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Vuelta a España 2013: Stage 6


Stage 6 of the Vuelta a España, 175 kilometres from Guijuelo to Cáceres.

114km remaining from 175km

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of Tony Martin's brutal world time trial championships training regimen. 60 kilometres into the stage, the German is alone at head of the race, some six minutes clear of the peloton. Martin powered clear inside the opening kilometres and his skin suit made it plain that he wanted no company on his exploit.

After 10 kilometres, Martin's lead was 1:40 and he continued to power away from the peloton thereafter. He clocked up some 46 kilometres in the first hour of racing and at one point, his lead was touching seven and a half minutes. There's been a slight response from the peloton over the past fifteen kilometres or so, and the gap has drawn in slightly to a shade over six minutes.

There were doubtless plenty of tired bodies in the peloton hoping that Martin would call a halt to his time trial simulation after an hour or so, but the Omega Pharma-QuickStep man has shown no signs of relenting, and so Orica-GreenEdge have begun to put their shoulder to the wheel in the main peloton. New Brunswick's Christian Meier is the man who has stepped up to the plate to lead the chase for GreenEdge.

Orica-GreenEdge have plenty of motivation to chase today, of course. Their fast man Michael Matthews claimed a fine victory at Lago de Sanabria yesterday and he will fancy his chances of repeating the feat if it all comes back together for a sprint this afternoon.

The parcours for today's stage is something of a collector's item, at least as far as this Vuelta is concerned. There are no categorised climbs on the route, which traces the path of the Ruta de la Plata, the ancient commercial route that was believed to have been used primarily for the trade of tin. The road offered a flat north-south route, roughly parallel to the modern Portuguese border, and the access provided later helped the Romans in their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

In turn, the Romans paved and broadened the road to connect the gold mines of Las Medulas and the copper mines of Rio Tinto, and the sprinters will be hoping that it leads them to another kind of precious bounty in Cáceres this afternoon.

100km remaining from 175km

Martin enters the final 100 kilometres with 5:40 in hand on the peloton. With just one individual time trial in this Vuelta - in Tarazona next week - Martin has to squeeze in his time trial-style efforts where he can, and he's certainly putting together a fine work out here.


Martin lies over half an hour down on general classification, and so, like yesterday, the Astana squad of race leader Vincenzo Nibali has shown precious little interest in chasing down the day's early break.

It was a day of relative détente for the overall contenders yesterday and that state of affairs ought to continue this afternoon, although the top ten on the general classification remains tightly packed.

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


The man who finished third in the 1993 Vuelta, Laudelino Cubino, is from the area, and he believes stage 6 ought to be effectively a day off for the GC contenders, particularly given that a tailwind at their backs on the way down to the Ruta de la Plata. “I think that today it will be a quiet stage. In the first 40km, it’s up and down, favorable for attacks but after 40km, it’s dead flat and easy,” Cubino said. “This is actually the first easy stage of the Vuelta. It’s going to be a bunch sprint finish. It’s a tail wind all the way. For the sprinters’ team, it’s very easy to control.”

90km remaining from 175km

The Vuelta is Tony Martin's first race since the Tour de France, where he was an impressive winner of the Mont-Saint-Michel time trial in the second week. On the evidence of today, not to mention his strong showing in Saturday's team time trial, it looks as though Martin has scarcely missed a beat in the intervening period and he will line up in Florence next month as the favourite to capture a third consecutive world time trial title.

Martin will face stiff competition in Tuscany, of course. Bradley Wiggins has built the final part of his season around the Worlds time trial and his victory in the final time trial of the Tour de Pologne was a timely morale boost. Fabian Cancellara will also be in Florence, even if his eyes may be trained on the road race, while Taylor Phinney is aiming to go one better than his silver medal ride in Valkenburg last season.

87km remaining from 175km

Another man in Spain to prepare for the Worlds time trial is Marco Pinotti (BMC), and before the start, he identified today's stage as the ideal training ground for the event. “It’s a good training for the time trial world championship and it’s a good day for doing it because tomorrow is a good day to recover," Pinotti said.

Incidentally, today's Gazzetta dello Sport has linked Pinotti's fellow Italian Valerio Piva with a role in the management of BMC next season. Piva is currently head directeur sportif at Katusha, but is rumoured to be joining BMC in 2014 as a replacement for the recently departed John Lelangue. Piva's former Highroad colleague Allan Peiper is performance director at BMC, while the team also includes former Highroad riders Pinotti and Tejay van Garderen.

81km remaining from 175km

Martin is maintaining his advantage at 5:27 as he continues to plough a lone furrow on the road between Plasencia and the second intermediate sprint at Grimaldo.

