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Vuelta a España 2013: Stage 5


Stage 5 of the Vuelta a España, from 174.3km from Sober to Lago de Sanabria.


119km remaining from 174km

We join the action 55 kilometres into the stage, where a five-man group has a lead of seven minutes over the peloton as they approach the first of two climbs on the agenda today, the category 3 Alto do Covelo. Our five leaders are Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Jurgen Van De Walle (Lotto Belisol), Arnaud Corteille (FDJ) and Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida), and they broke clear after 8 kilometres.


Of the five escapees, the best-placed rider on general classification is Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) but he lies over 20 minutes down in 106th place overall and so the Astana team of overall leader Vincenzo Nibali have little motivation to chase for now.

112km remaining from 174km

The aggressive Edet, of course, was part of the early break yesterday and indeed was the last survivor out in front, although his resistance was eventually snuffed out inside the final 30 kilometres. The Frenchman will doubtless have paid for those efforts, but for now, he and his companions are steadily building their lead over the peloton. The leading quintet now hold a buffer of 9:31.

The stage honours fell to Dani Moreno (Katusha) yesterday, and a split in the finale  saw the red jersey change hands, as Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) lost out and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) regained the overall lead. The overall picture looked like this as the peloton awoke bleary-eyed in Sober this morning:

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 14:15:30
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:03
3 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:08
4 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:16
5 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:21
6 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:26
7 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:28
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 0:00:31
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:38
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:42


The split in the peloton in the finale caught all and sundry by surprise yesterday, not least Vincenzo Nibali. On crossing the line, Nibali told reporters on crossing the line that "nothing happened today really" and beat a hasty retreat to the Astana team bus, some four kilometres away, only to be

when it emerged that he had dislodged Horner from the overall lead. "I'm surprised, I had no idea I was the leader," Nibali admitted, but - as ever - suggested that he was tranquillo about holding the red jersey again.

110km remaining from 174km

Meanwhile, the five escapees' advantage continues to climb. As they attack the Alto do Covelo, their lead over the main peloton has stretched out to a very healthy 10:25.

There is no summit finish today - for once - and there are just two category 3 climbs on the profile, but the jury was out as to whether stage 5 was one for the sprinters or not. After the descent of the Covelo, the road continues to climb steadily through Gudiña and towards the Alto de Padornelo, and there is barely a metre of flat on the run-in to the finish.

Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) is among those hoping for a bunch finish, although he is well aware that it might not materialise. “On paper it’s not a true sprinters’ stage but it can finish with a bunch sprint,” he said. “Hopefully a small group will go and sprinters’ teams will bring it back. There are 3000 metres of climbing in total today though!”

So far, none of the sprinters' teams have opted to put their shoulders to the wheel, and so the break is continuing to chug away out in front with an advantage in excess of ten minutes. If that situation proceeds much longer, then our leading quintet can start to harbour genuine ambitions of fighting out the stage win amongst themselves.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was sober in his assessment of the possibilities of a break succeeding on the road to Lago de Sanabria. The world champion reckons it's a numbers game, and if his calculations are right, then it's bad news for Anacona, Edet et al. “With more than seven riders, the breakaway has a high chance of succeeding," he said.

98km remaining from 174km

Garmin-Sharp have stirred into action in support of Farrar at the head of the peloton, and their efforts have shaved almost a minute off the break's lead. The gap is now 9:40.

It will be interesting to see if anyone steps forward to help Garmin's pace-making at the head of the bunch as there is a dearth of sprinters at this year's Vuelta. Given the 11 summit finishes on the parcours, few teams even bothered to select a fast man, so there aren't many teams keen to ride for the bunch sprint. One possible ally of circumstance might be Omega Pharma-QuickStep, given that Gianni Meersman has a penchant for winning from large groups at the end of rolling days of racing.

99km remaining from 174km

Orica-GreenEdge, of course, have Michael Matthews in their ranks and his morale is high after he took third place on stage 4. The Australian team have signalled their intentions by joining Garmin in setting tempo at the head of the peloton, and the break's lead is now down to 8:37.

85km remaining from 174km

Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida) led the break over the day's first climb, the Alto do Covelo, ahead of Edet and Van De Walle.

Orica-GreenEdge and Garmin-Sharp continue to set the pace at the head of the peloton, and the break's lead has been reduced to 8:22. The Australian squad are without Wesely Sulzberger, incidentally. He was forced out of the race with a broken collarbone after crashing yesterday.

Barring any late splits, it seems unlikely that there will be any real change in the race for the red jersey this afternoon, even though Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli has made no secret of his disregard for holding the overall lead this early in the Vuelta, “If RadioShack wants the red jersey back, I’m happy to give it back to them."

