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Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Rest Day #1
 
By Locutus
Date: 9/15/2004
Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Rest Day #1
 
Golden Hams of the past few days
  • David "Frisky" Zabriskie (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). So the guy just goes out on 160km solo breakaway? With the sprinters' teams chasing him down? And his boy Floyd in the Gold Jersey? Not only did Zabriskie's attack keep the pressure off of the Posties, but he also used his time trialing skills on a road stage to add another victory to their already impressive Vuelta accomplishments. They've had the Gold Jersey the entire race, and even if their legs fall apart in the mountains to come, this still has to be considered a successful race for the Posties. This stage victory is certainly the best win of Zabriskie's career. It's good to see one of the Postal domestiques get to show his talent on such a big stage, and finally take a little glory home for himself.
  • Roberto "Spanish Fly" Heras (Liberty Seguros). The Little Amigo is coming into his own as the road starts to tilt upward. Yeah, he lost some time in the time trial, but he's going to make that all up and more in the mountains to come. As it is, he's in 5th on GC only 47" back of Landis after the first few real climbs of the race. With the amazing Isidro "Nitro" Nozal pulling his sleigh, Heras is exactly where he wants to be at this point in the race.
  • Francisco "Neckbrace" Mancebo (Illes Balears – Banesto). The Spanish Champion has climbed his way into 3rd on GC at only 29" with his strong time trial and his consistent climbing. Because of his ride in the Tour, I wouldn't be surprised to see him fade in the final week. However, he's shown no signs of weakness to this point, and he's riding high in both the Combination and Mountains competitions. I don't think he'll win the Gold Jersey in Madrid, but he just might make the top five and take one of the other major competitions in this race.
  • "Pretty Boy" Floyd Landis (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). The Pretty one has clawed his way up the climbs over the past few days to keep the Postal stranglehold on the Jersey intact. He's got half of Spain breathing down his neck, but he's managed to keep his cool. Floyd rode his guts out in the Tour for Lance, burning a lot of his matches during those blistering days in the Alps. I've got to think that he will pay the price for that in the days to come. However, Floyd is a talented and tough-minded man, and I wouldn't bet against him finishing on the final podium in Madrid.
  • "The Big E-Z" Erik Zabel (T-Mobile). How in the hell is this guy staying so competitive in the points competition with only three teammates left in the race? Sure, they are quality teammates: Evans and Vinokourov are both GC threats who have faded (Vino due to illness), and Schreck is a workhorse. Still, Zabel and his remaining boys are up against all of Rabobank and Cofidis in the battle for the Fishy Shirt of points leader. The Big E-Z's performance in this race has given me a newfound respect for his talent as a climber, sprinter, and race tactician. He may not win this thing in Madrid, but he'll come damn close and prove once again why he's one of the best in the sport.
  • Stuart "Red Stallion" O'Grady (Cofidis). He's currently got a 2 point lead over Zabel in the points competition, and he's looking stronger than he has in years. O'Grady owes a big debt to his teammates, who have taken charge of the peloton on the flatter days and kept their man near the front. But Stuey is driving it home in style, and it seems only a matter of time before he takes a stage win. And for you historians out there, doesn't this battle for the Points Jersey seem very similar to the one we saw in the 2001 Tour de France? That Tour, O'Grady and Zabel duked it out until the final day, when Zabel just managed to eke out a stronger finish and snatch the Green Jersey from O'Grady on the Champs Elysees. You can bet Stuey would like some payback for that on the roads of Spain still to come.
Ham-Gazers of the past few days
  • Tyler "Nails" Hamilton (Phonak). Well, Tyler warned us that he hadn't been training to handle the climbs. Sure enough, on the first big day in the mountains, he bombed and now sits in 28th on GC at 10' 11". Still, after that first day, he hung with the big guys pretty well since. Call me an optimist, but I think Tyler just might ride himself back into the picture. He won't win it at this point, but if he can hold his ground for the rest of the mountains and then smoke the time trials, he could still land in the top ten.
  • Alessandro "Italian Stallion" Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). He hasn't won a stage in a while, but hey, he's still in the race! Sure, there are lots of climbs to come that could send him packing, but did you see him win that field sprint for 2nd yesterday? He's still got the legs, and though he's way behind in the points, don't be surprised to see him nick another stage or two before Madrid.
Grazed Hams of the past few days
  • Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana – Kelme). His big crash yesterday looked like it might be serious. The preliminary medical findings seem promising, but we'll see how Valverde is able to cope over the next few days. He's still managed to stay in 2nd on GC only 9" behind Landis, but when you're banged up like he is, all it takes is one bad climb to put an end to your hopes. Here's hoping my fantasy team leader can rebound strong and stay near the front where he belongs.
 
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