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Vuelta a España 2014: Stage 6

Welcome to live coverage of stage 6 of the Vuelta a España from Benalmádena to La Zubia.

It's another hot day here at the Vuelta as the riders get underway in Benalmádena. All 198 made the start today and are currently riding through the 9.2-kilometre neutral zone.

Today sees the first of eight summit finishes at this year's Vuelta a España. You can read Alasdair Fotheringham's preview of stage six right here.

As we said, today's category one climb La Zubia is the first summit finish of the Vuelta. However, the riders have two more climbs to tackle before they can consider La Zubia. Here is what the parcours looks like today.

 

The big news this morning is that the Vuelta a Espana will return to the south for next year's start. The 2015 race will begin in the province of Malaga, so we can expect the soaring temperatures once again.

It is a tad cooler today than it has been for the last week, with the mercury settling at 29 degrees for now. We can expect it to get a little hotter as the day progresses however. The forecast is predicting temperatures of up to 36 degrees, but it could get even hotter than that.

The flag has been dropped for racing to begin. Europcar rider and stage 4 escapee Sebastian Turgot had a small accident during the neutralized section, but he is back inside the peloton.

It's hot, it's exposed and it's steep. Today is the first of 8 summit finishes in #LaVuelta. http://t.co/owj19vJear

@mwkeenan Thu, 28th Aug 2014 12:23:19

A small reminder of how things finished yesterday. John Degenkolb was the undeniable victor in Ronda, although Nacer Bouhanni had a few words to say about it. This is what the top 10 looked like on stage 5.

 

1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 4:41:47
2 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr
3 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
4 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing
5 Paul Martens (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
6 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
8 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) IAM Cycling
9 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka
10 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida

166km remaining from 167km

We've got our first attack of the day, with Pim Ligthart and Luis Mas Bonet jumping off the front of the peloton.

Lloyd Mondory, Elia Favili and Thibaut Pinot have set off in chase of our leading pair. The gaps are quite small at the moment, with Ligthart and Mas Bonet only holding a 19 second advantage on the peloton.

Those of you who followed yesterday's stage will remember Ligthart as the man who tried to beat the peloton on his own. He put in a valiant effort, but succumbed to the speed of the peloton behind on the final climb.

It's still our duo out front with a gap of 44 seconds now. However the chasing group has changed complexion. The riders trying to make the break are Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka), Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge), Elia Favilli (Lampre-Merida), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Johan le Bon (FDJ.fr).

Luis Mas Bonet (Caja-Rural) is on the hunt for the mountains classification points today. He currently leads the competition but with 18 points available it could easily be taken from him.

 

Here is how the mountains classification stood this morning:

 

1 Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGA 10 pts
2 Jerome Cousin (Fra) Team Europcar 9
3 Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGA 6
4 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team 6
5 Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre-Merida 5
6 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 3
7 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica Greenedge 3
8 Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) MTN - Qhubeka 2
9 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka 2
10 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Team Europcar 2

150km remaining from 167km

Yet again, the chasers have been caught an it's just our two out front. They've got a gap of 1:50 on the peloton for now and it looks like they're going to be each other's only company today.

With our summit finish today, Michael Matthews will likely have to hand over his red jersey to someone else. Sitting in second behind him and the most likely contender to assume the role as race leader is Nairo Quintana.

 

Here is how things stand in the GC:

 

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 18:12:31
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:13
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:20
4 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:24
5 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:00:26
6 Jhoan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica Greenedge
7 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:29
8 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:32
9 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
10 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team

Joaquim Rodríguez will be one of the contenders in today's finish. The punchy climber will be in his element on La Zubia. Here is what he had to say at the start today:

 

“There’s a huge crowd in Andalucia for the Vuelta. As pro cyclists, we love that. It motivates us tremendously. Froome said I’m the strongest? I don’t think so. I’m well, I’m not doing to deny that but my feeling from the first few stages is that all the favorites are well, Contador included. I see him in good form, very focused. People say we should attack him now that he’s not yet at his best but today it might as well be him to attack and drop us all.”

145km remaining from 167km

The gap to our two escapees has now ballooned up to 4:25 on the peloton.

Carlos Betancur #LaVuelta @cyclismactu http://t.co/yCW1GfIGFx

@AntoinePlouvin Thu, 28th Aug 2014 12:54:34

Thibaut Pinot made a brief appearance in one of the chasing groups earlier on. He's had a slow start to the Vuelta a España after finishing third at this year's Tour de France. The Frenchman says that he's been suffering in the soaring heat this week, but still has ambitions on a stage win. Cyclingnews' Barry Ryan spoke to him yesterday and here is what he had to say.

