Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 7 of the 2015 Vuelta a España. The 191.1 kilometre route from Jódar to La Alpujarra culminates with the race's first proper mountaintop finish at the Alto de Capileira.
Stage 6 report
Good morning/afternoon/evening (delete as appropriate, depending on where you are in the world). Today is a big day on the 2015 Vuelta a España – we have our first summit finish of the race. Admittedly, we’ve already had short, punchy finishing climbs but today’s stage culminates with a first proper mountaintop finish on the first-category Alto de Capileira. It's sure to force the GC men to show their hands.
We're with you for the entirety of today's stage. The riders are currently rolling through the neutral zone in Jódar and the race proper is set to begin in 5-10 minutes' time.
Here's what's on the menu
Here's how the General Classification looks after six stages
1 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge 21:55:13
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:10
3 Daniel Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:33
4 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky 0:00:36
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:49
6 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:51
7 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:55
8 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:56
9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:57
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:01:08
And they're off! The flag has dropped and the stage has begun. There are 189 riders out there, so no abandons after stage 6.
Vasil Kiriyenka (Sky) and Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) provide more proof that crashes can and do still happen in the neutralised zone. It doesn't appear that either has been affected in any way by the tumble.
A climb in two parts, with constant switchbacks, dusty roads and blazing sunshine
Wondering what's in store on this first proper summit finish of the 2015 Vuelta? Alasdair Fotheringham has written this excellent preview, which sets out everything you need to know about the Alto de Capileira. Have a read of it here:
The early kilometres have been fast and without luck for breakaway hopefuls but now we have a group of seven looking to move clear. Will they be able to establish a lead?
Four more riders bridge across to the original seven and a group of 11 has now formed. We'll wait and see if the peloton is happy with its make-up and content to let them off the leash.
Nope, Movistar were having none of that. All together and back to square one.
179km remaining from 191km
Another move now and we have five riders trying their luck. It looks like this one could be successful as they have opened up a decent gap on the peloton.
The riders are: Carlos Quintero (Colombia), Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), Ilia Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida), Bert Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Antoine Cousin (Europcar).
This looks very much like our break of the day. The quintet has an ever-growing lead of over two minutes on the bunch behind after 16 kilometres of racing.
The breakaway now has a lead of 4:20, and that's only going to increase. It doesn't look like we'll have anyone bridging across now so it's these five in it for the long haul.
Nibali plots alternative route to Worlds and Tour of Lombardy
Vincenzo Nibali caused quite a stir when he took that blatant tow from a team car on stage 2. His disqualification from the race has meant that he can't return to action elsewhere before the end of the Vuelta on September 13. Barry Ryan has this report on Nibali's next steps as he looks ahead to the Worlds and Lombardy.
It's another baking day in the Andalucían furnace under the midday sun. The breakaway riders are sweating out front but the riders in the bunch are quite happy to take it easy for now, with the gap pushing towards the seven-minute mark.
Over eight minutes the gap now. Jérôme Cousin is the best-placed of the breakaway men GC-wise, 14:06 in arrears. No real cause for concern yet for Orica-GreenEdge, who are protecting the red leader's jersey on the shoulders of Esteban Chaves.
The riders are taking on the first real incline of the day. There are undulating roads up ahead en route to the first categorised climb of the day, the third-cat Puerto de Blancares, which crests just before the half-way point.
Trek Factory Racing have been busy in the transfer market. Their latest acquisition is Peter Stetina (BMC), who has had a difficult season with injury. Read the full story using the link below.
153km remaining from 191km
38 kilometres in and the gap between the peloton and the breakaway appears to be stabilising. It currently stands at 8:45, with Orica-GreenEdge now exerting some control on the front of the bunch.
The riders covered a total of 38.1 kilometres in the first hour of racing.
As the breakaway's lead goes out to over nine minutes, the peloton are in for a relatively relaxed ride to the foot of the final climb of the day - the Alto de Capileira. It has never featured before in the Vuelta and is found in a pocket of the Sierra Nevada - Las Alpujarras - rarely visited by the race. Has anyone out there ever been to this part of Spain? Or ridden it by bike even? If so, get in touch and tell us what it's like - find me on Twitter @paddyfletch
“I am not only a body nor only a mind. The mind is part of the body. And the body thinks...”
