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Vuelta a España 2013: Stage 18

Hello and welcome to our live coverage from the Vuelta a Espana.

Today we're back in the mountains for stage 18 of the race, 186.5km from Burgos to Peña Cabarga.

Compared to several other stages, this lumpy run through the mountains of Cantabria doesn't look too complex. However, much the same was said about an equivalent stage last year to Fuente Dé, where Alberto Contador pulled of one of the great Vuelta coups to strip the leader's jersey from Joaquim Rodríguez.

The first potential trap for the GC contenders lies on the Caracol, where Alejandro Valverde's hopes disappeared in 2008. More dangerous still is the final climb up to Peña Cabarga, the scene of two tremendous duels in recent years. The last of them pitted Chris Froome against Juan José Cobo, the Briton winning the day, the Spaniard holding on to win the race.

Matt White:

 

"Another nasty stage and definitely one for the GC, who will be going right at it on the final climb. For teams like ours that don't have an outstanding GC rider, this will be a tough race. All these summit finishes will look good on TV but there's too many of them."

 

To bring you right up to speed, we have a group up the road after 50km of racing and their lead is at 5.20. We'll of course bring you the name as soon as we can. The next post in fact.

Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEDGE), Caleb Fairly (Garmin-Sharp), Angel Vicioso (Katusha), Adam Hansen (Lotto), Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), Mikael Cherel (AG2R), Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Argos Shimano), Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), Tiziano Dall’Aantonia (Cannondale), Martin Kohler (BMC), Ben Gastauer (AG2R), Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank), Grega Bole (Vacansoleil) and Matteo Bono (Lampre Merida)

No GC threats for Nibali, with Sorensen the best placed rider, over 20 minutes down on the current race leader. The Italian's team are on the front but haven't started to chase.

And here's how the race currently stands in the fight for the overall. Still so much to play for with anyone from the top four with a realistic chance of the win (sorry Roche fans):

 

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 68:50:29
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 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:03:43
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:05:09
7 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ 0:06:08
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 0:10:52

121km remaining from 186km

65km covered so far by the peloton and the break how have 6;30 over the bunch.

Some decent firepower in the break too. Clake won a stage against Tony Martin last year and the KOM to boot.

 

We all know about Txurruka, seeing as how he's spent almost the entire race on the offensive, while Sorensen is pretty handy in situations like this too. With a rider up the road Saxo dont have to any chasing  - not that they needed to anyway. The same with Katusha, thanks to Vicioso but we should see Movistar, RadioShack and Astana wind things up later.

With you up to date with the race, it's a good time to sift through the news and pick out the highlights. We'll start with Sean Yates and his brazen attitude to the past, how things went down at Team Sky, and his friendship with Lance Armstrong. It's certainly an interesting perspective from the one-time yellow jersey, although not everyone will agree with him. It's fair to say, he probably doesn't care if you do, or dont.

Here's the story.

In other news, Bobby Jungles has signed a two year deal with Trek starting in 2014.

Henk Vogels, the man we all thought was going to win a Classic one day, has signed up to the Drapac team as a DS for next year.

And we have a gallery of images from Eurobike for you to look through as well. Meanwhile all our Eurobike coverage can be found here.

Last one, here's our race preview for the Tour of Britain which starts this weekend up in Scotland.

111km remaining from 186km

About to reach the first climb of the day (third cat) and the break have stretched their lead to 8.02 over the Astana led peloton.

Five climbs in all  today, the first three are third cats, then one second category ascent before the final first category climb to the finish.

Onto the Alto de Bocos and the leaders now have nearly 9 minutes on the peloton. They should all be relatively fresh still so it's unlikely we'll see the break split at this stage.

The real battle for the GC riders will take place on the final climb. Chris Horner is looking dangerous and is just 28 seconds behind Nibali with three tough days in the mountains to come. It would truly be a miraculous feat for the veteran American to claim a grand tour win. He spent so long on the sidelines this year and he still doesn't have a contract for next season either...

102km remaining from 186km

Txurruka leads the break over the top of the climb, with Cherel in second and Sorensen in third. The break now have 9.40 on the peloton with 102km to go.

