Stage 15 - Granada-Sierra Nevada (C.R.I.) 29 kms - see the live coverage
The first intermediate checkpoint, at 13.5 km. (c) Unipublic.
Santi's race of truth - "This victory is also for
Vanesa, because all my victories will always be for her"
In the big sky country of the Sierra Nevada, the Vuelta riders rode the broad
and steep highway up to the finish line of today's time trial, at an altitude of
2100 meters, which is 6900 feet or 1.3 miles high. Blue skies, bright sun
and billowy clouds graced the day, though it is doubtful that any of the riders
Against this backdrop, Santiago Pérez of Phonak gave the ride of his life
today, after having done the very same thing yesterday. He flew up the route and
never lost his pace. Up to the point that Perez took the course, T-Mobile's
Alexandre Vinokourov had ruled the intermediate check points with a very fine
At the first intermediate check point, the roads were a sea of fans who
parted for the riders, many of them honored to have given their favorite rider a
push. In this steepest part of the time trial, powerhouses like Nozal were
almost at a standstill, despite their most serious pedalling efforts.
From the Phonak director's car it was "Santi you win," over and
over from director Alvaro Pino, who knew that his team's rider for the past two years
was made for big challenges.
Santiago Pérez. (c) Unipublic.
"Pérez has given a true recital and he has forced us to punish again in the
general classification. I told him that we had to think of the podium and that we should
not give up anything," a happy Pino said. Pérez agrees: "I was going for stages, but after this I include myself among the
"I said it at the beginning, my objective here was to help Sevilla and
Hamilton, but starting from now we will see the options that we have to be able
to fight for the podium, and we will act accordingly," the Asturian rider said. Pérez
believes that things would be different had the team done better in the first
week: "It was an authentic pain to lose four minutes in the first days because
who knows for what we would be fighting now."
"If I continue along this line I will fight in the stages of the Covatilla and
Navacerrada, but now they will watch over me. I am at a good level and I believe
that I will be able to do well in the time trial of Madrid, although I
am a climber."
"It is not comparable, what I have suffered with what I am living with, but
it is for me and for my family a great happiness, the same for the family of my
girfriend who died in an accident. I have many thanks to all those that have
supported me in the difficult moments."
Perez's girlfriend Vanesa, who was 25 years old, died two years ago, while
returning to her home after the wedding of the director of the Saunier Duval
team, Josean Machin.
More on the day
The Spanish Minister of Culture, Maria Jesus Sansegundo, had a bird's eye
view of today's race of truth, standing with other other guests in an official's
car up the mountainside. She was interviewed on the fly, as it were, by one of
TVE's correspondents while on her ride. She had earlier toured around the start
area and seemed to enjoy herself.
In the meantime, Alejandro Valverde demonstrated that he can shine on all
types of land. He gave it his best in the first half of the route and then
lacked pace at the end, though it was not for lack of his novia in the
team car shouting him words of encouragement. The rider from Murcia did not achieve the golden jersey
which was within his reach by five seconds.
Alejandro Valverde. (c) Unipublic.
Riders like Mancebo and Nozal, who were among the best riders on the mountain
today, looked back at their times after crossing the finish line, and gave
little shakes of their heads - no, not good enough. It is amazing to see such
Speaking of determination, luck was not with Roberto Heras today. A puncture in the first
few kilometres of the route forced him to get off the bike, change it and start
again. That change, which seems insignificant, clearly influenced his times as
he had to adapt to the race again. He lost too many seconds in the first half of
the route and it cost him a lot to recover. In spite of this, he finished third
behind Perez and Valverde, and he defends the golden jersey another day.
El hombre de oro, Roberto Heras. (c) Unipublic.
"Alexander Vinokourov gets stronger by the day. Finishing such a tough
mountain time trial in fourth proves that you can count on him at the World
Championships, too," said T-Mobile directeur sportif Frans van Looy. "His rank
is also a good omen for the team, which wants to attack once more in the last
week of the Vuelta."
Fassa Bortolo's Alessandro Petacchi did not take the start today, after
winning four stages in this edition of the Vuelta. Citing tendonitis, the rider
chose not to take his last option on Tuesday's stage, from Olivenza to Cáceres.
With Petacchi and O'Grady both gone (the Australian retired yesterday), Tuesday
may see other riders in a sprint finish, though the decision is understandable -
with the exception of Tuesday and the final time trial next Sunday, the final
week of the Vuelta is nothing but climbing. You can have a look at the remaining
stages in our Vuelta
So the Vuelta is open going into the last week. Monday is the final rest day
for the riders, who resume the race on Tuesday.
Alexandre Vinokourov. Not done yet... (c) Unipublic.