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Vuelta a España 2013: Stage 7

It's another sprinter stage today at the Vuelta!

We have 205 rolling kilometers on tap today. The sprinters will have another chance to do their thing before the serious climbing starts.

We have a slightly larger escape group today:  Marco Pinotti (BMC), Christian Knees (Sky) and Francisco Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural). They got away 11km into the stage, and steadily built up a maximum lead of 7:12.

114km remaining from 205km

That was enough of a lead for the sprinter teams to get nervous, with Lampre the first to jump into the chase. Garmin-Sharp, Argo-Shimano and Orica-GreenEdge have since joined in to help, and the gap is now at 4:23.

The Cyclingnews stage preview, complete with Matt White's analysis, can be found here.

What a stage we had yesterday! What a performance by Tony Martin! Hard to believe that he came oh-so-close to pulling off a near-miracle.

The peloton has just gone through the feed zone, so the gap has grown again, up to 5:14.

Today's stage started in Almendralejo, also known as the International Wine anc Vine City. Sounds like our kind of place.....

The stage ends in Mairna del Aljarafe, a suburb of Sevilla.

There are no ranked climbs at all in today's stage. There are, however, the usual two intermediate sprints, one at km. 117 and the other at km. 174.5.

The first stage of the World Ports Classic has just ended, and we will have results up in a few minutes. We will only say it is probably not the winner you would have expected.

We just had the first intermediate sprint, and you will never guess which three riders got the points.

Oh wait, you probably will. The order was Knees, Pinotti, Aramendia.

Sunny and hot today,  up to 30°C, and only a light wind.

We feel sorry for Michael Morkov, who took the biggest win of his career, only to be overshadowed by Tony Martin.  But Morkov was happy enough with it all. 

“I'm so happy about this win and unbelievably proud. Winning in the Danish national jersey is special but to win in Vuelta a Espana is probably the highlight of my career. I have been waiting for this opportunity and the guys and staff have been so supportive all the way. I just stayed on the wheel of Fabian on the final few hundred meters and I was worried about opening the sprint too soon but it was just perfect.”

 

 

Here the top ten in GC coming into this stage:

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      
 

75km remaining from 205km

The sprinters are determined to have their chance today, after nearly blowing the deal yesterday. With 75 km to go, the gap has come down to 3:45.

Michael “Bling” Matthews of Orica-GreenEdge has the lead in the points classificaiton.

1     Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge     51     pts
2     Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha     48      
3     Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida     40      
4     Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff     38      
5     Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step     38      

 

67km remaining from 205km

With 67 km to go, the gap has now dropped under three minutes.

Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin) are deep in conversation.

Roche also leads the combination classification.

1     Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff     8     pts
2     Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha     13      
3     Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard     18      
4     Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team     19      
5     Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha     39      
 

No one team at the head of the field, but one rider each from a variety of teams: Argos-Shimano, OPQS, Garmin,Orica-GreenEdge....

RadioShack Leopard is at the top of the team ranking.

1     RadioShack Leopard     66:54:52      
2     Team Saxo-Tinkoff     0:00:05      
3     Belkin Pro Cycling Team     0:01:10      
4     Team NetApp-Endura     0:01:25      
5     Movistar Team     0:01:28      
 

50km remaining from 205km

We have exactly 50 km to go, and a gap of 2:28.

Team NetApp-Endura is making its debut at the Vuelta, and can boast of two riders n the top 15.  After yesterday's stage, DS Enrico Poitschke said, “Today went pretty well. We saved energy on this stage and could relax and prepare for the sprint, which unfortunately didn’t go according to plan. The final kilometres were technically demanding and we intended to protect Leopold König as
best as possible so that he wouldn’t lose any time.

“Tomorrow’s flat 205-kilometre stage is rather long, but it isn’t supposed to be as windy, so we should be able to recharge our energy for the upcoming days.”
 

The Caja Rural car pulls up to the leading trio, but Aramendia doesn't seem to want anything.

The gap is dropping steadily now, as we now see 1:44.

Michiel Elijzen of Belkin had some nice words for Tony Martin. “I’ve seen one of the most beautiful cycling moments ever. Tony Martin isn’t just a rider, and if you let him go, you know it’s
going to  be difficult to see him back.”
 

