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Hello and welcome to CN's live coverage from the Vuelta. Today' it's 171km from Verín to Estación de Montaña Manzaneda
We have a group of 15 riders up the road and just under 75km of racing left, including a brutal climb to the finish.
The 15 leaders have a gap of over 5:40 at the moment. Not enough to really decide the stage but most of those men up the road will play a part for their leaders later in the stage perhaps.
Often bypassed by the Vuelta, Galicia is back on the race route with a cluster of tough stages, starting with this one that concludes with a first ever summit finish at the Manzaneda ski station. Rather like the Covatilla stage, there are rugged but not overly testing mountain sections early on, but the main interest comes right at the end of the day.
Rising at an average of 6 per cent for 19km, the climb’s steepest sections come just before the resort, where the road drops then ramps up again to the summit’s TV masts. Given the length of this climb, a breakaway is unlikely to survive.
"This was one of the stages I looked at in July. It’s a real leg-breaker that’s up and down all day. The final climb is not the toughest summit finish but it ramps up as it approaches the top and the accumulation of climbing will take a toll."
Highest point: 1,750m
The GC is bunched up but today we'll see some bigger time gaps appear. We also have to consider yesterday's rest day. Rest days can do funny things with the old legs, you're never sure how your body will react. I wouldnt be surprised if we saw at least one major favourite crack, and crack badly today.
Here's where we stand on GC at the moment with Sky ruling the roost for now.
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 38:09:13
2 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:00:12
3 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:20
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:31
5 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Pro Team Astana 0:00:34
6 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek 0:00:59
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:07
8 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC 0:01:47
9 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team RadioShack 0:02:04
10 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack 0:02:13
11 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Movistar Team 0:02:15
12 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:02:21
13 Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC 0:02:35
14 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 0:03:23
Nibali for me is still the favourite. He's not looked in super, super form but he's done what he's had to and he's looked consistent. That's how he won last year and that's how you win grand tours.
We've just gone through the first intermediate sprint of the day. Here are the results:
1. Adrian Palomares (Andalucia), 2. Joan Horrach (Katusha), 3. Evgeni Petrov (Astana).
It could be interesting to see how Sanchez goes today. He's the classiest rider in the break today. But lets not forget Moncoutie, he knows what it takes to win stages, and mountain jerseys in this race.
55 km to go and the lead has crept over 6 minutes.
News from Italy is that Bettini has been involved in light aircraft crash, having to land at sea. We can report, thankfully, that he's fine. You can read the story here.
The likes of Rodriguez and Van den Broeck have to try and break the race apart today. The GC standings show they're both on the back foot. They dont need to throw caution to the wind but they do need to drag themselves back into the picture on GC.
As for the weather today, there are a few clouds out there but the conditions look good.
Who are you tipping for today's win? Let me know at twitter.com/dnlbenson
Sky not doing much work at the moment, Duarte is at 7:04 on GC so they'll have to make a move to the front soon enough.
Geox said they'd go on the attack , and with Menchov and Cobo waiting in the wings, they could be dangerous.
We've not talked about Dan Martin yet. He's already won a stage. Today is a big day for him simply because we'll see just what his true GC condition is.
Duarte is now the virtual leader on the road. Go Geox!
And Sky has now come to the front and begun to set the pace. Will Froome work for Wiggins or vice versa?
Less than 40km to now, almost half of that is all uphill. The gap 7:51
O'Grady who is in the break gets out his stage map from his back pocket. It's all uphill from here Stuey.
Dan Martin in the KOM jersey, riding near the back of the bunch. He'll need to move up near the front. Froome is on the wheel of Wiggins.
Moncoutie takes the points on the 3rd cat climb. Still the climb to the finish to come.
Reynes is leading on the descent. There's a crash in the main bunch though and it's a Geox domestique down. He's back up and quickly on his bike.
That gap is starting to come down but only slightly. The break has been away since 30km of racing. The gap is now 7;14
Nap-time for me....
@MarkCavendish Wed, 31st Aug 2011 15:13:26
HTC arent' having the best of races. Velits puled out earlier today.
