Welcome to Cyclingnews' live race centre for full coverage of stage 15 of the 2016 Vuelta a España - a short stage to Formigal with a summit finish.
Here we go again. This is a big weekend at the Vuelta and, after yesterday's drama on the Col d'Aubisque, we have another summit finish in store today. Yesterday's punishing route featured four big climbs across 196km, but today's stage is much shorter - 118km - and could lend itself to explosive racing.
Here's what it looks like
The team buses and crowds have gathered in Sabiñanigo and the final riders are just signing on. The roll-out is only around 10 minutes away.
Here's Simon Yates, who had a brilliant ride yesterday. You can read about his display here: Simon Yates climbs to fourth with long-distance attack at Vuelta a España
Did you know: Formigal hosted the Vuelta's first ever summit finish back in 1972.
On that note, just dug this out from the archives. It's Alasdair Fotheringham's piece from the 2013 Vuelta, which also went up Formigal (Warren Barguil won that day and the balance of power started to swing from Nibali to Horner)
RIght, back in the here and now, stage 15 is underway. The riders are just making their way through the neutralised section before racing proper begins. With such a short day in the saddle, it could be action-packed from the get-go.
Here we go then. We reach the KM0 banner and the flag drops. Who'll be the first to attack?
The peloton is strung out but no one has a gap just yet.
Gianluca Brambilla goes clear and there's a string of riders who are keen to jump across.
Brambilla drives once more and this is really splitting up now. There are several small groups on the road.
Froome is caught out momentarily and has to chase back to the peloton with four other riders.
Contador moves to the front of the race now and really ups the pace. Did he hear that Froome was caught behind?
Contador is really piling on the pressure here. It has been clear he's not quite on the same level as Quintana and Froome, so he's going to have to get creative and bold, and this looks to be just that.
Contador drags several riders with him and they've got a gap over the Quintana and Froome group.
Correction: Quintana reacted to the Contador move and is up in that group at the head of the race.
Sky, as was the case yesterday, are forced to chase. We said we could be in for some early action...
Well well well. Froome is 40 seconds behind the Quintana/Contador group.
There's panic in the eyes of the Tour de France champion, and he's constantly in contact with his radio. The problem - he only has two teammates with him. All the others have been caught out and are a minute further back.
Quintana has two teammates in Castroviejo and Fernandez, while Contador has Trofimov and Rovny. Both with the same amount of teammates as Froome.
100km remaining from 118km
Attacks in the Froome group!
It's Movistar who up the pace. That may seem strange, given Quintana is in such a good position, but maybe they sensed that larger group - with Froome's other teammates - drawing closer.
Orica pick it up now in that group. They have Esteban Chaves in third overall and Simon Yates in fourth, so they have an interest in not letting sixth-placed Contador get away.
Valverde attacks! Movistar are loving this, and they're just throwing out punch after punch. Froome's on his own up there and this is turning into a nightmare of a day for him.
There are multiple groups on the road and most of the Sky men are on the front of the large fourth group, 1:45 behind Froome.
The Contador and Quintana break is 1:10 ahead of Froome.
These are the riders in the front group:
Jonathan Castroviejo, Ruben Fernandez and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador, Ivan Rovny and Yuri Trofimov (Tinkoff), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), Fabio Felline (Trek - Segafredo), Matvey Mamykin (Katusha), Gianluca Brambilla and David de la Cruz (Etixx - Quick Step), Davide Formolo and Moreno Moser (Cannondale - Drapac) and Omar Fraile (Dimension Data).
The Froome/Chaves group settles down as David Lopez hits the front once more. 1:19 is the gap now with just over 90km left to race.
Orica and Astana contribute to the chase as another Movistar rider clips off the front. They're keen to keep the pace high here, even if there leader is up the road.
@jeremycwhittle Sun, 4th Sep 2016 13:03:17
So, here's the situation.
14-rider break with Quintana and Contador
Chase group with Froome's teammates
82km remaining from 118km
We've said it before and I'll say it again. Short hilly stages are great.
The parcours is one thing, but you also need riders like Contador who are willing to put it all on the line and make things happen.
Astana take it up in the second group and, with Orica also keen to push on, that represents Froome's best chance at a bit of support here. He has just David Lopez with him in this group.
Contador leads the break as they hit the first climb of the day.
