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Hello to you all and welcome to our coverage of stage 7 of the Vuelta a Espana. I hope you've all wound down after that hectic finish yesterday. The riders have signed on and we're just a few short moments away from the neutral start in Puerto Lumbreras.
Nacer Bouhanni avoided the chaos yesterday to win his first Grand Tour stage in four years. After a very difficult season, on and off the bike, the Frenchman was mighty relieved to get onto the podium once again. Read his comments here.
Though his teammate Thibaut Pinot was one of the major GC losers in yesterday's stage, Rudy Molard made it into the front group and kept a hold of his red jersey. He still leads Michal Kwiatkowski by 41 seconds.
1 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 22:26:15
2 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky 0:00:41
3 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:48
4 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:51
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:53
6 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:01:11
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:14
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
9 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:01:18
10 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:01:23
The riders have rolled out of Puerto Lumbreras for the neutral start. We can expect racing in just over 10 minutes.
This is the first time that the Vuelta has visited Puetro Lumbreras since 2007 when the stage finished in Villacarrillo and Discovery Channel rider Jason McCartney won.
Today's stage is an interesting one. There are just two third category climbs to conquer but the course is up and down all day and the final climb comes inside the last 20 kilometres. The last kilometre is also not straightforward with around 100m of elevation gain over the final 1,000 metres. There could be a few sprinters in the mix at the finish, but it's open for a puncheur to take the win either.
We are in Murcia for the second day running and this is the home region of none other than Alejandro Valverde. He already had one win in his pocket from Caminito del Rey and today certainly suits him.
Rudy Molard is enjoying his second day in the red jersey and he will be hoping for a much calmer day. Yesterday wasn't too bad, but Victor Campenaert's collision with a bollard made for a much more frenetic finish than the Frenchman would have wanted. His priority is to keep the red jersey for a third day and he's expecting a big fight for the break.
"Something good to play today, it's going to be a big battle for the breakaway. If I can keep the jersey, so much the better. The stage? The advantage is that guys don't fear me, but that's not the goal," he told reporters at the start.
Despite the crashes in yesterday's finale, we had 176 starters this afternoon. There are a few weary souls though, with Campenaerts getting 10 stitches in his elbow. AG2R La Mondiale's Julien Duval had to get two stitches after he was hit by a barrier that was blown across the road by a helicopter.
After a few delays due to mechanical issues, the flag has finally dropped for racing proper.
The question is, will we see Luis Angel Mate in the breakaway today. There are more mountains points on offer and potentially a chance at a stage victory. He is currently well clear in the mountains classification.
1 Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 42 pts
2 Pierre Rolland (Fra) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 20
3 Benjamin King (USA) Dimension Data 12
4 Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale 7
5 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 6
6 Nikita Stalnov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 6
7 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 5
8 Nans Peters (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 4
9 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 4
10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 3
Loads of attacking coming off the front of the peloton. There is a group of seven riders off the front at the moment but they have just a few seconds on the peloton.
Passing over live reporting duties to Daniel Benson.
Oh, hello. I didn't see you come in there...
We now have a group of seven riders up the road and they have a gap of 1'35 over the peloton with 178km to go. It looks like we've got our break for the day as the peloton start to ease back and settle in for the day.
Up the road we have Michael Woods, de Tier, Ravasi, Rodriguez, Aranbura Deba, Conci, and Goueard. Woods is the best placed overall, 8'25 down on GC. Gougeard is 48'15 down with 176km to go.
And disaster for Woods. He's crashed. The Canadian though is back on his bike and his catching up to the rest of the break. The gap has moved out to 1'52.
Here's the full line up of riders in the break:
Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Michael Woods (Education First-Drapac), Floris De Tier (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nicola Conci (Trek-Segafredo), Edward Ravasi (UAE Team Emirates), Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Oscar Rodriguez (Euskadi-Murias).
2'33. That's the gap now as the break continue to push ahead of the main field.
