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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews coverage of stage 14 of the Vuelta a España. The riders face a rugged stage in Cantabria, with a short and steep summit finish at Peña Cabarga.
We pick up the action with 70km to go, atop the Portillo de Lunada. David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) has just led his teammate David Millar and Niki Terpstra (Milram) over the summit. The trio have an advantage of 11 minutes over the peloton.
The break formed 35km into the stage, when Niki Terpstra attacked first as part of a seven-man move and then alone. Within 15km, he had built up a lead of 3:30, before Millar and Zabriskie countered attacked from the peloton.
They made the juncture after 63km, and at that point the trio had a 5 minute lead over the bunch.
They reached the foot of the 3rd category Alto de Bocos with 7:30 in hand over the bunch and stretched that to 10 minutes at the summit, where Millar took the points on offer.
Halfway up the Portillo de Lunada, that lead was up to 12:55, and it seemed as though the bunch was going to let the three up front stay away unimpeded. Since then, Cervelo have begun to work on bringing down the gap behind. Of course, next year, an element of the current Cervelo set-up will merge with Garmin to form Garmin-Cervelo, but for now, they are still on opposite sides of the fence.
Caisse d'Eparge have now come to the front of the bunch in aid of Cervelo and the black-jerseyed armada is whittling down the break's lead at a rate of knots. It's already down to 8:20!
There are still two climbs to come, including the final push to the summit. At the rate Caisse d'Epargne are pressing on at the front end of the bunch, the break will have its work cut out to stay clear. Euskaltel will be pleased with how things have gone so far, with Caisse d'Epargne and Cervelo doing their work for them.
Millar is leading the breakaway and setting a sensible tempo. He's too experienced a rider to panic into upping the pace at this stage. Even though the gap is tumbling, there's every chance Caisse d'Epargne might relent after the Alto del Caracol.
Caisse d'Epargne are wreaking havoc now at the foot of the Caracol and the peloton is stretched out and shedding riders.
The peloton has been fragmented by this Caisse d'Epargne offensive. The red jersey Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is looking comfortable and the other main favourites are up there with him, although the pace is high.
David Millar leads over the top of the Caracol, with 6:46 over the peloton.
Attack from David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) out of the peloton! This looks very much like a pre-planned offensive from the men in black.
It looks as though Caisse d'Epargne are looking to weaken Euskaltel. They have a lot of riders in and around the upper reaches of the general classification, and one would suspect that one of his teammates will look to bridge across. He has about 20 seconds over the bunch at this point as Euskaltel are forced to come to the front.
Arroyo is currently 21st overall at 6:20. Four other Caisse d'Epargne riders currently lie inside the top 20. Luis Leon Sanchez (16th), Rigoberto Uran (8th), Ruben Plaza (7th) and Marzio Bruseghin (6th).
Arroyo is brought back and then Luis Leon Sanchez jumps in the company of Alexander Kolobnev, and they have 20 seconds over the bunch over the top of the climb.
If Sanchez is caught, then we can probably expect Uran to be next to go...
Caisse d'Epargne came to this Vuelta with a plethora of strong riders but without one big leader, so rather like ONCE in the 1990s and Systeme U at the 1987 Tour de France, their best chance of upsetting the odds is an ambush like this.
The gap to the leaders is down to just 5 minutes now, but with a flattish run-in to the final climb, Millar and Zabriskie will be hoping that time trialling skills can keep them out front.
Aleksandr Kolobnev and Sanchez now have 36 seconds over the peloton. If Katusha give Kolobnev is given the green light to collaborate with Sanchez, this could be very interesting. A phalynx of orange Euskaltel jerseys gathering at the front now. They know that if Igor Anton wants to win this Vuelta, his team has to ride in situations like this.
It's a wide, smooth and straight descent to the Caracol, but in spite of that Sanchez has managed to open out a lead of 40 seconds over the peloton.
Kolobnev comes to the front now and is riding with Sanchez.
There's still a long way to go to the foot of the final climb. It's a pity that the terrain isn't a bit more rolling in the run-in to that climb as it would give Caisse d'Epargne the chance to put the heat on a little more.
The net result of this Caisse d'Epargne offensive and Euskaltel chase is that the gap to the trio up front is tumbling rapidly. They have 4:45 over the chasers and 5:20 over the bunch.
David Millar always gets off the front in the major tours and he's doing the lion's share of the work in the break now.
Zabriskie comes to the front of the break now. He could do with a big result, although his pedalling seems a little more laboured than that of his teammate Millar. Terpstra is contributing his share too, he's been very aggressive at this Vuelta.
Luis Leon Sanchez has sat up and relented. He had 30 seconds over the bunch but couldn't push out any further.
Sanchez sits up and downs an energy gel, while Kolobnev is continuing the pursuit rather half-heartedly. Indeed he too has decided enough is enough as Euskaltel prepare to swallow him up.
The gap between the leading trio and the peloton is 5:20. By rights, Euskaltel should ease off for a couple of kilometres, so if the break want to stay clear they'll need to at least maintain that lead over the next few miles.
