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The thirteenth stage is another medium mountain stage which is expected to end in yet another mass sprint.
The Vuelta moves into its next mountain stages tomorrow, and today should be another chance for the sprinters. There are two category three ranked climbs near the end – will they be enough to throw back those men with the speedy legs?
We have our break group of the day: Allan Davis (Astana), Olivier Kaisen ( Omega Pharma-Lotto), Giampaolo Cheula (Footon-Servetto), Manuele Mori (Lampre) and Niki Terpstra (Milram) got away at km. 30 and by km 57, now have a 7:32 lead.
The gap had skyrocketed all the way up to 7:58 before HTC-Columbia got concerned and started the chase.
This is yet another stage which has “breakaway” written all over it. But there is one thing to consider: the wind. The run-in to Burgos is quite open and the wind that barrels across this landscape could be hard for a small group to handle, tipping the advantage back towards the much larger group chasing behind.
There was one rider missing at the start today, Julian Dean. The Garmin-Slipstream New Zealander had been absolute last in the race, over two and a half hours down.
Hm, this must be a tough day for the Kiwis. Fellow New Zealander Hayden Roulston of HTC-Columbia has dropped out, too.
Interesting development: the first intermediate sprint came early on, and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) took it ahead of Wouter Weylandt ( QuickStep), with Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) only third.
Carlos Sastre has crashed. We don't know any details.
The gap has meanwhile dropped to 6:27.
What a win yesterday for Mark Cavendish! He and HTC-Columbia teammate Matt Goss even had time for a chat on the run-in to the finish line. And the win gave the Manxman stage wins in all three Grand Tours, quite an accomplishment. He talks about it all here.
We are happy to report that Sastre is now back in the peloton and seems to be uninjured.
Lots of riders had comments after yesterday's stage: Goss, Anton, Gilbert, etc. You can click here to see what they had to say.
HTC-Columbia and Garmin-Transitions have worked together to bring the break down, and the gap has now stablized at just over six minutes.
Marzio Bruseghin of Caisse d'Epargne is currently in sixth place overall. He still has his eye on the podium, although he told Cyclingnews that this year's Vuelta “is very hard with a high level of riders.”
No changes in the top of the GC yesterday. Igor Anton (Euskaltel) continues to lead Vincenzo Nibali (Euskaltel) and Xavier Tondo (Cervelo).
The gap has dropped slightly, to 5:54.
Cavendish jumped back into the lead for the points jersey, but Garmin-Transitions' Tyler Farrar is close behind him, with Anton third.
In the mountain rankings, David Moncoutie (Cofidis) continues to lead the two Xacobeo-Galicia riders Serafin Martinez and Gonzalo Rabunal.
We have birthdays today! Christopher Sutton turns 26 and his Team Sky teammate Gregory Henderson is 34, and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) is now 29. Cyclingnews congratulates them all, and wishes them yummy birthday cakes.
Speaking of Pozzato, the Italian has figured out a new way to prepare himself for the Worlds: living like a monk for the next month or so. Sounds tough and unpleasant to us, but if it works for him.... Details are here.
Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream slipped in for second place yesterday. His team brought him into good position, but, according to DS Johnny Weltz, “Unfortunately in the last curve with 250 metres to go they almost crashed so he didn’t get the ideal run in, but still managed a strong second!”
By now you all know how these stages go: early breakaway, big gap, long time with noooooooothing happening.....
We are in one of those major "nothing happening" spells at the moment, unfortunately.
Tom Boonen hopes that his knee is finally fully recovered. The QuickStep star has lost a lot of time this year due to that knee. He will test it this weekend in a “sportif” race.
The gap has gone up to 6:38 and is currently down to 5:40.
Rabobank DS Adri van Houwelingen wouldn't be surprised to see Oscar Freire cross the finish line first today. “The stage ends in Burgos, and that is where Oscar won his last Vuelta stage. Let's hope he can give nice follow up to that.”
QuickStep has moved in to help HTC-Columbia and Garmin-Transitions with the chase work, and the gap has now fallen to 4:50.
Tadej Valjavec of AG2R was suspended by the UCI for violations of the blood passport programme, but the Slovenian cycling federation cleared him and he has resumed riding. Is that the end of the story? Of course not. Details here.
Freire is looking forward to things today, too. The Vuelta has not gone as expected so far, but the Spaniard is optimistic. “The low point is behind us. I feel stronger every day.”
The gap continues to come down, now at 3:52.
Robbie McEwen will ride next year for the Australian team currently known as Fly V Australia. Team owner Chris White is quite excited at having such a big name, and told Cyclingnews that it will be only one of many.
Cervelo TestTeam's Thor Hushovd was fifth in Thursday's stage. "Thor was pretty good in the finish and we decided to play the card with him. During the stage, Theo said that he would work for Thor. In the end, he was close to making a good result. At the last corner, they were so explosive and they came out of the finish with a big advantage. Overall, it was good for Thor to make such a strong sprint on a flat stage," said Cervélo TestTeam sport director Philippe Mauduit. "
Once you issue an invitation, you can't withdraw it, or else RadioShack will take you to court. That is the lesson that the Giro di Lombardia learned today. The team has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to have a say in the matter.
The gap is now holding steady at around 3:43.
It took a long time, but Jose Antonio Hermida finally won the MTB world championship. And, personally, we love the photo of him mowing the lawn while wearing the rainbow jersey!
So here is where we stand in this absolutely thrlilig stage: our five escapees have a lead of 3:22 over the peloton.
And just like that the gap drops again: now down to 2:50.
And here is why the gap is dropping: the break group is taking on the first climb of the day, the category three Alto de Pradilla.
This climb is a total of 5.9km long, and has an average gradient of 5.99%.
