|Golden Hams of the Day. |
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- "The Maltese Falcon," David Millar (Cofidis). Millar time, indeed. Great Britain only has one man in the race, but sometimes that's all it takes. The Scottish man from Malta (among other places) made up for his pain with a victory on a road stage. He had just missed victories in the two time trials, when the Gold Jersey Nozal took him on both occasions, but he wasn't going to come in 2nd today. He also got a measure of revenge for Great Britain over that whole Beckham thing with Spain: Millar's brilliant attack on the Cat 2 Alto de San Jeronimo was good enough to drop Mercado and Martinez, and strong enough to hold off Sevilla. He tried a similar move in the Tour and exploded, but today was very different. Excellent job, David!
- Oscar "Flying Elf" Sevilla (Kelme-Costa Blanca) and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank). What does Sevilla have to do to win a stage? He has attacked like crazy up every climb he could find recently. Unfortunately for Oscar, the GC threat Rasmussen was on his wheel when he attacked, so once he reached that chase group he was hindered a bit (what with his teammate Valverde's GC position under threat and all). Oscar came in 3rd across the line, again confirming that he has come into form just a little too late to be a GC threat in this year's Vuelta. Rasmussen stole only 5" from many of his GC rivals, but his attack gets lots of points for effort.
- "The Big E-Z," Erik Zabel (Telekom). Check it: E-Z once again used a climb to shell Petacchi, who starting pulling a big trailer at the very bottom of the Jeronimo. Zabel then took full advantage, winning the group sprint for 6th ahead of "California" Fred Rodriguez (Saunier Duval – Vini Caldirola) and Angel "Judge" Edo (Milaneza-MSS). He increased his lead in the Polka-Dot Jersey race to 15 points over Petacchi and 20 points over Valverde. Tomorrow's stage is rolling, and may not suit Petacchi either. The only stage that really suits the Italian now is the final stage in Madrid. With such a big lead with so few opportunities left, E-Z now looks like a lock for his second consecutive points title.
Crazy Jane's Museo Especial del Jamón:
- Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). I've got to give the guy credit: even though he drops anchor (thanks for that expression, Frankie Andreu) every time the road goes up, he has stuck it out during this Vuelta and remained competitive in the points competition. He has a good shot at winning the final stage, and though it is doubtful he can take the Polka-Dots from Zabel, he will likely go home with the most stage wins. Already Petacchi has had the best season in recent memory, and at this point any further wins will just be icing on the cake.
- The top six GC men. The ONCEs did what they should have done: they rode defensively, keeping Nozal and Gonzalez de Galdeano safely out of the wind and clear of trouble. Postal decided to take the day off, just marking the ONCEs and watching hams. Valverde (Kelme-Costa Blanca) and Mancebo (iBanesto.com) were happy to see their teammates take a shot at the stage. They must all be waiting for that final time trial this Saturday.
Los Jamones Deliciosos
The first thing I have to mention is that, apparently, there was trouble in Kermit Paradise yesterday, after all. It seems that Oscar Sevilla, liking his chances on the Sierra Nevada, attacked hard and repeatedly, which put the hurt on his own teammate, and Kelme's best placed man in the GC, Alejandro Valverde. Reportedly, Sevilla was called off of his own ambitions by Kelme director Vincente Belda who wasn't confident that Sevilla could drive it home, and preferred to protect Valverde. Is this the story of young Oscarlito's life, or what? So, what looked like amicable teamsmanship, was in fact a bit more complicated. Ah, the vagaries of sport.
Today's number one most delicioso thing in the Vuelta was the Andalusian hat they put on stage winner David Millar and Golden Jersey Man Isidro Nozal. But, speaking of David Millar, it looks like he's finally justified Phil Liggett's love with an excellent victory today, and it was a great move. Millar, in my humble opinion, might want to reconsider that hair color, but he looked charming in the hat, alright. Today's poster boy is Nozal in said hat. I like the Flamenco stylings of the podium girls, too. Very nice! There are some excellent hat days in the Vuelta, and if I were a Vuelta stage win contender, I'd be coordinating my efforts to coincide with them.
It's all about the hat! © Unipublic
Also delicioso today: SPAIN. What a beautiful country.
Other than that, it's the usual suspects: Oscatlito, on the attack again, is still hoping for a stage win to salve the ache of a full year lost to injury and mishap. Unai Osa keeps popping up, and he's not so bad, is he? Then, there's Erik Zabel who is just not a quitter. Zabel's consistency is nothing short of incredible, and today, he gave himself a decisive lead in the Sprint Classification when his number one opponent, Alessandro Petacchi, ran out of gas on the climb. With Valverde close to Petacchi on points, and before today, close enough to challenge Zabel as well, that was a good move; but, is it a little disorienting for anyone else to see Zabel in polka dots?
Finally, Freddy Rodriguez... up there again. My fingers are still crossed for that little rooster.