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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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It's a bumpy 189 kilometers today from Lain to Fisterra, with one climb along the way.
Welcome back to the Vuelta a Espana. Today's fourth stage is what the Spanish call a “legbreaker” -- one mountain along the way, but no real flat anywhere.
A quintet formed and got away only 12km into the stage. Jussi Viekkanen (FDJ), Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Sharp), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Dennis Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) are the lucky ones today. With 127 km to go, ,they have a gap of six minutes.
No great threat to the overall leaders today. Veikkanen is the highest ranked of the five, in 76th palce and 10:08 down.
We have already had the first intermediate sprint of the day. Rasmussen took it ahead of Wyss and Edet.
Ivan Velasco of Caja Rural has visited the race doctor's car. We don't know why but hope it is nothing serious.
You can get an idea of the stage by the name of the finish: “El fin del mundo” -- the end of the world.
Let's not make this stage sound easier than it is. We expect things to explode with only 35km to go, as the peloton tackles the day's only ranked climb, the Mirador de Ezaro. It is a short climb, but features gradients of an astonishing 29% at one point. It featured in last year's Vuelta for the first time, and Cyclingnews wrote about it then.
The peloton is perhaps thinking about how to tackle that climb later on. At any rate, they aren't thinking about catching the break group any time soon. The gap has now gone up to 7:00.
Read our preview of today's stage, with comments from Matt White, here.
The weather today: warm and sunny! Light wind early on, could get stronger later on.
We are about halfway through and with the gap just over 7 minutes, OPQS decided it was time to take action and has moved to the front of the field.
Let's look at how things stand coming into today's stage. Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) became the oldest rider ever to wear the leader's jersey in a Grand Tour when he won the stage yesterday and took a three-second lead over Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
1 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 9:37:40
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:03
3 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:11
4 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:13
5 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:23
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:24
7 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:25
8 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:35
9 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 0:00:44
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:45
Now that OPQS has jumped into action, we see virtually immediate effects. The gap has already dropped by one minute and is now 6:24.
Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) are tied for the top of the points ranking, but the young Irishman has the upper hand.
1 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 32 pts
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 32
3 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 28
4 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 25
5 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 23
6 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 20
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 17
8 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 17
9 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp 17
10 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura 14
With 87km to go, the gap is now down to 5:02.
Eurobike opens tomorrow! That is the world's leading bicycle trade show and is held in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Of course Cyclingnews will be there covering all the new introductions and designs.
Roche also leads the mountains ranking.
1 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 10 pts
2 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 6
3 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 4
4 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 3
5 Javier Francisco Aramendia Lorente (Spa) Caja Rural 3
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 3
7 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura 2
8 Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Belisol 2
9 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 1
10 Alex Rasmussen (Den) Garmin-Sharp 1
OPQS' work is really bearing fruit. With 75 km to go the gap is only 4:20 for Jussi Viekkanen (FDJ), Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Sharp), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Dennis Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis).
If Roche had the time and energy, he could be wearing yet another special jersey today – the combination classification.
1 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 5 pts
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 8
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 14
4 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 16
5 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura 28
6 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 31
7 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 43
8 Alex Rasmussen (Den) Garmin-Sharp 125
9 Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Belisol 157
10 Javier Francisco Aramendia Lorente (Spa) Caja Rural 217
What will the finish be like today? Alasdair Fotheringham is at the Vuelta for Cyclingnews, and this is what he had to say: “It's really windy, but sunny. Almost the whole stage is run on really mega technical backroads. Driven the bit after the third cat. Ezaro climb and it's very difficult although when they hit the coast again, roads improve dramatically. The finish is at a lighthouse which stands on a large headland above Fisterre village so the last bit drags up. The last few kilometers are very exposed to the wind. Nearly 3,000 metres of vertical climbing on the stage.”
Let's round things out with then team rankings:
1 Radioshack Leopard 27:53:28
2 Team Saxo - Tinkoff 0:00:11
3 Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:16
4 Team Netapp - Endura 0:01:25
With 69 km to go, the gap has gone back up to just over 5 minutes.
Alex Rasmussen of Garmin-Sharp is in the lead group, and one of his goals here at the Vuelta is to secure a contract for the coming year. He assumes he will be with the US team for another year, but of course wants to be sure.
Swiss rider Wyss has been with BMC his entire pro career, since 2008. He has ridden (and finished) the Giro d'Italia every year since 2010.
Nicolas Edet is 25 years old and turned pro with Cofidis in 2011. This year he won the mountains classification at the Rhone-Alpes Isere Tour, was fifth overall in the Tour of Turkey, eighth in the Prueba Villafranca de Ordizia and ninth at the Tour of Austria.
Things have gotten serious now. With 50km to go, the gap is down to 3:28.
Jussi Veikkanen is 32, and is the Finnish national road champion. He wore the KOM jersey at the 2009 Tour de France for several stages. As a matter of fact, he has been Finnish national champ six times now.
Last but not least, we have Dennis Vanendert, younger brother of Jelle, who is also with Lotto Belisol. The 25-year-old turned pro last year with the Belgian team. This year he finished eighth in the Clasica de Almeria.
