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Vuelta a España 2014: Stage 8

Hello and welcome to live coverage from stage 8 of the Vuelta from Baeza to Albacete.

It's a day for the sprinters with no categorized climbs along the 206km route.

 

Javier Guillén says: "This is the only stage of more than 200km, which is very deliberate on our part. We want every stage to be explosive, to provide a spectacle for the hour or two that it's on TV. In addition, the Vuelta's at the end of the season and we are aware the riders are quite tired."

183km remaining from 207km

We pick up the race after 24km of action. We have our break of the day with Elia Favilli (Ita) Lampre-Merida and Francisco Javier Aramendia (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA. The pair have a gap close to six minutes with no reaction from the peloton. Favilli is the highest rider on GC, over 16 minutes down on the race leader.

And this is where we are in GC, with Valverde holding the leader's jersey. Quintana, Contador and Froome are within striking distance.

 

1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 26:52:20
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 0:00:20
5 Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:41
6 Joaquím Rodríguez 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

177km remaining from 207km

The bunch haven't started their chase work yet and it allows the two leader to extend the gap to 7:14 after 30km of racing.


Chris Froome is sitting near the front of the peloton, the Team Sky leader looking for a quiet day after yesterday's crash. Despite the fall he finished strongly managed to take a few seconds out of his main GC riders.

 

The race organisers spoke to Froome at the start of the stage this morning. "It wasn't a serious crash yesterday. Luckily it was quite a slow crash. It's definitely not gonna held me back. At the end, I saw Dan Martin sprinting, I thought : 'I have to follow'. I got two seconds there. Maybe my rivals on GC don't like that but I don't think they [Movistar and Tinkoff-Saxo] pulled at the front of the bunch when I was chasing behind after my crash. Nobody told me they did so. There were some attacks to be covered but I don't see any reason why they'd do something bad to me. We're in good terms. I believe they slowed down when I was at the back."

We spoke to Froome at the finish of yesterday's stage.

 

“I’ll definitely take that after a stage like today," Froome said of his final acceleration. "At the end of the race you might need all the seconds you can to defend your place. I'll keep chipping away and get closer to the time trial."

 

You can read the full story, here.

We also spoke to Alberto Contador who is finding his feet in the race after he pulled out of the Tour de France with a broken leg.

 

“It’s s going better than I anticipated, much better, but I'm still cautious,” he said. “I know that only one week of race has the passed, but maybe it was the hardest week for me.”

 

You can find that story, just here.

Some shocking news away from the Vuelta, we're hearing that Igor Decraene has passed away. There are reports in the Belgian and French press coming out this morning of the news.

Decraene was the junior world champion in 2013 and was set to to try and defend that title next month. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

Returning to the Vuelta. After 50km of racing the gap to the two leaders is at 6:30.

There's still a long way to go, with over 150km of racing remaining. There's still no reaction from the sprinters' teams at the moment but that will come sooner rather than later. Orica, Cannondale, FDJ and Giant Shimano expected to control the peloton.

It's actually Garmin-Sharp who are leading the chase from the peloton with the break at six minutes. Garmin have been in the wars in recent days but they've been on the front foot too with Dan Martin and Ryder Hesjedal flying the Argyle flag.

That's more like it. The sprint teams of FDJ and Giant Shimano have moved to the front of the peloton. The pace isn't too high but they're doing just enough to keep the two leaders under control with the gap holding at six minutes.

More transfer news this morning with Matthew Goss, Tyler Farrar and Steve Cummings all possible targets for MTN-Qhubeka.

“Those guys are on the list but we have quite a lot of guys on our list at the moment when it comes to building the stage race and Classics group within the team," Douglas Ryder told Cyclingnews. You can read the full story, here.

Tinkoff continue their quest to sign riders to support Contador by getting out the cheque book to sign Robert Kiserlovski on a two-year deal. He leaves Trek Factory Racing after two seasons at the American squad. He's finished tenth in the Giro d'Italia twice.

We've finished in Albacete a few times and back in 1996 Laurent Jalabert won the stage. His teammate Alex Zulle went on to win the race for the first time but that day in Albacete saw the ONCE team rip the race apart in the cross winds. Teams and riders will need to be on their guard in the final 40km of the race today.

127km remaining from 207km

After 80km of racing the gap is holding at six minutes, or just a shade over. The two leaders continue to share the pace as they head towards into the second half of the stage and it's still FDJ and Giant on the front of the peloton.

Thor Hushovd has ruled himself out of the Worlds. More to come on that shortly. This if of course his final season in the pro rank before he hangs up his wheels.

As the peloton wave goodbye to Andalucia, there's a brief mechanical for race contender Alberto Contador but he's quickly back with the bunch and near the front of the race.

For the first time in over an hour of racing the gap has dropped under five minutes with the two leaders starting to slow. The gap is at 4:32 after 114km of action.

The first intermediate sprint is coming up in the next 15km. Here's where we stand in the points competition:

 

1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 72 pts
2 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 51
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr 49
4 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp 42
5 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 38
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 32
7 Joaquím Rodríguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 32
8 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 31
9 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) IAM Cycling 28
10 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing 28

At the first sprint it's Favillia who rolls over the line first. Degenkolb leads the peloton over 3:58 down on the break.

