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Vuelta a España Stage 16 Roundup
By Podofdonny
Date: 9/21/2004
Vuelta a España Stage 16 Roundup

Stage 16 - Olivenza-Cáceres 170 kms.
Read the live coverage and see the results here.

José Juliá continues Kelme's winning ways in Cáceres. (c) Unipublic.

Kelme - Kings of Cycling

CV Kelme continue to thrill cycling fans worldwide. The famous strip has changed, the team has been financially hampered, accusations from former rider Jesus Manzano have caused damage, but as the roadside graffiti proclaims, to many fans, “Cycling is Kelme.” No other team in the world has given fans the passion and excitement that the Kelme team has delivered over 25 years of supporting the sport.

Today was a transitional stage. The leaders are waiting for the major stages which come in fast succession over the next four days. The sprinter's teams have been battered and reduced in numbers until only Erik Zabel, that model figure of hard work and season long racing, who should shame other stay-at-home stars with his commitment to the sport, remains with his weakened teammates. So when a break did manage to escape it was no real surprise that it made it all the way home.

Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme had another roller coaster day.
Francisco Cabello crashes early in the stage but fortunately for him,
the consequences are not serious. (c) Unipublic.

The break was started after 3 kilometres of racing by Columbian rider Iván Parra (Cafes Baqué), which soon led to the formation of a 13 man group that was to gain a maximum advantage over the bunch of 17.34 at kilometre 135.

The initial group, formed by Tadej Valjavec (Phonak), Iván Parra (Baqué), Pablo Lastras and José García Acosta (Illes Balears), Cristian Moreni (Alessio), Antonio Cruz (US Postal), Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel), David Fernández (Paternina), Danilo Di Luca and Alessandro Spezialetti (Saeco), José C. Julià (Kelme), Jan Boven (Rabobank) and Erki Pütsep (Ag2R), was reduced to six riders following an attack by Pablo Lastras 8 kilometres from the line.

The only five riders capable of following the attack (Cayetano Julià, Antonio Cruz, Di Luca, Isasi, Valjavec) covered the last kilometres in an atmosphere of tense mutual observation.

The stalemate was broken when the Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme rider leapt away at 3 kilometres from the finish, holding on through the streets of Cáceres to finish 12 seconds ahead of Tadej Valjavec. Third place was decided in a group sprint among the remains of the break, with honours going to Italian Di Luca.

Roberto Heras continues in first place in the General Classification with a 5 second advantage over Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme). and 1.45 over Santi Perez (Phonak).

Tomorrow is to see one of the race's most interesting stages (Plasencia-Covatilla Ski Station, 169.8 kilometres), during which local boy Heras is sure to attack in search of increasing his lead over his most immediate rivals.

Heras – still in Gold. (c) Unipublic.

Kelme’s Hat Trick

José Juliá summed up the attacking and sporting mentality that has characterised Kelme over the last 25 years after today's victory: "I wasn't completely surprised to be in there with a chance, because I had been given carte blanche for the attacks by my team director (Vicente Belda), but it was very difficult for me with all the changes of rhythm. Lastras's changes of rhythm were very hard to handle in the last few kilometres, but I managed to break free almost at the last minute."

It was the third Kelme victory in this year's race. Eladio Jimenez's won on the 10th stage and Alejandro Valverde, who lies in second place overall, won the third stage.

Zabel – Nothing fishy about his solid performance that proves a point. (c) Unipublic.

Zabel – Mr. Consistency!

Once again Erik Zabel continues to be Germany’s most successful rider – talking on the T-Mobile site, T-Mobile Team directeur sportif Frans van Looy explained the day from the T-Mobile point of view: "The most important thing for us today was to defend Erik Zabel's blue points jersey. The breakaway group got away early. Cadel Evans was in there originally also, but with the crosswinds playing havoc he dropped back to the peloton."

Beloki with his daughter, Stage 10. (c) Unipublic.

Retirement of a Great Cyclist

Joseba Beloki, who currently rides for the Saunier Duval team, has decided to abandon the Vuelta. Beloki left the race at kilometre 57 of the 16th stage.

Beloki was lying 81st overall in the General Classification, at 1.29.54 from race leader Roberto Heras. He had not been feeling well for several days and decided to call it a day. As if in tribute, his teammates then lead the peloton for most of the remainder of the stage. Teammate Leonardo Piepoli has already achieved a fine victory in the race on the stage to Aitana.

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