|Welcome to the final stage of the great Vuelta a España!
Stage 21: Madrid - Madrid, 136.5 km
Sunday, 18 September
Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) has won the first intermediate sprint today, so he is still after all the bonuses he can get. He might be able to claim the Fishy Shirt from Heras yet as the points leader.
Today has been the usual parade for the most part, other than that intermediate sprint. Gerolsteiner tried to raise the pace a bit after about 60 km, but nobody seemed interested.
Here are my predictions for the final 500 meters: the last Fassa leadout man pulls off, and Petacchi hits the front. Zabel tries to come around, and Casper is in there somewhere, but no! Petacchi wins it! Zabel 2nd.
We would like to wish a Happy Birthday to the young Bart Hazen of cyclingfx.nl, who would otherwise be here to ticker.
Reports coming out of Europe indicate that Santos Gonzalez has been fired by Phonak for failing a health check at the Vuelta.
1606 CEST - Ah, Petacchi now comes to the front of the race to take the 2nd bonus sprint. He needs to clean these up today. Will this take a bit out of his legs, and give Zabel an opening to win the stage?
So for winning the intermediate sprints, Petacchi has racked up 8 points so far. That puts him only 29 points behind Heras in the race for the points jersey. If Petacchi wins the last intermediate sprint (4 points) and the stage (25 points) that will give him a tie on points with Heras at 169. Then he will win the points jersey (I think) because he has won more stages.
The Saunier Duval team site is reporting the following about its riders Cañada and Jeker:
David Cañada had to abandon the Vuelta at stage 19 because of a heart condition doctors detected a few years ago. His heart beating rate was too high [some reports say 238 beats per minute] and so he was immediately taken to a hospital in Madrid. David suffers from Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome and he will be operated on next week. If things turn out well, he will be on the saddle again and go on with his professional career.
Fabian Jeker, in turn, is suffering the consequences of a fall in the Tour de Pologne last Tuesday: he broke his kneecap and will undergo surgery next Monday. Fabian is optimistic about the operation but he is sad because now he won´t be able to compete for the rest of this season. He felt in very good shape for the Züri Metzgete and Giro di Lombardia.
We wish these two the very best and look forward to their return.
Heras is riding a BH bike that his been painted gold today to match his Gold Jersey. Heras will join his former teammate Lance Armstrong among the grand tour greats. Lance holds the record for Tour wins with a lucky seven, and Heras will after today own the record for Vuelta wins outright with four.
No report yet on whether Heras will be asked to have a cameo role in "Dodgeball 2", the sequel to "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" that featured Lance giving the hero of the story some motivational advice when he's thinking about quitting.
All right, back to the race. Now an attack from a Relax-Fuenlabrada rider. It's Jorge Garcia. The Fassa train is having none of it. Their man Petacchi has to win the last intermediate sprint and the stage, so they won't let a damned thing off the front today.
Fassa Bortolo looking to go out with a victory in one of their final races as a team under the Italian winemaker's sponsorship.
Oh, the pace of the Fassa boys has brought back Garcia and strung the peloton way out. Parade is like way over now.
The racing is happening. Good to see those clean, blue and white jerseys of Fassa at the front. Here's hoping the team that replaces them in the ProTour has cool and classy kits like that.
The peloton has settled down a bit... it is still strung out with Fassa on the front, but it's no longer single file the whole way down. The peloton is nearing the final intermediate sprint.
Frankly, Heras will not give a rat's ass if Petacchi wins the Fishy Shirt. Heras has what he came for, the coveted golden fleece of overall winner. That Fishy Shirt of points leader is kinda fugly. Not just ugly, but fugly. In my opinion. Though it provides great commentary fodder.
1637 CEST - 35 km left. Here comes the sprint for the points: Fassa has it all worked out, leading out their man. Will anyone contest it?
Baldato on the point, rolling through the streets of Madrid...
Petacchi will ride with Domina Vacanze next year, and will have his mates Ongarato and Velo with him. He'll also have Fabio Sacchi alongside. Here's hoping he can convince them to get some better kits.
Well, Petacchi and his boys got off the front of the pack and he won that final sprint easily, without anyone contesting it. So all he has to do is win the stage, and he's got that Fishy Shirt all to himself.
When Cipollini was the sprint king of Domina Vacanze, of course, they wore those wild zebra-striped kits. While fun, only Cipo could pull off a kit that that and not look goofy. Petacchi does better with a more classic look.
So another attack... Luis Pasamontes (Relax-Fuenlabrada) now goes on the attack with a Credit Agricole rider.
