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Welcome back to our second day in the mountains of southern Spain! We start at the seaside again today and then go up up up into the Sierra Nevada.
Things got going right from the start, and it looks like we have a group of 30 ahead right now, with a 1:30 lead. Some of the names in that group are: David De La Fuente (Fuji), David Moncoutie (Cofidis), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Xaviar Tondo (Andalucia), Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas), Igor Anton (Euskaltel), Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) and Amets Txurruka (Eusakltel).
We have five ranked climbs today. Things start out with the category three Alto de Berja right off the bat, at km 9.8. At km 43.6 is the Puerto de la Ragua (category one). Later on comes the Puerto de los Blancares (category three) at km 110. The ending is rather interesting, as the climbing starts at km 146. They go up to the category one Alto del Monashil, which is actually about half way up to the final climb of the day. After an extremely short descent, the riders then continue climbing up to the 2511 metre mountaintop finish on the Alto de Sierra Nevada, which is “Hors Categorie”.
Moncoutie was able to build up his lead in the mountain ranking by taking the points at the day's first climb. The order over the top was:
1.David Mouncoutie (Cofidis)
2.Igor Anton (Euskaltel)
3.Rein Taaramae (Cofidis)
4.Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank)
We are down to 170 riders. We had a total of 10 riders yesterday who were either DNF or DNS, with the biggest name of course being Alexander Vinokourov. There are still six teams which are complete. Bbox is missing four riders, and Astana is down three riders.
Apparently Alejandro Valverde didn't sign in this morning, but we are assured he is still in the race!
Let's change that: we are now down to 167 riders. The next three to leave the race are Davide Vigano (Fuji), Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r) and Sebastien Chavanel (FdJ).
The escape situation is very fluid at the moment, so we will give it a chance to settle down a bit before we start listing all those names.
Here's how things look at the moment. We have nine riders with a 22 second lead: Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), David Moncoutie (Cofidis), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel), Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), David Garcia (Xacobeo), Adrian Palomares (Contentpolis), Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoliel) and Pieter Weening (Rabobank).
They are followed by: Igor Anton (Euskaltel), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r), Xavier Tondo (Andalucia), Antonio Peidra (Andalucia), Daniel Navarro (Astana), Xavier Florencio (Cervelo), Amael Moinard (Cofidis), David De La Fuente (Fuji), Fredrik Kessiakof ( Fuji), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Marco Marzano (Lampre), Daniele Bennati (Liquigas), Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas), Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), Francis De Greef (Silence-Lotto), Matthias Russ (Milram), Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), and Matteo Carrara (Vacansoliel).
Some more riders have decided to call it quits: Eros Cappechi (Fuji) and stage-winner Simon Garrans and Dominique Rollins, both of Cervelo.
The nine leaders now have 1:05 over the chase group, with the peloton over three minutes back.
The leaders now have 57 seconds on the chase group. The peloton has apparently decided to let them go, as they are now 4.07 down.
Marzano has dropped out of the chase group and is on his way back to the peloton.
The leaders are now 1:36 over the chasers, with the peltoton at 5:32.
How about some weather today? It will range from sunny and 28° Celsius in the valleys, and 12° Celsius and overcast at the mountaintop finish.
Who would have expected to see Stuart O'Grady in the big break group in yesterday's mountain stage? The Saxo Bank rider didn't make it to the end in the lead, but ended a quite respectable 37th, only four-plus minutes down. It wasn’t exactly my preferred kind of stage. I just tried everything but it is a bit out of my league,” he said. More here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/ogrady-shows-courage-on-tough-day
What a day for Team Garmin-Slipstream yesterday! In our race here, Ryder Hesjedal took the Queen Stage and Tom Danielson is holding in there with a strong fourth place overall. And across the pond, Dave Zabriskie won the time trial at the Tour of Missouri to claim the overall lead there. Here are some thoughts from Hesjedal and Danielson: www.cyclingnews.com/news/purple-patch-continues-for-garmin-slipstream
Here are the latest time gaps: the first group is 2:10 ahead of the chasers, with the peloton at 7:14.
Shane Stokes as on the scene for Cyclingnews and just called in to let us know what the descent of the first category one climb, the Puerta de la Ragua, is like. “The road is very narrow, two cars barely fit next to each other. There are no guardrails, so it is very dangerous. It is not a sheer drop, but bad news if you go down. And of coure there are many sharp blind corners.”
