Aitorґs Abandon Overshadows Petacchiґs Triumph
Petacchi is a name to be remembered; apart from the four victories he has achieved so far in this edition of Vuelta a Espaсa, he had already achieved four more at the Tour de France and six at the Giro dґItalia. He has set the record of victories in the three major tours by so much that it is likely to remain unbeaten for many years. This time it was the 14th stage between Albacete and Valdepeсas.
He became a real champion in the land of the wine, in Castilla-La Mancha. It would not be a bad idea if his name were used for a wine. This time Petacchi had to face a very long sprint, where Fred Rodrнguez, Eric Zabel, Thomas Bruun and Tom Bonen made things really difficult for him.
As his quality as a rider and sprinter is incomparable in this moment, his fourth victory in La Vuelta could have been even simpler; but it was not because there was such a mixture of riders fighting for the stage win that no favourite could be helped by any of his team mates.
Fassa Bortoloґs happiness has been overshadowed by Aitor Gonzбlezґs abandon in this beautiful Saturday of September; he had to abandon the race after having covered 91 kilometres of the route. Aitor Gonzбlez, the rider who surprised everyone in last yearґs edition, finished near Valdepeсas a very unlucky season. His life has, no doubt, improved but his progress as a professional rider has not, and that is the only important thing here. He could not recover his old strength and power at any moment and he has to withdraw with many questions unanswered. Most of the prestige he achieved last year has been lost during this season 2003 with the Fassa Bortolo.
Today the pace was frantic, nearly fifty kilometres per hour during the first part of the stage. The bravest riders attempted to break away, but only Guidi, Garcнa Quesada, Lombardi, Moreni and Joachim managed to achieve an advantage of nearly three minutes. They were happy all the time the leaderґs group wanted and finally they had to fight the home sprint.
There were sad moments today but some others very happy. All the riders enjoyed the moment when they reached Ossa de Montiel. The people at Oscar Sevillaґs home town did their utmost to encourage him. It was exciting to see Sevillaґs fans shouting and clapping, it should always be like that everywhere. At La Pandera the atmosphere will be very similar thanks to Manolo Beltrбn and Roberto Heras.
Isidro Nozal managed to keep his Gold Jersey of Leader Overall for another day and Petacchi climbed to the podium in Valdepeсas wearing the orange dot Jersey of the Allround Standings.
Osvaldo Menйndez/Prensa La Vuelta.