We're still a little while off the first climb of the day and the gap to the two escapees continues to grow. Más Bonet and Ligthart now hold a 8:45 advantage over the peloton, who don't seem to concerned about the gap.

Of our two escapees, Más Bonet is the best placed. The Spaniard is in 79th place in the general classification, 13:59 behind Michael Matthews.

Today's finish should give us our first indication as to who is on form and will feature highly in the general classification come the final day time trial. You can watch our video of the top 10 riders to watch here. We expect that most of them will have a part to play later today, but what do you think? Let us know your predictions for today and the whole race on twitter on @Cyclingnewsfeed and @SadhbhOS.

Michael Matthews has dominated the spotlight for Orica-GreenEdge this week, but today could be a chance for his younger teammate Esteban Chaves to shine. The Colombian is making his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta, but has been putting some very good performances throughout this season. Here is what he had to say after yesterday's stage.

Orica directeur sportif Neil Stephen also had this to say at the start this morning.

 

"“We’ve got two riders for those stages. Chaves rides for GC. He’s in learning process. Since December, he has followed the plan. He was supposed to come on form for the Tour de Suisse and he won a stage, then to arrive at the Vuelta on form as well and he is. We’re happy with him. Adam Yates has a problem: he does too much. I spend my time telling him to save himself. He wants to finish the Vuelta. I’m telling him he won’t. We’ll see where he is in ten days.”

125km remaining from 167km

After 42 kilometres the gap just keeps going up and is now 12:24. At this rate, Mas Bonet will be the leader on the road before long. The average speed for the peloton over the first hour of racing was a relatively sedate 39.9kph, which could explain the ballooning gap.

Outside of the Vuelta, news came through today from WADA that Xenon and Argon gas have both been officially added to their list of banned substances. You can read the full story here.

As the gap soars to 14:22 for the leaders, it is Garmin-Sharp that have taken up the pace setting. The team nearly saw all their chances at a good GC performance go up in smoke in the crosswinds yesterday. Fortunately for them, Dan Martin was able to bridge the gap and salvage something. He is their best hope in the GC now.

117km remaining from 167km

The work of Garmin has had an impact and the two escapees have been brought back to 13:30 in a matter of kilometres. The two leaders are around 15 kilometres from the first climb.

After their efforts yesterday, it will be interesting to see what Tinkoff-Saxo do today. They made good use of the crosswinds yesterday to really put the hurt on some of the GC contenders. After the stage yesterday, Contador said, "we had to try something."

The first climb of the day is the Alto de Zafarraya. It's a 12-kilometre ascent that averages 5.9% and maxes out at 11% just after the midway point.

#Vuelta Facts: The 1st @lavuelta was in 1935 but the tour didn't start running annually until 1955 because of the Spanish Civil War and WW2

@inCycleTV Thu, 28th Aug 2014 14:02:20

117km remaining from 167km

The leaders have just started the Alto de Zafarraya and Garmin's work continues to pay dividends. The gap to the two leaders has come down to 11:55.

In the run-up to the Vuelta, Nairo Quintana has been the man most named as race favourite, among fans and peers. The Colombian was in fine fettle at the Vuelta a Burgos earlier in the month and says that he continues to grow in form at the Vuelta. However, Quintana says that today's summit finish might be a little earlier for him to do some damage. Do you believe him, or is he bluffing? You decide, read what he had to say here.

While the riders continue to ascend this climb, let's take a closer look at our two escapees. Pim Ligthart was our sole escapee yesterday. He was initially joined by Tony Martin, but a puncture put paid to the German's day in the break. Ligthart is a former Dutch national road race champion and won the mountains classification at Paris-Nice earlier this year. He also spent a day in the Vuelta's mountains jersey before handing it over to the eventual winner Simon Clarke.

25-year-old Lluis Más Bonet turned professional this season with Caja Rural. Más Bonet is from Ses Salines in Majorca and rode for the Burgos - Catilla y Leon team until making the move to Caja Rural. He's been an agressive rider so far this Vuelta a España and leads the mountain competition. He is yet to take his first professional victory this season.

Subida la Zubia. Pasado el arco de -4km http://t.co/t3xlCjFeOz

@AinaraHernando Thu, 28th Aug 2014 14:29:53

95km remaining from 167km

As we dip under the 100km to go marker, the advantage to the two escapees has been cut once again. It now stands at 11:15, with around 6km remaining to the top of the climb.

Birthday boy @jensdebus on the block-calendar today! http://t.co/peON81xhmd

@Lotto_Belisol Thu, 28th Aug 2014 14:39:39

The two leaders crest the Alto de Zafarraya with a lead of 11 minutes. We await the official results of the climb, but we can assume that Ligthart was kind enough to allow Más Bonet take the points at the top.

