On Stage 5 of the Vuelta a España, Liberty Seguros' Roberto Heras was one rider who placed himself in a good position before the final climb of the Alto del Castillo, and in the end, placement proved decisive, with just 35 riders finishing in the first group that was led home by Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole).
"I had good sensations [on the climb], but the good placement did a lot," said Heras. In the sprint, I had to be there [at the front] because the road went slightly up. In the battle for the general, I have [Carlos] Sastre and [Francisco] Mancebo ride well. Aitor Gonzalez has lost time, but not too much; he fell because there were a lot of nerves. [José] Azevedo also lost time, but he has enough quality to make war when we know what condition he comes in to the Vuelta."
While the triple Vuelta champion said he felt good on the climb, it was more a confidence boost than anything else, acknowledging today's [Stage 6] mountain-top finish to the ski station of Aramon Valdelinares will be a different kettle of fish. Having said that, however, Heras doesn't expect any significant differences: "Valdelinares is a nine kilometre climb with hard ramps, but also has some places to recover. I believe that there will no be big differences, though after 220 kilometres, [the GC riders] will show themselves," he said.
"It will be a finish with a lot of different interests. There are people who want to take the leadership, like Saunier and Joaquín Rodríguez, but without thinking so much about the general, and others that will look only for the stage victory. The Vuelta is still in its infancy and riders still have strength. In the first days we have not ridden very fast, although it has been hot. The most dangerous in Valdelinares will be [Denis] Menchov, who has been very consistent in the first week of a big tour, and Carlos Sastre, who is also good in the first 10 days. Mancebo, certainly, the same for [Leonardo] Piepoli, Joaquín Rodríguez and [Gilberto] Simoni, plus the unknown quantity of Aitor Gonzalez."
Cyclingnews' live coverage of Stage 6 will begin at approximately 14:30 CEST today.