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Vuelta a España Cycling News for September 13, 2006

By Shane Stokes in Granada, edited by Anthony Tan

Riis: Still possible for Sastre to win

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With five days of racing yet to go, CSC head honcho Bjarne Riis believes that Sastre could still stand on the top step of the podium. "We will race with what we have and try the possibilities," he said this morning. "We will see if we can do something for Carlos, where that can end up. It is still possible for him to win. Valverde and Vinokourov look strong... but we will see."

Riis said he wasn't sure what the situation currently was with Ivan Basso, who is under investigation on suspicion of being involved with the Operación Puerto affair. If it is shown that he has been involved with Dr Eufemiano Fuentes in blood doping or other such practices, he will face a two-year ban from cycling and a four year ban from the ProTour.

Should this be the case, CSC will clearly need a big leader for the Grand Tours. Sastre has fared well thus far, finishing fourth in the Tour (third if Floyd Landis loses his title) and is looking likely to take a podium place in this Vuelta. Although he is now 31 years of age, Riis feels he can step up to a higher level next season. "Yes, of course he can," he said. "Carlos is always stable, always there."

Valverde can win says Pereiro

Caisse d'Epargne rider Oscar Pereiro has said that he will forget any personal ambitions of a stage win in order to pave the way for his team-mate Alejandro Valverde to take the Vuelta title in Madrid this coming Sunday.

"I will be riding for my team. Today and tomorrow will be a lot of work. Yesterday, Alejandro was very strong and for us, it is important to work for him now. I think that with just three big days left he is a very possible winner in Madrid, so the morale on the team is very good now."

Sastre to fight on

Carlos Sastre attacked on yesterday's final climb up to the summit finish of Calar Alto but was distanced slightly by the repeated accelerations by Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). He finished fifth, five seconds behind his two biggest GC riders, but had the satisfaction of seeing Andrey Kashechkin drop from second to fourth overall.

Although it is looking increasingly likely that the battle for the final race victory is between current leader Valverde and second-placed Vinokourov - who is now equal on time to Sastre - the affable Spaniard told reporters this morning that he will keep battling.

"I will fight on and see where that takes me. If I win or don't win, if I finish first or third or fifth, we will see. I think aggressive racing is spectacular and also good for the Tour of Spain. I will do what I can do in the days ahead.

"All my team-mates are here to back me. We have a common goal, to try to win this Tour of Spain. The team has supported me in that aim from the first day. Valverde and Vinokourov are two very strong riders and have shown so far that they are maybe a little stronger than me. But they are not very far ahead and I will see what the next days bring."

Tom Danielson diary: Feeling the difference

Tom Danielson (Discovery)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Hi there Cyclingnews readers,

I am getting better and I hope to improve more today and tomorrow, and then in the time trial. I felt good yesterday and tried to go in a lot of breakaways at the beginning of the stage. I wasted a lot of energy doing that but I was hoping to be in a break and try for the stage win from there.

Now it is not possible for me to be in the early breakaway, so I will just be concentrating my efforts on the end of the race.

It was good for the morale to be attacking at the end. I didn't quite have the confidence to follow those big attacks - I would kind of hesitate and watch them attack, thinking, 'wow, that is impressive'. Then I would start pedalling and see that I could be there [and get back to them]. That is going to be good for my confidence from now on, and for me, I am entering the last week very motivated.

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

Beltran: Top ten is a nice goal

Discovery Channel's Manuel Beltran finished 7th yesterday, 42" back and starts the second-last day in the mountains today in sixth place overall, 5'34 off the maillot oro.

"The next two stages are difficult," he told Cyclingnews at today's stage start in the seafront town of Adra, west of Almeria. "I know I am going well but I think it is a question of matching the riders with the very good form. I hope to stay with them."

"I think it is a nice objective to aim for the top ten [in Madrid]. Now it is day to day, see how it works out."

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