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Vuelta Stage 8 Roundup
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 9/13/2003
Vuelta Stage 8 Roundup

Joaquin Rodriguez, today's stage winner. © Unipublic


Isidro Nozal in gold (and green) another day. © Unipublic

Stage Highlights by Osvaldo Menéndez

Pla de Beret (Val d'Aran), 12 September 2003

Joaquín Rodriguez and Isidro Nozal searched for a new sponsor for next year with the best skills a rider can have: fight and success. The Catalonia-born rider won at the ski resort of Plá de Beret ahead of Aitor Osa and taking advantage of a breakaway that the favourites decided to allow on the hard ramps to Col d´Aspin. Nozal was leader again and made Manuel Beltrán lose some vital seconds.

Neither ONCE nor Eroski will sponsor professional cycling for next year; but these riders do not give in. They show they are good, or even very good, and they are sure of having some firm or other betting on them and the team for next year. It was a brilliant day for the yellow team, although nothing is clear yet. On the contrary. There are eleven riders within a time difference of four minutes and a half occupying the first positions in the overall standings of La Vuelta 2003.

The French roads were crowded with people to see the riders off. At Aspin, Horrach, Aitor Osa, Jufre, Joaquín Rodríguez, Eladio Jiménez, Lunghi, Unai Etxebarría, Jose Lara and Constantino Zaballa managed to achieve quite an important advantage. Thanks to this lead, they could easily face the Peyresourde and Portillón climbs in France. The rider from Majorca, Horrach, fought very hard against Rodríguez for the climb points; the Colombian rider Félix Cárdenas did not take part in this battle. Then the group was reduced due to the hard road and exhaustion and only two riders were ready to fight for the stage win.

Aitor González also was seen on two different occasions, at Peyresourde and then at Plá. The Vuelta 2002 winner is not defeated at all, he only appears when he has checked the conditions of his rivals. Roberto Heras followed him very closely and he did not do badly at all. Igor González de Galdeano, on the other hand, has achieved the second position overall.

Defending champion Aitor Gonzalez today. © Unipublic

But among the favourites we also find riders such as Dario Frigo, Francisco Mancebo, Alejandro Valverde, Michael Rasmussen, Unai Osa and Luis Pérez.

The French experience was an outstanding success for La Vuelta; the enthusiasts of cycling really enjoyed  these French stages. The uncertainty is present and it will be for several more days; that is what makes cycling exciting. That is what may bring new sponsors to bet on this beautiful sport.

Comments from the Peloton

Johan Bruyneel, USPS/Berry Floor: “Today was not really a stage to make the difference. Roberto was pretty good, but the final climb to Pla de Beret was not stiff enough for him to attack and ride away from the rest of the pack. Anyway, he easily succeeded in replying to all the attempts of de Galdeano and Gonzalez on the Col del Portillon, which means he is riding a strong Vuelta. For sure, it will be a hard task to win this race, especially since the course this year befits riders like de Galdeano more. We still have two weeks and some tough stages to go. Manuel lost some time today, but still remains third in the g.c.. He rode a good Vuelta so far, but that does not make him one of the top favourites."

Frans Maassen, Rabobank, on Rasmussen: " It has just been the first week, and there are 3 weeks. But we do not will ride conservatively. He must catch what he can catch."

Vincente Belda, Kelme, on Oscar Sevilla:  "He is not healed, but in each stage he is a bit better and most importantly if he sees himself improving it will give him morale."

The other day did not start out well - on km 30 Sevilla visited the Vuelta doctor's car. "They gave anti-inflammatory and cold for the knee," said Sevilla. "That knee, the left, is the main headache for me." Thursday, in Zaragoza he had a radiograph and a microbreakage of fibers and a tendinitis were detected. "The knee bothers me a lot, but also the elbow, the thigh, the flank... I continue very being bruised and yesterday I also underwent a lot during the stage. But, in spite of the pain, I am feeling a little better. And that is the important thing," commented Sevilla.

Felix Cardenas, La Barca 2:  "My objective in this Vuelta is to try to win a stage, the mountain prize and to give a good show. The first impressions are good, but I prefer to go day to day and to avoid surprises."

