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Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 5
By Locutus
Date: 9/8/2004
Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 5
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Stuart "Red Stallion" O'Grady (Cofidis). Stuey had another great day out there, getting into the big break of the day. He then attacked to pare the group down to five men, and won every intermediate sprint on the course. This put him eight points up on Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) in the race for the Blue and Yellow Jersey (well, it's blue with little yellow fish all over it… so it could also be called the Fishy Shirt). While O'Grady was reeled in on the climbs, he helped his cause immensely with his brave riding today.
  • Denis Menchov (Illes Balears – Banesto). The young Russian climber jumped off the front with the perfect attack in the final kilometer and drove it home for the victory. He finished 3" clear of the field, and now sits in 3rd on GC only 4" behind Beltran. With his teammate Francisco Mancebo, Menchov must now be considered to be a serious podium threat. Sure, it's early in the race, but this young rider has everybody worried with the talent that was on display today. Menchov could well follow what Cunego did in the Giro and Klöden did in the Tour by having a breakout ride. For now, he's happy with his stage win and his proximity to the Gold Jersey.
  • Cadel "Hellraiser" Evans (T-Mobile) and Joseba Beloki (Saunier Duval-Prodir). Both of these riders had their 2003 seasons ruined by serious crashes. Both have struggled to return to the form that they once had, and both have had major problems with their teams this season. However, finally, both of these men had a good day on the bike when it counted. Evans was 6th on the stage at 9", and Beloki was 13th on the stage at 9". Evans now stands in 5th on GC at 16", while Beloki is in 31st at 1' 50". With food poisoning taking its toll on Vinokourov and some of the other T-Mobile riders, Evans is in the position of trying to ride well on GC with hardly any teammates. Still, he is riding well and could make some serious noise down the road. Beloki lost his time in this race during the team time-trial, but the rest of this race suits him. If these two riders keep it up, this Vuelta could be their race of redemption.
  • Roberto "Spanish Fly" Heras (Liberty Seguros) and Tyler "Nails" Hamilton (Phonak). These two men had disappointing Tours, pulling out in the big mountains. Today, both were at the sharp end of the race when it mattered. Both were in that group that came across 9" behind Menchov, with Heras in 12th and Hamilton in 17th. The fact that they didn't do the most difficult part of the Tour means that their legs are still relatively fresh, and their form is clearly back on track in this race. I wouldn't be at all surprised if these two men came into the final stage in a head-to-head dual for the overall win.
  • Manuel "Blue Meanie" Beltran and "Pretty Boy" Floyd Landis (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). The BlueBerry Boys kept up their game of hot-potato with the Gold Jersey today, as Beltran finished in 9th on the stage at 9" to take over the GC lead. Landis was with him the whole way, finishing in 14th in the same group. Landis now sits in 2nd on GC in the same time as Beltran. With such a long race, these men who rode so well in the Tour could fade come the third week. However, they have yet to show any sign of weakness in thus far, and continue to execute their team strategy to perfection. Last year, Heras won the Vuelta for US Postal after racing the Tour and working for Armstrong; I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Beltran and Landis carry the Postal banner onto the podium in Madrid this year.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Oscar Sevilla (Phonak). The classy Spaniard had a hard day, finishing in 46th at 56". He came into this Vuelta a bit underprepared due to injury, and it looks like that showed up on the road today. Still, Sevilla is a talented climber who can recover in time to be a force in the mountains. Even if he doesn't have a lot of hope for his GC chances, Sevilla has shown in the past that he can be an awesome supporter to his teammates when needed. Here's hoping that the little guy continues to improve over the days to come.
  • Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Jose Antonio Pecharroman (Quick Step). These two men came into the race as team leaders carrying the GC hopes of their sponsors on their shoulders. Today, however, the final nail was put in the coffin of their GC hopes as they were dropped early and finished 6' 00" back of the winner. These riders are both capable of stage wins down the road, but first they will have to recover their morale and rearrange their priorities in this race.
  • Benoit Joachim (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). The big guy gave it everything today to defend his Gold Jersey. He worked himself inside out, grimacing his way up the climbs and across the finish line. He ended up losing 56" on the stage, and thus relinquished the lead to his teammate Beltran. However, he had a wonderful two days as the head honcho in a grand tour, and for a faithful domestique like Joachim (as it would be for most riders around the world), that's a dream come true and the accomplishment of a lifetime. Good on ya, Benoit!
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