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Vuelta a España 2014: Stage 13

Live coverage of stage 13 of the Vuelta a España, 188.7 kilometres from Belorado to Obregón. Parque de Cabárceno.

The 190 riders remaining in the Vuelta are revving their metaphorical engines as they make their way through the neutralized zone in Belorado. 188.7 kilometres and three categorised climbs lie before them on the road into Oscar Freire country in Cantabria, and the finale would certainly have been to the liking of the three-time world champion. The road kicks upwards with two kilometres remaining before flattening out in the finishing straight. After the fast men had their fiesta in Logroño yesterday, however, this may well prove to be a day where a break stays clear to the line, particularly with a troika of summit finishes to follow between tomorrow and the second rest day.

Alberto Contador and the most famous tibia in cycling remain in the overall lead as proceedings get underway this morning. The Spaniard holds a lead of 20 seconds over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and 1:08 over Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). The top of the general classification looks as follows:

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 44:38:14
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:20
3 Rigoberto Urán (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:01:08
4 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:20
5 Joaquím Rodríguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:01:35
6 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:01:52
7 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:02:13
8 Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre-Merida 0:02:22
9 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:02:55
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:03:51
11 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp 0:03:59
12 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:04:26
13 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano 0:04:56
14 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:05:00
15 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:06:10

Yesterday's stage in the Rioja was not exactly a vintage afternoon of racing. On an uninspiring circuit around Logroño, Matthias Krizek (Cannondale) gamely tried to make a race of it with a long solo break, but a bunch finish was an inevitability and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) duly popped up with his third stage victory of this Vuelta.

181km remaining from 188km

After seven kilometres, a group of 14 riders including Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), Yaroslav Popovych (Trek) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Caja Rural) has a small lead over the peloton. At first glance, there seems to be a decent mix of class and desperation in this move, always a healthy combination for a break at the Vuelta, but it remains to be seen how the peloton reacts.

Movistar are patrolling the front of the peloton, and for now our fourteen leaders have an advantage of just 20 seconds.

173km remaining from 188km

After 15 kilometres, the breakaway group is down to 11 riders but it now holds a lead of 30 seconds on the peloton. The men in front are: Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Jay Thomson (MTN-Qhubeka), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Paolo Longo Borghini (Cannondale), Jasper Stuyven (Trek Factory Racing), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), Stef Clement (Belkin), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caja Rural), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Damien Gaudin (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Vegard Breen (Lotto-Belisol).

Yaroslav Popovych (Trek Factory Racing), Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) and Marcel Aregger (IAM Cycling) were initially part of that move, but they have dropped back into the peloton after a searingly fast start. Movistar's Jonathan Castroviejo, our first red jersey back in Jerez de la Frontera, attempted to bridge across to the move, but he, too, is in the main peloton.

Castroviejo's decision to lay down arms has been mirrored by his Movistar team. They have given up the pursuit, and it looks as though our eleven-man breakaway will stick, as their lead stretches out to 1:10. Europcar missed the bus and one can't help but feel that they are now being fleeced at a metaphorical hire car desk by leading the peloton at this point in a bid to bring back the escapees.

170km remaining from 188km

Incidentally, Garmin's Johan Vansummeren had plenty of motivation to try and make the day's break. The 2011 Paris-Roubaix winner is still searching for a team for next season. I’m still looking for a contract for next year. "I don’t want to think too much about it during the Vuelta but I hope I’ll find something,” he said at the start.

163km remaining from 188km

Europcar are sticking to their task at the head of the peloton. After 25 kilometres of racing, the break's lead stands at 58 seconds.

Today's stage has a relatively flat opening half through the high plains of northern Castille before crossing into the decidedly more rugged terrain of Cantabria with the third category Alto Estacas de Trueba after 110 kilometres. With that in mind, perhaps, FDJ.fr directeur sportif Franck Pineau has come up with the novel idea of asking his riders not to infiltrate the first break of the day, as he reckons it won't go the distance. "It’s a risk to take," Pineau said at the start. "But we’ve taken the lesson of Johan Le Bon's attempts to break away on stage 11.”

 

155km remaining from 188km

For now, however, the eleven leaders are slowly but surely edging away from the main peloton. In spite of Europcar's forlorn efforts, their lead has now been nudged out past the two-minute marker.

