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Vuelta a España 2011: Stage 19


Welcome back to stage 19 of this year's Vuelta, coming to you from the Basque country. Today's route promises fast racing in the battle to hold an escape clear, but also some possible GC action at the two intermediate sprints and the last climb, a Cat. 2 raced twice outside of Bilbao. There are only 14 kilometers from the summit of El Vivero to the finish line!

112km remaining from 157km

For a quick overview of the stage's key points, this is where the sprints and climbs are located:

We have thus the first of the four climbs already behind us. The four-man break is doing a great job and with two Euskaltel riders in the lead, the orange crowds of the Basque country will be partying.

This is what happened until now:

The race has just passed the second climb of today, the Puerto de las Muñecas, and entered the Basque country after 33 years of absence!

97km remaining from 157km

Green jersey wearer Rodriguez was seen as the race doctor's car earlier. He is still suffering from his crash three days ago, but by winning the first intermediate sprint, now leads Mollema with 110 points against 102.

88km remaining from 157km

Back in the bunch, Geox is controlling the pace. There is still one intermediate sprint to go before the finish, at km 129. It's located mid-way on the circuit below Bilbao, between the two ascents of the final Cat 2 Alto El Vivero (4.2 km at 8.6 percent average gradient).

OK, some more figures: the gap has passed the six-minute mark and the thermometer shows 38° Celsius...

The bunch will shortly get to the feed zone and grab some well-deserved food and drink.

The leaders have been handed their goodie bags, while in the bunch Garmin-Cervelo and Liquigas are starting to help Geox in the chase.

The bunch is pretty strung out now as it looks like the pace has been upped. The race reaches the outskirts of Bilbao, where a lot of spectators have skipped their siesta to watch the race and cheer the riders on.

Indeed, with 59 kilometres to go, the leaders' advantage has come down to five minutes.

The bunch is racing through the city centre of Bilbao, led out by a Liquigas rider followed by some Garmins.

This is the first time the Vuelta has come to the Basque Country since 1978 - a historical moment and the cycling fans here in this beautiful city certainly honour it.

51km remaining from 157km

Garmin, Liquigas and Geox are the first riders at the front of the bunch, with Sky still hiding. Cyclingnews blogger Sylvain Chavanel has come to the front, too. He's still looking to win here in Spain.

There was a moment of hesitation but now Sky has moved up to the front. The leaders are already on the climb, a narrow and twisty road, being cheered on by the crowds.

Bruseghin leads the four up the ascent. Both in front and in the peloton, nobody moves at the moment.

The gap is down to 3'35. The four better get on with it if they want to stay away... but unfortunately for them, we still might see some fighting for the overall podium in Madrid, which may not leave the break with a chance of victory. All depends if Sky attacks Cobo on this climb - perhaps not now, but the second time around.

Löfkvist has been making the pace for a while now for Froome and Wiggins, with Cobo sitting on Wiggins' wheel.

The bunch crosses the KOM at 2'36 minutes from the leaders. Chavanel is back at the end of the group.

Fortunately, the descent is not as narrow as the uphill. They come down a two-lane road without complications.

The second intermediate sprint of the day (and its bonus seconds) is in ten kilometres, but the bunch won't get there ahead of the leaders.

Still the gap is coming down further to 2'12 with 36 kilometres to go.

31km remaining from 157km

Wiggins is at the back of the peloton, waiting for his team car.

In the breal, Astana's Dyachenko has been preserving himself quite a lot. We might see him go for it on his own on the final climb.

1'46 is the gap as the bunch comes through the finish line.

Ah - he is back in the group.

Alberto Losada (Katusha) has attacked out of the bunch! And Dyachenko has just had to let go of his companion's wheels... OK, so we were wrong, he just hadn't got it in him.

Froome is sitting just behind Cobo in the bunch, as they perpare to tackle the Vivero one last time. Losada should still be betwee groups.

23km remaining from 157km

This could be Froome's last chance to take 13 seconds and the red jersey from Cobo. Löfkvist is still pulling - but how long can he hold this up?

Verdugo has to let go. He looks like he's very furious at not being able to hold on.

We are at the foot of the climb. Anton attacks Bruseghin! The crowds are delighted.

Verdugo has been caught by a group around Chris Sörensen, which also includes Mathieu Perget (AG2R).

Wiggins is leading the group up, at2'18 of the sole leader Anton.

Wiggins is putting on a contious fast pace but no attacks from Sky.

Nibali has been dropped.

Bruseghin is losing ground, he is now at 27 seconds of the Basque rider.

Rodriguez, too, gets dropped, as Wiggins pulls Froome through the crowds. Cobo sits on Froome's wheel.

Froome attacks, and Cobo follows him!

Anton is on the descent now.

Froome and Cobo are with Perget now.

Froome goes again, but Cobo hold on to him.

Cobo is in control, there won't be any GC turnaround this way.

Anton looks good, he has 32 seconds over Bruseghin with ten k to go.

The Basque rider is flying down the descent, putting his head between his shoulders. Cobo, Froome and Nieve are back inside the bunch.

The Basque country is behind Anton, who may be the hero of the day. If he wins, the celebration will be massive.

3km remaining from 157km

He is followed by Nerz (Liquigas).

Anton has one kilometre to go.

The crowd goes berserk!

This is a huge moment for Basque cycling. The celebration awesome.

Bruseghin comes in as second.

The bunch came close to the chasing Nerz, Zubeldia and Sörensen. But finally Nerz takes third and the last remaining bonus seconds.

Thanks for having joined us again today, tune in tomorrow for the penultimate stage of La Vuelta. Hasta luego!

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