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Vuelta a España 2013: Stage 8

Hello and welcome to our live coverage from stage 8 of the Vuelta a Espana.

Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage from the Vuelta. Today is stage 8 and another uphill finish with a 166km stage from Jerez de la Frontera to Alto Peñas Blancas (Estepona).

We'll start with the big news, and that Daniel Martin is out of the race. The Garmin-Sharp rider suffered a heavy crash in yesterday's stage and despite trying to start this morning, he was pulled by the team doctors owing to a head injury. You can read the story and comments from the team, right here.

Martin is the first genuine GC rider to leave the race -  and we wish him a speedy recovery - but we still have a number of strong GC riders in the race.

 

Here's where we stand with the top ten:

 

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

For Garmin though, it's back to the drawing board and they'll be switching the emphasis onto winning stages now. More pressure for Tyler Farrar, who is still without a major European win in the last few seasons.

As for today's stage, the peloton has covered 34km but they're still all together as they head towards the first climbing section of the day.

Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team have set the pace so far and they've shut down a number of key moves already. They'll be looking to allow a break to go clear but it will have to be the right mix for them. No GC rivals, and no key super domestiques either. They can't chase every single move down so they'll have to let one attack go sooner or later.

Right now eight riders are dangling off the front of the peloton and Nibali and his team have an important decision to make. Will he let this move go clear or not? The racing has been hard and fast so far, so a number of teams and riders will want the peloton's pace to ease up.

While Nibali ponders his next move we'll have a short preview of today's key and final climb, the 14.5 kilometre ascent of the Peñas Blancas.

 

The ascent, which overlooks the Mediterranean coastline at Estepona, is the first of three tough stages in the southern region of Andalusia prior to a rest-day next Tuesday, and individual time trial on Wednesday.

 

Averaging 6.6 per cent the climb’s hardest segment is at its foot, a 12.5 per cent ramp after just two kilometres. After that, although the climb has some sections of up to nine per cent and one segment at eight per cent with three kilometres to go looks like an ideal ‘blastoff point, its hardest feature is arguably its length: 14.5 kilometres and 980 metres of vertical climbing.

 

And to read Alasdair Fotheringham's full preview of the climb and the stage, you can click here.

131km remaining from 166km

Nibali and Astana have made the call and they're sitting up. The pace in the peloton eases almost immediately and you can sense a general sigh of relief.

 

The attacking move has 14 riders in it now and we'll bring you the names as soon as we can. Cataldo is there for Sky and Howes is there for Garmin-Sharp.

And here are the 14 riders in the break:

Dario Cataldo (Team Sky), Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Ben Gastauer (AG2R), Rafael Valls Ferri (Vacansoleil), Francis De Greef (Lotto), Jorge Azanza (Euskaltel), Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp), Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp-Endura), Thierry Hupond (Argos-Shimano), Christian Meier (Orica GreenEGDE), Matthew Busche (RadioShack Leopard), Dominik Nerz (Cannondale), Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural) and Beñat Intxausti (Movistar).

123km remaining from 166km

The 14 man escape group have 2 minutes over the peloton now. There are some interesting names in the break. Cataldo won a stage in the Vuelta last year and is a capable climber. He's struggled for individual results so far this season but he's looking pretty decent so far in the Vuelta.

Katusha, Belkin and Astana don't have men in the move and with serious GC ambitions they'll be expected to do the work later in the stage. RadioShack, despite having three men in the top ten on GC have put a man up the road too. We'll no by the end of today's stage as to who their real leader is for the overall though.

RadioShack's man in the break is former US road champion Busche. The American was agonisingly close to a stage win at the Dauphine this June but was caught by the main GC contenders just before the line. Like Cataldo, he's there to help his team for later but he'll also have one eye on the stage itself and he'll fancy himself against most of the riders in this group.

Intxausti, well he finished 8th in the Giro earlier this year. He climbed and time trialled well but he's not on the same level this time around. He's more than 30 minutes down in GC at the moment but the Movistar rider will be looking for a strong showing today. The climb suits him, and like Busche and Cataldo, he's a proven talent for when the road points upwards.

It's easy to overlook Nerz. He's a former German U23 national champion though. It seems like he's been around for a long time but he's still only 24. He's had a couple of descent runs this year too, with 20th in the Dauphine and 13th at the Tour of Poland.

Piedra, he of course won a stage in last year's Vuelta too. The Spaniard took  the win to Lagos de Covadonga on a day that saw Contador, Valverde and Rodriguez drop Chris Froome.

116km remaining from 166km

The 14 leaders now have a gap in excess of 2 minutes over the peloton.

