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Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 18

Welcome to our live coverage of stage 18 of the 2016 Vuelta a España, an undulating 200km leg from Requena with a downhill approach to the finish in Gandía. 

 

Vuelta a España race hub on Cyclingnews

Stage 17 report: Frank wins on Mas de la Costa

Podcast: Does Quintana have the Vuelta wrapped up?

Brailsford says Sky haven't thrown in towel on Vuelta victory

 

Hi there, and welcome to Cyclingnews' live race centre for stage 18 of the Vuelta. Some say there are too many uphill finishes in the Vuelta, but after yesterday's hellish Mas de la Costa climb, the peloton can in fact enjoy a downhill finish today. 

 

It's not a GC day, but we should see a battle between the breakaway and anyone hoping for a final bunch sprint before Madrid on Sunday. 

Stage profile

The team buses and riders have gathered in the start town of Requena, some 60km west of Valencia, and we're just going through the pre-stage motions, with sign-on, selfies, and the like. 

 

The riders should roll out at 12.40pm local time, with racing proper to begin some 10 minutes later. 

 

It's another hot one...

 

 

Before we get going, time to familiarise yourself with what happened yesterday. Report, results, photos, highlights - it's all in here:

 

Stage 17: Frank wins on Mas de la Costa

 

 

That stage saw Quintana, Froome, Chaves and Contador emerge together as the strongest GC riders. Here's how it stands:

 

General Classification after stage 17

1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 69:35:32
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:03:37
3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 0:03:57
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 0:04:02
5 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 0:06:03
6 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 0:07:34
7 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:08:12
8 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac 0:08:13
9 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:08:28
10 David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:08:52

 

They're off

 

In what is a pretty punctual start to proceedings by the Vuelta's standards, the peloton is on its way out of Requena. 

 

The stage profile would suggest this is a day for the sprinters but this Vuelta has been a happy hunting ground for the breakaway men. With the bulk of the world's top fastmen absent, will there be sufficient interest in, and commitment to, bringing this one back together for a bunch kick?

Terpstra has created a internal points competition to help motivate himself and his teammates. Seems to work #LV2016 https://t.co/LlD4UEcSs9

@SadhbhOS Thu, 8th Sep 2016 10:47:40

A couple of punctures in the neutral zone cause a slight delay but the flag is set to drop imminently. 

And they're off!

 

Let the attacks commence...

 

Once again, the peloton strings out in what is a zippy start to proceedings. 

 

Lots of movement in the early portion of this stage, and we have a five-rider group with a small gap at the head of the race. 

It's Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek-Segafredo), Quentin Jaurégui (AG2R-La Mondiale), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac), Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida), and Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal), who has just bridged across. 

 

192km remaining from 200km

The quintet has 30 seconds and it's growing out, so this could be our break of the day. 

After a brief hesitation, the peloton eases up, happy to let these riders disappear into the distance. The gap is nearly up at four minutes and should continue to grow. 

We've seen some pretty sizeable breakaways in this Vuelta - there were 28 in yesterday's - but five is a manageable number for those who'll be mounting a chase later in the day.

180km remaining from 200km

After 20 kilometres or so, the gap moves out to over 4:30, and Giant-Alpecin move to the front of the peloton to keep an eye on things. 

The GC men will be happy that the break has formed early and without any real complications. They'll all be hoping for as gentle an afternoon as possible with the all-important 37km time trial coming up tomorrow. 

 

Incidentally, Pierre Rolland is the best-placed rider in the break, and he's 1 hour 25 minutes behind Quintana in the overall standings. 

 

Just over 30km covered and the gap reaches the five-minute mark. 

 

Bora-Argon 18 begin to chip in on the front of the peloton

 

There was nothing to separate Quintana, Froome, Chaves and Contador yesterday on Mas de la Costa and there's just the time trial and the summit finish on the penultimate day to alter the GC picture now. We spoke to Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford, who insisted they'll be believing all the way to Madrid. 

 

Brailsford says Sky haven't thrown in towel on Vuelta a España victory

 

Bora-Argon 18 are keen to ensure a bunch sprint here, and they'll have to cards to play should it materialise. 

 

"We will decide in the finale if we play it for Rudiger Selig or Michael Scharzmann," director Enrico Poitschke told the Vuelta's site this morning. 

