Joseba Beloki, the second place finisher of the 2002 Tour de France was part of the winning ONCE-Eroski team that won the opening team time trial of the race. Beloki held the lead until the fifth stage when he lost it to a teammate but on the sixth stage which was won by Roberto Heras. Beloki lost considerable time to other general classification contenders Óscar Sevilla, Aitor González and Heras. Sevilla took the leader's jersey which he had worn for much of the previous edition of the Vuelta. After the first individual time trial, his teammate Aitor González was within one second of the jersey. On stage 15, González increased the pace of the group and put Sevilla in difficulty. Heras profited from this and attacked to take the stage win and the lead. Heras kept the lead until the final day when there was an individual time trial. Heras started the day with a lead of one minute and eight seconds over González but he lost this in the first 25 km of the time trial. González took the lead and won the Vuelta, Heras came second and Beloki recovered to eventually finish third overall. The Vuelta was also marked by three stage wins of Italian sprinter Mario Cipollini who retired from the race after his third stage win to prepare for the World Championships.