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The 12th stage of the Vuelta should be one for the sprinters again. There is only one ranked climb, and it is fairly early on. Which of the speedy men still in the race has come over the first batch of mountains best, and will be able to turn on the speed at the end?
Hello and welcome back to the Vuelta a Espana. We are up to stage 12 now, and are heading south again. This is a “lumpy” stage with one category two climb at the 54km mark. From there on there are a few “lumps” in the road, with the last 35 km being pretty much straight and flat.
Six men got away today only 10 km into things. Markus Eichler (Milram), Perrig Quemeneur (Bbox), Gustavo Cesar (Xacobeo Galicia), Lars Ytting Bak (HTC-Columbia), Antonio Piedra (Andalucia CajaSur) and Biel Kadri (AG2R) . They were joined at km 51 by David Garcia ( Xacobeo Galicia), Marco Marzano ( Lampre) and Gustavo Rodriguez (Xacobeo Galicia) So far, though, their gap has only topped out at 3:18, and at km 62 it is now 2:36
The leaders have gone over the top – of the day's climb, that is. Garcia lead teammate Cesar over, with Quemeneur third.
Does Xacobeo want to win? We guess so, since they have sent three men into today's group.
David Vitoria (Footon) has abandoned.
One rider was, of course, missing at the start line this morning: Roy Sentjens of Milram. The Belgian was suspended yesterday evening after it was announced he had tested positive for EPO at an out-of-competition control in mid-August.
Will Mark Cavendish finally get his first Vuelta sprint win here today? This stage has “mass-sprint” just written all over it – assuming, of course, that a break group doesn't stay away until the end.
The gap has now moved up to 2:58. Euskaltel will keep an eye on this group, though, since Garcia is only 5:14 down in GC.
Today's stage ends in Lleida, returning for the first time since 1989. And a British sprinter won then, Malcolm Elliott. A good omen for Cavendish?
Believe it or not, Elliott is still riding professionally, at the age of 49. He is with the British Profession-ranked team Motorpoint – Marshalls Pasta.
At km 82, the gap has gone up one whole second, to 2:59. That was at the intermediate sprint, which Garcia won ahead of Piedra and Rodriguez.
Yesterday's exciting mountain-top finish brought about some changes in the various rankings, so let's have a look at them.
Igor Anton of Euskaltel moved back into the overall lead, this time by 45 seconds over Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo). Xavier Tondo of Cervelo TestTeam is third (1:04). Former leader Joaquin Rodriguez, who kind of blew up on the final climb, is now fourth, at 1:17 down.
Anton's second stage win also saw him hop over Cavendish to the top of the points classification, with 75. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) also moved up to second (61 points), just ahead of Cavendish.
David Moncoutie (Cofidisi) continues to hold on to the mountain ranking, ahead of Serafin Martinez and Gonzalo Rabunal, both of Xacobeo Galicia.
QuickStep and Garmin-Transitions are leading the chase now. The latter team wants to keep tihngs together so that sprinter Tyler Farrar can take his second stage win.
According to Matt Wilson of Garmin-Transitions, “The finish is good for us. On paper, the last kilometre is perfect for Tyler Farrar.”
Footon-Servetto moves up to help with the chase work and the gap drops to 2:30.
The Vuelta has the reputation of being, shall we say, not the most exciting of the three Grand Tours. This year's edition, though, is not living up (or down) to that reputation, though. Organiser Javier Guillen is quite pleased with how things are going,
The peloton really is keeping an eye on things today and not letting this grou get away. The gap is now under two minutes.
One of the biggest stories this week was the removal of Andy Schleck and Stuart O'Grady from the Vuelta. Bjarne Riis ordered them home again after they had a few -- or a lot? -- of drinks on the rest day. There has been much talk back and forth about it, but Riis is convinced he did the right thing. More about it here.
Eichler has punctured. That will probably be enough to throw him out of the lead group and back into the peloton.
Remember those broiling-hot temperatures we had earlier in this race? They are gone, at least for the moment. This is what Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) had to say about things this mornin, on Twitter: “Ouch... 13 degres when i went outside the hotel. We sleept on 1500m altitude. Now we go down to andorra for the start. The temp. Get warmer.”
Eichler is lucky and hs managed to catch backup with the break group.
The Vuelta is certainly not the only race on the calendar. The Tour of Britain starts this weekend, and Saxo Bank's Jonathan Bellis will be at the start. It is a remarkable comeback for him, as he was in an induced coma for several weeks after a horrific scooter accident. He talked to Cyclingnews about his first stage race here.
Did we say it was cooler? It was earlier, maybe, but now the temperatures have crept up to 28° Celsius.
A small gap had formed in the break group, but they are all back together again, and the gap back to the field is backup, as well, now at 2:17.
Rabobank's Robert Gesink is giving the Vuelta a miss this year, after having finished well in the past two years, but he will be back in 2011. He plans, in fact, to ride both the Tour de France and the Vuelta in the coming season.
Whee! The lead group is on a downhill section and flying along at over 76 km/h!
