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Vuelta a España 2014: Stage 20


Welcome to live coverage of stage 20 of the Vuelta a Espana from Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil to Puerto de Ancares.

The final weekend of the Vuelta a Espana is upon us, as is the final mountain test for the riders.

The riders will be rolling out for the neutral start in just under five minutes. The 185.7-kilometre stage takes in four climbs, including the out of category finale on the Puerto de Ancares.

The news today is that Dario Cataldo has been forced to abandon the race, just two days away from the finish. The Italian creashed heavily on the final climb. You can read the full story

The riders are on their way and here is what lays ahead of them today.

Along with Cataldo we have two other non-starters today. They are Filippo Pozzato and Pieter Serry. In total, we have 160 riders of the 198 that started in Jerez left in the race.

Adam Hansen caught the peloton by surprise when he escaped yesterday and went on to win the stage, his second grand tour stage win. Here is how things finished yesterday.

There were no major changes in the general classification after yesterday's stage, but we can expect a big shake-up on the summit finish today. Here is how it stands this morning.

The flag has dropped and the real racing has begun. There have already been attacks from Belkin and MTN-Qhubeka riders. Today is the last chance for many teams to take a stage win so getting in the break will be important.

177km remaining from 185km

Veteran rider Paolo Tiralongo has been helping Fabio Aru for the last three weeks. At the start, he speculated what might happen today.

It looks like the peloton has split into two groups, the second group is now trailing by 28 seconds. For now, it seems that none of the big names have missed out on the split.

166km remaining from 185km

Wyss and Le Mevel have been caught by the peloton, which is still split in two. The gap between the two pelotons is currently 10 seconds.

Giampaolo Caruso will be riding for Joaquim Rodríguez, as the Spaniard looks to move onto the podium. Here is what he had to say about today's stage.

We've got one peloton again, but now four riders have tried their luck off the front. The riders are Dmitry Kozontchuk (Katusha), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R-La Mondiale), Winner Ancona (Lampre-Merida) and Vincent Jerome (Europcar)

It is all change at the front once again. Five riders have gone clear after our previous four were caught.. The riders out front are Laurens Ten Dam (Belkin), Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), George Bennett (Cannondale), Jerome Coppel (Cofidis), Maxime Mederel (Europcar). The fast pace has forced a split in the peloton once again.

149km remaining from 185km

145km remaining from 185km

After 42 kilometres of racing it looks like these four are our escapees of the day, with a gap of 1:08 now. He's a reminder of the men out front Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Wout Poels (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Jerome Coppel (Cofidis), Maxime Mederel (Europcar)

Alejandro Valverde went into the Vuelta with his future still unconfirmed, but it looks like that might change soon. According to the team, the Spaniard is close to signing a new contract.

Valverde is currently in fourth place in the general classification. His team manager Eusebio Unzue spoke before the stage start.

132km remaining from 185km

The summit finish today could have a big impact on the podium and the red jersey. Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford believes that Chris Froome can still take overall victory.

Some good news for the riders is that it is warm and dry at the finish. Very little wind around to hamper their efforts too.

The gap to our escapees continues to grow up to five minutes after 62 kilometres of racing.

The final climb of the Puerto de Ancares featured in 2011 and 2012, however the riders will be taking a different route up the mountain this time.

If you haven't seen it yet, check out our exclusive images of Jens Voigt's hour record bike right here

115km remaining from 185km

Przemyslaw Niemiec is the best placed rider in the breakaway, but at over one hour down he is little threat to the GC contenders. He has already won a stage of this year's Vuelta a Espana. The Polish rider got into the break on stage 15 and hung on to win at Lagos de Covadonga. Can he do it again?

Like Niemiec, Wout Poels has been pretty active in the breakaways. He was part of the three-man escape yesterday. The Vuelta a Espana is likely to be one of the last races the Dutch rider does for Omega Pharma-QuickStep. It is expected that he will join team Sky next season.

