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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 September, 2003, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Heras poised for Vuelta victory
Roberto Heras
Heras's ride virtually assures him overall victory
Roberto Heras swept into the overall lead in the Tour of Spain with a brilliant performance against the clock that gave him a time-trial victory in Saturday's penultimate stage.

The US Postal rider, winner of the event in 2000 and runner-up a year ago, set out from San Lorenzo de El Escorial trailing race leader Isidro Nozal by one minute 55 seconds.

But he covered the hilly 11.2km (seven miles) to the finish in Alto de Abantos two minutes 23 seconds quicker than his rival to virtually guarantee victory when the race concludes on Sunday in Madrid.

Heras turned up the heat on ONCE rider Nozal on Friday, when he took more than a minute out of his lead after stepping up the pace of stage 19's final climb.

And he pounced at precisely the right moment on Saturday with a devastating display in the time-trial that turned his deficit into a 28-second advantage.

The Spaniard is now almost certain of winning the Tour, as there are no time bonuses up for grabs on the final day.

Nozal had led the race for 16 days and the yellow jersey had been in ONCE hands since stage one, with his team-mates Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano and Joaquin Rodriguez having preceded him on top of the general classification.

Alejandro Valverde's second place in the time-trial confirmed his rising star potential and took him into third overall at the expense of Gonzalez de Galdeano.


Stage 20 result
1. Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal, 25 minutes, 8 seconds
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Kelme, at 14 seconds
3. Felix Cardenas (Col) Labarca-2, same time
4. Fabian Jeker (Swi) Milaneza, 15 seconds
5. Santos Gonzalez (Spa) Domina Vacanze, 22 seconds
6. Roberto Laiseka (Spa) Euskaltel, 32 seconds
7. Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo, 34 seconds
8. Levi Leipheimer (US) Rabobank, 48 seconds
9. Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Kelme, 58 seconds
10. Unai Osa (Spa) iBanesto.com, 1:03
also:
12. David Millar (Gbr) Cofidis, 1:09
26. Isidro Nozal (Spa) ONCE-Eroski, 2:23

Overall standings
1. Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal, 65 hours, 40 minutes, 33 seconds
2. Isidro Nozal (Spa) ONCE-Eroski, at 28 seconds
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Kelme, at two minutes 25 seconds
4. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spa) ONCE, 3:27
5. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com, 4:47
6. Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal, 5:51
7. Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank, 5:56
8. Felix Cardenas (Col) Labarca-2, 6:33
9. Unai Osa (Spa) iBanesto.com, 6:51
10. Luis Perez (Spa) Cofidis, 7:56



SEE ALSO
Simeoni takes sprint finish
26 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Lobato attack earns win
25 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Millar lands stage win
24 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Cardenas climbs to victory
23 Sep 03  |  Cycling
Valverde wins Spanish climb
21 Sep 03  |  Cycling
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


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