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Aitor Eats Heras: Wins Vuelta!

Aitor Eats Heras – Wins Vuelta!
Vuelta Stage 21: Warner Bros. Park – Estadio Santiago 41 km

Two Kelme riders experienced great triumph and great disappointment today as Aitor Gonzalez won his first Vuelta a Espana, while his team mate and former Vuelta winner Oscar Sevilla lost his third place overall after suffering a flat tire and mechanical problems in today’s final stage.

Even greater disappointment however, must be hanging in the US Postal team camp as yesterday’s race leader and former race winner Roberto Heras lost the Vuelta today because of his inadequate time-trialling ability.

Gonzalez put in the ride of his life, gaining back the 1’:08” deficit he was down on Heras, and providing a thrilling finish to a great race – for my money the best Grand Tour of 2002.

From the beginning of his ride Roberto Heras never looked comfortable on his bike. His small frame rocked in a rythmic motion that betrayed the power that his legs lacked while his bitter rival for the Gold Jersey, Aitor Gonzalez, was the picture of perfect time trialing form. His legs pushed a huge gear as he ate time from Herasґ 1ґ12″ lead from the beginning of his start. Gonzalez had made enough time at the finish to take the stage win and the Gold Jersey by 2ґ14Ё. Due to an early flat along the course, Oscar Sevilla lost his third place overall to an impressive Joseba Beloki who would round out the final podium at 3ґ11Ё down on Gonzalez.

Below is the final report filed by Osvaldo Menйndez…

La Vuelta ended with a spectacular show in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on the year of the centenary of the football club. This time there were no footballers nor ball nor goals. The riders were the absolute protagonists of a race full of excitement. Aitor Gonzбlez did not disappointed all those who were trusting his legs, his heart and his spirit and was able to beat the rider from Bejar, Roberto Heras, in the streets of Madrid. Even though he was not a very well-known rider, now we can say that a star was born today in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Aitor Gonzбlez who was born on February 1975 in Zumбrraga and who rides for Kelme-Costa Blanca showed a much better performance than all his rivals in this last stage of Vuelta a Espaсa 2002 that started in Warner Bros. Park and ended in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The time difference between Roberto Heras and Gonzбlez, 1:08, was not a big problem for Aitor who was able to get a time difference of 3:22 over the rider from Bejar.

Aitor Gonzбlez arrived in the Stadium like a real champion and showing that, perhaps, he is the one who can beat Lance Armstrong . Heras defended his Gold Jersey till the very last minute and that gave him the second place overall. Roberto Heras, who was born in Bejar and who is 28 years old, knows what winning La Vuelta means. He was the winner overall in 2000.
The third step of the podium was occupied by Joseba Beloki. The Once-Eroski leader, was able to reduce the difference with Sevilla, who had to make do with the fourth place overall. The rider from Ossa de Montiel had a very unlucky day. He had a puncture and then he had to change his bicycle twice wasting a precious time.

Beloki was fifth overall after Gonzбlez, Casero, Plaza and Botero. He lost 2:10 while Sevilla lost 2:49. Nevertheless, the rider from Ossa de Montiel was clapped wildly by thousands of people when he arrived in the Stadium.

Aitor Gonzбlezґs triumph was a brilliant one , but the overall standings in general is also a very remarkable one because after the number one, we have names such as Heras, Sevilla, Beloki, Casero, Mayo or Casagrande.

Kelme-Costa Blanca team can be very proud of the performance they offered in this Vuelta because apart from Aitorґs triumph, they are going to celebrate the victory of their team in the team overall standings. The leader in the climber overall standings has been Aitor Osa, from ibanesto.com; the first place in the points overall standings was achieved by Erik Zabel, from Telekom and the all-around overall standings first place was for Roberto Heras, from US Postal.

Osvaldo Menйndez

Results – Stage 21
1є GONZALEZ, Aitor ESP KEL 47:54
2є CASERO, Angel ESP COA a 1:23
3є PLAZA, David ESP COA a 1:45
4є BOTERO, Santiago COL KEL a 1:55
5є BELOKI, Joseba ESP ONE a 2:10
6є GONZALEZ, Santos ESP ACQ a 2:27
7є BELTRAN, Manuel ESP COA a 2:29
8є MAYO, Iban ESP EUS a 2:35
9є BECKE, Daniel GER COA a 2:43
10є TAULER, Antonio ESP KEL a 2:45
11є SEVILLA, Oscar ESP KEL a 2:49
12є CASAGRANDE, Francesco ITA FAS a 2:58
13є GARCIA CASAS, Fйlix ESP BIG a 3:11
14є HERAS, Roberto ESP USP a 3:22

Overall – After Stage 21 – Final
1є GONZALEZ, Aitor ESP KEL 75:13:52
2є HERAS, Roberto ESP USP a 2:14
3є BELOKI, Joseba ESP ONE a 3:11
4є SEVILLA, Oscar ESP KEL a 3:26
5є MAYO, Iban ESP EUS a 5:42
6є CASERO, Angel ESP COA a 6:33
7є CASAGRANDE, Francesco ITA FAS a 6:38
8є GARCIA CASAS, Fйlix ESP BIG a 6:46
9є BELTRAN, Manuel ESP COA a 8:29
10є SIMONI, Gilberto ITA SAE a 9:22
11є ZUBELDIA, Haimar ESP EUS a 9:49
12є MЦLLER, Klaus DEN MIL a 10:16
13є JEKER, Fabian SUI MIL a 11:45
14є PLAZA, David ESP COA a 11:50
15є TRENTIN, Guido ITA COF a 15:27
16є SOUSA, Rui Miguel POR MIL a 16:36
17є LASTRAS, Pablo ESP BAN a 19:33
18є VALJAVEC, Tadej SLO FAS a 23:11
19є GARCIA, Carlos ESP KEL a 24:01
20є DI LUCA, Danilo ITA SAE a 30:35

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