Team time trials, flat lands, KoM points, wind, windy roads - and that's
just stage 1! By Stage 5 it starts to get really tricky....
Saturday, 4th September
1st stage: León – León (T.T.T.) 27,7 Kilometres
Once again the Vuelta Espana will open with a team time trial, following the
exciting formula that worked in Valencia and Gijón in the previous two years.
The riders will face, in the beautiful city of León, a team time trial over a
basically flat course with one soft climb hardly 500 metres high. The climb,
however, will count to the King of the Mountains competition so by the end of
the day we will know the race leader, the best placed team and the King of the
Mountains. Last year ONCE took the honours ahead of US Postal and iBanesto.
However, the Team Time Trial can also spell disaster for teams suffering from
first day nerves or bad luck. Pecharroman was dropped by his team last year and
his race was over before it started, Fassa Bortolo got themselves in a tangle on
the last kilometre and Colchon Relax – Fuenlabrada crashed on the climb, leaving
Santi Blanco nursing a broken cheek bone for the rest of the race.
Daily Peloton Teams to Watch – Liberty Seguros, US Postal, Illes
Balears-Banesto, Quickstep and Phonak - but the bells will probably ring for
Sunday, 5th September
2nd stage: León – Burgos, 207,0 Kilometres
The first time Burgos welcomed Vuelta a España was in 1966 when Nijdam was
the winner, and since then riders like Lammertink, Dejonckheere, Masciarelli and
Johan Bruyneel have all won in the city. A basically flat parcours and a stage
where the sprinters will be wanting to keep the race together for a fast finish.
However, the teams will be aware of the winds of the Castilla y León and it
might be an opportunity for the northern teams to try to split the peloton into
echelons – so expect frantic action en route to the Flamme Rouge and early race
nerves may see some crashes.
Moreni of Alessio crashes in Vuelta 2003. Courtesy Unipublic.
Daily Peloton Riders to Watch - Angelo Furlan, Stuart O’Grady, Luca
Paolini, Alejandro Valverde, Oscar Freire and in form “He’s quick” Max Van
Heeswijk will be all trying to make their mark, but King of the Sprints
Alessandro Petacchi is our bet for this stage.
Monday, 6th September
3rd stage: Burgos – Soria, 157,1 Kilometres
A difficult day to control and one that should end in a sprint – however on
the way to Soria, expect to see a lot of attacks, especially from the smaller
Labarca-2-Cafe Baqué make an early attack in Vuelta 2003 - here
Cesar García Calvo, the rider from León make a typical early move.
It's worth mentioning that both Valverde, last year's blue jersey winner and
Cunego, this year's Giro winner, are both very quick in the sprint. Even so this
will probably be one for the pure fast men again.
Daily Peloton Man to Watch - Max Heeswijk seems back at his early
season best form – he has won in the Vuelta before and there is no reason why
Tuesday, 7th September
4th stage: Soria – Zaragoza, 167,5 Kilometres
For Zaragoza read “SUPER FAST.” Traditionally the run into Zaragoza is
a breathtaking fast stage. In 2001 the fastest stage in the history of the
Vuelta a España ended in Zaragoza with Igor González de Galdeano winning the
stage and setting a record speed of 55.176 kilometres per hour. However, this
year a more winding route and possible winds may have an effect. Narrow roads,
high speeds and winds could also mean crashes.
Matt White – seen here in last year's race for US Postal; he will
ride for Cofidis this year. A bizarre accident with a TV cable put him out of the Tour de France before it
had started. Courtesy Unipublic.
Daily Peloton Man to Watch – Stuart O’Grady. Having a great season and
his Golden Madison legs might be adjusted to Zaragoza.
Wednesday, 8th September
5th stage: Zaragoza – Morella, 186,5 Kilometres
So after 4 days of speed, the riders find themselves confronted by a stage
that has a Classic race feel to it. It could also be a day when anyone of the
favourites could lose a little time if not feeling 100%. Towards the end of the
stage the riders face the second category climb, Torremiró, and then an uphill
finish into Morella which is a category three climb. A few years ago any one
looking at this stage would have backed Jalabert.
Valverde on the attack in Vuelta 2003. Courtesy Unipublic.
Daily Peloton Man to Watch – Valverde, has a killer sprint at the end
of a short sharp climb.
Team News - Saeco and Saunier Duval
Team Saeco for the Vuelta a Espana - Cunego and Di Luca captains of the
Team Saeco have finalized the team for the 59th edition of the Vuelta a
Espana that starts in Leon on Saturday September 4. The team will be directed by
Giuseppe Martinelli and Guido Bontempi and will have two impressive leaders: the
winner of the Giro d’Italia Damiano Cunego and Danilo Di Luca looking for an
important result in the final part of the season.
They will be backed up by Eddy Mazzoleni, Paolo Fornaciari, Alessandro
Spezialetti and Sylvester Szmyd who helped win the pink jersey at the Giro in
May, with Giosuè Bonomi, Juan Fuentes and Marius Sabaliauskas making up the rest
of the team.
For Cunego the race will serve above all as vital final preparation for the
world road race championships in Verona on October 3. However, his incredible
determination to win every race he rides will surely see him in the action in
Danilo Di Luca’s objective will be to win important stages while also looking
for a place on the final podium. After being excluded from the Tour de France in
July, Di Luca is very determined to do well.
The team will leave for Spain on September 1 so that they can check out the
course of the team time trial that will start the Vuelta
Saunier Duval - Sad News for Bertogliati
He fractured his pelvis yesterday in the Tour of Holland and will be out for
the rest of the season. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Bert!