Vuelta a España Cycling News for August 26, 2006
Edited by Jeff Jones, with reporting from Shane Stokes in Malaga
Menchov gets Maillot Oro
Pereiro, Sastre, Menchov and Valverde
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
With Roberto Heras' then-record fourth win now officially gone up in
smoke after his positive EPO test last September, Denis Menchov has been
elevated to the position of Vuelta 2005 champion. The Rabobank rider was
presented with a symbolic jersey at the end of the team presentation in
Málaga on Friday evening, receiving a warm applause from the large crowd
If anything, the Russian appeared less than enthusiastic, declining
to wear the jersey on the presentation stage. "Nothing changes...it is
only a statistic," he told Cyclingnews before the ceremony. It
was unclear as to whether he was talking about the overall result or the
fact that he didn't get to wear the jersey at the race end in Madrid last
Menchov won a stage and finished sixth overall in this year's Tour de
France. He has stated in recent days that he consequently expects to be
less fresh in this year's Vuelta, and said last night that he was unsure
as to his exact form. "I hope I feel good. We will see. I felt good in
San Sebastian but the Vuelta is a different story....I will have to see
how things go. Between the Tour de France and this race I have been trying
to keep my form. We will soon see how that went."
When asked about who he thought his main rivals would be, 28 year old
Menchov was of the opinion that it was too early to have a definitive
list. "It is a big group, no? Like always, it is the case in all the big
Tours. You have Sastre, Valverde, Pereiro, Vinokourov, Mayo... many riders."
Valverde and Pereiro motivated for strong Vuelta
Valverde, Unzue and Pereiro
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Unlike the other teams in the race, the Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne
team will have two leaders heading into the Vuelta. Oscar Pereiro and
Alejandro Valverde were both in a relaxed but determined mood at a pre-race
press conference head in Málaga's NH Hotel on Friday afternoon.
ProTour leader Valverde comes into the race after a disappointing withdrawal
from the Tour de France due to a broken collarbone. However, despite some
enforced time off the bike, he showed strong form in the recent Clasica
San Sebastián and looks and sounds like he is raring to go. "After the
bad luck I had in the Tour I am really motivated at the start of the Vuelta",
he told the assembled media. "At the same time I do it with certain tranquillity
because I know my season has already been a successful one, thanks to
my victories in the classics.
"Tomorrow I will start with the intention of doing well but without
too much pressure. I know that our rivals are very strong too and that
it will be difficult to win the Vuelta. That said, it is a fact that having
such a great team to help me, most of all with a champion like Oscar at
my side, is a big advantage compared with our rivals. If they watch him
then it will be easier for me to attack and vice-versa."
Pereiro said he is hopeful
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Pereiro has had what he admits was a stressful buildup, due to the demands
of the press after his second place in the Tour de France. With Floyd
Landis facing a possible two-year suspension and disqualification from
the top podium of the Tour, the Spanish rider could end up as the final
winner of the 2006 race. He has consequently been asked to give many interviews
on the subject and stated yesterday that in order to help his career and
ensure he has enough time to train and rest properly, he will have to
learn to be a bit more selective with media requests in the future.
"Personally, I will take the start of the Vuelta hoping to do well but
it is a fact that because of the events that took place immediately after
the Tour, I did not get the possibility to rest like I would have liked
to. But I certainly trained very hard and my feelings right now are not
bad at all. I just hope I won't pay the pressure of the last month, and
that I can get into the rhythm of the competition straight away."
Perhaps thinking back to previous tensions within teams with two leaders
in recent editions of the race, the journalists present were keen to know
how the Illes Balears riders would avoid such problems this time round.
Both Valverde and Pereiro convincingly played down the talk of possible
rivalry, the latter stating that he was tipping the ProTour leader for
final honours. "Knowing his motivation, I can tell you that Alejandro
is my number one favourite for the final victory in Madrid. We are two
team-mates, that's true, but first of all we are very good friends. For
that reason, we know that if one of us needs the help of the other then
he will get it. That will create no problem at all. We will start with
the same possibilities and ambitions but it is the race that will decide
who is the strongest one."
Sastre relaxed before Vuelta start
After his second place in last year's Vuelta and fourth (third if Floyd
Landis is disqualified) in the Tour de France, Carlos Sastre heads to
this year's Tour of Spain as one of the biggest favourites. He was initially
unsure about his participation due to the fact that he also rode the Giro
d'Italia this year but any fears that he would be feeling flat were removed
after he had a strong performance in the Clasica San Sebastián two weeks
"My form is not bad," a relaxed Sastre told Cyclingnews at the
teams presentation in Málaga's Plaza de la Constitución. "I feel recovered
after the Tour the France and the season in general. This one has been
hard for me but at this point in time I feel okay and that is what is
important for making the decision [to take part in the Vuelta]."
Sastre confirmed his participation after the San Sebastián race, the
CSC rider having gone clear in a dangerous break containing Denis Menchov
and Iban Mayo on the final run in to the finish. Although they were caught
before the end, it gave him the reassurance he needed to know that he
could challenge in the Vuelta.
