By Andrew Hood
Joseba Beloki is back in the lead of the Vuelta a España. The question now is whether or not he’ll be wearing it when the race ends Sept. 29 in Madrid.
Nearly a year after he abandoned the 2001 Vuelta in tears while leading the race into Andorra, Beloki grabbed the first “jersey oro” of the 57th Vuelta a España after his ONCE squad won the 24.6-km team time trial.
Beloki enters the Vuelta with the pressure of an entire nation on his shoulders after finishing second in the Tour de France for his third consecutive podium appearance in cycling’s most important race.
But Beloki’s never been able to win a major stage-race and he’s abandoned the Vuelta both times he’s started, so many are beginning to ask whether or not Beloki can win a big one.
“It’s a proud day for me to have this position, especially after the deception from last year in the Vuelta,” said Beloki, who grabbed the jersey after ONCE crossed the line with seven of nine riders together.
ONCE ripped the opening half of the flat course to finish in 26 minutes, 21 seconds and orchestrated the finish to allow Beloki to cross the line first and thus earn the race leader’s jersey.
ONCE edged nemesis U.S. Postal Service by 14 seconds, the fourth time this season the teams have squared off in team time trials. Saturday’s victory gives ONCE three of the scalps to go with wins at the Tour de France and the Tour of Burgos in August. Postal won the team time trial at the Volta a Cataluyna en route to pushing Roberto Heras into the overall title.
Kelme finished a surprising third at 15 seconds back led by a motivated Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botero and the strong engine of Aitor Gonzalez, the winner of the final time trial at the 2002 Giro.
The day’s biggest loser was Gilberto Simoni, whose Saeco team finished a disappointing 17th at 1:13 back after one of its riders crashed late in the stage.
“We are looking at the differences and the other teams were a little stronger than we expected, especially Kelme,” said Manolo Saiz, ONCE’s sport director.” There isn’t a lot of time, but it was important for us to win. We put Beloki into the jersey and that’s what we wanted to do today. The time to U.S. Postal is not much, but the time against (Gilberto) Simoni is significant.”
Posties deliver strong ride
Everyone was talking about ONCE’s dominance in the team time trial, and while the big yellow machine did indeed win, it was only by 14 seconds faster than Postal Service.
The Posties rode well, especially in the final half of the course when there was a brisk headwind coming back into the finish.
Many have said that this group of Posties isn’t up to the standards of the Tour de France squad, but the team’s strong ride on Saturday revealed that it can ride strong even without the presence of powerful time trialists like Lance Armstrong and Viatcheslav Ekimov.
“We went very well. Everyone was working very hard and this team has a lot of experience,” said Roberto Heras, captain of the U.S. Postal Service in13th overall. “To beat Kelme, that’s a very good signal, but it’s a long race. The important thing was to limit our losses against the favorites.”
Antonio Cruz, making his second start at the Vuelta following his debut last year, led the team across the line to take eighth in the opening-stage general classification at 14 seconds behind Beloki. The Posties came across with eight riders together and filled eighth to 15th in the GC. Matthew White came in at 2:01 back.
Postal sport director Johan Bruyneel said he’s confident Roberto Heras can deliver final victory, especially following the team’s strong ride Saturday.
“Heras is better than last year and even in better form than the Tour,” Bruyneel said. “I have a lot of confidence in him after seeing what he did last year when he wasn’t in top form.”
Not everyone happy
While ONCE, Kelme and the Posties were satisfied, several riders lost more than they expected. Topping this list is Gilberto Simoni, whose Saeco team rode a disappointing 17th at 1:13 back. Saeco’s Alessandro Spezialetti crashed about 5 km from the finish while riding third in the line, creating havoc for the Italian team while it regrouped.
“I didn’t want to lose more than one minute, so it’s a bit disappointing,” said Simoni, who was kicked out of the 2002 Giro after failing doping tests which were later cleared. “When the crash happened, we lost our tempo and it got worse from there. We’ll have to wait to see how much difference it will make in the end.”
Francesco Casagrande was pleased that his Fassa Bortolo team limited the damages by finishing fifth at 23 seconds back.
“We only lost a few seconds to the others behind ONCE. I need this team for the flat stages and this team time trial. In the mountains, I can handle it myself,” said Casagrande, hoping to avenge his expulsion from the 2002Giro d’Italia.