A few more of the GC riders and their teams are moving towards the front of the peloton. We're closing in on the final 50km of the stage and some cross-winds are expected later in the stage.

It's currently 2-1 in Degenkolb's battle with Bouhanni. Today's finish perhaps favours the French rider though as it's flatter and less technical than the German might like.

57km remaining from 207km

57km to go and the gap is at 2:05 so it's really come down in the last 15km of racing. It's FDJ and Team Sky on the front at the moment. Movistar and Tinkoff are also close by.

The pace has increased in the last few minutes as more and more teams prepare for the last hour or so of racing. The two leaders are plugging away but it's a huge struggle for them to even keep their two minute gap. In fact it's down to 1:54.

Trek have come to the front as well, with Cancellara helping to lead Arredondo up to the first 20 places or so.

The two leaders are coming up to the second sprint of the day as Giant move up to the front of the peloton with Craddock on the front.

Ryder Hesjedal, who crashed yesterday, is back with the Garmin car and is talking to Bingen Fernandez. Meanwhile the two leaders have just 1;11 over the bunch.

The more open part of the route where dangers of crosswinds starts in a couple of kilometers, Spanish radio reports, and the most dangerous part is from 31 kms to the finish.

42km remaining from 207km

42km to go and the break have just 15 seconds.

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And with 40.5km to go it's all over for the break.

And it's Sky who have jumped to the front with Froome neatly tucked in behind Kennaugh. Almost the entire team are leading the race now.

Caja Rural are trying to get into the mix as well as Tinkoff, and Orica also look to move up. The race leader is sitting a little further back at the moment.

It's Deignan who is on the front of the peloton, setting the pace for Froome as a number of riders start to struggle at the back of the bunch.

Now it's Kennaugh who takes to the front with a real injection of pace. They're about to hit the cross-winds section as the bunch lines out.

A slight chance of an echelon forming near the front but there needs to be a bit more pressure on the front and now Belkin, Trek and Tinkoff take over.

The big men like Cancellara and Boonen are doing the damage but so far the bunch have stayed as one but only just.

Boonen makes the rest of the field move over to the other side and now the bunch splits to pieces. Riders are all over the road.

They all knew that this was coming, there's no excuse if you're a GC guy missing out on this lead group. Evans, Quintana, we can see them near the front. Contador and Valverde are also there. Froome too. And we have 24km to go.

Arredondo has missed the split, we see him at the back of the second group.

Degenkolb with a number of teammates, and Sagan have made the front group as well.

17km remaining from 207km

Just 17km to go and the gap to the first group is around 20 seconds. We think all the main GC guys have made the split.

The front two groups seem to have merged now and there are roughly 50 riders in the lead group. It's Tinkoff now who set the pace but the wind isn't as strong as some were expecting.

BMC have also committed their men to the front with Evans, and Gilbert in the lead group.

And now BMC have split that lead group. Contador is there Sagan is there. Froome should be there, Sky are working, as if he is.

Contador has a man on the front and this move is really dangerous because it's split the lead group. Degenkolb has been caught out.

And Quintana and Dan Martin, and Uran are in this second group. Twenty riders, if that, are clear and this is really going to change the race if it sticks. Valverde, Boonen are in the lead group.

Giant are chasing with two men, the gap is at 15 seconds. Degenkolb has one man left. And Quintana is in in real trouble with 7km to go.

Matthews and Sagan are in the lead group. The gap is now starting to come down though. It's coming back together.

BMC are still setting a furious pace on the front with Tinkoff and Sky just behind them. The gap is at four seconds.

And it's gone back out to 10 seconds with 5.6km to go.

Quintana owes Giant big time because they've brought it back together.

4km remaining from 207km

Sagan, Matthews, Degenkolb, and Bouhanni are all here as Sky take it up again.

But now it's Omega on the front as they try and set up Boonen for the sprint with 2.6km to go.

2km remaining from 207km

Inside the final 2000m with Contador second in line as they take on a technical section.

Sagan has taken to Matthews' rear wheel as Orica lead the race into the final turn with 800m to go.

Omega now lead as Bouhanni and Matthews sit back. Degenkolb is forced to accelerate just to get into the mix.

Bouhanni opens up his sprint first and Degenkolb and Matthews try and get on his wheel.

The German is out of it though. He's not coming back. Bouhanni leads.

And Bouhanni takes it from Matthews.

Bouhanni's early move pays off. He opened up a gap and only Matthews could get close to him by the line. That's the Frenchman's second stage of the race.

1 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr 4:29:00
2 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
4 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano
5 Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Belisol
6 Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
7 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka
8 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida
9 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
10 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing

General classification after stage 8
1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 31:21:20
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 0:00:20
5 Johan 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

Some talk at the finish about Bouhanni's final push for the line. He certainly came closer to Matthews but there hasn't been a protest, it seems.

The result certainly stands. You can find our results, report and photos, right here.

Thanks for joining us today. We'll be back tomorrow for more live coverage from the Vuelta.

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