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What a lovely stage today … a nice long, relatively flat ride along the waterfront. If only it wasn't for the HC climb at the very end!
Hello, and welcome back to the Vuelta in northern Spain. Today's stage is a nice leisurely ride on the coast. At least until about km 140, then the ride turns south and eventually goes up the Lagos de Covadonga, a nice little Hors Categorie climb up to the finish line.....
We have an escape group (what a surprise!) with six riders in it: Nico Sijmens (Cofidis), Pierre Cazaux (FdJ), Oliver Kaisen (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Carlos Barredo (QuickStep), Martin Velits (HTC-Columbia) and Greg Van Avermaet (Omega Pharma Lotto). With 70 km to go, they have a lead of 7:37.
Oscar Freire (Rabobank) was not at the start today, and we have had a number of abandons already: Arthur Vichot (FdJ), Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R), Benat Intxausti (Euskaltel), and Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
It took a while for today's group to get together. A number of others tried it earlier, but none succeeded. One of the earlier efforts included red jersey Vincenzo Nibali, and as you can imagine, that one got caught again very quickly!
There was a moment of silence today at the start of the race in honour of Felix Iglesias, who passed away this weekend following an unsuccessful liver transplant. He was the founder of both the firm and the team of that name. Tragically, his brother Jose Luis died on Saturday from brain injuries suffered in a cycling crash. Cyclingnews extends its sympathy to the family.
We have had two intermediate sprints. The first one went to Matthew Goss (HTC-Columbia), ahead of Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto). The escape group took the second one, Van Avermaet over Kaisen and Barredo.
Yesterday's stage turned out to be a very dramatic one, with the loss of race leader Igor Anton. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) suffered visibly on the final climb, but was able to hold on to a four second GC lead over Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha). It was Rodriguez who had suffered so much earlier. Will they both survive the final climb today?
Obviously we had major changes in the GC yesterday. As we said, Nibali leads by four seconds over Rodriguez. Ezequiel Mosquera of Xacobeo Galicia is third, at 50 seconds, with Xavier Tondo (Cervelo) fourth in the same time.
Then there is a big jump down to young Nicolas Roche (AG2R), who has now moved up to fifth (2:11). One second later we have Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) in sixth., and Peter Velits of HTC-Columbia is seventh at 2:29.
Another jump and we have Tom Danielson (Gamin-Transitions) in eighth at 3:29, with Ruben Plaza (Caisse d'Epargne, 3:41) and Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam, 3:52) rounding out the top ten.
Is the peloton happy to let this group go? Since the gap has now climbed to 9:27, we think the answer is yes. And we doubt they will stay away until the finish line.
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia, 111 points) still leads Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions, 90) in the points classification, although we doubt either of them will pick major points today. Nibali is third at 74 points, closely followed by Rodriguez at 73.
No change in the mountain rankings, as David Moncoutie (Cofidis) continues to sport the blue dots. He is being chased by Xacobeo teammates Serafin Martinez and Gonzalo Rabunal.
Caisse d'Epargne saw its big lead melt away drastically yesterday. Their 6:46 minutes lead is now down to only 2:28. Katusha is second, with Cervelo third at 7:50.
We aren't expecting the best of weather today. It looks like we have 18° Celsius and rain much of the day, dropping to 10°Celsius atop the climb at the end.
Only 20 km to go before the climb starts.
Lagos de Covadonga isn't just “a” climb, it is just about “the” climb in the Vuelta. The race web calls it “a holy day for cycling supporters.”
Oscar Freire of Rabobank was not at the start today, as expected. The weather is not good and he is suffering “from minor ailments”, according to the team, therefore it was decided to take him out of the race.
"This is not super with Oscar, but there is no reason to think that his world championships now has been endangered," said DS Adri van Houwelingen. "Given the weather on Sunday. it is a good idea that he doesn't start.” Freire will go ahead and fly to Australia this coming Wednesday.
Freire talked to Cyclingnews about it, too.
Oh how lovely. Wet wet wet....
Xavier Tondo of Cervelo is now in fourth place, tied on time with Xacobeo's Ezequiel Mosquera. "We still have Tondo riding with the best riders up the climb," said Cervélo sport's director Philippe Mauduit. "He's still on the podium at the moment. They had a good performance today. We still have all of our options heading into the decisive part of the Vuelta. Nothing is decided yet."
