Hola and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana. Today's 224km stage is the longest of this year's race and is the second of three days in the Pyrenees, from Andorra to Peyragudes in France.
The long stage distance means the racing is well underway, with approximately 100km left to race.
The riders have already climbed the Puerto del Cantó and the Puerto de la Bonaigua but there are still two testing climbs to come, including up to the finish.
Fortunately the weather is better than on Saturday, when the cold and rain caused serious problems and risk of hypothermia for many riders.
It is currently dry and 13C but there is a risk of thunderstorms later in the stage.
Despite the fatigue of two weeks of racing, the stage started fast with plenty of attacks.
A group of 30 riders formed on the Puerto del Cantó climb with this move hen splitting later in the stage.
The riders at the head of the race are:Alexandre Geniez (FDJ.fr), Francis De Greef (Lotto Belisol), Mikael Cherel (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano), Andre Cardoso (Caja Rural) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis).
The other riders from the break at 3:00 back, with the Astana lead peloton at 6:00.
The stage has been marked by a number of retirees, including world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC).
Nine riders have been officially announced as having retired. The latest trio are Simone Stortoni (Lampre-Merida), Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Kristof Vandewalle (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
Several teams are down to just four or five riders. To learn more about Gilbert and the other retirees, read here.
69km remaining from 224km
The riders have recently passed through the sprint of the day and are close to entering into France for the finale of the stage.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) does not seem to suffer in the cold and rain. He extended his overall race lead on Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard) to 50 seconds on Saturday.
This is the general classification after stage 14.
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 53:56:49
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:50
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:42
4 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:02:57
5 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:43
6 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:04:06
7 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:04:34
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura 0:05:42
9 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 0:06:28
10 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 0:06:45
The riders are currently in the valley road and will climb the Port de Balés next, the climb made famous for the 'chaingate' spat between Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador at the 2010 Tour de France. Schleck had a chain problem and Contador attacked him, sparking a controversy and great pursuit match in the finale of the stage.
Ivan Basso (Cannondale) was the big-name retiree during Saturday's stage. While teammate Daniele Ratto went on to win the stage, Basso described it as the saddest day of his career.
Read what he had to say here.
70km remaining from 224km
The peloton is slowly reeling in the breakaways but maybe happy to let them steal the glory today.
It will be interesting to see if the second group manages to catch the leaders. In there are Sergio Henao (Team Sky), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), Davide Arroyo (Caja Royal), Mikel Landa, Mikel Nieve and Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
54km remaining from 224km
After 170km of racing the gaps are 3:20 to the chasers, with the peloton at 4:55.
The riders are now on the Port de Balés. It's time for the finale of the stage.
50km remaining from 224km
There is just 50km remaining but there are two tough climbs packed in there.
Riders from the chaser group are being dropped and are falling back to the peloton. Flecha is amongst them after again trying to get in the action today.
It will be fascinating to see if Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard) attacks today.
DS José Azevedo said: “Since yesterday, we know that the two best are Nibali and Horner, but because of Valverde and Purito, we also
know that the Vuelta won’t be finished before the Anglirù," he said.
"If the Anglirù is the grand final of the Vuelta, it’s favorable for Chris but freshness will be an important factor, and that plays for Nibali.”
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was disappointed not to do better on home roads in Andorra on Saturday.
“It was the biggest suffering of my life”, he said. “I’m afraid today will be another
Baden Cooke (Orica GreenEdge) has revealed he quit the Vuelta today due to bronchitis, tweeting: "The cough I have been fighting for a week has finally turned into bronchitis after yesterdays arctic conditions. I'm out of the Vuelta."
Riders are climbing off in droves today. Now Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) has abandoned. Stybar and Vandewalle also quit earlier.
Saxo-Tinkoff is leading the peloton, perhaps chasing a stage victory. Up front just Cardoso and Geniez are still together.
34km remaining from 224km
The peloton is 5:25 down on the two.
The Port de Bales is 19km long with an average gradient of 6.2%, with a section at 10,5% a 3km from the summit.
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme is at the Vuelta today as the stage finishes in France.
ASO, the organisers of the Tour, also own a share in the Vuelta.
