Good afternoon and welcome to the final stage of the Vuelta a Espana 2002. Be sure to refresh this page (F5) to view the latest results.
It is sunny and hot for the riders today, between 27ºC and 29ºC, as they ride through the streets of Madrid on this 41.2km course. The course begins at Warner Bros. Park and ends at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
The departure order of the riders has this race's strong men - Mayo, Beloki, Sevilla, Gonzalez and Heras - starting last.
There are three checkpoints, at km 12, km 24 and km 35.
Becke from Coast has the best time so far at the 35 km checkpoint.
206 riders started this contest three weeks ago; there are 132 riders remaining.
The "fight" between 221 (HERAS HERNANDEZ Roberto), and 125 (GONZALEZ JIMENEZ Aitor), will be more than exciting; thousands and thousands of people have gathered in Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to see these great protagonists arrive at the finish line located there.
Best times so far at the 12km check point:
1º Becke 14:34
2º Zabriskie a 12
3º Van_Goolen a 15
4º Reiss a 19
5º Wegelius a 27
6º Pradera a 31
7º J.I. Gutiérrez a 32
Best times at the 24km check are:
1º Becke 28:43
2º Zabriskie a 14
3º Bartko a 28
4º Wegelius a 47
5º Van Goolen a 51
6º Hernández a 1:13
At the 35.5 km check:
1º Becke 42:56
2º Zabriskie a 28
3º Van Goolen a 1:32
4º Hernández a 1:58
5º Vinale a 2:20
6º Spruch a 3:00
7º Teutenberg a 3:18
Best finishes so far:
1º Becke 50:37
2º Zabriskie a 40
3º Vinale a 2:42
4º Teutenberg a 3:57
5º Spruch a 3:57
6º Nieto a 4:28
7º Sivakov a 4:35
So Daniel Becke, the Coast rider, has posted the best time so far - as he was 128th overall it will not affect the GC too much - but it is still a good bench mark to judge the other riders.
As No. 122, Santiago Botero, sets off - this will be an important indicator to the Colombian's form for the World Championships in Zolder - he should prove to be the strongest rider of the early departures, and it will be very interesting to see what sort of time he posts.
Enormous crowds have been gathered outside the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium since 10 o'clock this morning, with cycling fans queuing to pick up the final tickets to see the final of the Vuelta, which began today at 14.00.
The success of the final stage seems guaranteed, given the presence of touts outside the stadium yesterday re-selling tickets. With no tickets remaining, an enormous crowd is is guaranteed inside the 75,000 capacity stadium.
The organisation of the race has installed a synthetic track that covers the stadium's football pitch and which the riders will cross to reach the finish line, situated below the Club Box.
The final will count with the presence of Pilar del Castillo, Spanish Minister of Culture, José María Alvarez del Manzano, Mayor of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, Esperanza Aguirre, President of the Senate, Juan Antonio Gómez Angulo, Spanish State Secretary of Sport and Florentino Pérez, President of Real Madrid. The final awards ceremony will also take place within the stadium.
Botero is setting new standards as we might have expected - he is the fastest over 12 km @ 14:16 - that is 18 seconds faster than the leader so far, Becke.
Now Ruberia comes to the starting ramp - the faithful gregario to Heras has, by his own admission, not had the best of races - but he is a gallant and popular rider.
The end of the Vuelta, to take place in Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, will not be the first occasion on which the sports of football and cycling have joined forces.
In 1942, as a result of the economic difficulties of the period, the race organisers (the Informaciones de Madrid newspaper) suggested to various football clubs that they create their own cycling clubs and paid their expenses.
The Real Club Deportivo Español and the Futbol Club Barcelona already existed in 1941, which were joined in 1942 by the Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña, with Julian Berrendero, Fermin Trueba and Delio Rodríguez.
The remaining Spanish cyclists who were unable to join these three leading clubs were grouped together in five commercial teams; Cinzano, Byass, Michelin, etc.