It looks like Caisse d'Epargne is leading the chase. The gap has come down slightly to 8:40
Everyone is all bundled up today. It is quite a contrast to the early part of the Vuelta, where the riders were either baked or broiled the whole time.
Although it looks like things might be getting a bit better. A few riders are taking off their vests and rain jackets, and we don't actually see any rain at this moment.
Nicolas Roche is now fifth overall in the Vuelta, and plans to stay there. The mountains will be tough, as will the time, trial, but he is quite confident, as you can read here.
Rodriguez was, of course, overjoyed by his stage win yesterday, his second ever. “Today I rode with the head and the legs” he said. “I felt well and I want to thank all the team because they worked very hard, first catching the breakaway and then preparing my attack. It's a pity about Anton’s fall, but this is cycling. He is young and I’m sure the future is for him”.
Caisse d'Epargne continues to pull the peloton along. They had a hard day of it yesterday.
Yvon Ledanois, DS of Caisse d’Epargne, said “At the start of the Vuelta, we had five riders able to ride for GC. Arroyo crashed on stage 8, Luis Leon Sanchez isn’t going as well as at the Tour de France and we’ve lost the last three riders yesterday in the same crash as Igor Anton. Rubén Plaza was coming across after a flat tyre, he had to slow down because of the crash and he never went back to the head of the race. Rigoberto Uran crashed but with no major consequence. Marzio Bruseghin is badly injured. I’d be amazed if he could finish today’s stage. To have won two stages earlier on (with David Lopez and Imanol Erviti on stage 9 and 10 respectively) makes our Vuelta less sad.”
Let's look a bit at the history of this “mythical” climb. The climb to the Lagos de Covadonga features for the 17th time this year. It was first tackled during the epic 1983 Vuelta, ultimately won by Bernard Hinault. Unlike 1978, when he crushed his Spanish rivals, Hinault struggled to defeat them. Indeed, so intense was the fight that the Frenchman developed tendonitis, which prevented him from defending his Tour de France title.
Hinault's second Vuelta success was built around a canny piece of riding on the wind-swept stage to Soria. At a signal, Dutchman Hennie Kuiper and Hinault's Renault team-mate Maurice Le Guilloux accelerated off the front of the bunch and many favourites jumped in behind them. Vuelta leader and defending champ Marino Lejarreta almost made the group, but couldn't close the final 2m gap and fell back. Lejarreta's lead, and chance of victory, went with that front group.
Lejarreta had a measure of revenge at Covadonga, though. As Hinault struggled, the Spaniard soared to a reputation-restoring stage victory. The legend of the Lakes had begun.
It's raining again....
In subsequent years, climbing greats Pedro Delgado and ‘Lucho' Herrera, plus Laurent Jalabert, have all won stages finishing here.
The climb featured in the Vuelta most recently in 2007, with Vladimir Efimkin winning. Eladio Jimenez Sanchez won in 2005, and Juan Miguel Mercado in 2001. It looks like Jalabert is the only one to have ton it twice, in 1984 and 1986.
The gap is creeping down, but is sitll over eight minutes. Will this group have a chance?
Marzio Bruseghin (Caisse d'Epargne) was at the start today despite his crash yesterday which destroyed his chances of a top GC placing. He ended up with 14 stitches in one arm and four in the other, but happily x-rays showed no fractures in his tailbone, ribs and collarbone. He may be riding today, but we suspect it won't be a pleasant day for him.
The gap is hanging steadily at the eight minute mark. But soon they will start climbing.
Who is this now at the front of the peloton? Looks like Xacobeo to us. They have big things planned for Mosquera today.
AT 15km to go, the gap hs droped to 7:54.
The gap is falling again, now at 7:20. And they haven't even really started climbing yet.
Will Fränk Schleck (finally) do something today? “Lagos de Covadonga is a much better climb for me than Peña Cabarga. I hope this stage will be a good one,” the Saxo Bank captain said. He seems to have been largely invisible so far this race, but is currently sitting in sixth place overall, 2:12 back and only one second out of fifth place.
Igor Anton didn't waste any time but had surgery on his broken elbow immediately last night. Here's the news on him as well as the others injured in yesterday's stage.
The gap continues to fall as the lead group is now on its way up. We have an attack out of the lead group, as Velits has taken off.
