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Cruz-in’ at the Vuelta: Stage 16

Last night was another opportunity to try to catch some extra zzz's, but it wasn't to be with the heavy machinery working outside our window. At breakfast for the first time since the start of the Vuelta a Espana I was at the table before anyone else. Hey, at this point I need all the firsts I can get. Maybe this was a could sign for today’s stage. I signed a couple of autographs on our way to the start and the people replied, "Gracias Victor Hugo Pena." There's only one way to change this confusion amongst the fans: I need a stage win! Even Victor is calling me Victor in the peloton. I

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By Antonio Cruz, U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team

Last night was another opportunity to try to catch some extra zzz’s, but it wasn’t to be with the heavy machinery working outside our window. At breakfast for the first time since the start of the Vuelta a Espana I was at the table before anyone else. Hey, at this point I need all the firsts I can get. Maybe this was a could sign for today’s stage.

I signed a couple of autographs on our way to the start and the people replied, “Gracias Victor Hugo Pena.” There’s only one way to change this confusion amongst the fans: I need a stage win! Even Victor is calling me Victor in the peloton. I called my wife before the stage to tell her I love her and miss her and the kids. We can make free phone calls before each stage thanks to Vuelta sponsor, “Telefonica.” I’d call more people but the 4 a.m. wake-up call might not be to well received.

There were many people out to watch the start. We had a faster than normal neutral as we left the town of Alcoi and started up the our first climb. Cofidis went to the front at kilometer 0 and started the race off with a bang. The peloton was single file within no time and a group was starting to roll off the front. Kelme was able to bring them back over the top but the attacks were just getting started. Just what everyone wanted, I’m sure, after a rest day.

We had Victor in a promising break for a while but that came back and then the other Victor, me, tried his hand in a few. A big group did go up the road with no one from the team but fortunately for us, no one from Festina either. Festina started the chase with a couple of our guys too. Poor Julien Dean. He’s suffering from stomach sickness at the moment, was out of the group with Chann McRae who was looking after him today. They were able to catch the peloton after chasing for a while. Seven riders came back from the breakaway and Kelme was content to let the other seven go.

The speed was fast the whole stage. Team Maia from Portugal and Team Relax were chasing the break hard to catch them before the next climb. Once the group was absorbed it was an all out effort to the base of the next climb that was 18 kilometers from the finish. I had to make sure Levi was in good position, Roberto had Benoit to help, and Victor was setting up Chechu.

It’s amazing to me how you can be going your hardest to the base of the climb and then your climbers take off like a rocket as the road begins to go up. With all rockets launched, I rode the last 18 kilometers at my speed. Chechu dropped everyone on the descent except for Virenque who almost crashed trying to stay with him.

I could hear Johan telling Chechu to keep going over the race radio. The two came close to the win but were caught 1 kilometer from the finish. Chechu seems to ride stronger with every stage. The rest day did us good and Julian will be back at full force soon. Tomorrow should be a good stage for the team with a lot of cross winds after the 100k mark. Weight: 64 kilos
Breakfast: Omelet, cheese, bread, juice, cereal and fruit.
Dinner: salad, pasta, vegetables, chicken, yogurt and kiwi.

Man I was hungry today.