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Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 12
By Locutus
Date: 9/16/2004
Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 12
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Roberto "Spanish Fly" Heras (Liberty Seguros). Oh yeah, he's had this stage circled on his calendar for months. He had his boys give him a perfect, Postal-esque leadout and then he drove it home, taking both the stage and the Gold Jersey. As Heras himself said, this stage did not decide the Vuelta, but it definitely sorted out a few things and narrowed the field of GC challengers to just a handful of men. Look for Heras to continue to attack to try to increase his 35" lead every time the road goes seriously vertical between now and Madrid.
  • Francisco "Neckbrace" Mancebo (Illes Balears – Banesto). The Spanish Champion had yet another great performance today, staying within striking distance of Heras by limiting his losses. Mancebo took 3rd on the stage at 53", and now sits in 2nd on GC at 35". Mancebo had a surprisingly strong time trial last week, and looks to be a serious threat now for overall victory. Heras is looking like a monster, but Mancebo is keeping this the most hotly contested grand tour of the year.
  • Santiago Perez (Phonak). While his teammates Hamilton and Sevilla continued to struggle, Perez hammered his way into the top ten on GC. He was able to sit on the leaders most of the day, and then he rode along behind Mancebo until launching himself to 2nd on the stage at 34". He now sits in 8th on GC at 4' 22", and has Hamilton and Sevilla as his domestiques help him climb further up the standings. This is a great showing for the talented Spaniard on his home soil.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Floyd Landis (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). Well, the Posties finally gave up the Gold Jersey for the first time this Vuelta. Landis was holding on until halfway up that final climb, but his legs finally gave out and he ended up 15th on the stage at 3' 06". Given his work in the Tour, it's not exactly surprising that Landis ran out of legs, but he's still 5th on GC at 2' 19" and within striking distance of the podium. He still has the time trials ahead, and could very well turn this all around. With a rider of Floyd's class, you can never count him out of the running.
  • Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana – Kelme). Yeah, he came in 4th on the stage at 1' 27", but he really rode like a star today. The banged up leader of the Kermits dropped to 3rd on GC at 49", but given the severity of his crash, he could very well have lost a half hour. Valverde even had enough legs to attack Heras and the others before giving in near the top. All in all, this day was a success for Valverde, as he still is in with a fighting chance to take the final Gold Jersey.
  • Erik Zabel (T-Mobile), Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), and Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). Rival sprinter Oscar Freire (Rabobank) dropped out today, but these three finished the hard slog and will be on the roads tomorrow to have another go at the sprints. O'Grady is in the Blue and Yellow Fish Jersey, with Zabel 2 points behind and Petacchi 35 points behind. Petacchi is likely just out for stage wins at this point, but look for O'Grady and Zabel to chase every intermediate sprint and whatever points are on offer at the finish line. It should be a joy to watch.
Ham-Brained Move of the Day
  • Isidro Nozal (Liberty Seguros). On the final climb, Nozal did the final pull in the leadout for Heras. Once Nozal blew, Heras attacked and dropped everyone. Eventually, Valverde was struggling alone up the climb and losing some serious time to Heras. Then Nozal caught Valverde from behind and inexplicably let Valverde follow him until the final kilometer. Nozal finished 5th on the stage at 1' 27", and now sits in 4th on GC at 1' 12". However, he violated one of the cardinal rules of bike racing: when your leader drops a rival during an attack, and you catch that rival, you sit on that rival until the end. Under no circumstances do you provide that rival a nice tow up the climb that will allow him to minimize his losses to your team leader. But that's just what Nozal did today for Valverde. I'm not sure if Manolo Saiz told Nozal to ride to protect his own GC position or if Nozal was just riding with his head between his hams; whatever the case, this was a pretty glaring mistake by an extremely talented and experienced bike rider. Nozal rode last year like a superman, and this year he has continued to show that he is both a monster and Heras' most valuable teammate. This mistake was an anomaly in what has been an otherwise great race for Nozal, a mistake that he's not likely to repeat unless his boss tells him too. `
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