Bbox is now down to only four riders, as Franck Bouyer is the next to leave the race.
Marzano changed his mind and made his way back to the chase group, which is now 2:55 behind the leaders. The peloton is over eight minutes down.
Stokes also had a chat with Irish rider Philip Deignan of Cervelo. “I am really happy with how the stage played out," he said about Friday's stage. "I rode my own race on the final climb with a tempo I could hold. It paid off. I’ll have to wait and see how my body reacts now. I’ll keep playing it the way I’ve been playing it and try to hold onto the GC. It’s going to be harder to win stages when I’m 7:22 down in GC because I won’t be given a lot of freedom but stage wins never come easy.”
He is also happier with this race than with the Giro d'Italia – he crashed five times in the Italian race and is having much better luck here in Spain.
Moncoutie continued to pad his lead in the mountain ranking, as he was first over the category one La Ragua. Here's how they scored:
1.David Moncoutie (Cofidis)
2.Pieter Weening (Rabobank)
3.David Garcia (Xacobeo)
4.Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoliel)
5.Adrian Palomares (Contetpolis)
6.Rein Taaramae (Cofidis)
7.Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank)
8.Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epartne)
9.Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel)
On that dangerous descent, the nine leaders have 2:24 on the chasers and 8:32 on the peloton.
No changes at the top of the field yesterday. Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d'Epargne continues to lead things, by seven seconds over Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto). Robert Gesink of Rabobank made up some time with his closing attack and is now only 18 seconds back in third place.
Andre Greipel of Columbia is still in the points jersey, leading there with 99 points. With Tyler Farrar out of the race, Tom Boonen (Quick Step) is now second, with Borut Bozic (Vacansoliel) third.
Oscar Freire of Rabobank has abandoned the race.
The groups are getting shaken up again. Right now we have Moerenhout, Weening and Moncoutie 1:14 ahead of Palomares. All others out of their earlier group have dropped back to the chase group, for which we don't have a time.
That gives us three leaders ahead of a 25-rider group, and then the main group.
Palomares has fallen back to the chase group. The three leaders now have a nearly three-minute gap.
These are stages for the mountain men, and yesterday David Moncoutie of Cofidis retained the lead in the mountain ranking. David De La Fuente (Fuji) is second, and Pieter Weening of Rabobank is third.
That means that if our three current leaders come through to the end, De La Fuente will drop out of second place.
Allan Davis has happily recovered from the intestinal difficulties which forced him out of the Vuelta earlier this week and is planning to start in Paris-Bruxelles today. You can read more about it here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/davis-returns-to-competition-in-france-today
Aha, it is not Pieter Weening in the lead group, but Rein Taaramae.
And Milram's Björn Schröder joins the parade of those exiting the race.
Over in the combination ranking, Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) has a narrow lead over Valverde. Damiano Cunego of Lampre is third.
Just to make sure we all know where we are: The three leaders are going through the feed zone, with a lead of just under three minutes on the large chase group. The peloton is taking its time and is now 9:58 back.
Caisse d'Epargne is still the best team, followed by Astana and Fuji-Servetto.
Yet another big name has gone out of the Vuelta: Tom Boonen says goodbye....
We had another intermediate sprint tucked in there, which of course went to our three leaders.
And the current gaps are: the chase group is 4:35 down, with the peloton back.
Who do you think will take the stage today? Will one our of the break groups come through? Will one of the top favourites make time good? You can talk about it here: forum.cyclingnews.com/
Our three leaders are now going up the third climb of the day, the category three Blancares.
Andre Greipel of Columbia-HTC knows his role at the Vuelta, and right now that role is to be the one to yell “Gruppetto!” at the final climb. But the German can not only shout well but sprint well, too. In fact he is in the green jersey of the points leader, and looks to hold on to it until the end. His DS Brian Holm tells us he thinks Greipel has good chances to not only hold on to it but to win a few mores sprints in the closing week too: www.cyclingnews.com/news/holm-feeling-good-about-greipels-chances-1
As noted, the biggest name to drop our of the Vuelta yesterday was Alexander Vinokourov of Astana. “Vino was doing well in the break but was dropped on the second climb and this is logical for his first race back,” DS Sean Yates explained. “This is a very hard race and today there was 70-80km of climbing! The next few days are hard. Vino is disappointed but he realises this is all normal after two years away from competition. His courage was gone when he was at the back of the peloton.”
The third mountain of the day has been climbed, and once again Moncoutie has taken the most points.
