Vuelta News forSeptember 5, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones
González ready for Vuelta defense
2002 winner Aitor Gonzalez
Photo: © Sirotti
As defending champion, Aitor González will pin on the number one dossard
in tomorrow's first stage of the Vuelta a España, a 30 km team time trial
in Gijon. The 28 year old rider won the race last year after crushing
Roberto Heras in the final time trial, donning the golden leader's jersey
only after the last stage in Madrid. This year his ambitions of winning
have been tempered by the fact that he has performed fairly anonymously
in the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.
Gonzalez told Spanish magazine Meta 2Mil that winning isn't his main
objective. "My first aim is to recover the sensations that I had during
the 2002 Vuelta. Then we can start to think about winning."
"I see [the route] as being very balanced," he continued. "There are
two long time trials, but there are also seven mountain top finishes.
If a time trial specialist such as myself wishes to win this year's Vuelta,
he'll have to put in a good performance in the mountain stages."
Gonzalez pointed to 2001 winner Angel Casero (Bianchi) as the man to
watch this year. "I have a hunch that it will be Casero," he said. "I
was surprised during the Tour of Burgos to see that neither Sevilla nor
Heras were able to keep up with the best riders during the climb of Lagunas
de Neila, they are usually very quick at picking up form, but they still
have time to improve. I also saw that Casero was riding very well indeed.
It wasn't a case of him outperforming everybody else, but we cyclists
pick up on these things quickly and it was easy to see that he was going
well, very relaxed, and this makes me think that he's going to be the
man to beat."
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Photo ©: Sirotti