148km remaining from 188km

Orica-GreenEdge have joined Europcar on the front of the peloton. If there's a hint of Oscar Freire about today's finish, then there's a dash of Freire about Michael Matthews too. Indeed, Freire spoke admiringly of Matthews after his fine stage win at Arcos de la Frontera during the Vuelta's scorchingly-hot (or "steamy" as one team's press releases repeatedly called it) opening week.

For now, though, the break has been afforded a degree of leeway. Sagan, Luis Leon Sanchez et al have a lead of 3:17 over the peloton after 40 kilometres of racing into a mild headwind.

Andrea Guardini (Astana) has made a trip back to the race doctor's car. The Italian was among those who went down in the crash that marred yesterday's finale. Guardini has endured a frustrating Vuelta to date, as punctures, crashes and the occasional sharp climb in the finale have denied him from contesting a single bunch sprint. It's all the more frustrating for the man from Verona considering that he had won three races in a week just before the Vuelta, far and away his best run since joining Astana at the start of last year.

Guardini's contract with Astana expires at the end of this season and there is a sense that some in the Kazakh's Vuelta roster are riding for their futures. Speaking to Cyclingnews in Cadiz last week, however, manager Giuseppe Martinelli was confident that Guardini would remain with the team in 2015. "He's an absolute professional. The problem before was that he was getting to the finish already tired for the sprint, but he's worked very hard to improve himself outside of his sprinting and the benefits are showing," he said.

138km remaining from 188km

Orica-GreenEdge are beginning to make slight inroads into the break's lead. After passing through Oña and hitting the 50km mark, the gap is back down inside three minutes, and now stands at 2:43.

It would be fascinating if the escapees were to survive together all the way to the finish, mind, as there are plenty among their number who would fancy their chances in what is a demanding finale. According to Vuelta technical director Paco Giner, “It’s pretty hard with a 2 kilometre climb and a passage at 14 to 16%, followed by a downhill and an uphill in the park. It’s a complicated stage, very difficult to control and suitable for a breakaway.”

It certainly sounds like a Peter Sagan kind of finish (though, then again, what doesn't?). Once upon a time, Damiano Cunego used to make a habit of winning races like these, while Alexey Lutsenko won the under-23 Worlds road race on a Valkenburg course that featured the Cauberg with two kilometres remaining followed by a flat run-in to the line. Luis Leon Sanchez, meanwhile, almost always finds a way to get it done when he's in a stage-long break.

The escapees have barely had time to draw breath thus far, however. They've done well to establish a lead of 2:40 but they've certainly had to work for it, covering a blistering 49.6 kilometres in the first hour of racing.

Today's finale, incidentally, takes place in the novel surrounds of the Cabarceno wildlife park, where journalists will have to take care not to make a detour into the leopard enclosure en route from the press room to the finish line. All in a day's work at the Vuelta.

 

The Vuelta's only previous visit here came in 1996, the day after Miguel Indurain abadoned the race en route to Lagos de Covadonga, precipitating his rupture with Banesto and his retirement from cycling. Biagio Conte, in the striking orange of Scrigno, was the winner in Cabárceno on that occasion, claiming his second stage win of that year's Vuelta. The Italian, incidentally, is now a directeur sportif at the Cannondale team of Peter Sagan...

Conte beat Indurain's Portuguese teammate Orlando Rodrigues in a two-up sprint back in 1996, while Laurent Dufaux led Laurent Jalabert, Alex Zulle and a fragmented peloton over the line 1:57 later. Zulle would go on to win the Vuelta after the rest of his ONCE squad was laid low by a very mysterious illness indeed in the closing days...

113km remaining from 188km

The Orica-GreenEdge-controlled peloton remains 2:50 behind the break. The feed zone at Barcenillas del Ribero (83.4km) and the sprint at Espinosa de los Monteros (93km) are next on the agenda, while the beginning of the day's first climb (the category 3 Alto Estacas de Trueba after 110km) might just see some frissons in the bunch.

Before the start, Orica-GreenEdge's Simon Clarke laid out his team's approach to the afternoon, noting that he expected BMC to play a prominent part in controlling affairs in support of Philippe Gilbert. "The race depends on BMC really. If it suits one person, it’s Philippe Gilbert," Clarke said. "It can also be good for Michael Matthews so we might help BMC and Katusha to bring the breakaway back.”

