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The second stage of Vuelta Ciclista a España 2002 started this morning with the signing time in the city of Valencia. The first rider to sign his name was 221 (HERAS HERNANDEZ Roberto), from US Postal, winner of Vuelta a España 2000. One of the favourite riders for the final triumph, has said that he feels confident and in a very good condition.
As regards this stage he has said that Alto de Portillol could produce several divisions in the peloton. It will be a very special day for 168 (SERRANO RODRIGUEZ Marcos Antonio), as he is thirty today.
The weather will be excellent all along the stage, the temperature outside is 30 degrees, it will be sunny and a light wind will be blowing from the West.
We expect many surprises today. The peloton will have difficulty controlling the race and the two mountain passes, Alto del Portillol, first category, and Alto El Revolcat, third category, which could produce several attempts to break and several riders left behind.
After just 12 kilometres: The first attempt to break of the day. Protagonists: 54 (CLAIN Médéric), 186 (NIETO FERNANDEZ German - Relax) and their advantage is around one minute.
Nieto Fernandez German has crossed the sprint of Alginet in the first position, after him 54 (CLAIN Médéric - Cofidis). They are alone at the head of the race and they seem to get on really well.
After 32 kilometres, the difference between the two riders ahead and the rest of the group is almost seven minutes.
After 40 kilometres, the difference between the riders up and the main group increases to 11:04.
The three first riders to cross the sprint of Alcudia were: 186 (NIETO FERNANDEZ German), 54 (CLAIN Médéric), and 153 (FERNANDEZ Victoriano - MSS). The average speed in this first hour of the stage has been 39.6 kilometres per hour.
After 45 kilometres: For the first time the difference between the two groups diminishes. The peloton are 10:40 behind 186 (NIETO FERNANDEZ German), and 54 (CLAIN Médéric).
USPS team director Johan Bruyneel added about Heras: "He did prepare in the Tour of Burgos, not like ONCE in a training camp. Looks like he is in good condition, did some checking of the important climbs of this Vuelta."
There are over 90 k. to ride to the finish line.
Maderic Clain is 26 years old - his best result so far this season was 9th in the Tour de Vendee - he was 9th in the GP Denain and had a good result in Paris Camembert Lepetit where he finished 6th in Vendee.
The bunch is taking their time, pedalling relaxed through the villages in warm Spain. Jan Hruska of the ONCE team is getting his teammates something to drink.
Nieto Fernandez German is ranked 1085th in the UCI listing - he has been quiet this season but last season finished fourth in the Setmana Catalana de Ciclismo, 9th in the Brixia tour and was 138th in the Vuelta Espana.
The gap is decreasing, the bunch still has 88 k. to do....88 k. with a climb and a little ascend in the final tour. ONCE is getting more and more apparent in the front of the bunch.
World Champion Freire said this morning, "This is one of stages forecasted to finish with a sprint, one of my best chances, however the profile of the stage is very demanding, with a 1st category climb 70 kilometres away from the finish line, with very few kilometres before reaching the finish. I hope the other sprinters break away and that a reduced group is formed, but I do not know what their form is, and I am not sure of mine either."
Igor Gonzales de Galdeano earlier got reacquinted with his countryman Jose Luis Chechu Rubiera.
Cipollini is riding this Vuelta as a preparation for his appearance in Zolder at the Worlds.
His team will be left without the Water and Soap (Acqua e Sapone) name on their jersey, but rumours tell it's possible that Cipo's personal friend and director from Renault, Italia Flavio Briattore, will join the cycling peloton and take over.
Among the 206 riders who make up the peloton of the Vuelta – taking into account the loss of Eddy Ratti from Mapei-Quick Step - none has taken the start in this year’s edition in both the Giro and the Tour, the two other big stage races. Last year, Spanish rider Jon Odriozola, iBanesto.com, was the only one to complete the three races. He finished 83rd in last year edition of the Vuelta.
Temperatures will be hot in the whole stage again. Temperatures will oscillate between 33ºC in the lower areas of the journey centre and 27ºC in the higher areas of the stage in the second half.
Another yellow team is trying to get to the front of the bunch...the accompanying policemen on motorbikes passing by the bunch...
The gap increased again, the two men in the front are now 10.18" ahead of the peloton.
The bunch though is getting more and more nervous when they get closer to the foot of today's climb.
