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Vuelta Espana Stage 18 Roundup
By Podofdonny
Date: 9/25/2003
Vuelta Espana Stage 18 Roundup

Vuelta a España

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Las Rozas-Las Rozas - Stage 18

25 September 2003

Díaz Lobato wins at Las Rozas

by Osvaldo Menéndez

The Paternina-Costa de Almería rider, Pedro Díaz Lobato achieved the 18th stage win of the Vuelta 2003. The stage started and ended at Las Rozas and covered 143.8 kilometres. Díaz Lobato has been working really hard all the time during this edition of La Vuelta for the stage win.

Pedro Díaz Lobato (Paternina-Costa de Almería) won the 18th stage after a long solo break at an extremely high average speed: 45.9 kilometres per hour.

The Spanish rider thus registered his third win in the professional category. Since turning pro in 1999, Lobato has remained in the same modest team: Relax-Fuenlabrada

This time he was the protagonist of a break away where there were very important riders such as Chente García Acosta and Joan Horrach; at the end he showed who was the strongest rider during the last 20 kilometres. The pace was frantic again and Isidro Nozal, of Once-Eroski, is Leader Overall once again. Alejandro Valverde suffered a puncture in the very last kilometre..

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Official Race Chronicle

Díaz Lobato achieved his deserved prize on the streets of Las Rozas

Perseverance is a virtue that a modest rider must never forget. Pedro Díaz Lobato knows that among so many stars it is very difficult to shine. His life as a professional rider has also taught him not to stop ever and keep on trying as many times as possible. That is why, the rider from Madrid, gave it his best today, achieved the best prize at Las Rozas and made his team completely happy.

The eighteenth stage, that covered 143.8 kilometres along the streets of Madrid, was one of the quickest ones in this Vuelta 2003. These roads are covered many times by any kind of riders, professional or amateur and they are very suitable to ride alone and as fast as possible, therefore it was expected that the riders from Madrid wanted to be the protagonists today.

The attempts to break away were almost continuous all the time, just controlled by those teams that have the podium of Paseo del Prado in their minds. Today, a day that we could say again that the riders "flew" to the finish line, the last forty kilometres were decisive. The everyday protagonists had to face the exhaustion, lack of strength and pressure. Laguna, Isasi, Arrieta, García Acosta, Horrach, Schweda and specially Pedro Horrillo found a very good moment to go in search of the triumph.

What Díaz Lobato´s team mates did not know was that one girl-friend of the Paternina-Costa de Almería rider had come to visit him and to give him a pair of very powerful glasses at the start of the stage and that he wanted to arrive earlier than the rest to the finish line to see her again.

Even though García Acosta and Joan Horrach tried as hard as possible to avoid Miguel Moreno´s rider´s stage win at Las Rozas, the last twenty kilometres of the Madrid-born rider were amazing and brilliant and no one was able to catch him up. The first positions Overall did not have any problem to arrive very close to Isidro Nozal, who is still Leader Overall. Valverde was so unlucky as to suffer a puncture at the very last kilometre, but so lucky as to arrive to the end unharmed. Today´s stage has not meant many changes but it made the survivors of this "battle" more tired even.

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Díaz Lobato: “I’ve been trying for a win stage for various days”

The winner of 18th stage of the Vuelta commented before the cameras of Spanish national television: “(I have been trying for a stage win for various days”, in reference to his numerous attempts to enter breaks.

“I spoke with my team manager, Martínez Oliver about a stage win, and I’ve been lucky enough to win in my home territory. I’m in a good moment of form and I feel very strong”.

His victory came after having worked hard during the entire stage: “It was a very hard day today, and more so given the fact that we are all very tired. This made it very hard to win. There were a lot of people in the break, but once we were down to, I think, five riders it became a question of strength and not luck”.

Fortunately, in addition to strength, Lobato was also accompanied by large doses of good fortune: “Olivia, a good friend of mine, gave me various good luck charms and they have obviously helped me”.

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Valverde punctures and Nozal maintains the leadership

No major changes were produced in the General Classification following today’s stage, although Alejandro Valverde (Kelme-Costa Blanca) suffered a shock on route to the finish in Las Rozas (Madrid). Valverde, 5th in the General Classification, suffered a puncture during the final kilometre, although at the finish he was accredited with the same time as that of the main group, headed by Erik Zabel (Telekom).

Isidro Nozal (ONCE-Eroski) was able to hold on to his yellow jersey without difficulty. The coming two stages (tomorrow’s stage includes the climb of Navacerrada, whilst Saturday’s stage is a hill climb in Abantos) present the final opportunities for those riders wishing to occupy a position on the final podium. Nozal is currently accompanied by second placed team mate Igor González de Galdeano and Roberto Heras (US Postal Service) at the head of the General Classification.

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Maestre, the Lanterne Rouge

José Manuel Maestre currently occupies last place in the General Classification, far removed from the battle for the leader’s Golden Jersey.

The Relax-Fuenlabrada rider has held the position of red lantern since the 3rd stage, having previously occupied the penultimate position as a result of a crash during the 1st stage team time trial.

Maestre has an ample “advantage” of 35 minutes over Francisco Gutiérrez (Labarca 2-Café Baqué), who is lying in penultimate position. Sven Teutenberg was the last rider in the General Classification of the Vuelta 2002.

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Roberto Heras

“When looking back, the stage in and around Las Rozas was rather treacherous. There were hardly any flat parts, there was a lot of wind and the pace was very high, which meant I had to keep a sharp look-out. There were no team-mates among the sixteen that got away, but in the peloton they still had to work hard to keep the group together. You never know the main bunch splits up into several parts. Therefore, everyone in the team rode in front almost all of the race.”

“Tomorrow, it’s double or nothing for me. In this 162 km long stage with two cols of first category there’s still hope for me to take back time. Dirk told me a number of years ago the leader’s jersey changed shoulders after exactly the same stage. Then, Pedro Delgado took over first place at the expense of Robert Millar, once everyone thought he had won the Vuelta.”

“If I can take back some time to Nozal, Saturday’s climb time trial could become very exciting. Anyway, I still feel very good and how little my chances may be, I will still try my best to make things turn for the best.” (U S Postal Site)

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Tomorrow's Stage

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La Vega de Alcobendas - Collado Villalba 164 kms

This surely will be a very interesting stage. The narrow road of the natural park that leads to Hoyo and Torrelodones will make things interesting but much more will be the climbs to San Lorenzo del Escorial, Alto de Los Leones, Angeles de San Rafael and specially the seven narrow bends of the Navacerrada climb.

Last year the rain was the main protagonist during the first half of a very similar stage but then the fight was constant. The triumph was finally achieved by Pablo Lastras followed by Zubeldia and Möller.

The favourite riders had hard problems to follow their wheels and lost nine seconds and there was a group of riders who arrived in Collado Villalba more than two minutes behind the leader.

This year the fight will be similar and very few riders will have time to think of Abantos.

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