The wind is starting to come into play, and the fist handful of riders has already been dropped.
Last year the Mirado de Ezaro served as the finish for the 12th stage. Joaquim Rodriguez flew to the top alone on the vicious climb.
OPQS has done the lead work much of the day, but now RadioShack has moved back to the front of things.
What bikes will Chris Froome and Co. be on next year? The same ones as this year. Team Sky and Pinarello announced this afternoon that they will work together for another three years.
We just had the day's second intermediate sprint, and the points went, in this order, to Edet, Vanendert and Veikkanen.
The leaders have started climbing, and it looks very steep already. The gap is under a minute now.
We now have only three riders in front, as Vaikannen and Rasmussen have been dropped.
23% now for the leaders -- we think it is down to two by now.
Need we say that the field has shredded on the way up?
Much suffering in the field right now, as they hit the 28% gradient. So far we have not seen anyone walking their bike up.
Edet is alone in the lead, and it looks a bit flatter where he is. Or at least less steep.
39 seconds for Edet, who looks quite good.
Flecha of Vacansoleil jumped from the field, and Roche has caught him. Edet is happy to be on the way down now, as is the first group of chasers.
There are maybe 50 riders in the first chase group, including, we assume, the top favourites. The road here is in good condition, and appears to have been recently paved.
A Caja Rural rider has attacked from the field. It is Amets Txurruaka, on his way up to Edet.
31km to go and 30 seconds for Edet.
Movistar at the head of the chasing field, followed by Horner in red, ahead of his RadioShack teammates.
Txurruka is still giving chase, he hasn't caught up yet.
Let us not forget the mountain points. Edet was the first over, then Wyss, who had not yet been caught, and Roche.
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) seems to have a shoe problem. He is at the back of the chase group.
Up ahead, Txurruka has now finally caught Edet, with 28km to go.
Now that is service. Sanchez pulls over to the team car and lets someone change his shoe for him!
Only 14 seconds now for the two leaders. The chase group behind them has also fallen apart.
Four riders have just zipped their way up and joined the two leaders. Herrada, LL Sanchez,, Nerz and Vicioso are now up there.
Tht would be: Jose Herrada (Movistar), Luis Leon Sanchez (Belkin), Dominik Nerz (BMC) and Angel Vicioso (Katusha).
The six rides have only about an 18 second lead.
Popovych leads the chase group, in fact he is a few meters ahead of the group.
This road is indeed rolling. Up and down, side to side -- there is much need to pay attention!
Vincenzo NIbali (AStana) is looking to win this Vuelta, and the team was not really unhappy to have lost the leader' jersey yesterday.
Ah, a very rare flat section. But it is already over and Gregory Rast pulls teammate Horner and the rest of the chase group up again.
17.3km to go and the gap is only 7 seconds. Won't be long now.
Edet keeps on fighting and has a solo lead. The others have been caught already.
Eight seconds for Edet, who will have to be named most combative rider for the day.
It looks like a lot of riders have caught up with the peloton again. It looks quite large. And it has Edet in its sights.
More than that, it has Edet now. With only 14.7km to go, his flight is over.
Who else but RadioShack at the head of things, with 14 km to go.
Cannondale as now moved up to the front. In Colorado they wore black kit, here they are in their familiar glowing green.
Flat again and right along the coast. There is the beach, right there!
There was some question as to how this stage would end. Would a break group stay away Would that climb blow things apart and/or prove too much for the sprinters? Or would it be a mass sprint -- which is what it is looking like now.
We see lots of Cannondale green near the front now.
Sky and Astana are also very visible.
5km to go and the pace is sky-high.
The team buses are parked along the way here. But we doubt anyone will jump off their bike and into the bus at this point.
Some curves on a descent in the town -- let's hope all goes well!
Less than 3 km now.
Up another climb they go.
Astana holding things together now, with 2 km to go.
They continue climbing with 1.5km to go.
A Vacansoleil rider attacks -- it can only by Flecha.
Dani Moreno gives chase and brings the field with him.
Moreno catches and easily passes Flecha.
With 300 m to go, Cancellara attacks and gives chase.
But it was just a bit too far. Moreno takes the win for Katusha, with Cancellara second.
Third place went to an Orica-GreenEdge rider -- we bet it is Simon Gerrans.
Moreno gives Spain its first stage win in this year's Vuelta.
Not Gerrans, but Michael Matthews took third place today for Orica-GreenEdge.
The top ten on today's stage:
1 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 4:37:47
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard
3 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
7 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Argos-Shimano
9 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling
10 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
We are told that Horner has lost his overall lead, and that Nibali has it back. However, the first results we get aren't always accurate, so we are going to wait a bit on the GC.
And indeed, so it is. Horner finished as 26th, and there was a gap along the way. So he is now three seconds down in second place.
Our new GC is:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 14:15:30
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:03
3 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:08
4 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:16
5 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:21
6 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:26
7 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:28
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 0:00:31
9 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:42
10 Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team NetApp-Endura 0:00:45
Thanks for joining us and be sure to read along again tomorrow!