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Date Posted: 11:29:19 09/02/04 Thu
Author: ChrisH
Subject: Vuelta favorites?

Even MrBookmaker is having trouble setting the odds. There are plenty of contenders, but none that I would call a favorite. So, in the absence of true favorites, I'll use the star system and list riders I think have a real chance of winning -- not guys I think can podium.

5 stars: none
4 stars: Heras, Valverde, Vinokourov, Beloki, Sevilla
3 stars: Hamilton, Aitor Gonzalez, Cunego, Pecharroman

Sorry, I tried to put Valverde ahead of Heras, but Kelme is outclassed by Liberty. So while Valverde might be a bit stronger than Heras, the huge difference in team strength may be too much to overcome. Go Heras!

As for the route, I don't believe it's so tough that it favors Heras over Valverde. There are only two climbs that I would call "HC", the Velefique and the finishing climb to the Calar Alto (both in stage 12). On the easier climbs, Valverde can match Heras and may even gain time.

I'm also interested in seeing how Martin will do. Beloki's team rivals Liberty, T-Mobile, and Phonak.

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