Now, what exactly that means is anyone's guess, but it's the kind of thing that goes through the head of Guillaume Martin, the latest stage winner at the Tour de l'Avenir. The Frenchman completed a Masters in Philosophy in June and is somewhat of an intellectual looking to launch a career as a pro cyclist.
Pierre Carrey is at the Tour de l'Av for Cyclingnews and brings us the fascinating story, which you can read right here.
Marcel Aregger (IAM) drops back to the medical car for some attention but it's a lazy day out there for the most part. The five riders out front have a lead of nearly 10 minutes now.
Things have eased again in the bunch, with the gap now going out further over 10 minutes. The break would obviously need a substantial lead going onto the final climb if they are to contest for stage honours, but the relaxed attitude of the bunch is a positive for them at this point.
@VeloVoices Fri, 28th Aug 2015 12:39:30
Still over 100km remaining in the stage, 118 to be exact, with the peloton willing to let the break push their advantage out to 10:37.
Still no sign from Orica GreenEdge on the front despite the fact that they hold the leader's jersey. They're still willing to led the break move further ahead.
The break are now climbing the first ascent of the stage, the puerto de los Blancares, a third category climb.
Txurruka, who moves to Orica GreenEdge in 2016, is first over the top of the climb. The gap back to the peloton is at 10:37.
The gap goes out to over 12 minutes! The riders are still on a lengthy downhill stretch
Chris Froome has been quiet so far in the Vuelta but today's final climb should force him out of his shell to show us what kind of shape he's in. Here's what Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford had to say on his charges.
"We have still not arrived at the heart of the GC battle but you can never underestimate an 18-kilometre climb. It's a big test for the GC men because it's a different type of effort. Chris [Froome] has been good since the start of the race. Now we have to see how he finds it on a long climb like this. Nicolas Roche has worked really well in the Tour and also is doing a great first week here at the Vuelta. He and Mikel Nieve will be important in the mountains. They can always be back-up options. We have to use that numerical weapon."
@SadhbhOS Fri, 28th Aug 2015 13:27:34
The temperature has been rising all day and it has now pushed above 35 degrees Celsius as the riders head towards Granada. 13 minutes for the break now with the bunch showing no signs of forming a dedicated chase.
Dan Martin signs for Etixx-QuickStep
As mentioned in the tweet below, Etixx-QuickStep have confirmed the signing of Dan Martin from Cannondale-Garmin. We have the story right here.
Tom Dumoulin seeks the services of the medical car - not entirely sure what the issue is. The Dutchman is second on GC, 10 seconds behind Chaves.
The riders are passing through Granada, an amazing city where Spain's Moorish heritage looms large. Small cobbled lanes lined with Arabian tea houses are juxtaposed with modern streets and Christian churches, with the famous Alhambra palace an imposing presence on the hillside.
The road now starts to rise gently once again as the riders turn south and skirt around the Western edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The gap currently stands at 13:10.
What do you make of Dan Martin's move to Etixx-QuickStep? Will it allow him to fulfil his potential - be it in Grand Tours or one-day races? Let us know your thoughts via Twitter @paddyfletch
Astana start to take a share of the workload now and the leaders see a minute shaved off their advantage.
Speaking of Astana, here's what manager Giuseppe Martinelli had to say about the team's chances and the two GC riders they have left in the race.
"Today is the first proper climb and we will see the strongest riders come to the fore. Chaves, the strongest for now, Froome, Valverde, and Aru. Aru is good but still needs a few days to find his rhythm. Lana's looking ok. Since the Vuelta a Burgos he has not been competitive, or at least at the level of the Giro. Tonight he will know what he can expect from this Vuelta."
57km remaining from 191km
The breakaway will be cursing Astana, whose continued presence on the front of the bunch has slashed another minute off their lead in a pretty short space of time. It was looking like the leaders would go on to contest stage honours but now it hangs in the balance once more with the gap at 11 minutes.
The front of the peloton resembles a single-file string of riders, with a lone Astana man on the front and five Sky riders right behind. Lots are taking on food and drink but they are pushing on nonetheless and they are less than 10 minutes away from the five leaders.
