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Vuelta Stage 15 Roundup
By Podofdonny
Date: 9/21/2003
Vuelta Stage 15 Roundup

Vuelta a España

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News Roundup Stage 15

Jaén, 21 September 2003

Valverde surprises Cárdenas and Heras and wins at La Pandera

The young rider from Murcia, Alejandro Valverde of Kelme-Costa Blanca, showed once again that he is becoming a star of cycling. He achieved the 15th stage win of the Vuelta a España 2003 that covered 172.1 kilometres between Valdepeñas and Alto de La Pandera. The outcome of the race was sorted out at the mountains and the great protagonist was Roberto Heras; at the end Alejandro Valverde snatched the triumph from his hands. US Postal tried to set a very fast pace so as to weaken the Leader but the latter did not let them go until the very last part of the stage.

Isidro Nozal was helped by Marcos Serrano and Igor González de Galdeano. Thanks to their help he lost more than a minute, not enough time to lose the Gold Jersey. Sevilla also did very well today. The Colombian rider Félix Cárdenas, of Labarca 2 - Café Baqué was the one was suffered more, despite having started his breakaway at the Villares climb. At the end he was second followed by Heras. Nozal, 1:13 behind the winner.

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Official Race Chronicle

By Osvaldo Menéndez

Breaking away during the first kilometres, imposing a frantic pace on the flat area to get to the ramps of the last climb with the rival completely exhausted physically and psychologically is a tactic very well-known by the team managers. But it was not used at all during the fifteenth stage of Vuelta 2003 that covered the way between Valdepeñas and Alto de La Pandera. That is why Alejandro Valverde decided to consolidate his condition of future star. Vicente Belda's young rider became the absolute protagonist of a story that should have had a different ending.

Valverde was the winner of a stage that should have been won by the Colombian rider Félix Cárdenas or by Roberto Heras. The problem was that they all travelled together until they got to Jaén and at the end it was the Kelme-Costa Blanca, the team that placed the riders in one line, made the favourite riders lose control and coming from the back, with Sevilla, managed to achieve the final victory.

Until they arrived in Jaén, there were many unsuccessful attempts to break away. Germán Nieto, Carlos Torrent, Cesar García Calvo and Paulo Barroso were the ones who tried it harder. But at the capital city, when there were just 35 kilometres to go, they had to make the concessions.

Until Jaén everything had been quite easy for Once-Eroski; Manolo Saíz´s riders did not even suffer too much when ascending to Los Villares climb. Along these ramps there were several attacks after Laiseka and Cárdenas changed the pace, but nothing remarkable. Isidro was calm and protected by the rider from Galicia, Marcos Serrano, all the time; he had not been pre-selected for the Vuelta at the beginning.

When they decided to face the climb and Manolo Beltrán increased the pace of US Postal, there were only 10 kilometres to go. Roberto Heras did as much as he could and he offered a brilliant performance. He managed to catch up with the rider up, Cárdenas, and he searched for the victory as well as decreasing his difference with the leader. The latter never became nervous, he did what he was supposed to do, he was helped by Serrano and Igor González de Galdeano and did not lose much time.

Sevilla and Valverde got better every time and made a very good job at the hardest ramps of La Pandera. Félix Cárdenas was too innocent; he did not want to co-work with Roberto Heras and with just a few metres to go he lost his longed for victory. Valverde's victory was mainly the consequence of a late breakaway in a day when Roberto Heras could have shortened distances with the Leader Overall, Isidro Nozal.

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Daily Peloton Star writer - Bingen Fernández of Cofidis
- in the wars! © Unipublic.

Nozal: “We knew that Heras would attack, but we have been able to defend ourselves”

The leader of the Vuelta, Isidro Nozal (ONCE-Eroski), believes that his performance in today’s stage was more than acceptable, having lost only one minute and eleven seconds to Roberto Heras.

“Marcos Serrano was by my side at all times, and later on in the stage I was helped by Igor González de Galdeano”, explained Nozal after completing the difficult climb. “We knew that Roberto Heras would attack, because this was his favourite territory, but both Igor and myself were able to defend ourselves. There are no longer so many difficult stages left in which to attack to us, given that Sierra Nevada is more suited to my characteristics.

Following today’s stage, Nozal is followed in the General Classification by González de Galdeano (3.03) and Heras (4.02). Manuel Beltrán is situated at 5.25 and Alejandro Valverde, winner of today’s stage, is at 6.37

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Valverde: “Oscar Sevilla and the team worked flat out today"

Alejandro Valverde’s (Kelme-Costa Blanca) second stage win in this year’s Vuelta was even stranger than that obtained on the 9th stage in Envalira.

The Murcia-based rider pointed out that the first stretch of the stage "was very comfortable, as the route followed a dual-carriageway". Valverde received help from his teammates throughout the stage, and especially towards the finish, “and especially from Oscar Sevilla, who has behaved like a friend and a champion”.

"I was going well on the ascent, but I did not hope to win. When I saw that I could reach Heras and Ca'rdenas I gave it everything and it all worked out perfectly . The victory I must dedicate to my companion Oscar Seville, who has done great work."

Valverde and Sevilla were the main stars of the climb of La Pandera, with the stage finally going to Valverde when he outsprinted Roberto Heras and Felix Cardenas.

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Roberto Heras - not happy

"I did what I had to do and dealt leader Nozal a mental blow, a Nozal of which I felt he wasn’t super today. This much is clear, I must keep on trying if I still want to win this Vuelta. This looks like a very difficult assignment, but one never knows. I’m afraid the leader will need to have an off-day, but anything goes in the mountains. When you meet ‘the man with the hammer’ there, you can lose several minutes in a very short period of time. Don’t forget I still get some chances to take back time. For this I think about the Sierra Nevada and the individual climb time trial in particular."

"Don’t mention the name Cardeñas to me today. That man who followed me to the finish-line simply refused to co-operate, even though he knew I wasn’t interested in winning the stage, but that I only wanted to take back as much time as I could. The fact that Valverde eventually won serves Cardeñas right."

"To myself, the conclusion is simple: my legs are still good and I even feel better than in the Pyrenees. Today as well, I have to thank the entire team. The guys controlled the race from the start and brought me in an ideal position to begin the final climb." (US Postal Official Site)

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