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Vuelta a España stage 15 - Live coverage


Good morning and welcome to our live race coverage from stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana.

It's another day in the mountains for the riders in this year's race. It's not quite a summit finish with a short descent to the line in El Barraco but it's another brute of a stage with four  categorized ascents, including the first cat climb of Puerto de Mijares, to contend with. Here's a picture of the stage profile if you don't believe me.

Vuelta a Espana stage 15

(Image credit: ASO)

Here's what Peter Cossins wrote in his stage preview for today:

This is a very long day in the mountains for the Vuelta, running from the western end of the Sierra de Gredos to this massif’s most easterly point at El Barraco, a town long associated with 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, who first raced for the local club which was run and is now named after his father Víctor.

A bit of housekeeping before we get underway, as it's an early start. Richard Carapaz was a DNF yesterday. The Olympic road race champion is heading home to rest after a grueling season. Here's the story.

Vuelta Espana 2021 - 76th Edition - 11th stage Antequera - Valdepenas de Jaen 133,6 km - 25/08/2021 - Richard Carapaz (ECU - Ineos Grenadiers) - photo Dario Belingheri/BettiniPhoto©2021

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Here's the GC picture coming into today's stage. There wasn't much action on yesterday final climb between the main favourites other than Lopez's late attack. Today should see some much bigger gaps. All eyes on Roglic but also Eiking, who remains in the leader's jersey after another dogged ride on Saturday.

General classification after stage 14
1 Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 55:03:17
2 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis 00:00:54
3 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma 00:01:36
4 Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 00:02:11
5 Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Movistar Team 00:03:04
6 Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious 00:03:35
7 Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 00:04:21
8 Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 00:04:49
9 Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma 00:04:59
10 Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:05:31

As I mentioned, it's an early start today and the riders have just rolled out through the neutralized zone.

One non starter today and it's Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education Nippo). So we're down to 163 riders on the start line for the 197.5km stage.

CAMIGLIATELLO SILANO ITALY OCTOBER 07 Start Jonathan Caicedo Cepeda of Ecuador and Team EF Pro Cycling Blue Mountain Jersey Team Presentation during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 5 a 225km stage from Mileto to Camigliatello Silano 1275m girodiitalia Giro on October 07 2020 in Camigliatello Silano Italy Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The first climb of the stage, the Alto de la Centenera, is some way off, peaking out 85.1km into the stage. The first hour or so will be totally flat but we're likely to see another major fight to get into the break. It worked yesterday for Romain Bardet and perhaps Damiano Caruso will have a go today. He needs to do something  after losing the KOM jersey to the Frenchman. Bardet has 50 points, Caruso 31.

Here's a photo of Bardet enjoying his first Vuelta a Espana stage win, and his first Grand Tour stage win since 2017. Team DSM have really turned their season around in the last month.

Vuelta Espana 2021 - 76th Edition - 14th stage Don Benito - Pico Villuercas 165,7 km - 28/08/2021 - Romain Bardet (FRA - Team DSM) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2021

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

We've completed the neutralized zone and we're racing on stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana. 

No rest for Bardet, and yesterday's stage winner has gone on the attack once more. He's off the front with his teammate Michael Storer and Magnus Cort Neilson. They've won five stage between them in this year's race so this would be a good move to follow if you wanted to get into the day's break. 

The trio don't have  time gap yet and the pace is still incredibly high as we head through the opening kilometers of stage 15.

188km to go

About 15 riders off the front but there are another 12 riders chasing as the attacks continue. 

Now both of the front two groups have merged with 187km to go as the entire peloton lines out. This has been a really tough start to the race.

Ineos, Lotto, AG2R, Bora, QuickStep and EF are well represented in the front group but more and more riders are attacking from the peloton. Riders have been dropped from the peloton already  - that's how rapid the race has been.

LL Sanches is part of the group that has been dropped as up the road Caruso is in the break. Can't see Bardet just yet.

Bardet is in the move. Sivakov, Craddock, Trentin, de la Cruz too.

De la Cruz is only seven minutes down so that will be a concern for the GC teams at this point. The bunch remain on high alert and haven't sat up with the gap at around 25 seconds with 180km to go.

Kuss is in the break! He's 4'59 down on GC and the best placed rider in the move. Movistar can't let this go and they're the ones chasing. They  can't wait for Intermarche to handle this. 

Luis Leon Sanchez is back with the medical car. It doesn't look like he has fallen but he's not in a good way. The magic spray comes out but this could be touch and go for the veteran. 

