Béjar - Ávila: 196,6 kms. Read the live coverage
Number four for the CV-Kelme – Javier Pascual Rodriguez storms
the castle walls. (c) Unipublic.
High Drama Leaves the Leaders Shaken, not Stirred
As Tyler Hamilton also wants to prove, sometimes just looking at the results
is not enough. A brief glance at the results of today’s stage would give the
impression that the breakaway had been allowed a free hand while the leaders
passively followed one other in the best Tour de France tradition.
However, La Vuelta is a race that is far from over, and the leading men are
prepared to do battle until the very last day. Today we saw race leader
Roberto Heras receive a tremendous ovation from his home town fans in Bejar, but a resident of Avila, Francisco Mancebo, had plans to take a podium
place in his home town by the end of the day.
The Illes Balears-Banesto, led by Eusebio Unzúe and José Miguel Echávarri,
had clearly planned their tactics in advance, in their effort to oust
Alejandro Valverde from the third position in the Overall Standings.
Francisco Mancebo and the “Banestos” had reunited in Salamanca on Wednesday
night to plan the multiple attacks they would launch on Valverde. In phase
one they got two riders into the early break of ten men; Chente García
Acosta and Joan Horrach were sent down the road to provide stepping stones
for Mancebo as the race progressed. With help from team mate Osa, Mancebo
attacked on the climb of the Serranillos.
Mancebo in rampant mood on the “ramps” of Serranillos. (c) Unipublic.
His attack was brought back on the descent but the IB-Banesto boys were in
fighting mood. On the slopes of Navalmoral, Mancebo put in a huge effort
but suddenly the hunter became the hunted. Santi Pérez countered his attack
and only Valverde and Heras could respond, leaving Mancebo the man in danger
of losing out in the stage. Fortunately for him, earlier plans bore fruit,
but not in the way that had been expected. Horrach and Chente García Acosta, who had been in the breakaway all day, came to their Captain's aid, though
not as had been planned - to escort him to triumph into Avila - but rather
to work hard on the descent into the town to bring him back up to the leaders.
Meanwhile two riders had survived from the original break the rider from
León, Javier Pascual Rodríguez and the Colombian Iván Parra. The two men
had fought hard on the final climb of Navalmoral , but had then decided that
they should work together to hold off the peloton. Into the walled city of
Avila the advantage was always going to be with Javier Pascual Rodríguez on
the tough cobbled climb. The two men, both tired from their stage long
effort, stayed together until a 50 metre sprint from the finish but little
Iván Parra another Colombian from the Cafés Baque team was unable to give
the race another surprise.
So another marvellous day of excitement and passion and once again the small
teams of CV Kelme and Cafés Baque adding the icing to a cake richly baked
by Heras, Perez , Valverde and Mancebo. How scandalous that these smaller
teams, that contribute so much to the spectacle of cycle racing, are being
swept aside by the UCI and its monstrous “Pro Tour”.
Roberto Heras gets a huge send off from his home fans in Béjar.
Heras Cool under Pressure
Salamanca rider Roberto Heras arrived in Ávila at the end of the 18th stage
with the same lead in the General Classification that he had enjoyed at the
start in Béjar.
Heras currently has 1.13 over Santi Perez, 2.15 over Alejandro Valverde and
2.16 over Paco Mancebo. These are the four riders that have consistently
shown themselves to be the strongest throughout the race so far, with today
being no exception: Isidro Nozal, Carlos Sastre and the rest of the riders
that make up the top ten all lost time to the favourites during the climb of
Navalmoral, although they were able to re-enter the leading group on the
Despite the attacks today, Race leader Roberto Heras and his team looked
very confident today: “I wasn't worried about Mancebo and Perez's attacks, we
had them under control. I'm defending the lead day by day, not looking any
further ahead," Heras said.
Stage winner Javier Pascual Rodríguez leads the break. (c) Unipublic.
Win Number 4 for CV-Kelme
Tactics sometimes work in the opposite way to how they were planned.
Rodriguez has been sent up the road early on to help Valverde if he managed
to break away, but as attack and counter attack raged behind him he found
himself in a stage winning position.
“Over the last two kilometres I knew that I would be faster than Parra, so I
wasn't too worried about him. I was surprised that he didn't try to attack
on the climb into Avila, but he was clearly tired. The plan was to me to go
up the road in case Valverde was feeling strong and I could wait for him,
but it's important to try to win the stage as well and after we didn't do so
well as a squad yesterday, today was an opportunity we couldn't miss." the
Kelme rider said.
IB Banesto attacked all day. Here we see Mikel Pradera (89)
and Cedric Vasseur (58) try to make contact with the ten-man break. (c) Unipublic.
Mancebo: “I will fight to the end”
As Francisco Mancebo, the rider of Iles Balears-Banesto got to the finish
line, he said that he attacked with the intention of cutting the time
differences but it had not worked out. "It is my home town and I had to
try. There are three very intensive days left and we will continue to fight
until the end. The stage ending in Villalba is another tough mountain one
with climbs and descents all day, and we will try to attack.”
The Liberty Blue train lead the peloton over the Peńa Negra. (c) Unipublic.