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Vuelta a España 2015: Stage 19

Live coverage of stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana, 185.8 kilometres from Medina del Campo to Ávila.

Hoi hoi. With just three stages remaining, excitement is growing in the Netherlands as Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) is on the brink of becoming the first Dutch Grand Tour winner since Joop Zoetemelk landed the Tour de France back in 1980. Dumoulin dealt coolly with Fabio Aru's attacks yesterday but he needed to - he has precious little in the way of breathing room, with just a three-second lead at the top of the general classification.

Today Dumoulin faces another robust test over the rugged surrounds of Avila, and he is sure to face another onslaught from the Astana squad this afternoon. There are just two categorised climbs, the Alto de Valdavia (category 3) and the Alto La Paramera (category 2) but there is scarcely a metre of flat all day long, and the road climbs again in the final two kilometres towards a familiar finale in Avila.

150km remaining from 185km

As we pick up the action after almost an hour of racing, a break of 24 riders has a lead of some 12:10 over the main peloton. The best-placed rider, David Arroyo (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), is more than half an hour down, so Giant-Alpecin are happy to grant them some freedom.

The full list of escapees is as follows: Christian Knees (Sky), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Amael Moinard (BMC), David Arroyo, Ricardo Vilela (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Fabio Duarte, Leonardo Duque, Juan Pablo Valencia (Team Colombia), Maxime Bouet (Etixx-Quick Step), Mickael Delage (FDJ), Jerome Coppel (IAM Cycling) Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida), Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal), Andrei Amador, Fran Ventoso (Movistar), Natnael Berhane (MTN-Qhubeka), Ben King (Cannondale-Garmin), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Tiago Machado, Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Markel Irizar (Trek).

145km remaining from 185km

The break went clear after just five kilometres and, satisfied that there was no Astana rider in the move, Giant-Alpecin were happy to allow them forge clear. They covered a little over 40 kilometres in the first hour of racing as they stretched their advantage out beyond the 12-minute mark.

The general classification picture was as follows at the start of today's stage:

1 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 73:45:13
2 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:03
3 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:01:15
4 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:02:22
5 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:02:53
6 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:15
7 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:03:30
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:03:46
9 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky 0:04:10
10 Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka 0:06:51

135km remaining from 185km

Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) was a non-starter today. 161 riders remain in the Vuelta as the race enters its final weekend.

As this year's Vuelta draws to a close, we can already cast one eye forward to next year's edition of the race, which director Javier Guillen confirmed this morning will start in Galicia, most likely with a team time trial - "all on tarmac," he stressed - on August 20. Alasdair Fotheringham has the full story here.

127km remaining from 185km

Our 24-man leading group rattles through Hernansancho with a lead of some 13:30 over the main peloton. They will fancy their odds of staying clear and fighting out the stage victory among themselves.

A visit from the Vuelta a Espana to Avila inevitably evokes memories of the late Frank Vandenbroucke's startling

, his second stage win of the event. Daniel Friebe

of the unusual circumstances surrounding Vandenbroucke's victory for Cyclingnews last year.

115km remaining from 185km

Although the break has been racing on what feels like an interminable and rather false flat since the start of today's stage, their average speed thus far is a very brisk 47kph. They remain 13:22 clear of the peloton.

113km remaining from 185km

A crash in the peloton, and both Tom Dumoulin and Fabio Aru are among those involved. Each man is quickly back on his bike, though Aru calls for assistance from the race doctor's car.

Salvatore Puccio (Sky) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) were also caught up in that crash, but they, too, have remounted and rejoined the peloton. The break's lead, meanwhile, has nudged out towards 14 minutes.

105km remaining from 185km

The confusion that followed that crash - particularly given the involvement of the top two on GC - has tempered the pace in the peloton somewhat. The deficit to the break has since yawned out to more than a quarter of an hour.

99km remaining from 185km

The 24 escapees has flashed through the finish line in Avila for the first time this afternoon. There is a sense that the stage starts in earnest here. They will hit the base of the 13km Alto de Valdavia shortly and will also tackle the 8.7km Alto de la Paramera before returning to Avila for the finish.

It seems that Fabio Aru made two visits back to the race doctor's car following the crash but as yet we have no further information on the extent of the Sardinian's injuries, though he is currently in the main peloton.

Aru's teammate Alessandro Vanotti was also involved in the crash and the Italian has only now regained contact with the rear of the peloton.

