Roberto Heras - Like a fish to water...
There exist riders who take to the mountains as fish take to water. On the
roughest and hardest land, they are capable of riding without suffering much.
One of these such riders is Roberto Heras. The rider from Bejar lived up to the
predictions and made those who bet on him very happy. Calar Alto will go down in
history as having been the new climb of the Vuelta a España, and Roberto Heras
The twelfth stage of the Vuelta, which reminded us of the Juegos
Mediterráneos in Almería, was full of unknowns. No one knew how the favourites
were going to behave. No one was sure about the condition that Alejandro
Valverde found himself in, after having suffered a fall on Tuesday. No one
wanted to rule out the American riders led by Bruyneel who, up to now, have been
the bosses of the gold jersey. Neither was it known if those who did not want to
win the Vuelta, wanted the stage win.
"You better keep that pace high...or else!" (c) Unipublic.
What people did expect was the high performance of the team, Costa de
Almería-Paternina. They were the protagonists of today´s race, especially
Francisco “Paco” Lara who treated the race as a film.
Conscious of the fact that his film was not going to have a happy ending, he
did his best to capture the attention of the public and then “die” at the very
The kisses went to a two time Vuelta winner, of the Liberty Seguros team, who
sest a fast pace during the second half of the race. When Roberto Heras decided
to attack from afar, not even Valverde kept up. The injured rider from Murcia
coped well during the day and even tried to impress his rivals, but then reality
came into play and Heras took over the last two thousand metres of Calar with
superiority, gaining enough points to become the new leader.
Other riders such as Paco Mancebo and Santi Pérez were also present in the
battle; Valverde suffered to keep up but Isidro Nozal helped out. Luis Pérez did
the same and Floyd Landis also kept up until his “motor” ran out of petrol. The
end was spectacular and we can be certain there will be more stages at Calar
Alto in the future.
Heras: "We have only done half of the Vuelta"
Heras takes the lead in several classifications today; besides winning
today's stage, he is race leader, mountains leader and today was best all around
rider. Here are his comments at the end of the day, "We did not think we´d get
the leader jersey but it has been another very good day in which we have
complied with the objectives that we set ourselves. Valverde´s behaviour
surprised me as I did not think he was in a condition to fight. He is an
aggressive rider and he had the strength to attack. He defended himself very
well. He is a very brave and dangerous rider who will recover from his fall.
"I think that Mancebo and Valverde are the two most difficult rivals of this
race. We need to continue to work from day to day. At the moment we are calm but
we should not be. Today´s stage is defining but it it is by no means the
deciding stage as we have only finished half of the Vuelta. We still need to do
Saturday´s and Sunday´s stages which will be very dangerous and a whole other
week which will include the time trial in Madrid which is not my specialty. It
is not long but it could make things dificult for me. I am a professional and am
proud of my team who on yet another day have performed very well. We took
responsibilty from the start of the race and thanks to them, particularly Nozal,
I took the victory. Every day, I ask myself what happened to us during the Tour
de France. Our bodies were saying no, but we have moved on."
Valverde before the start of Stage 12. (c) Unipublic.
Alejandro Valverde: "...there is a lot of the race
still to come"
Alejandro Valverde of Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme was unable to cope with the
attacks launched by Roberto Heras during the climb to Calar Alto. These were his
words at the finish line,"I tried but couldn´t. On the other hand, I responded
better to the fall i suffered on Tuesday than I thought I would. The stage has
been very tough. I tested myself in the last few kilometres and things were
going slightly better than I thought. I have not lost the Vuelta as there are a
lot more stages to go and I have been able to cope."
Valverde in action today. (c) Unipublic.
Paternina-Costa Almeria Shines
The Paternina-Costa Almería team was another fine performer today - their
rider Paco Lara went on a break for 93 kilometers, and was only caught by on the
final ascent to the observatory. Teammate José Angel Gómez Marchante, a first
year professional, finished 6th on today's stage, among "big" name like Nozal,
Heras, Mancebo and Valverde. He is also 6th on GC after today, with escapado
Lara sitting at 12th.
Paternina has lost two members of its team so far, and in fact, only seven
teams intact of twenty one: Liberty Seguros, Kelme, Relax Bodysol, Cafes Baque,
Saeco, Fassa Bortolo, Illes Balears-Banesto. (See our
Reference to track rider abandons.)
Paco Lara, the escapee today. (c) Unipublic.
Francisco Lara: age 27 - 2004 Palmares
3rd Championship of Spain
5th GP Internacional 2 Portugal
9th Subida al Naranco
16th Euskal Bizikleta
16th Volta a Catalunya
24 Vuelta al Pais Vasco
Jose Angel Gomez: age 24 - 2004 Palmares
1st, Stage 2 GP Correos de Portugal
2nd Vuelta a La Rioja
4th Vuelta a Andalucia
5th Vuelta a Asturias
6th Clasica Almeria
10th Clasica Alcobendas
13th Vuelta a Murcia
Lara. (c) Unipublic.
Stage 13: El Ejido - Málaga, 170 km.
Aside from the fact that the riders have to race again tomorrow
after today's leg-busting stage, Friday's stage should see the peloton taking a
"rest" until it's time for the sprinters' teams to begin arranging themselves
for the finish. There are three intermediate sprints on offer, and here is the
top ten in the sprint competition (Freire, in third place til today, retired):
1º O'Grady, Stuart Aus Cof 130
2º Zabel, Erik Ger Tmo 128
3º Petacchi, Alessandro Ita Fas 95
4º Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel 86
5º Heras, Roberto Esp Lst 72
6º Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ibb 59
7º Nozal, Isidro Esp Lst 57
8º Landis, Floyd Usa Usp 51
9º Menchov, Denis Rus Ibb 50
After Monday's interesting stage that saw Freire, Zabel and
O'Grady in a break, who knows which riders we may see going for these points.
The weather will influence tomorrow's stage - it will be windy -
"notorious" for the second half, in the words of the Vuelta prognosticators, as
the race will follow the coast. Temperatures will be warm, and it will also be
cloudy. Also watch for more "hot