According to the Katusha Twitter account, the road at the very top of the final climb has been resurfaced and is no longer a dirt track.
40km remaining from 191km
The leaders are currently tucked over their bikes, enjoying a stretch of downhill road. A reminder of the day's profile - they're on the descent that precedes the rise to the intermediate sprint.
Movistar do their bit now and hit the front of the peloton. The gap is falling, but slowly. 9:45 at the moment.
As you can see from that stage profile, the final climb officially starts after 172.4 kilometres. That would make it 18.7km long but the road actually rises for a few kilometres before that. It's a long one.
The gap drops under nine minutes. It's falling, with Movistar on the front, but it's hardly tumbling. The breakaway has a real chance here.
Bert-Jan Lindeman sweeps up the points and the 100 or so Euros on offer at the intermediate sprint.
The leaders come through the town of Lanjaón, with sheets of fabric overhead shielding the narrow streets from the blazing Andalucían sun. It's pushing 40 degrees out there - as Peter Sagan said yesterday, you go back to the team car for water and you come back with tea.
Most of the GC riders and teams have been more than content to save themselves for most of the day but Movistar are showing a real interest here. The gap is nearly down at seven minutes.
Katusha join Movistar on the front. They have a couple of cards to play in Joaquim Rodríguez and Dani Moreno.
The leaders enjoy one final stretch of downhill before the pain commences and the road kicks up for the final climb to the Alto de Capileira.
In case you've missed it, we have a piece of essential reading from Alasdair Fotheringham on the Alto de Capileira. The climb is making its debut in the Vuelta and Alasdair gives the lowdown on what to expect.
19km remaining from 191km
Here we go then. The leaders are climbing and have a lead of six minutes.
The road starts to kick up too for the peloton now as the quintet up ahead start the final climb proper. The gap is under 5:30.
A reminder of what we're dealing with here:
Movistar still driving things in the peloton as the gap falls below five minutes. Alejandro Valverde is very familiar with this part of the world, having often used the Sierra Nevada as a training base.
Now would seem like a good moment to have some predictions. Will the break stay away? Who will be the big GC winner/loser? Send in your thoughts via Twitter to @paddyfletch
The breakaway riders are still together and cooperating but Movistar are really drilling this back in the peloton. It had looked very promising for the break but now it's increasingly touch-and-go. The gap is down at 4 minutes.
12km remaining from 191km
Lots of riders being dropped from the peloton now. Up front the leaders take bottles from their team cars. They've obviously been given the green light to do so given the heat, as normally that's not allowed in the final 20km.
The pace on the front of the bunch has knocked off slightly but now Astana come to the front to rectify that. Crucial kilometres for the break's chances.
Txurruka is awarded the combativity award for the day. He'd probably be the favourite for the stage win should the peloton be kept at bay.
The peloton is currently on the flat section of this climb, traversing around the side of the mountain before the road kicks up again for the steeper sections of the latter portion of the Alto de Capileira.
The road starts to rise again up towards the clusters of whitewashed buildings that make up these mountain villages. There are hairpins aplenty now.
As the gradients become more severe, things start to fray in the lead group. Cousin looks freshest and is kicking on, while Lindeman looks to be in some trouble.
6km remaining from 191km
And Cousin attacks!
Astana are showing a real interest here. They're stepping on it and the gap is now under 2:30. Still touch and go.
Cousin is pegged back but his move seems to have done enough to dislodge Quintero.
Dario Cataldo swings off and almost comes to a standstill as Luis León Sánchez takes it up for Astana. Froome is a few places back with a look of concentration on his face.
Koshevoy attacks from the break now but his move is closed down.
Koshevoy goes again, and Cousin and Txurruka look at each other, neither willing to chase for now.
One Astana man still on the front of the bunch. It has thinned considerably but there have been no fireworks as yet among the overall favourites. Chaves is safely in there and looks comfortable.
Cousin bridges over to Koshevoy.
2km remaining from 191km
This is looking good for the leading duo, who still have over two minutes with under 3km to go. They'll have to keep pushing on, though, and can't start looking at each other too early.
Lindeman manages to get back up to the two leaders, who are showing signs of fatigue.
Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front now while the leaders up ahead hit the steepest part of the climb, with gradients of 14%.