Today's a big day in the teams classification. Don't laugh, the riders and teams take it really seriously. At the moment here how things stand:

1 Euskaltel-Euskadi 205:59:40
2 Astana Pro Team 0:01:07
3 Movistar Team 0:01:26
4 Team Saxo - Tinkoff 0:08:36
5 Katusha 0:20:38
6 Caja Rural - Seguros RGA 0:28:57

You know that Anton and Sanchez will be near the front but Euskaltel will be hoping Nieve and Meana can put in strong rides, while Astana burn their matches trying to set Nibali up for the final climb.

100km remaining from 186km

Mechanical  help needed for Rodriguez. The Spaniard is currently fourth overall in the race but he'll be looking to gain some time today and then make a major move on L´Angliru on Saturday.

Rodriguez:

 

“It’san excellent finish for me. t’s very hard. Good legs are needed for winning. I haven’t won yet but I don’t feel the pressure. I feel the ‘grinta’ (determination). Valverde, Horner and I all need time bonus to challenge Nibali. I hope all teams will combine to keep the race together.”

 

Chris Horner:

“I’ve never raced up to Pena Cabarga. But my team-mates have done it a few times and they’ve explained to me how it is. Maybe I’ve done it at training as I’ve been based in Santander for six weeks in 2005. It’s a bit different for me now to be racing without Fabian Cancellara. Yesterday, I was never nervous. We knew the peloton was going to split. Fabian was amazing the way he looked after me. He could have pulled out earlier to prepare for the World’s but he stayed yesterday for me, I’m grateful he did that. We still have Gregory(Rast), Markel (Irizar) and (Yaroslav) Popo(vych). They’re really good for me too. If there are crosswinds at the start, they’ll do the job, I’m not worried. We have the strongest team on the flat.”

 

We're nearly halfway through the stage and here's a reminder of who is in the break:

 

Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Simon Clarke (Orica GreenEDGE), Caleb Fairly (Garmin-Sharp), Angel Vicioso (Katusha), Adam Hansen (Lotto), Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), Mikael Cherel (AG2R), Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (Argos Shimano), Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), Tiziano Dall’Aantonia (Cannondale), Martin Kohler (BMC), Ben Gastauer (AG2R), Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank), Grega Bole (Vacansoleil) and Matteo Bono (Lampre Merida)

91km remaining from 186km

The break pass through an intermediate sprint with Sorensen first, although it wasn't contested. The break will now start on a long false flat before the next third category climb.

The break briefly led the race by ten minutes but it's back down, slightly, to 9.55.

Rodriguez won here back in 2010, least we forget. That day he beat - remember when Katusha wore blue? - Nibali by 20 seconds with Mosquera in third. Anton crashed out of the race lead that day and Nibali went on to win the race overall in Madrid.

80km remaining from 186km

The break are close to the summit of the Alto Estacas de Trueba. They're still all together at this stage.

Back in 2010, by the way, Movistar  - then Caisse - tried to animate the race by sending Luis Leon Sanchez and David Arroyo up the road in a counter attacking move. It will be interesting to see if the team try a similar move this time around. Both of those riders, are in the race, although for different teams now. Belkin and Caja Rural.

Txurruka lead the break over the climb. That's the second time he's done so in the race. He's off the pace in the KOM competition but if he can top each of the next two climbs he'll be back in the fight. This is how things stood at the start of the stage.

1 Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 37 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 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 17
9 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Argos-Shimano 14
10 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 13
11 Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural 13

@Leptictidium87 of course reminds me that Luis Leon Sanchez is out of the race, having abandoned on the same stage as Ivan Basso.

67km remaining from 186km

The break are seeing the bunch eat into their advantage. It's down to 6;55 having peaked at 10 minutes earlier in the stage.

Katusha and Movistar are currently leading the chase and they've pegged the leaders back to 6:12.

Up ahead, the break are now on the Braguía,the third climb of the day.

5;40 for the leaders and at this race they'll be caught before the lower slopes of the final climb.