The two leaders reached Vallada, the second bonus sprint of the day. The sprint is won by Nieto, second Clain.
The high temperatures have made the judges decide to allow another liquid refreshment point at the 40 kilometre to go point.
Today's climb is not an easy one, at the third and fourth k. being 11%.
Xavier Jan (winner of last year's Ster Elektrotoer and retiring at the end of this season) is suffering some problems at the end of the bunch. The bunch now is closing in very fast.
Zabel shows his face in the first lines of the peloton.
if Beloki were to hold onto the maillot amarillo from start to finish, he would follow in the footsteps of Tony Rominger - in 1994 he led the race from the start in Valladolid to the finish in Madrid, winning 6 stages.
There are a lot of Spaniards siding today's roads of the Vuelta.
The bunch reached the steeper part of the climb...all Spanish teams in the front.
The bunch stops; in the middle part of the bunch a few riders did not manage to continue riding leaving the ones behind them on foot.
Saeco's Di Luca is moving to the front, together with Casagrande of Fassa Bortoli.
Dario Pieri leaves the race. He suffered a bad day yesterday, so this does not really come as a surprise.
On the back of the bunch we too see the winner of this year's Giro d'Italia, Paolo Salvoldelli. Until the last moment the leaders of the Index-Alexia were not certain if they would let him start in Spain...seeing him suffer this much so early in the race makes one question if the decision made was the right one.
Casagrande is not riding as fast as he can, checking out the competition.
Dutch sprinter and now-climber Jeroen Blijlevens is now climbing side by side with the Italian Eagle Salvoldelli.
Belgian Domo rider Dave Bruylandts sure leaves a good impression so far, though he must be careful to not blow up his good legs, in a figurative way of speaking.
A shame for Dario Pieri, who won the GP E3 Harelbeke and was third in the Tour de Suisse this year - the first rider to abandon - but due to the parcours he will definitely not be the last - with so many favourites it could well be a war of attrition this year.
This year he gained a lot of race experience, so he (Bruylandts) will know without doubt what to do best.
Two men in the lead, a first group of about 70 riders and a second bigger group not that far behind.
Index-Alexia has their main riders Ivan Quaranta and Paolo Salvoldelli suffering in the back while other Italians Gilberto Simoni and even Mario Cipollini climb in the front. The two men in the escape reached the top of the climb.
Those we expected in the front, now do show up there: Simoni, Gonzales de Galdeano, Di Luca, Etxebarria...
It is unusual, but typical for the Vuelta organisers, to put such a climb in so early in the race - they have led the way for organising exciting races which the Giro organisers soon realised, but the Tour organisers have only just started to learn.
Two blonde Saecos in the front, the german one a natural; the colour of Di Luca's hair comes from a bottle of his brother who is a hairdresser.
El Portillol...the name of the climb. Current gap on the top of the El Portillol 5.44".
The gap of the two in the front is increasing...now it's up to the sprinters teams to try and close down the gap.
The last part of today's stage is in favour of breakaways, lots of turns helping to stay out of sight.
So around 65 kilometres to go, Concentaina and Alcoi will be final reference points, as the route finishes with a spectacular circuit along the climb to El Revolcat. The teams will have to try their best if they want to have their sprinters among the favourite group.
The Kelme riders at last got their August salaries, with a little help of the city of Valencia.
When the ONCEs yesterday were celebrating their win in the team trial with not champagne, but rose wine, their team manager Manolo Saiz was not present. Rumour says he was out trying to get for instance Oscar Sevilla in next year's team sponsored by the spanish lottery for the blind/ non-sighted.
Of the two escapee riders, Mederic Clain has the best position - he is in 46th position @ 26' so is in reality virtual maillot amarillo - although it would seem unlikely that he will keep his advantage to the finish. Nieto is 175th @ 1.31.
The breakaway reached the feedzone; Nieto welcomes the new drinks. Current gap 5.03".
The order over the El Portillol was: 54 (CLAIN Médéric), 186 (NIETO FERNANDEZ German), 184 (LAGUNA GARCIA Oscar), 62 (BRUYLANDTS Dave), 151 (MOLLER Claus Michael), 153 (FERNANDEZ Victoriano), 46 (KINTANA ZARATE Aitor), 52 (ATIENZA URENDEZ Daniel), 114 (GARRIDO José Antonio).
