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Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 3
 
By Locutus
Date: 9/6/2004
Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 3
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme). The Kermits of Kelme fired up the big chase to bring back that breakaway that seem long gone. Then their big sprinter fired up the engines and blew everyone away by well over a bike length. It's a great win for the squad (and the rider) who have had so much highly publicized turmoil this year due to finances. The win today was big for Valverde's GC hopes as well: he picked up the 20" time bonus, but also took 15" out of a lot of the field because of a split near the finish. He now sits in 10th on GC a mere 45" back of the Gold Jersey.
  • Benoit "Joker" Joachim (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). Well today was definitely a high point in the career of this former champion of Luxembourg. He went early in that break, stayed away for over 100km, and won the intermediate sprints along the way. When the peloton finally caught the break, Joachim dug deep and hung on while the others were spit out the back. Joachim finished 46th, in the group 15" back of Valverde, but with his time bonuses he took a 16" lead over his teammate Van Heeswijk. The BlueBerry Boys seems to be playing hot potato with the Gold Jersey, and today was the Joker's turn to pull it on. Tomorrow, maybe another Postie will get in the break and have his day in the sun. Until then, Joachim will enjoy being the temporary cycling king of Spain.
  • Stuart "Red Thunder" O'Grady (Cofidis). Old Stuey stepped it up today to improve on his 4th place from yesterday. He had Valverde's wheel, and managed to finish strong enough to take 2nd on the line in that wet and weird sprint. This was good enough to catapult him into the lead in the Points competition, where he now sits 4 points ahead of Oscar Freire (Rabobank). The way things are shaping up, the race for the Points Jersey in this year's Vuelta could look like one from the Tour de France a few years back, with O'Grady and Zabel going head to head until the final stage. Both of these veterans are solid sprinters with climbing legs, and both seem to be in great form. It should be fun to watch.
  • Cadel "Hellraiser" Evans and Alexandre "Wineman" Vinokourov (T-Mobile). These two GC contenders were on the good side of that split in the field, and they picked up 15" on a lot of their rivals. They now sit in 8th and 9th on GC respectively, only 38" back of Joachim. They are the highest placed non-Posties in the field, and look focused and ready to put the wood to everyone else in the final two weeks of the race. If they continue to ride like this, they will both achieve a sweet vindication in what has been an otherwise bad year.
  • Roberto "Spanish Fly" Heras (Liberty Seguros) and Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears-Banesto). These two little climbers were also up there in that sprint, mixing it with the likes of O'Grady and Valverde to finish in 5th and 7th respectively. This helped them pick up a little time on GC over men like Sevilla, Beltran, Landis, and Hamilton. More importantly, it shows that both are really strong right now despite the question marks that have been hanging over them coming into the race. Once the mountains arrive, these two should be firing off the front and making a serious charge for the podium.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Floyd Landis, Manuel Beltran, and Max van Heeswijk (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). Both Landis and Beltran got caught out, losing 15" to the men listed above. You can bet they won't be happy about this, and you can bet Johan Bruyneel will make sure to let them hear about it. Still, these two are well up in the GC and got to sit in today while Joachim was off the front. Postal's tactics have been perfect so far, despite today's hiccup, and these two should be ready for the showdown coming on Wednesday. As for Van Heeswijk, he only got this award because he placed so poorly (42nd) in a sprint finish that should have suited him. He'll have to find his sprinting legs soon, because after this first week there won't be many more opportunities for him to take a stage win.
  • Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla (Phonak). Hamilton lost 4" and Sevilla lost 15". This could be a good sign for Hamilton… he was only four places behind Vinokourov, and looks to have been attentive at the end. For Sevilla, who was 43rd, this kind of attentiveness will take a bit more work. Both of these riders will be looking forward to Wednesday, especially Sevilla. If they can continue to keep themselves off the pavement and improving their form, the memory of those injuries they were nursing coming into this Vuelta will fade away in the mountains.
  • Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) and Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). Poor Zabel had a flat at the worst possible moment with about 5km left. He lost 1' 18" by the end of the day, putting an end to his hopes for a stage win and a shot at the Gold Jersey. He also lost the Points Jersey, but will surely fight back in the days to come. As for Petacchi, well, this finish didn't really seem to suit him, and he sat this one out. He finished 31" back, but will be looking forward to tomorrow's flatter and easier run-in to the line.
 
Related Articles
Vuelta a España: Museo de Jamon Report, Stage 1
Vuelta a España: Museo de Jamon Report - Stage 2
Vuelta a Espana Stage 3 Live Coverage

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