Vuelta a España
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Stage One 06/09/2003
Gijón - Gijón Team Time Trial 30kms
After the great success achieved last year in Valencia, La Vuelta 2003 can break all the records next to the beautiful beach of San Lorenzo in Gijón on the 6th of September. The sea and the sand will be the witnesses of a spectacular beginning this year. If we take into account the data of the previous year when the teams were able to get an average speed of fifty-two kilometres per hour, everything is possible in 2003.
Last year in Valencia, after having covered the first 24.6 kilometres of the opening time trial, the Once-Eroski placed Joseba Beloki as leader after having covered the distance in 26 minutes and 11 seconds. That day the US Postal lost 14 seconds, the Kelme-Costa Blanca 15, the Telekom 18 and the ibanesto.com 27 seconds.
In Gijón they all will have to cover 30 kilometres with a climb of 155 metres in the way to Tremañes but then the time trial will end with a spectacular descent towards the beach. In the last Tour de France, over a distance of 69 kilometres, the US Postal with Roberto Heras, Rubiera and Beltrán used 1:18:17, just 30 seconds less than the Once-Eroski, 43 seconds less than the Bianchi and 1:05 less than the ibanesto.com.
But this year with less kilometres, the times will be even closer.
Stage Two 07/09/2003
Gijón - Cangas de Onís 140kms
Cangas de Onís is a reference point in La Vuelta. It has been the place where many battles and spectacular performances that ended in the Covadonga Lakes started. The Vuelta 2001 visited Cangas on their way to the famous Lakes with Mercado, Sevilla and Beloki controlling the situation.
This time it is a short stage that starts in Gijón. During the first kilometres we will probably see many attempts to break away to face the Alto de la Madera, then the Falla de los Lobos and at the end the Mirador del Fito. From there, the descend to the finish line is frantic.
One very dear ex-rider from Asturias, Enrique Clima, was the winner in Cangas de Onís in the second stage of the Vuelta a España 1978. That stage had started in Gijón as well but they had to cover 94 kilometres instead of 30. Enrique Clima was better than José Luis Viejo and Bernard Hinault that day.
As regards the favourite riders, there will be no important time differences.
Stage Three 08/09/2003
Cangas de Onís - Santander 154kms
Santander is one of the cities that has welcomed the Vuelta on many occasions. This time the route invites the riders to increase their speed. History reminds us of the brilliant and spectacular sprints and some remarkable breakaways that ended here. Hermans, Edmons or Di Basco became winners in the streets of this city but some other stages wins achieved here with a great effort such as the one got by Bontempi in 1991 or by Lauritzen in 1993 are worth a mention. The Madrid-born rider Roberto Torres climbed to the top of the podium in this beautiful city.
Angel Casero and his team controlled very well the 13th stage of the Vuelta 2000 that started and ended in Santander; that stage covered 143 kilometres and ended with Piccoli, Halgand and Paco Cabello in the first three positions.
One for the sprinters...
Stage Four 09/09/2003
Santander - Burgos.151 kms
The escudo climb will probably be the first invitation to break away in this race, though all the teams will try to control the situation on the way to Burgos along a short route. In 1997, the 17th stage of La Vuelta covered a very similar route but that time was a bit longer, 182,7 kilometres.
The control showed by the sprinters helped a very exciting end with the victory of Jan Svorada, in front of Marcel Wust and the German rider Teutenberg. The race was being controlled by Zülle and the Once and the Swiss rider was able to keep his Gold Jersey until he arrived in Madrid. Bruyneel, now team manager, achieved the stage win in Burgos in 1992 though that time the stage had started in Pamplona; he won in front of Pacho Rodríguez and Sunderland, being Montoya the leader overall in that moment.
Last year we arrived in Burgos from Segovia; that day the final sprint was more than exciting with Petacchi, Zabel and Furlan as protagonists.
One for the sprinters - Can Petacchi beat the record?
Stage Five 10/09/2003
Soria - Zaragoza 167kms
Since 1935 Zaragoza has been a reference spot in La Vuelta. The enthusiasts from this city will, no doubt, remember brilliant sprints and frantic fights along these streets that have the added risk of the tracks of the trams.
Among some other important riders, Van Poppel, Abdoujaparov, Mauri, Jalabert, Hermans, Gastón or Olano became winners in the streets of this city. In 1983, this stage was covered the other way round, from Zaragoza to Soria along 174 kilometres being the leader Julián Gorospe; that day the stage win was fought among Saronni, Heredia and Hinault.
In La Vuelta 1998, there was a stage between Soria and Lagunas de Neila whose absolute protagonist was Chava Jiménez. This will be a perfect day to check the speed record in the Vuelta a España. If there is a tail wind blowing the riders will probably "fly" over the road.
We have to remember that the fastest stage was the one between Logroño and Zaragoza in 2001 won by Igor González de Galdeano; the average speed was 55.176 km/h.
Will the speed record fall again?
Stage Six 11/09/2003
Zaragoza - Zaragoza Ind. Time Trial 43.8 kms
In Zaragoza, the riders will have to face their first important test. They will have to cover nearly 44 kilometres in a time trial along a very flat route. This will be the first moment of balance between the timetrialists and the climbers.
The former ones will have to save time and the latter will have to lose the less possible time. Last year in this city, Aitor González from Kelme-Costa Blanca started to win the Vuelta 2002 when he got 40 seconds of advantage over Sevilla, one minute over David Millar and 1:34 over Roberto Heras. He covered the distance with a time of 45:32.
In 1993, there was a similar time trial in Zaragoza that covered 37 kilometres and where Mauri, Rominger and Breukink got the best times, being the leader Alex Zülle. In 1995, the Vuelta started in Zaragoza and the best rider that time was Abraham Olano in front of Alex Zülle and the Italian rider Baffi.
Things get serious - Millar and the Terminaitor will be hoping to gain some time...
Stage Seven 12/09/2003
Huesca - Cauterets (Fra) (Mountain finish) 190 kms
Reaching the mountains means longer stages. The Vuelta will get to Cauterets in France after several flat stages, the riders´ legs will be used to that kind of stages and that can be dangerous.
Monrepós, Portalet, Aubisque and Cauterets.Cam Basque are four difficult climbs but the enthusiasts of cycling will love them. This stage will be chosen by the climbers to get their leading role back and remember the great Fernando Escartín as he used to train along these roads.
The Spanish riders have always been successful at the French climbs, that is why in 1992 they climbed to Aspin, Tourmalet and Luz Ardident where Cubino, Rominger and Montoya became the main protagonists.
In 1995 the protagonists in Luz Ardident were Jalabert, Abraham Olano and Bruynnel but Cauterets is something new.
The General Classification will take a new shape after today's epic...