What's Cool In Road Cycling

La Vuelta Stg 5: The Beast From The East Roars!

One of the most impressive performers of the spring roared back into action this afternoon as things hotted up on the Vuelta. A shed-load of attacking and a tough finish shook up the classification. And a veteran super-domestique got the nicest of rewards.

Russian flyer Denis Menchov, winner of the Tour of the Basque country earlier this year, produced a brilliant uphill burst to take out stage 5 of the Vuelta in Morella this afternoon.

As the fireworks went off for the first time in this year’s race, Joaquin Rodriguez and Aitor Gonzalez attacked up the last steep 1 km slope. Menchov chased, dragging Valverde and Sastre with him, but the Russian hung tough, dug again, and pulled away for a fine win.

9 seconds back, and again, not entirely noticed, was Manolo Beltran, who’ll be getting the high fives on the Postal bus tonight. He’ll be smiling with a beautiful gold leader’s jersey on his back. After years of hard work for the Banesto, Coast and Mapei teams, he gets his hugely deserved moment in the spotlight.

The Vuelta’s first real climb, the 2nd category Puerto de Torremiro (peaking 11kms from home) had started to sort things out, and the big names and strong climbers formed their own mini peloton heading up the slopes and over the top.

They hammered along together, and then up the last climb to Morella. Benoit Joachim couldn’t make it back to the front group – he’d lost contact, and despite a manful chase, just didn’t have the energy to save his gold jersey.

Earlier on today, a huge group of around 20 guys legged it as the first real group to get clear. Amongst these were Antonio Cruz (USPS-Berry Floor), Stuart O’ Grady (Cofidis) and Igor Astarloa (Lampre). O’ Grady persisted, but with strong headwinds again, and an agitated pack gearing up to launch for the finish, there was no hope of staying clear – Saeco were mega-active for Cunego, C-Valenciana-Kelme likewise for Valverde.

Cadel Evans had a fine day, and sits nicely just 16 seconds down on overall. Konecny’s on a good ride, too, and even Zabel only lost 56 seconds. But things aren’t all rosy (or is that magenta?) for Team T-Mobile – they’re down 3 guys due to a bout of food poisoning. Botero, Wesemann and Hiekmann are gone, and Vino was looking none to good. He finished way down, and if he starts tomorrow, he’ll know his GC hopes have gone down the pan.

Vuelta Stage 5 Result – Zaragoza-Morella 186kms

1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Illes Balears-Banesto 5hrs 07’ 44”
2 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo + 03”
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme same
4 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir same
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC + 05”
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) Team T-Mobile + 09”
7 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto
8 Isidro Nozal (Spa) Liberty Seguros
9 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor
10 Angel Gomez (Spa) Paternina-Costa De Almeria
11 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco
12 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros
13 Joseba Beloki (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir
14 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor
15 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak all same time
16 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak + 13”

Vuelta General Classification After Stage 5

1 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor 18hrs 47’ 16”
2 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor same
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Illes Balears-Banesto + 04”
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme + 09”
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile Team + 16”

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