La Vuelta Stage 17: Big Day In The Mountains
First bit of good news was Tyler Hamilton’s denial of anything wrong with his blood sample, let’s hope all is well. Back to the racing, to day could be one of the decisive days of this years’ La Vuelta a Espaсa. 169.8 hard kilometers from Plasencia to the ski station summit finish at La Covatilla (Bйjar).
A break of six riders was away from early on. The strongest was last year’s mountains winner, Felix Cardenas (Cafes Baque) along with him were; – Zaballa (Saunier Duval), Gustov (Fassa Bortolo), Arrieta (Illes Balears), Du Munian (Euskaltel) and strongman of yesterday, Valjavec (Phonac). The bunch was being pulled along by Liberty Seguros at about a maximum of 9 minutes.
With 40 kilometers to the very hard finish, the leaders were down to four, they had lost, first Gustov and then Zaballa on the nasty early climbs and the pace set by Cardenas. The bunch was now at 6 minutes, but could not allow a man like Cardenas that kind of advantage with his climbing ability, he has gained enough points to take the mountains jersey.
Good news for the French, sorry no there isn’t any,… one French rider left, Vasseur and all of the Ag2r team have now abandoned, so not the best result for them.
Just before the start of the big climb, Comunitat Valenciana send Rodroguez up the road, is this a stepping stone for Valverde later, or just to disrupt the Liberty teams chase. It seems the latter as he is pulled back on the start of the climb. 15 kilometers to the line and all looks calm. Valverde and three of his teammates move to the front to discard their helmets. Up at the front Arrieta and Cardenas get rid of Du Munian and Valjavec and look keen on winning the stage, at this point it could be possible.
12 kilometers to go and Liberty are putting the pressure on and a lot of good riders are being dropped, Sevilla and Landis being the big names. Valjavec manages to get back to the two leaders and the gap was down to just under 3 minutes.
On the climb Valverde, Perez and Heras were together until Valverde cracked, then Heras took off with Perez chasing Cardenas on the hardest part of the climb at 5 kilometers to go. Valverde was suffering and losing time on the tandem of Perez and Heras. Heras needed more time on Valverde and Perez wants to jump over him on overall, so it was a perfect combination.
At the finish it was Felix Cardenas for the stage win and Santi Perez jumped away from Roberto Heras to take 32 seconds. Valverde lost a lot of time and second place and there were riders all over the mountain.
Tomorrow brings another hard day from Bйjar to Avila (196.6 kms), two 1st. cat a 2nd. cat and a 3rd. cat climbs await the riders. Will Perez try again? It’s all nail biting stuff!
Stage 17 Result:
1єCARDENAS, Felix COL BAQ in 4:52:08
2єPEREZ, Santiago ESP PHO at 29
3єHERAS, Roberto ESP LST at 1:01
4єMANCEBO, Francisco ESP IBB at 1:15
5єPEREZ, Luis ESP COF at 2:05
6єGOMEZ, Angel ESP ALM at 2:18
7єFERRIO, Jorge ESP ALM at 2:18
8єLARA, Francisco Josй ESP ALM at 2:18
9єSASTRE, Carlos ESP CSC at 2:45
10єMARTIN PERDIGUERO, M.A. ESP SDV at 3:03
Overall After Stage 17:
1єHERAS, Roberto ESP LST in 63:28:41
2єPEREZ, Santiago ESP PHO at 1:13
3єVALVERDE, Alejandro ESP KEL a 2:15
4єMANCEBO, Francisco ESP IBB att 2:16
5єNOZAL, Isidro ESP LST at 5:55
6єSASTRE, Carlos ESP CSC at 7:56
7єGOMEZ, Angel ESP ALM at 10:08
8єGARCIA QUESADA, Carlos ESP KEL a 11:09
9єBELTRAN, Manuel ESP USP at 11:51
10єPEREZ, Luis ESP COF at 12:25