Bartosz Huzarski is the highest placed rider on GC. He's 11th just 45 seconds off Nibali's lead. The Netapp rider leads the race as it currently stands too. Nibali may well be happy with that situation, should Huzarski stay clear until the end of the stage and take the red jersey off his shoulders...

But it seems Bartosz Huzarski's presence in the break has caused a few problems and he's now dropped back to the main field. It seems Astana weren't keen on letting the Netapp rider have too much of advantage. Since he's dropped back the lead for the break has pushed out to around 3 minutes.

Both the break and the peloton are currently on an uncategorised climb at the moment, and there's just under 100 km of racing left. That includes the final 14.5km, which are all up hill.

If you're  just joining us, the major news is that Daniel Martin is out of the race. The Garmin rider crashed yesterday and his team doctors have decided to withdraw him from the race. You can read about his fall, and the team's reaction, right here.

In other news, we've this round up of top road shoes from Eurobike, and Pieter Weeening has extended his contract with Orica-GreenEDGE. He'll be with the Australian WorldTour team for another two years.

That's most of the early climbing out of the way, with the break still leading by around 3 minutes with 88km to go.

The leaders now have 4:30 on the peloton, which means that Nerz in the provisional leader on the road. The German rider started the stage at 2:57 down on Nibali.

 

Busche is the next man on GC but he's 9:51 down in the overall.

Breaking news: Julie Bresset (France) defended her world championship title in the elite women's cross country race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Saturday afternoon. You can find the results, photos and report, right here.

Local rider, Mate (Cofidis):

“I want to do a good stage for my fans and for Andalucian people. Alto de Penas Blancas is kind of an unknown but it’s a difficult finish. It can create differences between the favorites.”

 

Mate, who trains on the climb used for today's finish has missed the break away, but there's a chance he'll try something at the foot of the climb if he has the legs. He should be fresh, as there's not been much climbing so far today. The problem is, everyone else will be just as fresh.

Edet, who is second in the KOM:

David Moncoutié has done it for Cofidis many times. I believe a breakaway will be successful in one of these three days with uphill finishes but it’ll be a question of finding the right one.There aren’t climbs before the uphill finishes, so it’s not easy forbreakaway riders to score KOM points

 

Chris Horner has been talking to the press this morning and he's stated that he'll try and take red back from Nibali today. The American still without a contract for next season of course. Meanwhile rival Joaqium Rodriguez has played down the significance of today's final climb, saying that "Today it’s not a very hard climb. We’re not talking about a stage with 3000 metres of difference in
altitude. Time gaps will be those of the time bonus, which will be the most important to target in this stage.”

Dario Cataldo:

“Yesterday, Henao was at thefront of the bunch, it’s an obvious sign that he’s going well. He has found himself again. I can see that he wants his revenge. Today we expect the big teams, Movistar, Katusha and Astana, to make the difference at the front.”

 

67km remaining from 166km

67km of racing left and the peloton are at 4 minutes, so Nerz is holding the provisional lead by around a minute at this stage.

The majority of the course is flat from here until the final climb. There are two intermediate sprints and a couple of little bumps in the road, but that's about it.

The lead is now back up to 4:16 over the peloton but the bunch are moving at a decent pace right now.

At the moment Graeme Brown is at the back  of the bunch and waiting for the Belkin team car. The experienced Australian will be looking to help Mollema arrive at the foot of the climb in the best possible condition, so it's likely that he's dropping back to pick up bottles for his team leader.

39km remaining from 166km

Howes takes a turn on the front of the break and then Meier comes through to do his share of the work.

The peloton are lining out, an indication that the pace has increased, but the break are still  holding an advantage of around four minutes.

It's Netapp who are riding on the front of the peloton at the moment. They had a rider in the break but he was forced to sit up earlier.

Howes takes a bottle of water and pours it straight over his head, the young American trying to keep as cool as possible. This is his first grand tour of course. Back in the bunch Pinot is at the back. He had a mechanical a few kms ago. He's an outsider for today's stage win.

Netapp are still leading the peloton with 38km to go. The leaders have 3'34. A reminder of the riders in the break:

 

Dario Cataldo (Team Sky), Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Ben Gastauer (AG2R), Rafael Valls Ferri (Vacansoleil), Francis De Greef (Lotto), Jorge Azanza (Euskaltel), Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp), Thierry Hupond (Argos-Shimano), Christian Meier (Orica GreenEGDE), Matthew Busche (RadioShack Leopard), Dominik Nerz (BMC), Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural) and Beñat Intxausti (Movistar).

