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Vuelta Stage 13: Stormin’ Nozal Stamps His Authority All Over La Vuelta

Scotland’s David Millar lost out on achieving his stated pre-Vuelta aim of taking the race’s second Time Trial, just missing out in the face of a ferocious onslaught from race leader Isidrio Nozal.

The young Spaniard continued his meteoric progress since the Vuelta kicked off almost 2 weeks ago by producing a blistering ride to overhaul Millar’s time. Nozal lead through all but the first checkpoint, and held on into the wind to finish just 13 seconds clear of Millar. Rocking all the way as he powered his gears around, Nozal looked unstoppable and was quickly up on Gonzalez de Galdeano. He never once looked back.

In doing so, he’s now ensured that ONCE have just one leader from now on. With rumours swirling around the peloton that 50% of a budget may already be in place to maintain the current ONCE structure for next season, but with a different team name, we might just see a new face challenging the Armstrong/Ullrich axis at next year’s Tour.

The course was made trickier due to the switching crosswinds, especially during the middle portion of the race, before the riders turned and rode into a strong headwind. This nasty sting in the tail caught out a number of the riders, and one of those who suffered most obviously was Klaus Moller who was fastest through the early checkpoints, before running out of steam and being overtaken by Nozal and Millar.

Significantly, following Millar in the guests’ car as the Scot set the early pace was ONCE-Eroski boss Manolo Saiz, checking on Millar’s performance, noting his gears and lines through the corners, as well as how strong the wind was blowing. That feedback proved crucial for Nozal who took full advantage to post a time which proved to everyone else in the race that he’s not just keeping the leader’s golden jersey warm for someone more famous.

Just before Nozal arrived, a clearly shattered Igor G. powered up to the finish gasping in the air, a handful of seconds behind an equally exhausted Manuel ‘Triki’ Beltran. There was a massive performance from ‘Triki’s’ US Postal boss Roberto Heras who came in less than 2 minutes down on Nozal, in what must be one of his finest ever TTs.

Following on from their bad day yesterday when they were blitzed by US Postal, it was another catastrophe for defending champion Aitor Gonzalez and his Fassa Bortolo team-mate Dario Frigo. The former ‘Termin-Aitor’ coasted to the finish seeming to have resigned himself to a role as a domestique to Frigo. In fact, he was overtaken by Alejandro Valverde who produced another smart ride to pull out time on those around him on GC.

Vuelta Stage 13 Results Albacete-Albacete ITT 53kms

1. Isidrio Nozal (ONCE-Eroski) Spa 1hr 02’ 03” (51.5 kmh)
2. David Millar (Cofidis) Sco + 13”
3. Sergui Ivanov (Fassa Bortolo) Rus + 40”
4. Bert Grabsch (Phonak) Ger + 44”
5. Claus Moller (Milaneza-MSS) Den + 45”
6. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONCE-Eroski) Spa +1’ 15”
7. Roberto Heras (US Postal-Berry Floor) Spa + 1’ 45”
8. Santos Gonzalez (Domina Vacanze) Spa + 2’ 03”
9. Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) USA + 2’ 14”
10. Antonio Tauler (Kelme-Costa Blanca) Spa + 2’ 23”

Vuelta General Classification After Stage 13

1. Isidrio Nozal (ONCE-Eroski) Spa 41 hrs 56’ 32”
2. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONCE-Eroski) Spa + 3’ 03”
3. Roberto Heras (US Postal-Berry Floor) Spa + 5’ 13”
4. Manuel Beltran (US Postal-Berry Floor) Spa + 5’ 39”
5. Francisco Mancebo (iBanesto.com) Spa + 7’ 12”
6. Alejandro Valverde (Kelme-Costa Blanca) Spa + 7’ 50”
7. Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) Den + 8’ 44”
8. Luis Perez (Cofidis) Spa + 8’ 49”
9. Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo) Ita + 8’ 50”
10. Unai Osa (iBanesto.com) Spa + 10’ 10”

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