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2001 Vuelta

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Vuelta News for September 27, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

Stage 18 wrap up

The last mountain top finish in this year's Vuelta was fought out on the slopes of La Covatilla, a 9.5 km ski station climb reaching 2010m in altitude. Riding as hard as he could in his home territory, race leader Roberto Heras (USPS) attacked twice on the climb to drop Aitor Gonzalez (Kelme), who had the help of Oscar Sevilla in the final kilometres to limit the damage to 37 seconds. That means that Heras has 1'12 on Gonzalez going into Sunday's final time trial, which will be very, very close.

Santiago Blanco (iBanesto.com, and another local boy) took an excellent win on La Covatilla, starting the climb with 6 minutes on the bunch and finishing with just a handful of seconds to second placed Heras. Blanco's win is the third by an iBanesto rider in this year's Vuelta.

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Santi Blanco (iBanesto.com, 1st stage)

Santi Blanco
Photo: © Lavuelta.com
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"That was the risk," said Blanco who attacked with 50 km to go. "If you don't attack you don't win. When I reached La Covatilla I was prepared to die on my bicycle if necessary and I was suffering a lot, but I was not going to give up. I could not fail on home ground before my fans. I knew that La Covatilla was easier nearer the top and that helped me keep going."

"This is a perfect day for the people of this region, with me winning the stage and Roberto still wearing the gold leader's jersey."

Roberto Heras (USPS, 1st GC)

"We won't know who will win this race until Sunday. I have done well today, but I am still impressed by Gonzalez's resilience."

Aitor González (Kelme, 2nd GC)

"I believe that is was an acceptable loss with a view towards the time trial in Madrid. I knew that Roberto Heras was strong and it was not going to be easy for me to cover his attacks, and I could lose a lot of time. Now we have to wait until the last day."

"Tomorrow is another difficult stage and now I have to recover from today. Besides on the last day Roberto is a great rider and the 'maillot amarillo' gives you wings. The time trial will decide it."

Oscar Sevilla (Kelme, 3rd GC)

"Aitor will recover in the time trial. I have sacrificed myself for Aitor and what is important is to win the Vuelta. I have carried out the orders of Vicente Belda."

"I could have stayed with Beloki, I had to stop to be with Aitor. Those were the orders of the team. Aitor failed at that moment and Vicente told me that he expected it, and that's what had to be done."

"What we cannot do is repeat what happened the other day [on the Angliru], it was an error and we are all human. He [Aitor] recognized that he made a mistake and therefore I have not made a mistake now."

"I am proud to have helped the team, but also a little disappointed at not being able to follow Beloki and the others. But we have come to win the Vuelta and that must be done with the team. "

Johan Bruyneel (USPS DS)

"Today went very well as Roberto and the team did what they needed to do. We would have liked a lead of 1:30, but I believe 1:12 will be enough. Roberto will really have to surpass himself to win the Tour of Spain but I think he can do it."

"The team was good today and rode very well. Toni (Cruz), Matt (White) and Dave (Zabriskie) did the work for the first 100 kilometres when it was flat and all made it up the first category climb (the Puerto de Honduras). We had to work really hard for only 50 kilometres until the break went, and it was a perfect break as the top guy was nearly 40 minutes back of Roberto."

Bruyneel also commented about the crowds that had come out in support of Heras, who is from Bejar. "The crowd was amazing today. Roberto lives in Bejar along with his parents and family and from the start the whole day you heard - Roberto, Roberto, Roberto."

Regarding Sunday's time trial, Bruyneel said that Heras should hold his own. "Roberto has improved his time trialing skills and the first time trial (10 days ago in Cordoba, won by Gonzalez) showed that. And in my opinion - physically - Roberto is the strongest guy in the race. He is the "freshest" rider left as well and that will be even more important when compared to the specialists (in the time trial). Roberto is fresh and in very good shape, and the fact he is wearing the leader's jersey, will start last and will have time references all the way will help as well."

Polartec to sponsor a team

North American company Polartec, which is the official supplier of the Vuelta leader's jersey, has issued a press release stating that the company "is considering various options, which include participation in cycling sponsorship". The release came as a result of rumours about the formation of a new professional team.

Polartec makes military and sports clothing, and is seeking to become a top or co-sponsor of a cycling team which would compete in at least two Grand Tours and some of the classics.

Kelme and Look together again

French bike manufacturer Look will continue to sponsor Vicente Belda's Kelme team next season, which will mark the third year of the partnership. Look will present its new KX Light bicycle, which will be ridden by Kelme next year, at the start of tomorrow's 19th stage in Bejar at 11:30am. The frame's main features are sloping, oversized carbon fibre tubes.

Stage 19: Béjar - Avila, 177.8 km

The climbing is almost over in this year's Vuelta, with tomorrow's stage 19 being the last to feature Cat. 1 and Cat. 2 climbs. Starting in Roberto Heras' hometown of Béjar, the stage follows an uphill trajectory for the first half, descending into Villarejo del Valle (km 96) in preparation for the Cat. 1 climb of Puerto de Serranillos, a 16.7 kilometre drag that averages 5.1%. It shouldn't present any serious problems to the top GC riders, although there is the chance that someone will crack.

The finish is located 63 km from the summit of the climb, with the Cat. 2 Puerto de Navalmoral coming at 22 km to go. It doesn't look much like a sprinter's stage, and there is also the possibility of attacks on the final descent to Avila.

Join us tomorrow at 14:45 CEST/05:45 PDT/08:45 EDT/22:45 Aust. EST for live coverage of Stage 19.

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


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