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2001 Vuelta

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Vuelta News for September 28, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Stage 19 wrap up

iBanesto.com won its fourth stage in this year's Vuelta courtesy of a powerful and well timed move by Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta. Just as Santi Blanco did yesterday, Chente attacked the leading break with 50 km to go to solo away to victory. Save for Miguel Martin Perdiguero, the chase group behind him lost interest, although they did catch Perdiguero on the run into Avila. They in turn were caught by the peloton with 2 km to go on the uphill cobbles outside the famous walled city.

As Chente celebrated his second ever Vuelta stage win, Aitor Gonzalez put in a strong attack on the cobbles which no-one could follow, finishing second in the stage and gaining a valuable four seconds on race leader Roberto Heras. The gap between the two is now 1'08, setting things up for a tight finish on Sunday in Madrid.

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Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (iBanesto.com, 1st stage)

Chente Garcia Acosta
Photo: © Lavuelta.com
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"I knew I could manage to stay away solo if Perdiguero hadn't caught me at the top of the Navalmoral. I've had too many second, third and fourth places on stages before in this race, but this time I managed to win. On the other days it was my teammates Santiago Blanco and Pablo Lastras who broke away, today it was me and Aitor Osa."

Aitor Gonzalez (Kelme, 2nd stage & GC)

"I'm a little closer to the first position on the final podium. The finish went well for me, so I gave it a try. I gained four important seconds towards the gold jersey on a day that was quite fast, but not as hard as we thought."

"It will be a face-off in the final 41km time trial. I'm better in that discipline, but the leader's jersey gives one wings and Heras is strong."

Roberto Heras (US Postal 1st GC)

"I knew that Aitor was going to attack me in the final. He went away and there was nothing I could do to follow him, although I was well placed. They're four seconds I can't get back, but it's not necessarily so serious. I am motivated and feel strong for the last two days. I'm not scared of him in the final time trial, although I know that based on his results in the time trials, he is the favourite."

Joseba Beloki (ONCE, 4th GC)

Fourth placed Beloki was the first rider to attack on the Puerto de Serranillos, hoping to put Heras and the others under some pressure. It was not to be, as Kelme chased him down fairly quickly.

"I tried (to attack), but it didn't work. I feel good and I'm still in the race. I believe the third position on the podium will be difficult, but not impossible. The Vuelta has not gone as I had hoped, but it hasn't been disappointing either. After my second place in the Tour I had big ambitions. The key point for me was at the beginning of the race. I have gotten better throughout the race, but the time gaps now are significant."

Johan Bruyneel (DS, US Postal)

"It was a hard day and we didn't defend successfully. I knew that the Serranillos and the finish would be tough. We counted on an attack from Aitor at the finish, and we weren't mistaken. The four seconds hurt us and will complicate things somewhat."

"The winner is still unknown, because Aitor is stronger in the time trials, but the leader's jersey gives strength, so anything can happen. It's a similar situation as last year when Sevilla was the leader and Casero won. I hope the same thing doesn't happen."

Victories may help extend iBanesto sponsorship

With José Vicente Garcia Acosta obtaining the team's fourth stage win in this year's Vuelta, the iBanesto.com team management are in a more positive frame of mind about the future of the team. The team's current contract expires in 2003, and at the start of the Vuelta, manager José Miguel Echavarri did not want to give his riders guarantees beyond that date. However according to Lavuelta.com, iBanesto chairperson Ana Patrica Botín could well be reconsidering the situation in the light of the team's success.

Who was Perdiguero working for?

Ready, set, go!
Photo: © Lavuelta.com
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The latest controversy in La Vuelta concerns the actions of the remaining Acqua e Sapone riders, in particular one Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero. The Spanish sprinter is also quite handy on the climbs, as he showed on La Covatilla yesterday and the Puerto de Navalmoral today when he attacked the chasing group in pursuit of Garcia Acosta.

His move on Stage 18, which looked as though he was leading out Heras in preparation for an attack on La Covatilla, provoked a fair bit of controversy and a lot of emails from readers with the question, "Why was Acqua e Sapone working for Heras?"

Such things do happen in cycling, where deals are struck on the road. One team will pay another team with no other ambitions to work for them, especially if both teams are weakened or up against very strong opposition. The three remaining Acqua e Sapone certainly had no GC ambitions, as Perdiguero was the best placed at 49th before the stage. US Postal were also weakened, with Chechu Rubiera and Christian Vandevelde the only riders left to help Heras.

Another alternative is that Acqua e Sapone were simply working against Kelme, as the team had caused a great deal of suffering in the race with their hard tempo riding. A third option is that Perdiguero wanted to gain the attention of Spanish national selector Francisco Antequera in order to make selection for the Spanish World's team. 11 (of 13) riders were named yesterday, with Perdiguero named as a reserve.

The twist is that Martin Perdiguero is a good friend of both Aitor Gonzalez and Roberto Heras. This prompted Kelme director Vicente Belda to comment yesterday that "It is sad that the best friend of Aitor played it this way."

Perdiguero explained yesterday's move in his column in Diario AS as follows: "I consider both Heras and Aitor as equal friends. I attacked on La Covatilla to try and win the stage and get rid of both of them. Did I annoy them? Leave me alone! I do not want to enter your war. But I did see that the best Spanish climber was Heras and the most complete rider and the one who is going to win the Vuelta is Gonzalez."

Later on he described his ambitions for the coming stages. "Today they gave me the list of the World Championships selection. And as I thought, I was a reserve. As always. That makes life very hard. In the end, only the good ones go. Although I do not lose hope, I have two days left to try to demonstrate that I deserve selection."

Stage 20: Avila - Warner Bros Park (S. Martín de la Vega), 141.2 km

Saturday's penultimate stage of La Vuelta will serve as the sprinters finale, due to the fact that Sunday's final stage is a 41 km time trial in Madrid. Those sprinters left in the race (and there are quite a few of them) should be sufficiently motivated not to let any breaks get too far away on this 141 km stage from Avila to the Warner Bros Park in San Martin de la Vega.

There are two categorised climbs en route, both third category. The first comes after only 15 km, the Alto de la Paramera and it's likely that Aitor Osa (iBanesto) will want to wrap up his mountains jersey there. The second, Alto Navas del Rey, is at km 68, approximately half way through the stage.

Join us tomorrow at 14:45 CEST/05:45 PDT/08:45 EDT/22:45 Aust. EST for live coverage of Stage 20.

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


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