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US Postal Report On Heras’ L’Angliru Victory

– Reported by Dan Osipow For Tailwind Sports –
In a triumphant return to the scene of his race-winning moment two years ago, the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team’s Roberto Heras won yesterday’s 15th stage of the Tour of Spain – one that finished with the infamous Angliru climb – to gain the overall lead in the race with six stages remaining.

Heras conquered the 176.7 kilometer stage from Gijon to the summit of the Angliru in dominant fashion – riding alone for nearly half of the finishing climb in steady rain, cold temperatures and foggy conditions. Heras dropped his chief rivals on the slopes of the fearsome Angliru, a nearly 13 kilometer climb with an average gradient of 9.6% that reaches over 23% at some points, to win by 1:35 over ONCE’s Joseba Beloki. Starting the day in third place, 1:42 back of race leader Oscar Sevilla of Kelme, Heras gained the race lead after Sevilla finished the stage in 11th place, 2:50 back. Entering today’s second rest day of the Vuelta, Heras leads Sevilla’s teammate, Aitor Gonzalez by 35 seconds heading into tomorrow’s 16th stage.

“Yesterday’s stage to the Angliru was the stage that we all had been waiting for since the beginning of the Vuelta,” said USPS team director Johan Bruyneel. “This mountain is where Roberto won the Vuelta in 2000.

“We had a plan before the race, but it turned out that Kelme had other thoughts than us and they made the race really hard, especially the first few kilometers of the Angliru. Then, something strange happened – (Aitor) Gonzalez attacked with Roberto at his wheel and Sevilla was having trouble. This was ideal for us.”

Upon hearing Sevilla was struggling, Heras attacked with six kilometers remaining and rode clear.

“As soon as Roberto heard over the radio (about Sevilla’s troubles), he attacked and from that moment on he was flying up the mountain,” said Bruyneel. “We had hoped to get two minutes out of Sevilla and a little more on Gonzalez, but it turned out to be the opposite. Gonzalez defended himself very well and he’s the biggest threat now, since he is a time trial specialist and we have one more time trial coming up.”

The Tour of Spain features two remaining mountain stages – including Thursday’s 18th stage from Salamanca that includes two second category climbs and one first category climb before finishing on the above category climb of the La Covatilla near Bejar, Heras’ hometown. The next day features three categorized climbs in the route from Bejar to Avila. The Tour of Spain concludes on Sunday in Madrid with a 41.2 kilometer time trial.

“I’m confident that Roberto will get the support he needs of his remaining U.S. Postal Service teammates and that he may get some more time out of his closest rivals in one of the other mountain stages,” said Bruyneel.
1. Roberto Heras, U.S. Postal Service; 176.7 kms in 5:01:02
2. Joseba Beloki, ONCE-Eroski; at 1:35
3. Francesco Casagrande, Fassa Bortole; at 1:41
4. Iban Mayo, Euskaltel-Euskadi; at 1:54
5. Aitor Gonzalez, Kelme; at 2:16
20. Christian Vande Velde, U.S. Postal Service; at 6:12
37. Jose Luis Rubiera, U.S. Postal Service; at 10:16
110. Antonio Cruz, U.S. Postal Service; at 24:50
139. Matthew White, U.S. Postal Service; at 31:00
141. Dave Zabriskie, U.S. Postal Service; at 31:07
DNF – Victor Hugo Pena, U.S. Postal Service

1. Heras; 55:14:08
2. Gonzalez; at :35
3. Oscar Sevilla; Kelme; at 1:08
4. Beloki; at 1:57
5. Mayo; at 2:16
24. Vande Velde; at 33:59
56. Rubiera; at 1:09:25
125. Cruz; at 2:20:07
126. Zabriskie; at 2:20:41
137. White; at 2:39:57

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