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Petacchi getting better

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Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo)

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) (Image credit: AFP)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank)

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) (Image credit: AFP)
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Riders at the start

Riders at the start (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros)

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) (Image credit: AFP)
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Petacchi's final lead-out man,

Petacchi's final lead-out man, (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) is attended to by the race doctor after a pile-up at the head of the peloton around 30 kilometres from the finish in Burgos.

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) is attended to by the race doctor after a pile-up at the head of the peloton around 30 kilometres from the finish in Burgos. (Image credit: AFP)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) grimaces in pain.

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) grimaces in pain. (Image credit: AFP)
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Roberto Heras' leg has seen better days.

Roberto Heras' leg has seen better days. (Image credit: AFP)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is getting rather used to the maillot oro.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is getting rather used to the maillot oro. (Image credit: AFP)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) notches up his fourth stage win of the 2005 Vuelta in Burgos.

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) notches up his fourth stage win of the 2005 Vuelta in Burgos. (Image credit: AFP)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) points to the heavens in memory of his late grandfather Angelo.

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) points to the heavens in memory of his late grandfather Angelo. (Image credit: AFP)
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Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Liberty Seguros) recently announced his retirement from cycling at the end of this year.

Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Liberty Seguros) recently announced his retirement from cycling at the end of this year. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) looking much happier at the start in Logroño than he did at the end of the day.

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) looking much happier at the start in Logroño than he did at the end of the day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) could now become Denis Menchov's biggest threat after the crash of Roberto Heras today.

Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) could now become Denis Menchov's biggest threat after the crash of Roberto Heras today. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) doesn't appear to have any threat in this year's Vuelta.

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) doesn't appear to have any threat in this year's Vuelta. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) is shaping himself up for a good ride at the World's.

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) is shaping himself up for a good ride at the World's. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Cafitta) has just heard Lance Armstrong is going to race next year's Giro d'Italia.

Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Cafitta) has just heard Lance Armstrong is going to race next year's Giro d'Italia. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Cafitta) and Leonardo Bertagnolli (Cofidis) line up at the start in Logroño.

Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Cafitta) and Leonardo Bertagnolli (Cofidis) line up at the start in Logroño. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) happy to sign a few autographs.

Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) happy to sign a few autographs. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Riders at the start in Logroño.

Riders at the start in Logroño. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Petacchi's final lead-out man, Marco Velo, already knows who's won.

Petacchi's final lead-out man, Marco Velo, already knows who's won. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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All too easy for Ale-Jet.

All too easy for Ale-Jet. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ale-Jet's a certain winner in Burgos.

Ale-Jet's a certain winner in Burgos. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) slowly motions his arms towards the sky.

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) slowly motions his arms towards the sky. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The two arms come together, pointed.

The two arms come together, pointed. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Petacchi dedicates his win to his late grandfather, Angelo, as well as wife Anna Chiara.

Petacchi dedicates his win to his late grandfather, Angelo, as well as wife Anna Chiara. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Cafitta) knows he's been watched...

Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Cafitta) knows he's been watched... (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Grazie, Matteo! Alessandro Petacchi thanks his team-mate Matteo Tosatto.

Grazie, Matteo! Alessandro Petacchi thanks his team-mate Matteo Tosatto. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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E grazie Fabio! Petacchi then thanks Fabio Baldato.

E grazie Fabio! Petacchi then thanks Fabio Baldato. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) is running out of different victory salutes.

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) is running out of different victory salutes. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) once again looks to the heavens.

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) once again looks to the heavens. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) on the podium.

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) on the podium. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Denis Menchov's time in gold is becoming almost a casual affair.

Denis Menchov's time in gold is becoming almost a casual affair. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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This will always bring a smile, even a little one.

This will always bring a smile, even a little one. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

Nasty crash for Heras

Routine. Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) won his fourth stage win in the Vuelta a España in a bunch sprint in Burgos to no-one's surprise. Petacchi's victory, which looked to be his strongest yet, came at the expense of Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) and Marco Zanotti (Liquigas-Bianchi). But the big news of the day was the crash at km 95 that injured Roberto Heras (Liberty-Würth), who is second on the overall classification and Jakob Piil (CSC) who abandoned the race. Meanwhile, Denis Menchov (Rabobank) retained the golden jersey.

Heras suffered a cut on his left knee because of the crash, and as soon as he ended the stage, he went with his team staff to receive medical attention. Piil abandoned the Vuelta in an ambulance, suffering concussion, his terrible 2005 continuing.