"I was a little surprised as to how good I felt there," he said. "Before
San Sebastian I didn't train too hard but I felt good there. The last
part was really tough because there was a headwind and because of that,
we didn't stay away to the finish line. But we tried and it was a really
"Since then, I spent a week and a half at home, training and spending
time with my family. Then last Wednesday I went and saw the ninth stage
of this race, the one to Alto de la Cobertoria in Asturias...it was really,
As was the case when asked about the Vuelta course on the day of the
Clasica San Sebastián, Sastre is probably best described as accepting
rather than enthusiastic. "It is the course that we have to do. It is
not bad, I don't know if it is the best but we will know more about that
at the end of the race. We have enough time in the time trials and the
mountain stages to gain and lose everything."
When asked about his rivals, he is reluctant to name names. "At the
moment, 180 riders will start tomorrow [189 – ed.] and at this point,
all of them are dangerous. I have respect for all of them. We have some
strong riders here. We will know more about the contenders in the next
One of those who will be helping Sastre try to win the Vuelta is CSC
team-mate Stuart O'Grady. The Australian seemed psyched yesterday evening,
saying that he and the team were looking forward to a good race. "I am
feeling good, I am ready to rock and roll. We have a very strong team
here and are very motivated. Carlos has put his hand up and said he is
ready to have a crack at the GC, so the whole team are here at his service.
If you look at the guys here, it is a fresh team with a lot of experience.
"I am really happy to be here. It has been a bit of a dodgy start to
the season for me [due to injury – ed.] but I finished the Tour de France
fresh and ready to race. It is important to me to try to do something
in the rest of the year."
O'Grady has a specific goal in mind. "In this race I am at the service
of the team, being here to help Carlos. But my person ambitions are for
the world championships in Austria.
"We have heard a lot of reports about the course. I think if I had seen
the parcours before Verona, I wouldn't have gone. I have heard it not
as hard as Verona but harder than Madrid, so I think it is going to be
right up my alley. After that, I will go Paris-Tours and then call it
a day after that, heading back to Australia for a break."
Boogerd aiming for Salzburg
Another rider here with the twin aims of riding for his team leader
while also preparing for the world championships is Rabobank's Dutch champion
Michael Boogerd. He was in good form during the Tour de France, being
prominent in several mountain stages and finishing 14th overall. He said
on Friday evening that he was a little off that level but hoping to improve.
"I am not yet in that form," he stated. "I am here to train, to work hard
and to try to be good in the worlds, Zurich and Lombardy."
Unlike O'Grady, Boogerd has had a chance to preview the world championship
course. He's lukewarm about the parcours. "It not my favourite course
but we will try to make the best of it...it is a big easy, I think. That
said, it is always difficult to say how it will end up; I thought last
year's course wasn't so hard either but it was really hard on the day.
Verona was really tough but the race itself wasn't hard enough. So maybe
Before then, he will build form on the carreteras of Spain. "I will
be riding for Denis Menchov, as was the case in the Tour. Normally he
will be going for the general classification here so we will try to do
our best for him. I'm not sure yet how his form is...I didn't see him
so much [after the Tour], I only saw him in San Sebastian, but he was
really good there. I hope he is good here also."
Walker makes his debut
Grand Tour debut
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Will Walker stood out from the crowd yesterday due to his distinctive
white, yellow and green Australian champion's jersey. One year ago he
was building form prior to taking silver in the world under 23 road race
championships; this time round, the first year professional is riding
his first Grand Tour.
Understandably, he seemed both excited and apprehensive just before
the team presentation. He outlined his expectations thus: "I have no plans
as yet, I will just try to work for the team. My form is okay coming into
it, pretty good, so we will see how it goes.
"I have been doing small tours and stuff until now. I did the Tour of
Burgos before this, in Spain. This is my first Grand Tour...it is pretty
exciting, it is going to be good. I have got a good team to ride with
and learn from, so that is pretty cool."
Unique start for Vuelta
The 2006 Vuelta Espana will get underway this evening with a fast, flat
7.3 kilometre time trial running from the Estadio de Atletismo Cuidad
de Málaga [City of Málaga Athletics Stadium] to the finish at the Paseo
de los Curas/Paseo la Farola.
Relax-Gam will lead things off at 19.12 CEST, and will be followed at
four minute intervals by each of the remaining 20 teams in the race. The
start order is Relax-Gam, Lampre-Fondital, Davitamon-Lotto, Phonak Hearing
Systems, Francaise des Jeux, Credit Agricole, T-Mobile, Bouygues Telecom,
Liquigas, AG2R Prévoyance, Cofidis, Milram, Quick Step – Innergetic, Gerolsteiner,
Saunier Duval – Prodir, Euskaltel – Euskadi, Discovery Channel, Astana,
Illes Balears - Caisse d'Epargne, Team CSC and, finally, the Rabobank
squad of defending champion Denis Menchov.
Given the high speeds expected from a team time trial and the very short
duration of the test, large time gaps are unlikely. However it should
be a spectacular start to the race.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)