24th Vuelta a Murcia-Costa Cálida (March 03-07, 2004) - Stage 2
Stage Two of the 24th Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia-Costa Cálida, a 21-km. "race of truth" whose start and finish line were both in the town of Lorca, made the headlines as the first clash between Lance Armstrong (winner of the first ITT he took part in this year, at Tour of Algarve) and Jan Ullrich, at his first outing of the season.
But in the end it was a third rider that stole the show: winner of the Under 23 Time Trial at the 1999 World Champs in Italy, José Iván Gutiérrez Palacios (Spa, Illes Balears - Banesto) displayed his time-trialling skills one more time, as he took the stage in a time of twenty five minutes and thirty-nine seconds.
American Armstrong managed a top 5 place finish, although two Germans did better than him: neither of them was Jan Ullrich though. Gerolsteiner's time-trialling sensation Michael Richj took second, losing to Gutéreez by a three-second margin only, and Torsten Schmidt snatched fourth, behind surprising Italian Marco Pinotti. Race (and crowd) favourite Alejandro Valverde got a place in the stage Top 10, while Jan Ullrich didn't.
Cantabrian Gutiérrez Palacios, second to Max van Heeswijk in yesterday's opening stage, also moved to the top of the GC, toppling the USPS rider (that scored his third win of the season on Wednesday). Armstrong follows only 29 seconds behind.
Stage 2 (Lorca-Lorca, 21.3 km. - ITT) Results - Top 10 Places
1. Gutiérrez, José Iván (Spa, Illes Balears-Banesto) - 25'39''
2. Rich, Michael (Ger - Gerolsteiner)- 25'42''
3. Pinotti, Marco (Ita - Lampre) - 26'00''
4. Schmidt, Torsten (Ger - Gerolsteiner) - 26'07''
5. Armstrong, Lance (USA - U.S. Postal Service) - 26'08''
6. Plaza, Ruben (Spa - Comunitat Valenciana-Kelme) - 26'14''
7. Guerra, Hector (Spa - Relax-Bodysol) - 26'16''
8. Blanco, Santiago (Spa - Relax-Bodysol)- 26'17''
9. Martínez Trinidad, José Alberto (Spa - Relax - Bodysol)- 26'21''
10. Valverde, Alejandro(Spa - Comunitat Valenciana-Kelme) - 26'26''
... 31. Ullrich, Jan (Ger - T-Movile) - 27'14''
GC after Stage 2 - Top 10 Places
1. Gutiérrez, José Iván (Spa - Illes Balears-Banesto) - 04h46'30"
2. Armstrong, Lance (USA - U.S. Postal Service) - at 29”
3. Plaza, Ruben (Spa - Comunitat Valenciana-Kelme) - at 35”
4. Guerra, Hector (Spa - Relax-Bodysol) - at 37”
5. Blanco, David (Spa - Comunitat .Valenciana-Kelme) - at 38”
6. Martínez Trinidad, José Alberto (Spa - Relax-Bodysol) - at 42”
7. Valverde, Alejandro (Spa - Comunitat Valenciana-Kelme) - at 47”
8. Mayo, Iban (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) - at 48”
9. Barry, Michael (Can - U.S. Postal Service) - at 50”
10. P.Rodriguez, Javier (Spa - Comunitat Valenciana-Kelme) - at 51”
... 74. Ullrich, Jan (Ger - T-Movile) - at 09'10"
More to follow