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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest News for September 22, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Who is Isidro Nozal?

Talented, humble, determined...and Vuelta leader

Isidro Nozal
Photo: © AFP
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They call Isidro Nozal "Guri" because his home town is Guriezo in the northern Spanish region of Cantabria. He also happens to be the unexpected leader of the Vuelta with six stages to go, and he doesn't intend to let that go without a hell of a fight. Hernán Alvarez Macías found out a bit more about this talented young Spaniard who rides for ONCE-Eroski.

Isidro Nozal: I'm happy to receive the leader's jersey, but now I want Marcos (Serrano) to have it.

Journalist: But you have a good advantage now over the rest of the riders and it's rather difficult that he takes it next.

Isidro Nozal: Ah...well, ok.

That is what Isidro Nozal told a television journalist a few minutes after his teammate Joaquín Rodríguez "transferred" the golden leader's jersey to him in Burgos after the fourth stage of the Vuelta. Nozal was the best placed of the 190 riders in the peloton, but he wanted his companion Serrano to have it, as ONCE-Eroski were sharing the golden maillot during the first few days of the Vuelta. This anecdote perfectly describes what kind of person Nozal is.

Click here for the full profile.

Heras comes up short

Heras and Cardenas
Photo: © AFP
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In the testing 8.3 kilometre climb of La Pandera yesterday, Vuelta challenger Roberto Heras managed to take 1'11 out of race leader Isidro Nozal after attacking with 5 kilometres to the finish. Heras started the day 5'13 behind on GC, thus now sits 4'02 behind Nozal as the riders take their second rest day today. With six more stages including a mountain top finish and an uphill time trial, Heras now has only two or three opportunities to take that time back before the race finishes in Madrid this Sunday.

Heras was a little frustrated when he crossed the line yesterday in third place behind Valverde and Cardenas. "You can't get pears from an elm tree," he told AFP. "This is what it is. This climb does not allow for more, because it only has four really tough kilometres."

Tomorrow, Heras will have another chance on the Sierra Nevada climb, which much longer (30 km) but not as steep as La Pandera. "We'll see, we'll see," he said of his chances. "I'll continue to fight and I'm not going to lose the focus."

His teammate Manuel Beltran was at one point third on GC, but has been passed by Heras in the last few stages. Beltran helped to make the tempo hard at the bottom of the climb yesterday, but it wasn't quite enough to shake all the ONCE riders. "The ONCE team wanted to ride at a slow pace on the climb because that is what suited them, so I began to pull. I helped Roberto Heras to the maximum, even sacrificing my own interests.

As for tomorrow, "We are going to try on Sierra Nevada, without a doubt, because it's not the same being third compared to second as it is second compared to first. It's a pity that Valverde robbed us yesterday."

Exit Hincapie

George Hincapie (US Postal-Berry Floor) will not be starting the 16th stage of the Vuelta, having left the race after yesterday's Sierra de la Pandera stage. Hincapie finished the stage well, helping pace his teammate and third place getter Roberto Heras up the lower slopes of the steep climb, before rolling in to finish 56th. However in order to rest up and prepare for the World Championships in Hamilton, Hincapie decided to leave the Vuelta with six stages to go.

Hincapie will be one of 12 riders to represent the U.S. at the World's, with the team also including Levi Leipheimer, Bobby Julich, Floyd Landis and Chris Horner, among others.

Valverde makes World's team

After winning two stages of the Vuelta already, Kelme's Alejandro Valverde has been picked for the Spanish World Championships team for Hamilton, which will also feature Oscar Freire and Igor Astarloa.

Bölts goes out strongly

Udo Bölts has ridden his last professional race, the 37 year old German deciding to call it quits after the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt, where he finished 11th overall. 2003 marks the end of Bölts' 14th season as a pro, during which time he carved himself a niche as one of the top domestiques in cycling, as well as being a good rider in his own right when the opportunity arose. Career highlights include the Dauphine Libéré (1997), Clasica San Sebastian (1996), stage win in the Giro (1992), GP Gippingen (1997) and the German Championships (1990, 1995, 1999).

Bölts spent most of his career in the Telekom ranks, only joining Gerolsteiner in his final year. He rode and finished the Tour de France 12 times, helping Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich obtain their 1996 and 1997 Tour victories. In the 1997 race, he is reported to have told Ullrich to "Suffer, you sow!" a few days before the finish to help motivate him.

Now, Bölts has other things on his plate, namely his wife Elke and two children Helena (5 yrs) und Jan (2 yrs). "With two small children it's no longer doable," Bölts told SID. However he has not ruled out future sporting objectives. "Mt Everest or one of the other eleven 8000m peaks - I'd like to do that. I'll climb one of them."

Nicknamed "Iron Udo", Bölts also participated in the Hawaii Ironman triathlon in 2000, and finished a very respectable 168th in 10:02:42. Afterwards he described it as rather painful, as he "was practically in a wheelchair during the run". The problem being that the lack of muscle condition in his legs couldn't cope with the demands of running a marathon after three weeks preparation.

His last race in Rheinland-Pfalz was held in his homeland, but Udo was not granted the honour of greeting his friends in Heltersberg when the race passed through there. "Unfortunately in Heltersberg it was hectic in the field. I had to stay within the peloton and could not ride in front, to greet my public."

Despite this, Bölts can certainly retire a happy man with a healthy palmares and above all an excellent reputation in the peloton.

Anna Millward: Life after racing and Millward bikes

Anna Millward
Photo: © Gerard Knapp
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Former world number one Anna Millward says she hasn't formally retired from cycling, but after two years of struggling to deal with a nagging injury problem, it seems unlikely she'll be back racing bikes any time soon.

Cyclingnews bumped into Anna at the recent Bicycling Australia trade show, where she was hanging out on the booth of Melbourne frame builder Alchemy, showing off the women's frames she's recently helped the company develop. In a subsequent email chat we found out what she's up to in life and in sport.

Click here for the full interview

VDB remains with sick wife

Frank Vandenbroucke, who quit the Vuelta last week and also didn't show at the start of the Giro del Lazio, spent the weekend with his wife Sarah, who was hospitalised, reports Het Nieuwsblad. No further details were revealed, although VDB should still ride the Coppa Sabatini, Giro dell'Emilia and Milano-Vignola.

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