1km remaining from 191km
Cousin goes! Lindeman then looks at Koshevoy and goes himself. The less look tired for all three of them.
Lindeman gets up to Cousin and they have 1:25 going under the flame rouge. It's looking good for one of them.
Dan Martin attacks the bunch.
Chris Froome has been dropped!
Aru attacks now from the bunch. Froome in real trouble out the back.
Koshevoy joins the leaders once more and the trio has just under a minute going into the final 600 metres.
Searing injection of pace from Aru! He's alone off the front of the bunch.
Chaves, Valverde and Meintjes leads the bunch in pursuit of Aru.
Lindeman strikes out for stage glory! And he takes it!
Aru passes Cousin and comes across the line, followed a few seconds back by Rafal Majka and the rest of the bunch.
Froome crosses the line now but he has lost about half a minute on Aru.
Chaves finished safely with the group seven seconds behind Aru to hold onto his red jersey.
Koshevoy was second there, with Aru taking third on the day and with it four bonus seconds.
The reason for Aru taking third was that Cousin was halted by a motorbike, who seemed to touch his back wheel in the final couple of hundred metres, going by the replays. That's gutting for the Frenchman as he could have been in contention for the stage win.
Here's the top 10 on the stage:
1 Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 05:10:24
2 Ilia Koshevoy (Blr) Lampre-Merida 00:00:09
3 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana 00:00:29
4 Jerome Cousin (Fra) Europcar 00:00:34
5 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 00:00:36
6 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge
7 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
9 Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN-Qhubeka
10 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky
Here's how the GC now looks:
1 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge 27:06:13
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin 00:00:10
3 Dan Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin 00:00:33
4 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky 00:00:36
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar 00:00:49
6 Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha 00:00:56
7 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar 00:00:57
8 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana
9 Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha 00:01:18
10 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale 00:01:19
Here's what Bert-Jan Lindeman had to say after the stage:
"With the finish uphill, there were lots of general classification guys, Ilia [Koshevoy] was very strong, I’m very happy I could make the victory.
[Is it the most important in your career?] "Yes I think so, it’s really, really special. In the beginning of the season we [LottoNL-Jumbo] had lots of bad luck with the guys. But we still fight, every race is important, now we have the victory and that’s really nice."
Froome now sits 1:22 back on Chaves on GC. Another big loser was Tejay van Garderen who was one and a half minutes down on the stage winner today.
How good did Aru look today? That seems to have sorted the Astana leadership issue. Not a huge time gain for the Italian but a statement of intent nonetheless.
Here's our stage report for you. A full report with a full photo gallery is on the way too.
Vuelta a Espana: Lindeman wins stage 7
Here's what Mikel Landa had to say after the stage and after the attack of his teammate Fabio Aru:
“We just tried to be in the peloton but then we heard what was happening behind us [Froome in trouble] and so Aru attacked to take a step forward on GC. We didn’t want to risk anything, we didn’t think anyone would try to attack, we were trying to recover but in the end we went for it.”
Rafal Majka was the man who tried to chase down Aru. Here's his take on the day:
“When I feel good I want to win. My teammates were working, Jesper [Hansen] is good and pushed a really hard tempo. Then on the last two kilometres I was a little bit asleep when Aru attacked. Afterwards I tried to attack and catch him. I lost a few seconds but not too much. It’s a long Vuelta, I feel good, I have a really strong team here, they support me 100 per cent. In the last week we will see who is more strong."
Esteban Chaves kept hold of his race lead. Here's his reaction:
"Today finished with 20km of climbing. Again I want say the team is unbelievable, they stayed with me all stage. You saw in the final, Cameron is up there for the last 45 kilometers. This guy is unbelievable. The whole team worked really well, they saved me from the wind, got me drinks. I’m really happy. Another day with the red jersey and every day with this jersey is an important day.
"It’s a big responsibility, but I have a really good team, these guys have great experience, they tell me really important things. It’s a big responsibility but we have worked really hard here."
That's it for our live coverage today. Make sure you keep and eye on Cyclingnews.com for all the latest coming in from Spain. We'll leave you with this cracking shot of Lindeman celebrating his victory. Thanks for joining and see you again tomorrow for more of the same.
Vuelta a España: Lindeman wins stage 7
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