Alto de Petralba (Cat 3): 6.3km at an average gradient of 5%
78km remaining from 118km
Astana are working for Michele Scarponi, who's 9th overall at 5:37.
Onto the upper slopes of the climb and Fraile and Elissonde take off in search of the KOM points. And it's Fraile who takes the maximum haul to move closer to the FDJ rider, who's in the polka-dot jersey.
69km remaining from 118km
This is a fast descent, the wide and straight roads allowing the riders to get aero and pick up speed.
The third group on the road have sat up, so Froome won't be seeing any of his other teammates again today.
A reminder of the profile:
The gap continues to grow here - it's now 2:37. What a stage this is.
@jeremycwhittle Sun, 4th Sep 2016 13:48:17
Quintana takes on some food. He looks focused and determined here. This could be the most important stage of the Vuelta for him. He said he needs more time on Froome ahead of the 37km stage 19 time trial and, after being unable to shake his rival on the Aubisque, this is panning out perfectly at the moment.
58km remaining from 118km
The lead group is on the approach to the second climb of the day.
Alto de Cotefablo (Cat 2): 12.5km at 4.3%
@XylonVE Sun, 4th Sep 2016 13:48:43
55km remaining from 118km
The gap hits the three-minute mark now. Astana continue to work in the chase group
Lopez is dropped as the second group hit the climb, and that means Froome has no teammates with him. Thankfully for the Tour de France champion, Astana are keen to keep up the chase, with Orica also in the same boat.
@irishpeloton Sun, 4th Sep 2016 14:04:44
The gap is holding at around 2:45 on this climb, with plenty of willing riders in the lead group. There are still 50km to go but it looks like Froome will have to produce the ride of his life on the summit finish to keep himself in contention.
Chaves and Yates are down to one teammate in the second group, while Cataldo is in there for Scarponi.
The lead group approach the summit of this second-category climb and Fraile and Elissonde should soon slug it out for the KOM points.
Fraile takes maximum points, while Elissonde goes with him but offers up little resistance. The FDJ rider sees his lead over Fraile in the mountains classification reduced to six points.
40km remaining from 118km
You can see the frustration on Froome's face here. What a terrible - and avoidable - situation he's found himself in.
Damien Howsen pulled off towards the top of that climb, so that leaves Chaves and Yates without teammates. Will Yates be made to work for Chaves on the final climb?
After an injection of pace over the top of that climb, the second group has reduced its deficit to around two minutes.
It's pretty chaotic in the chase group as they take on this descent. Samuel Sanchez leads the way to start with, but the group has split up and that's not good for a chase. Froome is forced to the front but they start looking at each other. They can't afford many moments of disorganisation.
The chase group swells back up on the bottom half of the descent, and Astana hit the front once more, with two riders ahead of Scarponi.
29km remaining from 118km
After that hesitation the gap has gone back out to 2:30
26km remaining from 118km
The leaders are not yet officially on the final climb but the road does rise gently on the approach. The gap continues to rise to 2:40
What can Froome and Chaves salvage on the final climb?
This is just an exercise in damage limitation now. Quintana and Contador both have teammates with them to make the pace on the early slopes.
The lead group is on the stiff incline ahead of the final climb, and they're working pretty nicely here, all coming through to take turns.
Davide Formolo started the day 11th at 6:41 and is keen to push on to maximise his gains.
Rovny and Trofimov are doing the bulk of the work now as Fernandez falls away, leaving Quintana with just the one teammate up there.
21km remaining from 118km
Andrey Zeits takes it up in the second group for Astana. The gap currently stands at 2:15 with just over 20km remaining.
Froome sits in second wheel, head buried in his stem, allowing himself momentary glances up at the road.
@friebos Sun, 4th Sep 2016 14:52:36
17km remaining from 118km
So, we're coming up to the all-important final climb. Here it is:
Alto de Formigal (Cat 1): 14.5km at 4.6%
The first 10 kilometers are pretty straightforward but the final few kilometres are tricky. They're not so much steep as rugged, with lots of changes in road surface and gradient, and it's exposed, too.
A reminder of this archive piece from 2013 on the Vuelta's last visit to Formigal.
14km remaining from 118km
Zeits pulls off after a big turn. He has helped reduce the deficit to two minutes and now the hard work really begins for Froome and Chaves.
We're hearing that the third group on the road is around 25 minutes behind the front of the race. They gave up the chase long ago.
Perhaps the biggest loser there is Leopold Konig, who started the day fifth overall.
