Vuelta a España Cycling News for August 30, 2006
Edited by John Stevenson & John Kenny, with reporting from Shane Stokes
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Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of
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as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe
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Vuelta stage 4 wrap-up
Zabel at last!
Erik Zabel (Milram, left) wins
Photo ©: AFP
Milram's Erik Zabel was first across the line in the fourth stage of
the Vuelta a espana, a 142km dash from Almendralejo to Cáceres through
gently rolling country near the east coast. Another scorching hot day,
with temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s Celsius, peaked with Zabel
out-sprinting race leader Thor Hushovd Crédit Agricole) and Jean-Patrick
Nazon (AG2R) in an uphill finish that clearly suited the German's combination
of fast legs and climbing competence.
Zabel credited his Milram team-mates with helping him to the win, "above
all Sacchi, Ongarato, Velo and Petacchi too. They have been fantastic."
With a stage win to finally add to his tally of second and third places
this year, Zabel said he wants "to finish this Vuelta a Espana because
I love this race and because I think it's the better race to prepare the
Looking forward to that event, in Austria on September 24, Zabel added,
"I think that the course in Salzburg is perfect for riders such as Bettini
and Di Luca, but I think it's good for me too. I think the course is similar
to the world championship in Lisbon [in 2001]."
As well as winning the stage, Zabel appeared to have mastered a language
in four hours, telling a journalist before the race that he didn't speak
English but then holding his post-race press conference in that very tongue!
The day's only significant breakaway consisted of lone rider Raúl García
De Mateo (Relax-Gam) who escaped after just a few kilometres of racing
and stayed away until 16km to go. It was a typical flat-stage 'suicide
break' and was followed immediately by an escape by De Mateo's team-mate
Jorge García. But the peloton was having none of it and AG2R, Davitamon
and Crédit Agricole took the front to keep García's advantage to no more
than 20 seconds.
See also Full results,
report & photos,
and live report from
Valverde will put up a fight
By Antonio J. Salmerón
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Unipublic
Alejandro Valverde is ready to put up a fight on La Covatilla, today's
first major climb of the Vuelta. The Caisse d'Epargne-IB leader told Cyclingnews
that the hot weather and mountainous terrain should suit him.
Valverde abandoned hope of a high overall finish on la Covatilla in 2004
but said that this year would be different. "In 2004, the timing of this
stage was very different from today's edition. In 2004, La Covatilla climb
was more decisive, because it was in the final part of the Vuelta. I also
had an accident in the first week on the stage to Caravaca, Murcia.
"This time is also different because I am in form and will be ready to
fight. I also did not yield much time to the pure climbers in 2004 [just
over two minutes - Ed]."
There are other decisive climbs to come says Valverde, "I believe that
the following stages should be more decisive for the general classification:
El Morredero and La Cobertoria, especially the latter.
"The Morredero does not hold any particular fear for me. I won there
in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon. This first week will be very important
to the final outcome. But, the stages to come will be more decisive.
The climb of La Pandera in the final week is very hard, although it animates
me because I also won there. Calar Alto will also dictate the outcome
of this Vuelta".
Valverde said that there are a number of rivals to worry about other
than defending champion Dennis Menchov and Andre Vinokourov. "I do not
discard anybody: Menchov, Iban Mayo, Haimar Zubeldia, Tom Danielson,
Vinokourov, Andrei Kashechkin…, without forgetting a possible surprise.
I do not know how Vinokourov's form is and how he will respond in the
mountains, but I know Menchov very well. I fear him in the mountains.
On the other hand, after my improvement in the race against the clock,
I know that I can be near them."
The weather has not affected Valverde, who lives in Murcia in the south
of Spain, to the same extent as some other riders. "Personally, I feel
very well, physically and mentally. It is with great hopes that I will
face the first mountains.
"It will be the first occasion that I can get an idea of the state
of form of my rivals! The heat that accompanied us until now has made
these first stages harder and more difficult to manage than we expected
them to be when started in Málaga."
Horner: "Sastre is the only guy focused on winning"
By Shane Stokes
Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
After three days of the 2006 Vuelta, Davitamon Lotto rider Chris Horner
has noticed that one general classification rider is a lot more focused
than his rivals thus far. "So far everyone seems very calm. The only person
who is racing like he is focused on winning this thing is Carlos Sastre.
There are a lot of favourites out there, by all means, but he is the only
guy who is really concentrating. He is racing here like he would at the
Tour - he is at the front the whole time, not taking any risks.
"I'm not sure if that is really necessary, given the way things have
been going here, but he is the only guy who is doing that. The whole CSC
team is fully behind him, that is for sure."
When Cyclingnews caught up with Horner this morning, the American and
several other riders were sheltering from the sun under an orange tree.
Needless to say, the heat was the first topic of conversation. "It is
crazy hot here," he said with a smile. "It was 41 yesterday, we were out
there in that day and everyone was creeping. At the end, we were all thrashed
just from going through 20 bottles each…that was a lot of fluids.