1.David Moncoutie (Cofidis)
2.Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank)
3.Rein Taaramae (Cofidis)
4.David De La Feunte (Fuji)
The gap to the peloton had crept up to over 13 minutes, but Euskaltel-Euskadi has moved into the lead chase work, and brought it down to 12:39.
Rabobank's Robert Gesink was not totally satisfied with his performance in yesterday's stage, in which he attacked in the finale to finish third. What was wrong? He had his eye on the stage win. “I won't have that many opportunities to win a stage in the Vuelta. You have to take the opportunities that come.”
Will our three leaders come through? The stage does tend to go rather dramatically up at the end, but all three have already proven their climbing abilities. With only 34 km still to go, they have a lead of 6:13 over the chasers, and the peloton is 12:02 back.
It'a a beautiful sunny day for the Vuelta today. But it looks like our three leaders have lost one of theirs -- we only see two. Let's see if we can figure out who is missing.
As might be expected, it was Taamarae who has fallen back. He put in yeoman service today to help teammate Moncoutie.
Chris Sutton took his first win of the season this afternoon after winning the Tour of Britain's first stage from Scunthorpe to York. The Garmin-Slipstream rider won a bunch sprint ahead of Barloworld's Michel Merlo and Ben Swift (Katusha). You can read more about it here: www.cyclingnews.com/races/tour-of-britain-2-1/stages/stage-1/results
Liquigas moves in to help with the lead work. The duo in front are 6:45 ahead of the second group, which is 4:15 ahead of the peloton. Counting up on all our fingers and toes, and borrowing a few from the cat, we reckon that makes the gap from the leaders to the peloton 11 minutes exactly.
The chase group is now falling apart.
We have now started on the final climb. Or is that climbs? At any rate, up they go.
Moncoutie has taken off and left Mourenhout behind him.
Moncoutie is now 6:58 ahead of the chase group, with the peloton barely three minutes behind them.
The peloton, too, has fallen apart on this final ascent. We did see Valverde and Danielson in the favourites' group, and we assume Evans and Gesink are in there, too.
The remnants of the chase group are now working their way up a 12 percent gradient section.
We can confirm that Evans and Samuel Sanchez are in the favourites' group, which is about 1:40 behind the chasers.
The sun is shining here, but we can already see the clouds atop the mountain.
Rodriguez has moved out of the chase group and is on his way forward. He has worn the "virtual gold jersey" most of the day.
Moncoutie has 6:35 on Rodriguez, with the 20-man favourites' group 1:30 behind them.
Danielson is no longer in the favourites' group, but we have definitely seen Gesink now.
Rodriguez practically stops on the road. He has obviously been told to stop and wait for his captain Valverde, who is otherwise alone.
It looks like there are nine in the Valverde group.
Moncoutie hits a 16% section on the climb. He is not alone -- there are many fans there to cheer him on.
Only 50 seconds now between the chase group and the Valverde group, but Moncoutie still has over six minutes.
Also Basso is in the Valverde group.
Sanchez is out of the Valverde group.
Sanchez definitely out of the group. He has a teammate with him, though, to help and try to pull im back up.
Moncoutie is over the top of the penultimate climb.
From the ranking at the Monachil, the riders then face a very difficult six km long twisting descent before they start up the day's final climb, which features an average 10 percent gradient
Basso leads the now-six-man strong Valverde group up the 16% section.
Only 27 seconds now between the chase group and the Valverde group.
Not much further for Moncoutie, and it looks like he will take this stage.
Sierra Nevada is, of course, a major ski resort in the winter, and a real cycling centre in the milder weather.
The Valverde group catches a number of riders out of the former chase group, including Navarro.
Very bad timing here: Evans has a flat tyre and has to stop and wait for help.
He doesn't get a new tyre, but a whole new bike. It took a lot of time, though, and he has probably lost a whole minute on his closest rivals.
Unaware of the drama behind him, Moncoutie keeps on his way.
Evans give furious chase among the team cars.
Evans is now 1:08 behind the Valverde group.
The Valverde group is now about 12, as they have picked up a number of riders from the former chase group.
Evnas catches up with another chasing group, which should help him some.
Only five and a half minutes between Moncoutie and the Valverde group, with Evans another minute back.
Evans is now in the group with Sanchez. His Euskaltel teammate Anton moves into the lead work to help pull them up the main group.