The peloton roll along the coastline, which provides dramatic scenery on the right hand side. No chance for the riders up ahead to enjoy the view though. They've lost around 30 seconds of their lead in the last few kilometres and they'll be hard pressed to stay clear all the way until the finish. One would suspect that they'd need at least three minutes at the foot of the climb in order to have any chance.

Samuel  Sanchez, he's down in the GC at the moment, around four minutes adrift of Nibali. Today's stage probably isn't as hard or as long as he would normally like, but he'll be looking to stay in contention. He's currently in the middle of the pack, waiting for the climb.

Despite the scenery the tension is certainly mounting in the peloton. The stage is short, and there's just one climb, but the race is going to surely explode as soon as the bunch reach the foot of the climb. There will also be a sprint into that section too, so positioning is going to be vital.

A few GC riders have been saving themselves over the opening week. Can they keep their emotions in check  or will they look to take any advantage they can today with a do-or-die attack?

31km remaining from 166km

Piedra is back  with his team car. He'll know that the leaders now have just 3 minutes with 31km to go.

Powerhouse, Fabian Cancellara is back with the team car asking for help. I think he has a mechanical.

The break continue their collaboration as they head towards the foot of the climb. Nerz reaches into his back pocket for what's probably a gel but on these long flat roads it's advantage peloton with the lead now down to 2'41.

That time gap means that Nerz is no longer the leader on the road,  that swings back in Nibali's favour.

Valverde:

“I expected such a heat in Andalucia. I also hope to have the strength I need in the climb.”

 

A small crash at the back of the peloton but it looks like everyone is okay. Matthews was involved but he's fine it seems.

20km remaining from 166km

20km to go and the break have 2'12 on the peloton. Who will be the first to buckle and attack from the 13 man move?

The fight looks to have gone out of the break and although they're still working together the pace has dropped off. The peloton are closing, and quickly.

17k to go and Piedra is spending quite a bit of time at the back of the break. He could be the first man to make a move.

 

But right now it's Cannondale who are setting the pace for Ivan Basso.

17k to go and Piedra is spending quite a bit of time at the back of the break. He could be the first man to make a move.

 

But right now it's Cannondale who are setting the pace for Ivan Basso.

16km remaining from 166km

Just over 16km to go and Basso has pushed his men to the front. He loves this tactic but it's a big ask because once the small pint-sized climbers attack Basso is going to have to respond. Although he's right near the front of the peloton at the moment, which is where he should be.

Katusha, they're moving up too, with Moreno and Rodriguez looking to gain time back on Nibali.

Valverde, Mollema, Roche, Scarponi, Horner, Basso, Pozzovivo, Uran, Sanchez, Henao, they're all in the mix at the moment. This climb could decide so much.

14km remaining from 166km

Just under 15km to go and the break have less than a minute on the Basso led bunch.

And now it's RadioShack who have moved to the the front. They have three riders in the top ten overall at the moment and plenty of cards to play.

Onto the lower slopes of the climb at 13 per cent and Cancellara is leading the peloton.

Rodriguez throws a bottle to the side of the road, he knows it's time to pay attention now as already riders start to slip out the back of the peloton.

The leaders still have 56 seconds

The bunch are on the climb with Cancellara still on the front for Radioshack. How long can the classics specialist last?

There are less then 50 riders in the peloton left. Gilbert has just been dropped.

Up ahead Cataldo leads the break, or rather what's left of it. A few riders have been dropped from the former 13-man move.

Nibali has a couple of teammates still with him, and he's near the front at the moment.

Cataldo is still doing the turn on the front of the break, as he goes head to head with RadioShack. Sky are trying to use up all of RadioShack's energy.

Cataldo, Nerz and Ferri are clear now.

They have 1;04 with 12km to go in the stage.

Cataldo isn't asking for any help, he's just trying to keep the pace high and Radioshack on the front in the main group behind.

And now it's just Nerz and Cataldo left on the front.

Piedra has just been caught  by the Cancellara train. The road has flattened out a bit at the moment but the incline will kick up again shortly.

Ferri has made it back to the leaders, so we have three riders on the front again.

All three of them are starting to work together as well and the gap remains around the one minute mark.

Cataldo looks the strongest though and he pushes to the front and takes another turn. Nerz has his jersey unzipped as he gets out of the saddle to try and respond.

RadioShack, they still lead the bunch, Horner clearly wants that red jersey off Nibali's shoulders. The leaders have 10km to go now.

It looks like that time gap has dropped again, it's at 49 seconds.

Horner sits in second wheel, just behind Cancellara.

The main field is down to around 40 riders.

9km remaining from 166km

9km to go now for the three leaders as Nerz, again out of the saddle takes another turn.

The leaders lost around 10 seconds in that last km.