ONCE has (regardless of the result today) a reason to celebrate, one of their riders, Marcos Serrano, has his birthday today, celebrating his 30th.
The bunch is having its lunch too, with over 50 k. to race.
The ONCE at the front, sheer white rock faces reflecting the heat back onto the riders as Beloki has a little lunch.
Beloki is happy with yesterday's result, he said this was the best way to lose his frustration on what happened last year in the first stage.
Nieto, who looks like a Spanish Ludo Dierxksens, and has a similar gutsy riding style, and Clain take drinks from the motorcycle - they will need all the refrehments they can get if they want to hold onto their lead.
The reason why Gutierrez was allowed to cross the line first at yesterday's team time trial and not main men like Sevilla was because team leader Vincente Belda allowed the man from the region to show himself.
ONCE still at the front of the peloton, which seems to be setting a controlled pace - there is no panic yet.
Davide Bramati tries his chances, is surprised to not get any to accompany him, and rejoins the bunch again.
47 kilometres to go, the race is basically in three groups - the two leaders Nieto and Clain, the main peloton with most of the favourites and the last group containing Savoldelli, looking less like a Falcon and more like a duck today.
The gap still stays around about five minutes.
The average speed during this second hour has been 35.5 kilometres per hour, as the two escapees swoop down a descent throwing caution to the wind. They rush through the wooded descent, the sunlight dappled across their backs.
Mapei is working it's butt off for their sprinter, Spanish World Champion Oscar Freire, with Britain's Charles Wegelius at the head of affairs.
Freire is planning to quit this Vuelta before the real mountains like the Angliru have to be climbed, and prepare himself for the Worlds in Zolder.
It is still not certain where the Spaniard will ride next year, he is asking too much for CSC.
Tomorrow at the start there will be one less Cofidis jersey, because Medric Clain will wear the best climber's jersey. In tomorrow's stage there are no real mountains, so he probably will be capable of keeping the jersey one more day.
3 hours of racing - two escapees - Mapei leading the peloton - and the climb of the Alto El Revolcat looming ahead. The lead 4'20", about 40 kilometres to go.
The number of Clain can't be put on his bike at the regular place near the handle bars, the frame is too little, so it goes on the back, under the saddle.
Still 27 k. to go for the two brave men in the lead.
Wegelius leads the bunch with Martin (I dyed my hair the wrong way) Derganc. (It's blue-ish-green-white-like.)
Gap down to 3.30, the group of Quaranta and Savoldelli about 1.30" behind the main group.
Meanwhile, hairdressing tips aside, the peloton is beginning to look like one long string as the speed picks up - Mapei, Acqua and Telekom, all with men at the front - while the two escapees are beginning to dig deep to hold onto their lead.
At the finish temps still are 30 degrees celsius or more.
The two leaders are near the 3 k. to go point...but when they reach the finish line they still have a lap of 27 k. to overcome. So does the bunch with Erik Zabel and Oscar Freire awaiting their chances.
Martin Derganc (Acqua) abd Charles Wegelius (Mapei) are doing great work at the front of the peloton for their team leaders, with the Telekom boys looming ominously near the front for Zabel.
Zabel has Schaffrath and Aldag working for him.
The two escapees cross the finish line for the first time as they begin the circuit - huge crowds enjoying the sunshine and atmosphere.
Schaffrath (nicknamed Schaffi) is a protegee of Godefroot and broke his breastbone in the same fall in Milan-San Remo where Erik Dekker broke his leg.
Aldag has to ride this Vuelta without his truest German fan by his side, so we will see no photos made by her of this Vuelta on her internet site www.radsportphotos.de.
There are masses of Spaniards lining the roads in this last lap.
Telekom and Mapei leading the bunch, setting the pace.
The gap down to 1'10", the game looks over for the escapees today, as the road starts to go upwards - still Wegelius leads the peloton - an awesome effort.
Savoldelli and Co. have lost 9.36" so far, with another 27 kilometres to ride. The "group Savoldelli" consists of about thirty riders.
Gap down to one minute and five seconds.
Bramati is still working his guts off in the front.
20 kilometres to go, still a bit more than 2 climbing k.
45 seconds the gap.
Some riders trying to make a difference, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano sneaking along.
The bunch can almost see the two brave men in the front, closing the gap with high pace.
It looks quite a tough climb since it is only classified as a cat 3 - the peloton one long coloured ribbon up the mountain side - while a Jazztell rider, Dario Gadeo -
Six men in the lead.