Sutton on the front of the bunch and he's tucking into a gel. He'll lead the bunch until the foot of the final climb and then call it a day.
As Albasini, has he got a ride for next year? who leads the break.
Jorgensen from Saxo attacks from the break. Palomares who has been in three breaks so far, goes with him. The duo have a good gap already. They're not on the climb yet but the road is already starting to tilt upwards.
The gap drops to 6:44, Cioni, the experienced Derby born Italian just behind him and giving him some advice.
Sky are about to get some help from Garmin-Cervelo. Martin will have told his teammates that he's feeling good.
Palomares has attacked, his Saxo Bank companion simply wasn't going fast enough for him.
We're still not on the climb but we're already on switchbacks. It's almost 30km of uphill riding.
Palomares has 6 seconds on Jorgensen, 30 on the break and 6:25 on the bunch.
22km of racing left and BMC are breaking the chase group apart. that's either Frank or Quinziato doing the damage.
Duarte and Sanchez haven't played their cards yet.
The lone leader is actually on a short descent but behind him Jorgesen runs out of road on a corner. That's a very tricky section. Sky is still leading the pace behind.
Palomares climbing style isn't pretty but it is effective. He's out of the saddle and rocking from side to side. Sky are pretty much riding like Astana did in 09 at the Tour, just riding a solid but not too fast tempo before the climbs. That pace suited Wiggins perfectly in that race
Frank has jumped from the chase group in pursuit of the lone leader.
Moncoutie is on the attack now. that's more like it from the ageing Frenchman. He's got a big task on his hands but he knows how to pull of mountain stage wins.
Palomares has popped and he's been caught and dropped.
And Moncoutie is alone now. Intxausti has made it to the Frenchman's wheel though. He probably wont be doing much of the pace setting though.
15km to go and Duarte has finally woken up and he takes off from what's left from the chase.
Up ahead and a number of riders have made it over to the leading two men. O'Grady Frank included, but again the road rises up and Moncoutie attacks and breaks clear.
Lovkvist is setting the pace in the bunch for Wiggins and Froome.
Sky are down to two workers. Wiggins still has Froome on his wheel.
This climb isnt hard enough for Moncoutie because every time it levels off he's caught again. Paulinho makes it over and then he attacks straight away. That could work.
The Shack man won a Tour stage in 2010 so he has some quality. He'g got a gap but again Moncoutie attacks. Can he catch the Shack man?
That was answered quickly enough. Yes, he can.
Moncoutie is alone now and looking good.
He has 10 seconds on the chase behind.
Sky still leading the bunch but Wiggo and Froome have just one rider left.
The gap is 5 minutes so a winner will come from the break. Frank, Paulinho and Intxausti are the chase group.
The main bunch is still around 50-strong but Anton is near the back and struggling already.
The road flattens and 10km for the lone leader. This is where the stage will be decided. He needs to keep that gap stable.
He has 20 seconds on the chase group that now includes Sanchez. Where did he come from?
Moncoutie climbing again, that's the perfect terrain for him.
Back in the bunch Rodriguez is looking tense. He'll make a move later, surely.
-9km to go and the gap is still 20 seconds, 22 in fact. Riders hovering around Wiggins now, he's going to have to fight tooth and nail. Froome too.
The Sky leaders, can we call them that? are side by side.
@cedvasseur Wed, 31st Aug 2011 16:04:56
Karpets attacks to soften things up. He's marked by a Saxo rider. Sorensen.
Kruijswijk and Moreno are also in the move. Sky dont need to worry too much about that move just yet.
8km for Moncoutie. His gap has increased slightly. It's now 45 seconds.
Kruijswijk is riding well. He's not too far a good position on GC and he'll be working with Mollema.
Anton pops again.
Now we know Sky's intentions. Froome on the front and doing the work for Wiggins.
Scarponi is drifting towards the back of the group. Dan Martin too.
The Kruijswijk group has now been caught. Sky are isolated.
And Rodriguez attacks, Wiggins marks him, with some help from Sorensen. Wiggins looks back and lets everyone know he's feeling good.
Nieve has gone off the front, Moreno, Sorensen are with him.