Meanwhile the eyes of Europe, and I suppose in these technological ages the cycling world, will be looking at three men Sevilla, Gonzalez and Heras, as they will undertake the most important hours of cycling of their lives - it is a classic Contre la Montre duel - speed must be supplemented with nerve, concentration and ultimately a little luck - imagine the agony of losing a race like this by way of a puncture or broken chain...
Today our heroes are not only convicts of the road but also prisoners of time and lady luck...
Just to remind ourselves of the top 5 going into the final stage:
1. HERAS, Roberto ESP USP 74:24:50
2. GONZALEZ, Aitor ESP KEL a 1:08
3. SEVILLA, Oscar ESP KEL a 1:45
4. BELOKI, Joseba ESP ONE a 2:09
5. MAYO, Iban ESP EUS a 4:15
Botero keeps the pressure on. At the 24km point he has increased his lead - he passes in 28.14, 29 seconds faster than Becke.
What a marvellous race the Kelme team have had - leading the team competition and with two riders in the top three - it has been a terrific performance - don't forget to read the interview with Laudelino Cubino by Herman van Iterson on our Vuelta hub page - a fascinating account of the Kelme team.
When Cubino was asked about the best every Kelme riders he said, "Very difficult of course. Kelme always has had very great riders, mostly climbers. But if I have to name three I would say: Fabio Parra (the Colombian, once third in the Tour), Fernando Escartin (also once third in the Tour and still riding with Team Coast) and Roberto Heras (winner of the Vuelta in 2000 and living close by Bejar in Candelario)."
I wonder now whether he will evaluate that assesment after the marvellous riding of Gonzalez and Sevilla in this race?
The rider who has worn the leader's golden jersey for the most days during this Vuelta, Oscar Sevilla, celebrates his 26th birthday today, a very young age for a rider who has already experienced many joys and disappointments during his short sporting career.
The Kelme-Costa Blanca rider has yet to win a race this season (he was second in the Classic of the Alps and third in the Naranco Hill Climb and the Vuelta de los Puertos), but his cycling curriculum is already full of interesting information.
Last year saw him almost win the Vuelta de España, being beaten on the final day by Angel Casero. At the tender age of 23, Sevilla first surprised the cycling world with a victory in a difficult stage of the Tour of Romandy in 1999.
The following year saw him obtain two further victories: in the Manual Galera Memorial and in the Luis Ocaña Trophy. However, his enormous capacity as a professional cyclist was demonstrated during the 2001 Tour de France, in which he finished seventh and winner of the best young rider category.
KM 35.5 - Botero passes the check point at 42.16 - that is 40 seconds faster than the best rider so far, Daniel Becke.
Botero enters the Santiago Bernabeu to post the fastest time so far - 49.49 - the bench mark for others to follow.
So the results so far are:
1º Botero 49:49
2º Becke a 48
3º Zabriskie a 1:28
4º Reiss a 1:42
5º Bartko a 1:46
Great ride by Botero, whose teammate Carlos Garcia is now on the road.
Certainly the Kelme Directeurs Sportif, Vincent Belda and José Labarta, must be very pleased with the performance of their team.
The team lined up at the start of the race like this - Kelme-Costa Blanca: 121. Oscar Sevilla, 122. Santiago Botero, 123. Juan Jose De Los Angeles, 124. Carlos Garcia, 125. Aitor Gonzalez, 126. Jose Gutierrez, 127. Jesus Manzano, 128. Antonio Tauler, 129. Alejandro Valverde.
Only Valverde has retired - a tremendous performance.
Erik Zabel is on the road now. The Telekom man secured the points jersey yesterday ahead of Petacchi and Aitor Gonzalez - another great ride by "Ete" - who will now be looking for glory in the Worlds.
Zabel finishes 5.22 behind Botero, who still leads the race. "Ete" will be pleased to get the points jersey.
Cioni arrives at the stadium - it is a magnificent sight - packed to the rafters with fans - totally spectacular. A worthy grandstand finish to this great race.
Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) in 11th place overall, now leaves the starting ramp - the tension is building as we get closer to the top men starting - one can only imagine the nerves they are feeling...
