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The Vuelta a Espana Begins! Live Coverage
By Podofdonny
Date: 9/6/2003
The Vuelta a Espana Begins! Live Coverage

Good afternoon and welcome to the Daily Peloton's live coverage of the Vuelta a Espana.

It is an overcast day in Gijón and we join the Team Time Trial just as Team CSC set off.

The starting times of the teams are: 15.35 h.
Relax-Fuenlabrada 15.39 h.
Domina Vacanze-Elitron 15.43 h.
Paternina-Costa de Almería 15.47 h.
CSC 15.51 h.
Milaneza 15.55 h.
Labarca 2-Cafés Baqué 15.59 h.
Bianchi 16.03 h.
Kelme-Costa Blanca 16.07 h.
Phonak 16.11 h.
Euskaltel Euskadi 16.15 h.
Saeco 16.19 h.
Rabobank 16.23 h.
Lampre 16.27 h.
Alessio 16.31 h.
Telekom 16.35 h.
Cofidis 16.39 h.
Saunier Duval 16.43 h.
Quick Step-Davitamon 16.47 h.
ONCE-Eroski 16.51 h.
US Postal Service-Berry Floor 16.55 h.
Fassa Bortolo 16.59 h.

Domina Vacanze-Elitron-RDZ with Cipo are already on the course, with the lion king firmly at the rear of his team, and to be fair not looking very comfortable, unlike the CSC who are looking like a very well oiled machine.

Huge crowds line the route and the riders with Team Milaneza, about to set off, have the advantage of some very pretty girls helping them out on the starting ramp.

The Relax-Fuenlabrada team, also on the road, are beginning to lose men - their team is:
51 ESP19740613 BLANCO GIL Santiago CRF SPA 29 282,00
52 ESP19770409 BURGOS ROJO Nacor CRF SPA 26 135,00
53 ESP19750805 JUFRE POU Josep CRF SPA 28 404,00
54 ESP19780221 LAGUNA GARCIA Oscar CRF SPA 25 85,00
55 ESP19760712 MAESTRE RODRIGUEZ Jose Manuel CRF SPA 27 133,00
56 ESP19740610 NAVAS CHICA David CRF SPA 29 26,00
57 ESP19721216 NIETO FERNANDEZ German CRF SPA 31 15,00
58 ESP19790123 NOVAL GONZALEZ Benjamin CRF SPA 24 260,00
59 ESP19721008 REBOLLO AGUADO José Luis CRF SPA 31 76,00

The last figure in the column refers to each rider's UCI points and is a good indication of the strength of each individual and the team itself - for full list see

Labarca 2-Cafés Baqué now set off in their yellow, blue and white team kit.

Indeed at the 14 kilometre point the Relax-Fuenlabrada team had already lost three men - so it is either a bad day in the office or they are working to a pre arranged plan.

Team Bianchi set off from the ramp and immediately get into a strong working groove - they will be hoping to do well for former winner Angel Casero.

A total of 24 countries are represented in this year’s race, including Moldavia, Kazakhstan, New Zealand and Venezuela.

Spain represents the overwhelming majority of the cyclists participating in the present edition of the Vuelta. Of the 198 riders that make up the 22 teams in this year’s race, almost half (90) are Spanish.

Spain is followed by Italy (38 riders), Germany (11) and Holland (7). Denmark, United States, Switzerland and Belgium all have 6 representatives each.

The top countries are:
Spain 90
Italy 38
Germany 11
Holland 7
Denmark 6
United States 6
Switzerland 6
Belgium 6

Meanwhile the race has already started with a success - in spite of the rain falling over Gijón and the early morning start (nine in the morning) the people of Gijón were eager to participate in the Popular Race.

Nearly five hundred riders together with their corresponding numbers started the first of the events of the day of the Fabada Asturiana Litoral; all in all covering seven kilometres along the streets of this beautiful city.