Petacchi was also inside the group of riders who went down in the crash, which occurred near the front of the peloton. "I was able to come back and we got back to work," said the Italian. "I had a problem with my brakes, but I went behind the peloton for the mechanics to fix it and then I continued again."

About the finale, Petacchi commented, "I looked back in the sprint to see who was racing behind me. I felt good, even though I didn't take the last corner correctly. I was able to do a long sprint and win."

Race leader Denis Menchov definitely didn't try to take any advantage from Heras' crash. "I agreed with slowing the pace when Heras crashed, of course", he said. "Everyone waited for Roberto and for all the fallen riders. I was in the front, but I was lucky. That's cycling. I hope Heras recovers from this. I've also experienced these kinds of crashes."

Saturday's stage will still be very difficult for the Russian: "Lagos [de Covadonga] is a very important stage. We'll see what happens," he concluded. Luis Pasamontes (Relax Fuenlabrada) made the breakaway of the day. But, as usual, the peloton snuffed it out. "It was tough to finish the breakaway because it was one of Petacchi's last options," said Pasamontes to Spanish radio. "Certainly the sprinters will quit the race to prepare themselves well for the World's. The race circumstances like the crash could have given me some bonus seconds. The riders got nervous because of Heras' crash and they decided to push harder. So, with ten kilometres to the finish line, my adventure was over."

How it unfolded

On Tuesday, nine riders abandoned the race: Bradley McGee, Frederic Guesdon (La Française des Jeux), Santiago Botero (Phonak), Thor Hushovd, Benoît Poilvet (Credit Agricole), Christophe Edaleine, Luis Perez (Cofidis), Markel Irizar (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Mathew Hayman (Rabobank). Today, Gerrit Glomser (Lampre-Caffita) decided not to start in Logroño, which meant 157 riders were left in the Vuelta. Due to technical reasons, the stage was shortened by approximately 15 kilometres. Therefore, the riders raced 133 kilometres instead of 148. Luis Pasamontes (Relax Fuenlabrada) was the brave rider who dared to make a lone breakaway. At km 8 the Spanish was 30 seconds ahead of the peloton and at km 56 the gap was 4'23. The peloton didn't want Pasamontes to escape on such a short stage. A four minute break would be more easily controlled than a larger gap.

At the second intermediate sprint in Pradoluengo, the lone leader was followed by Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Fassa Bortolo) and Rolf Aldag (T-Mobile), who were setting the tempo for the chase. The gap was 4'40 at this point, and did not get any bigger.

A big crash at the head of the peloton happened at km 95 involving around 15 riders. Jakob Piil (CSC) and Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros-Würth) had the worst of it, and the Dane was stretchered into an ambulance while Heras received help from the race doctors while coming back to the peloton. The Spaniard had a cut in his left knee and needed some stitches. But the bruising may affect him more in the coming days.

The peloton slowed the pace in order to wait for Heras. Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) was also behind the main group and after a few kilometres he joined the peloton again. T-Mobile, Quick Step and Fassa Bortolo teams upped the tempo and caught Pasamontes at km 121 (12 km to go). Benjamin Noval (Discovery Channel) countered immediately, but the peloton was determined to end it in a bunch sprint, and Noval was sucked back in.

The Fassa Bortolo train started working with 3 km to go, despite being challenged by Liquigas (for Zanotti) and Davitamon-Lotto (for Steels). It was the latter who secured the prize position of Petacchi's wheel, but lost it to Zabel on the last corner with just over half a kilometre to go. Marco Velo performed a short lead out to get Petacchi up to speed, as Steels tried to come from behind to challenge for the win. But Ale-Jet didn't panic and started his sprint from around 200 metres out with Erik Zabel once again having no answer to the Italian's speed. Alessandro raised his arms once again, this time with his forefingers pointing the sky in recognition of his fourth victory at this race, and his grandfather, who passed away three years ago to this day.

Stage 13 - September 9: Burgos-Ampuero, 196 km

This will be a long stage with some mountainous difficulties. The stage has four climbs: Puerto de la Sia (Category 1, 1240m above sea level, km 121), Alto Cruz Usaño (Category 3, 360m, km 149.4), Alto Fuente Las Varas (Category 3, 450 m, km 159.3) and Santuario de la Bien Aparecida (Category 3, 270 m, stage finish). It may be a day for the breakaway riders to succeed, and the Puerto de la Sia will be crucial here. The big question tomorrow will be how Heras feels. If Heras is in good condition, he will fight for a stage win in Lagos de Covadonga and Pajares. If not, Menchov could start tasting the glory of winning the Vuelta.

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