For his part, Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) was nonplussed by losing the jersey yesterday, insisting that he is focused on his challenge for the final general classification. "For me personally, it's a good thing to lose the jersey - for the sponsor I think it's an absolutely terrible thing," was how a less than heartbroken Horner described his loss of the overall lead.


Second on the stage yesterday, Horner's RadioShack teammate Fabian Cancellara is also looking further down the line, to the world championships in Florence. While the Swiss rider was coy about his precise aims in Tuscany when he spoke to Alasdair Fotheringham, one senses that the road race will be his priority this time around.

75km remaining from 174km

The break and the peloton have been matching speeds for the past 15 kilometres or so, with the gap remaining stable at around the 8:20 mark.

66km remaining from 174km

Garmin-Sharp and Orica-GreenEdge are continuing to tap out the tempo on the front of the bunch on the long, steady haul towards the base of the second climb of the day. Sizeable delegations from Movistar and Omega Pharma-QuickStep are lined up just behind them.

Up front, the five leaders are maintaining their collaboration but the increasingly rugged terrain is perhaps just beginning to tell. Their lead has fallen to 7:14.

63km remaining from 174km

The pace is beginning to stiffen ever so slightly in the main peloton and the break's lead has been cut to 6:25.

58km remaining from 174km

Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) is showing few ill-effects from his exploits off the front yesterday, and the Frenchman is battling to maintain the break's momentum by putting in some long turns on the front.

The five escapees are now ten kilometres from the base of the day's second climb, the category 3 Alto de Padornelo, which itself climbs for 11km, albeit at the rather benign average gradient of 2.6%.

52km remaining from 174km

The Vuelta has left Galicia behind today and in this final part of the stage, not far from the Portuguese border, the peloton has entered the province of Zamora, home to the Culebra mountain range and the highest population of wolves in Europe.

50km remaining from 174km

The break enters the final 50 kilometres with a lead of 5:25 over the peloton. Provided there isn't a major injection of pace behind on the Padornelo, the leaders are still in with a fighting chance of holding off the bunch.


Winner Anacona sits up and stretches briefly as if in preparation for the climb that he and his breakaway companions will soon face. 5:14 down the road, Alex Howes is leading the Garmin-Sharp troupe at the head of the peloton.

43km remaining from 174km

There's rare smattering of vocal support from the roadside for the five escapees as Jurgen Van De Walle (Lotto Belisol) leads them through the town of Lubian on the approach to the foot of the Padornelo.

Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural) hits the front as the five escapees start the climb. A few leaden drops of rain are beginning to fall, and if the skies open in earnest, the descent could be treacherous in the extreme.

39km remaining from 174km

It sun is poking through the clouds once again, and it looks as if the race might just avoid the worst of the rain. The gap between the bunch and the break is down to 4:37 but the tempo in the peloton is steady rather than spectacular, with GreenEdge leading the chase.

The gradient is very gentle on this climb and the five leaders are continuing to ride through and off at a very smooth rhythm. If they can hit the top of the climb with 3:30 or so in hand on the bunch, they might just stay clear.

35km remaining from 174km

Garmin-Sharp and Orica-GreenEdge are still controlling affairs at the head of the peloton, but they may well require reinforcements from the likes of Omega Pharma-QuickStep if they are to peg the leaders. The break still has 4:22 on a bunch that now risks running out of road in which to complete the pursuit.

As if on queue, Omega Pharma have sensed the danger and - finally - put a man on the front of the bunch to help Garmin and GreenEdge with the pursuit. In Gianni Meersman, Omega Pharma-QuickStep have a potential winner of today's stage and it's perhaps surprising that they didn't join the chase a little sooner.

34km remaining from 174km

After putting in a huge stint on the front for the day, Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp) drops back to the rear of the peloton. Omega Pharma-QuickStep have added some urgency to the pursuit, and the gap between the bunch and the break has been shave down to 3:40.

Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) strains for every last ounce of energy as he puts in a mammoth turn on the front of the bunch, before swining over for Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

31km remaining from 174km

Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) leads the break over the Alto de Padornelo. The break have defended their advantage well on the climb, and with a good descent, they might just stay clear.

The peloton crests the summit of the climb 3:09 down on the breakaway. The stage is very delicately poised between the break and the chasers.

26km remaining from 174km

The descent is not a particularly technical one, and that ought to benefit the chasing peloton more than the five leaders. On top of that, the peloton should be able to make up considerable ground on the rolling roads of the final 10 kilometres.

22km remaining from 174km

A number of false flats and rises punctuate this descent, and on each one, the break coughs up a few more seconds of its advantage. Anacona, Edet, Piedra, Van De Walle and Courteille hold a lead of 2:22 over the GreenEdge, Garmin and QuickStep-led peloton.

