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Welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the tenth stage of the Vuelta a España. The 175.7km stage is from Tarragona to Vilanova i la Geltrú.
After the first rest day in this year’s race, the riders are back in the saddle for a hilly stage that includes the Lo Rat Penat climb, 30km from the finish.
The climb is short but includes a section at 23% and other longer parts at over 12%. It will be a test for the overall contenders and could see some of the sprinters unable to get back on before the finish. It should be another exciting day of racing.
The stage started very fast, with 51km covered in the first hour. Riders are still fighting to form the break of the day, with side winds also splitting the race.
A little earlier the first intermediate sprint of the stage was a high-speed battle. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia got it, ahead of Tyler fArrar (Garmin) and overall contender Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha).
Belgium's Philippe Gilber (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has just won the second sprint of the day after 58km of racing. However Rodriguez is now the virtual race leader after his third place. However if he wants the red jersey at the end of the stage, his Katusha team will have to control the race. That's why the Russian squad is now chasing the 12 riders that are up the road.
Gilbert is in the breakaway and started the stage just 1:55 down overall. Is Phil looking for another spell in red on the day the Belgian national team is announced for the world championships?
Perhaps not. The Belgian has just sat up and drifted back to the bunch, happy to have secured the time bonus. His team still has Greg Van Avermaet in the break, which now consists of 11 riders. They have a gap of two minutes.
The race is now near the top of the first climnb of the stage, with 73km covered. The break is now pretty much established. Lets see if it is allowed to stay away.
As you may have seen, both Andy Schleck and Stuart O'Grady did not start today's stage. Schleck told Cyclingnews here that he went out for a drink after dinner, which violates team rules. Riis is set to explain his side of the stroy after the finish today.
The gap continues to grow gradually as the stage is about to dive down the long descent via Pontons. The stage propfile indicates there is iover 15km of technical descending. It could be interesting, especially with the feed zone in th middle of the descent.
Can someone gab my mussette if I miss it?
The 11-rider breakaway continues to increase its lead on the peloton.
It has been a fast a furious day in the saddle so far and a fast a furious day for news here on Cyclingnews. Alberto Contador's 2010 season is virtually over but he has said he plans to ride the Tour de France and the Vuelta in 2011.
It sems that Andy Schleck and Stuart O'Grady only had two drinks and were back in the hotel at one o'clock, when they bumped into Bjarne Riis in the, erm..., hotel bar.
Riis arrived at the Vuelta on monday and seems to have laid down the law to his riders. you can read his thoughts on his riders and why he thinks Frank Schleck should go on the attack here.
The gap is growing on the descent and is now up to 3:25.
Christophe Le Mevel (FDJ) is the best placed rider in the break. But he is 6:36 down and so not an overall threat.
The peloton might let these 11 stay away and see which of their rivals struggles on the Lo Rat Penat climb. The climb will spark a selection but the possible pursuit match afterwards will create the best action today.
Anders Lund is the only Saxo Bank in the breakaway. Perhaps he was tucked up in bed by ten o'clock so he could go on the attack today.
The 11 riders are extending their lead even more. The gap is now up to 4:35.
The race is now heading towards the coast and the holiday town of Stiges, before turning back in land for the climb of Alto del Rat Penat.
Katusha's Joaquin “Purito” Rodriguez is from Catalunya, so he knows the climb of Rat Penat pretty well.
“It’s only 4.4km long but it’s brutal”, he said before the stage.
“After one kilometre of climbing, there’s a section at 20% and it can create some gaps. The downhill is tricky too.”
The little Spanish climber knows he will lose time in the key time trial stage of the Vuelta and so he has to attack on the climbs to gain time.
“I’m not a situation right now. My weak point remains the time trial. If the GC remains like this before the 46 kilometres against the clock in Penafiel, I wouldn’t make the top 5. So I have to attack and I intend to do so in the three hard uphill finishes of the north of Spain.”
Xavier Tondo is the other local boy from the top five on GC. His town, Valls, was on the route today, 40 kilometres after the start. He got a special welcome.
“My fan club has organised a concert and the race also passes in front of my mother’s house”, he said.
“Today’s stage is very complicated,” he predicted. “The Rat Penat is very steep and the whole stage is up and down.”
As we appraoch the final 50km of the stage, the gap is down to 5:00.
Igor Anton's Euskaltel-Euskadi team is riding on the front, keeping the break under control but now Katusha takes over and other riders begin to gather on the front before the Rat Penat climb.
The Rat Penat is just 20km away.
Giampaolo Cheula (Fotton-Servetto) is leading the breakway. It will be interesting to see who of the 11 manages to stay away over the Rat Penat climb.
Australia’s Allan Davis (Astana) is not confident of staying in the peloton and fighting for a possible stage win.