Away from the Vuelta the big news from this morning is that Wout van Aert isn't happy with the merger of his existing team and Roompot for 2019. The rider has a contract with them for next year but has still gone to the press and voiced criticism. It's a clear indication that he wants out - in fact that's just what he's asked - and you can read the story right here.
The problem for van Aeart is that the paying agent for his 2019 team remains the same so he must honour that contract. He's expected to move to LottoNL Jumbo for 2020 but his interview can be seen as a 'come and get me' plea. However, if he wants to break his existing contract then he will need to buy himself out of that and one source told us that such a move could set him back half a million Euro. We understand that LottoNL are not willing to do this for the rider... so he'll have to negotiate with his existing team if he wants out. Tricky times ahead...
168km remaining from 185km
Back to this stage and the gap is now at 2'58 with 168km to go.
Woods, 31, has made it back to the leaders and he takes a turn on the front. He was second at a stage of the Giro d'Italia and second at Liege-Bastogne-Liege earlier in the year too but he's still waiting for that big European win.
In terms of the bunch, we've got a rider from Bora, and one from FDJ sitting on the front and controlling the pace. 165km to go. We've been riding for 35km.
Another bike change for Woods after his earlier crash. That's not the start he needed today.
An interesting development - well as interesting as it's going to get at this point on a Friday lunchtime - the break have lost time and the gap is down to just 2'18. They had three minutes earlier.
There were a few crashes yesterday but the most bizarre came when a helicopter caused a crash near the finish. You can read about it all, right here.
A reminder of our seven leaders. Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Michael Woods (Education First-Drapac), Floris De Tier (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nicola Conci (Trek-Segafredo), Edward Ravasi (UAE Team Emirates), Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Oscar Rodriguez (Euskadi-Murias).
Conci by the way is the youngest rider in the move and at just 21 he's racing his maiden Grand Tour. A talented youngster, he had some decent results at junior and u23 ranks, before moving into the WorldTour at the start of this season. He was seventh in last year's Baby Giro. According to his instagrams page, he's in love with cycling, skiing and a guitar but that might mean music in general. I'm not sure. My grainy old eyes can't pick up emojis. He has a photo of himself with R2D2. That's pretty cool, isn't it? R2D2 is of course riding as a stagiaire at Trek Segafredo this summer.
Sticking with the internet stalking, Conci has posted a few videos of himself playing the guitar. He really does love it. I'm not making it up. So, let's give it a listen. Thrashing out some Hendrix in one video. Pink Floyd in another... and some Van Halen. And he likes Nirvani. He's actually pretty good.
148km remaining from 185km
Oh, in the race the gap is at 2'45 and we have 148km to go.
Ravasi's instragrams page isn't as exciting as Conci's but it's still pretty decent. There are some photos of bikes - natch - although he loses points for a photo of a cat.
50km into the stage and the gap has moved out to 3'17. That's the biggest it's been all day.
It just keeps getting better for the break, as they now have 3'30 on the peloton.
FDJ and Bora are still controlling the main field and there's little interest from the other sprint teams at the moment.130km to go.
Richie Porte is in the peloton today but he was in the breakaway yesterday, one that wasn't going for GC, something he hasn't done since 2012. It was unusual to see him there, but he says that he had fun yesterday.
“It was nice to do something different. It’s nice to enjoy riding the bike, and I enjoyed the day yesterday. It hasn’t been the easiest first week of a Grand Tour for me. We’ll see how the legs are today. It was easy to get into (the breakaway). Then, when the bunch caught us, it became hectic. Today, it could be a day for Valverde.”
The gap to the seven leaders remains steady at 3:40.
Movistar, already winners in the race thanks to Alejandro Valverde, have moved to the front and started to set the pace. They're keeping the break at just under three minutes.
96km remaining from 185km
96km to go as we see a few from the break drop back and take on fresh bottles.
Molard in red is well protected by his teammates as he sits near the front of the race. The bunch have lined out but the pace isn't that high as we see Trek and Mollema towards the back.