105km remaining from 188km

At the feed, the break's lead was back up to three minutes, but this is the proverbial stage of two halves. After the flat opening, the race tackles the category 3 Alto Estacas de Trueba (11.1km at 3%), the category 3 Puerto de la Braguia (6km at 6%) and the category 2 Alto del Caracol (10.5km at 5.5%). The summit of the Caracol is some 37 kilometres from the finish, but there is a deceptively tough sting in the tail with those sharp 16% slopes inside the final two kilometres.

95km remaining from 188km

Stef Clement (Belkin) leads the break through the first sprint with a lead of 2:40 over the peloton. Movistar's early pursuit apart, the teams of the general classification contenders have made no attempt to reel in the escapees, but the likes of Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) might well sense an opportunity to prod a little further at Alberto Contador on that sharp climb before the finish.

Valverde's teammate Nairo Quintana, meanwhile, has left hospital in Pamplona after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder. Two crashes in successive days brought a premature end to the Colombian's Vuelta challenge on Wednesday, before he had even had a chance to illuminate the race on its toughest climbs. Movistar manager Eusebio Unzue has confirmed that his season is over, and Quintana's next major rendezvous will be the Tour de France in 2015.

Murilo Fischer (FDJ.fr) has abandoned the Vuelta a España. The rate of attrition has been surprisingly low thus far considering the heat in the opening week and the Brazilian is just the ninth rider to abandon so far.

That rate, of course, is likely to rise rather sharply in the coming days, as historically, a plethora of world championships contenders have had the tendency to opt out early in the second week.

85km remaining from 188km

Our eleven escapees, meanwhile, are on the gentle slopes of the Alto Estacas de Truebo, still defending a lead of 2:40 over the peloton.

Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) is the next rider to abandon the Vuelta. The Belgian was lying in 40th place overall this morning and had struggled to make any impact in the mountain stages thus far.

After yesterday's apparent active rest - "a fiesta," as Vuelta technical director Paco Giner described it - around Logroño, the peloton is back to the old routine on the road to Parque de Cabarceno. The average speed after two hours of racing is a scorching 46.1kph.

78km remaining from 188km

Luis Leon Sanchez leads Jay Robert Thomson and Damiano Cunego over the summit of the Estacas de Trueba. The 11-man break is still intact and their lead stands at 2:45 over the peloton.

The word reaching us the Parque de Cabárceno is that some 60 bears will have a grandstand view of the finish from their field at the far side of the barriers. This is the most important ursine development in the cycling world since Smokey Bear popped up to offer a few words of encouragment to George Hincapie at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in 2012 (below).

 

The eleven escapees are beginning the long drop from the summit of the climb, with 2:30 still in hand over the peloton. After the 14km descent, they begin climbing all over again, as they face the category 3 Puerto de la Braguía.

The word reaching us from the Parque de Cabárceno is that some 60 bears will have a grandstand view of the finish from their field at the far side of the barriers. This is the most important ursine development in the cycling world since Smokey Bear popped up to offer a few words of encouragment to George Hincapie at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in 2012 (below).

 

58km remaining from 188km

Orica-GreenEdge have been diligent in their efforts at the head of the peloton and approaching the base of the Puerto de la Braguía, the break's advantage remains pegged at 2:50.

Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEdge) is the third rider to abandon the Vuelta this afternoon after Fischer and Van Den Broeck.

56km remaining from 188km

Luis Leon Sanchez leads the break over the top of the Braguía and the 11 are now hurtling down the other side, with 2:30 still in hand on the pack.

Peter Sagan drops back to the Cannondale team car behind the break and takes a bidon. The Slovak showed his first signs of life at this Vuelta by finishing fourth in Logrono yesterday, and he has continued his Worlds preparation by infilftrating the early break here.

48km remaining from 188km

The break has now reached the foot of the day's third climb, the Alto del Caracol, with Stef Clement tapping out the rhythm at the base of the ascent. Orica-GreenEdge continue to put their collective shoulders to the wheel behind.

46km remaining from 188km

At last year's Vuelta, Vasil Kiryienka used the Caracol as a springboard to drop his breakaway companions and solo to victory at Pena Cabarga, and the climb has served to fracture the breakaway once again. Danilo Wyss, Damiano Cunego, Luis Leon Sanchez, Damien Gaudin and Alexey Lutsenko have forced their way clear of the rest of the break on the lower slopes.

 

GreenEdge continue to lead the main peloton, but red jersey Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) is now maintaining a watching brief near the front of the bunch.