20km remaining from 174km

The gap is 2:16 as the break enters the final 20 kilometres. The wide, straight roads on this section of the course are certainly better-suited to the chasing peloton, but the escapees are refusing to yield for now.

The peloton is strung out in one long line and is now making huge inroads into the break's lead. The five escapees are continuing to maintain a brisk tempo but it seems that there is little to be done against the weight of the pursuit behind. The gap is down to 1:35.

15km remaining from 174km

The escapees are betraying few signs of flagging, but such is the pace behind that their lead is dwindling rapidly. The gap is down to 1:13 with 15 kilometres to go, and their hopes are fading quickly.

Orica-GreenEdge, Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Garmin-Sharp are continuing to dictate terms and conditions in the main peloton, with Matthews, Meersman and Farrar in mind.

12km remaining from 174km

Courteille leads the break through the second intermediate sprint at Puebla de Sanabria, while the bunch come through just 54 seconds down. The road begins to climb again after the sprint, but it seems unlike that will derail the combined forces of GreenEdge, Garmin and QuickStep.

As the road begins to climb, Saxo-Tinkoff and Sky begin to force their way towards the front - to protect their GC men or to try and set up the stage win?

10km remaining from 174km

Courteille opts to fracture the break's unity by attacking on an unclassified climb with 10km to go. Van De Walle tries to follow, but after 200 metres, he sits heavily into the saddle and relents.

9km remaining from 174km

Courteille was obviously unhappy with the collaboration in the break inside the final ten kilometres but he may yet have Van De Walle for company at the front as he tries to fend off the peloton.

8km remaining from 174km

GreenEdge lead the peloton, some 54 seconds down on the determined Courteille.

Van De Walle is almost within touching distance of Courteille, but the Frenchman is showing no interest in waiting for the veteran Lotto-Belisol man.

7km remaining from 174km

Van De Walle is just about to make the junction with Courteille on a long false flat, but the lead over the peloton has dropped to just 33 seconds.

Van De Walle makes contact with Courteille, takes a couple of hundred metres to recover, and then comes through to the front. Edet, Anacona and Piedra have all been swept up by the bunch.

6km remaining from 174km

The leading duo have just 20 seconds in hand on the bunch with 6 kilometres to go, and Omega Pharma-QuickStep are winding up the pace behind.

5km remaining from 174km

Courteille is refusing to give up the ghost, even though his lead is just 8 seconds and Van De Walle is barely able to contribute to the pace-making.

4km remaining from 174km

Tony Martin is setting the tempo on the front of the peloton now, and the German's presence ought to sound the death knell for the fading hopes of Courteille and Van De Walle.

3km remaining from 174km

Courteille and Van De Walle are swept up by the bunch, and the stage is set for a bunch finish.

3km remaining from 174km

Omega Pharma-QuickStep are looking to control things, but a number of other teams are trying to bludgeon their way to the front, including a sizeable delegation from Argos-Shimano.

2km remaining from 174km

Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) zips off the front and opens a small gap, but he will surely not be able to hold off the speeding bunch.

2km remaining from 174km

Argos-Shimano take over the pace-setting on the front of the bunch.

1km remaining from 174km

Philippe Gilbert attacks off the front and opens a smalle gap entering the final kilometre.

1km remaining from 174km

Argos-Shimano lead the race into the finishing straight and open up the sprint for Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg...

Michael Matthews and Gianni Meersman sweep to the front to contest the sprint....

Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) wins stage 5 of the Vuelta a Espana.

Matthews hit the front and held off the challenge of Maximiliano RIcheze and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), with Nikias Arndt (Argos-Shimano) in fourth.

Meersman was arguably slightly impeded by Richeze in the sprint, but there was no arguing with Michael Matthews' victory. The Australian was good value for his sprint win, as indeed, was his Orica-GreenEdge team, which chased for much of the afternoon on his behalf.


1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 4:28:23
2 Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida
3 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
4 Niklas Arndt (Ger) Argos-Shimano
5 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
7 Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ
8 Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Belisol
9 Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
10 Grega Bole (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished safely in the main peloton, and the Sicilian will retain the red jersey tonight, 3 seconds ahead of Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) and 8 ahead of Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff).

General classification after stage 5:

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 18:43:52
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:03
3 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:08
4 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:16
5 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:21
6 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:26
7 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:28
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 0:00:31
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:38
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:42

Thanks for joining us for today's Vuelta coverage. A full report, results and pictures will follow here, and we'll be back with more live coverage tomorrow. In the meantime, stay tuned to Cyclingnews for all of the news and reaction from Spain.

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