He has now been joined by Barredo.
Barredo now alone in the lead.
The peloton is starting to fall apart, as the non-climbers fold their sails and decide not to waste energy.
Former Kelme rider Fernando Escartin talked about the Lagos de Covadonga at the start in Solares: “This is the mythical climb of the Tour of Spain. For a Spanish rider, winning at the Lagos is as important as winning at the Mont
Ventoux or l’Alpe d’Huez. It’s a pretty long climb, quite difficult at half way. Someone like Mosquera will be at his ease, more than yesterday at Pena Cabarga. The rain will not be a problem because there’s no downhill in this stage but it’ll be difficult because it’s always up and down.”
Barredo continues on in the lead. He gets a visit from the team car at a not-very-steep section.
With a gap of five minutes, Liquigas is now leading the chase.
Barredo has 30 seconds over the break group.
The peloton has exploded into many little groups. There are 12-15 riders in the first group around Nibali.
ONly 8 km for Barredo, and he is passed by an ambulance.
In the chase group, three LIquigas riders are followed by two HTC-Columbia riders. One of those is Peter Velits, whose twin brother Martin is a bit further up the road.
Barredo is pulling away, slowly but surely.
Seven km now for Barredo.
The first chase group is splitting again. Several Euskaltel riders are faling off the back. We are also not sure if there are any Caisse d'Epargne riders left in the group.
'We are not sure of the composition of the red jersey group, but we do know that Rodriguez is there with Nibali. Will one of them attack?
Barredo keeps going up into the rain and fog.
NIbali is said to love this kind of cool and wet weather. To each his own....
Mosquera, Roche, both still in this group.
Barredo takes a curve and almost takes out a photographer who was squatting in the road.
Tehre was a Caisse d'Epargne rider in the first chase group, but he is now falling off the back.
Carlos Sastre is in the group. Or was. He has now attacked!
Mosquera goes with Sastre, but Kreuziger closes the gap.
Mosquera keeps going, but has perhaps two or three metres lead.
Barredo makes his careful way through the fans lining the road and filling the road.
Mosquera slowly pulls away, while Tondo has fallen off the back. It is now raining fairly heavily.
Daneilson, Sastre, Schleck still in the group. Kreuziger has fallen back.
Mosquera pulls away. Now NIbali himself leads the chase.
The rain and fog make it hard for us and for the riders to see exactly how is where.
But we definitely see Barredo alone in front!
AT 4km to go, Barredo hits a relatively flat section.
NIbali nearly wipes himself out on a stone cliff, as he slips on a wet curve. Oh, how scarey.....
Remember, Mosquera is only 50 seconds down. How much can he make up today?
Barredo has a slight downhill now, which is so dangerous with this rain.
NIbali and Veltis now alone in teh chase. No, here come two more.
Sastre, Schleck and Roche all seem to have dropped back.
Mosquera hits the flat section. Behind him, Danielson now joins Nibali, Velits and Rodriguez.
Barredo has three minutes over Mosquera, with the NIbali group another 20 seconds back. Somewhere in between is probably the remnants of the break group, too.
Two km for Barredo and he has mastered the worst of the climb.
Danielson has dropped back from the NIbali group.
mosquera now makes his way trhough the rain, fog and crowds.
Last km for Barredo!
This will be his first Grand Tour stage win.
Hope he can find the finish line in this fog!
The course flattens out in the last km, rising ever so slightly at the end. He is zpping along now with the goal in sight.
And an ecstatic Barredo crosses the line to win the stage!
For the first time we see the other rdies from the escape group ahead of Mosquera.
Sijmens is the second over the line.
Mosquera crosses the line at 2:15 behind Barredo.
And close behind him were Nibali, Rodriguez and P. Velits.
WE suspect it will be a while before everyone crosses the line today.
Bruseghin crosses the line about 4:40 down. Not bad for a man with so many stitches and injjuries.
A big day for the Velits twins. Martin was third over the finish line, and Peter will probably move up to fourth place overall.
Nibali continues to have his four seconds over Rodriguez, with Mosquera now third at 39 seconds. Peter Velits is indeed now fourth at 2.29, with Xavier Tondo one second back in fifth.
Thanks for joining us and be sure to come back and read along for another exciting stage tomorrow!