And Jurgen van den Broeck is there too. Froome will have to chase that move.
The bunch is coming back, Froome doing all the work.
Kessiakoff, Martin both in the main group. So far we've only lost Anton.
As Moncountie goes under the 6km to go banner.
Froome setting the pace for the main group. What's he got left in the tank though, he's rocking a bit.
Moncoutie has over a minute now. 1:07 in fact.
VDB on Wiggins's wheel. No real sign of Nibali yet.
And Rodriguez and Nibali are both near the back of the group.
5km for the lone leader.
Froome looks like he's come through that tough period and he's setting a fine pace at the front.
And Moreno goes again.
4km for Moncoutie.
Sorensen, Jorgensen have made it into a group but Froome isn't concerned.
Fuglsang looks good at the moment. JVDB and Rodriguez both there.
And Sanchez attacks from the first chase group. Has he left it too late? Can he catch Moncoutie?
Nieve is in the Sorensen group by the way.
Petrov is giving Sky some help and setting the pace. That's really for Kessiakoff.
Scarponi and Martin still both near the back.
3km to go for Moncoutie. No time check on Sanchez yet though.
Nibali has moved closer to the front, where he should be.
It looks like Sanchez has been caught by the chase group. Moncoutie is riding towards the win.
The Cofidis rider has 1:20
Froome still on the front burying himself for Wiggins and Sky.
I wonder if Wiggins will attack or just up the pace once Froome blows...
2km to go. Moncoutie still looking good for the win.
A number of riders are attacking off the front of the Wiggins group but no real GC threats. Mollema has moved up near the front. Froome gets a break.
And Dan Martin attacks.
Out of the saddle and with a gap. he's got Wiggins and Mollema with him.
No it's two Rabo rider, Mollema, Martin and Slagter. They move through the remnants of another stray group and Mollema attacks!
Froome blows but hats off to him
Mollema is back with the Dan Martin group.
1km to go for Moncoutie.
Wiggins has brought it all back together. Catching Mollema and Dan Martin. That was impressive.
Wiggins on the front and stringing it all out. That's impressive.
Moncoutie can see the summit.
Mollema is struggling to hold Wiggins' wheel
Scarponi? he's popped.
And Menchov too. Gone.
If Fuglsang can hold on he'll move into the lead.
Stage win for Moncoutie.
And Rodriguez attacks.
Wiggins chases but he doesnt need to panic.
Rodriguez is more than 3 mins down on Wiggins in GC.
We're at 11% the hardest part of the climb an Roche is dropped.
Rodriguez still out in front. It's now Nibali leading the chase, then Cobo, then Wiggins.
Kessiakoff is there too. Around another 10 riders. I cant see Fuggles though.
Wiggins sets the pace. He wants the race lead. I think Fuglsang has been dropped. Rodriguez crosses the line but only takes 8 seconds of Wiggins.
Was Fuglsang there? We'll have to wait and see.
Fuglsang comes over the line, he wont be in red. Wiggins will.
That was a perfectly executed plan from Sky. Froome sacrificed his race lead for Wiggins who only marked one move, the first attack from Rodriguez. Once Froome blew, Wiggins took over and set a pace that put paid to Scarponi and Fuglsang.
Wiggins now leads Froome and Nibali in GC.
And hats off to Moncoutie. He needed to deliver after his Tour de France. Once again the Vuelta has rescued his season with another fine win.
1 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 4:38:00
2 Beñat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:18
3 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:18
4 Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:01:36
5 Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Team RadioShack 0:01:43
6 Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:29
7 Amets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:02:29
8 Aitor Perez Arrieta (Spa) Lampre - ISD 0:02:55
9 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 0:03:01
10 Vicente David Bernabeu Armengol (Spa) Andalucia Caja Granada 0:03:08
And here's how things stand on GC. It's still tightly packed.
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 42:50:41
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:07
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:11
4 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Pro Team Astana 0:00:14
5 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:00:19
6 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:47
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek 0:01:06
8 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC 0:01:27
9 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack 0:01:53
10 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team RadioShack 0:02:00