As our four leaders approach the intermediate sprint, they have a 9:48 advantage over the peloton. None of the riders in the break are a threat to John Degenkolb's points jersey.

Luis Leon Sanchez's lead in the mountain's classification is under threat from the escapees. Niemiec is the best placed in the competition, 38 points behind the Spaniard. With only 40 points available today, Niemiec could nick the jersey from him if he can win the stage. Here is what it looks like in the mountains classification.

We've spoken about two of the escapees in the bunch, but who are the other two. First up is Maxime Méderel. The Frenchman joined Europcar this season, after two years on the Saur-Sojuson team. He turned professional in 2008 with Crédit Agricole. The 33-year-old hasn't had a victory since 2011 where he won a stage of the Tour de Bretagne.

96km remaining from 185km

That leads us neatly to the last of our four escapees. Cofidis rider Jerome Coppel. He also rode for Saur-Sojuson at one time, but joined Cofidis in 2012. At one point Coppel looked like a promising French Grand Tour rider when he finished 14th at the 2011 Tour de France, but he has gradually faded since then. His last victory came at the 2012 Etoile de Besseges, where he won a stage and finish the overall classification.

85km remaining from 185km

On the second rest day, Alberto Contador said that he wouldn't be riding the World Championships. Spanish coach Javier Minguez has other ideas and has put Contador on his long-list for the Worlds.

The leaders are on the first of four climbs, the Alto de Vilaesteva, and their lead has come down yet again. They are now only 8:13 ahead of the peloton.

Of course there is plenty of other races going on at the moment, during a very busy weekend for cycling. Simon Gerrans won the GP Cycliste Quebec for the second time yesterday, showing his form for the world championships in two weeks.

The Tour of Britain is also going on at the moment. Alex Dowsett is in the leader's jersey after the race was tipped on it's head yesterday.

We've got another abandon in the peloton Astana rider Daniil Fominykh has climbed off.

76km remaining from 185km

Astana have also moved up to the front of the peloton. They don't want to let this one go too far and give Fabio Aru another opportunity for a stage win.

Wout Poels is taking this descent a little more cautiously than the other escapees. He's having to chase back on as the road goes up a little bit.

The peloton has just reached the top of the Alto de Vilaesteva, 6:47 after the leaders did.

The results at the top of the first climb has been confirmed. Poels took full points, while Niemiec didn't score anything. That means that Luis Leon Sanchez is safe in the mountains jersey and will be wearing it on the podium tomorrow.

67km remaining from 185km

Esteban Chaves looks like he was involved in that, but he has made it back to the peloton. It was only a brief shower and it has stopped, but there is still some damp patches on the road.

Luke Rowe is leading the peloton down very slowly, he and two Astana riders have built a small gap and they will be able to feed back any information to their team leaders. Rowe has been talking into the radio.

The slower pace in the peloton has given the leaders a small bit of respite, but Rowe is now charging down the descent and we can expect it to come down just as quick.

63km remaining from 185km

It is really Sky and Astana doing much of the work on the front, we have hardly seen Tinkoff-Saxo and Movistar for quite some time. Tinkoff will be happy to let the others take some of the pressure off them, but Movistar will have to be careful not to let this get away from them.

The leaders are onto the third category Alto de O Largo with a gap of 6:12 as the pace in the peloton eases up. Astana sitting on the front of the main group.

57km remaining from 185km

Niemiec leads the escapees over the second climb of the day and the time begins to tick away to the peloton. This descent comes in two parts. The riders will descend for around 6-7 kilometres before a short unclassified climb and then comes the second descent.

The hardest terrain is yet to come for the riders, with a first category and high category climb still ahead. We can expect things to begin light up on the penultimate climb of the Alto de Folgueiras de Aigas

The leaders are riding the uncategorised climb. It might not be categorised, but it's fairly steep. Wout Poels is the only one of the escapees to be riding it in the saddle.

