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2001 Vuelta

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Vuelta News for September 23, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

Stage 15 wrap up

As expected, the 15th stage from Gijon to El Angliru was a dramatic day of racing, culminating with an incredible, rain slicked climb that completely determine the outcome of the race. Some interesting tactics by Kelme's Aitor Gonzalez, who pushed the pace when his teammate and race leader Oscar Sevilla was in difficulty, started the explosion on the Angliru, from which Roberto Heras emerged as the strongest climber on the day. Heras won the stage by 1'35 to a fighting Joseba Beloki, who produced one of his best mountain rides to stay in contention for the overall, moving into fourth at 1'57.

Heras also claimed the race leadership, with 35 seconds advantage over Aitor Gonzalez and 1'08 to deposed leader Sevilla, who lost nearly 3 minutes today. With a week to go, the pressure will now be on the remaining six members of the US Postal team to defend Heras in the stages to come.

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Roberto Heras (1st stage & GC)

Roberto Heras
Photo: © AFP
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"I felt very good, I'm extremely happy with the result of this stage. We were lucky because it didn't rain until the last climb."

"We have the stage in my territory (Covatilla) and the time trial, favourable for Aitor. The road will determine it and I have a great team behind me."

Vicente Belda (Kelme DS)

"The race had come to the final part of the stage which was how we wanted it, but Aitor took a decision that was not in the plan. A moment came when he found himself rearing to go, and he attacked when we had to wait.

"We have an obligation of being with our rivals and having to maintain our gaps over Heras and Beloki, but he didn't make an error."

"We tried to control it halfway. Aitor knew that he had to follow second behind Sevilla, with the final time trial, he has the Vuelta in his hands. Nothing was forseen.

"There remains much of the Vuelta and Roberto doesn't have a team. The differences are not that alarming, although in the Covatilla Roberto will be on home ground and will try to take out more time."

More riders abandon after yesterday's crash

Millar out after protest

Several riders were forced to abandon today's stage as a result of the massive pile up yesterday that involved around 40 riders. Non-starters included Fernando Escartin (Team Coast), who broke one of his left ribs, Guillaume Auger (Big Mat), who injured his left leg and ankle, Daniele Bennati (Acqua & Sapone) and Juan Manuel Garate (Lampre-Daikin) who both suffered knee injuries.

During the stage the abandons continued, with Fabrizio Guidi (Team Coast), Victor Hugo Peña (USPS), Giuseppe Di Grande (Index-Alexia), Alejandro Valverde (Kelme), Zoran Klemencic (Tacconi), Andreas Klöden (Telekom) and David Millar (Cofidis). The latter crashed twice today on the descent of the Cordal, and his race came to a finish at the top of the Angliru, when he stopped a metre before the finish line in protest at the extreme conditions of the stage. The organisers treated this as an abandon, and Millar exited the race despite lying in 9th overall.

Spectators behave on l'Angliru

The organisers declared themselves very happy with the behaviour of the spectators on the climb of l'Angliru, that marked the finish of stage 15. The "Cheer, but don't push" slogan made the public aware of the need to avoid influencing the outcome of the race, which was made even tougher by the torrential rain that fell as the riders were ascending the climb. Even when Oscar Sevilla was in difficulty on the steeper sections and riding close to the crowd, there was no assistance given.

Blood controls before stage 15

24 riders were subjected to blood tests on the morning of the 15th stage, between 8:15 and 8:40 am. Riders from the Tacconi Sport, Saeco, AG2R and Domo-Farm Frites were tested, all of them being given the all clear.

Perez gets his bike back

The bicycle stolen from Team Coast's Luis Perez after the stage that finished in Granada has been recovered in a town on the outskirts of Granada. Police are questioning two under age suspects in relation to the robbery, that took place on September 12 at 9pm in the hotel that Perez and his team were staying at. Police are also holding a third person who bought the bike for 540 euros (it was worth around 5000).

Second rest day tomorrow

The Vuelta will take its second rest day tomorrow (September 23), with the riders able to recover from the past week's efforts without worrying about a lengthy transfer, as the 16th stage starts in Avilés, which is not far from today's finish.

Then we will see the commencement of the final week of the Vuelta, with a tough stage from Avilés to Leon, followed by an easy stage from Benavente to Salamanca, and then the final mountain top finish at Covatilla in the locality of Béjar, where Roberto Heras comes from. Heras must gain time on that stage to ensure he has a safe enough time buffer for the final time trial in Madrid on Sunday. As the situation stands now, he is in danger of being passed by both Gonzalez and Sevilla, based on the results of the first time trial.

Once again, the Vuelta is looking like finishing in a showdown on the final day.

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2002)


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