|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Oscar "Buffman" Sevilla and Alejandro Valverde (Kelme-Costa Blanca). Sevilla kept his pants on long enough to ride another brilliant stage. He looked to have good enough form to win the stage, but instead he paced his teammate Valverde and helped him in his assault on the GC. The duo took 3rd and 4th on the stage respectively; Valverde is still in 5th on GC, but is now only 4" behind Beltran. With his time-trailing and climbing ability, Valverde could very well have put himself in position to take a spot on the podium come Madrid.
- Felix Cardenas (Labarca 2-Cafes Baque). Well, well, he finally stopped sucking wheels long enough to launch a great attack and fly past the unfortunate Mercado in the final kilometer to take the stage victory. He is obviously a brilliant climber, and hopefully this attack today will mark a new page in his racing style. After today, all he has to do is stay upright all the way to Madrid and he'll take home the final Mountains Jersey.
- Roberto "Spanish Fly" Heras and Manuel Beltran (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). These guys gave it their all again today, but it probably wasn't enough to win. Beltran set an early pace to try to drop Nozal, but then had to fall back and hold on to his own GC position. Heras attacked a couple of times, finally getting clear of Nozal and the ONCEs at the top. The "Spanish Fly" took 53" out of Nozal and Gonzalez de Galdeano, and now stands in 3rd on GC at 3' 09". However, with his attack, he now only trails Gonzalez de Galdeano by 6".
- Juan Miguel Mercado (iBanesto.com) and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank). Mercado launched a brilliant attack, but it fell just short as Cardenas got him at the end. He came across in 2nd, banging on his bars, but it was still a great ride. On second thought, his team's GC man Francisco Mancebo was struggling behind, so perhaps it wasn't that great of a move by Mercado. For his part, Rasmussen attacked the ONCEs with Heras. He took time out of the ONCE men and Beltran, but lost time to Valverde. Still, his 9th place on this very difficult stage confirms that he is coming through the last week as strong as the first week. He has really done a lot to ease the grand tour woes of the sponsors.
Crazy Jane's Museo Especial del Jamón:
- Isidro Nozal and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONCE-Eroski). They lost time today, and if wasn't for the fabulous pace-making of Marcos Serrano, it would have been a whole lot worse. They rode well enough to keep Nozal comfortably in the Gold Jersey, but now Gonzalez de Galdeano's 2nd place is very precarious. The ONCEs still have a stranglehold on the race, but they lost enough time today to keep it interesting.
- Nobody else. I mean, it was a stretch to even give a ham-gazing award to the ONCE guys. You know, they rode pretty well, everything considered. And just making it up the freakin' Sierra Nevada ought to earn each one of these guys a medal. And hey, they kept their clothes on today. That's a big bonus. Right, Jane?
Los Jamones Deliciosos
Now, with more Jamon than ever before!
Dear readers (and my dear colleague, Locutus), I hope you know me well enough by now to know that there is no way I can let the whole pro-cycling "Full Monty" thing go by without review. I also hope you all know me well enough to realize how much I support efforts like this one to distract the media from constant barking about drugs and sponsorship woes, because now, we can all discuss hilarious tan lines and skinny, skinny boys, which is so much more fun.
In a brilliant PR initiative, Martin Perdiguero lead a group of his companeros down the path to sin, as he, along with Joan Horrach, Alejandro Valverde, Quique Gutierrez, Oscarlito Sevilla, Jorge Ferrio, Aitor Gonzalez and Santos Gonzalez took their day off to pose in the nude for Spanish magazine Interviu, using cycling caps and bikes to cover up some of the more sensitive details. Nice work, boys. I like how Joan Horrach looks a bit bashful, Valverde unembarrassed and matter-of-fact, while Little Perdiguero is adorable, looking all chuffed with himself, and of course, Oscar Sevilla, displaying a bit of that jaunty sauciness that seems to accompany him into any episode that involves podium girls, and is so disturbing when accompanied by that 13 year old visage. What have I told you about those cheeks? Apples!
Ok. Has there been bike racing today? Right.
On today's hotlist, two of our little naked monkeys, who thankfully, kitted back up for the ride up Sierra Nevada: Oscar Sevilla was on fire today, launching attack after attack, and I love it when he does that. Alejandro Valverde has a beautiful name, is good lookin', and rode well enough to move himself within striking distance of the podium. Their teammate, big Toni Tauler looked good in the break today, too. It was a good day for Kelme fans, not least because of the good team spirit they have shown in the past few days. Before the rest day, Sevilla rode flat out as a domestique for Valverde, and today it was Valverde who gave it up for Sevilla. Good sportsmanship and team spirit is Delicioso!
Manuel Beltran deserves special mention here as well. He left it all on the road for Heras today, got dropped, and struggled back into the action to give some more. Also in the beautiful team spirit department is the ONCE squad. Marcos Serrano did yeoman's work today as his two team leaders struggled, and he probably saved Gonzalez de Galdeano and Nozal's leads from shrinking any more than they had to. Isidro Nozal is looking like a man who is holding on by the skin of his teeth and wishing it were over sometimes, but he carries the hopes of his team, and he's carried them valiantly. He's had an incredibly tenacious ride, and shown true grit, so Chapeau! to him.
Finally, the Vuelta lost a delicioso man on the rest day, as George Hincapie hit the campaign trail for the World's in Hamilton next month. I never made Gorgeous George our Vuelta poster boy, so here's a belated nod to the man who gets more votes for the Delicioso Distinction than any other rider. In this picture, he's riding along in Spain next to teammate Max Van Heeswik with that big smile on his face, looking tall and brown, and wearing big funny glasses. Charmatacrit 99.9%.
Photo Courtesy of USPS/Berry Floor