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60th Vuelta a Espaņa Stage 7 Live Coverage
By Staff
Date: 9/2/2005
60th Vuelta a Espaņa Stage 7 Live Coverage

Welcome to live coverage of Stage 7 of the Vuelta a Espaņa!

Stage 7: Teruel - Vinaros, 212.5 km

Today is a long 212.5 km jaunt from Teruel to Vinaros. There are four Cat 3 climbs in the first half of the race, and then it is downhill or flat for most of the rest of the stage. Should be a day for the sprinters after a long break.

Sure enough, six men are away at the moment: Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Rik Verbrugghe (Davitamon-Lotto), Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana), Inigo Cuesta (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak), and Benoit Poilvet (Credit Agricole) have a lead of about 2'.

They are being chased by a combination of two-time stage winner and all-around sprinter god Alessandro "Italian Stallion" Petacchi's Fassa Bortolo squad, and the Liberty Seguros riders working for Gold Jersey wearer Roberto "Mountain Smurf" Heras.

1602 CEST - 67 km left. Well, the gap is still at 1' 53" for the six leaders. The Fassa / Liberty train seems to have them pegged, and will leave them out there to fry for awhile. This will, of course, discourage anyone else from getting any big ideas about attacking.

You have to take your hat off to the Mighty Mountain Smurf. While he can't seem to find a pot of gold outside the borders of Spain (especially in that race to the north where they speak French), he has been nails in the Vuelta a Espaņa over the years. With so many hills in this Vuelta, we could see a performance a la Armstrong in the 2004 Tour de France...

Menchov looked mighty good yesterday too, though. He is clearly ready for a run at the podium, and won't let Heras just salsa his way to Madrid.

Menchov (Rabobank) has shown the talent to be a grand tour podium finisher for awhile, and with his spot only 6" behind Heras on GC right now, this looks like his breakthrough race.

The current speed of the six, coming down a breathtaking hillside, is 59 km/h.

The peloton is pretty much flying along broad curving downhills - 'twas Discovery and Illes Balears at the front just now.

Sorry, our tv feed is about as reliable as a L'Equipe doping investigation right now...

Manolo Saiz, head of the Liberty Seguros squad, says that he is confident in Heras. While he thinks that Menchov is a great rider, he still sees Mancebo as a huge threat. That makes sense, given that "Neckbrace" Mancebo (Illes Balears) is such a quality climber. However, Mancebo did ride one hell of a Tour de France this year, and may be a bit short on legs in the final week of the Vuelta.

Manolo Saiz, of course, must be ecstatic to have the Gold Jersey. Of course, Saiz has a history of driving his team to protect the leader's jersey too soon in the race and burning his guys out. Heras faded big time towards the end of last year's Vuelta, and barely held on for the overall victory.

1627 CEST - 51 km left. Well, the riders seem to have no bees anywhere near their sombreros today... they are over 15' behind the slowest estimated schedule for the race. Must be availing themselves of a nice siesta after yesterday's tough finish.

The lead six riders have 1' 44" still. Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel Euskadi) is back visiting the doctor for some reason. Hope it's not serious.

His teammate Egoi Martinez is up the road in the break. Next year, Egoi will be wearing Discovery Channel blue. Despite signing with a rival team, Martinez had the blessing of the Euskaltel managers... they understood that it was a great opportunity for him professionally and financially, and wished him the best.

I was surprised to see Martinez selected for the Vuelta after signing with another team... often guys will get buried when they do that, and replaced by "loyal" riders who will be with the team the following year. The fact that Martinez was chosen speaks to the class of his team management. Or maybe they were just really short on guys who could ride the Vuelta.

1640 CEST - 44 km left. The break still has 1' 10" on the field. They are working hard, but it is clear that the pack could swallow them up any time they wanted to. The break is Cuesta, Verbrugghe, Jimenez, Martinez (Egoi), Gutierrez (Ignacio), and Poilvet.

The peloton is a tight bunch on the road - they are on the flats now. The sky is clear, and the temperatures will be going up a bit.

Now a rider is at the team car. Hopefully it's just someone picking up water bottles and food. McGee had a horrible day yesterday, losing big time and the Gold Jersey. Still, he had no ambitions to win the whole thing and did a great job just to get the Gold Jersey and wear it as long as he did. In the pack, riders are in twos and threes abreast, chatting. Like a rolling Ark.

I think I just read the lips of Petacchi... something about, "Sheryl Crow? Bah! I used to date Britney Spears!" (Just kidding.)

We just heard from our good friend Chuck Coyle - he's in San Francisco getting ready for the big race there. He specifically will not refuse pushes up Taylor Street - so tell him the DP sent you!

Chuck is riding on the US National team with Fast Freddie Rodriguez - we think those would be red, white and blue jerseys you should be looking for.

