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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage seven of the vuelta. The 182.9km stage is from Almadén to Talavera de la Reina and is expected to finish with a bunch sprint.
As we pick up the stage, there are 65km to go.
The stage is largely flat wihtoput a single categorised climb during the stage.
The Quick Step team of race leader Sylvain Chavanel has been controlling affairs for most of the stage.
We have a four-rider breakaway that is four minutes ahead of the peloton.
The quartet jumped away almost straight away and the peloton let them go.
The gap reached nine minutes at one point but since then (after 25km) the peloton has been pegging back the gap.
The first hour of the race saw an average speed of 35km/h and things have been very steady since.
With the sprinters determined to fight for victory today, their teams have been helping Quick Step with the chase.
Skil-Shimano are riding to help Marcel Kittel.
HTC-Highroad are likely to hit the front later to set up John Degenkolb.
Technical race director Abraham Olano pointed out the difficulties of today's finale: “This stage looks flat on paper but it’s never flat. It’s a real transition stage. It’s going to be a bunch sprint finish. The teams will be able to get organised on these wide roads. There are two small roundabouts at 300 metres before the line.”
Garmin-Cervélo’s Heinrich Haussler revealed they wil lbe riding to set up Tyler Farrar.
“Today the course isn’t like the other days, there’s only 2000 metres of climbing but we’re going to have crosswinds all day. It’s not as warm as for the past six days. If there are twenty guys up the road and the peloton is happy with it, there won’t be a bunch sprint, but I don’t think so. It should be a sprint. Today, we’ll set it up for Tyler."
Marc de Maar has been doing a lot of work for Quick Step today, showing his unique Curaçao national champion's jersey.
Here at Cyclingnews we're expecting a fiesty sprint between Kittel and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
However Mario Scirea, the DS at Liquigas-Cannondale, thinks Kittel is perhaps faster than his man.
“I don’t think that anything else but a bunch sprint can happen today because Marcel Kittel is in the race. I’m impressed by this rider. When Purito won [stage 5 at Valdepeñas de Jaén], he was dropped only 17km before the end. This guy is much more than a sprinter. He’s a different kind of rider than Peter Sagan. In a standard sprint, I think that Kittel normally beats Sagan.”
Susan stepping in for a few minutes here.
The peloton is bunched together, chasing down the four escapees.
We still have 41.5km to go, and the field doesn't want to catch this group too soon. So the gap has gone back up to 2:45.
King of the predictions Eros Capecchi announced: “It’s gonna be a sprint. Daniele Bennati is the hot favourite. If not him, the winner should be Marcel Kittel or Tyler Farrar.”
Leopard Trek agrees with Capecchi and is once again today leading the chase. They put in a lot of work yesterday which went unrewarded, and hope for a better outcome today.
The gap is dropping again and is now just over two minutes.
Former mountain biker Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) is one of the nice surprises of the first week of the Vuelta. “I’m very happy to be where I stand now on GC”, the Swede said. “There’s still a long way to Madrid. I don’t want to make the top 5 after two weeks and be nowhere at the end. I prefer to target the top 15 overall. Yesterday I lost a few seconds but that’s no problem. I prefer to avoid stress and useless fatigue. I yet have to grow into the role of a GC rider. I hadn’t come here as the team leader, so I don’t want to put pressure on myself.”
The four leaders feel the pressure and step up their tempo. It doesn't help, as the gap is now under two minutes.
The field has now split. About 40 riders are scrambling to catch the field again.
Crash! 4 or 5 riders have gone done. No one seems to be injured thank goodness.
Greg Van Avernaet of BMC is one of the last to be up and going again. A vacansoliel rider is still waiting for a new bike.
The fie,d is now broken up into various groups, strung out single file. None of them are very far apart, but of course that can change quickly.
Looks like they are all together again.
Despite the crash, the gap has continued to decrease, now is 1:25.
The wind is playing a role now....
The wind has broken p again into numerous little groups.
HTC's Albasini is one of those in the third group, struggling to catch up.
The intermediate sprint is coming up....
Now the field ils approaching the line -- what will the gap be?
50 seconds for the first large group.
The peloton is bunched together again.
Hounard took the sprint points, ahead of the two Cofidis riders.
Oscar Freire: “I’ve been sick at the beginning of the Vuelta, that’s why I considered pulling out. Today I feel better and I believe that I’m in the same shape as the others. Finally, we have a stage for sprinters today. This is an occasion for me not to miss.”
The gap is now down to 26 seconds.
Mate takes off out of the lead group in an attempt to salvage something for his team.
The peloton can now see the leaders. Mate is only about 30 meters ahead of the other three.
Only 23 seconds.....
The foru leaders are together again, but pedalling desparetely
One of the Cofidis riders has taken off again.
It is Fouchard this time, giving it his all.
Houarnard has been caught.
Mate and Cabello have been caught. Fouchard has 12 seconds.
Fouchard is hanging on to his minimal lead.
The tightly packed bunch will catch the Cofidis rider any second now.
Seven seconds at the 9km marker.
That#s it for Fouchard -- the break is over!
Seven km to go. The group will probably stay together until the end now. Or will someone try their luck as a solo against the sprinters' teams?
HTC-Columbia has taken over the lead work now.
Five km to go....
Chavanel near the head of the group, close to HTC-Columbia.
They are moving along at 58kmh.
A Sky rider has jumped to teh front of the HTC train.
Three km and over 65mh!
The group is now strung out flying along....
Two km and many are dropping back within the field, to stay out of the way of the sprint.
Fischer opens the sprint
A Vacansoleil rider goes, with Sil also there.
Inteh second row a rider went down, and many others went down too, That pretty much blocked everything up from tehre.
Marcel Kittel of Skil won by the way, with Peter Sagan second.
Tyler Farrar is still layingon the ground.
A number of riders are making their way over th efinish line at last, rubbing various body parts.
That was Kittel's first Grand Tour victory.
It is his 13th win of the season!
Friere was third with Bennati fourth.
A Vacansoleil rider is bleeding from the face. Ooh, he lost a lot of skin and has a nasty nose bleed, may be broken.
Ferrar was the first to go down. Don't know the cause.
Hmm, someone is tidying up a large pool of blood on the pavement....
The Vacansoleil rider is Golas. He also managed to rip holes in teh back of his shorts.
Here's the top ten of the stage today:
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Skil - Shimano
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
3 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team
4 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard Trek
5 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank Sungard
7 Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil - Shimano
8 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
9 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Pro Team Astana
10 Leigh Howard (Aus) HTC-Highroad
The first real mass sprint of the Vuelta , and such a nasty crash. Not at all what anyone wanted!
There shouldn't be any changes at the top of the GC, but we haven't seen the final rankings yet. We will have them up on the site as soon as we get them.
Well, that ending turned out to be interesting in a not-so-good way. We hope there are no serious injuries.
Thanks for reading along and be sure to join us again tomorrow.