Vuelta 16: Julia boost for Valverde

Is the Vuelta tide turning in favour of Alejandro Valverde before Wednesday's crucial mountain stage


Is the Vuelta tide turning in favour of Alejandro Valverde before Wednesday’s crucial mountain stage

PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Alejandro Valverde did not win or even figure much on today’s flat run on baking roads to Caceres, but the CV-Kelme rider currently lying second overall will have received a huge morale boost before tomorrow’s crucial day in the mountains thanks to the victory achieved by his best friend and team-mate Jos Cayetano Julia. Julia was one of 13 riders who latched on to a first-kilometre attack by Colombian Ivan Parra and eventually built up a substantial lead over the bunch as temperatures soared into the high 30s. The bunch did chase the group for a while, but eased off after 60 kilometres or so of fast riding. The 13 leaders – Phonak’s Jos Enrique Gutierrez dropped back – cooperated until 15 kilometres from home when Illes Balears Jos Vicente Garcia and Pablo Lastras launched attacks that split the group, leaving six to decide the stage. Lastras was there, joined by Danilo Di Luca (Saeco), Tadej Valjavec (Phonak), I¤aki Isasi (Euskaltel), Antonio Cruz (US Postal) and Julia. Another attack by Lastras seemed to have done for Julia, but the CV-Kelme rider got back up to the leaders with six kilometres left. He sat on the back of the line for a while as the others sized each other up, then surprised them all with an attack right under the three-kilometre banner. The dozen seconds that the five riders left in his wake spent wondering which of them was going to start the chase were enough to allow Julia to build an unassailable lead and celebrate the biggest win of his career. The bunch came in almost 12 minutes later with all of the leading contenders apparently intact and ready for their restart of their battle tomorrow. Roberto Heras still leads Valverde by five seconds, and will surely get a morale boost of his win with the thought of thousands of his fans packing onto the finishing Covatilla climb above his home town of Bejar. Stage 16, Olivenza-Caceres 1 Jos Cayetano Julia (Spa) Comunitat Valenciana-Kelme 190.1km in 4.19.23 (43.97kph) 2 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak 0.12 3 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Saeco 0.35 4 Antonio Cruz (USA) US Postal 5 Pablo Lastras (Spa) Illes Balears 6 I¤aki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel 7 Ivan Parra (Col) Cafs Baqu 1.20 8 Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Saeco 1.25 9 Erki Putsep (Est) Ag2r 1.33 10 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 11 Jos Garcia Acosta (Spa) Illes Balears 1.35 12 Jan Boven (Hol) Rabobank 13 David Fernandez (Spa) Costa de Almeria 3.44 14 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quick Step 11.44 15 Mariano Piccoli (Ita) Lampre 16 Marco Velo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 17 Thorwald Veneberg (Hol) Rabobank 18 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 19 Marco Milesi (Ita) Vini Caldirola 20 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros Overall standings 1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 58.35.32 2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) CV-Kelme 0.05 3 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak 1.45 4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 2.02 5 Isidro Nozal (Spa) Liberty Seguros 3.45 6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 6.12 7 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 8.30 8 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal 8.44 9 Angel Gomez (Spa) Costa de Almeria 8.51 10 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) CV-Kelme 8.59 11 David Blanco (Spa) CV-Kelme 9.43 12 Luis Perez (Spa) Cofidis 11.21 13 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola 13.58 14 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco 14.06 15 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 16.35 16 Marcos Serrano (Spa) Liberty Seguros 17.43 17 Francisco Jos Lara (Spa) Costa de Almeria 18.37 18 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Saunier Duval 19.48 19 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel 23.33 20 Luis Pasamontes (Spa) Relax-Bodysol 24.30 Points 1 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile 148 2 Alejnadro Valverde (Spa) CV-Kelme 126 3 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 97 Mountains 1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 87 2 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 72 3 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak 71