Vuelta News forSeptember 8, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones
Slow start for Leipheimer
The start of Levi Leipheimer's Vuelta España was not quite as
bad as his Tour de France start, but the Rabobank captain still saw his
GC chances vanish in the first
road stage. Leipheimer was caught, along with others like Alex Zülle,
Jose Luis Rubiera and David Millar, in the second half of the peloton
when it split on the approach to the day's final climb of the Alto del
Mirador. His teammates chased in vain, and the gap grew to 2'30 by the
foot of the climb. But it didn't stop there for Leipheimer, who lost more
time on the climb to eventually finish nearly 13 minutes down on the winners,
dropping to 141st place on the general classification.
After crashing out of the Tour de France, Leipheimer was hoping for
a good Vuelta to salvage his season. However it's clear that he hasn't
recovered his form in time after breaking his hip bone in the crash. Rabobank's
directeur sportif Frans Maassen said after yesterday's stage that, "Leipheimer
was not good enough. That is naturally disappointing, for himself and
for the team, but we must accept that."
Maassen didn't put all the blame on Leipheimer's position in the peloton,
as he also realised that the American was not having a good day. "They
were riding incredibly hard. In the lead up he already felt that he was
not good. Then you sit a long way back, and then the peloton breaks...We
couldn't get it back together again. But I must honestly say that if we
had closed the gap he would have lost more than five minutes on the last
climb. For on the climb it was also clear that he wasn't ready."
"But you still hope - maybe against better judgment - that it will come
good. And he hopes that he can make the best of it, and that he gets a
chance to improve in the race...He has assured me that he will certainly
not abandon. He hopes that in the second half of the race he can still
win a stage. But OK, now his loss is still fresh. He and the whole team
For the general classification, Rabobank will now rely on Danish rider
Michael Rasmussen, who managed to finish in the front group yesterday.
"Now we have just one man for a top 10 classification," said Maassen.
"I knew that today at most four men could stay with the front. But Leipheimer
and Beat Zberg were already dropped before the category 1 climb, and Addy
Engels couldn't climb with the top 30. It's lucky that we still have a
good man with Michael. He made a good impression, and he also had morale.
He remains the only captain for this tour."
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