 

"Selig's second place in Peniscola gave him confidence. He was a bit lost that after a good first year as a pro at Katusha having worked a lot in this team and being barred for the sprints by Alexander Kristoff."

A shot of the peloton, and you can see by the way it's strung out that they're not just rolling along. 

 

 

150km remaining from 200km

And they have brought the gap to the break down to 4:30 as we near the 50-kilometre mark. 

It's another hot day out there, though slightly cooler than previous days. The mercury is in the low 30's and there's a gentle breeze blowing. 

 

144km remaining from 200km

3:57 is the new gap as Giant and Bora continue to make inroads.

 

One notable absentee from yesterday's results list was Tejay van Garderen, who abandoned early on. BMC have said it was due to fatigue, and suggested he responded badly to the rest-day - as he has been known to do in the past. Here's the story:

 

Van Garderen abandons the Vuelta a España

 

The gap of the breakaway is already coming down, with more than 140 kilometers left to the finish. #LV2016

@Etixx_QuickStep Thu, 8th Sep 2016 12:25:55

IAM Cycling chip in now, and the gap to the break continues to fall. It's now down at 3:30, and it seems the powers that be in the peloton are keen to play this one pretty safe. 

134km remaining from 200km

The leaders are on the first and only climb of the day.

 

Puerto de Casa del Alto (Cat 2)

13.3km

3.8% average gradient

 

Jonas Van Genechten is the man IAM are working for, and he has already brought them success at this Vuelta with victory on stage 7. 

 

"I hope I will be fine today because yesterday I really struggled to finish the stage," said the Belgian this morning. "I'd love to make it two wins here, I still have two opportunities."

 

The leaders reach the top of the climb, and it's Beppu who takes maximum KOM points - not that they're of any real interest to this quintet. 

 

120km remaining from 200km

The peloton really eased up on that climb and they reach the top some six minutes after the break. 

 

37.3km/h is the average speed after two hours of racing. 

 

112km remaining from 200km

BMC put some riders on the front now but the gap continues to grow out and it's now greater than it has been all day - 7 minutes. 

 

The breakaway is working pretty well here, despite its slightly strange make-up. They're all coming through to take turns, rotating in slick fashion. They're holding the gap at 6:30 now, with the pace pretty high again in the peloton. 

 

106km remaining from 200km

Can the breakaway make it?

 

They're keeping the peloton at bay at the moment, despite the high pace back there in the strung-out bunch. But 106km is a long way, and with full commitment the peloton should be in control. 

101km remaining from 200km

As the peloton goes through the feed zone, the stage is half done. It will be interesting to see who picks up the chase of the break today.

The twisting road is helping the break at the moment, as will the descent. However the sprinters' team will no doubt asses things later on and decided on their final tactics. 

 

Koen De Kort celebrates his 34th birthday at the Vuelta today. He just told Eurosport that Giant-Alpecin will chase the break today because the finish in Gandia is the last chance for the sprinters in this year's Vuelta a Espana.  

 

#LV2016 inside 100km to go and the gap is still over six minutes.

@BMCProTeam Thu, 8th Sep 2016 13:31:07

As the peloton tries to eat into the breakaway;s lead, the riders are lined out. As de Kort promised, the red and black jersey of Giant-Alpecin are on the front.  

 

The riders are passing through huge terraced fields of olive trees. It is classic Vuelta terrain today.

 

The peloton manages to cut the gap on the flat roads but then it goes back out on the climbs as the break digs in and pushes on.

 

It is back up at 5:55 now. 

 

The Movistar and Team Sky squads are lined out behind Giant-Alpecin at the head of the peloton.

 

Brailsford says Sky haven't thrown in towel on Vuelta a Espana victory: https://t.co/qATb1S8nw8 #LV2016 https://t.co/22ng1S1TD4

@Cyclingnewsfeed Thu, 8th Sep 2016 13:45:02

Simon Gerrans (Orica Bike Exchange) spoke briefly to Eurosport before the start, saying the Australian team will save their strength to support GC riders Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves rather than try to win today's stage.

 

"For now were focusing on the classification. It's a hard day on Saturday, so were saving our energy to help Simon and Esteban," he said.

 

 

"We've got good moral. It's been a fantastic Vuelta so far with stage wins and the guys in third and fifth place in the GC."