43km remaining from 188km

Peter Sagan has sat up and has been unceremoniously swept up by the GreenEdge-led bunch on the Caracol. The five remaining leaders are gamely holding on to their two-minute lead, powered primarily by Lutsenkso and Cunego, who were second and third at Valdelinares on Sunday.

43km remaining from 188km

A number of riders are being jettisoned out the back of the peloton thanks to GreenEdge's forcing on the Caracol. John Degenkolb, David Millar and king of the mountains leader Lluís Mas Bonet are among those to have been dropped, while Sagan, too, has passed right through the bunch.

Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara are side by side out the rear of the peloton. The two great rivals are both at the Vuelta with a similar aim - to prepare for the world championships in Ponferrada later this month. Yesterday, Cancellara confirmed that he will forgo the time trial in order to focus exclusively on the road race, the prize he covets the most. Boonen, of course, was the winner when the Worlds last took place in Spain, in Madrid in 2005.

41km remaining from 188km

Lutsenko, Cunego, Wyss, Sanchez and Gaudin are combing well together on the Caracol, and they are maintaining a lead of two minutes. Meanwhile, the riders dropped from that break are being picked off by the bunch.

GreenEdge have received precious little help over the past two hours but the overall contenders are all beginning to line up behind them towards the head of the peloton. Philip Deignan's style is easily recognisable as he leads Chris Froome towards the business end of the peloton.

39km remaining from 188km

Luis Mate, the Andalusian Lynx, has zipped off the front of the peloton on the Caracol in the hope of bridging across to the break, which is still being led by Lutsenko.

Damien Gaudin cuts a far more comfortable figure on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix than the hills of Cantabria, and he is visibly struggling to hold on at the rear of the break under the weight of Lutsenko's pace-making.

38km remaining from 188km

Mercifully, Lutsenko swings over as the road flattens out to take a swig from his bidon and Gaudin has a reprieve as the leading quintet approach the summit. It was touch and go for the Frenchman, but he ought to stay in contact with the leaders all the way to the top.

Once over the top of the Caracol, Gaudin demonstrates his relief at surviving the cull by swooping straight to the front of the break and leading them down the descent.

The front end of the peloton crosses the summit of the Caracol 2:03 down on the five escapees.

Maxime Mederel (Europcar) clipped away towards the summit and along with Luis Mate (Cofidis), he is somewhere in the no-man's land between the break and the peloton.

32km remaining from 188km

Luis Leon Sanchez takes a turn on the front on the way down the Caracol. The Spaniard is a master when it comes to attacking his breakaway companions while they're changing gear, taking a drink or simply in any way distracted, so they'll be glad to have him where they can see him for now.

29km remaining from 188km

The five leaders hit a brief rise on the long drop off the Caracol. GreenEdge's pursuit efforts have managed to shave 30 seconds off their lead on the way down and the gap stands at 1:32.

The inbetweeners, Mate and Mederel, are just about to be swept up by the peloton as the road starts to flatten out.

27km remaining from 188km

After the brief uphill section, the leaders are on the second part of the descent, where Damiano Cunego looks to inject a fresh sense of urgency into their efforts. The lead is back up to 1:40.

Like a relief pitcher taking the mound, Alberto Contador's Tinkoff-Saxo guard have taken the ball from Orica-GreenEdge at the head of the peloton. The other overall contenders maintain a watchful eye on proceedings.

24km remaining from 188km

Indeed, it appears that Orica-GreenEdge have simply relinquished their chasing efforts, frustrated, perhaps, by the lack of collaboration from other teams. The pace has fizzled out in the peloton and the break's lead has stretched back out to 2:10.

Rather unexpectedly, FDJ.fr has now sent a delegation to the front of the peloton. Bouhanni surprised many by finishing 8th on the uphill finale at Arcos de la Frontera on stage 3, and the French squad must reckon that he has a chance of surviving the sharp climb in the finale here.

20km remaining from 188km

FDJ's surge has knocked a hefty chunk off the break's lead in double quick time. The gap has been pegged back to just 1:18.

Interesting to see Matteo Tosatto from Tinkoff-Saxo gesticulate at a television motorbike, angry that it is unwittingly aiding FDJ's chase efforts. Clearly, Contador would prefer the break to stay clear and mop up the bonus seconds, rather than run the risk of Alejandro Valverde halving his lead by winning the stage.

17km remaining from 188km

FDJ's pursuit has trimmed the break's lead down to within one minute as the road flattens out on the fast run-in to those final ramps before the finish.

