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Vuelta a España Stage 20 Roundup
By Podofdonny
Date: 9/25/2004
Vuelta a España Stage 20 Roundup

La Vega de Alcobendas - Puerto de Navacerrada: 178 kms. See the live coverage and results here.

Kike (Ki-kay) Gutiérrez storms up the Navacerrada. (c) Unipublic.

The Navacerrada, rather than settle this great race, has raised as many questions as it answered. It has left two riders, Roberto Heras and Santi Pérez fighting for the first place on the podium. Roberto Heras remains the Golden Boy of Spain, but Santi Pérez reduced his deficit in the General Classification: the two cyclists will face tomorrow´s final time trial with only 43 seconds time difference. Paco Mancebo and Alejandro Valverde had swapped places by the end of the day with Mancebo moving to third spot, just 8 seconds ahead of Valverde. Meanwhile, Inigo Charreau of AG1R battles on; he finished 89th today with the "laughing group." Allez Inigo!

Manuel Sáiz's Liberty Seguros team once again rode a race of intelligence and skill. The early 12 man break suited them, and they kept a steady pace until, with the gap rising, the ambitious Cafés Baque team looking to launch Felix Cardenas for a final moment of glory in the mountains were forced to do the chasing. When Mancebo launched another early surprise attack on the Allto del Leon, the Liberty blue train was again impressive in reeling him in.

Mancebo launched another surprise early attack on the Alto de Leon. (c) Unipublic.

So with the 12 escapees still with about 4 minutes on the early slopes of the Navacerrada, we had a race within a race. Kike Gutiérrez, another of Alvaro Pino's Phonak team, was given the green flag to push for victory. Of the remaining 11 riders only Eladio Jimenez and David Latasa, both of CV Kelme, were able to hold of the charging, but rapidly diminishing, peloton.

As Gutierrez stormed up the mountain to victory, 2 kilometres further back war broke out in the peloton. Sevilla and Valjavec (Phonak) attacked, Luis Perez (Cofidis) also tried; by then Heras was finally exposed, the gallant Nozal exhausted in defence of his leader. Just after the 5 km kite, Santi Perez finally launched a blistering attack. Only Roberto Heras could respond and the two men battled uphill for the next two kilometres, the flags of Asturias waving for Perez and those from Salamanca for Heras. While Kike Gutierrez took the stage glory for Phonak, his team mate was moving closer to a podium spot. Santi Perez gained 30 seconds advantage in 2 kilometres from Roberto Heras - had he attacked a little earlier he may have been in Gold tonight.

So Roberto Heras, Santi Perez, Paco Mancebo and Valverde have just 21 kilometres of cycling left to decide who will stand where on the podium. The course will be used for the World Championships in Madrid 2005. On the streets of Madrid along the Casa de Campo, the Gran Vía and the Diosa Cibeles, the Vuelta a España, which has been a passionate, sporting and dramatic tour, will be decided.

Heras and Perez battle on the Navacerrada (c) Unipublic.

Kike Gutiérrez too tired to open the champagne...

Following the stage, Gutiérrez declared: "I am very happy. To win a stage in such a difficult race, and in Navacerrada, is fantastic. Furthermore, Santi was able to pull back time on the leader. I am absolutely exhausted, the last three kilometres seemed never to finish. I felt strong and I knew that Eladio was some way behind, but even so it was hard. My parents, who are the most important people in the world for me, came to watch today and saw my win."

He continued: "We had riders in the break and riders helping Santi on the climbs. I knew that I would have to drop back to help him if it was necessary. At 10 kilometres from the finish, Pino told me not to let anyone escape and we were able to win the stage. I knew how Santi was getting on because I was listening to the radio. He has only a slim chance of beating Heras, but he was strong enough to give everyone a final surprise. This is a very important victory for me because Navacerrada is one of the most important climbs in the Vuelta".

Vuelta action 2004. (c) Unipublic.

Tour organisers not happy with Pro Tour

Unipublic released the following statement today:

“The organizers of the three main stage races (Tito Franco - Vuelta, Carmine Castelano - Giro, Jean-Marie Leblanc - Tour) have released a report in which they explain the reasons behind their refusal to participate in the UCI ProTour, which is to begin on 1st January 2005. The three organizers state that the new cycling league will impede the appearance of new sponsors and halt the progress of various teams.

"The Pro Tour is supposed to include the 30 top events of the cycling calendar. For the eleven teams that currently possess a provisional license, the participation is mandatory. It is due to start in January 2005 with 30 races through the year, among them the three major Tours, which the 18 teams admitted to the new league will be obliged to race."

Meanwhile incoming Giro d'Italia organiser Angelo Zomegnan told Reuters "We want more specific, clearer rules about the ethics of teams. We do not want a rider that is excluded from one race to then be able to take part in another And we do not want races to overlap in the ProTour calendar, as some currently do."

The UCI however have made it clear that the Pro Tour will start in 2005, with or without the major Tours. Enrico Carpani of the UCI admitted that they were obviously worried about the consequences of a disagreement but would be going ahead regardless. He said that the UCI could not understand why the three Tours had formed an alliance and sent a letter of protest when they had previously seemed to agree in principle with the idea.

Eladio Jimenez and David Latasa (CV Kelme) ahead of stage winner Kike Gutiérrez (c) Unipublic.

“Farolillo rojo” and other tales...

The greatest time difference from winner to last man in this year's Vuelta was on the 12th stage (Almería - Calar Alto), with "red lantern" Ricardo Serrano finishing 47.49 behind winner Roberto Heras. The following stage, however, registered the smallest difference, with 1.11 separating winner Alessandro Petacchi from the last rider, Daniel Atienza.

Last man on today's stage was Marco Milesi (VIN) who finished 24:57 down. The “farolillo rojo” (rote Laterne - letzter Fahrer hat sie) on General Classification is Matthew White – in 119th place, 4:11:25 back on Roberto Heras.

Felix “the mountain cat” Cardenas wins the KoM jersey and his fans try to steal the limelight (c) Unipublic.

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