A transition stage today -- and preparing the remaining riders for the upcoming mountains.....
Today the Vuelta offers us a rolling stage with two ranked climbs. A day made for an escape group to be caught in time for a mass sprint finish.
139km remaining from 189km
We have two riders off the front: Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) and the ever-popular Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol). The broke off quite early and with 139km to go, they have a gap of 8:10.
The Cyclingnews stage preview can be found here.
Neither Hansen nor Aramendia are any threat to the leaders. Hansen is 65th overall, at 1:49:57 down, while Aramendia is 141st, over three hours behind leader Vincenzo Nibali.
We have already had the first intermediate sprint of the day, with Aramendia taking it ahead of Hansen. Luca Dodi of Lampre took third.
The good news is that there were no reported DNS today, so we still have 150 riders here.
129km remaining from 189km
The gap is dropping slightly, and is now at 7:24.
The wind may well play a role today. Photographer Graham Watson tweeted about “massive winds likely to cause chaos for cyclists”.
125km remaining from 189km
And the gap continues to fall, now at 6:27.
One other thing that might trip up a few riders (metaphorically speaking, of course) and especially the sprinters, is the climb up to the Castle of Burgos, only 10km before the finish. It is not enough to be a ranked climb, but features cobblestones and a gradient up to 9%.
On a personal note: this is my next-to-last live report for a Grand Tour for Cyclingnews. After nine exciting and busy years, I will be retiring from the website after the Giro di Lombardia. Thanks to all involved who have made it such a wonderful job!
116km remaining from 189km
Lampre and Orica-GreenEdge are the ones leading the chase, and the gap is again down, at 6:04.
Let's take a look at our two escapees. Hansen, 32, has only to arrive at the finish line Sunday and will then have completed seven Grand Tours in a row. Now that is an accomplishment! And top it all off, he won a stage at the Giro d'Italia this year.
102km remaining from 189km
The leaders are coming up on the feed zone, and the gap is now at exactly five minutes.
“Aged 21, Warren Barguil has won just as many stages at the Vuelta as all Spaniards combined”, noted daily newspaper La Razon. Two for Barguil, and two for Spaniard Dani Moreno.
97km remaining from 189km
We admit to being a fan of "Iron Man" Hansen, so we had hoped this group would stay away to the end. It is starting to look less likely, though, as the gap is now only four minutes.
Speaking of Hansen, seven Grand Tours in a row aren't enough, apparently. He wants to ride all three again next year as well.
Here is some news: Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) has said he will leave the race after today's stage. He will go home to Switzerland and prepare for the upcoming World Championships.
86km remaining from 189km
Lampre is leading the chase alone now, and with success: 3.44.
If you will recall, the race tightened up a bit on Monday. Chris Horner is creeping closer and closer to Nibali.
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 64:06:01
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:28
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:14
4 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:02:29
5 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:38
6 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:03:43
7 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:04:37
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura 0:06:17
9 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:07:33
10 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 0:09:21
We expect a real showdown in the next few stages, between Nibali and Horner. The Italian is ready, and thinks he can retain his lead to win this race.
The sun is shining again today. Let's hope we don't have any more nasty weather in this race.
76km remaining from 189km
With 76km to go, Hansen and Aramendia have a gap of 3:29.
The two are in fact approaching the summit of the first climb of the day, the Alto de Pradilla.
The gap has gone back up to 4:30.
Hansen took the Mountain ranking, with Aramendia of course second. It will be a while before the third rider is there.
Nico Sijmons of Cofidis hopes to be that third rider. He has jumped from the peloton.
Edet and Ratto are the next to jump on this climb.
Sijmons has taken the third and last placing on the mountain ranking. That doesn't stop KOM (and Cofidis teammate) Edet from sprinting with Ratto at the line. Communication failure in Cofidis?
Speaking of the King of the Mountains, here is how it looked coming into the stage:
1 Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 36 pts
2 Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 30
3 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 22
4 Andre Fernando S. Martins Cardoso (Por) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 20
5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 19
6 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 19
7 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 17
8 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr 17
9 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Argos-Shimano 14
10 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 13
Sijmons, Ratto and Edet are all now back in the peloton.
The peloton is starting to fall apart. Hard to tell whether it is because a high pace is being set, or whether the wind is playing a role.
Stage 16 winner Warren Barguil said: “It wasn’t really a rest day. I gave a lot of interviews on the phone. Finally, that made me realize what I’ve achieved at the Vuelta so far. I’m not disturbed by the wind. I know how to ride my bike in the wind.”
Miguel Indurain says that Joaquim Rodriguez and Nicolas Roche still have a chance here.
