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Vuelta a España Cycling News for September 3, 2006

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Edited by Anthony Tan

Vino states no contact with Saiz

By Shane Stokes in Lugo

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

Despite earlier rumours that Manolo Saiz was still playing a role with the Astana team, Vuelta stage 8 victor Alexandre Vinokourov insisted at the post-stage press conference that he had made a clean break from the former team manager. The Kazakstani said that there had been no contact between the two since the squad was prevented from starting the Tour de France.

"We have not spoken at all lately," he said. "I have respect for Manolo but considering what has happened, I can't remain with the team [under that structure]," he said. "We will start afresh on our own, with Marc Biver as manager and Walter Godefroot [as directeur sportif], and will create a new team.

"We don't have a ProTour licence yet but with or without that, I don't think that will matter. With myself and [Andreas] Kloden there I think we will get an invitation for the Tour in 2007 and that is why I am not worried. Besides, all of the Grand Tours will split from the ProTour so we will get our invitation in those races, with or without a ProTour licence.

Vinokourov's win came exactly two weeks before his 33rd birthday and both the time bonus gained plus the boost to his morale meant that he believes it is possible for him to be a big factor in this Vuelta.

"It is true that I lost time then [on the first mountain stage], but yesterday I was there. My motivation hasn't been knocked. The Vuelta lasts another two weeks and I don't think two minutes is such a big gap. Of course, I think it is a pity to be a bit behind, but tomorrow will be a hard stage. I recovered well from yesterday and I am very motivated."

Doubtless, he will be further psyched by the presence of the Kazakh prime minister Danial Akhmetov, a man who played a major part in the recent formation of the Astana squad. He arrived after stage 8 and the team will be keen to show what they can do.

Sunday toughest stage in the race, says CSC

While Saturday's Vuelta stage did not present any serious challenges for the favourites, today's mountainous Stage 9 to Alto de La Cobertoria will be a different story.

"Tomorrow is crucial, and I think it will be the toughest stage in this race," said CSC's directeur sportif at the race, Kim Andersen, in a team statement.

"The pace was ferocious at the beginning [of Stage 8], but it calmed down a bit later and a break got away. We didn't have any big plans, so we just stayed with the peloton."

"It will be exciting to see how far Carlos can take it [today], but the way he's doing at the moment, we should have a good chance," he said.

Sastre: Don't rule out Vinokourov

By Shane Stokes in Lugo

It's not just Vinokourov who think he can be a threat on GC - CSC rival Carlos Sastre also feels it is possible for Vino to be a factor in the final overall shakedown. "I said he is rider to take into account and he will be more dangerous as the Vuelta goes by," he told Spain's Onda Cero radio at the stage eight finish line. "I think he will be fighting in the top positions during the third week."

Today's stage started just before ten o'clock in an effort to maximise the available television coverage and viewership. That mean the riders had to be up early in order to eat and travel to the start. Sastre was asked for his views on this.

"I will be thankful when I lie down in bed, it's the same thing whether it's 2 or 6pm," he answered. "If all the stages were at the same start time, I think it would be better for everyone. But these changes where one day you wake up at 10am, the next at 7am, are uncomfortable for us.

Jufré out due to bad fall

By Shane Stokes in Lugo

The Davitamon-Lotto team has suffered a further disappointment after the early withdrawal of Robbie McEwen due to an accident involving Spanish rider Josep Jufré during Saturday's eighth stage.

Jufré was riding well in the overall standings and started the day 12th, 2'49 off the race lead. However any hopes he had of finishing up in the general classification were dashed when he had a bad fall 69 kilometres into the race.

He sliced his arm on a roadside barrier, suffering a deep five centimetre gash in his right arm. After the stage a race official told journalists that he lost between one and one and a half litres of blood due to an artery being severed.

Doctors were able to stem the bleeding and Jufré was then taken to hospital.

Stage wins now the target for Rabobank

By Shane Stokes in Lugo

Denis Menchov's victory in last year's race plus his good showing in the Tour de France prompted hopes that the Russian would challenge for the Vuelta title this time round, but his disappointing form means that the Rabobank team are now chasing stage victories rather than the overall classification.

Menchov lost time on both mountain stages and will begin stage 9 in 52nd place, 16'51 behind race leader Janez Brajkovic. His team-mate and the current Australian road race champion Will Walker confirmed that the team have changed their focus.

"As Denis Menchov is not up overall, the team is just going to go for individual stages," he stated. "Nobody is worried about GC, we will just go for a stage win. Maybe someone will have a go in the mountains tomorrow."

Walker is building experience in his first grand tour and seems happy enough so far. "Today was good, we were just cruising along in the peloton. The first hour was fast and then one guy got away, settling things down. So that was pretty good.

"I just rolled in with Menchov at the end. It was a pretty tough finish - we went across the line with eight kilometres to go and the speed was pretty solid. Then the last kilometre was uphill again. If you didn't have good position, you might as well not try. The plan is to try to get over the mountains tomorrow - with seven big climbs, it should be a bloody tough day. After that, we will see."

Tom Danielson's Vuelta: Dealing with disappointment

Hi there Cyclingnews readers,

Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Well, it was nice to get the best team award today. Obviously our team is riding really well so it is a good sign. I am definitely happy for Janez, he is a very strong rider. I am not so surprised that he has been doing well as I know he is very good, but to take the leader's jersey shows that he definitely has been riding extremely well so far.

I felt horrible yesterday. I felt bad the first day in the mountains and then yesterday was absolutely horrible. I could have ridden better up that climb in November! If you look at my performances all year, it just doesn't make any sense. I am not sick, there is nothing wrong with me - I have no idea what happened. I have never ridden that bad in my life. I was 36th on the mountain stage... 36th! I have never finished 36th on a mountain stage.

Click here to read the rest of Tom's diary from Stage 8.

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