Stage 6 Benicarló-Castellón 157 kms - for live report and results, click
Freire – his first victory since Milan San Remo. (c) Unipublic.
Freire’s Special Win for a Spanish Legend
Spanish sport was in mourning today following the death of one of their most
famous and eloquent sports commentators, Matías Prats; it was perhaps
fitting on such a day that the victory should go to one of Spain's most
famous cycling sons, Oscar Freire.. The Vuelta a Espańa paid homage to him by
offering a stage filled with emotion.
Earlier on in the week Freire had complained that his Rabobank team had not
been strong enough to help him; today the young Dutchmen responded in the
best possible manner with a demonstration of hard work. It was the Orange
team of Nederlands who helped Freire beat Erik Zabel and Stuart O´Grady and
achieve the victory today. Rabobank worked hard throughout the race to
reduce the lead and bring back the break of Quinziato and Hulsmans and also
kept Alessandro Petacchi under control. The Dutch knew that if Petacchi
fell behind on the climb of the Desierto, Freire would have of a chance of
winning in Castellón. They put maximum effort into the route and achieved
Click for larger image. (c) Unipublic.
Rabobank were also helped by the Liberty Seguros team of Roberto Heras and
T-Mobile, of Erik Zabel, who in spite of having lost four riders due to food
poisoning, are still putting up a fighting display in Spain. However the day
belonged to Spain, and the Double World Champion of 1999 and 2001. Oscar Freire
will now have go to the World Championships with more confidence.
Manuel Beltrán of the US Postal Service held onto the Golden leaders jersey
for the second day running, adding yet more UCI points to the USA team's
“bank” and confirming their overall command of this race so far.
Kisses from the misses for Beltrán. (c) Unipublic
Freire: “Lady Luck plays her role"
Oscar Freire was naturally delighted with his victory today: “Lady luck is
also important in a sprint. Today I managed to get a better position than
in the previous days' sprints. My victory shows that if you keep trying
your best, you will get the results in the end. Funnily enough, I did not
feel that strong today, but maybe that was true for everyone else too!
Petacchi has the best lead-out team in the world at the moment. They make
it a bit easier for him, they keep leading him out right up to 100 metres
to go. We just don’t have that sort of squad at Rabobank, indeed at the
present time only Fassa have that sort of team for Alessandro Petacchi."
"The Rabobank team is this Vuelta is a young squad, but I must say that
today they have worked magnificently during the stage and on the lead up to
the finish. I expect to arrive at Verona for the World Championships in good
form. I have always ridden well in the Worlds. Spain has a good selection,
is not like in the Olympics where you only have 4 riders. However I believe
that Bettini will be the big favourite in Verona."
Rabobank working hard for their leader – Oscar Freire. (c)
T- Mobile: “A fighting display”
The T-Mobile team put up a fighting display today despite the fact the team
have been ravaged since Tuesday evening by a serious bout of food poisoning.
The T- Mobile website reports: "Today there was some good news regarding
Alexander Vinokourov and Stephan Schreck; T-Mobile Team doctor Andreas Blüm
reported from Spain on Thursday afternoon that the two were on the mend. The
news regarding Andreas Klier was not so good, however. The German is the
latest T-Mobile rider to abandon the Vuelta as a result of the food
It all started on Tuesday evening: Alexander Vinokourov, Santiago Botero and
Torsten Hiekmann fell violently ill. The symptoms were vomiting and
diarrhoea. By Wednesday morning Stephan Schreck and Steffen Wesemann were
also showing the same symptoms. "Our riders have been laid low by a bout of
food poisoning. We have ruled out a virus as a cause of this," explained Blüm.
Botero, Wesemann and Hiekmann are already on the way home. "They are
starting to feel a bit better. We will see how things go between now and
Friday. If 'Wese' and Hiekmann still have problems then, we will do some
more tests on them at the clinic in Freiburg," said the doctor.
Vinokourov and Stephan Schreck, who fought tooth and nail to finish
Wednesday's stage, are gradually recovering their strength. According to
Blum: "They should get through today's stage." Andreas Klier however, was
forced to abandon 68 km into Thursday's stage. "He was caught up in this as
well. It was clear that it wouldn't be easy for our riders to get through
Cadel Evans, who has been unaffected by the food poisoning, believes that it
was a "dodgy fish salad that did the job." Evans skipped the salad in favour
of other items on the menu, and the Aussie went on to finish sixth in
Wednesday's stage, moving up to fifth overall.
Battling display against the odds by T Mobile. (c) Unipublic.
CSC Working Hard
Not only T-Mobile are suffering bad luck in this years race. Today Jaksche
of Team CSC suffered more than his fair share of punctures, as Directeur
Sportif Kim Andersen reported on the CSC site: "It was no easy stage, and there
wasn't much we could do today. We spent a lot of energy bringing Jaksche back to
the peloton after a couple of
punctures, but we managed to get him back and he finished in the lead group.
At the moment it's all about saving our strength ahead of Saturday's time
trial, and of course to protect Sastre as much as possible.”
The other famous Spanish sprinter, Miguel Poblet, makes a welcome
visit to Vuelta. (c) Unipublic.
Heras Hunts Seconds
Salamance rider Roberto Heras won a six second bonus today by winning the
Cervera del Maestre sprint.
The winner of the Vuelta 2003 took good advantage both of the hard work put
in by his Liberty Seguros team during the first part of the stage and of the
hilly road conditions in order to snatch the time bonus from Juan Manuel
Gárate and Rubén Plaza.
Although the six seconds represent no more than an anecdote, they reveal
Heras' ambition in this year´s race.
Taking a leaf from his former captain's book, every second counts
for Heras too!
Click for larger image. (c) Unipublic.
“The missile of Morella” Menchov
Denis Menchov, the rider from Illes Balears-Banesto who is in third position
on the General Classification today, was very cautious about his future after
yesterday's stage win in Morella. At the end of the day this is what he said,
"When I saw that Valverde was behind me after picking up Aitor González, I
attacked since I knew they would be strong. The Vuelta is tough. We will
try hard. I feel fit and I feel like winning the Vuelta. As for my rivals,
Valverde and Roberto Heras are the two best positioned to win." In reply to
his future, he said, "I am sorry to everyone but now I do not want to speak.
We will wait until the 27th of September". About living in Navarre, he said, "I
am happy in Russia and I want to continue being Russian."
Stage 5 Winner Denis Menchov, Illes Balears-Banesto. Courtesy
Grateful acknowledgment to Unipublic.