Among them were a number of retired riders such as Abraham Olano, Melcior Mauri, Alberto Leanizbarrutia, Herminio Díaz Zabala, Cruz Martín, Rodríguez Magro and Neil Stephens who led the race accompanied by Jose Angel Hevia and Toni Tirador, the rider who inspired the official tune of Vuelta a España 2003.

As a thanks to Gijón for its collaboration in the organization of this Popular Race, Hevia handed the Jersey of the day of the Fabada Asturiana Litoral to the City Counsiler of Sports Ms. Teresa Ordiz Asenio.

All the contenders received, at the end of the route, two VIP invitations to the second of the events of the day of the Fabada Asturiana Litoral: the great night party where they can taste the famous Fabada and listen to the well known piper.

Kelme-Costa Blanca - the oldest team in the pro peloton - sets off.

The team of the paw will be pulling hard for "El Nino" Oscar Sevilla - who will be hoping to make a dramatic return to racing after a torrid (and painful) season so far.

Now Phonak set off - with former winner Alex Zulle riding.

However, the team GC hopes will probably be played by Juan Carlos Dominguez.

Now the Orange peril, Euskatel, take their turn to have their saddles held by the pretty girls; they set off looking determined and focused., the first team to set off, have finished with a time of 32.25. A poignant moment for older fans, to think that this will be the last time we see this great old team ride.

My apologies to the Lion King; Domina Vacanze-Elitron finish with Cipo in the team in second place at 34.02 - there is life in the old lion yet!

The standings so far are:
1 32.25
2 Domina Vacanze 1.37
3 Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada 2.06

Team Saeco set off - the red train will be looking for stage wins:
171 ESP19760329 ASTARLOA Igor SAE SPA 27 840,00
172 ITA19781021 BONOMI Giosuè SAE ITA 25 21,00
173 ITA19820419 BUCCIERO Antonio SAE ITA 21 36,00
174 ESP19770407 FUENTES ANGULLO Juan SAE SPA 26 197,00
175 AUT19750401 GLOMSER Gerrit SAE AUST
176 ITA19780321 GAVAZZI Nicola SAE ITA 25 15,00
177 ITA19780312 PEPOLI Cristian SAE ITA 25 13,00
178 MDA19750105 PUGACI Igor SAE MDA 28 160,00
179 ITA19741214 QUARANTA Ivan SAE ITA 29 75,00

Quaranta of course will be riding one of his last races for Saeco - who almost immediately start to lose riders! Team Bianchi post the best time at the 14 km stage.

29 year old Ivan Quaranta has signed a new contract with De Nardi Colpack for the 2004 season, so Quaranta will leave Claudio Corti's mighty Saeco squad. For full details on this story see

CSC finish with 7 men in third spot; the iBanesto boys appear to have set a bench mark of high quality.

Now the Lampre team set off, while Kelme set the best time at 14 kilometres. Belli leads the claret and blue boys away, the Lampre look very organised indeed.

Milaneza finish in fourth place.

If there is an over zealous commissaire on the road Lampre could be the first team to receive a fine as it would appear one of their riders has forgotten to put his number on!

Alessio set off - they will be looking for stage wins in this race and Angelo Furlan will be hoping to steal some glory from the very young at heart Cipo.

The yellow peril - LABARCA 2-CAFÉ BAQUÉ - finish in seventh spot as Bobby Julich and the Telekom team join the starting ramp.

Julich, a very popular rider, gets a huge build up from the German commentory team, while Zabel looks - er to be honest - pretty miserable.

Team Bianchi will not beat iBanesto - second spot at 33.02 - the Banesto boys still hold the lead!

