The U.S. Postal team continued its run at the Tour of Catalunya as Roberto Heras took over the lead at the Spanish stage race, the third Postie to do so in as many days. Heras took over the race lead from teammate George Hincapie after finishing second in Wednesday’s 10.8 kilometer mountain time trial that finished in Boi Taull, six seconds back of winner Aitor Garmendia of Coast. In the overall classification, Heras leads Garmendia by 15 seconds.
“At this point of the race, the right rider is in the jersey for our team,” said Dirk Demol, the USPS team’s assistant director sportif. “Going into the stage with Roberto in a key position (tied on time with Hincapie), I instructed the rest of the team to think about the next few days and how much it will take to keep the jersey with the team. It was better for them to save themselves for what’s ahead and focus on helping just one rider win the race.”
The USPS team opened the Tour of Catalunya Monday by winning the team time trial stage, putting Tom Boonen in the race lead. After Boonen faded on the climbs of yesterday’s second stage, Hincapie finished 11th in the stage in the main pack and took over the race lead. Now, heading into two difficult mountain stages, including tomorrow’s 197.3 km stage to Andorra featuring three Cat. 1 climbs, Heras will look to hold onto the lead until the race finishes in Barcelona on Sunday.
“Roberto looks very comfortable and is very strong, both mentally and physically,” said Demol. “He really wants to go for it and win this race.”
Heras will look to teammates Christian Vande Velde and Michael Barry to assist him in the mountains.
“I’m very happy with Michael,” added Demol. “He is very good in the mountains and has a very good mentality as a domestique. I have seen him in many races the last two months and he is a solid all-around rider. And, Christian is very motivated to help Roberto. Michael and Christian are two important guys to help Roberto through (tomorrow’s) stage. But in the end, it will be up to Roberto to finish it off (with the mountain top finish at the Pal ski station). It will be to Roberto’s advantage; he should be able to handle it himself at that point”
1. Aitor Garmendia, Coast; 10.8 kms in 22:16
2. Roberto Heras, U.S. Postal Service; at :06
3. Raimondas Rumsas, Lampre-Daikin; at :18
4. Benjamin Noval, Relax-Fuenlabrada; at :24
5. Leonardo Piepoli, iBanesto.com; at :36
39. George Hincapie, U.S. Postal Service; at 2:16
54. Christian Vande Velde, U.S. Postal Service; at 2:43
55. Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
57. Chann McRae, U.S. Postal Service; at 2:48
104. Matt White, U.S. Postal Service; at 4:35
107. Tom Boonen, U.S. Postal Service; at 4:43
GC AFTER 3 STAGES
1. Heras; 5:32:03
2. Garmendia; at :15
3. Rumsas; at :37
4. Mikel Zarrabeitia, ONCE-Eroski; at :53
5. Fernando Escartin, Coast; at 1:02