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Vuelta a España 2012: Stage 19

Hola! Welcome back to the Vuelta. Today's stage 19 from Peñafiel to La Lastrilla is the last chance for any breakaway riders to score a victory. Or will it come down to another mass sprint?
 

As we tune into the race with about 100 kilometres to go, two riders broke away from the field at the beginning of the stage and now have an advantage of 6:48 minutes: Aitor Galdos (Caja Rural) and Jose Vicente Toribio (Andalucia).

The bunch is taking things easy at this point. No wonder at the end of a three-week race and on another hot day (32°C and sunny).

The profile of the 178km-stage is deprived of any difficulty. We are located on a plateau between 800 and 1200 metres above sea level, with the stage parcours moving up slightly for two thirds of the race, then dropping down a little bit again towards the finish. The last ten kilometres, however, are slightly uphill again but this shouldn't be a problem for the sprinters if their teams decide to give it a go.

The rolling start in Peñafiel took place at 13.15pm local time, with 177 riders still in the game at the end of this year's Vuelta. Jesus Rosendo Prado (Andalucia) was the only non-starter.

Immediately after the the offical start, Galdos and Toribio took off. They quickly had a substantial gap as the bunch let the two riders go. But when their lead reached almost ten minutes, Argos-Shimano, Lotto-Belisol and RadioShack put on the tempo and reduced the gap to around 6:45 minutes.
 

The riders are taking things slow today: They completed the first hour of racing at 39.2 km/h, then the second hour at 36.3 km/h.

At the very last minute, race organisers have changed the locations of the two intermediate sprints today. Official maps and schedules still indicate them at Villacastin (km 112) and Los Angeles de San Rafael (km 143), but in fact they have been replaced to km 9 and km 171.

The first sprint was thus won by Galdos and Toribio (in that order), while Denis Van Winden (Rabobank) took the third spot.

RT @michelkreder: They say it's Spanish flat.. I would say it's all day up and down! #stage19 http://t.co/0QrRF2J3

@Ride_Argyle Fri, 7th Sep 2012 14:58:59

Grischa Niermann (Rabobank), who is racing his 18th Grand Tour at this Vuelta, will be finishing his career in Madrid on Sunday. He will become directeur sportif at the Rabobank Continental squad.

87km remaining from 178km

As the profile is slightly moving up at this point, the temperatures are getting more enjoyable: 26°C at the moment.

The gap to the breakaway riders Alonso and Toribio is also "down" to 5:24 as the sprinter teams control the pace of the bunch.

Argos-Shimano's Cheng Ji from China has just crashed, but he got up again without problems.

John Degenkolb's Argos-Shimano team is not participating in the chase, by the way. Perhaps they consider today's finish as a little bit too bumpy for their sprinter, who's already scored four stages at the race...

As the stage unfolds, clouds have gathered in the sky and now we can see some rain drops coming down! Nothing that could qualify as proper "rain" but we're certain the riders enjoy the refreshment.

The gap is down to 5:23 as the two escaped riders reach the feed zone. No more rain drops.

The bunch is racing along harvested wheat fields and many children on their mountain bikes have come out to try and ride along the pros for a little while. Two enduro motorbike riders have an easier job doing that...

81km remaining from 178km

The bunch has reached the feed zone and riders grab their bags, immediately beginning to sort what they like, and what they don't.

Katusha and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank are currently leading the field out over a large, flat, straight road through the fields. The wind is coming from the front/left so an echelon has formed at the front of the bunch.

Aha, Cheng Ji (Argos) has come to the front now, so the Dutch team does have some goals today!

The race is currently half an hour behind the slowest average time on the stage schedule. We don't expect the finish to take place before 6pm local time, if it goes on at this pace.

The gap is down to 3:42, with 72 kilometres still remaining. The riders are still moving up on this regional plateau and the profile looks as though there are a few little climbs coming up soon. Perhaps time for a counter-attack?

67km remaining from 178km

RadioShack, Argos and Lotto riders are leading the bunch out and setting the pace. There is no big time chasing going on but the peloton is slowly reeling the two-man escape in, nevertheless.

The average speed during the third hour of racing was 34,8 km/h - no wonder they are running late on the schedule...

Over on the other side on the Atlantic, the GP Québec is about to begin, the first of the two Canadian WorldTour races.

62km remaining from 178km

The gap has stabilized at 2:30 minutes at the moment. Alonso has zipped up his jersey - the temperature is 24° up here on the plateau, a nice change from the burning heat of the first week of racing.

Ballan (BMC) ihas initiated an counter-attack of a total of four riders, but they can't get away. Pace is up now!

A Saxo Bank rider is at the front of the strung-out peloton as it climbs another hill. Now, more Saxo Bank riders come to the front to restore some order...

The hills of this part of Spain are rolling and can be raced on the big chainring, but you never know what could happen if an attack was successful. We're sure race leader Alberto Contador is happy with the leisurely pace they've been putting on so far!

Alonso and Toribio exchange some words as they sense the peloton is close behind, now on the descent of the climb.

The leaders' advantage is currently two minutes. 52 kilometres to go until the finish. There are two, less challenging climbs coming up in the next few kilometres, then the course will descend again before the last ten, ascending kilometres.

