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Vuelta a España 2014: Stage 7


Welcome to live coverage of the Vuelta a Espana stage 7 from Alhendín to Alcaudete

Welcome to stage seven. The riders are currently making their way through the neutralized zone and about to begin their 169-kilometre journey to Alacaudete.

It is a slightly easier day for the peloton, after the summit finish on La Zubia yesterday. However, the unclassified climb at the end will rule out any of the pure sprinters today. We could see Michael Matthews or John Degenkolb taking another stage win, or perhaps the breakaway will get lucky today. Here is how the parcours looks today.

The riders are off and the good news is that all 198 are still present and correct.

A big group has reportedly gone off the front. We'll bring you some names when we've got them.

While we wait for those names, a little reminder of what happened yesterday. We saw our first big battle between the overall contenders on the summit finish to La Zubia. It was a stonker, with Alejandro Valverde drawing first blood. This is how things finished at the end of stage 6.

The victory yesterday also put Valverde back into red. This is how the GC looks this morning.

The group out front was obviously too big for the liking of the peloton and they've been reeled back in Matthias Krizek (Cannondale) is now trying to go it alone.

Merhawi Kudus suffers a puncture. Fortunately for the MTN-Qhubeka rider there is plenty of time to get back on before the first climb of the day.

Outside of the Vuelta, the big news today is that the Cannibal, Eddy Merckx has had to spend a couple of days in hospital this week after suffering some heart problems. You can read the full article here.

The peloton are being pretty picky as to who they let go, a lot of people want to get into this break. Krizek is back in the group and we've now got Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Nikias Arndt (Giant-Shimano), Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) and Dominica Nerz (BMC)

The four out front have been joined by a whole host of other riders, bringing the number up to 15. The men who have made the bridge are David Millar (Garmin-Sharp), Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), Lloyd Mondory (AG2R-La Mondiale), Martin Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Luis León Sanchez (Caja Rural), Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge), Johan Le Bon (, Jerome Coppel (Cofidis), Vincent Jerome (Europcar) and Gorka Izagirre (Movistar)

Our leaders managed to get a whole nine seconds on the peloton before they were caught. The eagerness to make it into the group highlights that more than a few teams have marked this one out as a chance for the escapees.

A puncture for Chris Froome as the riders hit the foot of the first climb.

133km remaining from 169km

It appears that Froome has actually crashed and is now 1:20 back on the peloton on this first climb. This is bad for the Sky rider.

132km remaining from 169km

We are trying to get news on Froome's condition and we will bring you an update as soon as we have one.

After yesterday's stage Froome had said he was pleased with how things were going. So let's hope he's not too badly injured. Here is what he had to say after the finish on La Zubia.

Relief for Froome as he makes it back into the peloton before the top of this climb.

Steve Morabito is doing his best to track down the men out front but he's 55 seconds off them and in no man's land.

It looks like Morabito has given up the chase and has been taken back in by the peloton.  The four leaders have 1:30 on the peloton.

The group out front is a strong group of riders especially with the presence of Ryder Hesjedal. The Canadian went into the race as one of the favourites, but lost time in the cross winds of stage five and yesterday. However, he is still only 7:49 down, so it would be a surprise if the peloton were to allow him get too far up the road.

As we hit the valley, the four leaders have an advantage of 3:22 on the peloton.

Orica GreenEdge report that Ivan Santaromita has been involved in a crash, possibly the same that took down Chris Froome. The Italian has broken his finger and is heading to hospital. Santaromita was in one of the previous escape attempts.

John Degenkolb was also involved in that incident and he is back with the medical car at the moment.

The medical car is very busy at the moment. Chris Froome has been to pay a visit, as has Merhawi Kudus. Kudus crashed during yesterday's stage.

110km remaining from 169km

A puncture for Peter Sagan.

If you haven't heard it already, news broke this morning that Orica GreenEdge rider Daryl Impey had been cleared of all wrongdoing after he tested positive for Probenecid. The South African rider is clear to continue racing with immediate effect.

Carlos Verona is the latest to go back to the medical car, as the advantage of the escapees goes up to 4:58.

Two more riders have called it a day on their Vuelta a Espana, Bryan Nauleau and Aleksejs Saramontins have both quit. Along with Santaromita, they are the first abandons of this year's Vuelta.

99km remaining from 169km

More riders continuing to drop back to the medical car, with Ramon Sinkledam and Sergio Pardilla going back for some attention. It seems that there may have been two crashes today, but we will bring you more news on that when we get it.

Orica-GreenEdge may have lost Santaromita from the race, but they've still got a lot of positives to look at. During yesterday's summit finish on La Zubia, their general classification rider Esteban Chaves put in a big performance to finish just off the back of the group of favourites.

69km remaining from 169km

The leaders are racing towards the second intermediate sprint and the second climb of the day the Alto Ahillo. It is a second catergory climb, but at an average of 4% it shouldn't be too troubling.

AG2R directeur sportif Julian Jurdie has comfirmed that Jan Bakelants will be joining the team for next year. The rider himself told reporters earlier on that he is about to pen a two-year deal. You can read the full article here.

Froome looks like he lost a bit of skin in the accident earlier on today. Let's hope it's not any more serious than that.

