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29th Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia - 2.1
Spain, March 4-8, 2009
By Antonio J. Salmerón
As the season kicks into full swing, the Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia is the next stop for those with Giro ambitions and local riders seeking glory on home turf. The likes of Stefano Gazelli, Bert Grabsch and Denis Menchov will battle Manuel Vázquez, Aitor Perez and Francisco Perez in Murcia.
Outlining their objectives for the race at a pre-event press conference, it became obvious that the local riders are relishing the challenge of competing against some of the ProTour's biggest stars, who'll be preparing for the Giro d'Italia with tough racing in the south-eastern reaches of Spain.
Hailing from the Murcia region, Caisse d'Epargne's Fran Pérez outlined the two key stages of the 29th Vuelta a Murcia - the 16km time trial through the streets of San Pedro del Pintar and the finish in Alhama, which comes after the run over the Collado Bermejo.
"It's a course I know very well, and perhaps a specialist who can ride a very good time trial will take it [the overall], because it's quite a distance, especially at the beginning of the season," said Pérez. "Those who perform well in the time trial may be able to defend on the climb of Collado Bermejo quite well, because it's a long descent to Alhama, " he added.
Although surprised that while he found himself in very good shape in Mallorca, he knows there will be a tough fight for the overall. "Let's go step by step and see how the race develops before I can start thinking about goals. I am [feeling] ok, but perhaps not enough to try for the general. There'll be a war going on for it, without doubt."
Quality field up for the win
One of those who may be amongst the leaders overall is Columbia-Highroad's Bert Grabsch. The current time trial world champion is replacing André Greipel in the team's lineup as the German continues to recover from a crash he suffered in the Tour Down Under in January.
"I'm in good shape after competing in Australia and the Algarve," said Grabsch. In the absence of Olympic TT champion Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) who pulled out of the Tour of California due to illness, the German is convinced of being able to achieve a solid result. "It is a good test for me, especially for upcoming events."
Another local rider who proved at last year's Vuelta a España that he's up for the big occasion, Ezequiel Mosquera, suggested that he wouldn't change his style of approaching a race and become mired in the battle for the overall, "because all the races I take part in I'm in the spotlight."
Another rider in the spotlight will be Denis Menchov, who has an affinity with Spain, having twice won the overall title in the Vuelta a España. He recently helped Joost Postuma win the Vulta a Andalucia, but said he wasn't sure of how he would perform in Murcia. "I haven't had time to assess and competition, but it is true that I have good feelings... the Giro is still a long way off," he explained.
Stefano Garzelli is also competing in Murcia with one eye on Giro d'Italia, and is grateful to be doing so as his Acqua e Sapone squad was initially left off the inivitation list for the year's first Grand Tour. "This race is a very complete and I am very well; I will see how I ride the time trial, although it's the first test [against the clock] this season, and I hope to be in front in the mountains," said the Italian veteran.
Contentpolis AMPO team captain Aitor Pérez said that, "I hope that I find the time trial more bearable, given that it's flat on the profile. I usually perform well in this type of race, but I'll also be very attentive to how the race develops in the last seven miles of climbing at the end of Collado Bermejo, which is just over seven per cent, and the long descent to Alhama, where there will be maximum risk."
Team Saxo Bank Caisse D'Epargne 1 Michael Morkov (Den) 11 Francisco Pérez (Spa) 2 Jonathan Bellis (GBr) 12 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) 3 Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) 13 Mathieu Drujon (Fra) 4 Anders Lund (Den) 14 José Vicente García (Spa) 5 Mathew Goss (Aus) 15 Alberto Losada (Spa) 6 Juan José Haedo (Arg) 16 Luis Pasamontes (Spa) 7 Jason Mccartney (USA) 17 Nicolas Portal (Fra) 8 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) 18 Xabier Zandio (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi Garmin-Slipstream 21 Igor Antón (Spa) 31 Julian Dean (NZl) 22 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) 32 Blake Caldwell (USA) 23 Jorge Azanza (Spa) 33 Thomas Danielson (USA) 24 Sergio De Lis (Spa) 34 Jason Donald (USA) 25 Aitor Galdós (Spa) 35 Timothy Duggan (USA) 26 Mikel Nieve (Spa) 36 Hubb Duyn (Ned) 27 Rubén Pérez (Spa) 37 Lucas Euser (USA) 28 Amets Txurruka (Spa) 38 Christian Meier (Can) Rabobank Team Columbia - High Road 41 Dennis Menchov (Rus) 51 Bert Grabsch (Ger) 42 Graeme Brown (Aus) 52 Gert Dockx (Bel) 43 Stef Clement (Ned) 53 Greg Henderson (NZl) 44 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) 54 Craig Lewis (USA) 45 Koos Moerenhout (Ned) 55 Morris Possoni (Ita) 46 Bauke Mollema (Ned) 56 Frantisek Rabon (Cze) 47 Tom Leezer (Ned) 58 Konstantin Siutsou (Blr) 48 Pieter Weening (Ned) Acqua e Sapone Andalucia - Cajasur 61 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) 71 Xavier Tondo (Spa) 62 Dario Andriotto (Ita) 72 José Antonio Carrasco (Spa) 63 Massimo Codol (Ita) 73 Juan Javier Estrada (Spa) 64 Alessandro Donati (Ita) 74 José Antonio López (Spa) 65 Diego Milán (Spa) 75 Manuel Ortega (Spa) 66 Didac Ortega (Spa) 76 Ángel Vicioso (Spa) 67 Giuseppe Palumbo (Ita) 77 José Antonio Redondo (Spa) 68 Luca Paolini (Ita) 78 José Ruiz (Spa) Contentpolis - Murcia Xacobeo Galicia 81 Manuel Vázquez (Spa) 91 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) 82 Javier Benítez (Spa) 92 Carlos Castaño (Spa) 83 Claudio Casas (Spa) 93 Gustavo César Veloso (Spa) 84 Pedro J. Vera (Spa) 94 Marcos García (Spa) 85 José Herrada López (Spa) 95 David Herrero (Spa) 86 Aitor Pérez Arrieta (Spa) 96 Serafín Martínez (Spa) 87 Oleg Chuzhda (Ukr) 97 Gonzalo Rabuñal (Spa) 88 Eloy Teruel (Spa) 98 Iván Raña (Spa) Andorra - Grandvalira Spanish National Team 111 Carlos Torrent (Spa) 121 Antonio Tauler (Spa) 112 Aitor Aznar (Spa) 122 David Calatayud (Spa) 113 Dmytro Chuzhda (Ukr) 123 Egoitz García (Spa) 114 Raúl García De Mateo (Spa) 124 Javier Chacón (Spa) 115 Vicente García De Mateo (Spa) 125 Salvador Guardiola (Spa) 117 Jaume Rovira (Spa) 126 Jesús Merino (Spa) 118 Ángel Vallejo (Spa) 127 Pedro Merino (Spa) 128 Andrés Vigil (Spa) Liberty Seguros 131 Rubén Plaza (Spa) 132 Manuel Cardoso (Por) 133 Héctor Guerra (Spa) 134 José Mendes (Por) 135 Carlos Nozal (Spa) 136 Edgar Pinto (Por) 137 Nuno Ribeiro (Por) 138 Rui Sousa (Por)
2007 1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 11.45.41 2 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Relax-Gam 0.35 3 Manuel Lloret (Spa) Fuerteventura-Canarias 0.52 2006 1 Santos Gonzalez (Spa) 3 Molinos Resort 15.33.02 2 José Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 0.03 3 David Bernabeu (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 0.27 2005 1 Koldo Gil (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Wurth 15.53.08 2 Antonio Colom (Spa) Illes Balears 0.30 3 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 0.59 2004 1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Com.Valenciana-Kelme 15.49.31 2 José Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto 0.05 3 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile 0.09 2003 1 Javier Pascual Llorente (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 15.58.18 2 Jan Hruska (Cze) ONCE-Eroski 0.17 3 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.23 2002 1 Victor Hugo Peña (Col) U.S. Postal 16.49.36 2 Jan Hruska (Cze) ONCE-Eroski 0.05 3 Oscar Camenzind (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.10 2001 1 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 15.52.40 2 Javier Pascual Llorente (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 0.25 3 Mikel Zarrabeitia (Spa) ONCE 0.36 2000 1 David Canada (Spa) ONCE-Deutsche Bank 18.09.31 2 Javier Pascual Llorente (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 0.51 3 Jose Alberto Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.10 1999 1 Marco Pantani (Ita) Mercatone Uno-Bianchi 17.54.32 2 Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 0.24 3 Beat Zberg (Swi) Rabobank 0.42 1998 1 Alberto Elli (Ita) Casino 16.35.03 2 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Casino 0.41 3 Marco Pantani (Ita) Mercatone Uno 1997 1 Juan Carlos Domínguez (Spa) 2 Ignacio García Camacho (Spa) 3 Santos González (Spa) 1996 1 Melchor Mauri (Spa) 2 Wladimir Belli (Ita) 3 Rodolfo Massi (Ita) 1995 1 Adriano Baffi (Ita) 2 Erik Breukink (Ned) 3 Maurizio Fondriest (Ita) 1994 1 Melchor Mauri (Spa) 2 Aitor Garmendia (Spa) 3 H. Díaz Zabala (Spa) 1993 1 Carlos Galarreta (Spa) 2 Laudelino Cubino (Spa) 3 Eddy Bouwmans (Bel) 1992 Alvaro Meija (Col) 1991 José-Luis Villanueva (Spa) 1990 Tom Cordes (Ned) 1989 Marino Alonso (Spa) 1988 Carlos Hernandez-Bailo (Spa) 1987 Pello Ruiz-Cabestany (Spa) 1986 Miguel Indurain (Spa) 1985 José Recio (Spa) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com