Movistar have missed this 25 rider move and they're having to race full throttle for the opening 15km of the stage. Jumbo then complain that the race motos are helping the Spanish squad. It's all kicking off. 

Movistar do have Erviti in the move but they might call him back to help close the gap, which is at 28 seconds.

The peloton though remain lined-out and Movistar can only hope that there are too many passengers in the attack and they start to miss turns and sit up. This looks really dangerous though.

It's starting to come down, and the gap is at 16 seconds, so Movistar are correcting the situation. 

Caja Rural are chipping in and giving them a hand. 

Up front and Cort Neilson has kicked again as he looks to bring another group from the first portion of riders. 174km to go.

The break are attacking each other and that's keeping the pace at over 50kph. The gap goes out again to 20 seconds. 

Three teams chasing with Movistar, Intermarche and Caja Rural taking responsibility. Up ahead and the two UAE riders  - Trentin and de la Cruz swap turns as they try and keep the large group clear. QuickStep and Euskaltel are pitching in and this move is proving very hard to shut down.

Back in the bunch and Ineos have moved Bernal up as they're worried that the bunch could split again. 

Puncture for Trentin. Terrible luck for the Italian.

164km to go

From that front 25, ten riders have gone clear with 164km to go. Bardet, de la Cruz, Kuss and Caruso are not there.

That might be enough for the peloton to ease up, once the catch of the Kuss move has been made.

The 10 leaders are:

Vansevenant, Cerny, Izagirre, Bol, Mate, Soto, Sivakov, Cort Nielsen, Erviti and Kron.

The second group containing Kuss and de la Cruz has been caught and with 162km to go the ten leaders have 28 seconds.

The bunch are still lined out though, so this might not be the break of the day. 

Burgos and Caja Rural are still chasing and the gap is only 30 seconds as we head closer and closer to the climbs. 

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157km to go

The ten leaders have just 24 seconds of a lead with 156km to go.

21 seconds now and the gap continues to slowly come down. 19 now. The ten leaders are fully committed but it's just not happening for them. 17 seconds now.

And now Caruso has attacked from the bunch and that's sparked a wave of attacks. 155km to go.

That counter has been brought back but  the ten leaders only have 9 seconds. The bunch are closing rapidly with UAE setting the pace.

The peloton aren't closing this. It looks like they're sitting up, even though they had the gap at 10 seconds. DSM have lifted the pace.

150km to go

UAE Team Emirates are helping with the chase but the gap has gone back out to 30 seconds. 

The peloton are trying to mount counter attacks and Bardet is marking Caruso but the organised chase has totally ended now.

Poels is trying to set up Caruso and the gap between the bunch and the 10 man break is down to 14 seconds again. 

146km to go

Up the road and Sivakov and Cort Neilsen have gone clear but the rest of the break is about to be caught .

Mechanical for Landa. Terrible timing and most of the break has been caught with just two riders clear. 

Sivakov and Cort Neilsen are still clear but the bunch has just split in two with about 30 riders clear. That gap should be closed though.

143km to go and the two leaders have 30 seconds but that's nothing at this point and given how aggressive the race has been so far. 

The bunch line out once again but we're about to hit an unclassified climb. 141km to go.

Three more riders attack and it's Trek Segafredo trying to make things happen. 37 seconds for Sivakov and Magnus Cort.

Another 15 or so riders have gone clear on this rise and that's cut the leader's advantage down to 18 seconds. This has been non-stop attacking all day.

DSM are tying to wind things up with Storer as that 15 rider move is brought back. 

Geoffrey Bouchard is on the front too and trying to make things happen. Come on Geoffrey, you can do it. Pave the way, put your back into it.

Sivakov and Cort only have 12 seconds now with 135km to go.

And now it's Trentin on the attack as the descent to this climb starts. 

Now Astana try and get in on the action as we tear down this descent with 133km to go. The two leaders will be caught soon, with the gap at 8 seconds.

We're about to hit the foot of the first major climb, the Alto de la Centenera. It's 15.1km in length and has an average gradient of over 5 per cent. 

130km to go

130km to go and the peloton is all back together.

Vanmarcke, who crashed out of the break yesterday has just made  a move from the bunch. He's been marked by a couple of riders.

A rider from Caja Rural goes with Vanmarcke but Sivakov is leading the chase.

Groupama, EF and BikeExchange are the next teams to try and  fire riders up the road. AG2R have pinged up man up there too.

We're now on the Alto de la Centenera.

