Vuelta a España
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Stage 16 - Jaén - Sierra Nevada
23 September 2003
The Colombian rider, Cárdenas, made his team happy at Sierra Nevada
By Osvaldo Menéndez
Félix Cárdenas does not need to be asked that question from a very famous
Spanish song that asks: "what is in your head when I ask you and you do not
answer me?" Since he came to the Vuelta 2003 with the team Labarca2-Café-Baqué,
we all realized that there was just one idea in his mind: to win a mountain
stage. Cárdenas has been constant and tireless. He came to Spain to become the
best at the mountains and to win a stage and he has achieved his aim at the
highest top, in Sierra Nevada.
Cárdenas was the first to break away. He took part in the first breakaway of
the day just in case it were successful, but when he realized this was not the
best tactic he decided to be intelligent. In his mind there were many memories,
he made use of them and joined Sevilla and Alejandro Valverde, who had decided
to fight for Valverde´s position Overall than for a new stage win.
Cárdenas achieved the 16th stage win of Vuelta a España 2003 that had started
in Jaén and covered 162 kilometres to Sierra Nevada. He tried to find good
travellers to go with him and when there were just two kilometres to go, he
attacked; he did it when Juan Miguel Mercado wanted to make his people and
iBanesto.com happy. With his victory, this modest team can be really satisfied
and go to bed with a big smile on their faces. The truth is that Labarca2 café-Baque
riders have worked very hard during this Vuelta and now they are having their
The race to the podium had a very special protagonist: Marcos Serrano. Once
again, the rider from Galicia was the one in charge of taking Isidro to the top.
Apart from that, he also worked for Igor González de Galdeano who could not
follow Roberto Heras very closely. Once-Eroski´s leader lost some precious time
and that makes things much more interesting for the Overall Standings.
Roberto Heras knows that Nozal is the virtual Leader Overall and that is why
he broke away on the hardest ramps to Sierra Nevada and he is getting precious
seconds little by little. He also knows that all the riders get to the Capital
City with very little strength left.
Vicente Belda´s riders were also great protagonists today. The green team bet
on Alejandro Valverde. They wanted the Murcia-born rider to get a better
position Overall. Sevilla, Gutiérrez and Tauler worked for that, the problem was
that the one who made use of this tactic was Cárdenas. This particular and
special stage had many candidates but only one could be the chosen one. The same
as the Gold Jersey that is still in the hands of Isidro Nozal.
"I wanted to win today, I have been searching for a victory but had achieved
two second positions,a third and fifth. I am very happy because this is very
important for my race. In the morning I decided I would attack, and everything
worked out to plan." said the cyclist of the Labarca 2.
Cárdenas, 30 years old, explained how the race developed - "I kept to the
front and followed the wheel of Oscar Sevilla because I knew that he wanted to
win the stage. With two kilometres to go I attacked and passed Mercado and jusy
kept going," he said.
In addition to the stage victory, the cyclist of Encino consolidated his
leadership of the mountains jersey. "I now believe I can keep this jersey all
the way to Madrid - thanks to the effort of all the team. I have to thank my
team for supporting to me, I'm very thankful. I have fought for my team and
today they fought for me. I am very happy with the team, although if other
offers did come in I would have to study them."
“Together with the team management, we had agreed to try to get away for the
first time at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. Floyd Landis stepped up the pace,
in order to test Nozal, but the leader didn’t break. As a challenger, it’s very
difficult to get ahead solo, I think I must the one who is watched most by the
rest of the peloton. What’s more, the ONCE block keeps performing well in
service of Nozal and tries to neutralise every move US Postal-Berry Floor
“I know today’s long climb very well and knew my chances to get away after
only a few kilometres were very slim. I had to wait till about 6 km from the
top, when the climb became somewhat steeper. Manuel first upped the tempo, after
which I took my chances. Nozal and Gonzalez de Galdeano couldn’t follow, but the
way to the top was not steep enough to win back more time.”
“I am now at only 6 seconds of second place, which means that position is up
for grabs. If I can still take final victory? I think so, even though there’s a
very difficult task ahead of me, especially as Nozal now has a couple of days to
regain his strengths. Anyway, those who know me will not doubt me to fight till
the last metres of this Vuelta and try to win the golden jersey…” (US Postal