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It's another hot day, as the peloton takes on 193 “lumpy” kilometers, with a cat. 2 climb only 20 km from the finish.
Hello and welcome back to the Vuelta. It is hot again today. And despite the rolling course, a mass sprint is expected later on in Cordoba.
With107 km to go, we have a break group of four with an 8:11 gap over the field. Aleksejs Saramotins (Cofidis), Adrián Palomares (Andalucia-Caja Granada), Martin Kohler (BMC) and Yukihiro Doi (Skil-Shimano) got away 70 km into the stage.
There have already been two abandons today. The first was Rabobank's Matti Breschel, who crashed in the neutralized section of the stage, cutting his chin and suffering a lot of road rash. He is off to hospital for x-rays. The other abandon was Nicolas Vogondy of Cofidis.
The four leaders have just passed through the feed zone.
The race got off to a very active start, with lots of groups trying to get away. Leader Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and third-ranked Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) were amongst those who gave it a shot, but not surprisingly, they were not allowed to go.
110 km into the stage, Leopard Trek and Garmin-Cervelo have combined to lead the chase and bring the gap down to 6:25.
Happy Birthday today to Domink Nerz. The German riding for Liquigas has turned 22.
Liquigas and Quick Step have joined in the chase, and the gap is down to 5:56.
Palomares is the highest-ranked of the group. The 35-year-old – and therefore the oldest in the grop – is 162nd overall. He doesn't have any victories this year, but in his career has won the Trofeo Joaquim Agostinho as well as stages at the GP Correios de Portugal, the Tour of Britain and the Regio-Tour.
Saramotins is a four-time national road champion in Latvia, having won the title in 2005, 2006,2007 and 2010. He is 29.
The gap continues to fall and is now exactly five minutes. But with a temperature of 34° Celsius, is that a surprise?
That's about 93°F, for those of you in the US.
Kohler is 26 years old and the youngest in the group. He is currently the Swiss national time trial champion.
Not many spectators at this point. None, in fact. Actually we seem to be going through a orchard.
The leaders go through a village, with fans there rooting them on.
Doi has the honour of being the first Japanese to ride the Vuelta. He is 27 and has been riding for Shimano since 2004.
Is this a stage for Oscar Freire? “The finale is very hard”, he said. “For sure, a breakaway will make it till the end. I’m getting better and better every day. I woke up with less pain this morning. If I was in good shape, it would be a good race for me, but it’s not the case. I’m not well yet.”
The gap continues to come down and isnot under four minutes, at 3:45.
Kurt-Asle Arvesen of Team Sky has just abandoned. He was in a horrifying crash yesterday, when he ran into a child who ran onto the road. The child was not seriously injured.
Arvesen suffered bruises and lacerations, but it must have been enough to make it impossible to continue.
And Johan Tschopp of BMC throws in the towel as well and gives up.
Rabobank's teammate and fellow Spanaird Luis Leon Sanchez had this to say: “I won’t try to win even though the end of the stage is adapted to my characteristics. For now, I’m staying covered in the middle of the bunch. I think that a breakaway will win today.”
The gap is plummeting now, down to 2:29.
Yesterday’s winner Joaquim Rodriguez admitted that Katusha celebrated the two consecutive stage wins but his parents didn’t attend the party. “They are in between watching the race and visiting family, as my mum is from Andalucia”, said the Catalan rider. “Today’s stage will not have any
influence on GC but like every day, I’ll have to be careful of not losing any time.”
Well, maybe a break group will make it away to the end today, but it sure won't be this group. The gap is now under two minutes, with 37km to go.
Eros Capecchi (Liquigas) gave his prediction for the day: “This is a stage for Daniele Bennati, Peter Sagan, Oscar Freire or Matti Breschel to win. Also Tom Boonen could, even though he pulled yesterday.”
Leopard Trek has done much of the chase work, and why? Because Daniele Bennati wants to win today. “I know the final hill because we’ve done it two years ago. It’s not easy but it’s also not impossible for me to win. Our team Leopard-Trek won’t ride at the beginning of the stage but later on, it’s an option if we feel that I can win. I want to win, that’s for sure.”
Some had said that today was a stage for Peter Sagan, and the Liquigas rider sort of agrees He's not really feeling as good as he should, “But I keep at the back of my mind that a stage win is a possibility today.”
Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) hopes to keep his red jersey for a couple of days. “Yesterday I was scared of the finish, today I’m not”, he said. “Later in the Vuelta, I’ll look for being far down on GC, and then I’ll be able to go for the stage victory that I want so much.”
