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After Roberto Heras took a clinical solo victory at the Valdelinares ski station in yesterday's sixth stage of the Vuelta, the Liberty Seguros rider, who is aiming for a record fourth Vuelta victory, stressed that the race is still far from over.
Heras admitted that the stage "was very deceptive, because it was much harder than it seemed. There wasn't a single metre of flat and it caused a lot of damage." Heras described his team-mates' efforts throughout the day as "sensational", but added with a degree of caution: "There are a lot of key moments to come, dangerous stages and teams who have come to make this a real battle. The Vuelta has only just started but I hope that it will be a very nice race for me.
"Today I was the strongest, but we are at the beginning of a three-week tour and many things can still happen. To be the strongest, you have to show that every day."
Heras agreed that second-placed Denis Menchov is now his biggest rival, "but I cannot forget Mancebo and Sastre, because they are two very experienced riders and are very consistent."
Having been branded by Liberty team manager Manolo Saiz as "a rider of second efforts" after failing to make an impact in the last two Tours de France, but then going on to star at the Vuelta, Heras admitted that "my body is now at 100 per cent and I have not felt well at the Tour in past two years. I cannot explain this, we will try to look for an answer over the winter, because in other seasons I have ridden well at the Tour."
Saiz described Heras's win as "a victory of the whole team, because all of the riders have done great work and Roberto Heras has provided a great finish." Saiz said that the only thing that had surprised about the stage was that Menchov had lost time, and he also welcomed the pressure that will now fall on his team in having to defend the lead.
However, Saiz implied that the lead may go in Sunday's long Lloret time trial, and that he is already plotting Heras's next coup in the Pyrenean stages that will follow that test.
- Phonak's Floyd Landis pulled out of yesterday's stage complaining of fatigue and clearly unable to follow the pace of the leading contenders.
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