Woods has been back to the medical car after his fall. It was a significant one, and he's torn his shorts and hurt his right side. With the gap at 2'28, would it not have been better to call him back and allow him to recover in the bunch rather than do this? He must really fancy the finish.
The injection of pace from Movistar has seen the gap drop to 2'33 with 85km to go. A few more sprinters' teams have woken from their slumber and moved to the front of the bunch as well. The stage is finally coming alive.
The bunch head through the feedzone and Movistar have been replaced on the front by FDJ and Bora, once more.
70km remaining from 185km
Inside the final 70km and the gap is at 3'02.
It's been up and down all day and the riders are on the first climb of the stage, the Alto Collado de Laude. It's only a 3rd cat but they all count.
Back in the bunch and Bora are still on the front with one rider, and the FDJ train just behind them. 2'52 for the break.
64km remaining from 185km
FDJ are keeping the pace high as the bunch take on a descent with 64km to go but the break are holding their own.
It's been relentless today for the break, in the sense that they've not been given any wiggle room. They've had to fight for every second, with the gap now down to 2'19. 61km to go as FDJ continue to pile on the pressure.
Viviani has dropped back to pick up a number of bottles. This isnt a stage for the sprinters today, so we'll see riders like Martin and Valverde look to contest for the stage. 51km to and the gap is at 2'04.
On flatter roads, and more teams position themselves on the front of the peloton as we see EF bring up Uran, and Movistar protect the interests of Valverde and Quintana. FDJ and Mitchelton are also present as we head into the final 45km of the stage. The gap is at 2:01.
The break have lost 35 seconds from the advantage due to the increase in pace from the peloton. The gap is at 1'30 with 39km to go.
There is a sharp right hand bend on to narrow road coming up, that's why there's such an increase in pace.
The bunch make it around that corning now, without any problems but the peloton has strung out dramatically as Movistar set the pace.
We can also see LottoNL and Mitchelton near the front as well while De Tier takes on another round of drinks from his team car.
31km remaining from 185km
The peloton have the break under complete control, with the lead down to just 1'14 as we approach the final 30km of today's stage.
Gougeard leads the break on a descent wiuth 23km to go. After this the road rises up for the final classified climb of the day.
Sunweb are making sure that Kelderman is near the front. He lost over a minute on stage 6, so he can't afford to make any further mistakes if he has real aspirations of finishing in the top five this year. The break have 41 seconds with 20km to go.
18km and the bunch are tearing down the descent with LottoNL now taking up the responsibility of setting up their riders for the finish.
15 seconds for the break... it's almost over.
Heading towards this final climb it's all about positioning and with 17km to go the break are about to be caught.
We're onto the climb and the break are giving it everything but if they look back they'll see the bunch is closing.
17km remaining from 185km
Not a huge fall but most the peloton have been held up with 17km to go.
Docker is there and on the ground. And Benoot.
And there's an attack from the break with Aranbura charging up the road. De Tier leads the chase and then attacks over the top with 16.1km go. Woods gives chase.
Woods and De Tier now lead with 3.6.km to go on this climb. The bunch have lost ground and are waiting for riders.
At the front of the bunch we can see Yates, Molard, Bennett and Kwiatkowski all in contention.
15km remaining from 185km
15.5km to go and Woods has gone solo. That crash has created an opening for the riders in the break and Woods is making the most of it.
38 seconds for Woods now with 15km to go as the bunch ease off once more. Woods is solo.... can he take advantage?
Movistar want this stage for Valverde and lift the pace once more. 22 seconds for Woods with 14.2km to go and 1.7km to go on the climb.
Fair play to Woods on this ride. He crashed from the break, made it back and is now the last man standing. The odds are against him but he's giving this a fair crack. 13km to go.
Woods is caught with 12.9km to go.