Defending champion Angel Casero also said he could live with how the stage went. Casero, a strong individual time trialist who won the Vuelta last year on the final day race against the clock, said it could have been worse
“Everyone knows that ONCE is the best team for the team time trial and our goal was just to limit our losses,” said Casero whose team came across eighth at 39 seconds back. “This is not the way you’d like to start a Vuelta a Espana, but you just have to accept it and hope you can make up the time. We’ll have to wait until the mountains to see if this time will make a real difference or not.”
Finishing last was the Index-Alexia team of 2002 Giro champion Paolo Savoldelli at 2:38 back.
VeloNews European correspondent
Speaking with the Spanish daily MARCA, Johan Bruyneel said the U.S. Postal Service team has signed Berry Floor, a Belgian flooring business, as a co-sponsor for the 2003 season and hinted it could take over the lead sponsorship of the team when the contract with the Postal Service ends after the 2004 season.
Mapei started the Vuelta with out Eddy Ratti, a late DNS after team officials said the rider was suffering from “fatigue.” The team released this statement: “After having assessed the medical reports relatives to Suivi Medical, along with the agreement of the team management, the team’s medical staff believe it opportune not to let Eddy Ratti start the Vuelta a España ,enabling them to look more deeply into the situation from the point of guarding the athlete’s health.”
Oscar Sevilla (Kelme) comes to the Vuelta weighing only 60 kg (132 lbs.), seven kilos less than he weighed at the start of the Tour de France.
In the never-ending fight to be different than the French, the racer leader’s jersey at the Vuelta a España is now called “jersey oro” instead of the “maillot amarillo,” or yellow jersey. The Vuelta’s leader’s jersey was yellow until 1999 when the race introduced the” golden jersey” to distinguish the race leader within the peloton without copying the French tradition.
Where it stands: 57th Vuelta a España
Stage 1, Saturday, September 07, 2002, Valencia-Valencia, team time trial,24.6 km
Stage winner: ONCE, 14 seconds ahead of U.S. Postal Service
Overall leader: Joseba Beloki (Sp, ONCE)
Points jersey: Not awarded yet.
Climber’s jersey: Not awarded yet.
Best team: ONCE.
Eddy Ratti (I, Mapei) did not start, 206 riders remain in the peloton.
UCI jury decisions
Four teams – Alessio, Jazztel, Milaneza-MSS and Phonak – were tested before the start of Saturday’s stage and none of the riders were determined to be “unfit” to start.
Temperatures were in the high 80s with a brisk breeze; Sunny, clear and in the mid-80s with light cross-winds for Sunday’s stage.
Stage two, 144 km from Valencia to Alcoi. The route heads south on the flats just inland from the Med to the Vuelta’s first climb, the category one Alto El Portillol at 77 km. The final half of the stage is rolling up and down to Alcoi. The finish is straight-on with a rise of 60 meters over the final 3 km.Results-Stage 1