Gesink now leads the Valverde group. Will he attack again, and take advantage of Evans' absence?
Moncoutie still has five and a half minutes on the Valverde group.
Moncoutie's lead is dropping constantly, but it is still just under five minutes. Evans is still over a minute down from where he wants to be.
The Evans group now catches a handful of riders out of the earlier large chase group.
Basso leads the Valverde group with Gesink right behind him.
Sierra Nevada is featuring its tenth stage finish in the Vuelta. The first was in 1979, and the most recent was won by Santi Perez in 2004.
Less than 10 km left for Moncoutie.
Only six in the Valverde group now.
Valverde, Gesink, Mosquera, Basso, and two others......
The Evans group is hovering at 1:10 behind the Valverde group.
Navarro and Rodriguez are the other two.
Rodriguez pulls the little group around his captain up the mountain.
Moncoutie sitll looks calm, cool and collected in the lead.
Only five in the Valverde group -- who has fallen back?
Valverde, Gesink, Basso, Mosquera and Rodriguez are still there. Navarro is out.
Evans leads his little group, but we don't think much of his chances to catch up.
Only 3:57 now for Moncoutie over the Valverde group, with Evans still over a minute behind them.
Evans and Sanchez now 58 seconds back.
Sanchez now leads Evans up the climb.
Moerenhout is now in the Valverde group, having finally been caught. That could be a big help for Gesink.
Mosquera is the first to attack out of the Valverde group, but they aren't going to let that happen.
Navarro had fallen back to the Evans-Sanchez group, and has now fallen back out of it.
Sanchez now has gapped Evans. The Australian puts his head down and does his best to catch the Spaniard.
Moerenhout is out of the Valverde group.
Six km for Moncoutie.
Moerenhout is now between Sanchez and Evans. Evans can't catch up, but is still trying his best.
Less than three minutes for Moncoutie, and Sanchez is only 49 seconds behind the Valverde group.
Rodriguez is out of the Valverde group.
Only 5 km left for Moncoutie, and it looks a little flatter for him now.
Evans is now way behind Sanchez.
Valverde moves into the lead work now.
The four in the Valverde group are still all huddlng together.
Two and a half minutes for Moncoutie. That ought to be enough.
Evnas hits a not-so-steep section, while his rivals are 49 seconds ahead.
Two km for Moncoutie. Will we see any attacks out of the Valverde group today?
Sanchez has now caught Rodriguez, who had fallen out of the Valverde group.
Mosquera goes again. This time they let him go.
Less than two minutes for Moncoutie.
Valverde is the next to take off. He quickly catches Mosquera.
Gesink and Basso are right there with them too within seconds, though.
The last km for Moncoutie.
Mosquere has a slight lead over the other three.
Moncoutie has 1:42 over the Valverde group.
Valverde, Gesink and Basso ride nearly three abreast at the moment, the better to keep an eye on one another.
Final km for Mosquera, who is 21 seconds ahead of the Valverde group.
Moncoutie takes yet another curve on lhis way to his well-deserved reward.
He pumps his fist as he sees the finish line, and raises it in triumph as he crosses the line.
Mosquera sprints with himself to pick up as much time as he can. He finishes nearly a minute behind Moncoutie.
The other three sprint for third place and the final bonus seconds. Once again Valverde takes it. Not so far behind them is Sanchez.
Evans comes in 2:23 behind the winner, which is more than a minute behind Valverde. A crushing day for him.
Here is the top nine on the stage:
1 David Moncoutié (COF) 5:09:22
2 Ezequiel Mosquera (KGZ) +0:52
3 Robert Gesink (RAB) +1:16
4 Alejandro Valverde (GCE) +1:17
5 Ivan Basso (LIQ) +1:17
6 Samuel Sánchez (EUS) +1:37
7 Joaquín Rodríguez (GCE) +2:09
8 Cadel Evans (SIL) +2:23
9 Paolo Tiralongo (LAM) +2:31
and for GC we have:
1 Alejandro Valverde 56:23:08
2 Robert Gesink 0.27
3 Ivan Basso 1:02
4 Cadel Evans 1.23
5 Samuel Sanchez 1.32
6. Ezequiel Mosquera 1.46
That's it for Spain today! Lots of riders dropped out along the way, and lots of bad luck for Cadel Evans. But a great performance by our stage winner David Moncoutie.
We'll be back again tomorrow of course, so join us then for antoher day of fun and games in the mountains!