By Andrew Hood
The remaining racers in the 57th Vuelta a Espana traveled by high-speedtrain to Madrid following Monday’s time trial stage at Cordoba. All of Spainis being hit by a major rainstorm and forecasters are calling for more showerswhen the second half of the Vuelta kicks off Wednesday with the 11th stage,166 kilometers from Alcobendas to Collado Villalba.
Kelme’s Oscar Sevilla retained the overall lead by just one second over Kelme teammate Aitor Gonzalez after putting down the time trial of his life. Sevilla, 25, confirmed he’s up to the task of winning the Vuelta a year after he lost the 2001 Vuelta in a final-day time trial to Angel Casero, now of Team Coast.
The 57th Vuelta now enters the decisive second half as it sweeps north withfour transition stages from just north of Madrid to the northern AtlanticCoast. The next major battleground will be Sunday’s difficult climbing stageto the Alto de L’Angliru, one of the most feared summits in cycling. Angliruwas first introduced in 1999 when Jose Maria Jimenez won. It was back in2000 and Gilberto Simoni won while last year the Vuelta skirted around Angliru.
Following the second rest day Monday, the Vuelta sweeps south through Leon,Salamanca and Bejar, the hometown of Roberto Heras, and toward the finalsummit finish at La Covatilla on Sept. 26 for the 18th stage. From thereit’s two transition stages east toward Madrid and the final-day 41-km individual time trial on Sept. 29.
Barry recounts Vuelta crash
U.S. Postal’s Michael Barry suffered a horrible crash in the eighth stagefrom Malaga to Ubrique and was forced to leave the Vuelta a Espana, his firstmajor three-week stage-race of his career. Barry said his season is overfollowing the bad spill. The good news for the 26-year-old Canadian is thathe’s back with the Posties for the 2003 season, a team he called “the NewYork Yankees of professional cycling.”
Here Barry shared details of his harrowing spill with VeloNews.
“I have a lot of cuts, some pretty deep, but no broken bones. At 50 km into the stage, three of us crashed going around a corner at high-speed. I went off the road at about 65kph,” Barry recounted.
“I went face-first and ripped open my chin and knees on the pavement butthen was hit by a following motorcycle. The front wheel was on my chest whenI tried to get up and left tire marks on the back and front of my torso.I think the bike pretty much came to a stop with me underneath as my radiowas flattened and the back of my jersey torn to shreds,” he said. “All inall, I was pretty lucky as the bike could have done a lot more damage. Anyhow,I am not going to world championships and my season is now over.”
Kelme in control
Kelme is firmly in control of the 57th Vuelta a Espana, with Oscar Sevillain the “jersey oro” and Aitor Gonzalez just 1 second back. The Kelme leadershold a comfortable margin over third-place Roberto Heras at 1:42 back.
“It’s in our interest to have two leaders,” said Sevilla, who finished secondoverall last year. “The others will have to attack us. We have the advantagein both time and numbers. We are in a very good position.”
Some are wondering if the Kelme situation might dissolve into a civil war,especially considering that Gonzalez is sure to leave Kelme next year. Gonzalezhad signed a two-year deal with Acqua & Sapone, but the future of theItalian team is uncertain. Kelme’s director sportif Vicente Belda poo-pooedthat talk. “We are very strong as a team. We will win or lose as a team. Aitor is notan enemy to Oscar or anyone else on Kelme,” he said. “The others will saythis to try to distract us. Simply put, the strongest will win and now Kelmehas two to protect our lead. We have the advantage.”
Who is this guy?
Aitor Gonzalez, 27, has quietly been working his way up the pro cycling foodchain and 2002 has been his major break-out year. A pro since 1998, Gonzalezjoined Kelme in 1999 and will leave at the end of this year. He’s reportedlytaking offers from ONCE, Quick Step and Acqua & Sapone.
Aitot Gonzalez’ fact file:
Born: Feb. 27, 1975
Hometown: Zumarraga in Spain’s Basque Country
Eight pro wins:
2000 (Kelme): Stage-win at Vuelta al Algarve, stage-win at Tour ofLimousin
2001 (Kelme): Overall victory and time trial victory at Vuelta a Murcia
2002 (Kelme): Two stage-wins at Giro d’Italia plus sixth overall;two stage-wins at Vuelta a Espana