48km remaining from 185km

Sky and Chris Froome obviosuly have something planned for the finish today, or perhaps a little earlier on. Froome is 1:19 behind Contador in the general classification. With the time trial only 10 kilometres tomorrow, he will have to make time on the Spaniard today if he wants to win overall.

46km remaining from 185km

One rider who has been practically invisible today is Joaquim Rodríguez. He nor his team have made an appearance on the front of the peloton. Is he struggling, or is he trying to keep himself quite to later try and spring a surprise?

45km remaining from 185km

Lots of riders are using one of the many races this weekend as preparation for the World Championships. Once of those is the teammate of Vuelta leader Alberto Contador. Nicolas Roche spoke to us yesterday about his chances in Ponferrada.

Finally the leaders are on the proper descent and the peloton is in hot pursuit.. The leaders are going over 70koh, while the peloton is going more than 10kph faster. Needless to say the advantage is tumbling.

36km remaining from 185km

The leaders are almost in the valley, where they have a short flat section to the penultimate climb. It has a maximum gradient of 10% but is fairly straightforward and shouldn't trouble the main contenders too much.

31km remaining from 185km

Poels looks like he's struggling a little on the back of the leading group. He was off the back on the last climb too, perhap yesterday's efforts are taking their toll on the Dutch rider.

A bike change for Luis Leon Sanchez. He takes one of his teammates bikes. Fortunately for the Spaniard the peloton is climbing again and the pace has dramatically slowed.

29km remaining from 185km

It is still Luke Rowe on the front of the main group. The young Welshman has been putting in a huge effort, we've hardly seen him off the front for the last 30 kilometres. All the big teams still seem to have good numbers.

27km remaining from 185km

Rowe has finally dropped off the front and it is now Kiryienka doing to work ont he front. Froome is sitting fourth wheel with Nieve and Contador behind him.

Cadel Evans is obviously done for the day, the camera picks him up as he drops off the peloton. No BMC riders near the front of the peloton.

Away from the Vuelta, the Tour of Britain has seen another change in GC. Michal Kwiatkowski is back on top, after Alex Dowsett was distanced in a fast finale. Kwiatkowski's teammate Vermote wins the stage.

LL Sanchez no gets a bike from the team car, swapping his teammates bike for one that is set to his own measurements. As we said earlier, his lead in the mountain's competition is safe.

25km remaining from 185km

Correction, Van Baarle is the new leader at the Tour of Britain. He leads Kwiatkowski by 19 seconds.

The peloton can almost sense the leaders in front of them, as Poels is the first to get caught.

A lot of riders have dropped off the back of the peloton and only around 30-40 riders remain. The gap to the leaders is now a small 54 seconds.

The leading trip are almost at the top of this climb and the gap has dropped to 45 seconds.

Kiriyenka doesn't often make facial expressions, but he's gurning a lot before he peels off. Alberto Contador is the first of the peloton to go over the top of the climb. He takes the final point before backing off and letting Sky take the lead again.

Wout Poels was dangling off the front for some time, but he was eventually brought back just before the top of the climb. It should all be together before the end of this descent.

The road kicks up again and the pace has done exactly the same. More riders being shelled out the back. Peter Kennaugh is leading the peloton as Niemiec decides to go it alone out front.

18km remaining from 185km

Coppel is with Niemiec now and takes up the front position. This is a very fast descent again and the kilometres are tubling at the moment.

Coppel and Niemiec have almost a minute as the hit the bottom of the Ancares. Mederel is around 10 seconds behind them.

The Ancares is a formidable climb that hits 18%. This is what they are on at the moment.

12km remaining from 185km

Nobody's told Niemiec that he's unlikely to make it. He digs again and it looks like Coppel is done.

More riders getting distanced. Yesterday's stage winner Hansen is clinging on for dear life at the back, as Kennaugh drops back after finishing his job.

10km remaining from 185km

Contador wipes his brow, but he's looking as cool as ever. All the big favourites are near the front now, Aru, Valverde, Martin, Rodríguez, Contador and Froome are all there. Froome actually goes off the front for a moment to collect the bonus seconds it the final intermediate sprint.