A very strong Telekom team:
201 GER19700707 ZABEL Erik TEL GER 33 2047,75
202 BEL19741231 AERTS Mario TEL BEL 29 83,75
203 AUS19770214 EVANS Cadel TEL AUS 26 93,00
205 GER19800317 HIEKMANN Torsten TEL GER 23 110,00
206 USA19711118 JULICH Bobby TEL USA 32 112,00
207 GER19780715 SCHRECK Stephan TEL GER 25 136,00
208 GER19790628 WERNER Christian TEL GER 24 104,00
209 GER19710311 WESEMANN Steffen TEL GER 32 475,50

Of course Cadel Evans, the "Wizard of Oz," is another rider who has had a injury-torn season. It will be interesting to see how he performs - particularly when the road goes upwards - and there are no less than 6 mountain top finishes!

Cofidis - with David Millar - set off.

Kelme!!!! Wow, what a great ride - they take second spot ahead of Bianchi!

Standings so far:
1 32.25
2 Kelme-Costa Blanca 0.21
3 Team Bianchi 0.37
4 Paternina-Costa Almeria 0.56
5 Team CSC 1.03

Now the forgotten American, Fast Freddy Rodriguez, and his VINI CALDIROLA - SO.DI team set off.

Meanwhile Euskatel have posted some good early time - while Quickstep line up on the ramps, far away in Belgium headlines still being written about Museeuw - it will be interesting to see if it has effected team spirit here in cloudy Spain. Euskatel set the third best time of the day.

Just three teams left to go and amongst them the big favourites for today's stage - ONCE, US Postal and Fassa Bortolo.

Now ONCE on the starting ramp - for the last time the great team will start a major Tour - memories of Jalabert and Zulle in their prime flash by as the "Mighty ONCE" take to the road...

Speaking of which - the Director General of the Vuelta a España, Enrique Franco, announced his retirement from the post during the traditional meeting held between the race organisation and representatives of the media.

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of Unipublic taking responsibility for the organisation of the race, Franco will be accompanied in his retirement by Technical Director Albert Gadea.

Jokingly, Franco expressed his vision of next year’s race in metaphorical terms: “Next year, neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona will be playing in the First Division”, in reference to his and Gadea’s respective predilection for these two teams.

Certainly those two gentlemen did a great deal to pull the Vuelta into its present high profile and status - and led the way for shorter, more exciting stage planning which has since been copied by the two other major tours.

ONCE on the road; always a pleasure to watch, as Postal take the starting ramp.

Hincapie and Landis looking composed and relaxed - they're off!

And they immediately get into a working mode - the Banesto time still the one to beat and it is a hard standard to pass. Saeco come in in 9th place with just 5 men, and Rabobank lose 54 seconds to the Banesto boys as they finish - that is a lot of time over such a short course.

ONCE set the fastest time at 3.6 kilometres and are looking so well rehearsed and organised they have made some of the other teams look like amateurs.

Standings so far:
1 32.25
2 Kelme-Costa Blanca 0.21
3 Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.26
4 Team Bianchi 0.37
5 Phonak Hearing Systems 0.40

As the Terminaitor takes to the ramp with Fassa - the silver team...They set off - the last team is away - it is now down to determination, discipline and strength.

Lampre! A great ride, finish in 5th spot. ALLEZZZZZZ GARATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Sorry.)

The Fassa team too, is looking well oiled and drilled, as does Postal, with Barry at the rear of the train at the minute.

Quickstep pass through the 14 kilometre point in third spot.

Alessio finish in 9th spot so far - a good performance for the racing wheel boys.

Postal, ONCE and Fassa certainly win the best organised team awards so far - but is still the best team with a time of 32:25, followed by Kelme-Costa Blanca with 21 seconds, with 26 Euskaltel-Euskadi, with 37 Team Bianchi and with 39 Lampre.

The speed of the teams is visually quite breathtaking - and it is ONCE posting the best times of the day so far, while Telekom arrive but they can only manage 9th place - the time lost to GC contenders like Aerts and Evans could be very significant today.

Postal Service - still with all their riders, will be outside ONCE's time at the 14 kilometre point - they are in second spot, 16 seconds down.

