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Vuelta a Espana Stage 6 Roundup
By Podofdonny
Date: 9/9/2004
Vuelta a Espana Stage 6 Roundup

Stage 6 Benicarló-Castellón 157 kms - for live report and results, click here.

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 their objective.

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) Unipublic.

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 poisoning."

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 today's stage."

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 Illes Balears-Banesto.

Grateful acknowledgment to Unipublic.

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