Big solo win for Comunidad Valenciana
Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) achieved a great win today in La Granja in stage 17 of the Vuelta a España, crossing the line alone 46 seconds ahead of Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) and Santos Gonzalez (Phonak). Roberto Heras (Liberty-Würth) retained the golden jersey, finishing in ninth place at 1'40, with Denis Menchov (2nd on GC, Rabobank) finishing in the same time.
The stage winner was very pleased with his victory. "I wanted so much to win," said the rider from Granada. "And in the end I had my reward. The medal I wear is one my grandmother gave to my little son. I took it from him and it gave me good luck and confidence." This is not his first win of the year: "This is my sixth," he explained. "And I want to dedicate it to my brother Fito [Adolfo] who always supported me and gave me hope in cycling."
Santos Gonzalez had chances to win, but he couldn't follow Quesada's wheel on Navacerrada. "I had to push hard on the last climb [Navacerrada]," said a tired Gonzalez after the stage. "It was silly to stay quiet after being part of the breakaway. If I caught Carlos [Garcia Quesada], I could have won the stage."
Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) wasn't very happy after finishing 12th. "Garcia Quesada has attacked and also [Carlos] Sastre," said Mercado. "They attacked and I couldn't keep their pace. The truth is that everyone is finishing the Vuelta in good condition. Let's see if we can do something tomorrow."
How it unfolded
At the start in El Espinar, 139 riders signed on for the stage to La Granja, a little village around 70 km northwest from Madrid. La Granja has a beautiful royal palace with a gorgeous garden built by the Spanish king Philip V in 1724 and ended by Charles III in 1761. Despite this, Fabio Sacchi (Fassa Bortolo) decided not to take part today.
After some attacks that were neutralized by the peloton, 15 riders made a breakaway including Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana), Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Caffita) and Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) after 38 km. At km 55 the breakaways numbered 13: Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana), Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Caffita), Joan Horrach (Illes Balears), Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears), David Blanco (Comunidad Valenciana), Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana), Koos Moerenhout (Davitamon-Lotto), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Aitor Gonzalez (Euskaltel), David Lopez (Euskaltel), Rik Verbrugghe (Quick Step), Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval) and Manuel Calvente (CSC). The leaders were 2'10 ahead of the peloton at km 84.
There were more changes on the Puerto de Morcuera (km 93) and 19 riders led the race at km 105, with Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears), Eladio Jimenez, Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), Constantino Zaballa and Gilberto Simoni among them. The break was too big and the peloton didn't want such a massive breakaway.
Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) was in the break and attacked when the leaders climbed Navacerrada for the second time. Mancebo and Santos Gonzalez (Phonak) chased him. At the summit of Puerto de Navacerrada with 22 km to go, Garcia Quesada was the solo leader, 1'40 ahead of Gonzalez and Paco Mancebo, and 2'18 ahead of Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Roberto Heras (Liberty) and Carlos Sastre (CSC).
On the descent of Navacerrada, Garcia Quesada didn't want to risk anything. So, his chasers reduced his advantage by some seconds. With 7 km to go, the leader was 1'09 ahead of the duo of chasers and 1'47 ahead of the Heras, Menchov and Sastre group. The Comunidad Valenciana rider maintained the good tempo and was the first to across the finish line. In his celebration, he kissed the medal and clenched his left fist.
Stage 18 - September 15: Avila-Avila, 197.5 km
This will be a good stage for the riders looking for breakaways, especially for the ones who climb well. It's a long stage with four climbs: Puerto de la Paramera (Category 3, 1395 m, km 13.9), Puerto de Mijares (Cat. 1, 1570 m, km 66.4), Alto de Pedro Bernardo (Cat. 2, 1260 m, km 123.2) and Puerto de Serranillos (Cat. 2, 1575 m, km 135). Roberto Heras shouldn't have any problems with this stage, as his team will certainly help him pass the mountainous zones.