 

85km remaining from 200km

The Giant-Alpecin seems to have given up the chase of the break. They spoke to their team car via radio and then eased off the pace. 

 

They seemed unhappy that the other sprint teams such as Etixx, didn't help with the chase.

 

The Movistar is back on the front, leading the pace but they do not have the same hunger for a stage win as the sprinters' teams. 

 

The stage is passing through the exposed, rolling roads of the inlands of Valencia, with a head wind also a factor today. 

 

The head wind is why Giant-Alpecin called for help and now Etixx has sent up three riders and so the pace is increasing. 

 

The road is a black strip cutting through the barren wheat fields. The asphalt is brand new, making for a very smooth surface.

 

75km remaining from 200km

The Fontanars dels Alforins climb is not categorised but has helped the break push out their lead to 6:30. 

 

The five are really going for it and trying to crack the chase behind. 

 

70km remaining from 200km

Etixx-QuickStep continue on the front of the bunch, working for two-time stage winner Meersman. Giant are showing a little renewed interest behind them. With just over 70km remaining, the gap is just over 6 minutes. 

It's getting pretty windy out there and it's quite exposed as the riders head east and out to towards the coast. The peloton is strung out into a long line and there were a few riders who had to chase back onto the back there. 

Froome was dropped again by his main rivals yesterday on Mas de la Costa but, once again, he clawed his way back. After the stage he spoke about the climb, the GC battle, and his style. 

 

Vuelta a España: Tenacious Froome locks onto GC train on Mas de la Costa

 

 

BMC and Di Data put a couple of men on the front, so we now have representatives from five different teams - Giant, Etixx, and Bora are still up there - contributing to this chase. As a result the gap falls to 4:45.

 

54km remaining from 200km

54 kilometres to go now and the gap continues to fall. It seems the peloton are on course to close this down. 

Vervaeke takes the break through the intermediate sprint point, which have largely ben an irrelevance at this Vuelta.

Etixx have been a prominent force in the chase in the second half of this stage. 

 

 

47km remaining from 200km

The gap continues to tumble, coming down to 3:30, and Rolland drops back to the team car for a couple of gels and a bit of motivation. 

 

Over at the Tour of Britain, Jack Bauer has just won stage 5 as the breakaway held off the peloton by the skin of their teeth. Dramatic stuff. We'll have the report and reaction from that race shortly. 

38km remaining from 200km

This is only going one way now. 1:30 is the latest time check as the breakaway quintet continue to haemorrhage time.

 

Cattaneo knows this is doomed, and he's in no mood to drag this out for any longer than needed. The Lampre man sits up and drifts back, leaving the four others to get on with it. 

Trivia

 

Gandía hosts today's finish and it's been 24 years since it was last visited by the Vuelta. On that day: Jean-Paul van Poppel, father of Danny and Boy, took victory in a sprint. 

28km remaining from 200km

The remaining four breakaway riders are doing their best to delay the inevitable but on a long straight road the peloton has them in their sights. The gap is down to a minute. 

 

Jauregui gives the break some fresh impetus and accelerates away. Vervaeke responds, while Rolland and Beppu lose ground. 

 

Rolland struggles initially but then Beppu takes a turn and the duo manage to claw their way back to Jauregui and Vervaeke. 

23km remaining from 200km

54 seconds is the gap as Bora, Giant, Di Data, IAM and Etixx rotate smoothly on the front of the bunch.

We spoke to Tyler Farrar this morning, who had some interesting things to say about just how hard this Vuelta has been - he says it's the hardest Grand Tour he's ever done and argues that the organisers have overdone it on the parcours. Read his thoughts here:

 

Farrar: Most of Vuelta a España peloton at a breaking point

 

17km remaining from 200km

The catch is imminent as the road continues to undulate. There's only a few hundred metres between the break and the bunch. 

The peloton bunches up slightly, which would indicate that the pace has eased slightly as they're pretty happy to delay the catch and let these guys dangle out there for a few more kilometres. 

 

13km remaining from 200km

The gap hovers around the 18-second mark, with the leading quartet giving it everything in this futile gesture.

 

11km remaining from 200km

And now the breakaway riders are put out of their misery. All together with 11km to go!

Jauregui makes an effort to be the last rider to be caught, which should land him the combativity prize for the day. All four, however, come to a near standstill as the peloton roars past, barely acknowledging their presence as they shoot out the back. 

