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Hello and welcome to live coverage from the Vuelta a Espana.
Today marks stage 19 of the race, 181km from San Vicente de la Barquera to Alto Naranco.
Only three days to go now but two of them feature summit finishes. The first is the celebrated Alto del Naranco above Oviedo. It is dubbed the 'Cima Tarangu' in memory of Asturian climbing legend José Manuel Fuente, who sealed his second Vuelta victory on the climb in 1974, the first occasion the race tackled it.
A regular fixture up to the 1990s, the Naranco has not featured on the route since 1997, when Vicente García Acosta was the first to the top. Averaging 5.8 per cent and just 6.8km in length, the climb up to the statue of Christ is not overly taxing but the huge crowd on its slopes will provide a superb atmosphere, especially if Oviedo's own Samuel Sánchez is on song.
Garcia Acosta only retired a few years ago but was a mainstay at the Banesto/ibanest/Caisse team. Zulle of course won the Vuetla that year, having crashed out of the Tour de France a month or so earlier. The ONCE rider won the race in 1996 too, with three Swiss riders on the podium. Dufaux and Rominger.
1998 Vuelta winner Abraham Olano:
"The Vuelta used to visit the Naranco often but it hasn't for a long time. The climb isn't that hard but you have to remember that there are time bonuses available at all of the Vuelta finishes and these seconds can be vital. That can make climbs like these more intriguing."
Some of today's large break would have been in nursery way back in 1996, but here are the names of the riders in the main move:
David Tanner (Belkin), Francis De Greef (Lotto), Rafael Valls Ferri (Vacansoleil), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky), Georg Preidler (Argos), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Benat Intxausti (Movistar), Paul Voss (NetApp), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel), Manuele Mori (Lampre), Leigh Howard (Orica GreenEDGE), David Arroyo (Caja Rural), Xabier Zandio (Team Sky), Dominik Nerz (BMC), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Christian Meier (Orica GreenEDGE), Daniele Ratto (Cannondale), Ivan Santaromita (BMC) and Nico Sijmens (Cofidis).
After 50km of racing they have 2.30 over the peloton.
The KOM could be decided today. Both riders at the top of the standings are in the move. Neither scored points yesterday and Edet will be looking to extend his advantage.
The danger man is Horner though. Two summit finishes could see him claim the jersey.
1 Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 37 pts
2 Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 30
3 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 22
The first hour of racing was taken at just under 50kph by the way, the break having to really fight to establish a foothold in the stage. Some decent fire power in the move, especially with the two BMC riders who have already been on the attack in the race.
David Arroyo is the top rider in GC to make the break. It's really his last chance to crack into the top ten though. He lost some ground yesterday - he can't follow the main GC guys when the pace is upped, so this is perhaps his best option. Either that or he's signalling that he doesn't want to go for the top ten, and that a stage win is his only ambition.
With the break as established as a UCI candidate's manifesto, we'll take a look at the news from around the cycling world.
We'll start with the 2014 Giro. Big announcement today is that the race will end in Trieste next year, with a finish on Monte Zoncolan on the final Saturday expected to decide the final overall winner on the penultimate stage. You can read all about it, right here.
Lance Armstrong has confirmed that he's handed back his Olympic bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Games. He was third behind Ekimov and Ullirch in the TT but with the Reasoned Decision he lost the medal. Fourth placed rider on the day, Olano, will not be receiving the medal in Armstrong's place. That story, you can find right here.
Not really news but tomorrow the Vuelta climbs the Angliru, and we've put together this gallery dating back to 1999. Alas we couldn't find a picture of David Millar's protest from 2002 but there are still some real gems in the gallery. Heras, Beloki, Cobo, Tonkov, Sevilla, even Fabio Roscioli makes a cameo, so all your friends are there.
Last but not least Gazzetta have looked at Horner's VAMS performance from the Vuelta. You can read their thoughts right here.
Of course Horner could win the Vuelta and then he could back that up with the Worlds title later this month. He seems to have the measure of Nibali at the moment so perhaps we'll see Froome and Horner sprinting it out on the last climb in Florence.
I'm sure all the young athletes on the US men's worlds team will be super excited to have a genuine race contender within their ranks. If you can get odds on Horner at anything around 15/1, it's a bargain.
The other favourites will probably be Froome, Nibali, Uran, Dan Martin and possibly Gilbert.
Back in the race and the leaders have an advantage that's still at the 2'30 mark but we've raced 66km. The peloton aren't too keen on this move being given a lot of room.
