Heras closer to his fourth crown
Australian born German Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) achieved a great victory today, winning stage 19 of the Vuelta a España in Alcobendas. Haussler won a four man long, uphill sprint, beating Martin Elmiger (Phonak) and David Latasa (Comunidad Valenciana). Roberto Heras (Liberty-Würth) had a calm stage and he is just two days away from his fourth overall win in the Vuelta. Heras will certainly break the record, as no-one has won the Spanish tour four times.
"It was a really long day," said Haussler at the post-race press conference. "Because I was trying to get away from kilometre one from the group... And after, I knew when I was in a group of five or six riders that I had a really good chance to win the stage and so I did." He explained this is his first win of the year, and also his first win as a professional.
Third placed Latasa was exhausted, told Cyclingnews on the line, "I think we were the best team. We were a very combative team; we were in the majority in most of the breakaways. The team Comunidad Valenciana should be very proud of the Vuelta it did." About the finale, he said, "I thought I could finish the stage well, I know the finish was uphill and I tried to push it in the sprint. We were coming fast; I decided to wait and I was short by just a little bit."
Juan Fuentes (Lampre) ended fourth. The other 'Aussie' in the break told Cyclingnews, "The fourth place means little to me. It's clear in this Vuelta people go really so very fast, and today wasn't an exception."
How it unfolded
Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), Christophe Kern (Bouygues Telecom), Matej Jurco (Domina Vacanze) and Euskaltel's leader Aitor Gonzalez all abandoned the race yesterday, meaning that there were still 129 riders left in the race at the start in San Martin de Valdeiglesias.
The first real attack in the race was made by Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval), Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears), Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) and Linus Gerdemann (CSC) who got a gap of 2'26 over the peloton at km 18. But behind them, a big chase group formed with Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Koos Moerenhout, Leon Van Bon, Gert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto), Jose Miguel Elias Jorge Garcia (Relax), Martin Elmiger (Phonak), Mauro Gerosa (Liquigas), Bingen Fernandez (Cofidis), Javier Pascual Rodriguez and David Latasa (Comunidad Valenciana), Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile), Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner), Juan Manuel Fuentes (Lampre), Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval), José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Alberto Ongarato and Fabio Baldato (Fassa Bortolo), and Frédéric Finot (Française des Jeux), who were riding less than a minute behind the leaders.
The foursome increased their advantage up to 9'25 over the peloton at the second intermediate sprint of Las Navas del Marques (km 41.3), while they were caught by Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) from the chase group. The rest of the chase hovered at 2'00, but couldn't close the gap to the leaders. At km 53, David Cañada (Saunier Duval) abandoned the competition due to a heart problem.
After 72 km, the five leaders were chased by Jose Elias (Relax Fuenlabrada) and Gert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto) at 1'55, while the rest of the big group was at 2'40 and the peloton at 12'16, not caring about any of the leaders, who were no threat to the general classification. The stage saw many changes. The five leaders kept their pace, even though there were some misunderstandings among them. Steegmans and Elias were eventually joined by Elmiger, Haussler, Latasa, and Fuentes.
At km 106 (36 km to go), Pablo Lastras, Linus Gerdemann and Adolfo Garcia Quesada attacked the other two leaders and got an advantage. A few kilometres later, "Fito" Garcia Quesada put in a surge that enabled him to leave Lastras and Gerdemann behind.
With 15 km to go, Fito was just 6 seconds ahead of his chasers: Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears), David Latasa (Comunidad Valenciana), Juan Fuentes (Lampre), Linus Gerdemann (CSC), Martin Elmiger (Phonak) and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner). Two kilometres later, the leaders were just four: Elmiger, Lastras, Fuentes and Haussler. This was the final, decisive breakaway.
Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval) made a big effort to catch the quartet in the closing kilometres, without success. The four maintained the difference over Zaballa. Fuentes attacked with just over one kilometre to go, but was marked by Haussler, and then Elmiger. Haussler dropped to the back of the group and was able to react quickly when Latasa jumped at 200m to go, before being passed by Elmiger and then Haussler up the middle for Gerolsteiner's first stage win in the Vuelta.
Stage 20 - September 17: Guadalajara-Alcala de Henares, 38.9 km
Tomorrow's stage is a long individual time trial between Guadalajara and Alcala de Henares. The course is very flat and it has reference points: Torrejon del Rey (680 m, km 19), Valdeavero (670 m, km 20.5) and Camarma de Esteruelas (610 m, km 30.4). Denis Menchov (Rabobank) would have a chance to cut the advantage Roberto Heras has over him. The Liberty leader has a big buffer, but will take the stage seriously in order to do a decent time that enables him to raise his arms in Madrid on Sunday.