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Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 8
 
By Locutus
Date: 9/11/2004
Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 8
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Tyler “Nails” Hamilton (Phonak). Tyler continues to put his Tour miseries behind him, taking out a huge victory today in the first individual time trial. The time gaps weren’t huge, but Tyler showed that despite his tender back and ailing wrist, he’s still one of the best time trialists in the world. This win moved him up into 3rd on GC at a mere 32” behind Landis, and he is now well poised to make a run at the podium. As Tyler himself has said, his training has focused on time trials at the expense of climbing. Still, Tyler knows how to climb, and if he can just keep guys like Beltran and Heras within shouting distanc e in the mountains, he should do enough damage in the remaining time trials (including the uphill ITT on the Sierra Nevada) to make a run at Gold in Madrid.
  • ”The Notorious VHP” Victor Hugo Peña and “Pretty Boy” Floyd Landis (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). These two men will ride by Tyler’s side on Team Phonak next year, and if today’s result was any indication, that team will give the Discovery Channel team of Lance Armstrong fits in the Tour next year. VHP came in 2nd in the time trial a mere 15” behind Hamilton, a result that must feel particularly sweet after he was left off of the Postie Tour de France team this year. VHP now sits in 4th on GC at 44” behind Landis. For his part, Floyd rode strong today to come in 3rd on the stage at 18” behind Hamilton. He reclaimed the Gold Jersey, and showed why many see him as a grand tour threat for the future. Of course, the future is now for Landis, who is perfectly positioned to make a run at the podium in this Vuelta. Despite Hamilton’s stage victory, it was another day of Postie butt-kicking out there on the roads of Spain.
  • Manuel “Blue Meanie” Beltran (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor) and Francisco “Neckbrace” Mancebo (Illes Balears – Banesto). These two climbers rode excellent time trials on flat roads today, showing that they are extremely strong heading into the mountains. Gold Jersey wearer at the start of the day, Beltran came in 4th on the stage at 28” behind Hamilton and now sits a mere 10” back of Landis on GC. Mancebo finished a strong 6th on the stage at 57”, and now sits in 5th on GC at 1’ 18”. Mancebo is looking scary, as his climbing skills and overall form have seemed to get stronger as the season has gotten longer. The Spanish Champion could very well end up stealing the show when the serious climbs hit over the next two weeks. While men like Menchov and Heras struggled today, Beltran and Mancebo helped their causes enormously and now must bear the tag of favorites for the overall victory.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo). The former Vuelta winner is a specialist in time trials like this, but today’s ride by Gonzalez wasn’t that special. He crossed the line in 14th, 1’ 37” back of Hamilton, and lost serious time to men like Mancebo and Beltran who can smoke him in the mountains. This is only the latest in what seems like a series of disappointing GC performances for Gonzalez, who must be wondering what happened to that stellar form that once put him in Gold.
  • Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros). Heras isn’t that great at time trials like the one today, and everybody knows it. Sure enough, he came in 15th on today’s stage at 1’ 37” back of Hamilton. However, Heras has shown some signs of having his climbing legs with him this Vuelta. He now sits in 14th on GC at 2’ 26”, but he is capable of erasing that deficit and taking the Gold Jersey in just a single hard mountain stage. Heras has put himself in the position of having to attack hard in the mountains, but what else is new? Tomorrow the riders will face their first above category climb with the uphill finish on the Alto de Aitana. By this time tomorrow, we should know whether or not Heras has the form to come back and defend his Vuelta title.
  • Denis Menchov (Illes Balears – Banesto). The young Russian really hurt his GC chances with his time trial ride today. He came in 27th at 2’ 20”, which knocked him down to 11th on GC at 2’ 06”. Menchov has a load of climbing talent, and this will likely be unleashed tomorrow. However, with his teammate Mancebo riding so well, Menchov could find himself working in a support role from here on out.
  • Cadel Evans (T-Mobile). Evans came in 19th at 1’ 49” today, which is not particularly good. This dropped him to 9th on GC at 1’ 47”, but strangely, this could be a blessing in disguise. Evans’ team has been devastated by illness, and now only has four teammates left in the race (including sprinter Erik Zabel). This means that the team cannot work that much for Evans if he takes a high place in the GC too soon. The way it is now, Evans can just sit on and let the other teams work while his team recovers and he waits for the right moment. If Vinokourov can rally, he could help Evans pull off a surprise in the last week and climb up onto the podium. It’s a longshot, but stranger things have happened this year.
 
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