Now Beltran, in the yellow and black Coast colours, leaves.
Now Casero (Coast), last year's winner, sets off. He may well jump over Simoni in the overall if he has a good time trial.
Simoni sets off - resplendent in Saeco blood red colours...
Heras considers the key to this time trial to be in the first few kilometres - which will make the 12 km check very interesting. Certainly no one has challenged Botero's time - yet.
Casagrande, who lost the Giro d'Italia on a time trial, sets off. He will be hoping to do a good time and jump over Garcia Casas into 6th place.
Casagrande passes the rides and amusements of Warner Brothers Park - it is a strange sight indeed...
Garcia Casas sets off - one of the last times we will ever see the Big Mat colours in action. It is always sad when a team pull out of sponsorship, and one hopes that cycling, by staging events such as this, will once again become attractive to sponsors.
Certainly the Vuelta is a race that has gained stature every year recently - indeed it is probably the most popular stage race with the European fans.
Now Beloki sets off. 2.09 down on GC, he will be looking for a superhuman effort and a falter from his rivals to move up the GC.
Now Sevilla, 1.45'' down on Heras, starts the race - he will be fighting for a place on the podium against Beloki and Heras.
Sevilla has started quickly - out of the saddle on the small inclines...
Now Gonzalez - the tension is tangible - he must be completely focused and determined if he is going to wear the gold jersey at the end of this race.
Heras, all in Gold. 4 3 2 1 he sets off - the last man has left - the race will soon be decided.
He has the advantage of knowing what his rivals have done - he has a solid disc rear wheel.
Sevilla - PUNCTURES!!!
He has a good bike change but has clearly lost precious time.
Sevilla is off his bike again!!! He throws it on the ground in frustration - he looks distraught and angry - not a good start for Sevilla.
Casero is second fastest so far at km 12 - just 9 seconds down on Botero.
Gonzalez is looking smooth and focused - clocking 64 km/h, he swoops through the small chicane.
Beloki is second fastest at the 12 km. Gonzalez has gained 20 seconds so far on Heras.
Casero comes to the 24 km point - he is fastest - Casero the fastest man at the 24km point, so far...
Gonzalez has increased his lead on Heras to 29 seconds - is the race slipping away from Heras? Or can he make a supreme effort as the race continues?
Gonzalez is the fastest man so far at the 12 km point - he has been gaining 2 seconds a kilometre on Heras so far. Heras now 33 seconds down on Gonzalez.
So the 12 km check - final:
1º A. Gonzaléz 14:03
2º Botero a 13
3º Beloki a 20
4º Casero a 22
5º S. González a 28
6º Tauler a 29
7º Becke a 31
8º Casagrande a 32
9º Heras a 33
10º Möller a 35
Gonzalez looking very smooth - no silly shouting from his team car - a concentrated effort. He has now gained 43 seconds on Heras...
Heras, shoulders rocking, is putting in maximum effort, but Gonzalez looks smooth and seems to waste no effort. He has a beautiful controlled style.
Gonzalez has now gained 47'' on Heras - the man in gold is out of the saddle trying to get more speed from his machine. It is agonising to watch.
Meanwhile Beloki through the 24 km mark in 5th place - he will be hoping to jump over Sevilla and onto the podium.
Gonzalez has got a lead on Heras of 1.09'' and is now virtual gold on the road.
Gonzalez is 27 seconds fastest at the 24 kilometre point. He is riding himself into the history books - 1.17 now the gap on Heras.
Heras now approaches the 24 km point - the gap between him and gonzalez is now 1.23. Heras seems to be slowing as Gonzalez powers on.
WOW! Gonzalez just flies past Sevilla - if ever there was any proof needed that Kelme were right to support Gonzalez that is it - Gonzalez has caught and flown by Sevilla.
