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Vuelta a Espaņa - Museo de Jamon Report: Stage 20
By Crazy Jane
Date: 9/27/2003
Vuelta a Espaņa - Museo de Jamon Report: Stage 20

Golden Hams

  • Roberto Heras & The US Postal/Berry Floor Team - Well, a lot of us thought he could do it, and he did. Heras flew today. He proved himself on his own terrain, and has finally re-taken the golden fleece. Last year, Heras was beaten decisively, and lost the golden jersey in the time trial on the penultimate stage, so it's gotta feel go to turn that around today. Heras has been steadily improving throughout this final week, and his strong US Postal Service/Berry Floor teammates and Johan Bruyneel have supported him with spot-on tactical intelligence and never-say-die grinta. Maybe this performance from the little climber and the Blue Train will finally put to rest the critics who say that Heras sold his soul, and goes unsupported on Postal, because after today, they really are just blowing so much hot air.
  • Alejandro Valverde, Felix Cardenas and Fabian Jeker - Kelme's young revelation rode well enough to put himself on the podium today, is the leader of the combine competition, and took over the polka-dotted sprinter's jersey. Valverde's had an incredible Vuelta, and with his talents, he will certainly be a man to watch for the future, and will move himself into a position of co-leadership on Kelme. Felix Cardenas proved that his KOM title is no fluke, and Fabian Jeker showed again that his little team is bursting with potential. It's great to see the little guys in the action.
  • Isidro Nozal - He fought. Nozal came out of nowhere, and has been fighting to beat the odds for three weeks. He lost it today, and it was painful to watch him go down inexorably; finishing his ride knowing he wasn't able to hang on. For one man to win, another has to lose, and even though it's gotta hurt tonight, Nozal bore the burden of the golden jersey well, and rode like a champion, so... Chapeau!

Special Mention

  • Johan Bruyneel - Ok, so we never saw the hams, but Bruyneel has just led his team to back to back Grand Tour victories, and that is impressive. Even more impressive is the way both wins were tough to take and closely fought by strong opposition. Bruyneel has a great team to work with, but there were days in both the Tour and this Vuelta where his tactical intelligence and crafty planning have been directly responsible for his team's success.

Ham Gazers

  • Manolo Saiz - It's often said that Saiz is like a father to his riders, and if that is so, it must be especially hard for him to watch his men go to pieces on the road on the penultimate stage of their national tour from the team bus. It must also be hard for him to watch a former son lead his team to back to back Grand Tour victory while his riders suffered. Saiz has been a pressure cooker from the start of this race with his men in the lead, and their future on the line, and yesterday he exploded. Did his ejection hurt Nozal today? Maybe. One can only speculate, but one thing is certain: with sponsorship and overall victory on the line, his timing was pretty terrible, and there's no way it helped.
  • No one else! Another great Vuelta on the books. For the past three years this race has come down to the final day, and it's a thriller. Viva La Vuelta!

Crazy Jane's Museo del Jamones Especial: Los Jamones Delicioso has been on hiatus the past couple of days, but will return tomorrow with a full Vuelta wrap up. Until then... Adios! But do enjoy this picture of today's big hero, Roberto Heras, looking all pixie-ish, sparkly-eyed and charming...

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