A lot of people were surprised when Michael Morkov won the sprint yesterday. And he was perhaps the most surprised of anyone.

Christian Knees is 32 and has ridden professionally since 2004. He started with German teams Wiesenhof and Milram before joining Sky in 2011. He won the Bayern Rundfarht (Tour of Bavaria) in 2008 and was German national champion.

34km remaining from 205km

The gap is now at 1:41.

Francisco Aramendia is the youngest of the group, at 26. He made his name in the Vuelta last year, when he was very active in multiple escape groups, and was four times named most combative rider.

The leading trio approaches the finish line. The stage isn't yet over though, they will now take off on a circuit course of some 30km with a gap of just over 1:20.

Tony Martin put on an amazing display in yesterday's stage, and couldn't have lost by a smaller margin. He was philosophical about the way it ended, though.

The end for the leading trio is coming closer. With 27 km to go, the gap is at one minute.

Pablo Lastras of Movistar has punctured.

The first crossing of the finish line was also the second intermediate sprint of the day. We are getting two differing sets of results for it, so we will wait for something official.

Less than 30 seconds now, with 23.5 km to go.

The riders pass by the bullfighting arena.

Hot enough for you? We hear that Lotto Belisol is reporting that it is 37°C at the moment.

All the sprinter teams are still working together at the head of the field. The co-operation will stop soon enough.

Katusha has now taken over the lead work, as the field has the three leaders in its sights.

Knees looks back to see the peloton thundering towards him.

17km to go and that is it for the three leaders. Pinotto dashes out to try and stay away.

Can Pinotti repeat Martin's feat from yesterday, or even stay away for the next 16.5km?

As we said earlier, Pinotti is an experienced time trialist, but he doesn't have that big a lead here.

The Italian is now caught too. Fabian Cancellara again led the chase.

Lots of RadioShack at the head of the field, with Cannondale right up there too.

They are dashing through town at 51 km/h.

11.5km to go, and no changes in the situation. They are keeping the speed high to prevent any further breaks.

Crassh. A Garmin riedr -- it is Daniel Martin. He is back on the bike but it has taken a long tine.

Two teammates came back immediately to try and bring him back to the field.

It looks like two ridres have jumped after all. One of them may be World Champion Philippe Gilbert.

They are caught again.

Or not? It is a bit difficult to see what is going on here.

No,not caught. We still dn't know who his companion is, looks like an OPQS jersey.

7.8 km to go, and they have a nice gap. The OPQS rider is Styber, who won the Eneco Tour.

They have 11 seconds on the field.

Orica GreenEdge is now doing the lead work, as the other teams have pulled back. Obviously OPQS won't chase their own man.

Lotto Belisol has now sent a man up to the front to help.

With 5 km to go, the gap is down to 6 seconds.

Now MOvistar and Euskaltel are at the hea of the field, leading them all the way around a roundabout.

The gap decreases and so do Gilbert's chances of actually taking a win this season.

3 km and what looked like cobblestones. Gilbert is certainly not giving up!

In fact it looks like the gap has increased, to 12 seconds with 2.5km to go.

Dan Martin and his teammates has not yet caught the peloton.

The peloton doesn't seem to be able to put a decent chase together! Will teh sprinters once again miss their chance?

Yet another big roundabout.and the last km for Stybar and Gilbert!

Several riders take off from the peloton in a despartea chase.

Gilbert leads Stybar, bu will the field catch them?

It couldn't be much closer! The two stayed away to the end -- just barely -- but it it is totally unclear who won. Looks like they crossed the line together!

Stybar jumped first and powered his way up, but Gilbert came up behind him.  Stybar rejoiced as the winner, but it is not yet official.

Stybar and his teammates certainly seem to think he won.

And Stybar has won!

Gilbert was second by an eyelash, and still has not won whilst World Champion.

Robert Wagner of Belkin was third.

Nibali has retained the overall lead.

The top ten on the stage:

1    Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
2    Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
3    Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
4    Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis
5    Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
6    Andrew Fenn (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
7    Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
8    Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team
9    Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team
10    Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA) Argos-Shimano

And the top ten in GC:

General classification after stage 7       
       
1    Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team    27:29:35
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 reading along. Be sure to join us again tomorrow. There is only one ranked climb, but it is category one and happens to have the finish line atop it!

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