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Vuelta News for September 15, 2003

Edited by Anthony Tan & Jeff Jones

Sevilla, Sastre and Casero suffering

Aitor Gonzalez coming good
Photo: © AFP
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As Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano says, the Vuelta doesn't give you a chance for a breather. While some riders like Aitor Gonzalez have managed to fight back after a bad start, others have fallen by the wayside. Alex Zülle abandoned today in Stage 9, in what could be his last Vuelta. Others like Oscar Sevilla, Carlos Sastre and Angel Casero are all having their own difficulties.

Sevilla is suffering from a combination of lack of training kilometres and his crash during the early stages of the Vuelta. He seems to be improving with each stage, although he has given up his role as Kelme-Costa Blanca team leader in favour of Stage 9 winner Alejandro Valverde.

Carlos Sastre (CSC), who demonstrated a fine level of form on stage 2, has lost strength in the Pyrenees as a result of a heavy cold that he has been suffering from.

Angel Luis Casero (Team Bianchi) is suffering during this year’s Vuelta as a result of a knee injury. The Valencian rider has seen one of his tendons gradually become inflamed, leading him to lose almost an hour and a half during the first three mountain stages. Courtesy: Lavuelta.com

Aitor Gonzalez stronger

Sitting in seventh place on GC at 4'00, Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) is certainly not out of this year's Vuelta. The defending champion who lost time to the other favourites as early as Stage 2, has been at the forefront of the action in the Pyrenees, and his accelerations on the climbs have put everyone under pressure.

After less than stellar performances in the Giro and the Tour this year, there were murmurings that Aitor had lost his focus after signing a lucrative contract with Fassa Bortolo. "If I had come back feeling comfortable, I wouldn't have put in the extra effort of racing the Vuelta," he told AS. "One day you're fashionable, the next day someone else is."

About his attacks in the mountains, Aitor explained, "It was high time to show myself among the front runners. I am the one who needed it most...if I continue my progress without stopping, I can put myself in a podium position. I won't give up. I can try, because it's not impossible."

A good ride by Van Goolen

Jurgen Van Goolen
Photo: © AFP
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Young Belgian rider Jurgen Van Goolen (Quick.Step-Davitamon) made up for his teammate Richard Virenque's disqualification by going on the attack on the lower slopes of the Port d'Envalira. Only Leonardo Piepoli (iBanesto) went with him, but the Italian did not do a stroke of work.

"If Piepoli cooperated better with me, then we had more of a chance," said Van Goolen to VRT. "But he couldn't cooperate because Unai Osa was coming from behind. I was nonetheless no danger for the classification."

"Every day I have improved in the Pyrenees," added Van Goolen, who finished 18th in the stage and is sitting in 39th overall at 44'30. "I think that in the coming years I can do something in the grand tours. Regarding the World Championships, if I feel like I do now, then maybe I can make a case for a protected role. In the following stages I'll show myself again."

Virenque and Perez DQ'd

Richard Virenque (Quick.Step-Davitamon) and Sergio Pérez (Labarca 2-Cafés Baqué) were disqualified from the Vuelta during stage 9 for drafting behind their team cars, the organisers said. Virenque was lying in 45th place at 36:13 down, while Pérez was in 171st position at 1:40:24. The organisers have also expelled the second team cars of Quick.Step and Labarca 2.

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