Busche has been caught and Cancellara peels off and now the American can try and set the pace. Fine tactics from the RadioShack team.

The trio up ahead have reached another tough section and the gap drops down to 29 seconds.

Nerz and co,  they looked cooked as Kreuziger is slipping back. That's a bit of a shock but he's been dropped by the peloton.

That's a big scalp for the RadioShack team, to get rid of Saxo's one major players for the overall. Roche will need to make sure he's with the leaders come the end of the stage now.

8km remaining from 166km

Now 8km to go for the three leaders. They have 15 seconds on the bunch. It's almost all over.

And Mollema attacks from the bunch

7.7km to go and that's a big move from the Belkin rider.

It looks like Mollema has been caught but the field is down to less than 25 riders.

Busche sets the pace for Horner.

The leaders are about to be caught with 7.3km to go.

It's Mollema who was off the back , not off the front it seems. He was catching the field rather than attacking. He's back  with the leaders now.

RadioShack still on the front and Busche is doing a huge job for Horner.

Nerz and Cataldo are the only riders left off the front and they have 8 seconds.

Nibali, Basso, Horner, Rodriguez are all in the mix at the moment.

Cataldo looks to be struggling but he's still on Nerz' wheel

5km remaining from 166km

Just over 5km to go and the two leaders shake hands and then pull up. It's all over for them.

Busche is still on the front of the peloton it seems and he's thinned the group out to less than 20 riders.

Riders are waiting to hit Horner though as soon as his teammate pulls over.

Valverde looks very comfortable.

Henao and Uran look a bit too far back

Igor Anton has jumped clear and there's a  netapp rider after him.

Igor Anton has jumped clear and there's a  netapp rider after him.

Anton has lost over five minutes in the race so far so  they may not chase him just yet.

The Euskaltel rider has around 40 meters on the riders behind him.

Warren Barguil is the rider chasing Anton.

Anton looks good at the moment and Horner and Nibali both take a drink

Anton has 21 seconds.

It's up to  24 seconds and he's 3.6km from the finish.

Capecchi has attacked too.

And now more attacks and it's from Katusha.

Horner has to react and he does.

Anton is still alone but Horner attacks again.

Horner has a gap already.

Anton, meanwhile, has 3km to go.

A few riders look to have chased Horner down. Nibali, and Basso.

Basso tries to attack but only games a meter

Basso wants a steady pace but it's not going to happen.

Sanchez has been dropped.

Horner leads, Nibali, Basso, Uran, and then around 7 more riders.

Anton has just 9 seconds.

Nibali looks back to see who is with him.

And Basso moves to the front to set the pace. They're all doing Nibali's job for him.

Just over 2km to go for Anton. He needs the pace to slow in the bunch. Roche is there too with Nibali.

Anton has roughly 12 seconds and Konig attacks and Pinot is trying to go with him.

Can Anton hang on? It's going to be so close.

Nibali has a teammate with him, that will help him a lot.

A slight truce for the red jersey group but Basso has attacked and he's with Moreno, Pinot and Konig.

Anton has just 1100 metres to go.

Roche has made it to the Basso group too.

Nibali has put his teammate on the front but Anton keeps pressing on the front.

Konig attacks and is closing on Anton

Anton, then Konig, then Basso group and then the Nibali Horner group.

Konig goes right passed Anton.

And Basso leads the chase.

Basso and co catch Anton

Moreno attacks

But Konig is going to hang on

Konig takes a dramatic stage, Moreno is second and Roche takes third.

Nibali comes over the line and loses time to some of his rivals. He didn't have the legs in the end when Basso and Roche attacked.

We could have a new leader in the race. I think Valverde gained time too.

Roche may well be the overall leader after today's stage.

A strong ride from Konig. who finished off some fine work from his team today. Netapp have their stage win after some brave attacking from the Netapp rider on the final climb.

Kreuziger crosses the line, having lost over 5 minutes. Roche is now the Saxo Bank leader. He may well be the race leader too, we'll have to wait and see.

Confirmed, Roche now leads the race, and Nibali is at 18 seconds in the overall.

1 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura 4:09:46
2 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 0:00:01
3 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:05
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
6 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol 0:00:08
7 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:13
8 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:19
9 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
10 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:23

And here's the GC after the stage:

 

1 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 31:39:30
2 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:17
3 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:18
5 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura 0:00:29
6 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:30
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:31
8 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:42
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:52
10 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:01:03

So a huge day in Roche's career. We're hearing some talk of Nibali slipping his chain in the final km but there's no confirmation yet. Horner tried hard today but keeps second, although he loses some time on the leader.

 

And Konig is now into the top five too.

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

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