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Vuelta a España 2011: Stage 15


Hola and welcome to today's coverage from the Vuelta. Today's the big one, a lung-busting 144km from Avilés to Anglirú.

Apart from the final day, this is the shortest stage but it won’t feel like it. On the back of two tough days comes the most brutal stage of the lot. Given the legend of the Angliru, it’s amazing that this is only the Vuelta’s fifth encounter with this feared ascent.

The approach is the short but mean route via the cat 1 Cordal. Riders then press on to the Angliru, where the previous winners are all pure climbers – José María Jiménez, Gilberto Simoni, Roberto Heras and Alberto Contador. The final 6.5km averages 13 per cent. Even the best climb it at little more than walking pace.

Garmin's Jonny Weltz:

Distance: 142.2km
Highest point: 1,592m
Category: Mountains

We've downed our mid-afternoon coffee and the blimp is up and running. Right now we have a three-man break up the road with one lone chase. We'll bring you the names in just a second.

There you go. Andrew Talansky, Dimitri Champion and Simon Geschke. They have just under 6 minutes on the bunch and we've got 80km of racing left.

The Angliru has been used four times. The first being in 1999.

I remember that Bobby Julich crashed out the day before and Jan Ullrich went on to win the Vuelta that year. The German had an abysmal team in the race but he teamed up with an unlikely helped in frank vandenbroucke and the pair set the race alight.

Since then the climb has been used three more times. The most recent was in 2008 when Alberto Contador simply blew everyone away. He too went on to win the race that year. You can read about that ride, right here.

68km remaining from 144km

Rosendo who had been sandwiched between the bunch and the leading trio is about to be caught.

We're only on a short climb but already a number of riders are finding the pace too hard and are dropping off the back.

53km remaining from 144km

52km remaining from 144km

Euskaltel and Sky are giving Katusha a welcome hand at the front of the race.

Interestingly Saxo Banks has put two men on the front of the bunch as well.

Here's how things stand in GC:

Considering how small the time gaps are the final climb blow the Vuelta wide open. Riders, even GC men can lose minutes on the slopes of the Angrilu.

Vacansoleil has joined the party at the front of the bunch as well now.

Unfortunately my blimp is going to make an emergency landing - thanks British Telecom - but never fear, Susan is here to take over, with another CN blimp. Thanks, Susan.

Susan here with CN Blimp 2 -- always on hand when needed!

42km remaining from 144km

Wiggins is moving along calmly in the field, with teammates around him.  What will he do  on these next two climbs?

Crash!  A handufl of rides hit the road, with a Lampre rider on the very bottom under a number of bikes.

It is Aitor Perez, who loks to be  least shaken up.  A number of riders are getting bike repairs or new bikes.

Perez is back on his bike and riding again, thank goodness.

40km remaining from 144km

Vacansoleil leads the group under the banner with a 2:10 gap.

Talansky again took the points, ahead of Champion and Geschke.

34km remaining from 144km

The leaders still have 7km until the climb up the Alto de Cordal starts.  Once up and down that one, they start immediately up the much-dreaded Angliru.

31 km and the gap is at 1:05.

Euskaltel's Azanza must have been in that earlier crash.  His left elbow is oozing blood and his jersey has a few rips and scrapes too.

29km remaining from 144km

20 seconds and counting.....

Gretschke takes off as his two companions are gathered into the field.

The German has about 15 seconds on the field

he is going up now, about 7-8%.

A handful of riders has taken off out of the peloton.  At the other end of things, riders are dropping off the back.

A BMC rider attacks but doesn't get away.

The BMC rider tries again and gets a few meters.

GEschke is now caught, by Marzio Bruseghin, who has a small lead.

Rein Taamarae, yesterday's stage winner, is at the back of the field.

three other riders are with Bruseghin:  Moncoutie, ad perhaps Sastre?

Yes, Sastre, and the fourth rider is Dan Martin.

Wiggins on third wheel in the chasing field, which is only nine seconds behind the four leaders.

Moncoutie wears the mountain jersey and would love to pad his lead with some more points.

More riders fall back...... and this isn't even THE big climb!

Moncoutie leads his little group up the mountain, 13 seconds ahead of the peloton.  Almost at the top.

Cancellara is still in the peloton -- at the tail end of it though.

Moncoutie pulls slightly away to be sure he wins this mountain.  10% gradient.....

And he does indeed take the top points, with Sastre second.

The chase group with Wiggins crosses over 22 seconds later.

This descent could be a tricky one .. not the smoothest paved road we have ever seen....

19km remaining from 144km

Peter Sagan of Liquigas leads the field.

Moncoutie and Sastre are alone in the lead now, only 9 seconds ahead.

Bruseghin and Martin have now caught the two leaders, giving us a foursome in front.

More riders are coming up from behind.

Bruseghin takes a slight lead on the others.

15km to go.....

They are still desceding at a rapid pace.

Bruseghin zips his way through a town. 

