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Vuelta a España 2012: Stage 9

It looks like a sprint today! Or will that climb so near the end do in the sprinters?

The field will charge into Barcelona today, with not only the beach but also a day of rest in sight. The 196.3 km from Andorry to Barcelona include two category three climbs, including one which is only 3km from the finish line.

82km remaining from 196km

A four man group got away right at the start:  Mickael Buffaz (Cofidis), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Vacansoleil-DCM), Javier Chacon (Andalucia) and Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Sharp).  The gap shot quickly up to 5:20, which was enough for the sprinters' teams to move into action.  It is now at exactly 3:00.

The quartet took the first mountain points at the Alto de Collada de Clara, which came at km 71.  Lindeman took the points ahead of Buffaz and Chacon.

The quartet took the first mountain points at the Alto de Collada de Clara, which came at km 71.  Lindeman took the points ahead of Buffaz and Chacon.

Sorry, we have been having some technical problems here, but hope we have them straightened out.

The day started out cooler, at 25°C, but it has now gone up to 30°C.

The day's first intermediate sprint at km 96 went to Buffaz ahead of Lindeman and Chacon.

 

Yesterday's exciting mountaintop finish shook up the top ten. Let's take a look at how it stood coming into today's stage:

1     Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team     29:59:35      
2     Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling     0:00:33      
3     Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank     0:00:40      
4     Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team     0:00:50      
5     Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team     0:01:41      
6     Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team     0:01:48      
7     Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale     0:02:14      
8     Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi     0:02:47      
9     Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team     0:02:58      
10     Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team     0:03:07     

John Degenkolb, with his three stage wins, leads the points classification, but Valverde and Rodriguez aren't far behind.

1     John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano     76      pts
2     Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team     66      
3     Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team     65      
4     Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling     51      
5     Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale     47      
6     Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank     46      
7     Allan Davis (Aus) Orica - GreenEdge     45      
8     Daniele Bennati (Ita) Radioshack-Nissan     38      
9     Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team     34      
10     Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica - GreenEdge     30    

At the start this morning,Bradley McGee, DS of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, said “Apart from the result yesterday, the swinging momentum went in our favour but the match is far from over. The time trial is the next test for Alberto [Contador].”

54km remaining from 196km

There's really not a lot happening on the road. The lead bounces around a bit but always hovers around the three minute mark.

Rabobank, Argos-Shimano, Lotto Belisol and BMC are leading the chase.

There most likely won't be any changes in the mountain ranking today, which Valverde leads.

1     Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team     21      pts
2     Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica - GreenEdge     16      
3     Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team     15      
4     Pim Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team     11      
5     Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne     10      
6     Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank     8      
7     Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quickstep     8      
8     Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling     6      
9     Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team     6      
10     Javier Ramirez Abeja (Spa) Andalucia     5      
 

50km remaining from 196km

50 km to go and the gap is finally falling.  It is now at 2:30.

Will we see John Degenkolb take his fourth win here today? Christian Guiberteau said, “It’s 50-50 today: a race for climbers or a race for sprinters. We intend to control the race at the beginning. If it’s just as hard as yesterday with the same kind of battle, we’ll let it go. But we intend to deliver John Degenkolb in a winning position again. There are precisely 3.4 kilometres to bring him back to eventual attackers after the top of the climb.”

 

Rodriguez also leads the combination classification, although he is tied with Valverde.

1     Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team     7      pts
2     Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team     7      
3     Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling     14      
4     Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank     15      
5     Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale     34      
6     Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team     42      
7     Marcos Garcia (Spa) Caja Rural     66      
8     Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica - GreenEdge     80      
9     Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro Team     90      
10     Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne     92    
 

46km remaining from 196km

The gap is now down to two minutes.


And as for the teams, it is the orange and blue of Rabobank at the top of the list.

     Result
1     Rabobank Cycling Team     89:28:24      
2     AG2R La Mondiale     0:02:27      
3     SKY Procycling     0:02:34      
4     Katusha Team     0:03:55      
5     Movistar Team     0:05:38      
6     Euskaltel - Euskadi     0:05:40      
7     Lampre - ISD     0:08:43      
8     Radioshack - Nissan     0:09:35      
9     Astana Pro Team     1:01:54      
10     Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team     1:03:28      
 

38km remaining from 196km

Once the gap started going down, there was no stopping it. It is now at 1:30.

Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan) is one of the favourites today. But I’m very doubtful about the possibilities to control the race. I’m afraid the breakaway will go for the stage win. If not, it’s definitely a good finale for me.”

Damiano Cunego punctures, but it shouldn't be a problem.

At the second and last intermediate sprint, the gap has fallen to 1:04.

It was Buffaz ahead of Lindeman and Chacon.

Race leader Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez is still riding on home soil as he hails from Parets del Vallès near Barcelona. His team mate Pavel Brutt said: “We’d like a breakaway to go for the stage win because our only goal is to keep the red jersey.”