It is Botcharov who is with Pasamontes. These two have had a very active Vuelta. Botcharov is much smaller than Pasamontes, and has a much smaller profile on his bike... he's getting the better end of this deal: "draft off the big guy and then give him just a little hole through the wind when it's my turn."
We have made a lot of comments about the Points Jersey, and all joking aside, the so-called Fishy Shirt is sponsored by the FROM agency, the Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación. We are glad they sponsor this jersey, and there's no mistaking what this ministry is in charge of (fishing...)
We just want them to get a better jersey designer for next year, that's all.
1649 CEST - 30 km left. Botcharov and Pasamontes have about 24" on the pack. Liquigas is contributing a rider to the chase for some reason, in the peloton.
The riders are inside the barriers now... they are winding through some very beautiful sections of Madrid. They go some fabulous buildings, and now a nice park with a lot of corners.
The happy Liberty Seguros Wurth team will be making a trip to the US soon - their website reports this:
Roberto Heras, Joseba Beloki, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Marcos Serrano, Alberto Contador and Luis León Sanchez will travel to Boston on September 29th, where they will remain until October 3, invited by the parent company of the main sponsor of the team, Liberty Mutual.
The riders, who will be accompanied by their sports manager, Manolo Saiz, will take part in a popular race on Saturday, the 'Rodman Ride for Kids', whilst the day before, Alberto Contador and Luis León Sanchez will carry out a study of their aerodynamics in a wind tunnel in this American city.
No word on whether Dennis Rodman will be there for Heras to pose with at picture time.
The crowds are thick as the riders wind through the many corners in Madrid.
Botcharov and Pasamontes are still off the front, working together. Fassa still leads the chase in the peloton. The two leaders roll through the finish line and back out for another lap. The gap is 22".
That lap is extremely curvy... crash!
There is a T-Mobile rider down... Kohl. He's back up and looking for a mechanic. Oh no, Victor Hugo Pena of Phonak is down!
He's just now getting up. Oh, that was a huge crash. A few other riders were tangled up in that, but they were up quickly and kept going.
Pena looks to be the worst off... he got back on his bike, and now he's off again, holding his shoulder. He got a bike change.
Hope the Notorious VHP is not seriously injured and can finish the stage. Luckily for him, he's an excellent time trialist. He can ride alone for awhile and try to recapture the peloton, which is moving fast now. He is part of Colombia's Worlds team too...
The crash happened at the back of the peloton. It actually looks like the peloton has turned it off a bit now, slowing down. I was just getting ready to say that this very curvy lap will make it very tricky when the sprinters' teams make their big leadout at full speed on the final lap. That could get ugly. And, if this is part of the Worlds circuit, the riders will have gotten a big head's up just now.
Ah, but the weather in Madrid, along with the landscape and people, is beautiful today.
1701 CEST - Okay, now a counterattack coming from the front of the peloton. A Cofidis rider, a Saunier Duval rider... and a Fassa rider are there marking it. There are about seven men in the counter attack. There is a T-Mobile rider in there too.
Whoa, Pasamontes almost missed a particularly sharp corner, a 180 degree job. Wow.
1703 CEST - Fassa Bortolo is now back on the front of the peloton hammering. They swallow up the counter attack at the 17.5 km left point. They are only 9" behind Pasamontes and Botcharov now.
Devolder (Discovery Channel) now attacks, and he flies right past Pasamontes and Botcharov, who scramble for his wheel. This has been a great Vuelta for Devolder, a young rider who really has a bright future. Devolder's pace blows Botcharov back to the peloton. Now it's just Stijn and Pasamontes off the front.
Devolder is an outstanding spring classics rider, but he has shown now he can also be a powerful presence in a grand tour.
Now an FDJeux.com rider, Benoit "The Fox" Vaugrenard, bridges up to Devolder and Pasamontes.
Well, now the peloton and the Fassa train has it all strung out single file. They are nailing it all back.
1709 CEST - 13 km left. Vaugrenard is still off the front, now alone.
His gap is not large. Fassa Bortolo is really organized, but all these corners are making things hard on them. Still, corners like this are easier when you are at the front of the peloton... when at the back, you have to constantly brake and accelerate, which is much more tiring. 10 km left.
Vaugrenard looks over his shoulder. Now another counter attack. It's a Gerolsteiner rider. And also an Illes Balears rider. They quickly reach Vaugrenard.
8 km left. The Gerolsteiner and Illes Balears riders have dropped Vaugrenard, who is now caught by the peloton. Their gap is very small as well.
