Vuelta News for September 30, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones
Stage 21 wrap up
The 57th Vuelta España ended today in spectacular fashion in
Madrid's San Bernabeu stadium, where an enormous crowd cheered the remaining
riders to their final destination. Despite various predictions that Roberto
Heras would hold onto his 1'08 lead, the winner on the day was Aitor Gonzalez,
who rode brilliantly in perfect conditions to average 51.6 km/h, putting
3'22 into Heras who was relegated to second overall. Joseba Beloki (ONCE)
rode well to finish fifth on the stage and move past the unlucky Oscar
Sevilla to take third on GC, after Sevilla lost too much time due to mechanical
For Gonzalez, it was the biggest triumph of his five year career, and
he shows plenty of promise in the coming years for the big tours. For
Heras it was a shattering disappointment: the rider who won the Vuelta
in 2000 riding for Kelme had the tables turned on him this year, being
severely outgunned in the teams department and not being able to make
up enough time in the mountains, his preferred terrain. Next year?
Full results & report
Luca's Vuelta Diary
Post stage comments
Aitor Gonzalez (Kelme, 1st stage and GC)
Photo: © AFP
"I started hard, as in all the stages, and it was a matter of maintaining
a high rhythm to get good times. I had a great deal of confidence in myself."
"I saw myself winning when I got the time gap of 50 seconds. I was confident
that if I did not suffer any mechanicals I would have a great chance to
"I dedicate this stage to everyone who supported me, and to me."
"I came to this race to win it. Although in three weeks a lot can happen
and a lot of different factors come into play."
Vicente Belda (Kelme DS)
"I always knew Aitor could succeed. But we didn't talk up his chances
so he could avoid riding under pressure. I am not surprised by his victory
since at kilometre 25 we were already in the gold jersey."
"In this Vuelta I have had bad moments, because to maintain peace in
a chicken coop when two roosters are fighting is very difficult. What
is important is that we finished calmly and the water returned to its
"It was clear that this Vuelta could be won by Kelme and that the road
would decide things. For me the stage of the Angliru was decisive, and
put each rider in his place."
"I am sorry for Oscar Sevilla because he was not able to make the podium,
and because he has not had a good year. He could not do well in the Tour
due to stomach problems and in the Vuelta he was not at the physical level
that we expected. Above all we should be calm and tell him that next year
we are going to have a super team so that we can win the Vuelta and go
very well in the Tour if Armstrong lets us and fails."
About Aitor's departure from the team, Belda commented that "We should
enjoy the victory and not think about these things. Aitor has an offer
from Kelme and until two days ago it was the best we could do for him.
Above all we should enjoy today and in the next few days sit down with
our directors and discuss the issue."
Angel Casero (Team Coast, 2nd stage)
Casero rode excellently today to finish second behind Gonzalez and jump
three placings on the rankings to finish 6th overall. A solid performance
from last year's champion who has had another year plagued by injury.
However he was disappointed at missing out on a spot in the Spanish World's
team, with Aitor Gonzalez and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano scheduled to ride
the time trial.
"To go to the World's would have been great, but it's back to where
we were two years ago. It's foolish to repeat the same things since I
can't go. I will go to a friend's wedding."
On his Vuelta this year, Casero said "This year my operation trashed
all of my plans. I went to Portugal to race and not I am a lot better
than I was three weeks ago."
Joseba Beloki (ONCE, 3rd GC)
Photo: © Lavuelta.com
"The day of La Pandera [Stage 6] was the worst of all," said Beloki,
recounting his crucial time loss to Heras, Sevilla and Gonzalez. He never
really recovered from that although he rode well in the mountains in the
second half of the race.
On Aitor Gonzalez' performance to win today: "I congratulate him, but
it is sad for Roberto Heras."
Winner's profile: Aitor Gonzalez
The 27 year old Kelme man was born in the Basque country but raised
in Alicante, where his father runs a chicken farm. Kelme also has its
head office in Alicante, hence there was an interest in signing Gonzalez.
Most of his first year as a pro in 1998 with the Colombian Telecom-Flavia
squad (Kelme's feeder team). He came back to Spain to ride for Kelme full
time at the end of 1998 and continued in 1999.
In 2000 his potential started to shine through. He won a stage and the
best young rider competition in the Tour du Limousin, as well as a stage
in the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal. He also finished second in the GP
In 2001 he won his first big stage race, the Vuelta a Murcia in March,
mainly due to his skills as a time trialist (he won the 12.9 km TT stage).
He finished 4th in the HC ranked Volta a Catalunya in June, showing that
he could climb as well as time trial. Then in the Tour de France he impressed
many people with his second place behind Erik Dekker in the rain sodden
stage to Pontarlier, where the infamous 35 minute break was established.
In the finale he was away with Dekker and Knaven, who both took turns
in attacking him. He chased down every one and took a close second in
This season he has improved another step, especially his climbing which
is his only weakness. In the Giro d'Italia he won an uphill sprint stage,
as well as taking the final time trial stage. He finished 6th overall
after cracking badly on the same day that Cadel Evans did, when Savoldelli
virtually won the Giro. He knew then that he had the potential to win
a major tour, and he has now done so.