The gap is down to a minute, and Kohler takes his chance. He attacks out of the group. He is Swiss national time trial champ, so he might be able to pull it off.
Kohler takes the final intermediate sprint, followed by Palomares.
Kohler still has 57 seconds on the peloton.
Vicente Reynes (Omega Pharma-Lotto) said that he would try again after coming second to Chris Sutton at Playas de Orihuela on Sunday. “It can be today”, he confirmed. “There are two options for winning today: breakaway or sprints. I might try both but I won’t ask the team to work for that all day because our priority is to protect Van den Broeck on GC.” !
Saromatins and Doi have been caught by the field.
Cancellara has done much of the lead of the chase work and now drops back. All the way to the back of the field.
Only 15 seconds now for Kohler.
The break is over. Kohler has just been caught.
Don't forget, we still have a climb today. The Alto del Catorce por ciento is where they are right now. It is a category two climb, with a gradient of up to 14 percent.
The climb is enough to start dropping a number of riders off the back already.
Leopard Trek continues to pull the peloton along.
Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) is another fast man tipped as a favourite for today. “I believe in a breakaway to succeed, so I want to be part of it”, he said. “We need to read the race well. We also have a mission for protecting Fredrik Kessiakoff who can do well on GC.”
The next attack: who else but David Moncoutie of Cofidis? He wants those points towards the mountain jersey.
11% gradient at the moment, and HTC-Columbia's Degenkolb is not finding it easy going.
Moncoutie of course has no problem with it and is zipping right along.
Leopard Trek has pulled the field along most of the day and is now pullilng them up the cimb.
Moncoutie has a nice little lead here.
Tony Martin of HTC-Columbia is the next to attack!
Moncoutie has taken the mountain points, with Martin second. Martin has now been joined by another rider, and they are within sight of Moncoutie.
It is De la Fuente of Geox.
The three are now together and have in fact been joined by Kevin Seeldrayers of Quick Step.
Only 10 seconds for this group.
The gap is now up to 18 seconds.
Will this group get through and spoil the sprinters' plans? We think Martin would have a good chance....
Leopard Trek has finally dropped out of the lead work, with Liquigas and Movistar moving up.
Of course, as we write that, a Leopard Trek riders moves to the front.
Now 20 seconds.
Lastras tries to get away from the field and builds a small gap.
Martin is doing a turn on the descent.
Only 10 seconds now for the small group.
A group of seven or eight has given chase and is only five seconds behind the group.
The four have been caught.
Liquigas is now leading the way down this dangerous descent.
Looks like a group of 12-15 riders all strung out in the lead.
Sagan is leading them.
The field has blasted apart into many little groups.
There are now four riders in the lead, followed by several small groups.
Let's make that five in the lead group, four Liquigas including Nibali, plus Lastras.
Chavanel sees his leader's jersey being endangered and gives chase.
He is together with Martin and Joaquim Rodriguez in the first chase group, about 10 seconds back.
The next group is another 9 seconds behind them.
AT the 1km marker, two Liquigas riders attack!
The five together again.
nibali leads out, followed by Sagan
Sagan takes it, for his first Vuelta stage win.
Chavanel crosses the line at 16 seconds, so he should hold on to his lead.
What a coup by Liquigas! The four riders got away on the descent and managed to stay away and take the win.
Nibali will not be happy to miss out on the 20 bonus seconds awarded to the stage winner, but better than letting Lastras take the win.
It was close, too, as Lastras was second.
Chavanel does indeed hold on to the overall lead. He is 15 seconds ahead of Moreno, with Nibali third at 16 seconds
That is the biggest career win for Sagan, who is only 21. He has had quite a year in 2011, winning the Giro di Sardegna and the Tour of Poland.
Here's the top ten on the stage:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 4:38:22
2 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team
3 Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
5 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:03
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:00:17
7 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 0:00:17
8 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Movistar Team 0:00:17
9 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:00:17
10 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:00:17
And the GC now looks like this
1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team 22:41:13
2 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:00:15
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:16
4 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 0:00:23
5 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:00:25
6 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Pro Team Astana 0:00:41
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek 0:00:44
8 Sergio Pardilla Belllón (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:49
9 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Movistar Team 0:00:52
10 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:00:57
That's it for today! Thanks for reading along and join us again tomorrow for another exciting Vuelta stage.