Hola and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 9 of the Vuelta a Espana.
As the minutes countdown to the roll out from Puerto Lumbreras, the riders are preparing for a long, hard day in the mountains.
Today is perhaps the most mountainous stage of the Vuelta a España so far.
The 188 kilometres between Puerto Lumbreras and the summit of the Vuelta’s first special-category climb, the Alto de Velefique, features around 4,500 metres of vertical gain, with the majority of the climbing packed into its final third.
It will also be hot out there.
Good morning from Puerto Lumbreras 😊#LaVuelta21 pic.twitter.com/LBPXo9nHK4August 22, 2021
Deceuninck-QuickStep are naturally happy after Fabio Jakobsen took his second victory, sprinting from the front to take victory on stage 8 in La Manga del Mar Menor.
The Dutchman beat Alberto Dainese (Team DSM) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) to the finish to follow up his stage 4 win in Molina de Aragón. He took a clear victory after sprinting from eighth wheel in the peloton, jumping from behind green jersey Philipsen to hit clear air at just inside 200 metres to go.
Click below to read our full stage report and to see our photo gallery.
The riders are about to roll out but face a 5.7km neutralised sector before the stage officially starts.
The riders have rolled out of Puerto Lumbreras.
It's almost time to race.
Arrancó la etapa 9 de #LaVuelta21 pic.twitter.com/YFlnssFE0lAugust 22, 2021
The 175 riders who finished yesterday's stage are racing today and now on their way to km 0.
Today's is Gianluca Brambilla's 34th birthday. Auguri!
The only rider not to finish yesterday was Italy's Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) who was suffering with a knee injury.
The flag has dropped. The stage is underway!
Soon after the start, the race departs Murcia for Andalucia, running south-west through Huércal-Overa and on towards Líjar, where the first classified climb begins, the second-category Alto de Cuatro Vientos, which is little more than a couple of dozen kilometres from the top of the Velefique as the crow flies, but is still 110km away by the roundabout route the riders will be taking.
From the Cuatro Vientos, which lies to the east of the finish, the riders will loop right over to the Velefique’s western side, tracking northwards at the beginning, to Olula del Río and then Tijola, location of the intermediate sprint. Leaving this town, the stage’s most testing section begins, the riders climb first to the first-category Alto Collado Venta Luisa, which averages a benign 4.4 per cent but stretches for a whopping 29km, topping out at just under 2,000 metres.
The descent from the Venta Luisa is considerably shorter, but a good deal steeper and leads directly into the third-category climb of the Alto de Castro de Filabres. This is another long one, but rolls throughout its 20km, gaining only 500 metres in height over that time. This summit is a bonus point, the first three riders gaining eight, five and two seconds.
Once again, the descent is much steeper, dropping quickly to Velefique and the start of the final ascent. It first featured on the Vuelta route in 2004 and last appeared in 2017, when Romain Bardet led over the summit as the race headed for the nearby Calar Alto observatory. Extending to 13.2km, the Velefique averages 6.4 per cent, but its opening 4km are closer to 10 per cent, the gradient easing back thereafter to around six as the road climbs through a series of sweeping hairpins to the summit.
🇪🇸 #LaVuelta21 Stage 9 has started! Let's go😄 pic.twitter.com/WSsuHBzsRJAugust 22, 2021
Robert Stannard (Team BikeExchange) is the first to attack but the peloton quickly closes him down.
We are expecting a real fight to get into the break today, riders and teams know that Rogic and Jumbo-Visma may let a break go and so give up on the leader's red jersey.
However they will only let riders who are not a GC threat go in the break.
We could see two hours of attacks and fast racing as riders fight to get into the break of the day because the the second-category Alto de Cuatro Viento comes after 75km.
An early section of the stage goes on the main highway, making for fast and flat racing.
Antonio Jesus Soto (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal) and Nick Schultz (Team BikeExchange) have as small gap but the high speed makes it difficult to get away.
The attack is chased down and now riders from Burgos-BH, Groupama-FDJ and Team DSM are on the move.
The riders leave the highway but the speed is still high. We're struggling to keep up in the Cyclingnews blimp.
A short climb out of Huercal-Overa could help a break go clear.
Soto goes clear alone but the peloton is about catch him.
160km to go
This was the earlier attack
🏁 Km 12 | Etapa 9 - Stage 9 | #LaVuelta21 🔥 @AntonioSoto94, @nick_schultz5 y @FlorianVermeers buscan la fuga.🚴The fight for the break is on! Soto, Schultz and Vermeersch have some meters.👉https://t.co/zqaO4Bw62K📸: @charlylopez pic.twitter.com/EWR9GDCop7August 22, 2021
Sepp Kuss suffers a mechanical problem as the speed remains high.
The riders have covered 30km in just 33 minutes!
Sylvain Moniquet (Lotto Soudal) made a solo attack but was quickly swept up.
It looks like our prediction is right, a break might not go until the first real climb of the day. But all this early high-speed racing will hurt everyone.
150km to go
We have a new attack by eight riders. This could have more of a chance.
UAE Team Emirates drag the peloton up to the break.
Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH) also suffered a mechanical earlier and chased with Kuss for 12km before they managed to return to the peloton. That indicates the speed and aggression of the race.
The attacks are still coming, with 25km to to the start of the Alto de Cuatro Vientos climb.
The road to Alto de Cuatro Vientos includes some gradual climbing as the terrain changes. It could be a turn point in the race.
Stage 9 features the two highest mountains of the entire Vuelta.
