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
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
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
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
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
1995 (Stage 16- Tárrega - Pla de Beret, Winner Zulle, Race Leader:
1992 (Stage 8- San Miguel - Pla de Beret, Winner: Unzaga, Race Leader: J.
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
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
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
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 Cyclingjournal.com, Todociclismo, ONCE-Eroski, Diario AS,
Contrareloj, El Correo Digital, Unipublic.