Argos' Cheng Ji has been riding at the front of the bunch all day, but he's still smiling!

A sprint finish seems likely at this point as RadioShack and Argos have put in quite some manpower to control the race during this stage. With 43 kilometres to go and the breakaway at only 1:37 up the road, the sprinter teams will do everything they can to prevent any late attacks to go.

The most exciting part of this Vuelta stage is Galdos' rooster tail. Otherwise, it's like driving through Nebraska.

@Laura_Weislo Fri, 7th Sep 2012 16:32:11

The bunch is having a shower! The sun is still shining, but rain is comin down hard right now - where's the rainbow?

The leading duo has arrived in El Espinar. No more rain here, and the bunch has passed it now, too.

The stage turns North after this small town, towards Segovia and the finish in La Lastrilla.

Cheng Ji has finished his job for today, he's now last man of the peloton.

33km remaining from 178km

The gap has dropped to under one minute.

Over in Canada, the GP Quebec WorldTour race is underway. There is a breakaway of 12 riders with 38 riders. Plenty of action in the one-day race, as our Vuelta peloton slowly advances on the two-man breakaway.

Yesterday in Canada was a fun demonstration, the Sprint Challenge, won by Spidertech's Zach Bell. We have a story and gallery from the fun here.

Over in Canada, the GP Quebec WorldTour race is underway. There is a breakaway of 12 riders with 38 seconds. Plenty of action in the one-day race, as our Vuelta peloton slowly advances on the two-man breakaway.

Yesterday in Canada was a fun demonstration, the Sprint Challenge, won by Spidertech's Zach Bell. We have a story and gallery from the fun here.

The 12 have been joined by nine other riders in the third climb of Cote de la Montagne.

@GPCQM Fri, 7th Sep 2012 16:51:30

28km remaining from 178km

The peloton is catching the two riders, but they are fighting to stay clear - no dice, as Gregory Rast brings the peloton past.

23km remaining from 178km

We hear that Marianne Vos has won the stage of the BrainWash Holland Ladies Tour, while Carla Ryan won in Ardeche. Carlos Betancur won the final stage in Padania, with Nibali winning the overall classification.

Meanwhile, the Vuelta peloton is still pedaling through the dessicated landscape of central Spain, en route to La Lastrilla. Just 22km left and RadioShack patrolling the front in hopes that Daniele Bennati can win another stage.

20km remaining from 178km

The parcours is looking a bit more interesting as the peloton zooms inside the final 20km. The roads undulate up and down, left and right, growing narrower. It's a battle to get to the front now.

17km remaining from 178km

Movistar has a rider on the front setting pace as the peloton negotiates a series of sharp speed bumps.

16km remaining from 178km

Movistar are continuing the pace on the front of the peloton.

The race is splitting up with a number of riders dropping off the pace. Contador and Rodriguez are in this front group, Valverde too.

At the end of the third week so many riders are on the rivet and it looks like Argos and their sprint train has been distanced.

That lead lead of GC favourites is at about 20-30 strong with 12km to go.

And Rodriguez has attacked to gain some seconds at the intermediate sprints.Valverde marks him.

The front group has eased up now and that could be what the rest of the peloton needs in order to regain contact.

But Movistar have upped the pace again. They've got 20 seconds on the chase group. Valverde won the sprint, Rodriguez second and Gesink third.

8km remaining from 178km

The second group are at 10 seconds, GreenEdge chasing so we can assume Davis is there.

Now it's Katusha setting the pace. There's a rise to the finish line so perhaps Rodriguez fancies his chances in the sprint or even attacking in the finale.

6km to go Contador has to be careful here and make sure he follows the right moves. He's close to the front of the peloton.

There's an 11 second gap between the two groups as AG2R move to the front.

The road begins to kick up and there's an attack from Cofidis. It looks like Moreno is in a small chase group.

Less than 2km and it's Garcia from Cofidis who has a small gap

Garcia has been joined by 5 riders.

Roche is there, a Rabobank rider attacks but is chased and Degenkolb is there. He's at the back of the six man group.

Breschel, Flecha, Degenbolb, Roche, as Roche attacks with 1 km to go.

Can Roche hang on?

Nope caught. Degenkolb in his wheel but here comes Gilbert.

Swift is on his wheel

Gilbert leads out and he's powering away from Swift.

And Gilbert hangs on and I think that was Valverde second and then Rodriguez third.

Gilbert's second stage win in the race, he's finally showing signs of last year's form.

Roche was the last man standing from that final move but he was closed down by Degenkolb.

Then Swift and Gilbert went away and the Sky rider had no answer when the BMC rider opened up his sprint. That may have been Moreno in third.

Gilbert owes a lot to Ballan, The Italian helped to close down the Roche group.

Contador finished in the pack  at 3 seconds, in 10th place.

1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
3 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team
4 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team
5 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:00:03
6 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
7 Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan
8 Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling
9 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling

General classification after stage 19

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank 77:21:49
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:35
3 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 0:02:21
4 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:09:48
5 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:11:29
6 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:12:00
7 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:12:58
8 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin - Sharp 0:13:09
9 Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:13:52
10 Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:15:54
Sue George
Hedwig Kröner

Thanks for joining us today.

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