Vuelta Cycling News for August 26, 2005
Edited by Jeff Jones
Bruyneel plays down talk of third Grand Tour win
By Shane Stokes in Granada
After winning the Giro d'Italia with Paolo Savoldelli in June and then
Lance Armstrong's seventh Tour de France 8 weeks later, the big question
before the start of the 2005 Vuelta a España is whether Discovery Channel
can do the unthinkable and take all three Grand Tours this year. However,
when asked by Cyclingnews earlier on Thursday if he thought that
riders such as Jose Azevedo and new US hope Tom Danielson will be amongst
the main contenders, Directeur Sportif Johan Bruyneel played down the
team's chances of doing the treble.
"Perhaps we don't have anyone for the GC," he said. "We have other ambitions
here. We have done a great Giro, a great Tour, and so we come with other
objectives. We will try to win one or two stages, that is our main goal.
But it will be very difficult for Discovery to take the race."
Bruyneel nominated triple champion Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros),
2002 winner Aitor Gonzalez (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Francisco Mancebo (Illes
Balears) as his favourites for the overall victory. But for now, he says,
it is premature to talk about Danielson as a GC contender.
"It is his first big Tour," he stated. "Okay, he did the Giro but he
had to leave the race due to knee pain. So it is case of seeing how far
he can go. I don't want to put pressure on him as being our GC man. I
hope he can do well in a few stages, but we are not thinking about the
overall for him."
Bruyneel has arrived at the race at a time when the world's attention
is focussed on the team for all the wrong reasons. Accusations this week
that Armstrong used EPO to win the 1999 Tour have met with firm denials
from the team, and while Discovery insist that the allegations are false,
Tuesday's L'Equipe report will have brought them a considerable
degree of stress.
For his part, Bruyneel appeared to be at ease today, talking to reporters
at length at the Hotel Nazaríes race headquarters. The Belgian already
gave his reaction to Cyclingnews, but when asked this afternoon
if Armstrong was considering legal action as a response to the allegations,
he said simply, "I don't know." Time will tell how the rider, and the
team, will respond. But for now, the focus is on chasing stages in this
Roberto Heras, defending champion and three-time Vuelta a España's winner,
will start on Saturday in Granada determined to defend his number one
dossard for another year. "I feel optimistic and with a changed 'chip',
because the Vuelta is a different race. It's very different to one month
ago," said the Liberty Seguros captain after training with his teammates
Heras had a poor Tour de France, finishing 45th overall a 1:38:33 behind
the winner Lance Armstrong. But he has regained his strength in the last
month and is prepared for his home race. "In training I felt very good
and because of that I am optimistic," he said. "I have been the whole
month in Béjar, where there is a good enough area to know how you are,
because it is very hard. I have worked climbing long mountains, doing
motorpacing and all my sensations are very positive."
Heras is the only rider in the peloton that could break the record of
three victories, which he shares with Tony Rominger. Thus, he has two
things to motivate him this year. "The basic thing for me is to win, but
also it would be nice to gain the record of victories and to enter into
cycling history, but all that will up to the road to decide."
The Spaniard rates this year's parcours as "very balanced, because there
is enough time trialing to have to do it well and, at the same time, there
is also enough mountains to compensate the time that a climber could lose
in normal conditions. Maybe last year was a bit harder, but if you are
consistent, a climber can win this Vuelta perfectly. " The key stages
are Ordino-Arcalis and Pajares, besides that of Lagos de Covadonga. These
three, together with the finish in Cerler should decide the race, because
those of Madrid and Avila mountains, though they are hard, usually they
don't decide so much. Of all of them, first three are those that more
I like, though Pajares' final climb is not so hard, but yes the whole
Asked to comment on the omission of the super-steep Angliru climb in
this year's race, Heras responded, "The Angliru is a climb that always
has made many differences and has decided the general classification.
If I am good I will miss it, and because also it has been out the race
for last three years."