1. ONCE (Spa), 26:21,
2. U.S. Postal (USA), at 0:14,
3. Kelme (Spa), at 0:15,
4. Telekom (Ger), at 0:18,
5. Fassa Bortolo (Ita), at 0:23,
6. Cofidis (Fra), at 0:26,
7. Ibanesto.com (Spa), at 0:27,
8. Team Coast (Ger), at 0:39,
9. Mapei (Ita), at 0:42,
10. Acqua-Sapone (Ita), at 0:43,
11. Phonak (Swi), at 0:47,
12. Lampre (Ita), at 0:54,
13. Milaneza (Por), at 0:54,
14. Domo (Bel), at 0:59,
15. Euskaltel (Spa), at 1:03
16. Tacconi (Ita), at 1:13,
17. Saeco (Ita), at 1:13,
18. Bigmat (Fra), at 1:16,
19. Jazztel (Spa), at 1:21,
20. Alessio (Ita), at 1:24,
21. AG2R (Fra), at 1:26,
22. Relax (Spa), at 1:31,
23. Alexia (Ita), at 2:38.
Overall Standings after Stage 1
1. BELOKI, Joseba (Sp), ONE 26:21
2. GLEZ. GALDEANO, Igor (Sp), ONE s.t.
3. AZEVEDO, José (P), ONE s.t.
4. DIAZ JUSTO, Rafael (Sp), ONE s.t.
5. JAKSCHE, Jörg (G), ONE s.t.
6. SERRANO, Marcos (Sp), ONE s.t.
7. ZARRABEITIA, Mikel (Sp), ONE s.t.
8. CRUZ, Antonio (USA), USP a 14
9. BARRY ,Michael (Can), USP a 14
10. PEÑA, Victor Hugo (Col), USP at 14
11. VANDE VELDE, Christian (USA), USP at 14
12. KJAERGAARD, Steffen (N), USP at 14
13. HERAS, Roberto (Sp), USP at 14
14. RUBIERA, José Luis (Sp), USP at 14
15. ZABRISKIE, David (USA), USP at 14
16. GUTIERREZ, José (Sp), KEL at 15
17. SEVILLA, Oscar (Sp), KEL at 15
18. DE LOS ANGELES, Juan José (Sp), KEL at 15
19. GONZALEZ, Aitor (Sp), KEL at 15
20. MANZANO, Jesus Maria (Sp), KEL at 15
21. TAULER, Antonio (Sp), KEL at 15
22. VALVERDE, Alejandro (Sp), KEL at 15
23. BOTERO, Santiago (Col), KEL at 15
24. GARCIA, Carlos (Sp), KEL at 15
25. ZABEL, Erik (G), TEL at 18
26. ALDAG, Rolf (G), TEL at 18
27. BARTKO, Robert (G), TEL at 18
28. KESSLER, Matthias (G), TEL at 18
29. KLIER, Andreas (G), TEL at 18
30. KLÖDEN, Andreas (G), TEL at 18
31. SCHAFFRATH, Jan (G), TEL at 18
32. VINOKOUROV, Alexandre (Kaz), TEL at 18
33. PETACCHI, Alessandro (I), FAS at 23
34. VALJAVEC, Tadej (Slo), FAS at 23
35. LODA, Nicola (I), FAS at 23
36. ZANETTE, Denis (I), FAS at 23
37. VELO, Marco (I), FAS at 23
38. TIRALONGO, Paolo (I), FAS at 23
39. CASAGRANDE, Francesco (I), FAS at 23
40. BALDATO, Fabio (I), FAS at 23
41. STANGELJ, Gorazd (Slo), FAS at 23
42. CUESTA, Iñigo (Sp), COF at 26
43. FOFONOV, Dmitri (Kaz), COF at 26
44. MILLAR, David (GB), COF at 26
45. TRENTIN, Guido (I), COF at 26
46. CLAIN, Mederic (F), COF at 26
47. LELLI, Massimiliano (I), COF at 26
48. FERNANDEZ, Bingen (Sp), COF at 26
49. ATIENZA, Daniel (Sp), COF at 26
50. YAKOVLEV, Serguei (Kaz), TEL at 26
51. GUTIERREZ, José Iván (Sp), BAN at 27
52. OSA, Aitor (Sp), BAN at 27
53. MANCEBO, Francisco (Sp), BAN at 27
54. MERCADO, Juan Miguel (Sp), BAN at 27
55. BLANCO, Santiago (Sp), BAN at 27
56. FLECHA, J.Antonio (Sp), BAN at 27
57. LASTRAS, Pablo (Sp), BAN at 27
58. ODRIOZOLA, Jon (Sp), BAN at 27
59. GARCIA ACOSTA, José (Sp), BAN at 31
