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2002 Vuelta

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Vuelta News for September 17, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

No polemics for Saiz

ONCE team director Manolo Saiz says that there will be no internal team politics governing his team's leadership during the second half of the Vuelta. Currently the young and relatively inexperienced Isidro Nozal is at the top of the general classification, with team captain Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano holding down second place. In last year's Vuelta, Kelme was faced with a similar situation whereby Oscar Sevilla was the team captain but Aitor Gonzalez was the stronger rider in the end.

"Last year there were real polemics because Aitor González and Sevilla were not getting on, but that is not the case here," Saiz told Europa Press. "We've had the lead since the first day and we've won in three different specialties. The truth is that I'm very proud of my riders. They've delivered a great deal while being in a difficult situation.

As to who should take the role of ONCE's leader, Saiz was quoted as saying, "The debate is so stupid that you can't understand it. It's not even worth me commenting why in order to fill space in a newspaper. Because that doesn't do anyone any good. You can't convert the world of sport into a novel."

"Who is the leader? The leader is ONCE. It doesn't matter to me who wins. I don't have problems if one or another rider wins, or even a third if he is one of mine. It's something that people don't understand."

Saiz ruled out any internal conflict between Isidro Nozal and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano. "There are no problems with the character of Igor or that of Nozal. It is not correct to say that there is an internal problem and externally they are selling lies. There are people who can't live without creating polemics."

The ONCE director also defended the actions of Nozal on the descent of the Aubisque, when he had to chase down the break with Heras and co. as well as getting water bottles for Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano. "20 years ago we would speak of the 'epic' that a leader condescended to give water to a teammate who is working and another one who is thirsty. As the strongest rider, he takes advantage of this and helps his teammates. It's spoken of with contempt now, but the Bible says that we must feed the hungry and give drinks to the thirsty."

Biblical allusions aside, Manolo Saiz will try to guide his flock of yellow and black clad men through the second half of the Vuelta without too many hardships. There's still a long way to go until Madrid, but ONCE is still in the best position.

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