Heras rated the field this year as likely to be stronger. "In a three
week race, at the end there is always a high level, and more since we
are in the UCI-ProTour. Maybe it's not the same level of the Tour, where
all teams bring his nine riders at 100 percent level, but the average
is very high. Maybe there are no so many names as other years, but the
level continues being high. Here we have Mancebo, Aitor Gonzalez, Landis,
Mayo, Pereiro and, in general, teams like Comunidad Valenciana, without
forgetting that there are always foreigners whom you don't count on and
then they ride very well."
Comparing the Vuelta to the other big tours, Heras said, "Every race
is different, though since the UCI ProTour has come in, they tend to look
alike more in the way of riding. In spite of it, each one is different
because it is done in a different way. The Vuelta has many factors that
distinguish it, like the wind and its mountains.
"The fact that stages are shorter means that the race is on from the
beginning. It is a race that's more nervous and aggressive than others
and, when you are good, this style benefits more the small people like
me than bigger men that probably feel better on a longer parcours."
Laguna out of Vuelta
By Shane Stokes in Granada
Relax-Fuenlabrada rider Oscar Laguna has tested over the UCI's 50% hematocrit
cut off point and been ejected from this year's race. Along with the other
riders due to line up in the Vuelta on Saturday, the 27 year old Spaniard
was tested between 7:30 and 9:30 on Thursday morning, and was the only
one to display blood readings above this mark.
Laguna won a stage in the Tour of Aragon last year and was second on
the 14th stage of the Vuelta in 2002.
Testing above the UCI's 50% limit is seen as suggestive - rather than
proof - of possible EPO use. Laguna will now have an enforced two week
'holiday' from racing, after which he will be re-tested by the UCI in
order to determine if he is fit to return to competition.
Bäckstedt leads Liquigas-Bianchi in Vuelta
Swedish giant Magnus Bäckstedt, who won Paris-Roubaix in 2004, will
captain the Liquigas-Bianchi team in the 60th Vuelta a España. Bäckstedt
is about to ride the Spanish Grand Tour for the first time: "I love Spain
for its landscapes and its weather: I'm glad about riding my first Vuelta."
Bäckstedt hasn't had an ideal lead up though: "During the Tour de France
I was suffering from bronchitis that forced me to withdraw from the race,
to take two courses of antibiotics, and even to stop riding altogether
for 20 days. I think I have trained hard in spite of the setbacks. I'm
lacking racing rhythm but I felt good during training in the last few
days . I expect to be competitive already in the first week. I'm going
to get in a breakaway as soon as the legs are alright. As for the bunch
sprints, I will have many well known rivals but I'm not going to hold
back at all."
Liquigas-Bianchi is an international mix, featuring riders coming from
Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, England, and Slovenia. "We are a complete
group and are certainly able to aim at more than one stage win," team
manager Stefano Zanatta said. "We are likely to show ourselves both in
the bunch sprints, with Bäckstedt and Zanotti, and in the breaks. On the
climbs, we will follow young riders Mugerli and Wegelius with interest.
There isn't one stated leader: we are going to ride with courage and imagination."
Full team roster: Magnus Bäckstedt, Patrick Calcagni, Mauro Gerosa,
Marcus Ljungqvist, Oscar Mason, Devis Miorin, Matej Mugerli, Charles Wegelius,
Marco Zanotti. Team directors: Stefano Zanatta, Dario Mariuzzo.
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Top 10 highest scoring riders
HERAS HERNANDEZ Roberto
PEREZ FERNANDEZ Santiago
VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro
MANCEBO PEREZ Francisco
SASTRE CANDIL Carlos
NOZAL VEGA Isidro
Top 10 best value riders (highest scoring vs least cost to buy in UCI
JULIA CEGARRA Jose Cayetano
PEREZ FERNANDEZ Santiago
BUENAHORA GUTIERREZ Hernan
FUENTES ANGULLO Juan
PASCUAL RODRIGUEZ Javier
HERAS HERNANDEZ Roberto
Find out more in the downloads
In conjunction with feedback and suggestions from players of the game
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The Fantasy Cyclingnews Team
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