Our man in Spain Alasdair Fotheringham is at the finish line in Avila and he reports that both Aru and Dumoulin were safely towards the head of the bunch with their teammates as it passed through. Assessing the state of their injuries or otherwise as they speed past at 50kph is nigh on impossible, of course, but at a glance, it appears that neither man was especially bloodied or battered by the fall - though that is not to say that they haven't been affected by the incident. The Valdavia and Paramera will tell us more.

89km remaining from 185km

The 24 escapees, meanwhile, are on the climb of the Valdavia, still with a lead of 15 minutes over a peloton that is being led by Giant-Alpecin. Aru and his Astana guard are grouped just behind them.

Giant-Alpecin maintain a brisk tempo at the head of the peloton on the lower slopes of the climb. It will be fascinating to see if Astana look to follow a similar template to yesterday and take over the reins in the final two hours of racing, or if Dumoulin's apparent ease yesterday will have prompted a rethink in their strategy.

79km remaining from 185km

Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep) leads the break over the Valdavia, ahead of Christian Knees (Sky) and Ricardo Vilela (Caja Rural-RGA Seguros). Their lead stands at almost 16 minutes.

72km remaining from 185km

The ascent of the Valdavia hasn't produced any particular frissons in the main peloton, which is still some 16 minutes down on the large breakaway group. The race now descends to El Tiemblo, before kicking up again towards the intermediate sprint at El Barraco and the climb of the Paramera immediately afterwards.

For anyone weaned on the Vueltas of the late 1990s, El Barraco will forever be synonymous with the late José María Jiménez, who died tragically in 2003. In 1997, El Chava delighted his home fans by going on the offensive on the Paramera in the company of Pascal Richard, though Laurent Jalabert would ultimately win the stage. No matter, Jimenez had won the previous day in Los Angeles de San Rafael and - if memory serves - marked the occasion by wearing an Atletico Madrid jersey on the podium.

 

65km remaining from 185km

The break's lead drops slightly to fifteen minutes, though with so many teams represented, there is precious little motivation in the peloton to peg them back.

60km remaining from 185km

Giant-Alpecin continue to set the tempo at the head of the peloton on the heavy roads in the hinterland of Avila. Aru remains surrounded by Astana teammates near the front, where there are also delegations from Movistar, Katusha and Sky.

Dumoulin described yesterday's stage as a major confidence boost. "I know that Astana's strategy is to isolate me and get me out of the red jersey," he said afterwards. "But I know if I stay on Aru's wheel, then they cannot do anything."

50km remaining from 185km

Rather than simply following Aru today, Dumoulin may even feel minded to put in an attack of his own on the cobbled climb towards the finish in Avila this afternoon.

48km remaining from 185km

The break's lead continues to flit between the 15 and 16-minute mark. Our stage winner will certainly come from the 24 men out in front.

45km remaining from 185km

The break has raced the base of the descent off the Valdavia and is beginning to climb once again towards the intermediate sprint at El Barraco.

42km remaining from 185km

Tiago Machado (Katusha) has clipped off the front of the break and opened a small gap. The Portuguese will be aware that the group will start to fragment on the Paramera, and so he has opted to get his retaliation in first.

Machado isn't waiting for reinforcements. He presses on alone and stretches his lead over the rest of the break to 30 seconds. The bunch trails a further 15 minutes back.

37km remaining from 185km

Machado's move has fractured the unity of the break. Markel Irizar (Trek) sets off in pursuit alone, while Ben King (Cannondale-Garmin) and Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) orchestrate a chasing group a little further back.

King, Lemoine, Monfort and Vorganov are all in the chasing group, 32 seconds behind Machado. The bunch is at 16:25.

34km remaining from 185km

The peloton is fully ten kilometres behind Machado on the road. Giant-Alpecin remain in front on a short stretch of uphill cobbles, with Lawson Craddock and John Degenkolb prominent.

Away from the Vuelta a Espana, it's been a dramatic day of racing at the Tour of Britain, where stage 6 has just concluded. To find out more, click

.

There is precious little cohesion among the chasers in the break, and Machado remains alone in front, 24 seconds clear.

32km remaining from 185km

Machado is fully committed to his solo effort now. Behind, the remnants of the break continue to fragment and reform without every thrashing out a working a agreement that will help them peg back the Katusha rider.