Rather unsurprisingly riders are being dropped immediately on the climb with Jakobsen among those slipping back. Up front and Majka has attacked with a rider from UAE.

Attack Fabio Aru.

The Italian is on the move and is trying to catch the two man rider break. At the back of the peloton and Sivakov is struggling 

Aru makes it up to Maxim Van Gils and Rafal Majka with 123km to go.

There's a five-rider counter that includes a rider from Jumbo Visma and it looks like the peloton have knocked it off slightly. 

The counter attack is about to swell to maybe 10 riders. Storer is there, and Bouchard. 

The second group on the road includes: Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R-Citroën), Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Carlos Verona (Movistar Team), Michael Storer (Team DSM), Steff Cras (Lotto Soudal), Lucas Hamilton (Team BikeExchange), Chris Hamilton (Team DSM) and Guanluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo).

We've 6.7km to go on this first climb.

118km to go

So the leading trio have 35 seconds on the chase group, with the peloton at 1'18.

Aru, Van Gils, Majka.

 Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R-Citroën), Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Carlos Verona (Movistar Team), Michael Storer (Team DSM), Steff Cras (Lotto Soudal), Lucas Hamilton (Team BikeExchange), Chris Hamilton (Team DSM) and Guanluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) at 35 seconds.

Peloton at 1'26.

Three more riders have made it into the second group on the road. So we now have:

Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R-Citroën), Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Carlos Verona (Movistar Team), Michael Storer (Team DSM), Steff Cras (Lotto Soudal), Lucas Hamilton (Team BikeExchange), Chris Hamilton (Team DSM),  Guanluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo), Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) and Guy Niv (Israel Start-Up Nation).

Van Gils has cracked, so that leaves us with Majka and Aru up front. This has been a brutal stage and Richard Carapaz deciding to head home yesterday suddenly looks like the smartest tactic we've seen all race.

At the front of the peloton and Intermarche have taken responsibility for the pace setting.

Majka and Aru have 1'15 as we head into the final 2km of the climb as Poels attacks again and Storer goes with him.

The Poels move is marked and the second group comes back together but they are still over a minute down on Majka and Aru. The bunch is at 2'24.

Trek now have two riders in this ever-growing second group but there's no harmony and it's stop-start the whole time. 

Former race leader Kenny Elissonde has abandoned. 

110km to go

There are 20 riders in the second group now. Here is the full list:

Gorka Izagirre (Astana-Premier Tech), Mikel Nieve (Team BikeExchange), Thymen Arensman (Team DSM), Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo),  Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates), Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R-Citroën), Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Carlos Verona (Movistar Team), Michael Storer (Team DSM), Steff Cras (Lotto Soudal), Lucas Hamilton (Team BikeExchange), Chris Hamilton (Team DSM),  Guanluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo), Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), Guy Niv (Israel Start-Up Nation), Diego Andres Camargo (EF Education Nippo) and Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux).

Aru and Majka have 1'48 on the 20-strong chase they head down the long and technical descent. The bunch are at 3'30 with 108km to go.

It's a long descent before we hit a very short flat section and then begin the next ascent of the Puerto de Pedro Bernardo. The second cat climb is 9km in length and seeing the chase group there are way too many passengers. 

A reminder of how things stand on GC heading into the stage:

1 Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 55:03:17
2 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis 00:00:54
3 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma 00:01:36
4 Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 00:02:11
5 Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Movistar Team 00:03:04
6 Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious 00:03:35
7 Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 00:04:21
8 Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 00:04:49
9 Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma 00:04:59
10 Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:05:31

100km to go

Aru and Majka are working well together and they've stretched their lead out to 2'12 with 100km to go.

Meanwhile the bunch are holding firm at 3'43.

The race has finally settled down and into a steady pattern but there's still plenty of climbing to come as we head to the foot of the Puerto de Pedro Bernardo. 

Poels pushes on in the chase group and is taking a couple of riders with him as the lead of Aru and Majka hits 2'25 with 95km to go.

The two leaders have started the climb and their gap has dropped to 2'03. The bunch are at 4'00.

Five riders have just come out of the chase group and Storer is there and he has teammate. Brambilla, Molard, Niv and Hamilton make up the rest of the group with 92km to go. 

Brambilla pushes on and only Storer can match the pace but Hamilton is slowly coming back. 

Storer, Hamilton and Brambilla are working together now and they've taken time off the leading duo as Aru calls for a bottle from the team car. The gap is at 1'40 with 90km to go.

Bouchard has made it across to the Storer group, so we have four chasers now. 

