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Vuelta a España Cycling News for September 3, 2006

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Edited by Anthony Tan

Vuelta Stage 8 wrap-up

Vinokourov makes up for yesterday

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) executed a perfect final 500 metres to win the eighth stage on a deceptive uphill finish in Lugo. After coming so close yesterday, it was a great comeback from the combative Kazakhstani, who also shaved another 21 seconds off his time deficit on the general classification. Second in the stage was Ruggero Marzoli (Lampre-Fondital), while third went to Uros Murn (Phonak). Janez Brajkovic kept the leader's jersey.

The 181 km stage saw a very fast first hour, with over 53 km covered as riders tried to get away. But nothing stuck until Kevin Van Impe (Quick.Step) escaped after 68 km, and rode away alone. Van Impe built up a maximum lead of 5'48, but was reeled in by the sprinters' teams with 9 km to go. The final kilometre was mostly uphill, and Luca Paolini (Liquigas) tried to go it alone from around 700 metres. But with less than 400m to go, it was Alexandre Vinokourov who powered off the front, passed Paolini, and went onto win the stage by one second.

Click here for the full results, report & photos and live report from stage 8.

Zabel loses Ale-Jet's wheel

In Saturday's finish in Lugo, Alessandro Petacchi led his Milram team-mate Erik Zabel to the line, but tired legs saw the latter lose Petacchi's wheel before the final sprint, and ended up sixth.

"Unfortunately the finish wasn't easy," said Zabel in a team statement. "The guys of the Team Milram did a lot of work and in the end, Petacchi led me to the front because I had slipped too far behind. He [Petacchi] did a very good job because the speed was high and he led me to the first riders with 300 metres to go; unfortunately, they started the final sprint immediately and I was already tired."

"I saw Erik too far behind and I brought him to the front of the group," explained Petacchi, "but the last kilometre was hard, which saw Vinokourov win. I'm getting and, for the moment, that's enough for me."

Pereiro moved by local support

Riding into his home region on Saturday where Stage 8 of the Vuelta concluded, Oscar Pereiro says he felt really moved by the enthusiasm that the Galician people showed towards him and the race.

"It was so nice!" said Pereiro, "because I have been a professional rider for seven years and this was the first time that I entered Galicia in a cycling race. Cycling is very popular here and the Tour of Spain last came here in 1995 - such a long time [ago]! To race in the presence of my fellow citizens has been very special, for me and for them too, especially now that I am officially the winner of the Tour of France."

Bruyneel: pleased, but realistic

By Shane Stokes in Lugo

Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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Discovery Channel directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel was in a buoyant mood at the start of stage 8, telling Cyclingnews that he was satisfied with things despite Tom Danielson's loss of time yesterday.

"First of all, it is great for the team to have the leader's jersey, and especially with a young guy like Brajkovic. It is really very promising," he stated about ten minutes before the Slovenian set off in the maillot oro. "Of course, we are very realistic - we know he is young, it is his first big tour and it would be tough for him to stay in the lead. But what he is showing in the two mountain stages is very hopeful for the future."

This is the 22 year-old's second season with the team and he currently has a contract to race with them until the end of 2007. The obvious question is did Bruyneel have any indication that he was going this well before the start of the Vuelta?

"He was very motivated for this race," responded the Belgian. "He had a few personal goals and one of his big targets was the Tour of Switzerland. He finished fifth there. Since then, he has been thinking solely about the Vuelta because he is so excited to do his first big tour. He trained very hard. We didn't think he would be that strong and be able to take the lead, though."

Danielson had expected to go well in the race but lost 3'28 on yesterday's second mountain stage, something that Bruyneel was at a loss to explain. "Tom was the leader going into the race. Yesterday he was not good. We don't have a real explanation. We thought he was going to be good but it didn't work out, so something must be wrong."

With the American now 4'15 down in 18th place, will Discovery now back Brajkovic in the race? Bruyneel is being cautious about his chances, although he hopes a high finish can be achieved. "We are only one week into the Tour of Spain. We have the lead now and will try to keep Janez as high as possible. We will see how the next few days go. Tomorrow is a big day, a lot will depend on tomorrow. If we can maintain our position a little bit, don't lose too much time, there could be a surprise in this Tour of Spain.

"We won't really defend [the lead]... Valverde is only five seconds back and he is the clear favourite. So, basically, we have the jersey but it is like Valverde is the leader of the race."