Bruseghin has reached the bottom of the descent.  Which means:  it's time to start climbing again!

12km remaining from 144km

Bruseghin is caught.  The gradient is only 6% here.

Sagan pulls teh group along.  Wiggins got thrown back a bit, but is working his way up in the field.

A Geox rider takes off -- Sastre?

Yes, Carlos Sastre shows signs of life again!

Liquigas still plugs away while more and more riders struggle.  10 seconds for Sastre.

There are maybe 30 riders in the group.

Wiggins is back near the front of the group again.   Moncoutie is at the other end.

Sastre builds up his lead, now at 15 seconds

Sastre is 36 years old -- teaching the youngsters a lesson here.

Sastre has 14 seconds over Barredo, who has only a few seconds over the field.

Very green along the way here....

Sastre's lead is only 11 seconds now.

Still 9km to go.

The very steepest sections are still to come, at about the 3-to-2 km to go section.

Nibali and Rodriguez are near the front.  Neither of them has any chance left to win the race, but a stage would certainly be nice.

8km remaining from 144km

A Euskaltel rider has moved to the head of the field, ahead of the two Liquigas riders.

Barredo has been caught.

22% now, and the field is not far behind Sastre, as two Euskaltel riders attack at the 7km marker.

Igor Anton has caught Sasatre, and passes him.  Sastre tries to hang on.

Barredo has now fallen off the back of the field.  D. Martin tries to catch the two leaders.

Anton drops Sastre.  Martin is now togehter in the case with a Movistar rider.

Lots of fans oalong the way, running i the road, cheering the riders on.

Wiggins moves up in the field -- will he attack?

Cobo leads the field, with Wiggins right behind him.

21 percent, and some real struggling.....

Anton holds on to his lead.   A motorcycle has gone down on the steep section.

Cobo has gone off on his own.  Wiggins has lost contact with him.

Froome moves up to help Wiggins.

Cobo is on his way to Anton,and catches him.  The rest aren't too far behind.

Cobo is 55 seconds down on Wiggins.  How much of that can he make up today?

Cobo now takes off from Anton.

Nibali drops back, as does Sastre.

Froome leads Wiggins and three or four others.  They catch Anton.

Martin is the next to fall off the back.

Cobo has maybe 10 to 15 seconds on the Wiggins group.

5km remaining from 144km

"Only" 12 percent for Cobo now....

Anton drops back too.

Cobo has really built his lead up, to 28 seconds now.

Together with Wiggins and Froome are Menchov, Poels and Rodriguez.

Has anyone seen Bauke Mollema?  We have lost sight of the young Dutchman.

3km remaining from 144km

26 seconds -- to answer our own question.

Purito Rodriguez has to drop back from the Wiggins group.

Lots of people here now.

It is getting foggy as Cobo approaches the three km marker.

Sorry, we reported too early that it was 3 km to go -- that was the 4km of course.

Cobo now faces the 22-23% gradients.

Froome, Wiggins, Menchov and Poels are said to have a 40 second gap.  Will Cobo ride into the leader's jersey?

The fans are crowding the road, leaving only a narrow gap for the riders.  Always a dangerous situation.

Cobo grinds his way up this brutal climb -- 23%.

There is Mollema!  He is behind Dan Martin.  They have to dodge a motorcycle which stopped in the middle of the narrow way....

Wiggins falls back. He can't do it any more. And another motorcycle falls over.

The fog is getting heavier. Does Cobo know that Wiggins has been dropped?

Cobo now has only twokm to go.

Cobo must know that good things are happening for him. His suffering will soon be rewarded.

The last moto to fall over was the one with the Wiggins group. So we don't know what is happening with him now.

Cobo now has 43 seconds on Froome, Poels and Menchov. No word on how far back Wiggins is.  Looks like we will have a new leader!  Either Cobo or Froome.....

More crowds along the way, very vocal.  And only one kilometer left for Cobo.

Looks like we above the tree line here.  Lots of rock fields.... and no fans.

Not as steep here -- and he has 1:10 over the next group!

Cobo finally crosses the finish line with a big smile and a raised hand.

The 1.10 was to Wiggins. Froome is third in the chase group, finishing as fourth at 48 seconds.

Wiggins is together with Anton, and they cross the line at 1:20.

That should be the leader's jersey for Cobo!  A well-earned reward.

Nibali makes his way to the finish line, 2:35 down.

Three minutes have gone by, and exactly one-tenth of the field is in. We won't hang around until they all make it to the top.

Poels was second, by the way, with Menchov third.

We could take a wild guess at the new GC, but it is probably better to wait for the official word.

Here is the top ten from the stage:

And the new top ten on GC:

What a dramatic stage we ended up with! The Anglirun shook things up, as expected. Will Cobo be able to hold on to this lead for the remainder of the race?

Monday is a rest day for the riders and us alike. Enjoy it and meet us again Tuesday as the Vuelta continues!

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