60. BECKE, Daniel (G), COA at 39
61. CASERO, Angel (Sp), COA at 39
62. PLAZA, David (Sp), COA at 39
63. GUIDI, Fabrizio (I), COA at 39
64. ESCARTIN, Fernando (Sp), COA at 39
65. BELTRAN, Manuel (Sp), COA at 39
66. HERNANDEZ, Jaime (Sp), COA at 39
67. PEREZ, Luis (Sp), COA at 39
68. GARMENDIA, Aitor (Sp), COA at 39
69. HORRILLO, Pedro (Sp), MAP at 42
70. CAÑADA, David (Sp), MAP at 42
71. CIONI, Dario David (I), MAP at 42
72. FREIRE, Oscar (Sp), MAP at 42
73. BRAMATI, Davide (I), MAP at 42
74. NOE, Andrea (I), MAP at 42
75. AGGIANO, Elio (I), MAP at 42
76. WEGELIUS, Charles (GB), MAP at 42
77. CIPOLLINI, Mario (I), ACQ at 43
78. GONZALEZ, Santos (Sp), ACQ at 43
79. BENNATI, Daniele (I), ACQ at 43
80. DERGANC, Martin (Slo), ACQ at 43
81. MARTIN PERDIGUERO, M.A. (Sp), ACQ at 43
82. TRENTI, Guido (I), ACQ at 43
83. DOMINGUEZ, Juan Carlos (Sp), PHO at 47
84. SCHNIDER, Daniel (Swi), PHO at 47
85. BAYARRI, Gonzalo (Sp), PHO at 47
86. PEREIRO, Oscar (Sp), PHO at 47
87. CAMENZIND, Oscar (Swi), PHO at 47
88. TEUTENBERG, Sven (G), PHO at 47
89. SALMON, Benoit (F), PHO at 47
90. KADLEC, Milan (Cz), LAM at 54
91. TONKOV, Pavel (Rus), LAM at 54
92. GARATE, Juan Manuel (Sp), LAM at 54
93. CODOL, Massimo (I), LAM at 54
94. VERSTREPEN, Johan (B), LAM at 54
95. FERNANDEZ, Vitoriano (Sp), MIL at 54
96. JEKER, Fabian (Swi), MIL at 54
97. SOUSA, Rui Miguel (P), MIL at 54
98. MÖLLER, Klaus (Dk), MIL at 54
99. LAVARINHAS, Rui (P), MIL at 54
100. MAURI, Melchor (Sp), MIL at 54
101. HORRACH, Joan (Sp), MIL at 54
102. EDO, Angel (Sp), MIL at 54
103. SILVA, Joao (P), MIL at 54
104. HOSTE, Leif (B), DFF at 59
105. KLEYNEN, Steven (B), DFF at 59
106. BRUYLANDTS, Dave (B), DFF at 59
107. KASHECHKIN, Andrey (Kaz), DFF at 59
108. MOERENHOUT, Koos (Nl), DFF at 59
109. ZUBELDIA, Haimar (Sp), EUS at 1:03
110. MAYO, Iban (Sp), EUS at 1:03
111. MARTINEZ, Alberto (Sp), EUS at 1:03
112. LAISEKA, Roberto (Sp), EUS at 1:03
113. ETXEBARRIA, David (Sp), EUS at 1:03
114. FLORES, Iker (Sp), EUS at 1:03
115. ARTETXE, Mikel (Sp), EUS at 1:03
116. LOMBARDI, Giovanni (I), ACQ at 1:05
117. GRABSCH, Bert (G), PHO at 1:07
118. HRUSKA, Jan (Cz), ONE at 1:12
119. CALCAGNI, Patrick (Swi), TAC at 1:13
120. LUTTENBERGER, Peter (A), TAC at 1:13
121. BOSSONI, Paolo (I), TAC at 1:13
122. FERRARI, Diego (I), TAC at 1:13
123. HAUPTMAN, Andrej (Slo), TAC at 1:13
124. SZYMYD, Sylvester (Pol), TAC at 1:13
125. SACCHI, Fabio (I), SAE at 1:13
126. DI LUCA, Danilo (I), SAE at 1:13
127. FUENTES, Juan (Sp), SAE at 1:13
128. BERTAGNOLLI, Leonardo (I), SAE at 1:13
129. SIMONI, Gilberto (I), SAE at 1:13
130. ASTARLOA, Igor (Sp), SAE at 1:13
131. GARCIA CASAS, Félix (Sp), BIG at 1:16
132. SIVAKOV, Alexei (Rus), BIG at 1:16
133. HEULOT, Stephane (F), BIG at 1:16
134. TALABARDON, Sebastien (F), BIG at 1:16