Breaking news about the start of the 2014 Vuelta, right here

 

After two starts in the north of Spain, in Pamplona in 2012 and Galicia in 2013, and one in the south-east, in Benidorm in 2011, the 2014 Vuelta a Espana is expected to start in Spain’s southwesterly region of Cadiz, Spanish TV has reported.

136km remaining from 186km

50km to go and the leaders are off the final 3rd cat climb of the stage. Their lead still hovers around the five minute mark.

Remember Horner is just 28 seconds off the lead. He's held the red jersey before in the race but Nibali will have to be on his guard today. The Italian knows the final climb, having ridden it in 2010, Horner has never raced up it.

The gap to the break is now at 4;35.

Netapp are moving up towards the front of the bunch but right now it is Movistar who are setting the pace. Up ahead the break has split.

46km remaining from 186km

Kiryienka is splitting the break and he's got two riders for company. One of them is Simon Clarke.

Back in the bunch and Movistar have the field strung out as they descend towards the penultimate climb. Kiryienka is now on his own with 43km to go. He's had success in the past with long range attacks but this is going to be a huge task.

Katusha are absent from the front, they still have a man up the road, but the gap to the leaders is now moving back to 6 minutes.

Kiryienka is on the second cat climb now and he has 6 minutes. It's a long down hill section before the final climb but he'll need around 4-5 minutes to be within a chance of taking the stage win.

Edet, the KOM leader is at the back of the bunch. He might think about sitting up today and saving his strength for tomorrow.

The Cofidis rider really needed to be in the break in order to pick up more KOM points but the work from Movistar is too hot for him.

Nibali is surrounded by all of his Astana teammates and the Italian looks comfortable at the moment. Horner isn't too far back, Rodriguez too.

But Kiryienka is pushing on, his jersey unzipped as he grinds his way up this climb. He has 6;02 on the bunch so he's holding Movistar, his old team.

The Sky rider zips up his jersey and crests the top of the climb.

39km to go for the lone leader as he powers down the descent. A 30km descent no  less.

Martinez , Sorensen and Vicioso have formed a three man chase behind the Sky rider.

So it looks like Clarke, Hansen, who were chasing, have been dropped for good.

34km remaining from 186km

6:10 for Kiryienka as he drops like a stone off this climb. The stage win is edging its way towards the Sky man.

The peloton go over the top 6:14 the gap now. The three man chase behind Kiryienka is at 30 seconds.

Kiryienka is rapidly approaching the final climb of the day. He has 6:20 on the chase and is still roughly 30 seconds ahead of the three riders chasing him down.

Kiryienka has had an up and down year. He was crucial for Sky earlier in the season at races like paris nice but he crumbled in the Tour and was eliminated after missing the time cut. He's going rather well today though and is keeping the Movistar led-peloton at 6:20.

Kiryienka is still descending although there are a couple of little bumps in between sections. He looks strong and has 25 seconds on the three chasers.

The three chasers are working well but they've not closed down Kiryienka.

The bunch aren't sitting up here but Kiryienka continues to extend his lead. It's now 6;38.

22km remaining from 186km

The last climb is just under 6km in length but there are a number of 10 per cent ramps. Kiryienka now has 49 seconds on the three chasers.

A reminder of where we stand in GC with just 17km to go:

 

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 68:50:29
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 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:03:43

Kiryienka has put a minute into the three man group.

There are now six chasers with Txurruka, Kohler and Van Rensburg latching onto the Martinez group.

Kiryienka will have heard the news over the radio and he increases the pace once more, and is now 1:09 up.

15km remaining from 186km

15km to go.

Kiryienka takes a gel from his back pocket. He has 1:10 now on a six man chase.

What's more telling with regards to Kiryienka's ride is that Movistar, with all  of their team on the front, aren't making any inroads into the Sky rider's advantage. He's really on a good day.

Rodriguez, meanwhile is near the back of the peloton, with the final climb about 14 km away.

Movistar continue on the front of the peloton, Nibali is on Valverde's wheel.

10km to go for Kiryienka. He's roughly 4km away from the final climb.