Niemiec continues to plough a lonely furrow, but he's about to have some company. The peloton are about 20 metres back.

Ryder Hesjedal is done and he gives the camera a little wave as he becomes one of the many victims of the pace.

9km remaining from 185km

They're almost at the 18% now and the riders are really toiling here. Samuel Sanchez has been dropped now.

Moreno has gone, but his teammate Rodriguez is still there.

Warren Barguil is also in this front group. Contador has company in Hernandez too.

Rodriguez attacks but none of the other riders respond for now.

Only eight riders in the group behind Rodriguez. They are Aru, Froome, Hernandez, Caruso, Contador, Deignan, Barguil and Valverde.

Valverde finally springs into life as he sees his place on the podium under threat. He brings Barguil with him.

The big loser here is Martin, who is off the back. He can see the group ahead of him though.

8km remaining from 185km

So the situation is Rodriguez is up front, with Valverde, Contador, Froome and Aru chasing on.

7km remaining from 185km

Four very different riding styles in this chasing group and Aru looks like he is labouring at the moment. He has been distanced by the other three.

7km remaining from 185km

The chasers are working together at the moment to try and bring back Rodriguez, but it goes back up to 19 seconds.

6km remaining from 185km

Chris Froome attacks and Valverde follows easily. Contador is distanced a touch and he has to really try to catch them.

5km remaining from 185km

Valverde is bringing this pair back, but it's taking a big effort.

5km remaining from 185km

Froome attacks again, he is trying to get rid of COntador but he can't shake the Spaniard. They're about to catch Rodriguez.

5km remaining from 185km

Froome takes off his sunglasses and immediately attacks.

Valverde is still chasing, the leaders are tantalisingly close, but he just can't reach them. He is 11 seconds behind.

Froome is fripping the top of the handlebars, as Contador stands up on the pedals with his hands over the hoods. Both riders look confortable, Rodríguez seems to be struggling behind them.

4km remaining from 185km

4km remaining from 185km

Frrome looks under his arm to see where Rodriguez is, he is gone. It's just the top two in the GC left. Who is going to win here?

182km remaining from 185km

The road has flattened out a little bit, which is playing into the hands of Valverde, he is digging in. He wants this victory.

3km remaining from 185km

Froome has been doing the work on the front of this lead group and Contador is happy to let him. Valverde si still chasing hard, but time is running out.

When will the attack come? 1.4km to go and the leading pair are still locked together.

Froome has a dig under the flamme rouge, but Contador looks impassive.

It's hard to tell if Contador is struggling, but he looks calm under the pressure from Froome. Can the Sky rider break him?

Froome attacks

Now Contador goes and Froome is in trouble

Froome's attack barely lasted a few metres before he sat back down and Contador has now left him behind.

Contador looks like he is riding to stage and overall victory.

Froome can see Contador up the road, but there is only 200 metres to go

Contador wins

Froome crosses the line 15 seconds behind Contador.

Valverde loses 56 seconds on the line

Rodriguez drops Aru in the finale and crosses 1:16 down with the Italian coming over 1:20 sown.

The top five in the stage is an exact copy of the top 5 in the GC.

We do have the time trial tomorrow, but it looks lke we have the winner of the 2014 Vuelta a Espana. Froome is unlikely to be able to bring back more than 1:30 in 1o kilometres.

Froome gives Contador a pat on the back as Contador talks to the Spanish media. That was a great fight from both riders.

Two months ago both Froome and Contador were both suffering from broken bones. Today they are first and second in the Vuelta GC. It is a great turn around from both riders.

remember you can find all of the results, report and gallery right here on Cyclingnews

This is our top 10 for the stage

And as Contador waves to the crowds while he gets his stage winner's trophy, here is the all imnportant GC top 10.

Stick with Cyclingnews for all the reaction from today's stage and all the other day's racing.

That's it from us today, join us tomorrow for the final stage of the Vuelta a Espana.

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