Marcel Wust writes
Rest Day ReportsAbraham Olano, who took over the leadership of teh Vuelta after a great time trial on Sunday, will now rely on his Banesto team to get him through the mountains and eventual GC victory. He told the press during the rest day: "If the team responds well and Jose Maria Jimenez and Manuel Beltran can come through safely I shouldn't have any problems in retaining the yellow jersey for the first two mountain stages. Jimenez and Beltran are both in superb form and with them behind me it'll be a lot easier to keep the lead. The idea is not to lose a single second -- I've shown in the past that I can be a good climber."
Laurent Jalabert is Olano's chief threat, although some think that Kelme's climber Fernando Escartin (down 2.25) still can win. If you saw Escartin during the Tour de France make his move on Galibier and then be made to look very slow by the storming Pantani you might think he is past a major victory. Olano doesn't think so. He said: "Jalabert has a great team behind him, while Escartin's Kelme team have a lot of excellent riders on the mountain stages."
And now the first mountain stages begin. Stage 10 will see the 200 kms trek from Vic to Andorra with 4 very difficult mountain passes to contend with.
Jalabert knows that 29-year old Olano is at an all-time high in confidence after Sunday. He also is seeking to redress his poor showing last year in the Sierra Nevada when he blew up badly. But then Escartin, second last year, also has something to motivate him. He comes from the Pyrénées region and finds the terrain like home. He also rode a reasonable time trial on Sunday. He will be counting on the assistance of his teammates Roberto Heras and Marcos Serrano.
And what of Festina who are seeing the Vuelta as a chance to remake their image. As yet their top riders Alex Zulle and Richard Virenque have not shown any form. Zulle rode a time trial equivalent to the climber Escartin! He told the press later: "One can speculate why my time was slow. The events of the Tour de France and my inactivity during August. But I believe it was simply a problem with my legs".
GC after Stage 9
1. Abraham Olano Manzano (Spa) Banesto 37.32.49 2. Laurent Jalabert (Fra) ONCE-Deutsche Bank 0.41 3. Melcihor Mauri Prat (Spa) ONCE-Deutsche Bank 1.08 4. Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 1.30 5. Michael Claus Moller (Den) TVM-Farm Frites 1.48 6. Alvaro Gonzalez Galdeano (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 2.06 7. Daniel Clavero Sebastian (Spa) Vitalicio Seguros 2.20 8. Alex Zülle (Fra) Festina-Lotus 2.25 9. Fernando Escartin (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 2.25 10. Marco Serpellini (Ita) Brescialat-Liquigas 2.35