Rionegro-Puerto Salgar:

      1. Jairo Hernandez, Telecom-Internet-Kelme             4.39.59
      2. Daniel Bernal, Petrsleo de Colombia                  + 0.01
      3. Humberto Hernandez, Bono del Ciclismo-Montanari Kross
      4. Johnny Ruiz, Gaseosas Glacial
      5. Ismael Sarmiento, Todos por Boyaca-Loterma de Boyaca
      6. Julio Bernal, Ciclistas de Jesucristo              all s.t.
      7. German Ospina, Loterma de Medellmn                   + 1.43
      8. Alexis Rojas, Petrsleo de Colombia
      9. Ariel Martmnez, Idea-Sam
     10. Jaime Pinzsn, Bono de Ciclismo-Montanari Kross     all s.t.  


      1. Razl Montaqa, Caprecom-Zapatos Kioo's              32.54.57
      2. Javier Zapata, Loterma de Medellmn                   + 0.29
      3. Hictor Ivan Palacio, Telecom-Internet-Kelme          + 0.31
      4. Alvaro Sierra, Todos por Boyaca-Loterma de Boyaca    + 0.43
      5. Miguel Sanabria, Todos por Boyaca-Loterma de Boyaca  + 0.56
      6. Jair Bernal, Todos por Boyaca-Loterma de Boyaca        s.t.
      7. Juan Diego Rammrez, Telecom-Internet-Kelme           + 1.00
      8. Carlos Contreras, Telecom-Internet Kelme             + 1.01
      9. Luis Espinosa, Petrsleo de Colombia                  + 1.18
     10. Celio Roncancio, Bono del Ciclismo- Montanari Kross  + 1.22
     Teams: Todos por Boyaca
     Sprints: Jairo Perez, Todos por Boyaca
     KOM: Raul Montana, Caprecom
     Points: Raul Montana, Caprecom

    Stage 8 Report

    It was a tough day for the Clasico RCN as the stage was shortened by 4 kilometers while the cyclist were on the road. Throngs of Holy Week tourists, more interested in hitting the river then watching what was once Colombia's premiere sport, demanded that the road be openeed for traffic and the organizers of the race were forced by public demand to shorten the stage. The decision to shorten the stage worked to the benefit of a small group of escapees, none who threatened in the general, who upped their tempo with the promise of a shortened stage and finished 1,43 up on the main peloton with the win going to Telecom-Internet-Kelme's Jairo several bad stretches of highway, was a fast 44kph. The overall standings remained unchanged as the peloton heads towards Bogota and Monday's crucial uphill ITT.

    Stage 9, Circuit in Parque Simsn Bolmvar, Bogota, 100 km:

      1. Cisar Goyeneche, Bono del Ciclismo                 2.17.01
      2. Steffen Blochwitz (Ger) Agro Adler Brandenburg
      3. Pedro Pirez (Cub)
      4. Libardo Niqo, Gaseosas Glacial
      5. Javier Zapata, Aguardiente Antioqueqo
      6. Miguel Niqo, Glacial
      7. Hernan A. Osorio, SAM-Idea
      8. Hictor Ivan Palacio Telecom-Internet-Kelme       all s.t.


      1. Razl Montaqa, Caprecom-Zapatos Kioo's            35.11.58 
      2. Javier Zapata, Loterma de Medellmn                 + 0.31
      3. Hictor Ivan Palacio, Telecom-Internet-Kelme        + 0.33
      4. Miguel Sanabria, Todos por Boyaca                  + 0.58
      5. Juan Diego Rammrez, Telecom-Internet-Kelme         + 1.02
      6. Carlos Alberto Contreras, Telecom-Internet-Kelme   + 1.03
      7. Alvaro Sierra, Todos por Boyaca                    + 1.06
      8. Jair Bernal, Todos por Boyaca                      + 1.19
      9. Libardo Niqo, Glacial                              + 1.22
     10. Celio R. Roncacio, Bono del Ciclismo               + 1.24

    Stage 9 Report

    Riding like a man possessed, and determined to forget the hard years with ZG Mobili-Selle, Raul Montana overcame two flats and rode to victory by 23 seconds over pre-race favorite Duban Ramirez in the final 34 kilometer timetrial stage of the Clasico RCN. Favored by the 27 kilometers of flats before the 7 kilometer climb to Patios, Montana was able to make up the time lost while holding off a hard-charging Ramirez. Montana's success in the timetrial put his stamp on the 37th running of the Clasico and marked his return to form after his poor Italian campaigns of 1995 and 1996.

    The Clasico also marked the first appearance of the year of the new Telecom-Internet-Kelme team of Raul Mesa. While unable to dethrone Montana, the team did put Hector Palacio and Juan Diego Ramirez on the podium while taking the team title. The great dissapointment of the Clasico had to be the relatively poor performance of the Orgullo Paisa combine of Aguardiente Antioqueno-Loteria de Medellin whose ace, Duban Ramirez, lost nearly 3 minutes in one fateful stage between Barbosa and San Gil, suffering five flat tires. The same day put paid to the hopes of last year's champ, Israel Ochoa of Todos por Boyaca who also lost time when the peloton, led by Telecom, attacked mercilessly when favorites flatted.

    This year's Clasico was made to order for rolleur and mid-mountain specialist Raul Montana. But the next major event on the Colombian caledar, the Vuelta a Colombia, will have high-mountains in abundance, a challenge which Montana has struggled to meet in past years where he usually suffered at least one terrible day in the high mountains. Nonetheless, Montana is back and his fans are happy to see it.