The leaders are 1km from the summit now, with Chris Anker Sorensen bobbing his head in his usual style on the front of the peloton.
The summit is exposed and its misty but fortunately it is not too cold today.
The road is narrow and is switching up the side of the mountain.
The click starts as Cardoso and Geniez cross the summit of the Bales.
They are quickly eating and getting wrapped up for the descent.
Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) has jumped off the front of the peloton and opened a 15-second gap.
Roche is 4:50 down on the two attackers at the summit. The peloton is at 5:05.
Zaugg has dropped back from the break to team up with Roche, creating a Saxo-Tinkoff duo on the descent. Lets see what advantage that can produce.
23km remaining from 224km
Geniez has hit out alone on the descent, taking a few risks on the corners.
The roads are a mix of wet and dry but seem pretty safe.
20km remaining from 224km
Roche and Zaugg are 4:40 down on Geniez. Can they catch him in the final 20km?
Geniez is riding to win the stage. He's in the valley floor and faces just the final 15km climb to the finish.
Roche and Zaugg now lead the peloton by 1:00 and so their attacks has been worth while.
Roche is 4:06 down on Nibali but could move back up into the top three or four if he gains more than a minute.
There are some 20 or so riders left in the main peloton.
The FDJ.fr team is trying to pull back Roche and Zaugg,while their man Geniez is out front trying to win the stage.
The climb up to the finish at Peyragudes is starting to hurt now. An attack by Dani Moreno (Katusha) has split the group as Sergio Henao (Team Sky) is picked up after being in the break of the day.
Astana has taken control of the peloton, with Fuglsang leading Nibali. There only 15 or so riders in the front group.
Now Valverde (Movistar) gives it a dig, lining out the peloton. Nibali responds with his own attack but Horner is on his wheel.
10km remaining from 224km
Geniez is digging deep trying to win the stage. He's got 10km to go.
Now Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky) surges clear, trying to get away from the peloton.
Pinot has chased down Uran, as he tries to pull back Roche and so defend his top ten placing.
Now the Euskaltel riders go on the attack. Sanchez has a dig and Rodriguez (Katusha) responds and accelerates away. but the other riders come across to him.
They are five minutes down on Geniez.
Pinot has a dig but Pozzovivo is bringing up the other GC contenders. It's a came of chess so far between the GC riders.
No doubt the French riders are keen to win on home roads today.
Geniez is near to the top of the climb and then has a short descent before a last short climb up to the line.
6km remaining from 224km
Geniez tucks low on his bike on the descent.
He hits 90km/h on the descent!
The descent has perhaps detered attacks but now Kiserlovski is now on the front, perhaps setting up Horner for an attack. The American veteran is tucked on his wheel, wearing the white jersey today.
3km remaining from 224km
Nacer Bouhanni won the GP de Fourmies and Geniez could give the French team a special double.
The gradient has eased for this final section ad so Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has surged away, chasing glory rather than having any chance of success.
Horner is on the front now, with Valverde and Nibali on his wheel.
Geniez's lead is falling but he's still got a four-minute gap with one kilometre to go.
There are only five riders in the GC contenders group: Horner, Nibali, Valverde, Pozzovivo and Rodriguez.
Geniez deserves his victory after being the break of the day. He emerged to show he is the strongest today.
Geniez has been racing for over six hours but he's about to take the biggest win of his career.
He waves his arms in the air and can hardly believe he's won. Bravo monsieur!
Roche made a brave attack but is about to be swept up by the Nibali group. He could stay gin some time on some of his top ten rivals.
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) takes second at 3:02 after also being in the break of the day.
Roche stayed clear to get third, with Nibali taking the sprint for fourth ahead of his GC rivals. There was no real threat to his red leader's jersey today.
The top five overall remains unchanged. However Roche gained 17 seconds and is sixth at 3:49.
Pinot lost some time and is seventh at 4:59. Leo Konig (NetApp-Endura) is eighth at 6:18.
Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard) remains second overall at 50 seconds.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is third overall at 1:42.
That's it for today's live coverage from the Vuelta a Espana. join us on Monday for more action from Spain as the riders tackle a third stage in the Pyrenees and yet another mountain finish.
We'll have a full report, a huge photo gallery, news and interviews on Cyclingnews very soon.
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