But EF use this as another launchpad and hit the front with two riders. They're going to try and set up Uran for the stage win but there are still a number of quality sprinters in the mix. Mitchelton set the pace.
10km remaining from 185km
Carapaz has crashed. Back on the road but he needs a new bike as Caja Rural send a rider up the road. 10km to go.
It's Luis Mas from Caja Rural. He has a decent gap because back in the bunch they're all just watching each other.
Dan Martin has a flat so that's him out of fight for the stage win, probably. 9km as the bunch lines out on the descent.
Howson has fallen. He's on his feet but that's one less rider for Yates in the finale.
Reports that Kwiatkowski has crashed but no sight of that yet....
And now attacks from the bunch as Mas is caught.
The road climbs again and four riders have gone off the front.
Sorry, Mas is about to be caught now. 7.7km to go.
The attacks and the crashes have split the main field with 7km to go. And Trek and Bennett attack. 7.2km to go. This is Bennett's second attack on the climb. He's about to be caught though.
Valverde, Quintana, Uran, they're all near the front too.
Kwiatkowski is off the back and chasing. He's got Henao for company and needs to make a big effort to make it back.
Mitchelton and Sunweb have out 34 seconds into the Team Sky leader but there's still 6.2km to go.
Now Herrada takes off with 5.2km to go.
No teammates for Kwiatkowski. He's in trouble here but the gap is stable at least, at 35 seconds. 4.2km to go.
Quintana is now off the front with a small group. Bennett is there.
Tao Geoghegan Hart is there, and so is a rider from Astana. They cant let this move go, surely...
3.3km to go and the race has completely blown to pieces. Herrada still leads. Can Cofidis take their second win in two days?
Quintana's move has been caught so that means just Herrada is leading. 2.4km to go.
A rider from AG2R takes off and it's Gallopin, who closes on Herrada with 2km to go. And the Frenchman takes off.
It climbs with just under 1km to go as we see Gallopin take 100m off the GC favourites. Bennett sets the pace once more.
1.4km for Gallopin and he has about 10 seconds. Majka leads the chase.
1.2km to and Gallopin is holding his own. Still a long way to go though.
It's uphill from now on and Valverde is close to the front.
Gallopin finds a couple more seconds. He could take this...
Gallopin takes the win.
Sagan is second, and Valverde third.
Kwiatkowski loses around 20 seconds to his GC rivals.
An impressive ride from Gallopin. He jumped from the front with around 2km to go and took advantage of a disorganised chase. Sagan beat Valverde to second but the world champion, despite help from Majka, couldn't bring back the AG2R rider. Molard, he finished in the same group and will extend his lead on GC with Kwiatkowski losing time.
Here are some results:
1 Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 4:18:20
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:05
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:05
4 Eduard Prades Reverter (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias 0:00:05
5 Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:00:05
6 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:00:05
7 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:05
8 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:05
9 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:00:07
10 Sepp Kuss (USA) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:07
General classification after stage 7
1 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 26:44:40
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:47
3 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:48
4 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:51
5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:59
6 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky 0:01:06
7 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:01:11
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:01:14
9 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:01:18
10 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:01:23
Here's some Gallopin:
"We knew the final was hectic a little bit, so we had a plan that first we try to go in a breakaway, then at the end, the team put me in a really good position and I fight with the best. Then when we came on the last straight road, I had a plan that if I have a possibility I try to attack. I found a good moment - and I’m so happy.
"I looked back just before the last corner, maybe 200m to go and I saw nobody behind me. So I turned and I went full the last straight - I looked back in the final 50m and they were quite far, so I knew that I can win. So it’s fantastic.
"It’s a dream for the riders to win in a big tour. After this year, with so much bad luck, so many times I crashed and I was sick, so after I stopped in the Tour, we had the plan that I go to the Vuelta and now I won, so I think the plan was good."
You can find our brief report, results and photos, right here.
Our full report is now live. You can find it just here.
Thanks for joining us today. We'll be back tomorrow with more from the Vuelta.
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