While the official top of the climb has been given, the riders will continue to climb for another 8 kilometres before the descent comes.

Katusha is now helping with efforts at the front of the peloton, after Garmin put in a lot of work earlier on. The gap to the two leaders has fallen to 10:09 after a maximum gap of over 14 minutes.

The official results from the first climb of the day have come through and it was indeed Mas Bonet who took the five points at the top of the climb, followed by Ligthart and Jerome Cousin.

Away from the Vuelta a España and Thomas Lofkvist has announced his retirement from cycling at the end of this season.

It's Garmin again on the front of the peloton, they seem really up for it today. Are they trying to set Dan Martin up for something? The final climb could favour the Irishman.

In this heat, drinking as much water as possible is important. Tinkoff-Saxo have been showing off their nifty little carrier to make life easier for their domestiques.

 

MTN-Qhubeka is reporting that Merhawi Kudus has been involved in a crash, although he is ok and back with the peloton. The Eritrean climber is one of those that could cause an upset today.

55km remaining from 167km

The riders have completed three hours of racing and the leaders have hit the lower slopes of the second climb of the day the Alto de los Bermejales.

The peloton is strung out on this short descent. Garmin continue to track these two leaders down. Their gap is hovering around 8:40 for now.

51km remaining from 167km

The two escapees are approaching the summit of this second climb and their advantage continues to drop. They've still got a significant gap at 8:15. What do you think can they hold this? It's unlikely, unless the peloton make errors in their calculations.

Today should see our first big shake-up in the general classification, while Michael Matthews is likely to lose his leader's jersey. Here is what the general classification looked like this morning.

 

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 18:12:31
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:13
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:20
4 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:24
5 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:00:26
6 Jhoan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica Greenedge
7 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:29
8 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:32
9 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
10 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team

45km remaining from 167km

Movistar has been practically invisible today, but they've finally made an appearance on the front of the peloton. Garmin will be glad of the help.

40km remaining from 167km

A quick reminder of who the two men out front are. We've Pim Ligthart, who was the solo escapee for much of yesterday, and mountains classification leader Lluis Más Bonet. At one stage they had a maximum lead of over 14 minutes, however that has come down to 7:30 after the injection of pace from Movistar.

Mr. Wet T-Shirt of prof. cycling @JensenJuul took on the #IceBucketChallenge - @dailystews + @stevendejongh YOUR TURN http://t.co/QBEzImaica

@tinkoff_saxo Thu, 28th Aug 2014 15:50:32

35km remaining from 167km

It looks like the peloton has woken up. Katusha has come back to the front of the group. They made a brief appearance before the first climb of the day, but they look determined now. They've cut this gap down to 7 minutes now.

Today's two intermediate sprints come in quick succession. The first comes in around 13km at 21km to go, the second is just six kilometres later. After Chris Froome went for the bonus seconds available yesterday, will we see any of the GC guys going for it today.

The road splits and a few riders end up going the long way around. Fortunately they were able to rejoin the rest of the peloton without being forced to dismount.

One more climb for the riders today. It's a narrow one. This photo of the final climb was posted on twitter earlier today.

 

One more climb for the riders today. It's a narrow one. This photo of the final climb was posted on twitter earlier today.

 

26km remaining from 167km

The gap is now coming down at a pace that the peloton will be happier with. The two leaders have only 5:25 on the bunch. After so long out front the legs must be really tired.

Kudus calls for the car and pulls over t the side of the road. It looks like he's going for a bike change. the MTN-Qhubeka rider hit the deck after the first climb and has a few bandages on his elbows.

There's quite a bit of wind around and there is a dust devil spinning around to the left of the peloton.

20km remaining from 167km

The leaders go through the intermediate sprint. They don't contest it and Ligthart rolls through first. They're really trying hard but the gap continues to fall. The pair have 4:30 on the peloton.

DUST DEVIL!!! http://t.co/FYWJfdtynQ

@nyvelocity Thu, 28th Aug 2014 16:16:30

13km to the final climb of the day for the two leaders. It's a doozy... Here is what they face

 

John Degenkolb takes the final points available at the intermediate sprint and extends his lead in the points competition over Nacer Bouhanni.

Orica-GreenEdge has taken to the front. They could be doing one of two things; setting up Matthews for the next intermediate sprint or putting Chaves in position for an attack on the final climb.

14km remaining from 167km

Teams are working well together at the front of the peloton as we approach the final climb and it's had a big impact on the advantage of the two leaders. Ligthart and Mas Bonet lead by just 3 minutes now.