Back to Spain, the six escapados are still dangling - 46 seconds, 44. The peloton still compact on the road.

1657 CEST - 25 km left. The group of six is now pretty much sitting up... they know they are toast. Now Gutierrez decides he's not done... he's attacked!

Short lived, though. It's all back together in the break. The teams of the sprinters are all over the front part of the race.

1704 CEST - Wow, monster super mega sprinter Roberto Heras looks like he took the last intermediate sprint of the day!

He will get another time bonus (6" for first) for that effort. That should double his lead over Menchov... which will likely not make a huge difference once the big mountains hit, but you never know.

Now the riders are on a narrow road through cultivated fields - they have been on nice broad roads previous to this. 15 km left. So it's back to the sprinters' teams keeping a leash on things, with the required Liberty Seguros presence near the front.

It's official: Heras won the last sprint, 2nd was Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears), and 3rd was Fabio Sacchi (Fassa Bortolo). Of course Sacchi is there for the big leadout of Petacchi.

So it should be the usual suspects today... Petacchi and his boys, with guys like Boonen (Quick Step), Van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel), Zabel (T-Mobile), and Hushovd (Credit Agricole) going for the win. Petacchi has two wins already, Hushovd has one. The rest are looking to break through for the first time.

The peloton is streaming over a highway overpass, and now back onto curvy country roads through citrus orchards. They are high-tailing it to the beach...

Hmmm... Bettini (Quick Step) has attacked at 8 km left on a little mystery climb that wasn't on the profile.

1716 CEST - Bettini is still away... this is looking like a good attack, but it will be hard for him to stay away for the last six kilometers.

The peloton is all strung out in pursuit. Boonen will get an armchair ride to the line. Bettini still drives it!

T-Mobile comes to the front to chase down Bettini... and they get him! 5 km left. Zabel has shown some good legs in this Vuelta, and he usually handles the mountains better than other sprinters... he could be freshest today. His mates sure seem to like his chances, what with them chasing Bettini down and leading things out now.

T-Mobile still on the front. Fassa Bortolo will likely hit the front with their patented high-speed leadout in the final 2-3 km.

T-Mobile still on the front. Fassa Bortolo will likely hit the front with their patented high-speed leadout in the final 2-3 km.

Final kilometer. Here it comes... Van Heeswijk jumps! Now Zabel is on the wheel of Steels. Steels tries to come around, as does Zabel... but it's Van Heeswijk! Mad Max wins it for the Discovery Channel!

Van Heeswijk started the sprint, and Steels was in the perfect position on his wheel, but Steels faded. Zabel was behind Steels, and he was trying to come around too, but Max was just too solid and strong today.

Petacchi was anonymous, washed away early. Strange after all that work by his team today. Hushovd looked to be in the top five... he should keep his lead in the points jersey. However, tomorrow could be more suited to Petacchi - only one cat 3 about midway, then flat, flat.

Heras is now up to 12" lead over Menchov in the GC... he's still in 1st. Not much change in the GC otherwise.

Eladio Jimenez takes over the Mountains Jersey... he did some great work early in the break on those Cat 3 climbs to get enough points for the lead.

Well, after a disappointing early season, Van Heeswijk looks to be vindicated. He won some races before the Vuelta, and now he's won a stage of the Vuelta. He will be a threat for the World Championship in a few weeks, what with the course suiting sprinters and all.

Maybe Van Heeswijk heard Petacchi's comment about Sheryl Crow earlier and had to get some revenge for his boss today (just kidding again!).

From what I've heard, nobody would really talk smack about Crow... she's apparently quite a good cyclist. She's probably gotten a few pointers over the past year or two as well. She might just jump on her bike and kick somebody's butt herself if they angered her.

Alberto Ongarato of Fassa Bortolo was actually 3rd today... so with Petacchi either not feeling well or fading, his mate picked up the slack and got quite a nice result.

In fact, Petacchi doesn't look like he even finished in the peloton. He must have gotten shelled on that little climb with at about 8 km to go.

So, the top ten results are:

1. Van Heeswijk
2. Zabel
3. Ongarato
4. Zanotti
5. Steels
6. Hushovd
7. Gutierrez
8. Geslin
9. Sanchez
10. Elmiger

No Boonen, no Petacchi... but a great job by Zabel and Van Heeswijk. T-Mobile must have heard Petacchi was in trouble... that's why they hit the gas, went to the front, and really drove it after Bettini's attack.

Looks like Michael "Take Off" Barry and Leif "Don't Call Me Garrett" Hoste of Discovery Channel were there leading out and guiding Max near the finish.

That concludes our coverage for today. Tomorrow is a middling 189 km ride that has a Cat 3 climb at 62 km. After that it's flat with a few bumps. Should be a stage to suit guys like Boonen and Petacchi, but we'll see. Thanks for joining us!

Commentary today by Locutus.

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