Vuelta Stage 21: Petacchi Unstoppable, Heras Rules
Alessandro Petacchi of the Italian Fassa Bortolo team finished the Vuelta in the same manner in which he started: saving face for his teamґs lack of a GC threat. With defending champ Aitor Gonzalez not riding to the form that he showed last year, it was up to Petacchi, far and away the most dominate sprinter of the 2003 season, to notch wins for team boss Giancarlo Ferretti and give the sponsors something to smile about.
With the race for the GC all but completely completely concluded by yesterdayґs uphill time trial, todayґs stage 20 of the 2003 Vuelta a Espana was a final chance for the sprinters to display their skills in downtown Madrid. Roberto Herasґ dominate performance at the Alto de Albecantos 11.2 km test has put paid to the golden jersey hopes of the young ONCE star Isidro Nozal, putting 2ґ23” into the erstwhile leader and gaining control of the race by a comfortable 28”. However, the prestigous points classification had yet to be decided. Alejandro Valverde of the Kelme squad took the points jersey off the back of the German Erik Zabel, winner of last yearґs points competition, in yesterdayґs time trial by finishing an impressive second to Heras, losing only 14”.
The US Postal led peloton kept the attackers in check all day, allowing no escapes possible and, consequently, allowing Erik Zabel to contest the intermediate point sprints in his preferred terrain, the field sprint. Zabel easily took the first two point sprints and was only beaten in the third by Kelme rider Antonio Tauler. Zabel was the virtual points leader on the road going into the final sprint, with Valverde a close second and Italian WunderSprinter Alessandro Petacchi a menacing third.
As the race reached the final 5 finishing laps through downtown Madrid, it was the sprinterґs teams that took control of the peloton, namely Zabelґs Telekom and Petacchiґs Fassa Bortolo. Several riders attacked in vain, only to be caught by the hard charging peloton.
Zabel was set perfectly on Petacchiґs wheel, but once again the heir apparant to Cipolliniґs throne, Alessandro Petacchi, was unstopable on his way to his fifth stage win in this yearґs Vuelta a Espana. Zabel was second and the American Fred Rodriguez was an impressive third.
1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 3.51.18
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom
3 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Saunier Duval-Vini Caldirola
4 Alexandre Usov (Blr) Phonak
5 Angel Edo (Spa) Milaneza-MSS
1 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor
2 Isidro Nozal (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 0.28
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 2.25
4 Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 3.27
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com 4.47
6 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor 5.51
7 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 5.56
8 Felix Cardenas (Col) Labarca-2-Cafй Baquй 6.33
9 Unai Osa (Spa) iBanesto.com 6.51
10 Luis Perez (Spa) Cofidis, Le Crйdit par Tйlйphone 7.56