A correction from Trek Segafredo:

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Back to the bunch  and Intermarche continue to set the pace for the red jersey and his rivals. They've really stepped up in this race, as we see Roglic and Mas near the front too.

In the second group we've lost Hamilton but Poels has replaced him with 87km to go. The two leaders only have 1'04 now so the gap is coming down.

Arnesman has come up to the Storer group and he immediately hits the front of the five-rider group. Storer is going for his third stage win of this year's race.

Aru is cracking. He can't hold Majka and with 87km to go he's been distanced. 

Aru has 3.4km to go so if he can limit is loses he should be able to make it into this second group. Majka now leads the stage on his own.

That chase group though has eased up and it's back up to about a dozen riders. The peloton are at 4'37.

Aru is holding Majka at 19 seconds with 1.3km to go on the climb so it's highly possible that he can come back to the current stage leader on the next long descent. 

There's no easing up from Majka though, who ploughs along and hardly ever gets out of the saddle.

Majka crests the top of the climb and he's been top for the two peaks today. If he takes the next climb too then he'll be in contention for the KOM jersey. He has 17 seconds on Aru and he might allow him back just to get some help for the final climb. Jhonatan Narvaez has quit the race.

The peloton are at 6'21 now and it looks pretty clear that the win will come from the riders up the road. There are no GC threats as Majka extends his lead on the main chase  group to 2'34.

Aru has drifted to 47 seconds down on Majka, so at some point he will be swallowed by the chase group. 

Majka looks comfortable through the corners and could well finish things off from this position. He's got a track record for winning in such a manner from long breakaways, although his last major win came back in 2017.

Aru has drifted to 1'50 and before we start to climb four more riders have gone clear from the chase group. They are Kruijswijk, Bouchard, Verona and Arensman with 61km to go.

61km to go

So Majka ha 1'50 on Aru, 2'26 on Kruijswijk, Bouchard, Verona and Arensman and 6'05 on the GC group. 

Aru has been caught with 60km to go so that's five chasers behind Majka with the gap at 2'22.

There are now seven riders in the chase as Majka continues in the valley. His team car pulls up and gives him some advice but I'm not sure he needs it as the road starts to climb. 

We're onto the lower slopes of the Puerto de Mijares and it's a 20.4km climb. That chase group has exploded all over the road and Steven Kruijswijk has gone clear. He's 2'09 down on Majka withh 56km to go. This could be quite the battle.

Majka has 18.1km to climb. On his own.

Steven Kruijswijk is taking time back on Majka, the gap is at 1'52. No panic for the UAE rider but if he keeps losing time at this rate he could be in trouble. 

Majka has responded in the last few minutes and the gap to Steven Kruijswijk is holding at 1'42 with 53km to go.

13km to go  for Majka who is keeping Steven Kruijswijk at arm's length. The  gap  is at 1'34 and it doesn't look like the Jumbo Visma rider can turn this around unless Majka really cracks. The red jersey group are at 6'05. 

Riders are really struggling at the back of the peloton. A number have already been dropped and Landa is about to follow suit.

Pidcock is at the back as well. 

Up the road and Steven Kruijswijk has found another 18 seconds on Majka with the gap at 1'33. The leader has  10.5km to climb still.

Both Majka and Steven Kruijswijk look decent on the climb but the Dutchman is obviously a bit fresher as further down the climb the red jersey group is at 6'07.

Bardet is struggling now too, sitting right at the back of the peloton with Pidcock.

47km to go

Steven Kruijswijk needs to make some serious inroads, even though we still have another climb on the menu. The gap is at 1'31 and Majka has 8.2km to go on this ascent. 

Van Baarle drops back to the team car for Bernal  and Yates, who have just been following in the wheels today. 

Bouchard and Chris Hamilton are a full minute down on Steven Kruijswijk

Majka is rocking ever so slightly as he calls for a fresh bottle. 44km to go on the stage.

5km to go on this climb and Majka is putting in a really dogged ride. He's holding his Jumbo Visma chaser at 1'30. 

Majka has found a few more seconds and the gap has gone out to 1'35 with 3.5km to go on the climb. If Steven Kruijswijk has any designs on winning the stage he needs to start clawing back some time. 

Poels has just been caught by the peloton. 

Majka is about 1.2km from the summit of the climb and he'll take maximum points. Steven Kruijswijk is now at 1'37 and is effectively riding for second place today, unless Majka totally crumbles. 

Majka taking a sticky gel. He had one a few minutes ago and still has one in his rear pocket as he crests the top of the climb. It's a long descent now before he hits the final short climb.

