Vuelta a Espana

Stage 18 Results and Reports

Stage 18, Cerler-Zaragoza, 222 km:

 1. Dmitry Konyshev (Russia) AKI   		     5.41.24
 2. Bo Hamburger (Denmark) TVM
 3. Gianni Bugno (Italy) MG
 4. Paolo Valoti (Italy) Cantina      		      all s.t.
 5. Serguei Smetanine (Russia) Santa Clara         	5:07
 6. Pascal Chanteur (France) Petit Casino 
 7. Giuseppe Citterio (Italy) AKI 
 8. Luca Pavanello (Italy) AKI 
 9. Oscar Aranguren (Spain) Santa Clara 
10. Alessandro Petacchi (Italy) Scrigno 
11. Marcel Wust (Germany) MX Onda 
12. Angel Edo (Spain) Kelme 
13. Stefano Dante (Italy) Cantina 
14. Sauro Gallorini (Italy) Scrigno 
15. Jose Espinosa (Spain) MX Onda 
16. Mario Kummer (Germany) Telekom 
17. Jurgen Werner (Germany) Telekom 
18. Hendrik Redant (Belgium) TVM 
19. Asier Guenetxea (Spain) Euskadi 
20. Martin Hvastija (Slovenia) Cantina    	      all s.t.

Overall standings:

 1. Alex Zuelle (Switzerland) ONCE  		     82.31.26
 2. Laurent Jalabert (France) ONCE           		 1:10
 3. Laurent Dufaux (Switzerland) Lotus               	 5:17
 4. Roberto Pistore (Italy) MG                       	 7:12
 5. Georg Tostching (Austria) Polti                  	 8:34
 6. Tony Rominger (Switzerland) Mapei                	 8:51
 7. Stefano Faustini (Italy) AKI                     	 9.09
 8. Davide Rebellin (Italy) Polti                    	 9:42
 9. Melchor Mauri (Spain) ONCE                      	10:32
10. Bobby Julich (USA) Motorola                    	12:47
11. Andrea Peron (Italy) Motorola                  	13:05
12. Neil Stephens (Australia) ONCE                 	13:57
13. Daniel Clavero (Spain) MX Onda                 	15:02
14. Fernando Escartin (Spain) Kelme                	15:20
15. Marcos Serrano (Spain) Kelme                   	15:28
16. Mikel Zarrabeitia (Spain) ONCE                 	15:42
17. Jose Maria Jimenez (Spain) Banesto             	15:50
18. Massimo Apollonio (Italy) Scrigno              	16:32
19. Vladislav Bobrik (Russia) Gewiss               	16:52
20. Mauro Gianetti (Switzerland) Polti             	17:02


Russia's Dimitri Konyshev on Wednesday won the 219km 18th stage of the Tour of Spain but Switzerland's Alex Zulle retained the overall lead.

Konyshev, who made a break midway through with Italians Gianni Bugno, Paolo Valotti and Denmark's Bo Hamburger, sprinted first across the line more than four minutes ahead of the pack in this stage from Benasque to Zaragoza.

Stomach problems amongst ONCE riders may cause problems in the run-in to the event but sporting director Manolo Saiz refused to reveal the extent of the problems.

The team's ill effects began the day before on the final climb at Ampriu where Zulle felt unwell and Spain's Alberto Leanizbarrutia pulled out.

Sickness strikes the Vuelta

Tour of Spain leader Alex Zuelle and his ONCE teammates have been hit by a stomach upset that threatens to leave the event wide open with just four days left to race.

Despite their problems Zuelle and second-placed team mate Laurent Jalabert held on to their positions inthe overall classification in Wednesday's 18th stage, which was won by Russia's Dmitry Konyshev.

Zuelle leads Jalabert by a provisional one minute and 10 seconds, with third-placed Laurent Dufaux over four minutes further back.

ONCE team officials on Wednesday acknowledged the existence of a problem, but said they had neither analyzed it nor found its cause.

``I have great faith in the professionalism of my team, and I'm sure we're able to get over this,'' said ONCE team manager Manolo Saiz.

Later ONCE rider Melchor Mauri played down the extent of the problem, saying only one of his team mates had been affected.

But other teams were preparing to challenge ONCE's grip over the overall standings in Thursday and Friday's final mountain stages.

``We'll test Zuelle early in Thursday's stage,'' said Miguel Moreno, manager of Dufaux's Lotus team.

At the beginning of Wednesday's stage the ONCE riders made a rare mistake and had to work hard to haul in a group that included Dufaux, Roberto Pistore and Georg Tostching, who are third, fourth and fifth respectively in the overall standings.

A four-man group of less-threatening riders had better luck after breaking away after 100 kms of the 222 kms stage.

The pack was buffeted by side winds throughout the day and showed little interest in catching Konyshev, who was accompanied by former World champion Gianni Bugno, another Italian Paolo Valoti, and Danish rider Bo Hamburger.

Konyshev outmanouevered his rivals to take a relatively straightforward victory at the line.

Bugno -- who has drifted into obscurity since his heyday in the early 1990s -- fell from his bike at the finish in what appeared to be a gesture of rage at his inability to compete.

The race favourites arrived together over five minutes behind.

The riders are due to fly Madrid on Wednesday, ready for Thursday's 19th stage, which takes them over 212 kms from Getafe to Avila.