Elsewhere, Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) continued his domination of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes this morning, winning his third consecutive stage, although that sequence will surely come to an end in this afternoon's time trial.

75km remaining from 175km

Argos-Shimano have now begun to contribute to the chase effort at the head of the peloton, concerned, perhaps, that Martin's lead has remained steady at around 5:30 for the last 25km or so.

Argos-Shimano have tasted success at the past two Vueltas through the efforts of German fast men Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, and they are placing their trust in German neo-professional Nikias Arndt here. Fresh from claiming a stage win at the Artic Race of Norway three weeks ago, Arndt took fourth place on yesterday's stage behind Matthews, Max Richeze (Lampre-Merida) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

70km remaining from 175km

Argos-Shimano have added considerable impetus to the chase just as Martin begins to flag slightly up front. The German's gap is down to four minutes.

66km remaining from 175km

Martin is approaching the day's second intermediate at Grimaldo with his lead now hovering around the four-minute mark. The double world time trial champion put together an exhibition of individual riding in the opening half of the stage but he will have to conjure up something very special indeed if he is to hold off the peloton from this position.

Red jersey Vincenzo Nibali is maintaining a watching brief on affairs near the front of the peloton, ensconced in the middle of a platoon of Astana teammates.

The pace is still relatively relaxed in the main peloton, with riders spread across the road and, as ever, Samuel Sanchez has a smile and wave for the television motorbike when it lingers alongside him.

56km remaining from 175km

Martin led through the second intermediate sprint, and he has steadied his advantage at around the four-minute mark for now.

Tyler Farrar and his Garmin-Sharp teammate Alex Howes led the bunch through the intermediate sprint. The pace stiffened in the peloton on the approach to the sprint but it has slackened again afterwards and the gap remains steady at 3:50 for now.

49km remaining from 175km

Argos-Shimano and Orica-GreenEdge are beginning to assemble in earnest at the head of the peloton. A side-effect of Martin's solo raid, of course, is that Omega Pharma-QuickStep are exempted from working on the front this afternoon, but they boast a contender for stage victory in Gianni Meersman. 

Tony Martin is spending increasing amounts of time out of the saddle as he trundles through open  fields of scorched esparto grass. As one would expect in this particular corner of Spain in late August, there are blue skies and sunshine overhead.

45km remaining from 175km

Martin's body is beginning to roll ever so slightly as he pedals past the reservoir of the Alcantara Dam on the Tagus river and his lead is nudging downwards towards the three-minute mark.

The stage is beginning to assume a familiar rhythm. As the pace in the peloton gradually begins to pick up, so too does the lone leader's advantage begin to tumble softly. With a buffer of just three minutes and a shade over 40 kilometres to go, the odds are firmly stacked against Martin seeing his solo Odyssey through to the finish in Cáceres.


39km remaining from 175km

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) shares a bidon with Jussi Veikkanen at the rear of the peloton. After a troubled Tour de France, the talented M. Pinot has cut a relaxed figure on this Vuelta and is hopeful of performing well in the summit finishes to come. And at the season's end, Pinot will swap a bike for a car in a bid to conquer his fear of high speed descending...

36km remaining from 175km

Argos-Shimano's pressing is beginning to claw some significant tracts of ground back from Martin. The gap is down to 2:35 and the stage seems set for a bunch finish this afternoon. It will be an interesting sprint from a tactical standpoint given that the final kilometre is slightly downhill.

With typically impeccable timing, our man in Spain Alasdair Fotheringham caught up with Tony Martin just before the start this morning. You can read Martin's thoughts on the Vuelta and preparing for the Worlds time trial


31km remaining from 175km

Vincenzo Nibali is pedalling smoothly around ten wheels back from the front, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Rigoberto Uran (Sky) lined up alongside him. It may be a quiet day in the battle for overall honours but vigilance is a constant requirement for the GC contender.

Martin has just over two minutes of a lead over the peloton as he enters the final 30 kilometres of the stage. The pace will ratchet up steadily from here on in.

28km remaining from 175km

Martin will be all too aware that he is tilting at windmills as regards stage victory today, but he is still putting up fine resistance to the chase behind, maintaining his buffer at two minutes.

26km remaining from 175km

The pace is beginning to shoot up in the main peloton, and it's intersting to see a gaggle of Astana riders hit the front. Nibali won't want to risk losing ground needlessly here. Martin's lead is down to 1:35.

Martin has now spent 150 kilometres alone at the head of the race, but his advantage is down to just over a minute and his foray off the front is entering its endgame.

