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Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 14
 
By Locutus
Date: 9/18/2004
Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 14
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Santiago "Santi Clause" Perez (Phonak). Two days ago, he was 2nd to Heras on the insane climb to that Observatory. He showed then that his climbing legs are on fire, as he dropped guys like Valverde and Mancebo pretty convincingly. Today, "Santi Clause" gave his team another great present: he attacked on a steep section of the final climb to get a nice gap, then bombed the descent to extend the gap to 46" and take a brilliant stage win. In the process, he also took enough time out of his rivals to climb up to 6th on GC at 3' 36". With Hamilton and Sevilla struggling with their climbing form in this Vuelta, Perez has stepped it up to give Phonak something other than Hamilton's ITT victory to shout about. If he keeps this up, he could manage to climb higher in the GC; however, even if he doesn't, this has been a breakthrough performance for the talented Spaniard.
  • Isidro "Nitro" Nozal (Liberty Seguros). This guy just doesn't seem to be happy unless he is towing a bunch of other riders up some climb at a blistering pace. He shelled most of Heras' rivals two days ago, and today he did the same on that final climb. Two days ago he was softening up Heras' rivals for the big attack, but today his job was just to keep everybody under control and allow his boss to sit on and rest up for tomorrow. Nozal obviously has the talent to win this race—in fact, I still think he would have won it last year if Saiz hadn't made him ride at the front so much for Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano—but somehow, he seems to be more comfortable in his role as super-domestique. He really did put the smack down again today, keeping everybody but Perez in check and bullying people around for his boss once again. Anybody who spends that much time on the front of the peloton putting that much hurt on the other guys definitely deserves a big Golden Ham for the effort, regardless of his personal result.
  • "The Big E-Z" Erik Zabel (T-Mobile). Zabel was the second biggest winner of the day (after Perez), because on this day in the mountains he probably locked up the points competition. Why? Because his last real rival Stuart O'Grady withdrew from the race before the start of the stage. This is a real shame, because the battle between these two great riders was one of the major highlights of the race. Now Zabel simply has to keep near the front, stay out of trouble, and keep away from funky food to win the Fishy Shirt come Madrid. This once again highlights what a true hardman Zabel is: he never seems to get sick or injured, and just keeps on riding strong all year around.
  • "TDD". My wife and I are fans of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, and our favorite Sherwinism is the line he uses to give the news that someone has had to withdraw from the race due to a particular type of affliction. While most commentators dance around the subject by talking about "stomach problems," Paul actually dives in and gives it to ya' straight: with his deepest and most somber voice, he'll say, "and [insert rider name] was struck down overnight by The Dreaded [dramatic pause] Diarrhea." It really is a shame that OLN isn't covering this Vuelta, as we would have been treated to countless mentions of this most vile affliction by Paul. I mean, "stomach problems" have cut a wide swath in this race, much more so than any other race in recent memory. Hot favorites T-Mobile were mowed down by stomach problems, with only Zabel and Evans seeming to come through it all in good health. Now Tyler Hamilton and Stuart O'Grady have also been claimed by "stomach problems," as have several other riders. Maybe it's the heat, or the fact that it's the end of the year and everybody is run down, or perhaps there is some bug going around. Maybe there's some kind of Pepto Bismol shortage in Spain (which would be ironic given T-Mobile's choice of team colors). Whatever the cause, I have to give "The Dreaded, Diarrhea" (or TDD for short) a Golden Ham for it's unfortunate and major impact on this race.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Floyd Landis and Manuel Beltran (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). These two men slipped even further today, coming unhooked on the steep sections of the final climb. They came across the line in 24th and 22nd respectively, losing 2' 46" to Santi Perez. This dropped Landis to 7th on GC at 4' 19", while Beltran fell to 8th at 4' 40". There is still a long way to go in this race, and these two could regain some time in the time trials to come. At any rate, they should still be able to hold on for top ten finishes at the least. Given Postal's dominance of the first ten days of this race, as well as the dominating performance these two riders gave in the Tour, this has been an outstanding final grand tour for the sponsors.
  • Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros). The little guy just had to sit on and hold wheels today. This wasn't easy, as the race was blistering, but fortunately for Heras it was his boys doing most of the damage. While he lost some time to Perez, the men he worries most about—Valverde and Mancebo—were kept in check, and Heras was able to save his bullets for the big showdown tomorrow. It should be a blast to watch.
 
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