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Van Heeswijk wins by the sea

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Max van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel)

Max van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel) (Image credit: AFP)
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Cruising out of town

Cruising out of town (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The break starts to form

The break starts to form (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The boys in blue

The boys in blue (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak)

Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak) (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The Comunidad Valenciana boys, Ruben Plaza and David Blanco, check out the news

The Comunidad Valenciana boys, Ruben Plaza and David Blanco, check out the news (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) in his first day in gold

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) in his first day in gold (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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An older spectator watches the race go past

An older spectator watches the race go past (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Max van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel) wins the seventh stage

Max van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel) wins the seventh stage (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Max van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel) on the podium

Max van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel) on the podium (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) signing autographs

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) signing autographs (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) smiling at the start

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) smiling at the start (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) looking forward to today

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) looking forward to today (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Relaxed at the start of the stage

Relaxed at the start of the stage (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Isidro Nozal (Liberty Seguros) sits on the line in anticipation

Isidro Nozal (Liberty Seguros) sits on the line in anticipation (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The Mayor of Teruel, Lucia Gomez Garcia, cutting the ribbon to start stage 7

The Mayor of Teruel, Lucia Gomez Garcia, cutting the ribbon to start stage 7 (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Cruising out of town for the start of stage 7

Cruising out of town for the start of stage 7 (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Only 212.4 km to go…

Only 212.4 km to go… (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Leon van Bon and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano lead the peloton at the start

Leon van Bon and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano lead the peloton at the start (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The heat is on! again

The heat is on! again (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Heras in the thick of it

Heras in the thick of it (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The break starts to form early on in the stage

The break starts to form early on in the stage (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) helped form the first breakaway

Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) helped form the first breakaway (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana) leads over the first climb of the day

Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana) leads over the first climb of the day (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Liberty Seguros leads the bunch over the first climb of the day

Liberty Seguros leads the bunch over the first climb of the day (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The boys in blue led by Isidro and Igor

The boys in blue led by Isidro and Igor (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) in control

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) in control (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) rides in the company of his teammates, including Joseba Beloki

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) rides in the company of his teammates, including Joseba Beloki (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Inigo Cuesta (Saunier Duval) asks for directions

Inigo Cuesta (Saunier Duval) asks for directions (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Inigo Cuesta (Saunier Duval) on the front of the break

Inigo Cuesta (Saunier Duval) on the front of the break (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Poilvet and Verbrugghe lead the break

Poilvet and Verbrugghe lead the break (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The breakaway group starts to solidify its lead

The breakaway group starts to solidify its lead (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The breakaway group passes through the feed zone

The breakaway group passes through the feed zone (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) grabs his feed bag

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) grabs his feed bag (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Liberty Seguros has things well in hand

Liberty Seguros has things well in hand (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Well, what do we have here?

Well, what do we have here? (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Dude, check out the view! Morella greets the Vuelta

Dude, check out the view! Morella greets the Vuelta (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) leading the break

Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) leading the break (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak) in front, with Poilvet coming to terms with his lunch?

Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak) in front, with Poilvet coming to terms with his lunch? (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) keeping his cool

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) keeping his cool (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) with Egoi Martinez on his wheel

Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) with Egoi Martinez on his wheel (Image credit: Unipublic)
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The devil has spawn everywhere

The devil has spawn everywhere (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Fabio Baldato (Fassa Bortolo) rides tempo on the front of the bunch

Fabio Baldato (Fassa Bortolo) rides tempo on the front of the bunch (Image credit: Unipublic)
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A token rain shower provides some relief

A token rain shower provides some relief (Image credit: Unipublic)
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We'll get 'em don't worry

We'll get 'em don't worry (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Getting ready for the finale

Getting ready for the finale (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Max van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel) beats Erik Zabel and Alberto Ongarato to win stage 7

Max van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel) beats Erik Zabel and Alberto Ongarato to win stage 7 (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) on the podium for the second day in gold

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) on the podium for the second day in gold (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana) is the new mountains leader

Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana) is the new mountains leader (Image credit: Unipublic)
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Liberty Seguros awarded as best team yesterday

Liberty Seguros awarded as best team yesterday (Image credit: Unipublic)

Heras increases advantage over the rest

Max Van Heeswijk (Discovery Channel) added another victory to his team's great collection this year, winning the seventh stage of the Vuelta in a bunch sprint in Vinaros. The Dutch beat Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) and Alberto Ongarato (Fassa Bortolo) in a time of 5:21:21. Meanwhile, the race leader Roberto Heras (Liberty-Würth) increased his advantage over his nearest rival Denis Menchov (Rabobank) by 6 seconds. The Spaniard has a gap of 12 seconds over the Russian.

