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Vuelta a España Stage 11 Roundup
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 9/14/2004
Vuelta a España Stage 11 Roundup

Stage 11's solitary man, David Zabriskie. (c) Unipublic.

Solitary Man

25 year old David Zabriskie won the 11th stage of the Vuelta a España today, giving his US Postal presented by Berry Floor team its second win of this tour. The 4th year professional is a time trial specialist, and this is not the first time he has gone away like this in a race, though the American acknowledged that he benefitted by the slowing of the peloton after Alejandro Valverde suffered a crash, just after Zabriskie escaped the peloton very early in the race. He said it is normal for the peloton to wait for Valverde - "that was a decision for the leaders of the race. I followed my road."

He did work hard to make his solitary ride of over 160 kilometers stick. He said that the breakaway was not a matter of planning, that it just happened.

"Director sportif Johan Bruyneel didn’t order me to try something, I just got away and went for it. The most difficult part was to remain focused on the goal I had set."

"This was not team tactics, something prepared, it was simply the way it worked out. I never thought about if I would make it. I concentrated to be mentally strong. And I enjoyed my solo victory."

"I never thought about winning the stage, until the last 200 metres. How did I manage to hold on? Maybe it’s just because I know how to time trial, what’s for sure is that I didn’t take advantage of the misfortune that befell Alejandro Valverde, who is second in the GC.”

“I haven't ridden a lot of races the last couple of years, but I feel good and I intend to keep on going until the world championships,” David added. “I don’t know what the future has in store for me, I just take everything as it comes.”

In addition to his solo win today, Zabriskie is the US Time Trial champion, was second in Stage 1 of the Mount Rubidoux Time Trial at the Redlands Bicycle Classic (he crashed out very seriously the next day), was 6th in Stage 4a of the Ronde van Belgie, 3rd in the US Olympic Trials, and readers will remember that Zabriskie made a move very similar to today at the Zuri Metzgete, where he and Carlos Barredo of Liberty Seguros attacked ten km into the race and built up a lead of nearly twenty minutes - they were finally caught at around 35 km to go (of a 236 km race...).

Zabriskie crosses the line en solo. (c) Unipublic.

(c) Unipublic.

Rallying Round a Champion

No one expected the local idol to become the protagonist of the race because of a fall. But as everything is possible in cycling, the streets of Murcia were full of fans crying out words of support such as, “Hang in there, champion,” instead of, “Go Valverde!”.

Almost as soon as the riders left San Vicente del Raspeig, Alejandro´s gears and chains got caught in a tangle and he went over the top of the bike. He suffered grazes and cuts to his back, hip, muscles, elbows and arms. Thanks to his helmet he did not suffer from something worse. He fell in the seventh kilometre when the race was going very quickly. The American David Zabriskie had already escaped the peloton and everyone was trying to catch up.

Hearts stopped when the idol, the future star, fell to the ground. The reaction of the riders who saw the fall was only normal, they reduced the pace and respected the rider who was only nine seconds away from the leader in the Overall Standings, after having fought hard in eleven stages.

Team work was the key word today. While the doctor Irigoyen was treating Valverde´s injuries, the peloton waited. This gesture was as important as the supporting shouts coming from the tons of people on the sides of the roads.

The gesture, the fact that his rivals stopped to wait, allowed David Zabriskie, a good time trialist of the USA, to gain an advantage of over nineteen minutes. On a flat and relatively simple stage, the reaction of the Italians was not enough and Johan Bruyneel´s rider of the US Postal Service took the victory in Caravaca de la Cruz.

Vicente Belda, as the directeur sportif of Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme gave his thanks to all of the peloton for having been so respectful. Alejandro Valverde got through the stage and pushed himself against all the odds. What will happen on Thursday at the Camino de Calar Alto in Almería is a mystery.

Shouts of Alarm in the Peloton

Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme team captain and 2nd on GC Alejandro Valverde hit the deck very early in today's stage, causing two dramas in the peloton, one at either end of the race. Up ahead, US Postal-Berry Floor's Dave Zabriskie was on a lone breakaway from kilometer 3 of the stage, and at his furthest point had gained 20 minutes on the peloton, while at the back of the race, the Kelme team was helping Valverde of the shredded clothing along so he could finish the race.

The pack picked up its pace after awhile and managed to get within a minute or so of Valverde over the climb to the finish, but slack in the peloton did not diminish this great win for the American rider.

Valverde in his re-designed clothing. Click for larger image.
(c) Unipublic.

Vuelta doctor Juan María Irigoyen said that Alejandro Valverde had grazes on his neck and back but his knee was what was worrying him most of all. The television showed various images of him bleeding. The doctor was also worried about the the cyclist's morale and while treating him, he told him the story of Tony Rominger, who won the Vuelta a España after having been close to withdrawing from the race. Dr. Irigoyen said that a few kilometres after the fall, the rider was looking a bit more animated. The rider's wheel, jersey and shorts were all completely destroyed.

Irigoyen also said that Valverde doesn't seem to have any fractures, but to avoid risks and to check the extent of his lesions he will be checked at the Torres Cárdenas hospital in Almería. "We have not detected any breaks, only bruises and scrapes on the right side of the body, although for caution we will carry out an exhaustive examination so we can be assured that he has no fractures."

Vincente Belda, the director of Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme, is grateful to his team for having supported Alejandro Valverde and not having let him fall behind.

"It was a very hard fall around kilometer 7. He was going very quickly because in that moment she/he escaped a corridor. In that moment he hooked his chain as he was making the change, he was destabilized and he went over," Belda explained.

Kelme rallies round its leader. Click for larger image.
(c) Unipublic.
"It was a great scare, the lad cried out of helplessness when the doctor assisted him. It is a pain because this fall could spoil the work of an entire year. Today it was difficult to pedal calmly because of the increased pace to catch the escapee. I believe that he will finish without complications, it is necessary to save the day and then tomorrow we will see." The DS added that his rider was complaining about pains in his knee and couldn´t wait to get to the finish line.

"I thank the solidarity of the peloton because when they heard the shouts of alarm about the fall of Valverde they all slowed and it was a very beautiful gesture," Belda said.

After having thanked the peloton for its attitude, he commented that Valverde gets on well with everyone. "He is always smiling and he is a good person and that's why people love him".

"At the beginning he could not pedal, his hip and knee hurt and he told me that he wanted to get off the bike. We convinced him that the stage would be calm, that tomorrow was day of rest and it was worthwhile to suffer", teammate David Latasa explained.

Liberty Seguros rider Roberto Heras said of Valverde's fall that it happened at the fastest part of the race and that, "It was a pity. I hope the day of rest will be enough to help him recover. Nobody likes another's misfortune. The directors told us that Valverde had fallen and everybody stopped. The peloton slowed the pace to wait for him. It's the human side to cycling. We have solidarity."

Race rival Paco Mancebo of Illes Balears-Banesto said he didn't hesitate to come by Valverde "to raise his spirit and to tell him a joke, though it was obvious he was hurt. Lucky that tomorrow is the day of rest."

Heras also has said that the stage that takes place Thursday between Almería and the Observatorio Astronómico de Calar Alto will be a dangerous one. Heras pointed out that it is always dangerous for a mountain stage to follow a day of rest.

The "fishy" jersey of Stuart O'Grady alongside the Golden Jersey of Floyd Landis. (c) Unipublic.

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