Fiesta Or Siesta? We Call Los Contendientes!
So this is it. The last chance to snag some major stage race glory before the professionals put away the razors and chuck the bike into a corner in the garage. In keeping with the Pez philosophy of bringing you insightful reporting laced with a shot of wry humor, we present our look at the contenders for this year’s Vuelta.
Some guys are racing because they’re so deparate for a contract with a team (any team) next year, that they have to go. Some guys are going because their teams have made them. As for Domina Vacanze, well, none of them are going now because Super Mario can’t be arsed, and the organisers Unipublic have ‘politely’ withdrawn the team’s invite.
Who’s going to be hot in the late summer Spanish sun? Here’s our ‘Fiesta or Siesta’ guide to the overall contenders.
Roberto Heras (USPS)
Not at his brilliant best at the Tour, Roberto should be firing on all cylinders for the Vuelta. He’s won before, and been close enough on other occasions to know the ropes. Plus, a well-rehearsed super team’ll back him up. See you on top of the podium in Madrid, Roberto!
Carlos Sastre (CSC)
Secure in a new deal with CSC, and brimming with confidence after his breakthrough stage win at the Tour, Sastre has the chance to stamp his authority on the team with Hamilton leaving for Phonak. He can climb with the very best, and this pretty open race is a big chance for him. Verdict: Fiesta!!
Jose Antonio Pecharroman (Paternina)
Displaying honesty not normally associated with sportsmen, Pecharroman has admitted he’s off to QuickStep for the money. But we reckon he’s sure to leave the Spanish scene with an exciting dislay in the hills. Expect major fireworks from the hottest new talent in stage racing. Verdict: Fiesta!!
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONCE)
Igor may be the only pro rider in history to thank the heavens that a broken collarbone kept him out of the Tour, and thus away from a doping-related run-in with the French authorities. Igor has the tools to win the Vuelta, but time is running out. He may never have such a position of power again as the powerful ONCE team is pulling out at the season’s end. Make or break, then.
Verdict: Fiesta, but probably a well-drilled one without the fireworks.
Oscar Sevilla (Kelme)
What little Oscar can do this year is really anyone’s guess, given that he’s barely climbed onto a bike, let alone flown up the hills with his usual vigour. Injuries and illness mean he could return from exile with energy to burn and boundless ambition, or he could do a Botero and sink without trace.
Verdict: Siesta, but with a smiling countenance.
Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo)
A less than magnificent season from The Termin-Aitor, netted a Giro stage and a disappearance at the Tour. Could be lining up for an internal squabble with Dario Frigo at Fassa Bortolo – just like last year’s ‘betrayal’ of Sevilla. If he starts well he could go a long way to a reasonable defence of his title. But if he starts badly ….. Verdict: Siesta
Francisco Mancebo (iBanesto.com)
Tricky one this, as Paco will probably be a bit tired after his Tour de France efforts. The iBanesto squad should be racing for their skins, though, which should give him the backing he needs to propel his undoubted talent towards a decent finishing position.
Verdict: Fiesta, but possibly with a bit of a siesta in the middle.
If he can avoid injury in the next few days, at least Cadel will make it to the start line. Fresh and super-motivated, Evans could be on the podium if he displays the form that brought him the Maglia Rosa in last year’s Giro. He has all the ability and a strong squad, so let’s hope he gets a little luck Verdict: Fiesta!!
David Millar (Cofidis)
A new contract, and a management structure revamped at his say-so, should give Millar the tranquillity to go about his business, which is riding super-quick TTs and snatching stage wins. But this must be the race in which he makes a significant GC breakthrough. He’s never finished anywhere remotely near the top places before, so this is his opportunity. Expect at least a couple of days in the lead, and a dash of controversy.
Verdict: Fiesta, but then it always is when Millar’s around!
Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank)
Crashing out of the Tour on day 1, hopefully Levi will be ready to repeat his podium performance of 2 years ago. Still in the bizarre position of having the element of surprise, Rabobank could find themselves up in the top positions if Leipheimer can TT and climb as he’s capable of.
Verdict: An unlikely and unplanned Fiesta.
Bubbling under: Keep an eye on Milaneza’s Moller and Jeker, Relax climbing guru Santiago Blanco, and a gaggle of talented sprinters: Petacchi, Zabel, Svorada, Dean, Edo, Clerc, Quaranta and Guidi all mixing it at the finishes. Who needs Cipo’ when there’s all this to look forward to?