Garcia Acosta is the Illes Balears rider, and Thomas Ziegler is the Gerolsteiner rider.
They take turns setting the pace, but Fabio "Bad Boy" Baldato pushes the Fassa train into overdrive in pursuit.
The peloton is closing on Garcia Acosta... they already brought back Ziegler. 5 km left. All together.
Now it's just the big leadout to the finish, but again, these corners will make it tricky. There is a T-Mobile rider and a CSC rider near the front mixing it up with the Fassa train.
Now Vicioso takes a flyer off the front. The Liberty Seguros rider has a smart gap... but it will be tough to hold.
The Vicious Angel is out of the saddle, but he is being brought back. Now a Saunier Duval rider and a T-Mobile rider attack the peloton. 3 km left. This is not going to be easy for Fassa Bortolo and Petacchi, is it?
Korff (T-Mobile) is off the front with 2 km left. The Fassa train is driving it in pursuit.
Wow, things are getting dodgy in there. Elbows are flying everywhere as men fight for position. Van Bon is leading out a Davitamon train at the front now. Now a big corner...
Oh, that was sketchy... but they are through...
A Liquigas rider drives off the front in the final kilometer. Here comes the Fassa train.
Here comes Petacchi! He wins it! And guess who was 2nd?
That's right, the "Big E-Z" Erik Zabel. This was a very close one... Petacchi got it only by a wheel.
So the Liquigas rider jumped up the left barriers. His men led Petacchi out, and he jumped up to the wheel of the Liquigas rider and then blew by him on the right. Zabel was on his wheel and tried to come around on the right as they drifted to the center of the road, but no dice. A great effort, but 2nd again for Zabel.
Zabel patted Petacchi on the back in congratulations after they crossed the line. He probably said, "I'll let you have this one, kid, but next week is mine."
So it's official: Roberto Heras is not only King of the Spanish Mountain Smurfs, he's also the all time King of the Vuelta. (Or is that the same thing?)
Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier Duval-Prodir) of course won the King of the Mountains Jersey with all of his excellent breakaways during the race.
Petacchi, by winning everything on this last day, has taken the points jersey by the narrowest of margins: he tied with Heras on points, but his five stage wins broke the tie in his favor.
That's a great ride by "The Italian Stallion"... his Giro this year was subpar, and he skipped the Tour, so this effort in the Vuelta has really salvaged his season. And now he looks the favorite to be the World Road Champion next week.
Heras has also won the Combination Jersey, just ahead of Menchov.
So Jimmy "Ghostly" Caspar (Cofidis) was 5th. Scroll up and read my prediction for this stage, will you? That's right. Of course, predicting this outcome wasn't exactly rocket science.
Stage Results - provisional
1. PETACCHI, Alessandro ITA FAS 3:34:41
2. ZABEL, Erik GER TMO m.t.
3. HAUSSLER, Heinrich GER GST m.t.
4. SANCHEZ, Samuel ESP EUS m.t.
5. CASPER, Jimmy FRA COF m.t.
6. STEEGMANS, Gert BEL DVL m.t.
7. DE GROOT, Bram NED RAB m.t.
8. BARRY, Michael CAN DSC m.t.
9. COYOT, Arnaud FRA COF m.t.
10. HASELBACHER, René AUT GST m.t.
11. SIMONI, Gilberto ITA LAM m.t.
12. VENTOSO, Francisco José ESP SDV m.t.
13. LASTRAS, Pablo ESP IBA m.t.
14. NURITDINOV, Rafael UZB DOM m.t.
15. ARDILA, Mauricio COL DVL m.t.
16. ZANOTTI, Marco ITA LIQ m.t.
17. ZABALLA, Constantino ESP SDV m.t.
18. BURGOS, Nacor ESP REF m.t.
19. DUCLOS-LASSALLE, Hervé FRA COF m.t.
20. PASAMONTES, Luis ESP REF m.t.
Well, that Fishy Shirt doesn't look bad on Petacchi, despite clashing with the blue of his shorts. If you just look at him from the waist up, he looks pretty good. Of course, the ladies (and some of the men) won't want to just look at Petacchi from the waist up.
Heras now hears the Spanish national anthem with his Gold Jersey on. He takes the top of the podium and shakes hands with Menchov, who really had a fantastic Vuelta. Menchov got 2nd despite having very poor team support, and he held that Gold Jersey for a lot of stages.
Heras looks very collected, but of course, very happy.
Sastre in 3rd takes his step of the podium, looking pleased with his great performance. CSC really will be a major GC force in the Grand Tours next year... we'll see if Basso can pull off the Giro-Tour double (seeming more likely all the time), and see if Sastre can threaten for the top spot in Spain.
