Vuelta News forSeptember 6, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones
La Vuelta gets ready
By Hernán Alvarez Macías in Gijón
2002 winner Aitor Gonzalez
Photo: © AFP
Everything is ready in Gijón for the start of the 58th edition
of the Vuelta a España, with the team time trial which will take
place today in the city's streets. There's enormous expectation in the
city, in Spain, and anywhere where there are cycling fans. As was the
case in the last few editions, Spanish riders such as Aitor Gonzalez,
Oscar Sevilla or Roberto Heras seem to be the favourites for winning the
Apart from this trio, a number of other top riders will take part in
the Vuelta a España, including Erik Zabel, Mario Cipollini and
Dario Frigo. They won't contest the general classification, but they will
certainly add plenty of entertainment to the last of the Grand Tours of
this year. "Super Mario" finally came after some problems with Unipublic,
the company that organizes the Vuelta, and we will see if the Lion King
can "resist" until the end of the Vuelta. It should also be added that
Scot David Millar (Cofidis), French climber Richard Virenque (Quick.Step),
American Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) or top Italian sprinter Alessandro
Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) will all be on the start line.
Gijón smells like cycling. The locals observed all the preparations
with awe and admiration. If you walked by the sea, in the Avenida del
Molinón, you could see some teams training like Rabobank, Phonak or ONCE.
Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich, the two big "gladiators" in the last
Tour de France, will be absent, both tired after a season concentrating
on the Tour. Joseba Beloki won't take the start either. He will be another
big absence in the Spanish race after his accident in the Tour.
The official presentation of the riders took place on Thursday and was
broadcasted all over Spain. The official event of yesterday was the gala
dinner, reserved only for authorities and VIP's involved in the race.
Stage 1 - September 6: Gijón Team Time Trial, 28 km
The Vuelta begins with a 28 km team time trial in the streets of Gijón.
It will be a great opportunity for teams like ONCE-Eroski, US Postal Service
and Kelme Costa Blanca to commence the competition with the top place
in the teams classification. The start and finish line will be separated
by just 500 meters in one of the central regions of the Spanish city.
The riders will begin near "El Molinón" Stadium and will finish
in the Avenida del Molinón after 28 km. The route is very flat
and it only has the third category climb of "Alto de la Providencia" (just
105m) to be overcome.
A number of riders have the chance to take the golden leader's jersey,
such as Spaniard José Luis Rubiera (US Postal) or his compatriot Igor
Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONCE-Eroski). We can also count on Kelme's Oscar
Sevilla or his team mate Alejandro Valverde to become the first leader
in the 2003 edition of the Vuelta.
Kintana out of Vuelta
Labarca 2-Café Baque has lost Aitor Kintana from its Vuelta line
up after the rider received a confirmation of a positive test for EPO.
Kintana returned a positive result for EPO after a test at the Volta a
Catalunya. Following a positive result in the requested counter-analysis,
Kintana has been removed from Labarca's roster and will be replaced by
Ivan Herrero. Labarca had already lost recent Colombian recruit Buenahora
due to injury and will pin its hopes on another former Orbitel 05 rider,
Saiz wants to leave on top
Facing an uphill struggle in his search for a new sponsor for 2004, ONCE-Eroski
director Manolo Saiz is nonetheless looking forward to a successful Vuelta
a España, a race his team has won four times since 1989. "As I
have the feeling that this could be my last Tour of Spain- and ONCE's
for sure- then we have to pull out all the stops," Manolo said, quoted
in a Reuters report.
ONCE's Vuelta charge will be led by Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, who finished
second in 1999 and wore the leader's yellow jersey in last year's Tour
de France. Gonzalez de Galdeano missed this year's Tour due to a suspension
preventing him from riding on French soil, and was also injured in June.
Saiz noted that he hopes to see ONCE ride the Vuelta "in a way which will
do honour to the team's history in this race."
Team leader Joseba Beloki will be forced to watch the race from home,
still recovering from his season-ending crash in stage 9 of this year's
Tour de France. Beloki remains without a contract for 2004, taking his
chances for the moment by waiting for Saiz to secure a replacement sponsor.
"I would prefer to stay with Manolo, because I believe in his project
and things have gone very well in the past few years," Beloki told Marca.
"The idea of going to a foreign team, at 30 years old, does not entice
me, but I may have no other solution."
Beloki: "The route suited me"
Joseba Beloki (ONCE-Eroski) will suffer the frustration of missing his
national tour due to injury, unable to take the start as team leader.
Beloki's crash in the Tour de France put an end to his season, and the
ONCE leader has not hidden his sadness at missing a Vuelta that he feels
could have gone his way.
"Missing it makes me terribly envious," Beloki commented in Spanish daily
Marca. "Whatever happens, the parcours suited my characteristics like
no other: three mountain stages in the Pyrénées, an opening
team time trial, the time trials in Zaragoza and Albacete, the Pandera,
Sierra Nevada, and the hill climb time trial at Abantos are the specialties
that have always favoured me. The route suited me."
Even with his name out of the running, Beloki too envisions a Spanish-dominated
Vuelta, with the likely winner emerging from a group including teammate
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Roberto Heras (US Postal), Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa
Bortolo), Oscar Sevilla (Kelme), and Angel Casero (Bianchi).
"I don't dare name a favourite," he said, adding naturally that he would
prefer to see ONCE emerge victorious.
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