Kelme’s Julia scampers off with Vuelta stage

Valenciana-Kelme might be Spanish cycling’s red-headed step-child, but it’s taking the Vuelta a España by the throat once again. Despite getting recent setbacks that include doping allegations from ex-rider Jesus Manzano, struggles with its budget, the migration of major stars and the likely exclusion from cycling’s new super-league to debut in 2005, Kelme just keeps on truckin’. On a day that saw the news of a possible doping ban for Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton overshadow the stage, little Kelme stepped up one more time. (See "Hamiltonblood tests show

Hamilton story biggest news at Spanish tour

By Andrew Hood

Photo: Graham Watson

Valenciana-Kelme might be Spanish cycling’s red-headed step-child, but it’s taking the Vuelta a España by the throat once again.

Despite getting recent setbacks that include doping allegations from ex-rider Jesus Manzano, struggles with its budget, the migration of major stars and the likely exclusion from cycling’s new super-league to debut in 2005, Kelme just keeps on truckin’.

On a day that saw the news of a possible doping ban for Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton overshadow the stage, little Kelme stepped up one more time. (See “Hamiltonblood tests show ‘inconsistencies‘”)

Little-known José Julia dropped the remnants of a 13-man breakaway that dominated the action (or inaction) in the hot, sticky 190km 16th stage into Cáceres and blew across the finish line to give the team its third win of the 2004 Vuelta.

With rising star Alejandro Valverde poised in second place overall at just five seconds back, Kelme could be the spoiler once again. After all, Kelme has won two of the last four Vueltas.

Hamilton news overshadows stage
The 139 remaining riders in the Vuelta woke up from their rest-day slumber shocked at the news that Olympic time trial champion Tyler Hamilton is facing a possible racing ban after two blood tests showed irregularities.

The UCI contacted Phonak team officials late Monday about two tests – one conducted Aug. 19 a day after he won the Olympic time trial medal and a second Sept. 18 days after he won a Vuelta time trial. Both showed what a team spokesman said “mixed red blood cell population, an indication of a homologous blood transfusion.”

Phonak officials were quick to support their star rider and the team quickly scrambled to put together a press conference in Zurich on Tuesday evening where Hamilton was scheduled to defend his case.

The long, flat haul to Cáceres across the bleak flats of western Spain hardly made for an exciting day of racing. Temperatures pushing near 100F didn’t help either.

The stage was marked by early attempts to get away. Joseba Beloki (Saunier Duval) abandoned en route while Paco Cabello (Valenciana-Kelme) crashed hard.

Several riders tried again about 40km into the stage and eventually a large group pulled away. The main bunch –without such major sprinters as Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) — seemed disinterested to give chase as the thermometer inched ever higher.

Cruz plays his hand
The move stuck and the breakaway worked well to build up a lead that topped 20 minutes at the halfway mark. Saunier Duval gave a half-hearted chase with 50km to go, but the break was sure to make it into the crowded streets of Cáceres.

Making the selection was American Tony Cruz of U.S. Postal Service. The friendly domestique earned a breakthrough win this season at the Tour de l’Ain, his first victory since racing in Europe.

Joining Cruz were: Pablo Lastras and Chente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Tadej Valjavec and José Enrique Gutierrez (Phonak), David Fernandez (Paternina-Costa Almería), Danilo Di Luca and Alessandro Spezialetti (Saeco), Ivan Parra (Cafes Baque), Julia (Valenciana-Kelme), Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel), Cristian Moreni (Alessio-Bianchi), Jan Boven (Rabobank) and Erki Pütsep (Ag2r).

Gutierrez eventually would drop out of the group, making it a baker’s dozen to the finish.

Illes Balears played the one-two punch, sending Garcia Acosta and Lastras away in separate attacks with about 13km to go break up the lead group. Cruz rode well to stay with the final selection that also included Lastras, Di Luca, Julia, Isasi and Valjavec.

Valjavec punched the accelerator with 4km with Lastras and Isasi grabbing the wheel. Di Luca, Cruz and Julia looked to be cut, but Cruz and Di Luca worked hard to bring it all back together.

Julia didn’t earn himself many friends in the closing kilometers after hardly taking a pull, but he snagged a stage victory instead. He shot away with an early move with about 3km to go. The others wearily and warily looked at each and waited too long to chase. Julia opened up a 10sec margin with 1km to go and never looked back until he neared the line – just to make sure.

Valjavec finished second while Di Luca pipped Cruz to take third.

