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Bettini prevails over Petacchi

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Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step)

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Rolling through Leon

Rolling through Leon (Image credit: AFP)
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Nacor Burgos (Relax)

Nacor Burgos (Relax) (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros)

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Rolling through Leon at the start

Rolling through Leon at the start (Image credit: AFP)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) is well protected

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) is well protected (Image credit: AFP)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) refuels

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

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassas Bortolo) refuels (Image credit: AFP)
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Hi ho it's the Vuelta a Espana

Hi ho it's the Vuelta a Espana (Image credit: AFP)
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The bunch rides between Leon and Valladolid

The bunch rides between Leon and Valladolid (Image credit: AFP)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) charges for the line

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) charges for the line (Image credit: AFP)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) a happy stage winner

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) a happy stage winner (Image credit: AFP)
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The Liberty boyz relax with big daddy Saiz

The Liberty boyz relax with big daddy Saiz (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) turns up for the start

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) turns up for the start (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) checks out the competition

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) checks out the competition (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Rolling through Leon for the start

Rolling through Leon for the start (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The race goes this way

The race goes this way (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears) gets the early break going

Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears) gets the early break going (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Bart Dockx (Davitamon-Lotto) drives the early break, which is hovering ahead of the peloton

Bart Dockx (Davitamon-Lotto) drives the early break, which is hovering ahead of the peloton (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The early break rolls along through the Spanish plains

The early break rolls along through the Spanish plains (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The bunch races along in stage 16

The bunch races along in stage 16 (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Liberty Seguros controls the peloton

Liberty Seguros controls the peloton (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Mario Aerts (Davitamon-Lotto) in the peloton

Mario Aerts (Davitamon-Lotto) in the peloton (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Linus Gerdemann (CSC) wonders what's going on

Linus Gerdemann (CSC) wonders what's going on (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) changed the gold jersey for the blue points jersey

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) changed the gold jersey for the blue points jersey (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Heras and Sastre next to each other

Heras and Sastre next to each other (Image credit: Unipublic)
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One way to see the Vuelta

One way to see the Vuelta (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Liberty Seguros) checks if Heras is OK

Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Liberty Seguros) checks if Heras is OK (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) protected by a teammate

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) protected by a teammate (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) concentrates

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) concentrates (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Carlos Sastre (CSC) with Denis Menchov (Rabobank)

Carlos Sastre (CSC) with Denis Menchov (Rabobank) (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) in the peloton during the 16th stage

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) in the peloton during the 16th stage (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Heras and Menchov stay close

Heras and Menchov stay close (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Nacor Burgos (Relax) attacks with Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval) in the last 40 km

Nacor Burgos (Relax) attacks with Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval) in the last 40 km (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Gomez and Burgos riding ahead of the peloton in the final 40 km

Gomez and Burgos riding ahead of the peloton in the final 40 km (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) beats Petacchi (R) and Perdiguero (L) to win stage 16

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) beats Petacchi (R) and Perdiguero (L) to win stage 16 (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) celebrates his stage win

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) celebrates his stage win (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) looking good in gold now

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) looking good in gold now (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) smiles from the podium in the points jersey

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) smiles from the podium in the points jersey (Image credit: Unipublic)

No changes to top GC positions

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) beat bunch sprint favourite Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) to win the 16th stage of the Vuelta a España in Valladolid in a time of 3 hours, 40 minutes and 56 seconds. Petacchi was second, while Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak) third. Roberto Heras (Liberty-Würth) retained the leader's jersey in a seemingly tranquil stage.

"I knew how the last kilometre went," said Bettini post-stage. "The finale was suited to me, for my characteristics. The peloton was very nervous during the whole stage. I started my sprint with 300 meters to the finish line and I really wanted to win. Today things went well for me." He also commented that this kind of course was a good test for the World Championships in Madrid.

Angel Vicioso (Liberty) spent the day protecting the Vuelta leader Roberto Heras. "Although the route was very good for me, the most important thing today was to protect Heras," said Vicioso post-stage. "That Heras doesn't lose time because of echelons or something." Referring to the World's he said "I feel very good. If the national coach [Spain's Francisco Antequera] doesn't name me, he will make a mistake."

How it unfolded

The Vuelta resumed after the second rest day in Leon with 140 riders. Leonardo Bertagnolli (Cofidis), Julian Dean (Credit Agricole), Matthias Russ (Gerolsteiner) and Jukka Vastaranta (Rabobank) abandoned on Sunday, and Francisco Lara (T-Mobile) didn't start in Leon due to gastroenteritis.

The first serious breakaway was made by Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), Sebastien Chavanel (Bouygues Telecom), Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis), Bart Dockx (Davitamon-Lotto), Andre Korff (T-Mobile), Marcus Ljungqvist (Liquigas-Bianchi), Jorge Garcia (Relax Fuenlabrada) and Matteo Tosatto (Fassa Bortolo) at km 17. The peloton didn't allow this break to go, and at km 53 the gap was just 20 seconds. The eight riders on the break became 10 with Francisco Perez (Illes Balears) and Leon Van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto) joining a few kilometres later.

The peloton swallowed the breakaways at km 71. The hard Sunday stage should have been tough for most of the riders, and after the rest day, it seemed the cyclists wanted not to struggle too much.

Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval) and Nacor Burgos (Relax Fuenlabrada) broke the monotony and dared to attack with 40 km to go at km 122. At first, their advantage was just a few meters ahead of the peloton. 10 kilometres later, the gap with to the main group was around 1 minute. With less than 15 km to the end, the duo was caught. Soon after that, another Saunier Duval rider tried: Rafael Casero. But his lone effort wasn't enough and his adventure lasted 2 kilometres or so.

The Fassa Bortolo team started working with around 5 kilometres to go to the finish. But an uphill part in the last kilometre complicated Alessandro Petacchi's chances. The sprint was very long and without a certain winner until the last meter. Paolo Bettini coming from the right made a final big surge, and prevailed over Ale Jet. The third place was for Miguel Martin Perdiguero.

Stage 17 - September 14: El Espinar-La Granja de San Ildefonso, 165.6 km

This will be a stage with a number of mountains in its course as the peloton goes through the Sierra de Guadarrama. There are three climbs: Alto de los Angeles de San Rafael (Category 3, 1280m, km 12), Puerto de Navacerrada, that will be passed twice (Cat. 1, 1880m, km 55.2 and km 143.2) and Puerto de la Morcuera (Cat. 2, 1798m, km 93.3). These mountains are not as hard as the ones in northern Spain, but will certainly bring emotion to the race.

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