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Vuelta Stage 12 Roundup
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 9/18/2003
Vuelta Stage 12 Roundup

© Unipublic.

Stage Report by Osvaldo Menéndez

Only cyclists know what an echelon is, how they have to react when this happens and where exactly in Spain it happens. They know that if they are left behind in the second or third echelon this could mean the loss of precious time. There is nothing more dangerous than a stage with echelons. In spite of the fact that all the riders taking part in today´s stage, between Cuenca and Albacete, were fully aware of the possibility of the echelons, more than one favourite rider was careless and now they are regretting their mistake.

The most curious thing is that the two best sprinters of the race, Alessandro Petacchi and Eric Zabel, did not lose concentration and they both managed to fight, after 168.8 kilometres, the home sprint. Petacchi had won in Santander and Zaragoza and Zabel in Sabadell and Cuenca. The Italian has now one more stage win than the German rider.

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But there are two different stories to be told about this twelfth stage. Martín Perdiguero, Constantino Zaballa, Pedro Díaz Lobato and Paulo Barroso were the protagonists of the first part. At the third kilometre of the route, they managed to leave the whole peloton behind; they never got more than six minutes of advantage and even though they worked very well as a team, the riders behind were really interested in catching up with them and they finally they achieved their aim.

© Unipublic.

Roberto Heras´ US Postal was expecting the strong wind of Albacete and therefore they always controlled the situation. When the cross-wind started to blow from the right, the riders started to ride in one line, the yellow team took advantage of the situation and riders such as Aitor González, Darío Frigo and Alejandro Valverde, among others, were relegated to the third echelon.

Despite the great effort made by Fassa Bortolo and Kelme, they could do nothing to reduce the advantage of those ahead.

Before the beginning of the stage on the paved streets of Cuenca and in front of the Hanging Houses, the Team Managers had already told their riders that brilliant cyclists such as Tony Rominger or Fernando Escartin had lost the Vuelta a España 1996 in this land and due to the feared echelons. Despite the warning, they committed mistakes or did not have enough strength.

Anyway, it was amazing to see the beautiful performance offered by the riders today; the effort of those ahead to open the echelon and the one of those behind to close it. Once again, Isidro Nozal and his team mates were the most favoured ones along with the American riders who confirmed their positions overall. Manuel Beltrán achieved third overall. Aitor González lost some precious time.

From the Peloton

Alessandro Petacchi, Fassa Bortolo: This stage "has been the most difficult of all because I did not have companions to prepare the sprint." I am contented with the victory but it has not been a good day for the team since my companions lost time before the time trial. When I saw that they been cut off after the maneuver of US Postal, I knew that they would have a difficult time."

"In the last 50 kms. Postal went hard, but I was doing well and knew that Zabel followed my wheel. I attacked early because I did not want to lose again. I am contented, but I disliked what happened to my companions Aitor and Frigo."

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Oscar Sevilla, Kelme Costa-Blanca: These past days, "Why does the platoon seem to tremble, with so many nerves that you end up more tired than in the mountains? Although at the end nothing has happened, but you have you gone through the whole stage in tension, fearing to cut yourself, to fall... When you arrive at the hotel why do you have an enormous pain in the neck and the back?"

Frans van Looy, Team Telekom, on Zabel: "Erik has delivered a great race again. But he still has the points jersey, and he doesn't want to give it up quickly, even if Petacchi, without his team, appearded so strong today at the finish."

Isidro Nozal, race leader, ONCE-Eroski: "Yesterday it was Beltran, today Aitor and Frigo. It has been a complete day. The balance is buenísimo [very good],  to remove time is the ideal thing. I believe that if we stop doing that to Aitor and Frigo it won't be a good day. Now we have to continue this way."

"Being well means that nothing hurts; after Zaragoza we will see if Igor and I can distance the rivals a little more and calmly confront the mountains.”

Michele Scarponi, Domina Vacanze: "The wind massacred our legs."

Frans Maassen, Rabobank: "It was most important that Rasmussen did not lose time. It was a very important day for us. We knew exactly what Postal would do. And we had Rabobankers out in front and those boys did well. The team deserves a compliment. They are very attentive riders. They knew exactly where it would become very dangerous. Fortunately they were not surprised as a result. The riders have fought hard, but it was worth it."

As for tomorrow's time trial, Maassen says that it will not be good for Rasmussen, and it is clear he will lose time. However, Rasmussen gained a minute on Frigo on today's stage and that is good. As for Leipheimer, Maasen feels he will do well.

Maassen's opinion on Nozal is that Nozal has done very well, and of course in the first time trial he was did well. So Nozal is Maassen's favourite for the final. "But you can never tell. He must still go ten days. One bad day, and that's it. But that also applies to Rasmussen. But he feels good, and today has made a good impression."

© Unipublic.

Joseba Beloki, ONCE Eroski: "Isidro is doing very well. And Igor has gone through the Pyrenees better than assumed after the Zaragoza time trial. Either could very well win the Vuelta."

For Beloki, the time trial Thursday in Albacete will have the wind as an animator, and it could in great measure determine the race. "If Isidro and Igor have a good time trial they will be able to secure their position regarding Heras and other riders. It is not enough to eliminate one of the two there."

Beloki dismisses that there is trouble in the team with Nozal being race leader instead of Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano. "If there is a team where everyone knows his job, it is ONCE. In another team perhaps the leader can be in doubt, but here we work as a team. Isidro is very strong and the maximum favorite. If everything goes well and the team plays its tricks well they can be first and second."

Beloki says of himself that his recuperation has gone marvelously, and that last Saturday he trained for the first time. He plans to participate in a criterium in November and has been given the okay to go to Lombardia.

From ONCE-Eroski: Jose Azevedo has abandoned the Vuelta due to a quadricep muscle tear that has been bothering him for several days. The Portuguese rider, one of the main bastions of Manolo Saiz in the mountain, has had to put his feet down and he will not be able to help to Nozal and Igor in the Pandera and Sierra Nevada stages. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Tomorrow the Time Trial...

Weather: A perfect sunny day for the riders again tomorrow, 27ºC to 28ºC, though it was quite warm today. 
Winds: Light wind during the Time Trial, blowing southeasterly - it will be head and right sidewind before Motilleja, a head and left side wind from there to the finish line.

The time trial tomorrow is just about flat, but it is 53 kilometers. As Locutus states in his Museo de Jamon report today, ONCE gained time on the strong time-triallist Frigo today, and also got an easier ride in today's stage, thanks in part to US Postal. The Postal team worked hard today, as did many others - who will have the enough in their legs tomorrow? And even though Millar is well down on GC, he might want to redeem himself after being the man to beat in the first time trial - until Isidro Nozal took the start.

Thanks to Team Telekom, Rabobank, Todociclismo,, ONCE-Eroski.

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