Another rest day for favorites
Despite the heat, it was almost like another rest day for the overall favorites. At least it was one last chance to cool their jets going into the decisive final stages of the 2004 Vuelta.

Heras: Still in charge... barely

Heras: Still in charge… barely

Photo: Graham Watson

Kevin Hulsmans (Quick Step) led the main bunch across the line at more than 11 minutes in arrears. There were no major changes for the overall leaders going into Wednesday’s decisive climbing finish to La Covatilla.

Overall race leader Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) will at least have the hometown crowd in his favor. He hails from nearby Bejar, a regional capital at the base of the final climb to Covatilla.

With Valverde nipping at his toes just five seconds back, he’ll need all the help he can get.

To see how today’s stage developed, simply open up our LIVE UPDATE WINDOW.

Photo Gallery


1. José Julia (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca, 4:19:23

2. Tadej Valjavec (SLO), Phonak

3. Danilo Di Luca (I), Saeco

4. Antonio Cruz (USA), U.S. Postal Service

5. Pablo Lastras (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto

6. Iñaki Isasi (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi

7. Ivan Parra (Col), Cafes Baque, 1:20

8. Alessandro Spezialetti (I), Saeco, 1:25

9. Erki Pütsep (Est), Ag2R Prevoyance, 1:33

10. Cristian Moreni (I), Alessio-Bianchi, 1:33

11. José Garcia Acosta (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto, 1:35

12. Jan Boven (Nl), Rabobank, 1:35

13. David Fernandez (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 3:44

14. Kevin Hulsmans (B), Quick Step-Davitamon, 11:44

15. Mariano Piccoli (I), Lampre, 11:44

16. Marco Velo (I), Fassa Bortolo, 11:44

17. Thorwald Veneberg (Nl), Rabobank, 11:44

18. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto, 11:44

19. Marco Milesi (I), Vini Caldirola, 11:44

20. Roberto Heras (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 11:44

21. M.a. Martin Perdiguero (Sp), Saunier Duval, 11:44

22. Eddy Mazzoleni (I), Saeco, 11:44

23. José Luis Arrieta (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto, 11:44

24. Damiano Cunego (I), Saeco, 11:44

25. Erik Zabel (G), T-Mobile, 11:44

26. Stefano Garzelli (I), Vini Caldirola, 11:44

27. Luis Pasamontes (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 11:44

28. Oscar Sevilla (Sp), Phonak, 11:44

29. Santiago Perez (Sp), Phonak, 11:44

30. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CSC, 11:44

31. David Blanco (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca, 11:44

32. Isidro Nozal (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 11:44

33. Dariusz Baranowski (Pol), Liberty Seguros, 11:44

34. Jan Hruska (Cz), Liberty Seguros, 11:44

35. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca, 11:44

36. Eladio Jimenez (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca, 11:44

37. Unai Osa (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto, 11:44

38. Angel Gomez (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 11:44

39. Carlos Garcia Quesada (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca, 11:44

40. Manuel Beltran (Sp), U.S. Postal Service, 11:44

41. Bert Grabsch (G), Phonak, 11:44

42. Marius Sabaliauskas (Lit), Saeco, 11:44

43. Pedro Horrillo (Sp), Quick Step-Davitamon, 11:44

44. Luis Perez (Sp), Cofidis, 11:44

45. Igor Glez. Galdeano (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 11:44

46. Josep Jufre (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 11:44

47. José Garrido (Sp), Quick Step-Davitamon, 11:44

48. Iñigo Chaurreau (Sp), Ag2R Prevoyance, 11:44

49. Marcos Serrano (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 11:44

50. Peio Arreitunandia (Sp), Cafes Baque, 11:53

51. Alberto Martinez (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 11:53

52. Vladimir Miholjevic (CRO), Alessio-Bianchi, 11:53

53. Daniel Atienza (Sp), Cofidis, 11:53

54. Manuel Calvente (Sp), CSC, 11:53

55. Frank Hoj (Dk), CSC, 11:53

56. Bingen Fernandez (Sp), Cofidis, 11:53

57. Giampaolo Caruso (I), Liberty Seguros, 11:53

58. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca, 11:53

59. Dario David Cioni (I), Fassa Bortolo, 11:53

60. Roberto Sgambelluri (I), Vini Caldirola, 11:53

61. Dario Andriotto (I), Vini Caldirola, 11:53

