Vuelta: Heras steals gold

Defending champion Roberto Heras put in a storming performance on Sunday's 15th stage, and is now in

Defending champion Roberto Heras put in a storming performance on Sunday’s 15th stage, and is now in

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Few could deny that Rabobank’s Denis Menchov has done a fantastic job sticking to the wheel of defending champion Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros), who had trailed the Russian by 47 seconds, over the past week in the mountains. But Menchov could do nothing to prevent Heras from slipping away on the stage’s penultimate climb of Alto de la Colladiella on Sunday, and by the wet and misty finish at the Valgrande-Pajares ski station, the Spaniard had taken 5-17, plus the gold jersey, from Menchov, and now leads him by 4-30. Heras had tried some attacks in recent days in the mountains, but Menchov had always managed to stay resolutely in a defensive position, his 47-second buffer looking increasingly like it would be enough to carry all the way to the finale in Madrid next Sunday. But the diminutive Heras was able to dance away from Menchov on the Alto de la Colladiella, catching and passing early breakaway groups, which included team-mate Joseba Beloki, Discovery’s Stijn Devolder and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), and pressing on to the finish in the company of another team-mate, Michele Scarponi, and T-Mobile’s Francisco Lara, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) and Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunitat Valenciana), before leaving them behind, too, on the road to the Valgarnde-Pajares ski station to take the stage victory. It was also a good day for procycling’s pair of columnists. Despite finishing 3-47 down on Heras, CSC’s Carlos Sastre also had a great ride, and is now just 20 seconds down on Menchov in third, promising a real fight for second place over the coming week. And Tom Danielson lost just over five minutes to Heras on the day, jumping a place to eighth overall, and looking increasingly good for a top 10 finish in Madrid in what will be the completion of his first grand tour, having had to pull out of the Giro d’Italia in the spring in the first week due to a knee injury. However, Heras was quick to play down the thoughts of many that his stage-winning attack means that he already has the race sewn up, reminding everyone that there is still a week of racing left in this year’s Vuelta. Menchov, too, was similarly philosophical. “Cycling is like that,” the Russian said. Monday is the race’s second, and last, rest day. Stage 15, Cangas de Onis – Valgarnde-Pajares ski station 1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 191km in 4.53.53 2 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.32 3 Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Spa) Comunitat Valenciana 0.46 4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros 2.28 5 Maurizio Ardila (Col) Davitamon-Lotto 3.11 6 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunitat Valenciana 3.12 7 Mario Aerts (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 3.19 8 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak 3.47 9 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 3.47 10 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel 4.09 14 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 5.03 18 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 5.17 Overall 1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 61.47.40 2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 4.30 3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 4.50 4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 6.45 5 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunitat Valenciana 8.02 6 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile 11.16 7 Ruben Plaza (Spa) Comunitat Valenciana 11.30 8 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 12.05 9 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step 13.32 10 Santos Gonzalez (Spa) Phonak 14.20