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Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 17
 
By Locutus
Date: 9/22/2004
Vuelta a España: Museo del Jamon Report - Stage 17
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Felix Cardenas (Café Baqué). He stayed off the front through the mountains, built up a big lead with his breakaway mates, and the dropped them all on the final huge climb. He was also strong enough to hold off the charge of the Liberty Seguros boys and the attacks of the big guns to take a huge stage victory. Along the way, he built up a 19-point lead in the King of the Mountains competition. Cardenas has always been a quality climber, but his victory today and his mastery of the Mountains Jersey is huge for his small squad. There will be lots of big smiles at the Café Baqué tonight.
  • Santiago "Santi Claus" Perez (Phonak). He just keeps getting stronger, doesn’t he? He dropped Heras near the top of a nasty above category climb that is located in the defending champ's back yard. His 2nd place finish at 29", and that was good enough to put him in 2nd on GC as well only 1' 13" behind Heras. There are more mountains to come, and the way he is climbing, Perez seems to have turned Heras' greatest strength into a vulnerability. Suddenly, Perez is looking like the most dangerous man in the race, and a clear and present danger to the Golden Jersey.
  • Roberto "Spanish Fly" Heras (Liberty Seguros) and Francisco "Neck Brace" Mancebo (Illes Balears-Banesto). Heras lost time to Perez, but not a lot, as he finished in 3rd on the stage at 1' 01". This means he gave up 32" to Perez, but he gained time on all of his other big rivals. His 1' 13" lead over Perez is tenuous, but his lead over the rest of the field is starting to look pretty secure. For his part, Mancebo climbed himself back into the race for the podium today. While Valverde suffered, Mancebo came across in 4th at 1' 15". This put him only 1" behind Valverde in the race for 3rd on GC. Mancebo now sits in 4th at 2' 16", and if he can keep climbing like this, he'll end up in 3rd before long.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Floyd Landis (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). He started the day in 7th on GC, but he knew the jig was up long before the final climb. Floyd started fetching water for Beltran when the rest of his team fell away, clearly indicating that he was now giving up his GC chances to work for his Spanish teammate. Floyd rolled across the line in 48th at 15' 36" today, falling to 16th at 23' 05" on GC. Floyd has had a brilliant year, and has stepped up to another level with his rides in the early season, the Tour, and this Vuelta. Next year, he will have more opportunities with Phonak to see what he can really do when not leaving it all on the road for other people. I can't wait to see how he does.
  • Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme). After a great time trial up the Sierra Nevada, Valverde's legs failed him today. He spent most of the climbs near the back of the peloton, surrounded by his teammates as he tried to keep up with the Golden Jersey. The string finally broke on the final climb, and Valverde ended up coming across the line in 14th at 3' 11". He lost 2' 10" to Heras, and now sits in 3rd on GC at 2' 15". With Valverde's talent and toughness, he'll bounce back from this bad day. However, this morning he was in a close battle for overall victory. Tonight he's barely hanging on to the podium. That is a bad day.
  • Damiano Cunego (Saeco). The talented young Giro champ seems to have nothing left in the tank after a long season. Today he seemed to just turn this stage into a training ride, coming across the line in 55th at 19' 26". He's talking about the Worlds, so I'd be surprised if Cunego doesn't call it a Vuelta to go home, rest up, and finish his preparation.
 
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