Millar still holds overall
By Andrew Hood
Crashes disrupted the third stage of the 2001 Vuelta a España on Monday, with a late-race crash splitting the peloton and causing some of the pre-race favorites to lose time.
Erik Zabel (Telekom) easily won his second consecutive stage in a bunch sprint while Cofidis’ David Millar retained the overall lead in the flat but windy 87-mile (140-km) stage from Valladolid to Leon across Spain’s desolate meseta.
Only 34 riders finished with the Zabel group after several riders went down on the narrow streets of Leon just eight kilometers from the finish. Riders got hung up behind the spill and trickled in in small groups. Santiago Botero and Oscar Sevilla, both of Kelme, Millar and ONCE’s Igor Galdeano were the only pre-race favorites to finish in the first group.
ONCE’s Joseba Beloki and Abraham Olano, Coast’s Fernando Escartin and Alex Zulle, Mercatone Uno’s Marco Pantani and Domo’s Richard Virenque all lost 22 seconds. Defending champion Roberto Heras of the U.S. Postal Service team finished first in the second group of 13 riders, seven seconds back, and actually moved up from 32nd to 18th in the overall standings. Levi Leipheimer, who started the stage third overall, fell to 32nd at 1:06 back after losing 1 minute.
“Levi went down but no one was hurt,” said Johan Bruyneel, director of the U.S. Postal team. “Roberto lost seven seconds, but that’s so important. He’s feeling good, Chechu (Jose Luis Rubiera) is feeling good. The team is concentrated and things are going well.”
U.S. Postal Service is trying to become the first team to win two grand tours in the same year with two different riders since Renault did it in 1983 with Bernard Hinault, who won the Vuelta that year, and Laurent Fignon, who later won the Tour de France.
Strong crosswinds caused the peloton to split into two groups after Cesar Garcia Calvo, a Spanish rider on Relax-Fuenlabrada, attacked and the peloton accelerated. Garcia Calvo built up a 1-minute, 10-second gap at 48 kms before the group brought him back at 54 kms.
Two crashes midway through the stage caused by strong crosswinds sent several riders sprawling to the ground. At 65 kms, Oscar Freire and Gilberto Simoni both crashed, with Freire suffering injuries to his neck and left shoulder.
Another crash at 77 kms spelled the end of the Vuelta for Rabobank’s Marcus Zberg, who abandoned with a dislocated right shoulder. Mapei’s Elio Aggiano lost a fingernail but kept racing and Euskatel’s Haimar Zubeldia injured his left shoulder.
Rabobank’s Karsten Kroon attacked at 89 kms and built up a 30-second margin but was reeled in with 18 kms to go. Telekom and Mapei were working to put Zabel and Oscar Freire in position when the final crash split the peloton coming into Leon.
“I heard the crash behind me. I don’t know what happened,” said Zabel “Riders lost their concentration from fatigue and stress from fighting the winds.”
Frank Hoj (Coast) suffered the worst injuries, with cuts and abrasions to his face, arm and left leg. In all, 30 riders suffered injuries in the bloody stage.
Zabel easily beat Domo’s Robbie McEwen to the line while Telekom’s Danilo Hondo finished third. Martin Garrido (Relax-Fuenlabrada) and Endrio Leoni (Alessio) finished sixth and seventh, respectively, but were relegated for shoving each other during the sprint.
The 21-stage, 2,986-km (1,851-mile) 56th Vuelta a España continues Tuesday with the 175-km (108-mile) fourth stage from Leon to Gijon. The route takes the peloton over the Vuelta’s first major climb, the category-two Puerto Ventana at 1,590 meters (5,247 feet) in the Cantabria Mountains of northern Spain. From there, it’s downhill all the way to Gijon, a bustling port city along the Atlantic Coast.
Riders will be looking to limit the damage Tuesday as Wednesday’s stage to Lagos de Covadonga high in the Picos de Europa will be the first decisive stage of this year’s Vuelta.
VUELTA A ESPAÑA, STAGE THREE, , VALLADOLID-LEON, Sept. 10
1.Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, 140 kms (87 miles) 3 hours, 2 minutes, 50 seconds, 46.108 km/h; 2. Robbie McEwen (Aus), Domo, s.t.; 3. Danilo Hondo (G), Telekom, s.t.; 4. Sven Teutenberg (G), Festina, s.t.; 5. Luca Paolini (I), Mapei, s.t.; 6. Pedro Horrillo (Sp), Mapei, s.t.; 7. Julian Dean (NZ), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.; 8. Janek Tombak (Est), Cofidis, s.t.; 9. Lars Michaelsen (D), Coast, s.t.; 10. Salvatore Commesso (I), Saeco, s.t.
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER THREE STAGES
1. David Millar (GB), Cofidis, 6:52:17; 2. Santiago Botero (C), Kelme, at 1 second back; 3. Igor Galdeano (Sp), ONCE, at 0:17; 4. Jose Guitierrez (Sp), Kelme, at 0:25; 5. Pedro Horrillo (Sp), Mapei, at 0:28; 6. Angel Vicioso (Sp), Kelme, at 0:34; 7. Oscar Sevilla (Sp), Kelme, at 0:35; 8. Roberto Hunter (RSA), Lampre, at 0:40; 9. David Canada (Sp), Mapei, at 0:43; 10. Andrea Noe (I), Mapei, at 0:44
11. Joseba Beloki (Sp), ONCE, at 0:44; 17. Abraham Olano (S), ONCE, at 0:53; 18. Roberto Heras (Sp), U.S. Postal Service, at 0:53; 35. Alex Zulle (Sw), Coast, at 1:08; 42. Gilberto Simoni (I), Lampre, at 1:16; 54. Fernando Escartin (S), Coast, at 1:24; 72. Richard Virenque (F), Domo, at 1:36; 111. Marco Pantani (I), Mercatone Uno, at 2:05
Best climber’s jersey
1. David Millar, Cofidis, 6 points; 2. Robert Hunter, Lampre, 4; 3. Jose Luis Rubiera, U.S. Postal Service, 2; 4. Santiago Botero, 1.
1. Erik Zabel, Telekom, 50; 2. Robbie McEwen, Domo, 36; 3. David Millar, Cofidis, 32; 4. Pedro Horrillo, Mapei, 25; 5.Santiago Botero, Kelme, 20
1. Kelme, 20;37:50; 2. Cofidis, at 0:39; 3. ONCE, at 0:51; 4. Mapei, at 0:52; 5. U.S. Postal Service, at 0:54.