Julia Wins Stage 16 of Vuelta; Hamilton Fails Blood Test
Jose Julia (Comunidad Valenciana) has won his team?s third stage of this year?s Vuelta a Espana.
Jose Julia (Comunidad Valenciana) has won his team?s third stage of this year?s Vuelta a Espana. Julia surged away from six breakaway companions to win Stage 16, a flat, 190-km run from Olivenza to Caceres in 4:19:23. Tadej Valjavec (Phonak) finished second at 0:12, and Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) outsprinted Antonio Cruz (U.S. Postal Service) for third at 0:35. Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) remains the overall leader.
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The day began on a sad note. Late on Monday, the UCI informed Phonak officials that Tyler Hamilton, Olympic time trial champion and winner of the Vuelta?s Stage 8 time trial, had failed blood tests. The tests indicated what a team spokesman stated was a ?mixed red blood cell population, an indication of a homologous blood transfusion.? In layman?s terms, the tests indicated that Hamilton had blood doped. Phonak has suspended him pending the results of the testing of his B sample. Team officials have expressed doubts about the accuracy of the tests but have indicated that they will dismiss Hamilton if he cannot prove himself innocent. Hamilton, who faces a two-year suspension by the UCI, dismissal by Phonak, and loss of his Olympic title and Vuelta stage win, denies that he blood doped and has stated that he will not return his gold medal.
Despite the temperature, which was nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the racing was aggressive. From the gun, riders attacked. At 40 km, 13 riders got clear. They were Alessandro Spezialetti and Di Luca (Saeco), Txente Garcia Costa and Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears), Valjavec, Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel), Cristian Moreni (Alessio), Ivan Parra (Cafes Baque), Jan Boven (Rabobank), Antonio Cruz (U.S. Postal Service), David Fernandez (Paternina), Julia, and Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Phonak). Eventually, Gutierrez dropped back to the peloton, but the others led by about 17:30 at 135 km.
Saunier Duval began to ride tempo. The gap had narrowed by about five minutes with 20 km left, but the break was beyond catching.
With 12 km left, the attacks began. They split the group, and, with 10 km left, Cruz, Valjavec, Isasi, Di Luca, Julia, and Lastras led the field. Lastras attacked, but Di Luca chased him down. Julia countered, and his companions had no answer.
In the overall, Heras leads Alejandro Valverde (Comunidad Valenciana) by 0:05 and Santiago Perez (Phonak) by 1:45. Stage 16 will be a crucial test for all of these riders. The 170-km ride from Plasencia to Estacion de Esqui la Covatilla will feature two Category 1 ascents and a Category 3 climb as well as the Special Category climb to the finish. The riders will pass through Heras?s hometown of Bejar. Will Heras win the stage in front of his neighbors? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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