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Vuelta Stage 9 Roundup
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 9/14/2003
Vuelta Stage 9 Roundup

The young and new leader of Kelme-Costa Blanca, Alejandro Valverde, won the ninth stage of the Vuelta a España 2003 today, between Vielha and Port d´Envalira over 174.8 kilometres.

Valverde was the strongest man today and won at the finish line, beating the great favourites of the race. On the home stretch he managed to beat Frigo, Unai Osa, Piepoli, Mancebo, Cárdenas and Nozal. Aitor González and Roberto Heras put pressure on ONCE-Eroski. Igor González de Galdeano lost some time. Manuel Beltrán suffered to be among the best. The teams that want to win La Vuelta controlled all the breakaways and the ascents to Bonaigua, Cantó and Envalira climbs. The Colombian rider Félix Cárdenas, of Labarca 2 - Café Baqué was the one who fought the hardest for the triumph. Isidro Nozal keeps his Gold Jersey for another day.

The approach to the first climb of the day, the Port de la Bonaigua. © Unipublic.

Stage Report by Osvaldo Menéndez

This Stage Number Nine of the edition 58th of Vuelta a España had a certain similarity with the previous ones: a really hard fight for the final triumph. In a day in which the riders had to ascend three different climbs: Bonaigua, Cantó and Envalira, the outcome was unclear until the very last minute. The ninth stage between Vielha and Port d´Envalira was decided at the very last kilometre with all the protagonists on the stage.

The main actor was the very young rider Alejandro Valverde Belmonte of Kelme-Costa Blanca in front of Frigo, Unai Osa, Piepoli, Mancebo and the Colombian rider Félix Cárdenas, no doubt the one who fought harder. This young boy of 23, born in Murcia, is having an excellent year and some think that he is very likely to become a new Spanish star within international cycling. Valverde has also become the new leader of Kelme-Costa Blanca as Oscar Sevilla is suffering too much from his injuries, and Valverde has done it really well; he is brave and sure. At Envalira the rider from Puerto Lumbreras managed to leave behind the favourite and best riders in the world. His victory can make us keep on betting on cycling, specially in Spain, where the teams are short of sponsors.

The day was remarkable. The modest riders of Labarca2 - Café Baqué were great; they fought hard to take the Colombian Cárdenas to the final victory and they almost got it. Isidro Nozal and the yellow team did not let them achieve their aim; those of ONCE-Eroski never stop behaving like real heroes. Cárdenas also had to face attacks from riders such as Aitor González, Roberto Heras, Beltrán, Rasmusen and some other riders of such as Unai Osa, Leonardo Piepoli and Francisco Mancebo. The race was so complicated and the strength so similar that those who survived the Pyrenees were able to reach the two thousand metres at Envalira. Isidro Nozal suffered more than enough for one day. He watched Heras and he managed to keep his Gold Jersey for another day. The kisses and flowers were for Alejandro Valverde. The future of Spanish cycling does not seem so dark after all. The brilliant performances will survive.

Golden Jersey Isidro Nozal during the stage. He retains
the leader's jersey for the 6th day. © Unipublic.


Heras attacks and Nozal responds. Courtesy ONCE-Eroski.


Alejandro Valverde. © Unipublic.

Alejandro Valverde Palmares

A pro since 2002 and in his second season with Kelme, this young man has a nice string of victories this year. The 23 year old Valverde plans to marry his fiancee of six years soon, and has a renewed three-year contract with his only team, Kelme.


1st: 9th Stage Vuelta a España - Spain 14/09/2003
1st: Stage 3 Vuelta Pais Vasco - Spain 07/04/2003
1st: Clasica Primavera - Spain 13/04/2003 
1st: Stage 3 Vuelta Aragon - Spain 16/04/2003 
1st: Stage 4a Vuelta Aragon - Spain
1st: Trofeo Joaquin Agostinho - Portugal 09/07/2003 
1st: Stage 5 Trofeo Joaquin Agostinho - Portugal 09/07/2003
1st: Prueba Villafranca de Ordizia - Spain 27/07/2003
1st: Challenge Illes Balears - Spain 06/02/2003
3rd: Vuelta Andalucia - Spain 16/02/2003 
3rd: Trofeo Luis Puig - Spain 23/02/2003 
3rd: Trofeo Joaquin Agostinho - Portugal 09/07/2003 
5th: Vuelta Pais Vasco - Spain 07/04/2003 
19th:  Criterium Internacional - France 29/03/2003 
24th: Vuelta Burgos - Spain 11/08/2003 


7 Circuito Getxo  - Spain 31/07/2002
8 Clasica Almeria  - Spain 03/03/2002 
9 Clasica Alcobendas  - Spain 11/05/2002
19 Vuelta Burgos  - Spain 12/08/2002
24 Vuelta Romandia  - Swizterland 30/04/2002

Alejandro Valverde of Kelme-Costa Blanca today.  © Unipublic.

From the Peloton

One of the animators of today's race, Benjamin Noval of Relax Fuenlabrada, is apparently confirmed to ride for US Postal/Berry Floor for next season.

Roberto Heras, from his diary at the USPS/Berry Floor website: "Today, I did everything that was in my power. I tried to get away several times, even during the final kms when Director Sportif Johan Bruyneel gave me carte blance to attack. The final climb turned out to be not steep enough, while the headwind was in the advantage of my main rivals. Too bad.

"That Nozal is extremely strong and withstands all attacks. This much is clear, if he can keep this up, he’s a potential candidate for final victory. De Galdeano turns out to be vulnerable and today loses terrain again. Anyway, we’ll see what happens during the days to come. I will keep on trying, this Tour of Spain is far from finished!"

Joaquin Rodriguez, ONCE-Eroski, winner of yesterday's stage: "The leader of the team continues being Igor, but Isidro Nozal is this strong and the important thing is to win. The leader is Igor and he is the one who has more options, but in any case Isidro is fortísimo [strong] and it will be necessary for him to maintain everything he can."

Alejandro Valverde, Kelme-Costa Blanca: "It did not surprise me that so many of us arrived at the finish, because there are 20 riders in great form and the ascent was very hard with the rare air. To attack was very difficult. I am content and if something more comes, I welcome it, but already I am in agreement with my participation in this Vuelta."

Race leader Isidro Nozal had the pleasure of meeting Miss Andorra today. Courtesy ONCE-Eroski.

Abandons Today

Perez, Sergio Esp L2c  Expelled for holding onto car
Virenque, Richard Fra Qsd Expelled  for holding onto car
Zuelle, Alex Sui Pho Abandoned during the stage


Weather: Sunny again for the entire stage. Winds: Easterly and southeasterly the entire way. Headwind until Bellver de Cerdanya, then head and/or side wind from the left nearer the finish.
Temperatures: A mild day with temperatures around 24ºC in the lower stage areas in the arrival; around 16ºC in the higher mountainous stage areas.

The race travels down near the coast tomorrow, out of the Pyrenees. It's a basically downhill course, with one Cat 3 climb 40 km from the finish, but it's also long at 194 km. So it should be a day for the sprinters, should they have any legs left, to give them a different kind of day. Certainly Tuesday's transfer/rest day will be high on everyone's mind as well...

Thanks to Unipublic, USPS/Berry Floor, ONCE-Eroski, Todociclismo, Contrareloj, Velo Club du Net.

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