24 km Final check:
1º A. Gonzaléz 27:38
2º Casero a 27
3º Botero a 36
4º S. González a 48
5º Plaza a 51
6º Beloki a 52
7º Tauler a 58
8º Becke a 1:05
9º Mayo a 1:12
10º Casagrande a 1:19
11º Möller a 1:19
12º Zabriskie a 1:19
13º Heras a 1:23
Meanwhile in the football stadium the position is:
1º Plaza 49:39
2º Botero a 10
3º S. González a 42
4º Becke a 58
5º Tauler a 1:00
6º Zabriskie a 1:38
7º Möller a 1:39
As Casero comes in 50.2 km/h - Casero is the leader of the time trial so far, 49.17 - 22 seconds faster than Plaza.
1.47 the gain of Gonzalez on Heras - it is an awesome powerful performance by Gonzalez.
Gonzalez now has 2.05'' on Heras - I'm sure his fans in Zumarraga will be going wild in the Tapas bars as they watch this race in Sunny Spain. They will have been out on their bikes this morning and will now surely be comparing the smooth style of Gonzalez with another famous Spaniard - Miguel Indurain.
Casagrande does gain a place on Garcia Casas and moves up to 6th place.
Mayo comes into the stadium - he finishes 6th - and should hold onto his place on GC.
Beloki approaches the Stadium - he is giving it everything. He finishes in 4th spot and it was a super effort.
Heras now 2.40'' down on Gonzalez - the Kelme rider approaches the stadium. The crowd is going wild - a HUGE roar from the huge crowd!!!!!!!!
He is first on the stage and will surely be first in the GC.
Sevilla comes in 11th fastest - he has lost his podium place. Only Heras left on the road...
The race of truth is cruel and unforgiving - there is no place to hide...no team mates for support, no allies to call on - man and machine versus clock. Heras is making a valiant effort at the end of the race but he knows it will not be enough...
It is 32 years since the Vuelta finished in a football stadium. The huge crowds are sure to give Heras a great reception - in Europe, every rider is cheered, each man's effort appreciated.
The roads to the stadium are packed with people who could not get tickets - the crowd clap in appreciation - but Aitor Gonzalez is the man!
1º A. Gonzaléz 47:54
2º Casero a 1:23
3º Plaza a 1:45
4º Botero a 1:55
5º Beloki a 2:10
6º S. González a 2:27
7º Beltrán a 2:29
8º Mayo a 2:35
9º Becke a 2:43
10º Tauler a 2:45
This is the result for the day - and Aitor Gonzalez is the man with the golden touch.
Meanwhile the top three podium places are Gonzalez, Heras, Beloki, then Sevilla, Mayo.
So all Spanish riders at the end of what has been an incredible race. Aitor Gonzalez proved himself to be the strongest man of the strongest team. Gonzalez has pointed out that he was not aware that the pace he set for Sevilla was too high - had he waited then Heras would still be in gold - he made the correct decision for his team.
His final time trial was a demonstration of strength and power. He is the deserved winner and the Kelme team will be proud of his efforts.
The race has been a huge success which has captured the imagination of Europe. TV audiences have been bigger on some stages than those for the TdF.
The parcours have been excellent, exciting and well-contested - there will be many talking points for fans over the winter months...
Was the Postal team too weak to support a Vuelta winner?
Were the Postal justified in their alliance with Acqua & Sapone?
Was Gonzalez at fault with Sevilla?
But ultimately, Gonzalez has been a tower of strength throughout. He has ridden fairly and sportingly, has not complained when things have gone against him and has proven to be the strongest man in a hard man's race.
Gonzalez receives the winner's trophy inside the stadium, his face a picture of happiness, as the rest of the Kelme team enter the stadium on their bikes. Sevilla does not look too disappointed, and why should he be? The Kelme team have also won the team classification.
A truly remarkable comeback from a team whose riders had not been paid earlier on in the year, and which looked like it would fold. Costa Blanca, the resort locality which stepped in to save the team, will be pleased with the publicity - their hotels will be fully booked this winter on the publicity they have received...
So an extraordinary end to an extraordinary race. Thanks for reading our live tickers - we hope that you have enjoyed them. As always, official race notes and more later, so stay tuned to the Daily Peloton. Thanks, Podofdonny