Joaquin Rodriguez Palmares

ONCE's Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver, who wore the leader's jersey in stage 2 and 3 already in this year's Vuelta, was born 12/05/1979 and turned pro in 2001 with the ONCE team.

"Quim" Rodriguez winning Stage 6 Paris-Nice. Courtesy ONCE-Eroski.

1st: Stage 8 Vuelta Espana - Spain13/09/2003
14th:  Vuelta Burgos - Spain 11/08/2003
18th: Amstel Gold Race  - Belguim 20/04/2003
8th: Setmana Catalana - Spain 28/03/2003
1st: Stage 6 Paris Nice  - France15/03/2003
22nd: Paris Nice  - France 16/03/2003
2nd: Challenge Mallorca - Spain 06/02/2003

6th: Clasica Primavera - Spain 14/04/2002
10th:  Setmana Catalana - Spain 25/03/2002
22th:  Paris-Nice - France 10/03/2002

1st:  Escalada Montjuic - Spain 21/10/2001
3rd:  Subida Urkiola - Spain 12/08/2001
8th:  Clasica Puertos - Spain 26/08/2001
11th:  Vuelta La Rioja - Spain 04/05/2001
80th:  Giro Italia - Italy 19/05/2001

The Pla de Beret, in the heart of the Pyrenees

The premiere of the Pla de Beret in the Vuelta was not very good. The first time that the finish line was located at the top of this mountainous difficulty in the heart of the Catalan Pyrenees, a strong surprising snowfall forced suspension of the stage. Felipe Sainz de Trápaga, president of the Council of Administration of Unipublic and Coordinator General of Vuelta a Espana, points out that it was this circumstance that was one of the reasons the organizer weighed most heavily on the decision, in 1995, to change the date of the race from April to September: "The main advantage is climatological. In general the month of September is a warm month; in April and May we could be have situation atmospheric, heavy rains and several years it was even necessary to suspend stages for snow". That unexpected incident deprives many of those fond of a stage with high altitude finish. ( J. L. Toledano)

The Pla de Beret has figured in Vuelta stages in these recent years:
1999 (Stage 11 - Huesca - Val d'Aran, Winner:  Nardello,  Race Leader Olano)
1995 (Stage 16- Tárrega - Pla de Beret, Winner Zulle, Race Leader:  Jalabert)
1992 (Stage 8- San Miguel - Pla de Beret, Winner: Unzaga, Race Leader: J. Montoya)
1991 (Stage 11- Andorra - Pla de Beret, Winner: Anulada, Race Leader Mauri)


Weather: Sunny except partial clouds in the mountain pass areas.
Winds: Easterly and northeasterly, a head and sidewind to the riders until La Seu D'Urgell; after that a headwind.
Temperatures: 20ºC in the lower stage areas, but becoming very cool in the mountains: 4-11 degrees C, particularly at the 2140 meter Port d'Envalira finish.

Another day of climbing tomorrow, before the long but relatively mild Andorra to Sabadell stage Monday, with the riders' first rest day coming on Tuesday. Sunday's stage promises three more climbs and another uphill finish:
22 km: Port de La Bonaigua (2070 mt.) - Cat. 1
94 km: Alt del Cantó (1730 mt.) - Cat. 1
174.8 km: Envalira (Andorra - 2410 mt.) - Hors Categorie/Uphill Finish
See all the Vuelta main difficulties, stats and more here.

The weather promises to be chilly at the top of Envalira, and though the weather should be fairly clear, one cannot discount the riders cutting through the swirling bottoms of clouds atop the peak. The riders will be over 2000 meters twice in this stage - just at the beginning they will have to climb to the Bonaigua climb that is 2.070 metres high, a place that is usually covered with snow; in the middle they will find the Cantó climb, and at the end they will have to face the 29 km long climb up the 2,410 metres of the Port d´Envalira.

The three climbs are strategically placed so as not to reduce the interest and the tension during the whole day (indeed), and will be the third leg-wearying day in a row.

Thanks to, Todociclismo, ONCE-Eroski, Diario AS, Contrareloj, El Correo Digital, Unipublic.

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