30km remaining from 196km

The gap is dropping steadily, and is now down to only 35 seconds.

Former king of the mountain and stage 4 winner Simon Clarke: “Yesterday, I didn’t believe much in Cameron Meyer to win a stage. It was a good try though. The day I won, I went away because the final was not that hard and the chances were high that teams would not ride it back. On the other hand, yesterday, it was a perfect finish for GC guys. It should be a sprinter winning today.”

27km to go and only 14 seconds.  Won't be long now. But what will happen when this group is caught?

LIndeman and Chacon aren't ready to give up and take off, as the other two finally go with them.

Lindeman is determined to give it a go and has a slight lead as they all disappear into a tunnel.

LIndeman and Buffaz have a slight lead over the field now and every now and then give it a try, but they have now realized that their time is up.

And with 25.4km they are caught. One rider has taken off -- we wonder who it is.....

It is Jesus Resondo of Andalucia.

The field looks happy to let him go, at least for the moment.

The man with the best name for an athlete,Winner Anacona (Lampre-ISD) said before the start, “I started the Vuelta for doing well but I didn’t expect to be so high on GC. I want to keep till the end the kind of position that I have now. I’m not far from being the best young rider. I’m just behind Sergio Henao who hasn’t the same goal as me as he’s here to help Chris Froome. There’s no official best young rider classification at the Vuelta but I’d be honoured to be the one, even unofficially.”

 

 

19km remaining from 196km

Rosendo has been caught.

The peloton is strung out long now.

The upcoming final climb, the Alto de Montjuic, is a short one, but a tough one, with an average gradient of 8%.

Lots of roundabouts at this point. Katusha is leading the way around them all.

Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat): “I’m skeptical because I had a terrible day yesterday. It was my first time to have such a bad. I don’t know if I have recovered and if I’ll have enough strength today. If I don’t, I’ll tell William Bonnet to go for his own sprint. If I feel good, it’s the kind of finale that I like.”

Rosendo must have crashed. His front wheel is totally out of shape.

Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol): “My results in the first sprints on the flat have made me understand that I’m such a great shape as in Paris-Nice when I won a stage. I want the same result. Today’s finale is favourable for me to win.”

13km remaining from 196km

13km to go  and the field is still all together.

Nicolas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale) lost one minute yesterday because of a mechanical in a tunnel prior to the second to last climb.

 

Movistar, Sky and Saxo Bank have now all moved into the lead work.

10km remaining from 196km

10km to go, and the field is still speeding along together.

Speeding along at 68km/h, in fact!

Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R-La Mondiale): “I know the finish. It suits me. I came 8th up there at the Tour de France in 2009. But before that, there’s a little climb that I don’t know. I’ll ask ‘Purito’ to explain to me how it is. If it’s not too hard, I believe that I’ll be part of the contenders for the stage victory.”

 

They now enter the Plaza de Espana, a most impressive roundabout.

They have slowed down, only going 48km/h now.

6km remaining from 196km

With 6km to go, Argos-Shimano moves to the head of the peloton.

5km remaining from 196km

Contador attacks!

Sky quickly closes the gap.

That move will wake a few people up. And they are starting up this final climb.

Andre Kashechkin of Astana leds the way up, and then Alessandro Ballan of BMC attacks.

Rodriguez follows and passes him -- and mopves into the lead! None of his rivals are to be seen....

Rodriguez and BAllan have a slight gap over two other riders, with the field somewehre behind them.

No, not Ballan, but Philippe Gilbert!

Roche is now the only pursuer, as the two men in red pull away.  They have only 1.5km to go.

Contador is pedaling furiously to catch up.

Last km for the two leaders. The field slows down. Will Gilbert take his first season win today?

Rodriguez leads the way to the finish, with Gilber lurking on his rear wheel.

Gilbert comes around him and takes the win!

Rodriguez was second, and Paolo Tiralongo of Astana won the sprint of the field for third place.

Great move by Rodriguez.  He really caught his rivals napping.

Sorry, Tiralongo didn't win the sprint of the field.  He had pulled away from the rest. But he was definitely third!

Rodriguez picked up eight bonus seconds, plus about 10 seconds from the gap to his rivals, so he easily cemented his lead.

Gilbert must be terribly relieved to have won today. After his spectacular year in 2011, it is hard to believe that was his first win all season.

Contador finshed the race as 21st, 12 seconds down, so he lost a total of 20 seconds today.

Here the top ten for the stage:

1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
2 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team
3 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team
4 Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
5 Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan  
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team  
7 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat  
8 Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
9 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team  
10 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi

And the top ten in GC. Offhand it looks the same as yesterday:

1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank
4 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
6 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team
7 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
9 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team

That was it for the first part of the Vuelta. The riders now have a very long transfer ahead of them. The rest of us can rest up as well.

Thanks for joining us today and be sure to come back Tuesday as our journey continues.

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