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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 September, 2003, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Valverde wins Spanish climb
Alejandro Valverde
Kelme rider Alejandro Valverde stole some of the limelight from the dominant ONCE team by winning the punishing 15th stage of the Tour of Spain.

Valverde outsprinted Colombia's Felix Cardenas and Spain's Roberto Heras at the mountaintop finish to the 172km stage at Sierra De La Pandera.

Isidro Nozal retained his lead despite suffering when third-placed Heras attacked with six kilometres remaining.

The day included what is considered to be the hardest climb of the race.

And ONCE rider Nozal lost more than a minute to the three stage leaders on the steep slopes of La Pandera, where Valverde took his second stage win of La Vuelta.

I was as surprised as anybody else to win today
Alejandro Valverde

Nozal still holds an advantage of three minutes and three seconds over second-placed Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano in the overall standings.

"I've come out of here very pleased because I only lost the time I expected to lose," said Nozal, who kept his leader's jersey for an 11th day.

"It was logical that I should have problems here because I'm not a specialist climber.

"Now I think I should be able to hold on at Sierra Nevada on Tuesday, a climb which suits me much better because it is not so steep even if it is much longer."

Valverde's win moved him up to fifth in the overall standings.

"I was as surprised as anybody else to win today," said the 23-year-old. "What was most important was the work done by my team mate Oscar Sevilla.

"As I can't handle really steep climbs, his support helped to keep me in the picture. Then it was all up to me to win the sprint."


Stage 15, Valdepenas to La Pandera

1 Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Kelme-Costa Blanca four hours 20 minutes 39 seconds
2 Felix Cardenas (Colombia) LaBarca 2-Cafes Baque same time
3 Roberto Heras (Spain) US Postal Berry Floor two seconds behind
4 Oscar Sevilla (Spain) Kelme-Costa Blanca 10secs
5 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spain) Domina Vacanze-Elitron 56secs
6 Luis Perez (Spain) Cofidis
7 Michael Rasmussen (Denmark) Rabobank
8 Manuel Beltran (Spain) US Postal-Berry Floor
9 Klaus Moller (Denmark) Milaneza-MSS all same time
10 Unai Osa (Spain) Ibanesto.com 1:02

Overall standings

1 Isidro Nozal (Spain) ONCE-Eroski 50:01:40
2 Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spain) ONCE-Eroski 3:03 behind
3 Roberto Heras (Spain) US Postal-Berry Floor 4:02
4 Manuel Beltran (Spain) US Postal-Berry Floor 5:22
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Kelme-Costa Blanca 6:37
6 Francisco Mancebo (Spain) Ibanesto.com 7:11
7 Michael Rasmussen (Denmark) Rabobank 8:27
8 Luis Perez (Spain) Cofidis 8:32
9 Unai Osa (Spain) Ibanesto.com 9:59
10 Santos Gonzalez (Spain) Domina Vacanze 10:59



SEE ALSO
Petacchi wins again
20 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Zabel wins sprint
17 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Zabel edges out Petacchi
15 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Valverde takes stage victory
14 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Rodriguez snatches home win
13 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Rasmussen lands stage win
12 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Stage win keeps Nozal ahead
11 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Petacchi makes history
10 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Etxebarria wins Vuelta stage
09 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Petacchi claims sprint victory
08 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Perez claims victory
07 Sep 03  |  Cycling
ONCE set Vuelta pace
06 Sep 03  |  Cycling


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