Vuelta 2006 - Part II
Whatever the final result, this edition of the Vuelta a Espana has been exciting, unpredictable and thrilling.
Vinokourov's double victory in stages 8 and 9 allowed him to seriously think again of the final success in Madrid.
Valverde conquered his first golden jersey on the Alto de la Cobertoria, consolidated it with an extraordinary time trial in Cuenca, showing an excellent aerodynamic position and pedaling at ideal cadences (95-98RPM), while Vino persisted in pushing too low ones (80-86RPM).
Valverde seemed the absolute dominator of the Vuelta, especially after the the uphill finish on Calar Alto, where he could easily respond to all the several fierce attacks of Vinokourov, while Kashechkin was losing 1 minute due to hunger strike.
The race seemed over, with Vino and Sastre down 1'42" and Kash at 2'05".
But the following day something jammed in the extraordinary engine of Alejandro Valverde.
The stage of Granada proposed 2 long 1st Category climbs, the first after a few miles and the second, Alto de Monachil, at the finish. In between, 70 km of serious rolling course; it was also quite hot and a wind blowed tight on the riders.
Kash ignited the bagarre already on the first climb and the race got hard since the very beginning, forcing the Caisse d' Epargne team to work hard.
The pace kept high for the whole stage and Valverde seemed a bit troubled: pedaling a lot out of the saddle and at lower cadences than usual, his face appeared tight, showing some dehydration signs.
Kash and Vino set the trap and an instinctive and proud Valverde, without any teammates, payed a heavy toll on the finish in Granada.
He lost the golden jersey, but his gap from Vino is only 9".
1714 m/h was the VAM on the 8 km of' Alto de Monachil for the Kazach duo, with Alejandro only 10" behind.
The stage of Sierra de la Pandera confirmed the superiority of the Astana teammates, who were able to gain abother 32" on an indomitable but too alone Valverde.
22'20" was the time of the climb (VAM = 1775 m/h), about 1' slower than Roberto Heras' time in 2002.