135. AUGER, Guillaume (F), BIG at 1:16
136. KINTANA, Aitor (Sp), BIG at 1:16
137. SAUGRAIN, Cyril (F), BIG at 1:16
138. JAN, Xavier (F), BIG at 1:16
139. HUNT, Jeremy (GB), BIG at 1:16
140. BERGMANN, Reto (Swi), PHO at 1:18
141. CASERO, Rafael (Sp), JAZ at 1:21
142. GARRIDO, José (Sp), JAZ at 1:21
143. PECHARROMAN, J.Antonio (Sp), JAZ at 1:21
144. TORRENT, Carlos (Sp), JAZ at 1:21
145. SMETANINE, Serguei (Rus), JAZ at 1:21
146. GADEO, Dario (Sp), JAZ at 1:21
147. FERRIO, Jorge (Sp), JAZ at 1:21
148. GUILLAMON, Juan (Sp), JAZ at 1:21
149. VALDEZ, Ricardo (Sp), JAZ at 1:21
150. GLOMSER, Gerrit (A), SAE at 1:21
151. MIHOLJEVIC, Vladimir CRO ALS at 1:24
152. CAUCCHIOLI, Pietro (I), ALS at 1:24
153. BROGNARA, Andrea (I), ALS at 1:24
154. ZANETTI, Mauro (I), ALS at 1:24
155. FURLAN, Angelo (I), ALS at 1:24
156. VINALE, Alberto (I), ALS at 1:24
157. NIKACEVIC, Aleksandar YUG ALS at 1:24
158. CHAURREAU, Iñigo (Sp), A2R at 1:26
159. ASTARLOZA, Mikel (Sp), A2R at 1:26
160. BERGES, Stéphane (F), A2R at 1:26
161. ORIOL, Christophe (F), A2R at 1:26
162. PORTAL, Nicolas (F), A2R at 1:26
163. LODER, Thierry (F), A2R at 1:26
164. BOTCHAROV, Alexandre (Rus), A2R at 1:26
165. AUS, Lauri (Est), A2R at 1:26
166. INAUDI, Nicolas (F), A2R at 1:26
167. TANKINK, Bram (Nl), DFF at 1:29
168. GARRIDO, Martín ARG REL at 1:31
169. BURGOS, Nacor (Sp), REL at 1:31
170. COLOM, Antonio (Sp), REL at 1:31
171. REBOLLO, Jose Luis (Sp), REL at 1:31
172. LAGUNA, Oscar (Sp), REL at 1:31
173. MAESTRE, José (Sp), REL at 1:31
174. NOVAL, Benjamín (Sp), REL at 1:31
175. NIETO, Germán (Sp), REL at 1:31
176. VAZQUEZ, J.Manuel (Sp), REL at 1:31
177. WHITE, Matthew AUS USP at 2:01
178. GALLETTI, Alessio (I), SAE at 2:15
179. DE WOLF, Steve (B), DFF at 2:25
180. LOPEZ DE MUNAIN, Alberto (Sp), EUS at 2:30
181. PRADERA, Mikel (Sp), ONE at 2:35
182. QUARANTA, Ivan (I), INA at 2:38
183. DI GRANDE, Giuseppe (I), INA at 2:38
184. SERRI, Eddy (I), INA at 2:38
185. GALLI, Daniele (I), INA at 2:38
186. SERINA, Corrado (I), INA at 2:38
187. MAGNANI, Marco (I), INA at 2:38
188. ANDRIOTTO, Dario (I), INA at 2:38
189. SAVOLDELLI, Paolo (I), INA at 2:38
190. BLIJEVENS, Jeroen (Nl), DFF at 2:45
191. VAN GOOLEN, Jurgen (B), DFF at 2:45
192. KLEMENCIC, Zoran (Slo), TAC at 2:47
193. BALDUCCI, Gabriele (I), TAC at 2:47
194. ZUCCONI, Pietro (Swi), TAC at 2:47
195. SPRUCH, Zbigniew (Pol), LAM at 2:53
196. SPEZIALETTI, Alessandro (I), SAE at 2:57
197. SASSONE, Robert (F), COF at 3:24
198. BERTOLETTI, Simone (I), LAM at 3:26
199. PICCOLI, Mariano (I), LAM at 3:26
200. GERRIKAGOITIA, Gorka (Sp), EUS at 3:37
201. SVORADA, Jan (Cz), LAM at 3:42
202. GUERRA, Alessandro (I), INA at 4:30
203. SCIREA, Mario (I), ACQ at 4:43
204. FERRARA, Raffaele (I), ALS at 4:47
205. PIERI, Dario (I), ALS at 4:56
206. LOBATO ELVIRA, Rubén (Sp), ACQ at 8:01