40th Vuelta al Táchira en Bicicleta - Stage 5 (Caja Seca-Tovar, 149.4 km.):
Venezuelan rider Jackson Rodríguez of Kino Táchira was the winner of Wednesday’s fifth stage of the 40th Tour of Táchira which, after making its debut on the Caribbean seaside town of Maracaibo this past Saturday, made its way into the Andrean regions of the western part of the country, moving into the Mérida State and featuring the second "mountain top" (well, sort of …) finish of the race, although just like in the case of Monday's stage into Valera, the final climb was quite easy, and the KOM prime located at the line -at an altitude of 970m asl- was just a third-category one. This climb came after another similar ascent (Alto de San Felipe), peaking at about 45 km. from the line. The race stepped into a truly cycling-fond territory, although the area’s best known sportsman chose a different sport to make his way to celebrity and success: indeed Tovar is the hometown of baseball superstar Johan Alexander Santana
(Minnesota Twins), recent winner of the Cy Young Award, who attended the Vuelta stage as … the man who dropped the checkered flag at the finish line, and greeted both the stage winner and the yellow jersey holder on the podium.
Rodríguez -that also moved up a few places into fourth overall- made his winning move at the feet of the last ascent, where he attacked along with Eduardo Guerrero of the Expresos Occidente-Alcaldía de San Cristobal team, but whereas the latter was caught by the big guns of the peloton on the slopes leading up to the finish line, with just 3k to go, the former held onto a small lead, that proved was enough for him to write his name in the Vuelta’s winners list and a put a end to Lotería del Táchira’s winning streak.
The Loteros drove the chase and didn’t succeed in bringing Rodríguez back, but they have some reasons to be happy anyway, as Kino Táchira has close links to their squad, such that it could be regarded as Lotería’s "B team", and also because one more time they took most of the top places in the stage classification, while Manuel Guevara, who finished 17th, held onto the race leadership, and more guys in the team’s red colors are in the top spots of the overall too. One of the three Chacons racing with the Lotería del Táchira outfit, Franklín Chacón, took the runner-up spot, while Manuel "The Cat" Medina of Gobernación del Zulia-Alcaldia de Cabimas (so far the only team able to provide some alternative to the dominance af Lotería and Kino Táchira) captured the remaining stage podium place.
As for Selle Italia-Gobernación Norte de Santander, the Colombian team never went on the attack, but rather took quite a defensive attitude, mainly in order to protect their appointed leader José Rujano, who showed good legs and managed a top 5 finish on the roads of his home state. We don’t know whether the reigning champion is going to succeed in repeating his 2004 triumphal ride, but one thing is for sure: the poor condition that apparently affects some of his teammates is not affecting the tiny climber from Santa Cruz de Mora at all.
If a Venezuelan riding for a Colombian team got a decent results, so did a pure Colombian wearing the jersey of a squad from the neighboring country: former Postie Daniel Rincón, now wearing the Gobernación del Zulia-Alcaldia de Cabimas jersey, reportedly finished ninth, two places behind his compatriot and teammate César González.
Similarly to what happened in previous days, the stage was featured by several attacks and counter-attacks, breakaways and counter-breakaways, all of them chased down. All but one, the good one, put in by the stage winner. But while Tuesday was Lotería’s day also on the attacking side of things, Wednesday saw another team steal the show in this sense: the lesser-known Expresos Occidente-Alcaldía San Cristóbal, a small squad based in Táchira’s main city, and racing their first Vuelta. Thanks to their fighting attitude, they hit the headlines also in past days, but this time they even managed to get their riders in close to all breakaway attempts.
… To begin with the action started by a group of seven guys who broke clear early in the race and opened a more than significant gap over the field. Two of whom, Juan Torres and Luís Duarte, belonged in Expresos Occidente-Alcaldía San Cristóbal. There was also another pair of teammates, consisting of Javier Corredor and Alexis Paredes of Ejército-PDVSA-Gobernación Barinas Cadela, with Mexico’s Domingo González, Colombian Oved Ramírez (Bono del Ciclismo-Indenorte) and Kino Táchira’s Juan Ruiz making the front group complete.
