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Hola and welcome the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana. The 155km stage takes the race into the Pyrenees, with a tough day in the mountains and a finish at Collada de la Gallina in Andorra.
This is the first of a three tough stages in the Pyrenees which are expected to see some aggressive racing.
The weather could also be a factor, with the riders racing in the rain and with a storm gathering.
The stage includes four main climbs: The Port de Erivalira, the Coll de Ordino, the Alto de la Comella and then the climb to the finish at Collada de la Gallina.
After the long climb up from Baga, the riders are already in Andorra but face a long mountainous loop around the country.
It is raining heavily and so the descent, as much as the climbs could be decisive today.
The riders have covered 62km, leaving 94km in the mountains still to race.
As expected, we have an early break. This time five riders jumped away after just three kilometres.
The five are: Steve Chainel (AG2R La Mondiale), Graeme Brown, Luis León Sánchez (Belkin), Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and
Daniele Ratto (Cannondale).
The break quickly build a significant lead and still has a margin of 11:25 on the peloton.
Graeme Brown has worked hard to help LL Sanchez and the Spainiard is no doubt looking to win the stage.
It will be interesting to see if Gilbert can stay with him. If he can it will prove the Belgian world champion will be a real threat at the hilly world championships in Tuscany on September 29.
The break is now on the Port de Envalira climb.
It is 26.7km long at an average of 5.2%.
As to be expected, Chainel and Brown are struggling and have already been dropped from the move.
Behind the break, the overall contenders are staying on the wheels and wrapped up against the rain. We can expect some action very soon.
As you may have seen, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) didn't start today's stage and his season is over after a scan discovered he has a hip fracture. He had been fighting pain for several days after crashing on stage of the Vuelta.
It means Australia has lost a key rider for the world championships. Read more about it here, including comments from Gerrans.
Before start, race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) said he was expecting attacks:
“I expect that my rivals will attack me today but I’m not worried. I haven’t watched last year’s finish at La Gallina. I don’t want to add any stress. I’m also not afraid of the rain. I
usually go well with these weather conditions.”
“Our most dangerous rival remains Chris Horner”, added Astana’s DS Giuseppe
Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) admitted that he needs to make up some time on Nibali today and so is likely to attack.
“If my legs are good, I have to make up
some time today. I’d prefer better weather. The finale is not as steep as the other day when I won but a small margin can be gained. I have no need to take the red jersey back today but I need to make some time,” he said at the start.
Eros Capecchi predicted that Movistar would ride defensively but suggested that Alejandro Valverde will target the time bonuses on offer at the finish. He won the stage to La Gallina in 2012 but lost road captain and key domestique Pablo Lastras in a crash on Friday.
“With Pablo Lastras, we’ve lost an important man yesterday. Benat Intxausti’s crash in the tunnel was spectacular but with no consequence, except that he missed the opportunity to win the stage," Capecchi said.
"Today we’re going to follow because we have the rider (Alejandro Valverde) who can gain time bonus at the end. Even if it’s a different and harder stage than last year, as he won at La Gallina, he’s confident to do it
Of course, all eyes will be on Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez (Katusha). He lives in Andorra and knows he roads well. He is also looking for a stage victory and to revive his overall chances.
“Yesterday, I was going well. I have
found the sensations I like again. Today’s stage finishes close to my home. This is MY stage,” he said.
We can no doubt expect Purito to light it up on the climb to the finish.
The temperature is just 5 C atop the Port de Envalira. The breakaways are close to the summit now.
The gap to the peloton is still a massive 12:30.
The break is over the top of the Port de Envalira, the climb is the highest climb of the Vuelta, and is entitled to Alberto Fernandez, just as the highest climb, the Cima Coppi, is named after Fasuto Coppi.
The peloton has also crossed the summit, 8:30 behind the breakaway trio.
The bad weather is taking its toll on the riders. Nick Nuyens (Garmin-Sharp) Lieuwe Westra and Wouter Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) have retired during the stage.
The descent is creating problems in the peloton and up front.
Sanchez has crashed on the descent but is back riding, while Ivan Basso (Cannondale) is struggling in the wet and cold conditions.
Upfront the break has split as it starts the Coll de Ordino. Ratto now leads alone, 25 clear of Gilbert.
Six riders have formed a group off the front of the peloton.
Ratto has a gap of 7:40 on the peloton.
Jose Herrada (Movistar), Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), Vladimir Gusev (Katusdha), Imanol Erviti (Movistar) and Luca Paolini (Katusha) have a skight led on the peloton.
Sadly there is no live television at the moment as the race is exploding.
The Belkin team has confirmed that Luis Leon Sanchez has now retired from the Vuelta after his crash and due to hypothermia.
Sanchez seemed on course to go for the stage victory but now that fight is between Ratto and Gilbert. The Italian has a slight lead on the world champion.
So far Vincenzo Nibali seems on control. He has several teammates with him, including Jakob Fuglsang and Paolo Tiralongo.
Ratto begins the long descent off the Col de Ordino. He has to tackle a small Cat 2 climb and then the much tougher Collada de la Gallina.