Odd Christian Eiking might end today in the race lead as we see a few more riders picked up from the day's break. The bunch are at 6'22 as Steven Kruijswijk crests the top of the climb at 1'42. There has been very little action from the GC group so far. 

Intermache have been incredible again today and they  might end the second week of racing in the lead. Martin (Cofidis) might have a dig and the last climb is 8.6km in length but it's only a third category ascent. 

31km to go

Verona has been caught by the bunch too. 

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Majka's stage management can't be faulted. He isn't taking any risks - he doesn't have to - and he's still holding a 1'38 gap on Steven Kruijswijk.

Early indications are that Daniel Navarro has won the combativity prize for the stage.

We have an intermediate sprint coming up and the road does flatten. That might allow the Jumbo Visma chaser to put his  TT skills to good use and close the gap before we hit the final climb of the Puerto San Juan de Nava.

Majka has 1'32 with 26km to go on the stage.

Majka takes another gel from the team car as he reaches an undulating section of the route. He's been out there for most of the day as takes on another bottle of water and uses it to cool himself. 21km to go.

The bunch are over the climb too and on the descent as the race heads into the final 20km of the stage. Majka has 1'32 on Steven Kruijswijk

Intermarche are down to just three riders at the front of the bunch but surely Movistar and Jumbo Visma will take over soon enough. Not much from Movistar today other than putting Verona in the break. It's been tepid in terms of the GC battle - mainly because the first two hours were so hard.

Rafal Majka is closing in on the final climb of the day and the stage win as he enters the last 15km of the stage.

The road rises slightly at this point but Majka still looks really comfortable. to go.

Steven Kruijswijk is at 1'34 and still riding well. He just can't pull back any time on the lone leader.

11km to go for Rafal Majka. He has 1'42 now on Steven Kruijswijk

And Majka is on the climb and has 5km to go until he hits the summit. Then it's a downhill section to the line. Intermarche have raised the pace but there's been absolutely nothing from the GC riders today. Will that change on the final climb?

Inside the final 10km of the stage and Majka pushes his lead to 1'49. Steven Kruijswijk has been riding for second place since half-way up that penultimate climb but he should be good for second place.

2.1km to go until  Majka hits the summit of the climb. 7.5km to go in the stage.

The bunch have taken two minutes off the riders out front in the last 20km with the gap down to 4'36. 

Chris Hamilton is the third rider out on the road as the bunch now hit the lower slopes of the final climb. 

De la Cruz has attacked.

Intermarche lead the red jersey group. 

A Bora rider has attacked as well, along with Louis Meintjes. Still nothing from Bernal or Roglic.

4.9km to go for Majka. 

Ineos attack and that's Yates.

He's marked by Movistar and Roglic, as Yates now winds things up. 

The race leader hasn't lost contact. 

Oomen has brought the Louis Meintjes group back. 

The red jersey has lost contact as Yates goes again. 

About 20 riders left in the GC group and the red jersey is  just about hanging on. Yates has gone clear now. Bernal is at the back of the group. 

2km to go for Roglic, who is already celebrating. 

Rafal Majka wins stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana.

EL BARRACO SPAIN AUGUST 29 Rafal Majka of Poland and UAE Team Emirates attacks in breakaway during the 76th Tour of Spain 2021 Stage 15 a 1975km km stage from Navalmoral de la Mata to El Barraco lavuelta LaVuelta21 on August 29 2021 in El Barraco Spain Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Other than Yates all the GC riders are in the same group as Jumbo Visma chase down the British rider.

Steven Kruijswijk is second.

Chris Hamilton should take third. 

Yates at the last check had 20 seconds as Hamilton does indeed get third.

Yates will take fourth. 

About 12 seconds for Yates there who reminded us that we have a stage race up for grabs. 

Here's our report on today's stage.

Let's hear from Majka:

"Sometimes you try and it’s not easy to to get in break. But today I tried from the start. I didn’t wait for nobody today, I wanted to win the stage. I wanted to win for my father and my two two kids.

"I only thought of one thing. I had a bad start to the season and it wasn’t easy for me and my family, especially when my father died. I wanted to win for him, for my kids and for my great team UAE Team Emirates."

EL BARRACO SPAIN AUGUST 29 Rafal Majka of Poland and UAE Team Emirates celebrates winning during the 76th Tour of Spain 2021 Stage 15 a 1975km km stage from Navalmoral de la Mata to El Barraco lavuelta LaVuelta21 on August 29 2021 in El Barraco Spain Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

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