It’s the last rest day of the Vuelta06 giving the remaining 155 riders a chance to rest up, relax and have a siesta or two whilst preparing for the remaining 6 days. The rest day also gives us a chance to look back at the key moments of the Vuelta so far and to look ahead to the decisive stages still to come.
Kazakh warrior Alexandre Vinokourov has taken back-to-back victories after a classic one-two punch from the Astana team. Vino poured out a summer of pent-up frustration all over the Vuelta peloton, to shake up the GC on the slopes of today’s final ascent – the Alto de La Cobertoria.
Transition time in the Vuelta with a 182km flat stage and it was Astana’s Vinokourov showing his form. After being caught in the last 500m yesterday Vino had a point to prove today.
Today’s second summit finish of the first week was another cracker-barrell jam-fest, with the gc big boys tossing gloves early and slugging it out over the final 18km. When the dust settled, a new sheriff was runnin’ the town..
Barring disaster or act of God, Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) will stand on top of the podium in Madrid tomorrow as winner of the 2006 Vuelta. The little Kazakh with the build of a boxer cemented his win in the grand style, taking his third stage win of the race in the stage 20 time trial over 27.5 kilometres from Rivas Futura to Rivas Vaciamadrid.
Forgetting the pains of the mountains behind them, today was a day of ‘piano’ for the big hitters and the majority of the peloton, but there was a skirmish up front for individual stage glory. When the dust settled, it was French team Ag2R's Josй Luis Arrieta celebrating the day.
Can the Grand Tours of 2006 be any more exciting? Today, the once impregnable fortress of Alejandro Valverde finally succumbed to the onslaught of the unbelievably aggressive Alexandre Vinokourov. Vino was a big winner, but none moreso than Tom Danielson who came good on heaps of expectations.
Well – about as close as you can get to it in Spain at least - . Today’s first lump in the final week’s triple scoop of mountains climbed to the summit finished at the planetary observatory of Cala Alto – and while Euskaltel’s Anton won the day, it was a gc slugfest not far behind him.
Another day at the Vuelta, another gut puncher of a course. Maybe easy on profile, but the Cat 3 climbs loom to hamper the riders today. Would Valverde continue his reign on top? Would one of the opportunists along the lines of a Bettini or a Dekker come out on top? With the ITT tomorrow would there be a surprise attacker? Check inside and find out….
Another day of mobile chess, nobody wants to do any work, until they have to, Astana's where the boys who were forced to show their hand and chase after the big break away, Luca Paolini jumped on his own and took a fine win.
La Vuelta a Espaсa, the last of the BIG 3 Tours starts today in the seaside town of Mбlaga, the race is wide open and there are a lot of names in the hat. Today is a Team Time Trial, the team leaders have to do well on this flat 7.3 kilometer straight out course to keep their hopes alive.
Anything could have happened today, and it did! Who would have guessed that Danilo DiLuca would take the Vuelta a Espaсa by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake? Well he did and a few big names fell out of the hat!
Another predicted mass sprint finish, another surprise victor and yet another breakaway for the most aggressive rider from this year’s Tour de France’s, David de la Fuente.
Last year it took Italian champion, Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) until the 16th stage of the Vuelta to add to his palmares; this year he was in more of a hurry as he out-dragged super-sprinters Thor Hushovd (Norway & CA) and Robbie McEwen (Australia &Lotto) to take stage two into the Moorish city of Cordoba.
Try saying that headline after you’ve had a couple of cold ones. And I don’t mean mineral water, which, I’m sure, Robert Forster and his team-mates will be celebrating with tonight. The Gerolsteiner speedster came up with a sparkling sprint to nab the German squad their first win of the Vuelta.
So here we are, the last stage of the last Grand Tour of the year, an exciting Vuelta with a worthy winner in Alexandre Vinokourov of the Astana team, good news the team passed the medical tests yesterday morning, no age test for that old sprinter Zabel though!
As the final week of the year's final Grand Tour begins, there's no rest for the weary. With 3 hard days ahead, this race is anywhere from over, and with Team Liquigas leader Danilo Di Luca still in the podium hunt, big Maggy Backstedt has his work cut out for him.
The first time we rang Magnus on the Monday after the Vuelta finished, his manager, Martin McCrossan answered - the Big Guy was still asleep. I guess he's due a long-ly after all those kilometres around Espana. He was bright, breezy and on the ball next time we rang though.
It was rest day in the Vuelta and time for Pez to catch-up with our man Magnus. ‘Rest day’ – have a few beers, do a bit of shopping, take in a movie? Maybe best ask Magnus.
We caught up with Magnus Backstedt late after his team mate Danilo Di Luca’s spectacular summit win on stage 5. After a long transfer and a late dinner, it was closing in on 11PM when we got through, but Maggy was happy to chat…