It is still raining at the finish, but the clouds are breaking slightly. This will be an epic stage if the overall contenders begin to attack on the descent and final climb.
The weather and climbs are creating a natural selection. There are just 30 or so riders in the front peloton. Alex Howes (Garmin-SHarp) is in there as he continues to impress.
Surprisingly Pinot has joined he front group on the descent, despite his descending problems.
Pinot is with Anton, Urtasun, Egoi, Flecha, Arroyo, Herrada, Txurruka and Howes. They have a minute on the peloton.
Ratto is close to two minutes clear of Gilbert now. He's in pursuit of victory.
It is still pouring down with rain but the race is on.
The cold and rain has combined to create huge problems, with even Valverde suffering.
It seems he stopped for a natural break but had to chase hard to get back on.
Ratto is just 16km from the finish but faces a long climb to the finish.
He still leads by 9:00.
It seems that Ivan Basso (Cannondale) has also retired due to the cold.
Basso apparently suffered in the cold on the descent of the Envalira. He was seventh overall in the GC.
The Cannondale team has confirmed that Basso has retired. It seems he was close to suffering with hypothermia.
It is brutal out there.
Valverde is suffering too and is at 45 seconds, as Katusha drive the pace.
Valverde seems to be struggling. His legs look heavy and is trying to stay on is teammates wheel.
Ratto is safely down the last descent of the Alto de la Comella. He has just 10km to go.
He leads the chasers by over 8 minutes. Valverde is 40 seconds back. He won the stage here last year but is suffering today.
It is going to be a day of mixed emotions for Cannondale. Ratto is on course to win the stage but team leader Ivan Basso has retired.
Ratto is trying to hold off the peloton behind. His gap is at 8:50.
Gilbert is five minutes down on Ratto and so about four minutes ahead of the peloton.
Nibali has taken off his cape and seems ready for the climb to the finish.
Roche is in the Nibali group, which includes a dozen or so riders.
Behind Valverde is slowly getting back on.
It seems even more bad weather if forecast for Sunday's second stage in the Pyrenees.
The Nibali group is at the 7km to go mark.
Ratto is at 4km to go.
Ratto is on the steep, 15% section now.
Valverde is fighting to get back but the roads will kick up again now.
Leo Konig (NetApp-Endura) has been dropped from the front group. Nibali looks ok but so does Rodriguez and Horner.
Horner is wearing the blue and white jersey today. Kiserlovski is setting the pace for Horner, while Nibali is alone.
Ratto has just 2km to go. He has been away for 150km, 3km into the stage.
Horner has leg warmers and arm warmers to fight the cold.
Horner has now hit the front and upped the pace. Nibali is on his wheel.
This is the decisive moment of the race.
In a touch of mind games, Nibali moves up alongside Horner or a hairpin.
Rodriguez and Roche were unable to hold the pace on this steep part of the climb.
Ratto is gonig to win the stage but Horner and Nibali have past Gilbert, the other breakaway of the day.
Horner will rise in the overall classification, making up some of the time he lost in the time trial. He could be second overall at the end of the stage.
Ratto is inside the final kilometre.
Nibali and Horner will gain a big chunk of time on their overall rivals. Could the Vuelta become a two-horse race?
Up front Ratto is shaking his head as the pain hurts his legs. The 23 year-old will be able to enjoy victory very soon.
Ratto can see the finish.
He starts to celebrate victory.
He throws his arms up in the air and pulls on his Cannondale jersey, savouring the moment. This is the biggest win of his career.
Ratto celebrates with the Cannondale team staff.
Behind Horner is leading Nibali as the other GC contenders fight to limit their losses.
They lead Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) and Rodriguez (Katusha) by 20 seconds.
Valverde is 40 seconds behind.
Nibali and Valerde will no doubt fight for the bonus seconds.
Here they come.
Nibali kicks and takes second place 3:52 behind Ratto. Horner is just behind him.
Rodriguez finished at 4:11 down on Ratto, Sanchez at 4:20 and Valerde stops the clock at 4:43, Pinot and Pozzovivo were just behind him.
Nibali has extended his overall lead on all his rivals.
Roche seems to have cracked and could lose a lot of time.
Ratto gave Cannondale its 32nd win of the season. Team Sky has also won 20 races, with Omega Pharma-Quick Step leading the honours list with a massive 49 victories.
Today's stage was terrible due to the weather but just 155km long. Sunday's stage to Peyragudes is 224km long and includes four major climbs and three long descents.
Nibali gained to seconds plus a four second time bonus.
Rcohe finished 7:22 down on the stage and has slipped to sixth overall.
Horner is second overall at 50 seconds. Valverde is at 1:42, with Rodriguez at 2:57.
Ratto sprays the crowd with the Cava. It's the best day of his young career.
Nibali steps on the podium to collect another red jersey.
That's it from over live coverage for today.
We will have a full report, a huge photo gallery, news and interviews from the Vuelta very soon.
Join is on Sunday' for stage 15 and more action in the Pyrenees.