But that is one second faster than leading team at the minute, Banesto achieved. Cofidis can only manage 4th spot at the finish.

Riders numbers seem to be a problem. They are literally blowing off the backs of the ONCE boys - or are they going that fast?

Standings so far:
1 32.25
2 Kelme-Costa Blanca 0.21
3 Euskaltel 0.26
4 Cofidis 0.32
5 Team Bianchi 0.37

Wow! Fassa are losing big time - only 10th fastest at the 14 kilometre point!

Huge crowds line the route, giving all riders a mighty cheer as they pass - the ONCE are still flying along, pursued both literally and time-wise by Postal. Banesto look to be secure for a top three finish even though they were first to go.

Postal team, like most teams today, all with disc rear wheels; wind is not really a factor but the Relax story unfolds.

BLANCO GIL Santiago, from Relax-Fuenlabrada, has been taken to hospital due to a bump on his face. 55 MAESTRE RODRIGUEZ Jose Manuel has also been taken to hospital due to a bump on his hip and 52 BURGOS ROJO Nacor, with a less severe injury. All three suffered a fall. So obviously the team had a crash which explains why they finished with so few riders.

It is indeed a very beautiful sight as the ONCE, a yellow ribbon of speed, streaks through the old town and narrow streets.

Now they head along the seafront and under the Flamme Rouge.

Even so, it will be close between them and arch rivals Banesto. They will do it! ONCE take the lead with 32.01 to a huge cheer from the crowd!

Postal now - a blue and red streak, power towards the old town; will the ONCE gain the first victory of this great race?

Postal under the Flamme Rouge, still a full team, but they are riding for Heras, who is not the world's greatest tester, along the sea front; huge crowds and cheers.

It will be close but I don't think they will do it - now Hincapie puts in a huge effort - it's not enough...

32.11 for Postal and second spot.

Just Fassa to come in. ONCE lead Postal by 10 seconds and Banesto by 24 - Fassa, unless they have done an extraordinary second half, should not challenge these three spots.

1º ONCE-Eroski 32:01
2º US Postal at 10
3º at 24
4º Kelme-C. Blanca at 45
5º Quick_Step at 48
6º Euskaltel at 50
7º Cofidis at 56

As Fassa come in to finish - through the narrow streets, they are reduced to two men!!!! They must have had a crash on the tight corner.

The leaders are reduced to waiting - a disaster for the Fassa team!

They finish way back in around 13th spot, and must have crashed within the final kilometre to lose so many men so quickly!

Full Results
1º ONCE-Eroski 32:01
2º US Postal a 10
3º a 24
4º Kelme-C. Blanca a 45
5º Quick Step a 48
6º Euskaltel a 50
7º Cofidis a 56
8º Bianchi a 1:01
9º Lampre a 1:03
10º Phonak a 1:04
11º Rabobank a 1:18
12º Paternina-C. Almeria a 1:20
13º Fassa Bortolo a 1:25
14º Team Telekom a 1:26
15º Alessio a 1:26
16º Team CSC a 1:27
17º Milaneza-MSS a 1:30
18º Saeco a 1:39
19º Domina Vancanze a 2:01
20º Saunier Duval a 2:04
21º Relax-Fuenlabrada a 2:30
22º Labarca-2 Cafe Baque a 3:06

So Igor de Galdeano will be the first rider of the Vuelta 2003 to wear the Golden jersey - his team finished with 7 men and looked very strong indeed - Postal will be pleased with their performance, as will Banesto.

Relax-Fuenlabrada have men in hospital after a crash and Fassa suffered bad luck too. We wish them all well.

All the news of the day's events and a look at tomorrow's stage later - but for now thanks for reading and we leave you as a very happy ONCE team get very nice flowers from very pretty ladies.

A little more information: Fassa's Gonzalez suffered a puncture just under the Flamme Rouge and had a bike change which went badly.

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