Greipel wins Vuelta stage 16. Don Quixote's favorite rider fails.

Where's the windmill? I don't see the windmill.

Where's the windmill? I don't see the windmill.

Andre the Giant and Don Quixote. One stage, two stories — we’ll start with the famous novel and save the short story for bedtime.

First, our Don Quixote, Jesus Rosendo Prado of the Spanish Andalucía-Cajasur team. He set off alone on his 170k quest for victory on the roads of La Mancha, the region famed as the setting for Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Smart of Prado to ride a racing bike instead of a donkey. (He must have read the classic in grade school.)

Talk about illusions and fantasy– the race from Cordoba to Puertollano is generally a flat stage made for sprinters. Which was why nobody else even bothered to try an escape. The definition of quixotic is “behavior that is noble in an absurd way.” This is a man we can respect.

He plugged away until his lead stretched to over 12 minutes. He dreamed his dream and grandiose ideas played in his head: unseating Alejandro Valverde, stealing the gold jersey, sweeping Penelope Cruz off her feet. Taking her away to some island and plying her with rioja and fabulous hunks of manchego cheese, a speciality of the Spanish region. If only Pancho Sanchez were with him on this long road to bring cold water and energy bars.

Where's my bike? This horse is useless.

Where's my bike? This horse is useless.

Perhaps, in a revelry, he saw himself with a starring role in Terry Gilliam’s upcoming movie, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote which is due for release in 2011. With Johnny Depp rumored to be out of the picture, there was room for a new star.

Sadly, the sprinter teams aren’t big fans of Cervantes or Don Quixote or long breakaways. They shut poor Jesus Rosendo Prado down, catching him twenty kilometers from the finish. He spent his last moments of glory accepting the waves and venga-vengas of the spectators. A man shouted “Opa Hombre,” and just like that, the magic ride was over.

Now, a short story with the happy ending, at least for Andre Greipel of Columbia-HTC. The typical high speed ramp up 10k out of town, with Liquigas, Quick Step and Milram hoping for a miracle. The train rolls, Andre the Giant sitting back in the lounge chair, warming up the legs. No drama here, no long shots, this isn’t Mission Impossible.

Other than Gerald Ciolek of Milram, it was Andre the Giant against the B-team. Fast men Tyler Farrar, Tom Boonen and Oscar Friere left days ago — nobody but lead-out men to swat. Andre to the front, Andre sprints, Andre the Giant wins. Not as riveting, philosophical or comedic as Don Quixote but a great finish if you’re Bob Stapleton, the Columbia HTC owner.

His illusions shattered, Cervantes’ hero died sane and broken. Twisted Spoke hopes Jesus Rosendo Prado continues to dream. At least as long as he has a contract.

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