 

The pace in the peloton really picks up now

8km remaining from 200km

Into the last 10km and the trains begin to form

 

Astana are prominent here

 

6km remaining from 200km

Still Astana lead as the sprint trains fight for position with the GC men. Froome is up there almost at the front of the bunch.

 

5km remaining from 200km

A few bends stretch the bunch out and positioning is all-important. There's a long straight road now but moving up through the peloton will be expensive. 

 

Movistar are up there, with Quintana second wheel. The GC men just need to reach the 3km to go mark before they know they're safe. 

 

Jan Bakelants goes on the attack

3km remaining from 200km

Bakelants has a small advantage as they enter the final 3km, but Froome and Quintana are still keen to stay up near the front. 

 

Giant hit the font now with four riders in a line

2km remaining from 200km

Farrar has to swerve round a stray bidon and it's full gas now as Trek and IAM look to get involved. 

1300 metres to go and Etixx now gather themselves for two-time stage winner Meersman

 

Bakelants has been caught and now we come into the final km!

Giant lead it out

 

Drucker opens his sprint on the right!

 

Magnus Cort takes it 

 

Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-BikeExchange) wins stage 18 of the Vuelta a España

Nikias Arndt, who had a good leadout, came through for second, while Drucker faded to third. 

That was some show of speed from Magnus Cort and the 23-year-old wins the first Grand Tour stage of his career. It's also the third stage win at this Vuelta for Orica. 

Cort got the jump on Arndt by moving past on the left before the Giant rider's leadout man had made way. Arndt latched onto the wheel but never had enough to come round. 

"It's a really big dream come true, really fantastic," says Magnus Cort Nielsen.

 

"Our main goal [at Orica] is to have our eye on the GC guys and every now and again we try. This is fantastic for me, I gave it a go today, and it was amazing. It's my first Grand Tour ever, and three wins, two guys high up on GC [Chaves and Yates]; it's a nice team to be on at the moment."

1 Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-BikeExchange 4:54:31
2 Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:00
3 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team 0:00:00
4 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff Team 0:00:00
5 Jonas Vangenechten (Bel) IAM Cycling 0:00:00
6 Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:00
7 Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18 0:00:00
8 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:00
9 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data 0:00:00
10 Lorenzo Manzin (Fra) FDJ 0:00:00

 

General classification after stage 18



1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 74:30:03
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:03:37
3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 0:03:57
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 0:04:02
5 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 0:06:03
6 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 0:07:34
7 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:08:12
8 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac 0:08:13
9 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:08:28
10 David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:08:52

 

No change on the #LV2016 GC after stage 18. All eyes now turn to tomorrow's crucial time trial. https://t.co/0rpjsGu65U

@TeamSky Thu, 8th Sep 2016 16:02:42

The Orica team are understandably overjoyed to have won again. That's three stage wis and they have Esteban Chaves third overall and Simon Yates in fifth. 

 

Neil Stephens, the Orica directeur sportif was happy to see Cort take his chance in the sprint but admitted it wasn't expected.

 

"I wasn't expecting a victory from Magnus today. He's a fast young rider and certainly been doing his work. Today when I was asked who was going to be our guy today, I didn\t want to put any pressure on him because he's been working so hard."

 

"This morning I told him that the most important thing was to work for Chaves and Yates. He did that work and so had the liberty to do the sprint. When I saw one of ours up there in the finale, I told him to go or it and Magnus pulled off the win."

 

 

   

 

It was the Australian team's 22nd win of the 2016 season and their fifth in grand tours after also taking wins in the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. 

 

Check out these image from the sprint finish today. 

 

 

This image shows how Magnus Cort Nielsen won on the line. 

 

 

As everyone else sat up in disappointment, Magnus Cort Nielsen celebrated his first ever grand tour win

 

 

This third image shows Magnus Cort Nielsen happiness as he realises he has won the sprint.

 

 

To see out full photo gallery from the Vuelta a Espana and read the full stage report, click here.

 

We will have further news and interviews from the Vuelta later today and overnight. 

 

 

Thats all for today's live coverage.

 

Join us Friday for full  live coverage of the all important 37km time trial, as we discover how much time, if any, Chris Froome can pull back on Nairo Quintana.  

 

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