All together now again, Clain still in the lead, having found his second or third pair of legs.
But the attack has failed and the escapees are brought back into the peloton - everyone is together except for those in the Falcon's group.
Azevedo, Millar, Cuesta showing their jerseys.
The two in the breakaway completed the 116 k. in the front. Now Euskaltel's David Etxebarria takes over the command.
He is accompanied Bij Noval.
Benjamin Noval from the Relax-Fuenlabrada team, a teammate of German Nieto who coloured this stage.
Etxebarria is one of the smallest, tiniest men in the bunch. He already won two stages in the Tour. One victory there gave him a new pet, he won a cow and took the animal home with him to the Spanish part of the Basque country.
They have got a 9 second gap on the peloton.
The bunch is descending fast, trying to retrieve the two in the lead; the gap now is only 6".
The gap has risen to 15'' now - it is a desperate effort but just may well catch the peloton off guard.
Current gap 20". Some say even 27".
The windy descent is to the escapees' advantage - the peloton cannot build up a head of steam - but as the roads flatten out the peloton should gain the advantage.
Some more riders trying to close the gap, amongst them Azevedo and Sevilla and Valverde and Carlos Torrente.
10 kilometres to go - the peloton one long line - Sevilla's move is bold and daring!
Kelme is trying to give their big boss and main sponsor (coming from the region where the finish line is painted on the street) a present. Current gap is 11 seconds.
Sevilla has 15 seconds to close to the leading position.
In overall he is 15" behind Beloki.
All credit to ONCE who have marked out the move with the excellent Azevedo - but they have to catch the front two men yet.
The two in the front are 7 seconds ahead of the group Sevilla, who in their turn have a lead of 11 seconds on the bunch. 6 k. to go.
6 km to go as Noval and Extebarria still lead the race.
The group Sevilla is increasing his lead on the bunch, Sevilla now virtual in the golden jersey.
No, Azevedo surely!!!!!
The group Sevilla reached the two men in the front.
4 kilometres to go, the gap 22".
The bunch is now like a wild herd of cows, working its way to its prey.
So 6 men in the front, 3k's to go, the lead is down to 18 seconds. Flecha and Botero escaping the bunch.
Juan Antonio Flecha, born in Argentina but now resident in Spain, is not giving in. The Zebra men lead the peloton for Cipollini - the gap is falling.
iBanesto.com wants this win too, still 2 k. to race.
The Spaniards in this race are not helping each other, riding for their own win.
Freire must be feeling great, with his team working so hard for him.
Last kilometre. Under the Flamme Rouge!
What will Petacchi of Fassa Bortolo do? Saeco take up the lead out. Zabel moves to the front. Di Luca wins! Zabel came too late.
Saeco got what they worked for. The peloton look exhausted! It's the fourth (correction: seventh) win of Di Luca this season.
His first win was the Trofeo Laguilla.
Zabel is left a bike length behind by Di Luca.
1º 194 Danilo Di Luca ITA SAE 3:59:35
2º 211 Erik Zabel ALE TEL m.t.
3º 171 Oscar Camenzind SUI PHO m.t.
4º 152 Angel Edo ESP MIL m.t.
5º 203 Paolo Bossoni ITA TAC m.t.
6º 83 Nicola Loda ITA FAS m.t.
7º 161 Joseba Beloki ESP ONE m.t.
8º 125 Aitor Gonzalez ESP KEL m.t.
9º 115 Juan Guillamon ESP JAZ m.t.
10º 56 Massimiliano Lelli ITA COF m.t.
11º 11 Santos Gonzalez ESP ACQ m.t.
12º 103 Giuseppe Di Grande ITA INA m.t.
13º 99 Aitor Osa ESP BAN m.t.
14º 96 Pablo Lastras ESP BAN m.t.
15º 62 Dave Bruylandts BEL DFF m.t.
16º 35 Vladimir Miholjevic CRO ALS m.t.
17º 111 Rafael Casero ESP JAZ m.t.
18º 97 Francisco Mancebo ESP BAN m.t.
19º 201 Peter Luttenberger AUT TAC m.t.
20º 151 Klaus Möller DIN MIL m.t.
21º 191 Gilberto Simoni ITA SAE m.t.
22º 162 Igor Glez. Galdeano ESP ONE m.t.