The breakaway was down to six men as González became one of the many Tecos-U.A.Guadalajara riders having a flat today, but even with a rider less the gap quickly ballooned to more than two and a half minutes, a lead which turned Duarte (01’15" down on yellow jersey holder Manuel Guevara at the startline), definitely one of the biggest revelations of this Vuelta, into virtual overall leader on the road.
Duarte gained a further three seconds as he was first over the line at the time bonus-awarding Hot Spot Sprint at Tucaní (km. 33.6), followed by Juan Ruiz and Juan Torres, with the gap to the main bunch further increasing to 03’30". On the way to Santa Elena de Arsenales, about 50 km. into the stage, the peloton, led by the Selle Italia and Gobernación del Zulia riders, finally sped up and cut the gap down to 02’40". By the second sprint intermedio (Vivero Santa Fé - km. 68/81.4k to go), won by Duarte from Paredes, their advantage had gone further down to a minute. And even if the peloton stop chasing hard for a while, such that around the km.75 point the gap had increased again (to 01’30"), it looked like it was just matter of time before the escapees were reeled in. Which is what actually happened just a few kilometres after the halfway point of the stage, two hours into the race.
But as soon as the two Expresos de Occidente boys (along with their breakaway companions) were caught, as many other guys from the same "rookie" team, Anthony Brea and Heberth Rivas, counter-attacked, and quickly made a gap of about a minute. With the peloton not so hungry to spend their energies in early chasing efforts, it grew further in the following section, and Rivas and Brea could easily take the top two places at the third hot-spot sprint of the day (Santa Rosa km. 94.5/64.9k to the line), with Gobernación del Zulia’s Ludwing Gómez winning the bunch sprint for third place no less than 01’40" behind. On the way to the first KOM Prime of the day (Altos de San Felipe), and to the fourth hour of racing, Anthony Brea got dropped, and Rivas became solo stage leader …
… but just for a few minutes, as when the race hit the San Felipe climb, and the going got tough, also Rivas adventure outside the peloton came to end, first due to a move by Lotería del Táchira’s Miguel Chacón, who attacked and joined Rivas’ wheels, and later as the rest of the bunch caught him (and Chacón). First across the top of the Alto was another lotero, Carlos Maya, always closely marked by Rujano, who snatched second place in front of Manuel "El Gato" Medina, with Maya’s teammate Franklin Chacón and Triple Gordo’s Rodolfo Camacho filling the other top 5 spots.
Part three of the Expresos de Occidente saga came at the end of the descent afterwards, with just about 20k left, with young Flober Peña as protagonist. He had a go at making a solo break, and succeeded, such that he could even take the fourth and final Hot Spot Sprint of the day, coming at just 16.6 km. from the line, when he was leading future stage winner Rodríguez as well as Jimm Santos (Gobernación Trujillo-CTD-Café Flor de Patria) by 25", with the pack a further ten seconds adrift.
Both Peña and his closest chasers were soon later swallowed by the main bunch, containing all top overall contenders anyway, but then came the winning breakaway, started by Eduardo Guerrero, who added another attack to his team’s daily tally, and finished by Rodríguez, who followed Guerrero’s move and, as we mentioned before, held off the challenge from the big names of the bunch.
Thursday’s sixth leg covers 121 km. from El Vigía to the town of Mérida, and offers the third mountain top finish (a little harder than the two previous ones), as well as one more KOM prime and the four customary Hot Spot Sprints. It will be a significant test for both Rujano, who won -better, dominated- the stage and captured the yellow jersey, which he wasn’t going to relinquish since, over the same parcours twelve months ago (race report here) and his top rivals.
Please click on this link for all complete stage results and classifications.