Bruyneel said he is happy with how Discovery Channel has performed in this year of transition. "It is good to see [a rider in the lead] and also it has been an unusual year for us... after so many years with Lance on the team, it is different now. As of yesterday, we have taken the leader's jersey in the Giro, the leader's jersey in the Tour and now the jersey here in the Vuelta. I think it is a big performance for a team that was taking a new direction."

So far so good for Kashechkin

By Shane Stokes in Lugo

Andrey Kashechkin (Astana)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

The Astana team went close to a stage win yesterday when Alexandre Vinokourov was only overhauled a couple of hundred metres from the line. He is tenth overall, but the best placed rider from the squad - and from Kazakhstan - is Andrey Kashechkin. The 26 year-old national road race champion started Stage 8 fifth overall, 23 seconds off the race lead.

He said this morning that he was satisfied, but cautious. "I am happy for the moment but two weeks remain in the race. We have only done two mountain finishes and much remains ahead. There are some difficult moments to come. For now, I think Valverde and Sastre are perhaps the most dangerous."

Millar's confidence building

By Shane Stokes in Lugo

David Millar was pleased with his Vuelta thus far when Cyclingnews spoke to him at the start of the eighth stage in Léon. He was notable for his efforts in the closing kilometres, doing huge turns at the front to try to set things up for a sprint win for Saunier Duval team-mate Francisco José Ventoso.

"I felt great yesterday [Thursday]. It just felt easy, I am just getting stronger and stronger. It was fun. I am not chasing form, it is just there, it just gets better and better. I can just do what I want at the moment, so that is good."

Prior to Thursday's stage, Millar said he might make an effort on the final climb, having ridden well two days previously up to the Estación de Esqui La Covatilla. "I felt good on the first climb. I will try again today and then Sunday I am going to decide [what to do] because I would like to win stages. I might go hard until Sunday and then shut it down for a few days, and then start picking ones to go for."

In the end, Millar either wouldn't or couldn't dig as deep as he did on Wednesday, the Scot finishing 85th, 12'45 back. Though he may have opted to take it easy and get ready for bigger efforts in the next few days. "I've no interest in riding hard every stage - what am I going to go for, top 20? That doesn't interest me. I will probably take the second half of the race pretty easy, day on, day off. That is better, I don't want to be finishing here tired. I want to be fresh for the world championships.

"My confidence is coming back, that is the biggest thing. I am seeing that I am strong so that is good... it helps a lot."

Hard day at the office for Backstedt

By Shane Stokes in Lugo

Stage seven was a tough day for the Liquigas team including Magnus Backstedt, who had to haul his 90-odd kilos up the final summit finish to the Alto de el Morredero after driving the bunch early on. He talked this morning about the Italian squad's day at the start of Saturday's stage to Lugo, and about Danilo di Luca's problems in retaining the gold jersey.

"We had a bit of a hard day at work yesterday, we had to ride at the front all day and then try to get up that mountain at the end. The legs are recovering all right, I think.

"It was quite a difficult day [for Danilo], perhaps because you sit and do nothing but then you have to go absolutely eyeballs out up the climb. It's like when you get a slow day for the sprinters, it is also difficult to get yourself going properly for the sprint because your legs have done nothing all day.

"Danilo said afterwards that if he had another climb, he probably would have gone better. He is out of the lead now but he will definitely try to win another stage."

Backstedt will also chase the same goal at some point. "I haven't had a look at any stages yet to go for. The last couple of days that plan has been nullified by Di Luca having the jersey, so we have had to work for him. But I will keep plugging away and see what happens."

Vuelta diary watch: The mountains

By Susan Westemeyer

Rabobank's Grischa Niermann has come to the conclusion that "we won't win the Vuelta this year".

Defending champion Denis Menchov unfortunately doesn't have the form of last season wrote Niermann on his Web site, www.grischa-nierman.de.

In Friday's mountain stage, "there were three of us with him at the start of the last climb, but he was simply having a bad day and told us that we didn't have to wait for him. We all have the possibility to go in breaks and maybe take a stage win."

Bernhard Kohl of T-Mobile saw the finish like this: "When Beltran attacked, I had just gotten on his rear wheel and so I just went with him. The group was good but no favourites were in it. I thought they would come soon. And how they came!" he exclaimed on bernhardkohl.at.

Climber Kohl is looking forward to Sunday's mountain stage, but Gerolsteiner sprinter Robert Förster, as might be expected, isn't. Friday's stage was pretty relaxed, he wrote on www.radsportnews.com, but "on the other hand, I'm already panicking because the stage on Sunday is a tough one.

"Almost everyone in the field (with the exception of the climbers, naturally) have a horror for the stage. Lots of mountains, and when the Spaniards make the thing difficult from the very beginning..."

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