It's Katusha and Omega Pharma QuickStep who are setting the pace on the front of the peloton. The Russian team might be looking to protect Moreno's GC place at the moment but Omega's tactics aren't immediately obvious.
Johnny Hoogerland has abandoned the race.
Just under 100km to go and the leaders, have 2:30 on the peloton. The group might just be too big and a lack ho cohesion may have prevented them from establishing a healthier lead. With tomorrow's stage to the Angliru and then a sprint in Madrid, this is the last chance for a number of riders, not just in the Vuelta but also to save their careers and find contracts for next season.
Preidler and Boasson Hagen seem to have caught the rest of the attack off guard and the pair have slipped clear. They have 20 seconds on the main break, the bunch still at just over two minutes. Edet and Ratto will need to bring this pair back if they're to pick up some vital KOM points.
We have an intermediate sprint coming up in the next 10km, then the climbs start.
“I’ve known this climb since I was a kid. And of course I would love to win here. It would be a huge boost for Euskaltel,"
The two leaders have over a minute on the rest of the break. There's clearly a lack of cooperation in the main break.
Arroyo, once a GC threat in the Giro d'Italia has a mechanical problem and has called for his team car? Perhaps, just perhaps the rest of the break have asked him to sit up due to his GC position.
Good morning if you're just joining us from the US. We have a group of two Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky), Georg Preidler (Argos),
Then we have David Tanner (Belkin), Francis De Greef (Lotto), Rafael Valls Ferri (Vacansoleil), , Danilo Wyss (BMC), Benat Intxausti (Movistar), Paul Voss (NetApp), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel), Manuele Mori (Lampre), Leigh Howard (Orica GreenEDGE), David Arroyo (Caja Rural), Xabier Zandio (Team Sky), Dominik Nerz (BMC), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Christian Meier (Orica GreenEDGE), Daniele Ratto (Cannondale), Ivan Santaromita (BMC) and Nico Sijmens (Cofidis) at just over a minute and the main field at 2;20.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and Georg Preidler (Argos) have now put 1;50 into the main break. Impressive work from the duo leading the race.
Looks like Arroyo really did have a problem with his bike , he's back with the main break now.
And now Valls Ferri and Mori have jumped and they've made it to the leaders.
Correction: this is the correct situation on the road:
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky), Georg Preidler (Argos)
Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), David Tanner (Belkin), Danilo Wyss (BMC), David Arroyo (Caja Rural), Andriy Grivko (Astana) and Paul Voss (159) by 1.30. Manuele Mori (Lampre) and Rafael Valls Ferri (Vacansoleil)
And now David Tanner is losing ground from the chase group. The break has become far more selective.
This uncategorized climb the leaders are on is making a huge difference to the nature and number with the main break. Boassan Hagen and Preider are unlikely to sit up though.
Over the uncategorised climb and the two leaders are working well together. They're still over a minute clear. With the bunch now at 2:04 it's unlikely that the leading pair will sit up and wait for the chase group.
With the peloton now climbing the two leaders have added another minute to their advantages. it's now 3:09.
The two leaders are on the longest section of flat road - about 10k - from here until the finish. There are two cat 3 climbs and then the second cat climb to the finish.
1.30 between the two breaks and the bunch at 3:20 with 53km to go. The overall battle is so tight and tense, surely it's all going to come back together. So far RadioShack have held back but Horner will surely strike out and try and distance Nibali once more today. Tomorrow's finish should be more decisive but the gap is so small - three seconds - and as the man once said, every second counts.
Into the final 50km of racing. The entire field are spread by around three minutes. A reminder of where things stand on GC:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 73:39:35
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:03
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:09
4 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:02:24
5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:03:43
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:05:44
7 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ 0:06:14
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura 0:06:35
9 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:07:51
10 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 0:11:10
Still, anyone in the top four can win this race but it looks like Horner has the form to drop everyone at the moment. He has two days to take the jersey and then hold it.
The American still hasn't signalled his plans for 2014, and came into the Vuelta without a contract. Cyclingnews were told by one agent that his money demands were part of the problem, but also there aren't any teams on the look out for much needed UCI points this year. Horner may feel like his value will increase if he wins the Vuelta. That's that always the case. Casero was in a similar position, and Jonathan Vaughters wrote about that over a decade ago in Cycle Sport magazine - how many teams have finalised budgets already and places are thin on the ground.
Dear readers, sincere apologies. We lost connection with roughly 50km to go and we've only just been able to resolve the issue.
You can find our race report for today's stage, right here.