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Vuelta a España Cycling News for September 6, 2006

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Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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Edited by John Stevenson with reporting by Shane Stokes & Hernan Alvarez

Vuelta stage 10 wrap-up

Three in a row for Astana

Sergio Paulinho (Astana)
Photo ©: AFP
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The Astana team has notched up its third stage win in a row, with Sergio Paulinho taking out today's 10th stage between Avilés and the Museo de Altamira in Santillana del Mar. Paulinho attacked the 15 man breakaway in the final kilometre, which was mostly uphill, to beat Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Xavier Florencio (Bouygues) by a couple of seconds. The peloton finished 3'54 behind and there were no major changes to the general classification.

The 199 km stage was run from west to east across the top part of the Spanish coastline. Everyone had fresh legs after the rest day, and following a number of attacks, a 15 man break had established itself at the front after 40 km. The group contained Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears - best on GC at 6'50), Sergio Paulinho (Astana Team), Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Evgeni Petrov (Lampre-Fondital), Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel), Dario David Cioni (Liquigas), Nicki Sorensen (Team CSC), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), David Millar and Francisco José Ventoso (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Sébastien Minard (Cofidis), Sébastien Joly (Française des Jeux), Dmitriy Fofonov (Credit Agricole), and Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom).

With Karpets up there, Caisse d'Epargne didn't have to chase and the lead went out to 9'07 - putting Karpets into the virtual overall lead - until CSC worked to reduce the gap to a more manageable 3'54 in the final 80 km. The finale saw David Millar doing a lot of work for his sprinter teammate Francisco Ventoso, but the Saunier team couldn't finish it off with the continuous attacks in the final kilometres. Eventually Paulinho made his move inside 1 km to go, and that proved to be the successful one.

Click here for the full results, report & photos and live report of stage 10.

Mood high in Astana camp

By Shane Stokes

Andrey Kashechkin (Astana)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Today was the third stage running where an Astana rider triumphed in this year's Vuelta a Espana. As might be expected, the team were very happy with Sergio Paulinho's win, not least the rider himself.

"This is probably the most important victory achieved since the silver medal in the Athens Olympics," stated the Portuguese rider. "I am very happy with this win, it is also a victory for the team. Astana are very happy. I am going to try to get more stage victories now."

Directeur sportif Neil Stephens was in a similar mood. "That's three in a row now, so far!" he told Cyclingnews, clearly delighted. "It was a bit of a surprise today. He went in the break to cover it and make sure we had some sort of representation there. He started to ride but then when we realised that Karpets was there and up on GC, I told him he wasn't allowed to do any more, although he wanted to.

"When it got below four minutes again I let him ride because he wanted to participate in the breakaway. And then he showed his strength in the finish."

"The plan for now is just to wait until the time trial. That was the situation today, there was no real big objective other than covering the break and making sure we had some sort of representation there. After Sergio Paulinho did his work as a domestique earlier on, it paid off for him today with a victory."

Stephens was then asked who he thought the leader would ultimately be in the team, given that Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin are second and fifth overall.

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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"It is impossible to say at this point. It doesn't really matter who it is, actually. Both have their good points and their bad points; the bad point about Vinokourov is that he is a minute and a half down, but the good thing is that he has shown before that he is a real proven rider for three-week stage races. Kashechkin is in a better position in the general classification but he has yet to prove that he is capable of riding for GC in a three week stage race."

As regards who is likely to do a better time trial in the race against the clock later this week, Stephens wouldn't be drawn as to a prediction. "Alex was better in Germany, but Kash is no slouch. We will see."

Paulinho hinted that the successes may have been motivated by the team missing out on the Tour de France. "For me the decision [to exclude some riders from the Tour team and thus leave them with too small a squad to start – ed.] was a little tough and was hard for us. We prepared very well to win the Tour with Vinokourov but in the end we could not take part. But we kept working, thinking of the future and now we will try to win the Vuelta. We arrived at the start here very motivated and now Vinokourov and Kashechkin are very well placed. We will try to win and also get more stages."

He was asked how the two team leaders compared to rivals such as Valverde and Sastre. "Well, Vinokourov has proved that he is getting stronger day by day. Valverde and Sastre are two very good riders and we know it will be tough to win the race. We will do everything we can to take the jersey and win overall, though."

Next year, Paulinho will ride for the Discovery Channel team. "[Johan] Bruyneel offered me a very good deal, so I have signed a contract for one season, because I did not think that it was possible that the Astana team would continue," he explained.

Kemps happy

By Shane Stokes

Australian Aaron Kemps is in his first year of a pro contract with the Astana team and said that morale was very strong as a result of what has been happening thus far in the Vuelta. "Obviously things have been going really well for us," he told Cyclingnews. "Three stage wins in a row and two guys in the top five – you can't ask for much more. And I think we have got three in the top ten now.

"Personally, I felt a bit ordinary today…I was a little tired after the rest day. I also seem to have one bad day a week – last week it was the fifth day – but the intentions now are to try to keep our two main guys Vinokourov and Kashechkin up there until the time trial and see what happens from there.