Quintana hits the front of the lead group as Moser is distanced. He was doing strong turns for his teammate Formolo.
11km remaining from 118km
Contador and Quintana exchange words as the race leader sends Castroviejo to the front.
This climb is gentle enough for the teammates to continue to set the tempo here. The gradients stiffen towards the top, where we may see Quintana and Contador really go for it.
9km remaining from 118km
Castroviejo, Rovny, and Trofimov are giving it everything here. The gap, however, is coming down, as Luis Leon Sanchez's turn brings the gap down to 1:53.
Castroviejo's day is done - he comes to a near standstill as he pulls off. Trofimov and Rovny also lose contact, so Contador and Quintana are now on their own.
Fraile dropped, the Dimension Data rider paying for his efforts in the break yesterday and today.
Quintana leads the way and dictates the tempo as the riders in the second group start to make digs at each other.
Talanksy, 8th overall, makes a move with a teammate, and Froome is forced to up his pace.
Chaves is up there towards the front of that second group, while Yates is in there but much further back.
5km remaining from 118km
Quintana flicks the elbow but no one is willing to take it up. They know the Colombian is the one with the most to gain, so are quite happy to leave the onus on him for the time being.
The gap moves up to 2:10 as things become disorganised in the chase group. Valverde finds himself on the front but is understandably in no hurry. Froome, ever-frustrated, realises he needs to move to the front and get things back on track.
It's Froome vs Quintana at the moment essentially. The Colombian is still driving this lead group while Froome is having to do the work in the chase.
Froome pulls off, looking for someone else to take a turn. Valverde says 'ok then' and puts in a stinging acceleration, forcing Froome to get out of the saddle and sprint again. The Sky rider won't appreciate the disruption to his rhythm.
Movistar and their approach to taking on Sky/Froome has become a hot topic in recent years, notably at the Tour de France. They have their foe well and truly on the ropes today.
@TeddyCutler Sun, 4th Sep 2016 15:20:42
3km remaining from 118km
Mamykin is distanced from the lead group and Felline and Formolo are struggling, too.
2km remaining from 118km
Chaves goes on the offensive now in the second group.
Down to three at the head of the race as Quintana, Contador and Brambilla go clear.
Froome is in real trouble now as he finds himself well back in the chase group as lots of riders attack off the front.
Froome's losing time here. All of a sudden Chaves and Valverde and others are 10 seconds up the road. No reaction just yet.
Contador struggles slightly as Quintana injects more pace. The Colombian looks really strong here but Brambilla looks comfortable too. The Etixx man could be a good shout to nick the stage win here, with Quintana having done all of the work on the climb so far.
1km remaining from 118km
Froome is losing 30 seconds here to the rest of the chase group. This is going from bad to worse. He's 2:30 behind Quintana as it stands.
1km remaining from 118km
Flamme rouge! Quintana still leads, Brambilla in the wheel. Contador is 20 seconds down now.
We can't see exactly where Chaves is but he's going to put a fair bit of time into Froome here.
Quintana and Brambilla come in for the final dash to the line.
Gianluca Brambilla wins stage 15 of the Vuelta a España
Quintana in second and he collects six bonus seconds. What a day's work.
Felline comes in third as Contador fades badly in those final kilometres. He was just over half a minute down on Quintana.
Chaves is approaching the line now. What a ride - he's made up quite a bit of time with this attack.
Chaves finishes 1:55 behind Quintana. Here comes Froome.
Froome loses around 2:40 to Quintana
The Sky leader cuts a disconsolate figure as he crosses the line.
Froome is still second overall but now finds himself 3:37 in arrears. Chaves is third but now just 20 seconds back.
1 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step 02:54:30
2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 00:00:03
3 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 00:00:25
4 Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ 00:00:28
5 David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 00:00:31
6 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 00:00:34
7 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac 00:00:53
8 Matvey Mamykin (Rus) Team Katusha 00:01:16
9 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 00:01:53
10 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 00:01:59
General classification after stage 15
1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 61:36:07
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 00:03:37
3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 00:03:57
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 00:04:02
5 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 00:05:07
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 00:06:12
7 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 00:06:43
8 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac 00:07:17
9 David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 00:07:23
10 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 00:07:39
@SadhbhOS Sun, 4th Sep 2016 15:39:44
Vuelta a Espana: Nairo Quintana deals body blow to Froome on stage 15
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