15km remaining from 188km

On a long drag, Alexey Lutsenko jumps away from the break and opens a lead of 100 metres or so.

Lutsenko's move came as the break's lead dropped to 40 seconds and could signal the death knell for their chances of survival. Wyss and Gaudin put in long turns in a bid to peg him back, but the unity has ebbed out of this group.

13km remaining from 188km

Lutsenko is going for broke and remains just ahead of his four escapees, who are struggling to reach a working agreement to bring back the Astana man.

Damiano Cunego, in particular, is very coy about contributing to the chase, and that's allowing Lutsenko to pad out his advantage. FDJ, meanwhile, are continuing to chip away at the break's lead and the gap is down to just 32 seconds.

11km remaining from 188km

Lutsenko adopts the "invisible Spinaci" position made popular by Michele Bartoli in the late 1990s. He has 15 seconds in hand on the rest of the break and 30 on the peloton.

9km remaining from 188km

Garmin-Sharp's Ryder Hesjedal takes over at the head of the peloton in support of Dan Martin. Lutsenko is now the lone survivor out in front as the remnants of the break are being picked up one by one by the peloton.

8km remaining from 188km

Lutsenko hits the 8km to go banner with just 10 seconds in hand on the peloton, where Cannondale have also joined in the pace-making. Behind them, the overall contenders are scrambling for position.

7km remaining from 188km

Pete Kennaugh hits the front in support of Chris Froome and Lutsenko is caught by the bunch with a little over 7 kilometres remaining.

7km remaining from 188km

GreenEdge have returned to the front in support of Michael Matthews, while a delegation from Katusha muscles to the front in support of Joaquim Rodriguez.

6km remaining from 188km

Once again, Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front of the peloton to keep Alberto Contador out of harm's way. His bodyguard Daniele Bennati is among those protecting his interests.

5km remaining from 188km

Tinkoff-Saxo continue to force the pace on the final run-in to the base of that sharp, uncategorised climb with 2.4km remaining.

4km remaining from 188km

John Degenkolb was struggling on the earlier climbsbut he is still in this peloton on the approach to the final difficulty.

3km remaining from 188km

Katusha move up as the speed continues to ratchet ever upwards ahead of the climb.

2km remaining from 188km

Cannondale lead as the climb begins before Gianluca Brambilla (QuickStep) jumps away as the gradient shifts up to 16%.

2km remaining from 188km

Brambilla is caught and passed by Dani Navarro (Cofidis) as the gradient bites. He has a small gap over the peloton, where Contador and Valverde are to the fore.

1km remaining from 188km

Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) tries to jump across to Navaroo, with Valverde and Contador locked onto his wheel.

1km remaining from 188km

Chris Froome attempts to jump away as the road dips briefly, but he is quickly pegged back.

1km remaining from 188km

Navarro leads into the final kilometre, where the road kicks up once again.

Martin tries again but once more Valverde brings him to heel. Navarro remains clear ahead of a group of only 15 or so riders, including, it seems, all of the overall contenders.

Dani Navarro leads over the final ramp of the climb and he looks to have a winning lead as the road flattens out, where Dani Moreno (Katusha) gives chase.

Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) wins stage 13 of the Vuelta a España.

Dani Moreno (Katusha) took second, while Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) clipped away for third. Valverde won the sprint from the group of overall contenders for fourth.

Contador was in that group and he retains the red jersey and his 20-second lead over Valverde.

FDJ's faith in Bouhanni was not misplaced - the Frenchman was a hugely impressive 5th on the stage. Contador, Rodriguez, Uran and Froome also finished in that group, 5 seconds down on Navarro.

Result:

1 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 4:21:04
2 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:02
3 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:02
4 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:05
5 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:00:05
6 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:00:05
7 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:05
8 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:05
9 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp 0:00:05
10 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:05

Rodriguez, Uran and Froome were 11th, 12th and 13th, respectively, all at five seconds, and the top of the overall standings is unchanged this evening.

General classification:

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 48:59:23
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:20
3 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:01:08
4 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:20
5 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:01:35
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:01:52
7 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:02:13
8 Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre-Merida 0:02:37
9 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:02:55
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:03:51

Thanks for joining our live coverage on Cyclingnews. A full report, results and pictures are arriving here and we'll be back with more tomorrow as the Vuelta travels to La Camperona for the first of three consecutive summit finishes. In the meantime, stay with Cyclingnews for all of the news and reaction from this afternoon's stage.

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