The six chasers need to keep Kiryienka at around a minute if they're to have any chance of wining the stage.

But the gap continues to go out. It's now at 1:30. The question now is whether Kiryienka has done too much, too soon.

Simon Clarke has led more riders from the early break so we have 8 chasers now.

7km remaining from 186km

Just over 7km to go.

Kiryienka is starting to lose time on the bunch but that wont matter too much. He about to start climbing and it's all about whether he can hold off the 8 man chase group.

Kiryienka starts climbing, and it's one of the 10 per cent sections.

The 8 chasers aren't working that well, there are a couple of passengers but the climb will sort out that nonsense.

It looks like Sorensen has had enough and he's attacked before the climb.

Kiryienka is keeping the wheels turning and has 5km to go.

Sorensen, his shoulders rocking, is alone as  well but it's RadioShack who lead the peloton towards the climb.

Katusha push their way to the front too but it's RadioShack on the front. Movistar have been replaced

The 8 man chase group have split to pieces with riders all over the road.

Horner's intent is clear though, he wants the best position at the foot of the climb. Surely he'll attack.

Astana move up and Nibali is in second wheel.

Kiryienka still leads and his heading for the stage win with 4km to go.

We have no time gaps to Sorensen.

Shack are back  on the front now, with two riders. Nibali is a little bit further back and if Horner spots that he might try and take advantage.

Horner is in third wheel

Nibali moves up

Movistar have a man on the front but as soon as he peels off the GC riders will attack each other.

NIbali, Horner, Valverde and Rodriguez all  present.

There are less than 20 riders in the red jersey group.

Nibali is right on Horner's wheel.

The road hits 12 per cent as Kiryienka has 3km to go.

Horner out of the saddle but he still hasn't made his move.

Roche is with Nibali too. Pinot at the back of that group.

Igor Anton, is about to be dropped.

Valverde, Horner and Nibali all towards the front.

Valverde's last teammate is still on the front though setting the pace.

2km to go for Kiryienka

Horner still out of the saddle as NIbali sits on his wheel.

16 per cent and Kiryienka grits his teeth.

Just over a mile to go for the lone leader

Saxo have moved to the front of the red jersey group.

Roche is in second wheel behind Kreuziger.

20 per cent and Kiryienka is in the saddle with 1km to go.

Now Moreno attacks

Horner in trouble?

Rodriguez goes and Nibali and Horner are chasing.

Horner is going to make it over to Moreno and Rodriguez, Nibali is next on the road.

Valverde is cracking

Horner now leads

Horner has Nibali and Rodriguez on his wheel.

Roche is down the road with Valverde

But Horner is looking to drop everyone.

Rodriguez, Horner and Nibali all together

Horner is too much for NIbali! The Italian cannot keep up.

The tirelss American crosses the line 1:50 behind the winner, with Nibali coming in at 2:18.

Kiryienka takes the stage but Horner is clear now

Horner looked to be in trouble at one stage when Rodriguez attacked but the American simply had more in the tank and dropped Nibali and Rodriguez inside the final 1km.

Valverde came back and even put time into Nibali at the end.

Kiryienka was blowing kisses as he crossed the line.

Horner was sixth, so no time bonus but we could have a new race leader. We'll have to see.

Nibali leads by 3 seconds according to provisional GC.

So that one dig from Horner lands him 25 seconds. Nibali is well and truly on the ropes in the year's race.

1 Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Sky Procycling
2 Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
3 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol
4 Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team
5 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
6 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard
7 Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural
8 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team

here are the time gaps from today's stage:

 

1 Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Sky Procycling 4:46:48
2 Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:28
3 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol 0:01:18
4 Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:01:34
5 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:01:42
6 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:01:53
7 Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural 0:02:02
8 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:02:13
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:14
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:02:18

Here's are the new standings in GC:

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 73:39:35
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:03
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:09
4 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:02:24
5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:03:34
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:05:44
7 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ 0:06:14
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura 0:06:35
9 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:07:51
10 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 0:11:10
 

 

Horner seems to have the measure of all of his rivals at the moment.

Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report, results and photos, right here.

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