“I’ve been told the Rat Penat is too steep for me but if I see an opportunity to go for a stage win, I’ll give it a go because I
feel very good and I want to win,” he said.
The break is a spectacular coast road now. It is actually quite windy out there.
This twisting road will stretch out the peloton even before the climb starts. It is however helping the chase. The gap is down to four minutes.
The road is like the final of Milan-San Remo, except the riders have the Med on their right instead of their left. The speed and tension before the finale is just the same.
Denis Menchov has had a poor Vuelta so far. He has revealed he is struggling with a knee problem: “I’ve felt pain in my knee during the whole stage on Sunday. I didn’t touched the bike at all during the rest day, I only got treatment for my knee. I don’t how I am and I can not draw any plan for now,” he said.
The break is now on the climb and it is hurting the riders legs. The steepest part is coming up soon. It is 23% at one, leg-breaking, part.
The peloton is stretching out on the steep section of the climb. And it is steep!
The overall contenders are trying to save their best for later on. The USA's Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) is well placed yet again.
The break is spliting up front as the gap dips below two minutes.
Javier Moreno (Andalucia-Cajasur) and Christophe Le Mevel (FDJ) have moved clear of the rest of the breakaway and look pretty good. As Katusha now sets the pace on the front of the peloton.
Friedrik Willems is trying to keep Luiqigas teammate Daniele Bennati in contact with the peloton. He could get back on and win the sprint.
This is a nasty climb and the breakaway has splintered. The peloton is going to pick them up before the finish.
Javier Moreno (Andalucia-Cajasur) and Christophe Le Mevel (FDJ) are now at the top of the climb, with Finotto just behind them.
The overall leaders make the climb look easy but the gap is still 2:15. Just over 30km to go.
The descent is as nasty as the climb: Narrow, fast and bumpy.
The breakaway is comnig back together on the descent.
The riders had forgoten there is a nasty little kick up partway down the descent. This is hurting everybody.
There are now 10 riders up front, with a select group of 30 or so riders chasing them. The gap is 1:50.
We've had a clarification on times and the peloton is at 2:30, with a chase group of four riders at only 1:40. Carlos Barredo is there but has just had a mechanical problem. Stay out of his way at the finish folks!
Finotto is leading the remains of the break, spinning a low gear on a short climb. Poor Barredo seems tuck in a massive gear and has lost contact of the chasers. Mori is struggling too. He was in the breakway.
The peloton seems to be losing interest in chasing the break. Le Mevel and Moreno are still leading the action, with Erviti (Caisse d'Epargne) seemingly chasing them.
Correction, it is Erviti out front, being chased by the rest ofthe break. There is still 15km to go, with two nasty climbs in the last 5km.
Here come Katusha. They are chasing the break and controlling the big overall rivals, so that Joaquin Rodriguez can take the overall race lead after securing two bonus seconds in an intermediate sprint.
Erviti is going for glory, looking to give Caisse d'Epargne yet another stage win.
With the team cars blocked behind the peloton, the Shimano neutra lcar is now feeding the breakaway. Feeding officially closes 20km from the finish but there is plenty of extra drinking going on in this Vuelta.
Erviti now has 30 seconds on the chasers. The two late climbs coming up will be vital.
Finotto has jumped away in pursuit of Erviti but that will surely only help the Spaniard by disrupting the chase.
Erviti has lost a few seconds but is looking good.
Erviti's mouth is open and he's gasping for air as he tucks over the bars of his Pinarello. He stil lhas 30 seconds on the chasers.
The peloton is closing down the chasers but there is just 5km to go. Now Dimitri Fofonov (Astan) is trying to go across to the chasers from the peloton.
Erviti is blasting between the Cypress trees, with just 3km to go. You could blaance a plate on his flat, very still back. Nice riding style from the man from Pamplona.
Fofonov is chasing hard but he won't catch the break or Erviti.
Last km for Erviti. Behind they're racing for second place.
Erviti takes it. Giving Caisse d'Epargn back to back stage victories after David Lopez won stage nine.
Greg Van Avermaet (Omega Pharma-Lotto) takes the sprint for second but the break made a mistake by letting Erviti stay away. Bennati wins the sprint behind at the head of the select peloton.
Spain's Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) is confirmed as the new race leader after he picked up two seconds in an intermediate sprint. Anton slips to second place, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) at 4 seconds.
David Moncoutie (Cofidis) keeps the blue polka-dot climber's jersey and also leads the combination white jersey competition. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) won the first intermediate sprint and so kept the green points jersey.
That’s it from the Vuelta today. We’re off for a beer.
There will be full results, a report and a photo gallery here on Cyclingnews very soon.
Join us tomorrow here on live for more racing from Spain.
Stage 11 heads into the Pyrenees with a 208.4km stage from Vilanova i la Geltrú to Andorra. It is the first real mountain finish in this year’s Vuelta.