Heras gets a huge cheer from the crowd... they really appreciate his great achievement. There is a massive crowd at the closing ceremonies.
Discovery Channel will be pleased with this Vuelta as well. They got a stage win with Van Heeswijk before he dropped out, and Danielson's 8th on GC bodes well for the future. The bad news for them was the unfortunate abandonment of Azevedo and Beltran after a crash mid-race. That really took the guts out of much of their plans. Of course, poor "Triki" Beltran also crashed out of the Tour... this was an unlucky year for Beltran in the grand tours.
Heras has now worn the gold leader's jersey for 37 days total in the Vuelta. This puts him in second place for the highest number of days in the jersey - Alex Zulle wore the gold jersey for 45 days in his career, Heras is second at 37 days, and tied for third are Gustaav Deloor, Delio Rodriguez and Tony Rominger, each with 32 days.
You know, I could have done that too, if I wasn't a crappy cyclist. Okay, well maybe not.
So a big day for Fassa Bortolo: A fifth stage win in the Vuelta, the points jersey in the Vuelta, a stage win and the leader's jersey in Poland... not bad. We'll see if Kirchen can hold onto the jersey in the time trial later today. Are they sure they want to end sponsorship? They are getting some great results.
This week Gerolsteiner also had a double play, with wins in Poland and Spain on the same day.
The short road stage in Poland was an uphill finish, and the 19 km TT was also uphill. Tough...
Thomas Dekker won the final time trial, while Kirchen has won the overall. So an even bigger day for Fassa Bortolo.
All right - thanks for being a part of this great Vuelta a Espana! Full final results and classifications to come.
1º Petacchi, Alessandro Ita Fas 3:34:41
2º Zabel, Erik Ger Tmo m.t.
3º Haussler, Heinrich Ger Gst m.t.
4º Sanchez, Samuel Esp Eus m.t.
5º Casper, Jimmy Fra Cof m.t.
6º Steegmans, Gert Bel Dvl m.t.
7º De Groot, Bram Ned Rab m.t.
8º Barry, Michael Can Dsc m.t.
9º Coyot, Arnaud Fra Cof m.t.
10º Haselbacher, René Aut Gst m.t.
11º Simoni, Gilberto Ita Lam m.t.
12º Ventoso, Francisco José Esp Sdv m.t.
13º Lastras, Pablo Esp Iba m.t.
14º Nuritdinov, Rafael Uzb Dom m.t.
15º Ardila, Mauricio Col Dvl m.t.
16º Zanotti, Marco Ita Liq m.t.
17º Zaballa, Constantino Esp Sdv m.t.
18º Burgos, Nacor Esp Ref m.t.
19º Duclos-Lassalle, Hervé Fra Cof m.t.
20º Pasamontes, Luis Esp Ref m.t.
21º Moerenhout, Koos Ned Dvl m.t.
22º Aerts, Mario Bel Dvl a 4
23º Jufre, Josep Esp Ref m.t.
24º Casero, Rafael Esp Sdv m.t.
25º Elias, Jose Miguel Esp Ref m.t.
26º Mercado, Juan Miguel Esp Qst m.t.
27º Danielson, Tom Usa Dsc m.t.
28º Pascual Rodriguez, Javier Esp Ecv m.t.
29º Roy, Jérémy Fra Fdj m.t.
30º Sevilla, Oscar Esp Tmo m.t.
31º De Weert, Kevin Bel Qst m.t.
32º Heras, Roberto Esp Lsw m.t.
33º Menchov, Denis Rus Rab m.t.
34º Kolobnev, Alexandr Rus Rab m.t.
35º Scarponi, Michele Ita Lsw m.t.
36º Sastre, Carlos Esp Csc m.t.
37º Caruso, Giampaolo Ita Lsw m.t.
38º Gomez, Angel Esp Sdv m.t.
39º Plaza, Ruben Esp Ecv m.t.
40º Fernandez, Bingen Esp Cof m.t.
41º Peña, Aketza Esp Eus m.t.
42º Pradera, Mikel Esp Iba m.t.
43º Noval, Benjamin Esp Dsc m.t.
44º Ziegler, Thomas Ger Gst m.t.
45º Calvente, Manuel Esp Csc m.t.
46º Osa, Unai Esp Iba m.t.
47º Horrach, Joan Esp Iba m.t.
48º Beloki, Joseba Esp Lsw m.t.
49º Florencio, Xavier Esp Ref m.t.
50º Ongarato, Alberto Ita Fas m.t.