Markel Irizar, incidentally, was the first man to try to respond to Machado's attack, but his pursuit was thwarted by an untimely puncture.

30km remaining from 185km

And then there were three. Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Leonardo Duque (Colombia) succeed in bridging across to Tiago Machado as they climb towards the intermediate sprint at El Barraco.

Machado, Gougeard and Duque are 30 seconds clear of the rest of the break as they approach El Barraco. There is no such urgency in the main peloton, which is now 17 minutes down, still led by Giant-Alpecin.

28km remaining from 185km

Gougeard leads through the sprint at El Barraco. Even before the climb of the Paramera begins in earnest, Machado is dangling off the back of the leading trio, which is 47 seconds clear of the chasers.

The Alto de la Paramera is 8.7km in length, and though the average gradient is just 4.7%, it will hurt the escapees at this stage in proceedings.

25km remaining from 185km

Back in the main peloton, Dumoulin is tucked in comfortably behind a line of his GIant-Alpecin teammates. As yet, there has been no sign of aggression from Aru or Astana.

Leonardo Duque has been dropped as the climb begins to bite, leaving just two riders in front - Tiago Machado and Alexis Gougeard. They have 40 seconds in hand on the chasers Natnael Berhane (MTN-Qhubeka) and Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal).

23km remaining from 185km

Gougeard and Machado have 40 seconds in hand on Duque, Monfort and Berhane. The peloton trails at 17:35.

22km remaining from 185km

Gougeard pushes clear of Machado with a little over three kilometres to go to the top of the climb. The Frenchman is alone in front, with his erstwhile breakaway companions struggling to organise themselves behind.

Amael Moinard (BMC), Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) and Andrey Amador (Movistar) are the strongest of the chasers, and they have picked up Machado. This quartet is 25 seconds down on Gougeard.

20km remaining from 185km

Gougeard has an advantage of 27 seconds as he enters the final kilometre of the Paramera. The Frenchman's shoulders are rocking in time with his pedal strokes, but he is tapping out a decent rhythm and showing few signs of weakness.

19km remaining from 185km

Gougeard crests the summit alone at the front of the race. Monfort, Moinard, Machado and Amador pass the same point 30 seconds later. The main peloton, meanwhile, is still in a state of detente, some 18 minutes behind.

15km remaining from 185km

Amador, a surprising fourth at the Giro d'Italia in May, has been very much to the fore on the fast descent off the Paramera, and the chasers have closed to within 18 seconds of Gougeard.

The uneasy truce in the main peloton is broken on the way up the Paramera, as Movistar hit the front en masse. Riders are being jettisoned out the back and Esteban Chaves initially appeared to be caught out, but Orica-GreenEdge have marshaled him back to safety towards the front.

11km remaining from 185km

The four chases can see Gougeard dangling just ahead of them, but the Frenchman has no intention of sitting up and waiting. He is committed completely to this solo move.

10km remaining from 185km

Gougeard hits a brief uphill section and stoutly battles to hold onto his 18-second lead.

Amador and Moinard appear the strongmen among the chasers - or at least, they have been the most generous in their efforts. The quartet is still 18 seconds behind Gougeard.

A touch of wheels in the main peloton sees Arnaud Courteille (FDJ) hit the ground, but the overall contenders are all safely at the front. The injection of pace from Movistar has lined out the bunch but so far there has been no attack from among the contenders...

Indeed, Alejandro Valverde breaks the deadlock on the Paramera with a solo attack, but he is quickly brought to heel by a delegation from Tinkoff-Saxo.

5km remaining from 185km

Out in front, meanwhile, Gougeard is defending his lead gamely. He remains 20 seconds clear of Moinard, Amador, Monfort and Machado. The Portuguese, in particular, seems to be a passenger in this chasing group.

Valverde tries again from the main peloton, which is now more of a red jersey group. There are just 20 riders or so in the group, including Dumoulin, Aru and Rodriguez.

4km remaining from 185km

Out in front, Gougeard negotiates a tricky roundabout on the approach to the walled city of Avila. His lead is 30 seconds over the four chasers as he faces into the climb to the line...

3km remaining from 185km

Amador tries desperately to breathe life into the chase effort, but Gougeard is edging ever further away from them.

2km remaining from 185km

The cohesion has ebbed away from the four chasers in the past few kilometres while Gougeard is already within sight of the striking walls of Avila.

