Friday, September 21, 2007

La Vuelta today

Update: Menchov and the Rabos did well. He came in third today and increased his overall lead by about a minute. Joost was the second Rabo rider over the line so I suspect he did a lot of the work to support Denis in the closing kilometers of the stage.

Only two more stages of the Tour of Spain are left after today: the second individual time trial tomorrow and the final stage into Madrid on Sunday. Today's stage is one of the toughest of all. It includes six steep climbs and has a mountain finish. The official race web site says: "Today's stage is no easy ride, and bad weather is expected to complicate matters further. The cyclists face no less than 6 climbs, and this, coupled with an interesting array of storms, rain and perhaps even hail along the way, guarantees an interesting day. There is a slight wind, and the temperature in Avila just now is 19 degrees."

The Rabobank Team has kept Denis Menchov in first place over the past few days through their own hard work, his stamina and race savvy tactics, and the help of teams that want to capture a stage but don't have contenders for top honors in the race.

Yesterday's race was exciting particularly because Menchov got himself into the winning break along with the riders in third and fourth position in general classification, but the guy in second position missed out and is now in fifth place more than 4 minutes down.

Joost is doing the job for which he's paid, meaning he's helped keep Menchov in the lead but does not himself have a high place. He may show some of his stuff in tomorrow's time trial if he still has the legs for it. It's hard to ride at the front of the pack all day, day in day out.

On his web site he says he's happy with the outcome of yesterday's stage since Denis was able to make time on his opponents, but the effort required was great ("super lastige" in Dutch) so as to keep breaks under control from the very start.

Route profile and summary of today's stage from the race site:

{click to view full size}
Abantos, the most exciting stage in Vuelta 2007 The 19th stage of the Vuelta, which starts in Avila and finishes at the Abantos summit, is undoubtedly the most thrilling in the whole event. Just 113 kilometres include six testing climbs in a stage which has already witnessed triumphs from Laiseka, Simoni and Heras. The final climb stretches 12 kilometres at an average incline of 5.7%, though various slopes of 18% incline lie in wait. Today is, therefore, a magnificent chance for the climbers to really shine. Valdelavia (3rd-km. 15), Hoyo de La Guija (2nd-km. 46), Robledondo (3rd-km. 57), Abantos (1st-km. 83), Robledondo (3rd-km. 107), Abantos (1st-km. 133) are the six climbs. Fans will be allowed to watch the event at the Robledondo and Abantos climbs in the final circuit, which after seeing the Avial stage, is guaranteed to be electric until the very last metre. The Golden Jersey and a place on the podium in Madrid are up for grabs.

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