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Vuelta a España 2009: Stage 6


Welcome back, readers, to the 2009 Vuelta a Espana, taking place today at the Costa Blanca. Not that we - or the riders - would see much of it, as stage six loops inland around the start and finishing town of Xativa, to take the peloton over three Cat. 3 climbs. However, these may not prove to be overly hard obstacles for the sprinters' teams, and we may see yet another bunch gallop at the finish.

Especially Columbia-HTC, whose leader Andre Greipel has already won two stages and is currently wearing the golden jersey of the overall lead, will be looking to control the race.

A very hot 34°C greeted the riders this midday at the start in Xativa, and as soon as the flag was dropped for the start into 176.8 kilometres around town, a first breakaway was attempted, nevertheless brought back by Xacobeo-Galicia. A few kilometres later, a new breakaway formed, this time a success.

133km remaining from 177km

One can only respect the courage of José Antonio López Gil (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Matthé Pronk (Vacansoleil), who have already ridden 150 kilometres out front in the heat yesterday, and are doing exactly the same again today... Temperatures around Xativa are in their upper thirties again.

The Alto de la Muela is 9.5 kilometres long and pretty rolling, although it is divided into two parts separated by a brief downhill stretch. The gap is 5.38 minutes as the four leaders are 1.5 kilometres away from going over the top.

The heat and effort is taking its toll on Pronk, who got dropped some 20 seconds from his breakaway mates. He will try and reconnect on the descent.

Pronk is back with his escape companions.

101km remaining from 177km

99km remaining from 177km

The temperature on the road is up to 38°C again, making the day difficult once more even though the pace is not excessive: the second hour of racing was completed at 36.7 km/h average.

One rider surely suffering again today is Ezekiel Mosquera from Xacobeo. The Spaniard is recovering from crashing in Liège, but still has a sprained ankle. Mosquera was fifth overall in 2007 and fourth last year - he is a top contender for the podium in Madrid, if he can survive this injury.

Perez and Lopez are sprinting to the top of the second climb now, the Alto de Millares. Lopez gets it! Dutchman Pronk again lost a few seconds on the others, but will be able to join them again on the downhill.

The gap to the chasing peloton has dropped to 3.48 as Pronk caught up again.

López will thus be the new leader of the mountains classification, as he's scored six points twice until now, which makes 12, added to his two points from yesterday, this totals to 14 - four points ahead of Euskaltel's Aitor Hernandez.

The break is still on a rolling descent towards the valley. The road looks smooth, and the curves are not too tight.

70km remaining from 177km

The favourites of this race, the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) or Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) are sitting safely inside the bunch and preserving their strength for tomorrow's time trial around Valencia. With only 30 kilometres, the race against the clock will reshuffle the classification, but it will surely not set it in stone yet.

63km remaining from 177km

The bunch is quite strung out now since the descent of the Alto de Millares, on its way to Xativa. The town was burned down in 1707 by king of Spain Philip V, by the way... a beautiful fortress overlooks the city and its  cathedral called Seu. A portrait of Philip V still hangs in the town museum, but turned upside down as Xativa's inhabitants have conserved a grudge against the monarch.

60km remaining from 177km

To mention it again for all those who just tuned in, Columbia-HTC will have to do without Kim Kirchen, who abandoned very early on in the stage. We are still trying to find out why. The squad is still in complete control of the peloton and will surely try to bring the stage down to a bunch sprint finish for a possible third victory for Andre Greipel.

Frantisek Rabon (Columbia) sits in second position and checks out his road map. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) is riding just beside Tom Boonen (Quick Step) to the very front of the bunch. They're on a long, flat road now.

Marcel Sieberg is distributing some water bottles to his Columbia teammates. The German was the last man to take Greipel to his victory yesterday, and the new race leader thanked him very much for it afterwards.

The bunch is driving through the town of Chella now. There is not one cloud in the perfectly blue sky.

Another small town named Anna is next on the peloton's itinerary. 48 kilometres to go...

The situation is still the same: we have four riders up front at about three minutes, and the peloton  closing in softly behind, preparing for a possible bunch sprint.

José Luis Rubiera (astana) is getting some bottles for his teammates. All day, riders have been dropping back to their team cars to get liquid. Plenty of work for the teams assistants, too, filling all of these water bottles - assuming every rider drinks at least 10 during the stage, that makes at least 90 bottles to fill up each morning.

36km remaining from 177km

It's actually Tyler Farrar from Garmin that is wearing the points jersey for Greipel, who's got the maillot oro. Second-placed Tom Boonen (QuickStep) is wearing his national champion's jersey, so third-placed Farra gets the honour. We're sure he'd appreciate a stage win more than this...

The bunch is in Xativa now. For those who wonder: the city's name is pronounced without the X, more like "Hativa"...

The gap is under two minutes now. The riders are still on the flat outskirts of Xativa, but the Beniganim climb will soon start.

27km remaining from 177km

Pronk has popped of the back as the three Spanish breakaways push on up the road. The gap back to the peloton is dropping back steadily. It's now just 40 seconds.

The race has descended off the Beniganim. Paolo Tiralongo has bridged across to the breakaway; out in front is Tiralongo (Lampre) José Antonio López Gil (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Bingen Fernandez (Cofidis), but not by much...

18km remaining from 177km

The average speed for the stage so far has been just 35 km/h. They're averaging 51km/h as they make the dash for home.

The leading trio have been wrapped up. Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre-NGC), José Antonio López Gil (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Bingen Fernandez (Cofidis) are back in the peloton.

163km remaining from 177km

164km remaining from 177km

World Champion Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC) attacks! Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) links up and the two push on up the climb.

166km remaining from 177km

7km remaining from 177km

David de la Fuente (Fuji-Servetto) has bridged his way across to the leaders and now Philippe Gilbert (Silence Lotto). But the peloton follows soon afterwards.

5km remaining from 177km

2km remaining from 177km

The bunch are right on their tails as the race re-enters Xativa. Liquigas and Quick Step are the teams on the front.

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) is fifth wheel with less that two kilometres to go. Farrar's there too and a gold jersey.

The big guns have wasted time looking at each other. Vacansoleil's Bozic has gone early!

Farrar scrambles for his wheel, but, no, it's Vacansoleil's Borut Bozic who takes stage six!

Stage Results

No change up the top end of the GC.

Thanks for joining us for Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Vuelta a Espana's stage six in Xativa. Join us tomorrow in Valencia as peloton race the clock in the first individual time trial stage.


- Peloton together

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