21km remaining from 175km

The long straight road yawns out in front of Tony Martin, but if he dares to look over his shoulder, he will be able to catch a glimpse of the peloton, which is now just under a minute behind.

Orica-GreenEdge are attempting to grasp control of the front end of the peloton, while Movistar, Saxo-Tinkoff and Euskaltel-Euskadi are all trying to position their overall contenders. The end result is that the speed in the bunch has shot up and Martin's lead is being steadily stripped away.

17km remaining from 175km

Vacansoleil-DCM have also begun to add manpower to the peloton's chase, and Martin's lead has been shorn to a mere 20 seconds.

15km remaining from 175km

Vacansoleil-DCM continue to lead the bunch into the final 15 kilometres, and the deficit to Martin is now just 15 seconds.

13km remaining from 175km

Martin is refusing to give up the ghost even though his lead is down to just 10 seconds on the final approach to Caceres. He is attempting to take advantage of the road furniture and roundabouts in the finale to snaggle a second or two, but he is fighting a losing battle at this point.

The pace is high in the peloton but as yet, no single team has had the wherewithal to gain control of the peloton. Astana are again on the front in a bid to keep Nibali out of trouble in the finale.

10km remaining from 175km

Martin leads into the final ten kilometres with 15 seconds in hand on the peloton.

8km remaining from 175km

The sprinters' teams have yet to grab this race by the scruff of the neck and so Martin has been granted a stay of execution of sorts. He maintains a 15-second lead over the peloton.

7km remaining from 175km

Martin could easily have given up the ghost ten kilometres ago, but instead he is continuing to fend off the bunch and he is still holding on to that 15 second advantage.

6km remaining from 175km

A Movistar delegation has now taken up the reins in the peloton and the gap remains at 16 seconds. It's surely too big an ask for Martin to hang on from here.

6km remaining from 175km

A pair of Omega Pharma-QuickStep riders are attempting to stall the pursuit of their teammate Martin, but his lead is finally begin to dissolve.

5km remaining from 175km

The peloton is almost within touching distance of Martin, but still the German refuses to yield.

4km remaining from 175km

Still no single team has claimed responsibility for reeling in Martin, and remarkably, he continues to dangle out in front of the peloton.

4km remaining from 175km

Argos-Shimano are now wise to the danger and they take over the chase at the front of the bunch. 8 seconds the gap.

3km remaining from 175km

Martin has scarcely broken from his position over the past 10 kilometres and he continues to churn away with 8 seconds in hand on the bunch.

2km remaining from 175km

As the road twists and turns on the run-in to the finish, Martin is still managing his slender advantage over the peloton. A remarkable performance from the German, however his day finishes.

1km remaining from 175km

Martin still has 8 seconds of a lead inside the final two kilometres as Argos-Shimano up the ante in the bunch.

1km remaining from 175km

The combined might of Argos and GreenEdge are struggling to bring back Martin as they approach the red kite.

1km remaining from 175km

Six seconds for Tony Martin under the red kite. Can the world time trial champion hang on?

1km remaining from 175km

Six seconds for Tony Martin under the red kite. Can the world time trial champion hang on?

Martin leads into the final 500 metres. He still has the gap...

The sprint begins behind as Martin tries to hang on for grim life...

The cruellest of defeats for Tony Martin. The sprint engulfs him just 100 metres from the line and Michael Mørkøv (Saxo-Tinkoff) claims the win.


Michael Mørkøv wins the sprint ahead of Max Richeze (Lampre-Merida), Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), but the story of the day is without doubt Tony Martin, who came across the line in 7th place.

At various points in the final 30 kilometres, Tony Martin's fate looked inevitable, but he railed against the odds so fiercely in the closing ten kilometres that suddenly the balance seemed to tilt back in his favour underneath the red kite. Instead, after 173 kilometres alone off the front, the bunch swept past him just 150 metres from the line.


1 Michael Morkov (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 3:54:15
2 Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida
3 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
5 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
6 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
7 Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
8 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
10 Graeme Brown (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling Team

General classification after stage 6:

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 22:38:07
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 contribution of Martin's time trialling rival Fabian Cancellara in the finishing straight may just have proved fatal to his chances of fending off the bunch, although Mørkøv's turn of pace in the final 200 metres was impressive. Better known for his exploits on the track, the Danish champion Mørkøv has claimed the biggest victory of his career with a tidy sprint.

Thanks for joining us for today's live coverage on Cyclingnews. A full report, results and pictures will follow here and we'll be back with more live coverage from tomorrow's stage from Almendralejo to Mairena del Aljarafe.

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