"We really felt it in the evening. Actually, if you just sat out on the
beach in that heat for the same length of time you would be tired! You
just couldn't keep up with what you needed, fluid wise. We had a couple
of guys working on the front, and at one point I thought that one of them
was going to pass out!"
Wednesday's stage will see the riders tackle the first big mountains
of the race. They will climb to the summit finish at the La Covatilla
ski station, an altitude of 1,960 metres. Horner admitted that he is in
the dark as to how he will get on. "I am not sure how I am set for tomorrow.
We will see... We haven't really done anything hard enough to know what
to expect. I felt good at the finish the day before yesterday, but yesterday
I felt terrible at the end. But I think everyone felt that way yesterday.
"It is my first two days of racing since the Tour…hopefully the legs
open up really soon (laughs). It is not like the Tour where you have eight
or nine days to open up the legs and find some form - here you need to
find the form right away, or maybe you will be just racing for stage wins.
Anyway, if the form doesn't come for tomorrow, hopefully it comes later
on and I can go for a stage or something."
Millar: Stage wins likely target
By Shane Stokes
Scottish rider David Millar is clearly coming into some good form, as
evidenced by his cheeky last kilometre attack on stage three of the Vuelta.
The Saunier Duval rider was caught inside the final kilometre but vowed
to try again during the race.
"I felt good yesterday at the end," he told Cyclingnews this morning
at the start in Almendralejo's Avenida de la Paz. "I had felt good the
day before so I figured out that I may as well do something, but the bunch
was going a bit quick [to stay away]. I almost crashed into that motorbike
as well…that was a bit dangerous.
"The run in wasn't too bad, it was just those last two corners that were
risky. It wouldn't have been too bad but the motorbike misjudged it and
cut the apex, which made me go right out. I was already on the limit so
I honestly thought I was going to crash.
"I was really pleased with Frank [Francisco José Ventoso - ed.], he did
a good sprint. The team were awesome, they covered everything. I am feeling
good so far. I just keep feeling better [as time passes]. I am very happy
where I am. I am not deliberately chasing form right now, so it is a good
sign that it is coming despite that."
Although the team has José Angel Gomez Marchante as a possible GC contender,
it is not sure whether the team will concentrate on him or chase stages.
"Marchante is our climber so we will see how he gets on. But I think we
are more taking an opportunistic approach, going for stages and stuff.
We ride well together - as you can see yesterday, the team effort on the
whole was brilliant.
"Now Frank will be more respected as a sprinter, so that should make
it easier for him to be up there when he is trying to get placed [before
the sprint], not being knocked off wheels or anything."
Millar moved to the team after his ban ended this June and said that
it is very different to his former setup at Cofidis. "I am used to a French
team and obviously being on a Spanish team is really different. They are
so laid back and relaxed, but when it comes to the actual race they are
really disciplined, once you are out on the road. It is funny the way
they switch…they are very relaxed and then boom, they are totally switched
on and really professional. It is really good."
Now that he is racing again and fully motivated, he is planning on moving
closer to the team [and the sun]. He is currently living in Manchester
but that will change soon. "I am going to move to Girona at the end of
the year," he said, "in November or December. It is time I got back over
here, it is better for training. There are lots of guys to train with
there. The team are based in Santander so I will be a lot closer to them
Kemps settling in nicely
By Shane Stokes
Another rider who would very much like to get up on a stage of this race
is first year pro Aaron Kemps. The 22 year old Australian has shown good
form in recent weeks and said that he is not afraid to fight it out alongside
more established sprinters.
"I am hoping to get up there in the sprints on a couple of days, although
the last two days have been pretty fast," said the Astana rider. "Yesterday
was a little bit slower at the end than the first day, but it was a lot
more hectic. Because it was a bit slower I think a lot more riders were
trying to get up there to the front and stay up there, but two days ago
the finish was really fast.
"Hopefully I can up there and get a top five, top ten in the next couple
of days anyway. This is my first big Tour so I was a little bit nervous
heading into it. I wasn't even really sure if I was going to race here,
it was a last minute sort of thing. But I have had pretty good form lately,
landing a win a couple of weeks ago and being in the top ten heaps in
the last two months. I am not scared to mix it with the best.
"The victory was in the Vuelta a Burgos. It was good to get the win under
my belt but I am still only 22, so I was pretty happy with that. I got
second on a stage of the Vuelta Catalunya behind Bennatti, so… I am not
scared to go for it against the best sprinters. When you get older you
start winning a lot more too, so that is promising."
Fantasy Vuelta - Still time to join and win!
One pair of BBB Winner Quickstep
Photo ©: BBB
One pair of HED Bastogne
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10 sets of Maxxis Courchevel
Photo ©: Maxxis
Three sets of Speedplay CSC
Photo ©: Speedplay
$200 worth of Sockguy socks
Photo ©: Sockguy
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The first four winners of daily
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Daily Stage Prize winners
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Stage 2 winner - team The Empire (Manager - Zeeman, AUS)
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The Fantasy Cyclingnews Team
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)