That was it for me today, folks. I'm handing off to Stephen Farrand, who will bring you in to the finish line!
Hello and thanks to Susan Westemeyer for bringing us so far down to the road to Burgos.
The race is now on the tougherst climb of the stage, the Alto di Padilla. It is only a 3rd category climb but goes up to 1260 metres.
The brea know has just 60km to go as the riders cross the summit of the climb. The bunch seems happy to let them hang out front, knowing they will sweep them up on the fast ride to Burgos. The gap is only 3:30
Thor Hushovd is looking for stage wins and could perhaps take his second in Burgos. Of course his Cervelo TestTeam companion Xavier Tondo is looking to hold on to the podium. He is currently in third place, 1:04 down and only 13 seconds ahead of Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez.
“I'm feeling good right now. I cannot complain how things have gone so far," Tondo said after the 12th stage. "The time trial (stage 17) favours me against the others, but first we have some hard stages coming up in northern Spain. Nothing is decided yet. Iñigo Cuesta (SPA) really gave me good advice in Wednesday's stage. He said there's a lot of headwind and told me to be patient. When I finally attacked, I caught the others who were suffering and I almost won the stage."
The peloton is diving down the descent, with the riders strung out in virtually one long line.
Garmin-Transitions, Quick Step and HTc-Columbia are leading the chase today. All three will be working for a sprint finish.
The gap is now down to 2:50.
Garmin are lined out on the front now, almost in team time trial formation. Are they getting ready to try and split the peloton? there is a slight side wind.
David Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) punctured but he had a quick change and has loaded up with bottles for his teammates.
There was an unfamiliar name in fourth place in yesterday's sprint: Denis Galimzyanov of Katusha. “The last km was very hard with two dangerous corners and the finish line had a head wind,” he said. “Entering the last right corner, I took Hushovd's wheel, but he couldn't hold HTC-Columbia's speed. So, there was some meters until Goss and Cavendish. I gave my all to close the gap, but in the finish Farrar came past me and I took fourth. For me this result is ok, but next days I want to try to get Top-3. We will see,”
Roy Sentjens has claimed he is innocent and did not use EPO, despite it showing up in an out-of-competition doping control. He is now afraid it will end his career.
The peloton has eased slightly on the Alto de Valmala climb, as the gap falls below two minutes.
The five riders are working smoothly together but must now know they have virtually no chance of staying away. There only hope is if they can up the pace on the descent to Burgos and surprise the peloton.
Over the summit of the Valmala, the break has 2:02 Peter Velits, Christian Vande Velde are leading the chase, as some teams collect a late bottle from a soigneur.
Manuel Cardoso of Footon-Sérvetto was not at all satisfied with his 13th place in yesterday's sprint.
“It's a shame because the team really work impressively hard for me to get into the sprint. I got a good position into the bunch, but in the last turn Goss and Cavendish entered really fast and made a Lampre rider to brake too much and open a gap. We couldn't bridge the gap and it also took me time to regain speed from too close. But there's no excuse: they did better than us, full stop."
“It makes me angry, because this was one of those days when I had really good feelings in this Vuelta and I would have liked to make the team happy. The good sensations today and the fact I'm going well through these long days of competition give me moral to try it in the few sprints we'll find in the way to Madrid. We'll try it for sure tomorrow if there's another sprint finish."
The kilometres are ticking down and dip under 30km to go. The road to Burgos looks a great place to ride. The sun is out and the road surface is fast and smooth. Perfect for a Friday afternoon ride instead of being stuck in an office.
You might be mistaken in thinking that is Frank Schleck in the break. It is in fact Niki Terpstra (Milram), the Dutch national time trail champion, not the lanky Luxembourg national champion, who has a very similar champion's jersey.
Lars Bak (HTC-Columbia) is on the front now. He was in the break of the day yesterday and has already worked hard to help Mark Cavendish in the sprints.
Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) was in the headlines today. Not for his results in the Vuelta but rather for a story in Gazzetta dello Sport where he reveals he has given up sex so he can focus on the world championships.
Allan Davis (Astana) is clearly working on his form for the world championships by getting in the break today. He could be a surprise in Australia because he can climb well and sprint well. He is a real dark horse for Melbourne.
The gap is down to one minute now.
Here come Garmin. They seem keen to set it up for Tyler Farrar today. Though the US team has lost leadout man Julian Dean who did not start today.
Allan Davis (Astana), Olivier Kaisen (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Giampaolo Cheula (Footon-Servetto), Manuele Mori (Lampre) and Niki Terpstra (Milram) are working hard in a perfect pace line but the gap is down to 40 seconds.
Zabriskie is on the front now, tucked low over his bars, giving it a huge turn on the front.
There is a slight side wind and Garmin is making the peloton suffer.
The break is falling apart now, not everybody is working. The gap is just 13 seconds.
Terpstra is going it alone but going nowhere.
HTC and Quick Step are now on the front after all th hard work from Garmin.
Here comes Liquigas too.
David Millar hits the front. There is a turn with 500 metres to go!
Now Katusha hit the front before the right turn.
Goss is leading out.
Cavendissshhhhh gets it.
The Manx missle even seemed to bunny hop his bike as he hit the line.
Cavendish got another perfect leadout from Matt Goss and then powered away from Hushovd, who could not even hold his wheel. Bennati takes third.
Cavendish even had time to look round in the final 100 metres, smile and do his bunny hop.
Hutarovich took fourth place.
Cavendish revealed that he and Goss knew the final corner was wide and so they 'bombed' through it and hit the front. He again praised his teammates for all their work. "It's better to be a star team than a team of stars," was today's soundbite.
That's it for today for the Cyclingnews live coverage from the La Vuelta. Check back very soon for a full report, great photo gallery and full results.