"I love Spanish roads," said Van Heeswijk post-stage. "Because they are wide and you can ride with ease." He said so even though the last kilometres were ridden over narrow roads. The Dutchman commented that he had learned from his former team leader Lance Armstrong that you should never give up, and that it is necessary to always have motivation.

"I don't know how I found myself with nobody in front at 500 meters to go," added Van Heeswijk. "So, I pushed hard and I won." He told the press that he thinks that his win was based on the bad organization of the sprint had, which had enabled him to be in good position in the final metres.

How it unfolded

Yesterday's stage was really demanding for all the riders. Nine of them abandoned the race: Floyd Landis (Phonak), Luca Solari, Simone Cadamuro (Domina Vacanze), Ludovic Auger, Bernhard Eisel (La Française des Jeux), Torsten Schmidt (Gerolsteiner), Giosue Bonomi (Lampre), Jan Boven (Rabobank) and Franck Renier (Bouygues Telecom). Renier had reached Valdelinares, but he had finished outside the race deadline. So, 181 riders took the start at Teruel today.

Early on in the stage (km 7), five riders made a breakaway: Rik Verbrugghe (Quick Step), Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana), Alexandre Botcharov (Credit Agricole), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Mauricio Ardila (Davitamon-Lotto). A few kilometres later, Ardila and Botcharov couldn't keep the pace of the other three, and they were caught by the peloton.

At km 20, Iñigo Cuesta and Joaquin Rodríguez (Saunier Duval) began chasing the three breakaways and caught them later on. On the climb of Puerto de Cabigordo (km 24), Cuesta led the break ahead of Verbrugghe, Jimenez and Martinez. The gap was of four minutes at km 34 while two riders, Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak) and Benoît Poilvet (Credit Agricole), chased the leaders. The couple were 33 seconds behind at this point.

Gutierrez and Poilvet reached the four leaders (Rodriguez dropped off) at km 43 and the group had a gap of 4'05 to the peloton. The break now contained Poilvet, Cuesta, Verbrugghe, Jimenez, Egoi Martinez and Ignacio Gutierrez, and at km 81 the difference was 2'43. 10 kilometres later, at the Cantavieja intermediate sprint Cuesta won ahead of Martinez and Poilvet. At that point, Sebastian Joly (Credit Agricole) has already abandoned the race.

Liberty Seguros-Würth and Fassa Bortolo knew how to control the breakaways. At km 112, Heras and Petacchi's teams led the peloton and controlled the gap that was around 3'30. They reduced the difference by more than a minute at km 125 to 2'17. The breakaway didn't have much chance as the peloton was eating up its advantage kilometre after kilometre, and at km 145, the difference was 1'55. Sooner or later, the breakaway would fade.

The tempo was slower than yesterday; it seemed that the tremendous stage that finished in Valdelinares was hurting most of the riders. Fassa Bortolo and other teams inside the peloton worked hard and got the most of the downhill roads, catching the six breakaways at km 23.5 km to go. The 182km long break was over and a new race started at this point.

The big group rode together until Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) attacked on a small climb at 9km to go. The Italian went solo for more than four kilometres until the peloton caught him. The road was very narrow and with dangerous corners all the way down, but fortunately, there were no crashes.

From then on, T-Mobile led the peloton with Credit Agricole ready to lead out Thor Hushovd for another stage win. Meanwhile, sprint favourite Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) had a puncture and couldn't regain the front of the race. That was the end of Fassa Bortolo's chances.

The bunch sprint was very fast with Tom Steels (Davitamon) leading out. But from the right came Max Van Heeswijk, with Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) coming past on the left. Van Heeswijk was strongest and rode a long sprint to win the stage, leaving Zabel with another second place.

Stage 8 - September 3: Tarragona-Lloret de Mar, 189 km

The eighth stage will be ridden very close to the Catalonian coast. From Tarragona to Lloret de Mar, the riders will pass very near Barcelona and its surrounds. The stage has three intermediate sprints: La Gornal (km 32.9), El Ordal (km 62.9) and the city of Sabadell on the surroundings of Barcelona (km 101.2). There is just one climb: Category 3 Puerto del Ordal (490 m). It is another stage marked on the sprinters' calendar. Their teams should control the many breakaways that the peloton will certainly produce. Roberto Heras should have another rather easy stage before the big time trial on Sunday.

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