2km remaining from 185km

Gougeard begins the cobbled climb into Avila with a lead of 37 seconds over the chasers.

1km remaining from 185km

Gougeard shows no signs of flagging on the cobbled climb and his lead extends to 50 seconds. The Frenchman is surely destined to land stage victory.

1km remaining from 185km

Alexis Gougeard enters the final kilometre with 40 seconds still in hand. The red jersey group, meanwhile, is 17 minutes back and on the descent off the Paramera.

Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) wins stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana in Avila.

Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida) managed to catch and pass the chasers on the cobbled climb, and he crosses the line in second place, 40 seconds down on Gougeard.

Moinard takes the sprint for third place ahead of Amador, Monfort and Machado.

The red jersey group is still out on the road, of course, still some 13.5 kilometres from the finish in Avila. Movistar force the pace on the descent of the Paramera, while Dumoulin stays close to Fabio Aru. It will be a fascinating duel between that pair once they reach the walls of Avila.

Result:

1 Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 4:19:20
2 Nelson Oliveira (Por) Lampre-Merida 0:00:40
3 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:44
4 Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team 0:00:44
5 Tiago Machado (Por) Team Katusha 0:00:44
6 Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team 0:00:44
7 Fabio Duarte (Col) Colombia 0:00:53
8 David Arroyo (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:01:03
9 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Sky 0:01:17
10 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:17

That's the stage result, but there's another race within a race still on the cusp of kicking off. Valverde tried to force a split on this rapid descent but has been brought back. Dumoulin, as ever, stays vigilant and watches Aru closely.

Aru has three teammates for company in this red jersey group, whereas Dumoulin appears to have no support. Astana will surely look to make their numerical advantage count.

9km remaining from 185km

Valverde takes another flyer on the descent, and Diego Rosa (Astana) jumps across to his rear wheel. They have a small gap over the red jersey group. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) will want to snuff this move out.

6km remaining from 185km

Valverde is almost pegged back but the red jersey group is strong out in a long line and gaps are beginning to appear.

Dumoulin does, in fact, have at least one teammate in this red jersey group. Lawson Craddock is trying ti bridge across to Valverde and Rosa.

4km remaining from 185km

Valverde is alone off the front of the red jersey group with a lead of 11 seconds.

A delegation from Tinkoff-Saxo leads the pursuit of Valverde, who looks set to sit and wait for the red jersey group.

3km remaining from 185km

Valverde decides to press on, but his lead is down to just 8 seconds as the ramparts of Avila come into view.

2km remaining from 185km

The red jersey group is hurtling at high speed towards the base of this final climb. Will the cobblestones of Avila shake Dumoulin or Aru loose?

1km remaining from 185km

Valverde is caught at the base of the climb, where two Giant-Alpecin riders set the pace for Tom Dumoulin on the front...

1km remaining from 185km

John Degenkolb and Lawson Craddock set the pace and when they swing over, Tom Dumoulin launches an attack of his own and opens a gap...

1km remaining from 185km

Dani Moreno is the only rider who can hold Dumoulin's wheel, while Aru gives desperate chase behind...

Aru will lose ground, but not much. The Sardinian is limiting his losses well.

Dumoulin cross the line just ahead of Moreno. Aru comes home with Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale), either two or three seconds behind him. We await the verdict of the timekeepers...

In any case, Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) retains the red jersey of race leader and has extended his lead to 5 or 6 seconds over Fabrio Aru (Astana) ahead of tomorrow's tough afternoon in the Sierras around Madrid.

Degenkolb and Craddock did very well indeed to hang on (or perhaps chase back on) over the top of the Paramera, and their assistance in the finale proved crucial. Who knows how valuable these seconds will prove to be when the race reaches Madrid on Sunday...

The provisional general classification states that Tom Dumoulin is now 6 seconds clear of Fabio Aru. That breathing room could prove crucial.

General classification after stage 19:

1 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 78:20:51
2 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:06
3 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:01:24
4 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:02:31
5 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:03:02
6 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:24
7 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:03:39
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:03:46
9 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky 0:04:19
10 Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka 0:07:09

Thanks for joining our live coverage of the Vuelta a Espana this afternoon on Cyclingnews. A full report, results and pictures will follow here, and Alasdair Fotheringham will have all the news and reaction from Avila in due course. And, as ever, we'll be back with more live coverage tomorrow.

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