57th Vuelta a España
Spain, September 7- 29, 2002
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Stage 17 - September 25: Benavente - Salamanca, 145.6 km
Complete Live Report
Start time: 13:52 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:15 CEST
14:41 CEST 30 km/116 km to go
Welcome to Cyclingnews live coverage of today's fairly flat stage to Salamanca. It looks as though it should be one for the sprinters, but the very open terrain may allow crosswinds to split the race up.
The story so far: A group of a dozen riders got away in the early kilometres
and eleven of them are 50 seconds clear, with the bunch chasing hard under the
pressure from Fassa Bortolo team, whose Marco Velo was the twelfth of the attackers
but who was called back to help in the chase. In front we have Calcagni (Tacconi),
Astarloa (Saeco), Maestre (Relax), Grabsch (Phonak), Rafael Casero (Jazztel),
Edo (Maia), Bramati (Mapei), Piccoli (Lampre), De Los Angeles (Kelme), Bruylandts
(Domo) and Becke (Coast).
The weather is warm and clear without much chance of rain, but there are already crosswinds which are splitting the bunch into echelons. We've already seen the race break up dramatically on this kind of road, trapping some GC riders in the wrong half of the bunch. For the moment it appears that everybody who needs to be is in the front echelon, with Roberto Heras well backed up by teammates for once.
The group of attackers has also been split up by the wind and the effort, with
just Astarloa, Maestre, Bramati and Piccoli remaining; still it is Petacchi's
domestiques who are leading the chase. The first two echelons of the bunch have
come back together, but there are other riders in trouble behind.
Maestre continues his efforts alone, just 10 seconds or so in front, as the other three sit up. Erik Zabel is clearly trying to keep in the front of the group behind the Fassa Bortolo train.
15:08 CEST 53 km/93 km to go
Maestre's efforts do not last very long, but he is replaced by Mariano Piccoli
who reaches the first of the day's three points sprints at Torres de Carizal
ahead of the field, mopping up the six points. Alessandro Petacchi pips Erik
Zabel for second place and pulls back a couple of points in the competition
for the red and white jersey.
The first hour of racing was run off at 52 kph! The pace eases off a bit after Piccoli is caught, however.
15:30 CEST 67 km/79 km to go
At Zamora, the bunch takes the second points sprint and again it is Petacchi
who picks up a couple of points more than Erik Zabel, whose points competition
lead is down to 26.
In the streets of the town after the sprint there is an attack by Aggiano (Mapei)
and Ferrari (Tacconi) who get a lead of 20 seconds before they come back out
onto the straight, wide open roads again.
15:43 CEST 82 km/64 km to go
At the feed, the two leaders have extended their lead to around a minute, with the chase still led by the Fassa Bortolo team, but they are not going quite as hard as in the early parts of the stage. There are no more points on offer until 10 km from the finish, which may have something to do with it.
After the feed the crosswinds come into play again, and the bunch splits into
three echelons. Suddenly Fassa Bortolo have most of ONCE and team coast for
company,piling on the pressure. Roberto Heras looks to have only Matt White
for support in the front group.
The two leaders had 1.15 lead, but the acceleration behind is cutting into it fast.
15:59 CEST 100 km/46 km to go
The front two echelons come together again, just as the two leaders are caught, with Roberto Heras taking a turn on the front himself. There is still a group of thirty or forty riders who are a minute down, but the tempo in front has dropped off a bit and they look likely to come back. Not painlessly, though.
Cyclingnews diarist Danilo Di Luca is one of the riders caught the wrong side
of the gap again, but this time he and the rest get away with it and the bunch
comes back together, although the last few yards of the gap are hard to bridge.
A lot of US Postal vests move briskly forwards in the bunch.
The situation has settled down, with the whole bunch together and the Fassa Bortolo team back on the front riding tempo to discourage further attacks. The second hour of racing has been at a steadier 48.3 kph.
The Spanish press has been somewhat critical of the selection of what they see
as rather a weak US Postal team to support Heras. Certainly there have been
a few scares yesterday and today when the majority of them have been the wrong
side of a split in the bunch, leaving Heras dangerously exposed.
The other main topic of discussion in the Spanish press is the situation in the Kelme team, where not all seems to be roses between their two leaders; Oscar Sevilla apparently resents being pushed into a supporting role for Aitor Gonzalez.
16:26 CEST 110 km/36 km to go
A solo attack by Jazztel's Dario Gadeo, whose performances in this Vuelta suggest that he doesn't like riding in the bunch too much. He is right on the rivet, slogging an enormous gear, but has only got a few metres lead.
Gadeo doesn't last long but as he his caught his team-mate, Juan Carlos Guillamon, the surprise Spanish national champion, jumps away.
16:37 CEST 123 km/23 km to go
Guillamon is joined by Juan Antonio Flecha and Relax's Maestre. Neither the situation nor the terrain is particularly propitious, though, and it all comes to nothing. He has at least showed off his champion's vest.
16:45 CEST 131 km/15 km to go
A few attempts to break away get nowhere at all, with the Fassa train straight on their wheels. Zabel and Petacchi are riding side by side, with the final intermediate sprint coming up soon.
Lampre jerseys are also massing near the front; maybe Svorada feels as though he has the legs for it today.
16:53 CEST 136 km/10 km to go
The sprint at San Cristobal is not even contested, and the front of the Fassa train mop up the prizes, Velo, Zanette and Loda.
As they leave the village Jose Garcia Acosta tries to get clear but is mopped up in short order by the Fassa boys. Aitor Gonzalez and Roberto Heras are both well up just behind the Fassa train.
16:56 CEST 140 km/6 km to go
Fassa are down to four, with Francesco Casagrande setting the pace as the race descends in to Salamanca. There are a few Telekom vests just behind them, and it's starting to look nervous with quite a bit of pushing and shoving.
16:58 CEST 142 km/4 km to go
The bunch snakes after a few failed attempts at finisseur attacks. Telekom vests finally see the front after a day with nothing but white ones at showing
17:01 CEST 144 km/2 km to go
The pace is fairly quick but the bunch is not completely lined out and there is a lot of people managing to move up. A few tricky corners negotiated without problem. Zabel on Petacchi's wheel.
17:02 CEST Finish
A short finishing straight - Zabel comes off Petacchi's wheel - he has Petacchi beaten but Angelo Furlan (Alessio) comes off his wheel to steal it on the line - how many second places for Zabel now? Teutenberg takes fourth ahead of Glomser and Hauptman. The day's work for the Fassa Bortolo team has come to nothing.
There was a small split in the field after 19th place, with the rest losing 5 seconds, but all the GC contenders were behind the split so there will be no significant changes to GC today.
1 Angelo Furlan (Ita) Alessio 2.58.00
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom
3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
4 Sven Teutenberg (Ger) Phonak Hearing Systems
5 Gerrit Glomser (Aut) Saeco-Longoni Sport
6 Andrej Hauptman (Slo) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi
7 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Emmegi
8 Denis Zanette (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
9 Angel Edo (Spa) Milaneza-MSS
10 Jan Svorada (Cze) Lampre-Daikin
General classification after stage 17
1 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal Service 61.53.13
2 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 0.35
3 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 1.08
4 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski 1.57
5 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 2.16
6 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 3.56
7 Félix Garcia Casas (Spa) Bigmat.Auber 93 4.05
8 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport 4.55
9 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Team Coast 5.20
We'll be back tomorrow from 14.30 CET to cover the critical mountain stage
with a summit finish at the Covatilla ski station, where five second gaps will
be neither here nor there ...
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