His next ambition is to win the Tour de France, and he is rapidly turning
into a complete rider. What team he will ride with remains uncertain,
with offers from Kelme, Acqua e Sapone, Quick Step, and perhaps Telekom.
His asking price will have risen a bit today.
How the Vuelta was won
Stage 1 - Valencia
Team Time Trial: ONCE win by 14 seconds over US Postal, with Kelme third
at 15 seconds. Joseba Beloki takes the first leader's jersey.
Stage 2 - Valencia
- Alcoy: Saeco's Danilo Di Luca wins the uphill sprint in front of Erik
Zabel. Beloki survives a late attack by Oscar Sevilla to keep the gold
Stage 3 - San Vicente
de Raspeig - Murcia: Regulation bunch sprint sees Mario Cipollini claim
the first of three stage wins
Stage 4 - Aguilas -
Roquetas De Mar: Cipollini does it again, this time raising his arms in
a grand victory salute
Stage 5 - El Ejido
o Almeria - Sierra Nevada: The first mountain stage is won by Cofidis'
Guido Trentin, with Oscar Sevilla gaining a minute on Heras, and Gonzalez
gaining 50 seconds. Beloki loses the lead to ONCE teammate Mikel Zarrabeitia.
Stage 6 - Granada -
La Pandera (Jaen): Roberto Heras bounces back with a great stage win on
La Pandera. Sevilla comes in third at 18 seconds and takes the leaders
jersey. Gonzalez finishes 48 seconds behind Heras, rubbing out his time
Stage 7 - Jaen - Malaga:
SuperMario is unbeatable in the bunch sprints, winning his third and final
stage in the Vuelta. He quits the next day in order to prepare for the
Stage 8 - Málaga
- Ubrique: A thrilling downhill finish sees Aitor Gonzalez overhaul solo
breakaway Luis Perez in the final metres to win the stage. Heras loses
9 seconds to Gonzalez, while Sevilla keeps the gold jersey.
Stage 9 - Córdoba
- Córdoba: A day of crosswinds and splits sees Danilo Di Luca and
Francesco Mancebo in the wrong half of the peloton, with Mancebo abandoning
due to his GC chances vanishing. iBanesto make up for it with Pablo Lastras
winning the stage. Sevilla remains in gold.
Stage 10 - Córdoba
- Córdoba ITT: The first individual time trial is held in shocking
conditions in Cordoba. Aitor Gonzalez rides well to win the stage and
move within one second of Sevilla's lead. Heras loses 1'34 to Gonzalez,
which is not bad for him.
Stage 11 - Alcobendas
- Collado Villalba: Pablo Lastras wins his second stage as all the GC
favourites finish together. Sevilla still in gold by one second.
Stage 12 - Segovia
- Burgos: Alessandro Petacchi records his first stage win by taking the
bunch sprint in Burgos ahead of Erik Zabel and Angelo Furlan. No changes
to the GC.
Stage 13 - Burgos -
Santander: A breakaway group is successful at last, with Cipollini's lead
out man Giovanni Lombardi making the best of the Italian presence in the
break to win. No changes to the GC.
Stage 14 - Santander
- Gijón: Ordinarily an uneventful stage, the 14th leg is marked by a massive
crash with 32 km to go. Those out include Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano and
Fernando Escartin. Russian Sergei Smetanine wins in a solo break. Sevilla
still in gold.
Stage 15 - Gijón -
Angliru: The key stage in the Vuelta. Aitor Gonzalez accelerates on the
last climb, putting teammate and gold jersey wearer Sevilla in difficulty.
Heras profits and attacks to win the stage and take the lead. Gonzalez
is chastised a little by his team director, but he is now the only Kelme
rider with a realistic chance of winning the Vuelta.
Stage 16 - Avilés -
León: Santiago Botero finds his form again and wins the 16th stage, beating
the luckless Luis Perez in a two up sprint. The break is not threatening
to the lead of Heras, who had a few nervous moments when he found himself
without teammates. He survives, with his 35 second lead on Gonzalez intact.
Stage 17 - Benavente
- Salamanca: Another bunch sprint. This time it's the turn of Angelo Furlan
(Alessio) to deny Erik Zabel a win.
Stage 18 - Salamanca
- Estación de la Covatilla (Béjar): The final mountain top finish sees
local boys Santi Blanco (iBanesto) and Roberto Heras take first and second
in the stage. Heras increases his lead over Aitor Gonzalez to 1'12, although
he wanted more.
Stage 19 - Béjar -
Avila: Another win for iBanesto as Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta wins on
the cobbles in Avila. Aitor Gonzalez attacks in the final kilometre to
put 4 seconds into Heras and claw back some of the time gap. It's more
a psychological blow than anything.
Stage 20 - Avila -Warner
Bros Park (S. Martín de la Vega): The final mass start stage ends in a
mass finish, with all 132 remaining riders recording the same time. The
winner is Angelo Furlan (Alessio) who notches up his second Vuelta stage
win, and shows promise for the future.
Stage 21 - Warner Bros
Park - Stadion Santiago Bernabeu ITT: Roberto Heras starts the day with
a 1'08 lead over Aitor Gonzalez, but loses it in the first 25 km as Gonzalez
powers home to win the stage and the Vuelta. Heras loses 3'22 and must
satisfy himself with 2nd overall and the white jersey of Most Consistent
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2002)