23º 188 Jose Luis Rebollo ESP REL m.t.
24º 81 Francesco Casagrande ITA FAS m.t.
25º 41 Félix Garcia Casas ESP BIG m.t.
26º 31 Pietro Caucchioli ITA ALS m.t.
27º 187 Benjamín Noval ESP REL m.t.
28º 126 José Gutierrez ESP KEL m.t.
29º 153 Vitoriano Fernandez ESP MIL m.t.
30º 122 Santiago Botero COL KEL m.t.
31º 155 Fabian Jeker SUI MIL m.t.
32º 112 Dario Gadeo ESP JAZ m.t.
33º 79 Haimar Zubeldia ESP EUS m.t.
34º 123 Juan José De Los Angeles ESP KEL m.t.
35º 218 Alexandre Vinokourov KAZ TEL m.t.
36º 163 José Azevedo POR ONE m.t.
37º 1 Angel Casero ESP COA m.t.
38º 118 Carlos Torrent ESP JAZ m.t.
39º 141 Oscar Freire ESP MAP m.t.
40º 46 Aitor Kintana ESP BIG m.t.
41º 169 Mikel Zarrabeitia ESP ONE m.t.
42º 154 Joan Horrach ESP MIL m.t.
43º 192 Igor Astarloa ESP SAE m.t.
44º 87 Tadej Valjavec SLO FAS m.t.
45º 59 Guido Trentin ITA COF m.t.
46º 168 Marcos Serrano ESP ONE m.t.
47º 39 Mauro Zanetti ITA ALS m.t.
48º 9 David Plaza ESP COA m.t.
49º 176 Oscar Pereiro ESP PHO m.t.
50º 177 Benoit Salmon FRA PHO m.t.
51º 156 Rui Lavarinhas POR MIL m.t.
52º 67 Koos Moerenhout HOL DFF m.t.
53º 65 Andrey Kashechkin KAZ DFF m.t.
54º 127 Jesus Maria Manzano ESP KEL m.t.
55º 221 Roberto Heras ESP USP m.t.
56º 181 Nacor Burgos ESP REL m.t.
57º 91 Juan Miguel Mercado ESP BAN m.t.
58º 3 Manuel Beltran ESP COA m.t.
59º 51 David Millar GBR COF m.t.
Overall General Classification (Provisional)
1º 161 BELOKI, Joseba ESP ONE 4:25:56
2º 162 GLEZ. GALDEANO, Igor ESP ONE m.t.
3º 163 AZEVEDO, José POR ONE m.t.
4º 169 ZARRABEITIA, Mikel ESP ONE m.t.
5º 168 SERRANO, Marcos ESP ONE m.t.
6º 166 JAKSCHE, Jörg GER ONE m.t.
7º 221 HERAS, Roberto ESP USP a 14
8º 228 VANDEVELDE, Christian USA USP a 14
9º 222 RUBIERA, José Luis ESP USP a 14
10º 125 GONZALEZ, Aitor ESP KEL a15
Post Race Comment: Beloki tells they knew today's stage would be a difficult one, with those climbs. He was not surprised Sevilla attacked and expected more of these things today. He was impressed by the way Saeco rode today and too is impressed by the way Heras is racing.
Additional race news!
Mark Wauters Belgian champion of time trial, Bortolami wins Romagna! And Gerolsteiner's Uwe Peschel wins Hessen; Gerolsteiner's Torsten Schmidt second, Gerolsteiner's Torsten Hieckmann third.
So thanks for reading today, we are sure you have all learnt a lot about the stage and hairstyles!
Tomorrow will be another exciting day:
High speed and a final sprint will probably be the main characteristics in the third day. A mainly flat route, almost downhill during the last stretch and not many kilometres describe this stage that could be even a bit dangerous because the teams will want to be at the front of the peloton so as not let any break away.
Murcia has welcomed the Vuelta a España since 1935. That year Cardona was the winner. Last year we reached Murcia from Alcoi, after having covered 153.3 kilometres.
The victory was achieved by Thomas Konecny, leaving David Etxebarría and Angel Edo just behind him. Murcia has been the city where riders such as Tom Steels, Henn, Martinello or Murga succeeded in different years. In 1996, Vuelta a España started in Murcia, and Errandonea turned out to be the winner of the first time trial of that year.
So thanks again for reading, and it is goodbye from Anita and Pod!