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2002 Vuelta

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Vuelta News forAugust 21, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Preliminary starters for Vuelta a España

By Jeff Jones

Aitor Gonzalez
Photo: © Sirotti

Organisers Unipublic have released a preliminary list of enrolled riders for the upcoming Vuelta España, which takes place between September 6-28. In total there are 22 nine rider teams registered for a total of 198 riders. With the start still two and a half weeks away, there will presumably be some changes to the roster.

In any case, the number one dossard will be worn by Aitor Gonzalez, who won the Vuelta in the final time trial last year and will lead a strong Fassa Bortolo team this year. In principle the squad contains Dario Frigo and Alessandro Petacchi, and looks to be well balanced for the flats and mountain stages.

Challenging them will be US Postal-Berry Floor, which will try to put Roberto Heras in a winning position again. Heras won the Vuelta in 2000 riding for Kelme, and finished second last year behind Gonzalez. He will be supported by Manuel Beltran, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Benoît Joachim, Michael Barry, Jose Luis Rubiera and Victor Peña, with Max van Heeswijk in there for stage wins.

ONCE's top riders include Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Jose Azevedo and Jörg Jaksche, with Gonzalez de Galdeano the nominal captain. Kelme-Costa Blanca will see the return of Oscar Sevilla, who has suffered for most of the season from a cyst. Sevilla has never won the Vuelta, but finished as runner up in 2001 and was fourth in 2002.

Team Telekom looks to be a strong team on paper for the Vuelta. Erik Zabel will head the team in the sprint stages, while Cadel Evans, who missed the Tour due to a broken collarbone, will probably feature as the team's GC rider. Mario Aerts, Torsten Hiekmann, Bobby Julich and Steffen Wesemann are the backbone of the team, with Gian Matteo Fagnini there to lead out Zabel.

Domina Vacanze has entered World Champion Mario Cipollini, who will have a strong team behind him including Giovanni Lombardi and Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero. It's a team that has the strength to control the race and carry Mario to the line, preferably in front.

Cofidis will start with David Millar, who is certainly a chance in the time trials and can climb well enough to finish in the top 10. Euskaltel will not feature Tour de France stars Haimar Zubeldia and Iban Mayo, however Roberto Laiseka should be able to perform well in the mountains, along with riders like Gorka Arrizabalaga and Gorka Gonzalez.

iBanesto will front up for its last Vuelta with climbers Francisco Mancebo and Leonardo Piepoli, as well as strong man Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta and Aitor and Unai Osa. Labarca 2-Café Baqué has a couple of recently signed Colombians in its ranks, with Hernan Buenahora and Felix Cardenas (ex-05 Orbitel), who should be able to make an impression in the mountains.

Francesco Casagrande will lead the Lampre team, with Wladimir Belli and Juan Manuel Garate in support and Jan Svorada for the sprints. Portuguese Milaneza-MSS will have Claus Möller, Txema Del Olmo, Joan Horrach and Fabian Jeker as GC riders, with Angel Edo for the sprints.

Paternina-Costa de Almeria's Jose Antonio Pecharroman is a dark horse, having won the Volta a Catalunya and Bicicleta Vasca this year. He showed then he could both climb and time trial, but it remains to be seen what he can do in a major tour.

Phonak's Alex Zülle could well be in his last Vuelta this year, as he has hinted at retiring at the end of the season. Zülle won the race on two occasions in 1996 and 1997, but it's likely that Phonak's younger riders such as Oscar Pereiro Sio will be the ones to watch.

Quick.Step-Davitamon will be taking a fairly young team, with Tom Boonen, Aurélien Clerc and Patrik Sinkewitz likely to play a support role for Frank Vandenbroucke, Kurt Van de Wouwer and Richard Virenque. Rabobank will start with high hopes for Levi Leipheimer, who finished third in the 2001 Vuelta but crashed out of the Tour de France this year in stage 1. This race will be important for Leipheimer, who will have Danish climber Michael Rasmussen as a helper in the mountains.

Saeco looks to be going with a team aimed at stage wins, with the likes of Igor Astarloa, Ivan Quaranta and Juan Fuentes. Team Bianchi will feature 2001 winner Angel Casero, along with Felix Garcia Casas and Aitor Garmendia.

Team CSC has Spaniard Carlos Sastre and Austrian Peter Luttenberger for the GC, with Julian Dean in there for the sprints. Finally Vini-Caldirola-So.Di will be looking to do something with Fred Rodriguez, Oscar Mason, and Gabriele Balducci.

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