Former Kelme rider Fernando Escartin described today's stage this way: “The coll de Boixols isn’t easy, it favours breakaways because the sprinters’ teams would probably slow the pace of the bunch down to let them come across quickly. HTC-Columbia and Garmin-Transitions will work for a bunch sprint finish. Therefore, the stage should be a fast one. There aren’t many stages left for the sprinters. The last curve is very close to the finish: 300 metres. But it’s a very wide road. It won’t be a problem at all.”
The gap is now under two minutes again. The peloton will probably let them dangle for as long as possible, before gobbling them up.
Cervelo is in good position going into today's stage. Tondo moved up into third place overall, and Sastre is in 12th. Plus it has two top sprinters itching to win today: Thor Hushovd and Theo Bos. "Tonight we will discuss with the riders to see how everyone feels. They have to have a good rest and then we'll see tomorrow who is feeling good," said DS Philippe Maduit. "Maybe we can organize something, but there are a lot of sprints ahead of us in the Vuelta."
Dan Fleeman of Raleigh is looking to do well again in the Tour of Britain. “It's the biggest race of the season for the team,” he told Cyclingnews.
The gap is under 1:30 now.
THe field is on a very narrow road here, at the foot of a cliff next to a river. Quite pretty, actually.
11 of the teams are still here with nine men. Of course, the entire Sky team has withdrawn. Three teams have lost two riders, and seven teams are one man down.
Rodriguez dropped from first to fourth yesterday, and was open about what happened. “It was very hard to follow Mosquera and I paid for it in the finale. He did a hellish rhythm. I had a bad day, but I am still near the top three with a gap of around one minue. We will see what happens in the next stages.”
He also said "Yesterday, I’ve made a tactical mistake. I went too strongly in the climb. That’s what it is. The time I’ve lost doesn’t change anything in my motivation. I’m still convinced I can win the Vuelta. But today I truly hope for a quiet stage.”
The peloton is really handling this group cleverly. The gap is now at 45 seconds.
Quemeneur of BBox takes off out of the lead group, soon joined by another rider. And then by all the others.
Robbie McEwen will ride for the new hopefully ProTour team from Australia next year. The details are here.
The gap is now at 19 seconds.
THe leaders have now started looking back, and the peloton is not at all far away.
Race leader Igor Anton enjoys the help of experienced rider Egoi Martinez. “I’m the oldest guy in the Euskaltel team”, said the former rider from Discovery Channel. “I’m here to tell the young guys what to do. We have a lot of confidence now with Igor in the lead after what he did yesterday.”
Three of the break group keep on going, the others sit up and wait to be caught.
And the day's long break is now over. The other three have only a few seconds' lead.
The last few are caught.
In the absence of Alessandro Petacchi after his nasty crash, Danilo Hondo can be a sprinter again. “If it comes back together, I’ll try”, the German from Lampre said. “But we won’t work for that. We’ll figure out the situation after the climb.”
Footon-Servetto is at the head of the peloton. So far no one has shown any inclinataion of making a move.
The blue-white-and-orange-argyle clad riders of Garmin-Transitions are now at the head of things.
Footon-Servetto is back at the front. Looks like everyone has agreed to have a mass sprint today.
Garmin-Transitions moves to the front again, followed by Lampre, and the speed picks up.
They are really flying now, and the field is strung out single file.
Euskaltel creeps up near the front, bringing along a certain red-jersey clad rider....
Who is the CN crew picking to win today? Peter Hymas favours Farrar, while I am going with Hondo.
Two Caisse d'Epargne riders are now at the head of things, as the lead work seems to have gotten a bit unorganised.
Laura Weislo thinks that Cavendish will finally get his win today.
Cervelo moves to the front now.
Luis Leon Sanchez has dropped back to the team cars. He meets two other teammates there, who need to be brought up to the front. One is Garcia Acosta.
Euskaltel has clamped down on things and spread orange all over he head of the field.
HTC-Columbia is right behind the Euskaltel riders.
Cervelo, Garmin-Transitions, Euskaltel all at the front. There is a lot of looking around starting to go on.
Jacopo Guarnieri could have been a sprinting option for Liquigas-Doimo. “But today we’re all behind Bennati”, the Italian said. “We want to give
him a chance to be selected for the World’s because there aren’t many days left until Paolo Bettini will release his list. We’re all pretty strong at
Liquigas-Doimo now. We’re mostly here to support Nibali for GC but we also want today’s stage win for Bennati.”
Euskaltel still has things under control.
Only six km to go, and no change in things.
Dave Zabriskie now powers things along for Garmin-Transitions, keeping the pace high. He moves out to be replaced by much of the HTC-Columbia team.
The two US-based team trade off on the lead work.
THree km to go and the pace picks up again.
Two km -- and still no movement.
Lampre takes control of the lead, while HTC-Columbia moves out of the front.
Two final curves, then the sprint can go!
HTC-Columbia opens things and pulls away!
CAvendish wins easily! What was the field thinking, to let him go like that?
Cavendish and his lead-out man took off and -- nobody followed.
THe leadout man had plenty of time to encourage Cav aover the line -- and still took third place for himself, it looks like.
Looks like Farrar in second. Yes, and Goss third.
No changes in the GC today.
That's it for today. Thanks for joining us and be sure to stop by again tomorrow.