Hello and welcome back to the Vuelta. We are halfway through today, and our 11th stage takes us exactly 200 km from Murcia to Caravaca La Cruz.
13:02 CEST (166.6km remaining from 186.6km)
The peloton seems to be taking it a little easier today, there is still no successful escape so far today.
Here's the first action of the day. Andalucia's Xavier Tondo was making what seems like his daily visit to the team doctor's car when a sidewind came up and split the peloton. Some 20 riders got dropped, and of course Tondo was among them.
So maybe that wasn't really the first action of the day: we have already had the first intermediate sprint on the stage. Columbia's Andre Greipel cemented his lead in the points category by taking the sprint, ahead of his teammate Greg Henderson and Silence-Lotto's Philippe Gilbert.
13:10 CEST (157.6km remaining from 186.6km)
All of the dropped riders, including Tondo, have now gotten back to the peloton.
We are down to 183 riders in the race, having lost a total of 15 so far. Bbox Bouygues Telecom is the hardest hit, having lost three of its nine riders. Three teams have lost two riders each: Andalucia-Cajasur, Contentpolis-AMPO, and Quick Step.
There are two climbs in today's stage. The first one comes early, at km 50.8, and is the Category 1 Alto Collado Bermejo, which tops out at 1200 metres. The second one comes nearer the end, at km 150.7, and is the category two Alto Campo de San Juan.
13:16 CEST (154.6km remaining from 186.6km)
With the first climb looming ahead, Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Xavier Florencio (Cervelo) and Amael Moinard (Cofidis) tried to make a break for it. No deal – they were soon gobbled up again.
13:21 CEST (151.6km remaining from 186.6km)
The field starts up the first climb of the day, and Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel), Pierrick Fedrgo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and Adrian Palomars (Contentpolis) take off on an escape.
13:29 CEST (149.6km remaining from 186.6km)
Those three riders have become seven. They have now been joined by Arkaitz Duran (Fuji), Ludovid Turpin (Ag2r), Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoliel) and David Garcia (Xacobeo).
No word yet on what the gap is.
This is a rolling stage, which is another way of saying its not steep enough to be a mountain stage. Not a heck of a lot of flat out there today.
We're not getting any news from the course at the moment, so we can't say what is happening with the break group.
Team Sky has announced the first six riders to its new team, to start racing next season. “The team aims to: create the first British winner of the Tour de France within five years; inspire people of all ages and abilities to get on their bikes, through the team’s positive profile, attitude and success; and add further support to competitive cycling in Great Britain,” the team said. Who are those six riders? Look here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/team-sky-unveils-first-six-riders
Today's course takes us to the west. After 125km, the peloton crosses the finish for the first time, but then takes of for a 75 km circuit which includes a category two climb at km. 150. Will that be enough to tire out the sprinters, or will they be able to come back?
We now hear that the break was caught shortly after it had formed, but we are still suffering from a lack of information from the race. Sorry!
14:01 CEST (143.6km remaining from 186.6km)
We didn't have to wait long for the next attack. Amets Txurruka and Johnny Hoogerland took off again, and were joined by David Moncoutie (Cofidis) and David De La Fuente (Fuji) and they quickly built up a one-minute lead.
You may remember that Moncoutie and De La Fuenta are battling it out for the KOM classification.
14:08 CEST (136.6km remaining from 186.6km)
Now things are happening fast and furious. Michael Albasini (Columbia) and John Gadret (Ag2r) have called it quits for the race and abandoned.
Up ahead Tuxurraka and Hoogerland dropped the two mountain ranking candidates De La Fuente and Moncoutie. Moncoutie caught up with them again, but De La Fuente was not able to.
14:10 CEST (128.6km remaining from 186.6km)
The seemingly-tireless Hoogerland attacked out of the group, but was caught again.
Fredrik Kessiakoff of Fuji has attacked out of the peloton.
Here's how they came over the top of that first climb. That will give the KOM jersey back to Moncoutie.
1st MONCOUTIE David
2nd TXURRUKA Amets
3rd HOOGERLAND Johnny
4th DE LA FUENTE RASILLA David
5th KESSIAKOFF Fredrik
6th GARCIA ACOSTA José Vicente
7th ZANDIO ECHAIDE Xabier
8th KIRYIENKA Vasili
9th VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro
14:19 CEST (121.6km remaining from 186.6km)
Txurruka, Moncoutie and Hoogerland have built their lead up to 8:40.
De La Fuente waited for his teammate Kessiakof, but both have been gathered back into the peloton.
Will we see a mass finish today, or will the expected escape group make it through to the end? Share your thoughts on the matter in our forum at : forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php
The gap is now up nearly 10 minutes.
That huge gap means that eternal-escapee Johnny Hoogerland is now our virtual race leader. He came into the stage only 4:41 down, in 16th place.
One big name will be missing for the final week of the Vuelta. Saxo Bank's Fränk Schleck will fly home on tomorrow's rest day for knee surgery on Friday. He banged the knee up in his Amstel Gold Race crash back in April, and it just hasn't been right since. It also looks likely that he will miss the World Championships later this month: www.cyclingnews.com/news/frank-schleck-out-of-vuelta-and-worlds-with-knee-surgery
It's going to be another hot one today. The coolest temps will come atop the climbs, but other than that the riders can expect more scorching temperatures up to 29°C. And sunshine pure.
Caisse d'Epargne finally decided that both Hoogerland and Moncoutie (only 6:45 down) were too much of a threat, and have started the chase. The gap has now dropped to 8:40.
14:48 CEST (111.6km remaining from 186.6km)
Jose Rubiera of Astana has called for the help of the race doctor.