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Freeman Cebu Sports

Unforgettable Vuelta

- Jose Vicente 'JV' Araneta - The Philippine Star

CEBU, Philippines -  I always believed that in a Grand Tour, the race can be lost on the flat stages and won on the mountains or during time trials. But in the old days, the days of Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault, it was done on a fairly normal basis, winning stage races on the flat stages.

 But in the past few quarter centuries, things have changed. The racing field today is more leveled, training techniques and racing strategies are pretty well known. Technology and race radios definitely play the part and even though a few may disagree, it has a lot to do with PED’s.

 In the most exciting GT race in years, Joaquim Rodriguez was relaxed going into stage 17 of the 2012 VueltaaEspana. “Purito” had neutralized, no, slapped Alberto Contador, every time Contador attacked in the final kilometers of a mountain stage. Purito would gain a few seconds every stage leaving a very frustrated Contador.

 Contador, the multi-GT winner, had just finished serving a 6-month suspension for doping and he wasn’t his normal self. Purito, on the other hand, was punchy rider and excels in hilly one-day races. The past three years, he had been trying hard to win the Vuelta but as an exceptional as a climber he was, his time-trialling was his kryptonite. This year though, was different, as there was only 40km of ITT’s.

 With five days to go and a few more mountain finishes, and no more TT’s on the menu, Rodriguez was cautiously hoping to win his biggest prize. But then Saxo Bank threw a wrench in the works. Contador attacked on a stage that nobody thought he would, just like what Floyd Landis did in the 2006 Tour de France, and caught Purito with his pants down! At the end of the stage, Contador would strip Purito of the leadership with more a lead of more then 2 minutes.

 It’s a shame that Rodriguez had to lose the way he did but that’s sports. You win spectacularly and then you lose spectacularly, too. Alejandro Valverde was also able to move up to second place, relegating Purito to 3rd.

 Chris Froome, the number one favorite going into the Vuelta, is at 4th, and I guess that the long season- the Tour de France and the Olympics, had finally caught up with him. He was good in the first half of the Vuelta before limping in the last half.

 Defending champion JJ Cobo, was MIA. He could not even help his team leader Valverde even in the flat stages. I think it’s retirement time for Cobo, just like his compatriot Carlos Sastre.

 If Contador, Valverde, Rodriguez and Froome were all in the Tour and had the same form, I don’t think Wiggins could have won it. Wiggins doesn’t like the accelerations that Contador and Rodriguez do and he would have succumbed to it. On the other hand, a fresher Froome would have taken the fight to Contador and it would be a tussle between them.

Finally, the next big pro races in the calendar are the World Championships, the Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia……In the local scene, the Tour of Smiles will be held on September 29-30 in Tacloban. (FREEMAN)

ALBERTO CONTADOR

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

BERNARD HINAULT

CARLOS SASTRE

CHRIS FROOME

COBO

CONTADOR

PURITO

VUELTA

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