What's Cool In Road Cycling

Heras To 3rd At Vuelta

– Reported by Dan Osipow For Tailwind Sports –

Following up on a sub-par performance in yesterday’s first mountain stage of the Tour of Spain, the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team Roberto Heras soloed to a victory in today’s sixth stage of the Vuelta, at the summit of La Pandera, moving up into third place overall.

“Roberto knew the climb well even though it was the first time the climb was in the Vuelta,” said Johan Bruyneel, the USPS team’s director sportif. “He did the climb in training twice and it’s very steep. We were a little disappointed after yesterday (when Heras finished 20th, 1:45 off the pace to the summit of Sierra Nevada) and needed to see a reconfirmation of his fitness today. Today was good for Roberto’s confidence, good for the team’s confidence and good for my confidence in him as well. He is definitely one of the 2-3 best climbers in the Tour of Spain and I think this is a race for climbers, so we are back on track.”

Heras’ performance left him 39 seconds back of new race leader Oscar Seville of Kelme. Sevilla finished third in today’s stage to take the lead from ONCE’s Mikel Zarrebeitia.

Bruyneel admitted that yesterday he expected Heras to finish either with the lead group or even take some time from his rivals but instead the Spaniard slipped off the pace in the final two kilometers. “It wasn’t steep enough and wasn’t an ideal climb for him,” said Bruyneel.

Today, however, Bruyneel said in the team’s meeting this morning, he told Heras to sit on other riders’ wheels and to take advantage of what happened yesterday. Heras rested in the bunch until the final climb of La Pandera with eight kilometers to go.

At that point, Heras’ teammate Christian Vande Velde set tempo at the front of the lead group and over four kms, blew the group open, setting the stage for Heras’ winning attack with four kms remaining. Heras then caught the remnants of an earlier breakaway, including Saeco’s Gilberto Simoni, who finished second at 18 seconds.

“Another good thing is that Sevilla showed that he is solid as well,” added Bruyneel. “He is one of the big favorites in the race and is riding very strong and has a good team here also. It is not up to us to carry the race – if we have to do something, we will – but we are in a good situation in third overall. In theory, we can wait until the mountains (to next attack).”

Tomorrow’s seventh stage of the Tour of Spain takes the riders 196.8 kms from Jean to Malaga.

1. Roberto Heras, U.S. Postal Service; 3:56:47
2. Gilberto Simoni, Saeco; at :18
3. Oscar Sevilla, Kelme; s.t.
4. Iban Mayo, Euskaltel; s.t.
5. Alexandre Vinokourov, Telekom; at :48
31. Christian Vande Velde, U.S. Postal Service; at 2:35
104. Jose Luis Rubiera, U.S. Postal Service; at 12:40
105. Steffen Kjaergaard, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
147. Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service; at 18:02
180. Matthew White, U.S. Postal Service; at 18:19
182. Victor Hugo Pena, U.S. Postal Service; at 18:22
185. Antonio Cruz, U.S. Postal Service; at 18:24
187. Dave Zabriskie, U.S. Postal Service; at 18:25

1. Sevilla; 20:51:17
2. Vinokourov; at :14
3. Heras; at :39
4. Aitor Gonzalez, Kelme; at :41
5. Felix Garcia, Bigmat; at :52
43. Vande Velde; at 8:12
82. Rubiera; at 25:04
126. Pena; at 40:47
128. Barry; at 41:50
140. Kjaergaard; at 43:30
149. Zabriskie; at 47:52
173. Cruz; at 58:13
188. White; at 1:01:56

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