54km remaining from 189km
Hansen and Aramendia are now nearing the next climb, with a gap of 3:15.
The peloton weaves its way up the many turns and curves on this cat. 3 climb, the Alto de Valmala.
The gap is under three minutes now.
Once again, Hansen wins the mountain ranking ahead of Aramendia.
And once more a Cofidis rider has jumped to grab the third point at the mountaintop. And once more it is Sijmons.
Edet jumps and joins his teammate, and will no doubt take the third place point. Ratto stays put in the field, he decided not to play the game this time.
Edet did of course take the last remaining point. The peloton crosses over 2:42 after the two leaders.
It looks like our brave duo won't really have a chance today. With 42.6km to go, they have a gap of only 2:11.
We continue to see Orica-GreenEdge and Lampre at the head of the field, with Saxo-Tinkoff not far back.
Lampre has taken over the chase work now, with only one Orica GreenEdge jersey visibile in the pink-blue mass.
Yohann Bagot (Cofidis) said: “I’d like to make the top 20 overall. It means I need to be part of a successful breakaway. I hope I’ll do it one of these days.”
The peloton is on a flat, open part of the course and looks nervous. Everyone wants to be at the front in case the wind comes up and echelons form.
28 km and 1:21.
And it has happened. The wind has blown the field aparts. Riders and echelons all over the place.
Nibali, Valverde, Horner are all near the front of the first group, as the gap drops to one minute.
The group of favourites now has a fairly large gap over the next group. And even further back is a large third group.
Only 33 seconds now for Hansen and Aramendia, with 24 km to go.
The fifth-ranked Domenico Pozzovivo is in teh second chase group -- he may well drop down today.
Meanwhile, the first group ha caught the two leaders with 20.9 km to go.
Unfortunately we still don't have a list of who is in this group of favourites. Although we just saw Rigoberto Uran's very distinctive hair....
There is 22 seconds between the first two groups, and then 14 seconds to the third group.
16km remaining from 189km
The third group has dropped back a few more seconds.
Pozzovivo is in fact in the third group, as is Thibaut Pinot.
The third group looks like it is aboaut to catch the second group. But the gap up to the favourites' group is still about 30 seconds.
14km remaining from 189km
The last two groups have joined up. The first group is now 40 seconds ahead.
Roche is in that lead group, as well.
13km remaining from 189km
Soon the lead group will face that short and nasty cobbled climb up to the Castle of Burgos.
48 seconds now for the Pozzovivo group.
Movistar is putting up a fierce pace here in teh city of Burgos.
Roche was only five seconds behind Pozzovivo in the GC,so he will definitely move up one notch today.
9km remaining from 189km
And up they go!
Astana leads the way, with Katusha right behind them.
Riders are dropping off the back of this field, as a Lampre rider attacks.
Diego Ulissi has built up a small gap on the field.
8km remaining from 189km
Now over a minute to the Pozzovivo group.
Ulissi has crested at this unranked climb and is now descending.
5km remaining from 189km
An Euskaltel rider, Egoi Martinez, has now joined Ulissi, but the group is right behind them now.
Small gaps are beginning to form in the favourites' group, with ULissi and Martinez now caught.
An AStana rider is the next to go, Tanel Kangert. But he doesn't really get away.
This is a very twisty, turny course through the city.
3km remaining from 189km
Kangert is caught.
Edvald Boasson Hagen is in this group. We think he might have a very good chance today.
1:10 back to the next group.
2km remaining from 189km
Two km to go, and the favourites are all still near the front.
Another Astana rider has jumped. Behind him, Michele Scarponi is riding for his team's sprinter.
All together again, with Boasson Hagen on fifth wheel, as they come under the 1 km marker.
Much cat-and.mousing, as a Belkin rider take his chance.
Bauke Mollema has a rather good gap here. Have the otehrs left it too late?
Yes! Mollema soloes in aross the finish line!
The next group has only now come under the flamme rouge.
Pozzovivo has now lost 1:30 on the day.
Boasson Hagen was second -- again -- and third place went to Tyler Farrar.
Oops, no. Richeze of Lampre was third, with Farrar fourth.
The whole group got the same time as the winner.
Our top ten on the stage:
1 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
3 Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard
6 Grega Bole (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
7 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha
8 Paul Voss (Ger) Team NetApp-Endura
9 José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team
10 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
Two years ago, Mollema finished fourth overall in the Vuelta. But this is his first Grand Tour stage win.
Roche does indeed move up to fifth place in GC.
The top ten in GC hasn't been officially announced yet, but we are pretty sure that the top five are:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
4 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
We will have the results and our report up soon, here.
That's it for today. Join us again tomorrow for more fun and games.
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