A mechanical problem for Cunego. He gets a wheel from Richeze but it takes some time and the peloton has gone.

Want to know about the climb of La Zubia? Find all the info you need in our preview of today's stage.

GreenEdge continue to work on the front and they look almost like they're leading out for a sprint. They've brought the advantage down to 2:24.

8km remaining from 167km

The peloton is strung out under the pace of GreenEdge as the leaders' advantage drops to just 1:30. Not long before they'll get caught now.

Race leader Michael Matthews is sitting second in line at the moment. It's only a short climb, but he's going to have a tough job keeping hold of his 13 second lead. It'll have to be a huge effort from him to keep hold of the red jersey by the end of the day.

6km remaining from 167km

The gap drops to under a minute for the first time and the peloton almost have the two escapees in their sights.

Peter Sagan has been dropped before the bottom of this climb.

A lot of riders have fallen foul of this fast pace. There must only be 40 riders left in this main group.

#LaVuelta Summit finish on Alto Cumbres Verdes (1st cat): 4.6 km with 7.8% average gradient and maximal 12.78%. 46", 6 km to go.

@Lotto_Belisol Thu, 28th Aug 2014 16:37:57

The leaders are onto the final climb. They've got a slim advantage of 12 seconds.

Ligthart has dropped Mas Bonet and goes it alone. He wants the combativity prize for the second day running.

Le Mevel attacks from the peloton

3km remaining from 167km

Le Mevel can see Ligthart, but they're both about to get caught by the peloton.

All together now with 2.9km to go

Ligthart is shelled out the back of the peloton almost as quickly as he was caught. His day is done.

With 2.7km to go Evans is in trouble as he is dropped.

One of the Cannondale riders attacks, but Garmin reel him back in.

Quintana and Valverde are having discussions on the front of the peloton, before Valverde takes up the pace setting.

2km remaining from 167km

Esteban Chaves is sitting behind the Movistar pairing. Could he cause a surprise today?

Dan Martin cracks. He has fallen off the back of this main group.

Froome, Rodriguez, Aru and Contador all in this main group as Sanchez and Kelderman are the next to be in trouble.

1km remaining from 167km

Belkin has Laurens Ten Dam and Robert Gesink in this front group, which is a good effort from bot, especially considering Gesink had heart surgery earlier this year.

1km remaining from 167km

Valverde continues to set a fast pace, which has put a lot of riders in trouble. Around 10 -15 riders left in this group.

It looks like Sky has Nieve in that group as well as the go under the flamme rouge.

The riders are going up the left hand side of the road, while Froome decides to take his position on the right.

Rodriguez attacks

Valverde sets off in chase of Rodriguez

Froome and Contador are coming back to them

Froome attacks

Quintana is dropped

Valverde wins

Valverde sprints to victory, Froome in second, Contador third, Rodriguez fourth and Quintana fifth.

It was a good ding dong battle between the favourites there. Rodriguez began it all with Valverde setting off in chase. Froome brought Contador and Quintana back to that front group, but nobody had an answer to Valverde when he sprinted for the line.

Valverde began the day in third place and should move into the race lead again.

After that exciting finish. Here is the top 10 at the top of La Zubia.

 

1 Alejandro Valverde
2 Chris Froome
3 Alberto Contador
4 Joaquim Rodriguez +7
5 Nairo Quintana +13
6 Fabio Aru +18
7 Esteban Chaves +24
8 Daniel Navarro +26
9 Mikel Nieve+31
10 Robert Gesink +33

There were a lot of general classification riders that lost out on that climb. Contador may have said he wasn't targeting the GC at the Vuelta, but he's definitely shown that he is more than up for it with that performance.

Interesting to see Quintana getting dropped towards the end of that climb. He did say after yesterday's stage that this summit finish may be too early for him and he showed that was the case. Let's hope that he can continue to ride himself into form and play a big role in the general classification fight.

We promised you a bit of a shake-up in the GC and here it is. Valverde now loads his teammate Quintana by 15 seconds.

 

1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 22:48:08
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:15
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:18
4 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:22
5 Jhoan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica Greenedge 0:00:41
6 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:45
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:55
8 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:58
9 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano 0:01:02
10 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:06

Don't forget to go to our Vuelta page for full results, report and gallery from today's stage. You can find that here.

Tomorrow stage of the Vuelta could be one for the the likes of Degenkolb and Matthews, with an uncategorised uphill finish to Alacudete. Or perhaps the breakaway could finally get lucky.

It is going to be another scorcher again tomorrow, with temperatures expected to be well into the 30s.

That is all from us today, but stay tuned to Cyclingnews for all the reaction from today's stages and come back tomorrow for live coverage of stage 7.

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