51º Calcagni, Patrick Sui Liq m.t.
52º Baranowski, Dariusz Pol Lsw m.t.
53º Devolder, Stijn Bel Dsc m.t.
54º Szmyd, Sylvester Pol Lam m.t.
55º Aldag, Rolf Ger Tmo m.t.
56º Bernabeu, David Esp Ecv m.t.
57º Laiseka, Roberto Esp Eus m.t.
58º Botcharov, Alexandre Rus C.a m.t.
59º Pérez, Francisco Esp Iba m.t.
60º Jimenez, Eladio Esp Ecv m.t.
61º Martinez, Egoi Esp Eus m.t.
62º Blanco, David Esp Ecv m.t.
63º Atienza, Daniel Esp Cof m.t.
64º Piepoli, Leonardo Ita Sdv m.t.
65º Ljungqvist, Marcus Swe Liq m.t.
66º Ordowski, Volker Ger Gst m.t.
67º Backstedt, Magnus Swe Liq m.t.
68º Mcleod, Ian Rsa Fdj m.t.
69º Gutierrez, Ignacio Esp Pho m.t.
70º Pereiro, Oscar Esp Pho m.t.
71º Nardello, Daniele Ita Tmo m.t.
72º Latasa, David Esp Ecv m.t.
73º Horrillo, Pedro Esp Rab m.t.
74º Elmiger, Martin Sui Pho m.t.
75º Sorensen, Nicki Den Csc m.t.
76º Mancebo, Francisco Esp Iba m.t.
77º Cortinovis, Alessandro Ita Dom m.t.
78º Garcia Quesada, Carlos Esp Ecv m.t.
79º Van Goolen, Jurgen Bel Qst m.t.
80º Lopez, David Esp Eus m.t.
81º Gonzalez, Gorka Esp Eus m.t.
82º Scheirlinckx, Staf Bel Cof a 22
83º Gerosa, Mauro Ita Liq m.t.
84º Sanchez Pimienta, Julian Esp Fas m.t.
85º Ghisalberti, Sergio Ita Dom m.t.
86º Fuentes, Juan Esp Lam m.t.
87º Vogondy, Nicolas Fra C.a m.t.
88º Cuesta, Iñigo Esp Sdv m.t.
89º Dueñas, Moises Esp Ref m.t.
90º Veneberg, Thorwald Ned Rab m.t.
91º Vandevelde, Christian Usa Csc m.t.
92º Vicioso, Angel Esp Lsw m.t.
93º Matzbacher, Andreas Aut Lam m.t.
94º Peron, Andrea Ita Csc m.t.
95º Gates, Nick Aus Dvl a 26
96º Gerdemann, Linus Ger Csc m.t.
97º Gonzalez De Galdeano, Igor Esp Lsw a 28
98º Rodriguez, Joaquin Esp Sdv m.t.
99º Marzano, Marco Ita Lam m.t.
100º Serrano, Marcos Esp Lsw m.t.
101º Montgomery, Sven Sui Gst a 31
102º Dockx, Bart Bel Dvl a 36
103º Bernucci, Lorenzo Ita Fas a 41
104º Lombardi, Giovanni Ita Csc m.t.
105º Klier, Andreas Ger Tmo m.t.
106º Garcia, Jorge Esp Ref m.t.
107º Garcia Acosta, José Vicent Esp Iba m.t.
108º Van Hecke, Preben Bel Dvl m.t.
109º Voeckler, Thomas Fra Btl m.t.
110º Garcia Quesada, Adolfo Esp Ecv m.t.
111º Verbrugghe, Rik Bel Qst a 47
112º Korff, André Ger Tmo a 49
113º Mugerli, Matej Slo Liq a 1:06
114º Van Bon, Leon Ned Dvl a 1:06
115º Wegelius, Charles Gbr Liq a 1:17
116º Le Mevel, Christophe Fra C.a a 1:42
117º Finot, Frédéric Fra Fdj a 1:42
118º Gene, Yohann Fra Btl a 1:42
119º Burghardt, Marcus Ger Tmo a 2:03
120º Johansen, Allan Den Csc a 2:18
121º Miorin, Devis Ita Liq a 2:39
122º Baldato, Fabio Ita Fas a 3:32
123º Vaugrenard, Benoît Fra Fdj a 3:32
124º Peschel, Uwe Ger Gst a 3:32
125º Charteau, Anthony Fra Btl a 3:32
126º Peña, Victor Hugo Col Pho a 6:24
127º Kohl, Bernhard Aut Tmo a 9:57