62. Mauro Gerosa (I), Vini Caldirola, 11:53

63. Constantino Zaballa (Sp), Saunier Duval, 11:53

64. Joost Posthuma (Nl), Rabobank, 11:53

65. Alessandro Cortinovis (I), Lampre, 11:53

66. Samuel Sanchez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 11:53

67. Mikel Pradera (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto, 11:53

68. Frank Schleck (Lux), CSC, 11:53

69. David Herrero (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 11:53

70. Hernan Buenahora (Col), Cafes Baque, 11:53

71. David Latasa (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca, 11:53

72. Vladimir Gusev (Rus), CSC, 11:53

73. Benoit Joachim (Lux), U.S. Postal Service, 11:53

74. J.antonio Pecharroman (Sp), Quick Step-Davitamon, 11:53

75. Guido Trenti (USA), Fassa Bortolo, 11:53

76. Volodymir Gustov (Ukr), Fassa Bortolo, 11:53

77. Jose Luis Rebollo (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 11:53

78. Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus), U.S. Postal Service, 11:53

79. Michael Barry (Can), U.S. Postal Service, 11:53

80. Floyd Landis (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 11:53

81. Francisco José Lara (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 11:53

82. Rafael Casero (Sp), Saunier Duval, 11:53

83. Johan Van Summeren (B), Relax Bodysol, 11:53

84. Haimar Zubeldia (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 11:53

85. Cadel Evans (Aus), T-Mobile, 11:53

86. David CaÑada (Sp), Saunier Duval, 11:53

87. Rubén Plaza (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca, 11:53

88. Kevin De Weert (B), Rabobank, 11:53

89. David Plaza (Sp), Cafes Baque, 11:53

90. Stephan Schreck (G), T-Mobile, 11:53

91. Antonio Colom (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto, 11:53

92. Jurgen Van Goolen (B), Quick Step-Davitamon, 11:53

93. Aitor Silloniz (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 11:53

94. Cedric Vasseur (F), Cofidis, 11:53

95. Brian Vandborg (Dk), CSC, 11:53

96. Francisco Cabello (Sp), Kelme – Costa Blanca, 11:53

97. Patrick Calcagni (Swi), Vini Caldirola, 11:53

98. José Gutierrez (Sp), Phonak, 11:53

99. Jorge Ferrio (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 11:53

100. Juan Manuel Garate (Sp), Lampre, 11:53

101. Francisco Garcia (Sp), Cafes Baque, 11:53

102. Julián Sanchez (Sp), Fassa Bortolo, 11:53

103. Victor Hugo PeÑa (Col), U.S. Postal Service, 11:53

104. Xavier Florencio (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 11:53

105. Aitor Gonzalez (Sp), Fassa Bortolo, 11:53

106. Joaquin Lopez (Sp), Paternina – Costa De Almeria, 11:53

107. Peter Luttenberger (A), CSC, 11:53

108. Alberto Lopez De Munain (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 11:53

109. Rene Andrle (Cz), Liberty Seguros, 11:53

110. Klaus Möller (Dk), Alessio-Bianchi, 11:53

111. Juan Fuentes (Sp), Saeco, 11:53

112. Koldo Gil (Sp), Liberty Seguros, 11:53

113. Nacor Burgos (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 11:53

114. Pieter Weening (Nl), Rabobank, 11:53

115. Manuel Quinziato (I), Lampre, 11:53

116. Paolo Fornaciari (I), Saeco, 11:53

117. José Miguel Elias (Sp), Relax Bodysol, 11:53

118. Joan Horrach (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto, 11:53

119. David Zabriskie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 12:11

120. Guido Trentin (I), Cofidis, 12:11

121. Bram Tankink (Nl), Quick Step-Davitamon, 12:11

122. Aitor Perez (Sp), Cafes Baque, 12:11

123. Matthew White (Aus), Cofidis, 12:11

124. Maarten Den Bakker (Nl), Rabobank, 12:11

125. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval, 12:11

126. Ruslan Ivanov (MDA), Alessio-Bianchi, 12:11

127. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), T-Mobile, 12:11

128. Ellis Rastelli (I), Alessio-Bianchi, 12:11

129. Heberth Gutierrez (Col), Cafes Baque, 12:11

130. Jörg Jaksche (G), CSC, 12:11

131. Felix Cardenas (Col), Cafes Baque, 12:11

132. Luca Paolini (I), Quick Step-Davitamon, 12:11

133. Mikel Artetxe (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 12:11

134. Sylvester Szymyd (Pol), Saeco, 12:11

135. Joaquin Rodriguez (Sp), Saunier Duval, 12:11

136. Daniele Righi (I), Lampre, 12:11

137. Roberto Laiseka (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 12:11

138. Alberto Ongarato (I), Fassa Bortolo, 12:58