By Graham Jones
and Barry Boyce

CyclingRevealed Historian


Images © Unipublic


Also read:

La Vuelta: A Colorful & Caliente History

Vuelta a Espana Champions Living and Dead

Vuelta Travelogue - Quintessential Spain

Stage 20, September 17th, Guadalajara to Alcalá de Henares, 38.9 km ITT

The Final Test

At 38.9 km, the Stage 20 individual time trial will suit power riders. Lacking in hills, the second half of the course sweeps gently downwards to the city of Alcalá de Henares. Again we are reminded of Don Quixote as Miguel Cervantes was christened here.

If the riders carried on past the finish line they would quickly arrive in Madrid , just 31 km further up the road. The race organizers will stage a Vuelta ‘homecoming' on the circuit that just seven days later will host the UCI World Road Race Championships. If the GC is settled before this stage starts, we will see a promenade into Spain 's capital with the stage outcome decided by the sprinters. However if the GC is still within reach of several riders we could well see a race that mimics the style of the World Championship Road race.

Madrid is one of the great capitals of Europe. Its architecture, museums and culture celebrate the great country of Spain . Here you will find Picasso and Dali, bull fights, flamenco, and historical links that date back to the Lower Paleolithic age.

Like the rest of Spain it lives with the past but is in the vanguard for all that is our modern world.

1st Heras, 2nd Menchov, and 3rd Sastre ( Image © Unipublic )

Roberto Heras had a 4'30” lead going into stage 20 and had only to avoid disaster to claim the Vuelta victory. Second placed Denis Menchov needed an extraordinary effort to make up the time.

Early times were very fast. Riders negotiated the gently downhill course with a favorable tailwind. One by one the early riders dropped the leading time until seventh place Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana) posted a time of 41'31”. Trailing at the 2 intermediate time checks, Plaza had an in creditable third sector. There were still 6 riders to finish but Plaza's time would be hard to beat.

Leader at the 15.8 km time check Francisco Mancebo came to the finish 10 second behind Plaza. Carlos Sastre drove hard across the finish but couldn't record the winning time. Winner of the first two time trials Denis Menchov saw the clock tick off 41'37”, only 6 seconds off Plaza. Only Roberto Heras remained on the course. Riding the wave of great fitness Heras led at the second time check (at 26 km). Into the third sector the Liberty Seguros rider taped out a strong tempo in a huge gear. At the finish the clock showed 41'31”, the stage win would be determined by hundredths of seconds.

Stage winner Ruben Plaza ( Image © Unipublic )

The stage win goes to Ruben Plaza with a time of 41' 3132”, beating Heras (41'31939”) by .008 of a second. But Roberto Heras did more than enough to secure his fourth Vuelta Championship.

The stage was a superb time trial.and the fastest in the Vuelta history. The stage was covered in an outstanding average speed of 56.218 km/h.




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