Joan Horrach (Katusha) has come to the front of the bunch and is setting the pace. The peloton is strung out in a long line and the pace is quite high.
4:44 the gap to the peloton now, as Katusha and Euskaltel-Euskadi lead the chase.
Terpstra's shoulders are beginning to rock, his style on the bike is in stark contrast to David Millar's at this point in the stage. In any case, the gap is continuing to tumble. 4:30 is the gap now.
David Zabriskie has been dropped by Millar and Terpstra on a brief uphill section. He'd been struggling for quite some time.
Kolobnev is now riding on the front for Katusha. They clearly feel that Joaquin Rodriguez can have an impact on the final climb.
One of the sport's great stylists, Millar is riding fantastically at the head of the race but it's a big ask for the Scot to stay clear all the way to the line with a tough climb still to come.
Katusha are continuing to string out the peloton now, the pace is very high back here. David Arroyo and Denis Menchov are the two at the back of the long, long line.
Millar is clearly the stronger of the two in front, but it's hardly surprising given Terptra's brave effort yesterday.
Millar's position on the bike is still perfect even after over 100km out in front, his back is flat and shoulders steady.
Horrach, who did so much of the work for Katusha, is deposited out the back of the peloton. Meanwhile, a lot of riders are trying to move up towards the front. Positioning at the foot of the climb is going to be crucial.
Crash in the peloton and Igor Anton is among the fallers! His jersey and shorts are ripped to shreds.
Where's Fabian Cancellara when you need him? The pace is still high at the front of the bunch. Anton is on his feet but not back on his bike yet.
Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is also down and not looking well. It's hard to see what precisely caused the crash. Anton still hasn't got going, and looks to be abandoning the Vuelta. He's climbed into the team car...
Meanwhile the peloton is on the climb, 1:11 behind the duo up front. There'll be a new overall leader tonight.
It seems as though there was a touch of wheels between Anton and Martinez at around 65kph.
Martinez is being stretchered into an ambulance.
Anton is sitting in the passenger seat of the team car and his Vuelta is also over.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) is now the leader on the road and he has Roman Kreuziger riding on the front for him.
Anton has abandoned the Vuelta, and Marzio Bruseghin was apparently also caught up in that crash.
Terpstra drops Millar on the Pena Cabarga! Meanwhile Serafin Martinez put in a dig off the front of the bunch but Liquigas are reeling him in. Nibali seems to be the king in waiting now.
11 seconds the advantage for Terpstra now over the Liquigas-led main group.
The remarkable Terpstra has found his second wind here and is still riding strongly but it surely won't be enough at this point.
Kreuziger is putting a fine shift for Nibali here. Nobody is daring to attack and he's whittling down the group to around 10 riders or so. Nicolas Roche (AG2R) is still in there, as are Ezequiel Mosquera and Frank Schleck.
David Moncoutie is in this group too. Somehow Terspstra is still hanging on. He has 10 seconds over the chasers.
Attack from Mosquera on the steepest section and he rips past Terpstra.
Nibali makes his attack and instantly opens a gap...
Joaquin Rodriguez catches Nibali with just over a kilometre to go.
Rodriguez attacks Nibali 800 metres from the line!
Mosquera chases behind with Frank Schleck.
He trails Nibali by 23 seconds overall, he'll be hard pressed to do enough to take that back. Mosquera is chasing hard alone now, he's dropped Schleck. Nibali is struggling in the final kilometre, as he did in Andorra.
Rodriguez reaches the top of the climb and takes the stage.
Nibali crosses the line 20 seconds back, with Mosquera just behind. Nibali really suffered to limit his losses there. A brave attempt from the Sicilian.
Velits came across in 4th place.
Correction, David Moncoutie was 4th across the line. Nicolas Roche was a fine fifth on the stage at 34 seconds.
Vincenzo Nibali takes over the red jersey, but with just 4 seconds in hand over Rodriguez. He lost 20 seconds in the finale, plus another 8 seconds in bonuses.
Ezequiel Mosquera now lies in 3rd overall ahead of Xavier Tondo, while Nicolas Roche has brought himself up to 5th overall. It looks to have been a disastrous day for Caisse d'Epagne. Ruben Plaza falls to 9th overall, Uran falls out of the top ten, and it appears that Marzio Bruseghin fell along with Anton and Martinez although that has not yet been confirmed.
1.Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha)
2.Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) at 0:20
3.Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo) at 0:22
4.David Moncoutie (Cofidis) at 0:33
5.Nicolas Roche (AG2R) at 0:34
1.Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo)
2.Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha)
3.Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo) at 0:22
4.Xavier Tondo (Cervelo) at 1:20
5.Nicolas Roche (AG2R) at 2:11
Thanks for joining us for our coverage of another exciting day's racing at the Vuelta a Espana. We're back with live coverage of tomorrow's stage to the legendary Lagos de Covadonga, but in the meantime stay with Cyclingnews for full reports, news and pictures from the Vuelta.