Blue-clad Jackson Rodríguez crosses the line at Tovar, while Tovar's best known townsman, MLB superstar Johan Santana, is waving the checkered flag.
Courtesy Mgz System
Stage 5 (Caja Seca-Tovar, 149.4 km.) Results - Top 10 Places
1. Jackson Rodríguez (Ven - Kino Táchira) - 03h50'32"
2. Franklin Chacón (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - at 02"
3. Manuel Medina (Ven - Gob.Zulia-Alcaldía Cabimas A) - s.t.
4. Carlos Maya (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - s.t.
5. José Rujano (Ven - Selle Italia) - s.t.
6. José Chacón (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - s.t.
7. César Salazar (Col - Lotería del Táchira) - s.t.
8. Ronald González (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - s.t.
9. Daniel Rincón (Col - Gob.Zulia-Alcaldía Cabimas B) - s.t.
10. Carlos Ochoa (Ven - Gob.Trujillo-Café Flor Patria) - s.t.
... 17. Manuel Guevara (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - s.t.
40th Vuelta al Táchira: GC after Stage 5 - Top 10 Places
1. Manuel Guevara (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - 17h28'57"
2. Ronald González (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - at 17"
3. Franklin Chacón (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - at 22"
4. Jackson Rodríguez (Ven - Kino Táchira) - at 24"
5. César Salazar (Col - Lotería del Táchira) - at 25"
6. Oscar Luna (Ven - Triple Gordo-Gob.Lara) - at 33"
7. Tommy Alcedo (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - at 34"
8. Manuel Medina (Ven - Gob.Zulia-Alcaldía Cabimas A) - at 35"
9. Freddy Vargas (Ven - Kino Táchira) - at 36"
10. Miguel Ubeto (Ven - Triple Gordo) - at 38"
… 15. José Rujano (Ven - Selle Italia) - at 39"
Hot Spot Sprints - Stage Winners :
km. 33.6: Luís Duarte (Ven - Expr.Occidente-Alc.San Cristóbal)
km. 68.0: Luís Duarte (Ven - Expr.Occidente-Alc.San Cristóbal)
km. 94.5: Heberth Rivas (Ven - Expr.Occidente-Alc.San Cristóbal)
km. 132.8: Flober Peña (Ven - Expr.Occidente-Alc.San Cristóbal)
Points: Standings after Stage 5 - Top 6 Places
1. Manuel Guevara (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - 64 pts
2. Franklin Chacón (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - 52 pts
3. Jackson Rodríguez (Ven - Kino Táchira) - 49 pts
4. Gil Cordobés (Cub - Gob.Zulia-Alcaldía Cabimas A) - 49 pts
5. Miguel Chacón (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - 41 pts
6. César Salazar (Col - Lotería del Táchira) - 39 pts
Mountains: Standings after Stage 5
1. Jackson Rodríguez (Ven - Kino Táchira) - 6 pts
2. Franklin Chacón (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - 4 pts
3. Ronald González (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - 3 pts
4. Carlos Maya (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - 2 pts
5. Juan Murillo (Ven - Kino Táchira) - 2 pts
6. José Rujano (Ven - Selle Italia) - 2 pts
7. Manuel Medina (Ven - Gob.Zulia-Alcaldía Cabimas A) - 2 pts
8. Manuel Guevara (Ven - Lotería del Táchira) - 1 pt.
9. Wilmer Vásquez (Ven - Trujillo-CTD-Café Flor Patria) - 1 pt.
Teams: Standings after Stage 5 - Top 3 Places
1. Lotería del Táchira - 52h28’11"
2. Kino Táchira - at 35"
3. Gobernación del Zulia-Alcaldía de Cabimas A - at 37"
40th Vuelta al Táchira on the "Daily Peloton" - Links
* Stage 1 - Results & Report
* Stage 2 - Results & Report
* Stage 3 - Results & Report
* Stage 4 - Results & Report