61km remaining from 169km

54km remaining from 169km

The peloton passes through the intermediate sprint halfway up the second climb, which will be the finish line the next time around. The riders will complete a big loop now. The leaders still have a gap of 6:05.

We've spoken a lot about Hesjedal, but who are our other escapees? First up is Hubert Dupont. For the 33-year-old, the Vuelta a Espana is his 17th Grand Tour. The Frenchman finished 16th at this year's Giro d'Italia, but his best performance came three years earlier with 12th at the 2011 edition of the race. Despite a lot of solid performances, Dupont has not taken a professional victory. Could he take one today?

A puncture for Cancellara, who was doing much of the work on the front of the peloton.  Trek have now dropped back to help him up and Movistar has taken over on the front now.

Cancellara had to ride on for some time with that puncture. His team car was so far back that he would have lost a lot of time if he'd stopped immediately. After riding on for a couple of minutes, the car finally reaches Cancellara and he's got a new front wheel.

After Arredondo made a brief appearance on the front of the peloton, but Tinkoff-Saxo take control on the descent of this climb.

35km remaining from 169km

Hesjedal is getting a few words of wisdom from the team car. He is the most prolific of these four leaders, but that final climb might not be hard enough for him.

There was a split on the descent of this climb and they continue to lose out to the peloton. They're just over two minutes behind the main group for now. One of the men who has missed out is Mikel Nieve.

Going back to looking at our escapees and the next one up is Johann Tschopp. The Swiss has ridden for Bouyges Telecom and BMC in the past but has been with IAM Cycling for the past two seasons. He won the mountains classification at the Tour de Romandie earlier this season and could be a contender in the finale today.

Alessandro de Marchi is the last of our escapees. He's been on our TV screens and in the break a lot this season, most specifically in the Tour de France. He took the overall most combative prize, but he also took it on stages 13 and 14. He's likely to have a go near the finish.

Fabian Cancellara is back on the front of the peloton and Mikel Nieve has rejoined at the back.

One of the Cannondale riders has come down on a corner, but it's not clear who it is.

20km remaining from 169km

It seems the Cannondale rider that crashed was Paolo Longo Borghini who came down and he has been paying a visit to the doctor's car. And just after making it back into the peloton, Nieve has a puncture.

16km remaining from 169km

Oh dear, Hesjedal has gone down on a corner. He looks ok, but it seems like the motorbike went over his bike and he's going to have to wait for a change. Nothing seems to have caused him to go down, he just over cooked it on the corner.

Dupont was already getting dropped at that point so it's just Tschopp and de Marchi out front.

12km remaining from 169km

De Marchi is now going it alone. Can he hold this for the final 12km?

The pace in the peloton looks like it has slowed quite a bit. Lampre and Movistar are doing most of the work on the front. All the favourites are looking comfortable in this group.

9km remaining from 169km

7km remaining from 169km

A little consolation for Ryder Hesjedal, who is awarded the most combative rider. An interesting choice considering de Marchi is still out there, but something to ease the wounds for the Canadian.

Tschopp is now 45 seconds behind De Marchi. He's unlikely to make it back. It's unclear where Hesjedal is at the moment.

4km remaining from 169km

Some animated encouragement coming out of the Cannondale car. Four kilometres for De Marchi and he still holds a 50 second gap on the chasers.

1km remaining from 169km

1km remaining from 169km

This has been a very good ride from de Marchi as he rides under the flamme rouge. He's been an incredibly aggressive rider this season and it's great that he finally gets some reward.

The peloton go under the 2km to go banner as De Marchi hits the finishing straight. Plenty of time for him to soak up this win, his first in a grand tour.

De Marchi straightens up his jersey and thumps his fist in the air as he crosses the line. A great result for De Marchi.

Hesjedal leads the trio of chasers over the line. It's a little consolation, but he would have preferred much more. Dupont takes third and Tschopp fourth.

Dan Martin jumps off the front of the peloton

Chris Froome also has a dig and looks like he could have taken some time, maybe a couple of seconds.

Warren Barguil has fallen foul of a crash on the final corner. He looks like he's in a bit of pain as he walks his way across the line. He won't lose any time as it was in the final 3km.

You don't often see the GC contenders racing for the line like that. Froome was really determined to make some time on his rivals and perhaps he was trying to show them that he was none-the-worse for his crash earlier today.

Alessandro de Marchi was obviously very pleased with his performance today and this is what he had to say at the finish: "Best memory of my career. It's great to be in a break with such strong riders. after my top fives this is the best result. An almost perfect day for me."

Chris Froome managed to take three seconds on the rest of the main contenders. It doesn't sound like much, but it could pay off later in the race.

Dan Martin also took a handful of seconds. He struggled in the heat yesterday, so was pretty happy to see the cloud this morning. Cyclingnews spoke to him earlier today.

Here are the full stage results from today's stage

And here we have our GC after that stage. Alejandro Valverde still leads the way, but Chris Froome is edging ever closer to a podium spot.

Click here to get the full report, results and gallery

Tomorrow's stage 8 is a flat one, but at 207 kilometres it is the longest of the entire race. Nacer Bouhanni should be the favourite to take victory there.

That is all from us today. Stick with Cyclingnews for all the reaction from today's stage and remember to come back tomorrow for live coverage of stage 8.

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