"We came into this race with high expectations but I don't think we envisaged getting three stage wins already. I think the morale is pretty high at the moment, especially with two guys up on GC. Everyone wants to work hard and keep them up there. Everyone is fighting to be in the moves, there is always at least one of us up there in each break that goes. That makes it easier for everyone else. And for those that are left in the peloton, they are grabbing water from the car or keeping Vino and Kashechkin out of the wind all day. Having three up there now in the top ten makes it even better."

With the possibility existing that one of the team's riders can win the race, Kemps knows he will be doing a lot of domestique work. However he is hoping to be allowed a bit of freedom later on. "For myself, I am looking to get up there on stage 15. I want to have a go then; it is also my birthday, so I will try to get up on that stage. Until then, I will be working every day for the team, keeping the guys out of the wind."

Mission accomplished for Karpets

Vladimir Karpets and Iban Mayo
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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Caisse d'Epargne's long haired Russian rider Vladimir Karpets was for a while the virtual race leader of the Vuelta in stage 10, but his role was to ensure an easy day for his team and the maillot oro Alejandro Valverde. "I felt very well and I am happy because thanks to my presence in the breakaway, our team had not to take the responsibility of the pursuit," he said. "I think I helped on my part. In the final I tried to attack to see if I had a chance to go for the stage win but I knew it would be very difficult. On the final climb I could not cope with the continuous changes of rhythm."

Directeur sportif Eusebio Unzue was pleased afterwards. "The team was perfect today. We knew we had to be very attentive to avoid having to work too much if a break went with nobody in it. It was a very hard stage and the fact that we were represented in all the breakaways permitted us spare the team, our main aim today."

Saunier Duval DS satisfied with team's efforts

The Saunier Duval-Prodir team had two riders in the break today, namely stage 3 winner Francisco Ventoso and David Millar. The latter sacrificed his chances to try to help the sprinter win but in the end the tough run in to the line and numerous attacks meant that Ventoso was fifth.

Despite that, team manager Mauro Gianetti said he was happy with their performance. "I think that our team is performing very well in this Vuelta," he stated. "Millar´s progress is really impressive, Ventoso has proved to be an out-and-out sprinter, and Gómez Marchante has great chances to keep his standing in the GC or even improve a little. All the other riders are in very good shape, including Piepoli, who will rise to the challenge in stages to come."

Millar said he realised early on that he was better to help Ventoso in his challenge. "I was on the limit most of the day," he told Cyclingnews a couple of minutes after the end of the stage. "I was really strong, but also on the limit. I knew I wasn't going well enough to win, so I had to make a decision. I figured it would be easier to try to keep it together for as long as possible to help Fran. He is a sprinter, he can't handle repeated accelerations, but if we go at one speed that helps him.

"We tried, anyway. Those are the sort of days that bring you form…well, they either bring you form or destroy you! I haven't done that in a long time, I had forgotten how hard it was. We were going very fast out there.

"It was also very humid, too. I really suffered for about 50 kilometres and I couldn't work out what was happening…I was like a hot dog, I was just panting. Then I put my hand on my jersey and worked out what it was – I was soaked from the humidity. So I just rolled up my jersey and kept going."

Ventoso told Spain's Onda Cero radio that he did all he could. "I rode with all the strengths that I had left at the finale; Paulinho came from behind and beat us.

"All the riders were good in the finale. You never knew which is the strongest. Paulinho, who went on others' wheels during the breakaway, showed he was the strongest at the finish line."

Mayo tries but no luck

Iban Mayo (Euskaltel)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Iban Mayo came into this Vuelta as a possible GC contender but lost time in the mountains, starting stage 10 back in 21st place, over 12 minutes adrift of the maillot oro. He gained a little time today but his fans must be scratching their heads in puzzlement and frustration as to his erratic form since 2003.

The Basque rider launched an attack on an uphill section in the final run in to the line, but wasn't able to distance the others.

"We were a lot in the breakaway a long time," he told Onda Cero. "I tried it [to get a gap] in the climb and also in the last little uphill. Ventoso followed my wheel and then things went wrong. It's clear I couldn't compete in the bunch sprint with my breakaway companions. It was a shame not to be able to finish off my attacks."

Pereiro happy in support role

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Unipublic
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Tour de France star Oscar Pereiro also spoke to Onda Cero, saying that he had no problems in riding for his Caisse d'Epargne team-mate Alejandro Valverde. "I feel great with that. It's a job I love to do. Let's not forget that my team contracted me last year to work for Alejandro and my win in the Tour [de France] or my second place in the Tour don't mean I feel bad working for others.

"This was a day when we rode extremely fast. I don't know what happens with cycling currently, but with the ProTour classification and the ProTour team classification it seems there has never a successful breakaway [until today]. Today there were two hours with attack after attack. We were able to put Vladimir Karpets in the breakaway and we saved our team from a hard stage."

Pereiro vowed the team will do everything it can to help Valverde triumph. "We don't put pressure on him; we will take things day by day. The whole team has faith in him and will do its best to try to win the Vuelta with Alejandro."

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