Vuelta a España
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Stage Fifteen 21/09/2003
Valdepeñas - Sierra de la Pandera (Mountain top finish) 181kms
La Pandera range was one of the most important innovations in the previous edition. This meant a very important discovery for cycling and Spanish sport in general. The riders themselves admitted that this climb was well worth the effort. In the history of the Vuelta a España, La Pandera will always be associated with Roberto Heras as the Salamanca-born rider was the first rider to get to the finish line.
He led by 18 seconds on Gilberto Simoni, Oscar Sevilla and Iban Mayo. After these, a group of riders with Vinokourov among them arrived. Aitor González, the winner Overall, lost 48 seconds that day. The climb to the top was harmful, Beloki lost 1:25 that day and Angel Luis Casero 1:38.
The Alto de los Villares, 1,210 metres, very near the finish line, will be the first test before getting to La Pandera that being a special category climb is 1,850 metres high.
Another big day in the mountains...
22/09/03 - Rest Day
Stage Sixteen 23/09/03
Jaén - Sierra Nevada (Mountain Top finish) 162kms
Most of the times the riders make things really difficult at the climbs and this has been seen in Sierra Nevada in many occasions. Starting in Jaén, the first test will be the Alto de la Fuensanta, but the interesting part is to be found in Sierra Nevada. The effort will be considerable. Last year we arrived in Sierra Nevada from El Ejido.
They covered 198 kilometres and the Italian rider Guido Trenti achieved the stage win in front of Félix García Casas who lost only 8 seconds. Haimar Zubeldia and Mikel Zarrabeitia lost 10 seconds. Oscar Sevilla 47, Aitor González 58, Roberto Heras 1:45 and Angel Casero 1:49.
The last 40 kilometres will be the hardest ones and the teams interested in the podium will try to control the stage. Those who, at this stage, are sure of not winning the race, will surely try to be the best in Sierra Nevada.
Stage Seventeen 24/09/2003
Granada - Córdoba. 179kms
This day we are starting in Granada; the first kilometres will be a bit more complicated and the teams will have to control the peloton if they do not want to face any strange surprise. When riding to Córdoba the riders usually look for the adventure and the success on their own. The sprinters who are still in the race will have here another chance before getting to Madrid.
The city of Córdoba has always be connected to cycling. In 1962 Antonio Gómez del Moral became winner in these streets. In 1974 it was Domingo Perurena and in 1996 the Italian rider Minali achieved the stage win here too. In 1997 we travelled from Granada to Córdoba covering 175 kilometres.
The Dutch rider Voskamp was the winner in front of Picolli and Van Bonn. In 2000, the riders arrived in Córdoba from Málaga and that time Oscar Freire was the best in front of Koerts and Zanetti. Last year with a similar route the winner was Pablo Lastras along with a tireless Luis Pérez.
Stage Eighteen 25/09/2003
Las Rozas - Las Rozas - 143kms
The people in Madrid will have the chance of following the last part of The Vuelta 2003 as these last stages are going to cross several towns around the city of Madrid.
In 1998, a time trial was started in Las Rozas and ended in Collado Villalba. That was a very exciting stage where Sean Kelly achieved the stage win in front of Dietzen and Pedersen; that day Kelly won the Gold Jersey from Anselmo Fuerte who, finally, was third in the podium of La Castellana.
This time it will be a flat stage with a lot of incentives and several alternatives. The Madrid-born riders will try hard to break away and the sprinters will look for a massive arrival once again.
Stage Nineteen 26/09/2003
La Vega de Alcobendas - Collado Villalba 164 kms
This surely will be a very interesting stage. The narrow road of the natural park that leads to Hoyo and Torrelodones will make things interesting but much more will be the climbs to San Lorenzo del Escorial, Alto de Los Leones, Angeles de San Rafael and specially the seven narrow bends of the Navacerrada climb.
Last year the rain was the main protagonist during the first half of a very similar stage but then the fight was constant. The triumph was finally achieved by Pablo Lastras followed by Zubeldia and Möller.
The favourite riders had hard problems to follow their wheels and lost nine seconds and there was a group of riders who arrived in Collado Villalba more than two minutes behind the leader.
This year the fight will be similar and very few riders will have time to think of Abantos.
Stage Twenty 27/09/2003
San Lorenzo de El Escorial - Alto de Abantos
Individual Time Trial 11 kms
Abantos has become a reference point for the Vuelta. In 2001 it was climbed twice and the strongest riders that time were Simoni, Jiménez and Rubiera.
In 2000 the best riders was Roberto Heras and in 1999 Roberto Laiseka. These 12 kilometres will be completely decisive for everyone. In 1993 there was a time trial from Dyc distillery and the Alto de Navacerrada. After covering 24,1 kilometres the best riders were Zülle (41:59), Rominger and Cubino.
The climb time trials were famous in Valdezcaray, starting in Ezcaray and after 24 kilometres the winners were Fabio Parra, Jean François Bernard and Perico Delgado. The favourite and best riders of the Vuelta 2003 will win or lose the podium in Abantos.
Stage Twenty One 28/09/2003
Madrid - Madrid 130 kms
The Vuelta 2003 will write its last page in the streets of Madrid, in the famous San Isidro track. The people in Madrid will be cheering the last survivors of this edition of the Vuelta a España. Like in every major race, the riders will try to do their best in this last day because the one who achieves the stage win that day will climb to the podium as well.
Brilliant sprinters such as Abdoujaparov, Raab, Van Poppel, Steels or Blijlevens know what winning in Madrid means and history reminds us that the last adventurers could be lucky too.
Nobody can forget when Jaume Vilamajó won the last day of the Vuelta 1987, beating just for a few metres great riders such as Manuel Jorge Dominguez or Alfonso Gutiérrez. Many have said that a triumph in Madrid tastes better.