There’s the Alto de Collado Venta Luisa at 1,970 metres above sea level, two thirds of the way through the 188 kilometre stage, and then the Velefique summit finish, a fraction lower at 1,800 metres and the first hors categorie finish of the 2021 Vuelta.
Both climbs are located deep in the Almeria desert, in the remote Sierra de Filabres, which apart from making for spectacularly arid, stony backdrops of the day’s racing, adds a whole extra layer of difficulty to Sunday’s stage.
Less than half an hour’s drive away from the Vuelta a España’s summit finish of Velefique, fans of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti western movies can visit the original film sets, complete with stagecoaches, wigwams and bullet-riddled saloons.
The chances of a two-wheeled GC shoot-out in the Vuelta a España are also extremely high.
Click below to read Alasdair Fotheringham's full stage preview to understand who could be the quickest on the draw.
The peloton have covered 50.1km in the first hour.
First hour of racing done at #LaVuelta21 and we don’t have a breakaway, which is not a surprise considering the insane 50km/h average speed we had since the start. pic.twitter.com/cb7Ymi8SWUAugust 22, 2021
In other news, Filippo Ganna has spoken about his end of season goals and how he is still hungry despite winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
Filippo Ganna: I’m still hungry for success (opens in new tab)
Ganna is action in the Tour of Norway which ends today. He helped Ethan Hayter win the opening two stages.
On Saturday Mads Pedersen won the stage. Click below for our stage report.
Tour of Norway: Mads Pedersen wins stage 3 (opens in new tab)
We will have a final Tour of Norway report on Cyclingnews later today.
We will also report on the final stage of the Tour de l'Avenir, as the best young stage racers fight for glory and proof they are the next great thing.
As the road rises Danni Navarro (Burgos-BH) goes solo.
Will anyone join him as the Alto de Cuatro Vientos nears?
As the Alto de Cuatro Vientos finally begins in earnest, we have a new attack.
As we expected, the 10.7km climb, though not steep, could be the real launch pad for the break as the other teams ease to protect their GC riders.
The stage profile shows how the Alto de Cuatro Vientos marks the start of the climbing.
Wout Poels (Bahrain) is one of the riders on the attack.
Poel's attack and other riders going after him has exploded the peloton.
There are only 40 or so riders left in the red jersey group.
Poels is near the top of the Alto de Cuatro Vientos.
It is followed by a short descent and then a long valley ride to the Alto Collado Venta Luisa.
106km to go
Rafal Majka (UAE), Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R) and Nick Schultz (BikeExchange) are currently on the move after the last group of attackers were brought back.
The riders are coming to the bottom of the descent off the climb now.
Johan Jacobs (Movistar) has abandoned the race after crashing.
Majka, Bouchard and Schultz are caught and more riders head out on the attack.
Groupama-FDJ duo Oliver Le Gac and Rudy Molard are on the attack along with Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious).
Robert Stannard (Team BikeExchange), Romain Bardet (Team DSM), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) and Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates) have joined them up front.
Lilian Calmejane (AG2R Citroën), Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH), Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Martijn Tusveld (Team DSM) have also moved out front to make it 11 in the lead.
95km to go
The group has 45 seconds on the peloton currently.
Jumbo-Visma lead the peloton.
1:40 between leaders and peloton as they start the uphill drag to the base of the next climb.
The leaders are: Oliver Le Gac, Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), Robert Stannard (Team BikeExchange), Romain Bardet (Team DSM), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates), Lilian Calmejane (AG2R Citroën), Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH), Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Martijn Tusveld (Team DSM)
87km to go
That's our breakaway. They have 2:30 on the peloton now.
Molard is the best-placed rider in the move. He's 20th overall at 5:09.
After the intermediate sprint it Tijola, the road heads upwards even more.
Jumbo-Visma seem happy to set a steady pace and so let the break extend its lead.
The presence of Molard does not help the break but Jumbo-Visma may be happy to let the French rider take the lead by a few seconds.
Lilian Calmejane (AG2R Citroën) wins the intermediate sprint as the break pushes their gap up to 3:00.
Sadly Movistar rider has abandoned after a crash.
🇪🇸 #LaVuelta21: Confirmation from the road that @johanjacbs has been moved by ambulance to a hospital in Almería with pain most to his back, his physical status deemed incompatible to continue in the race.Hoping it's not too serious! More updates on our website later today. pic.twitter.com/OMdsmdgfD5August 22, 2021
The first-category Alto Collado Venta Luisa climb averages a benign 4.4 per cent but stretches for a whopping 29km, topping out at just under 2,000 metres.
The gradient easy early on but much steeper in the middle.
The riders take a vital feed before the climb.
🇪🇸 #LaVuelta2111 riders are out front, 2:50 ahead of the field. This group 👇🏻 is slightly behind the somewhat reduced field. Over 80km to come, and the climbing isn’t going to let up 🏔🏔 pic.twitter.com/LjPLZMedN5August 22, 2021
The break has extended their lead to 3:40 now. Several riders in the move are superb climbers and so know they have a real chance of victory today.
Interestingly, Ineos Grenadiers are not happy with the attack and are now leading the chase. They have cut the gap to 1:50.
Are they targeting the stage or trying to isolate Roglic? We will soon see.
As the gaps falls even more, Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) is alone at the front with 70km to go.
It's interesting to see Bahrain so aggressive today. Are they riding to help team leader Mikel Landa or riding as alternatives, knowing he might struggle on the final climb.
We will soon find out.
Romain Bardet (Team DSM) has decided Caruso is a rider to mark and is in pursuit of the Italian.
Now Rafa Majka sets off in pursuit of Bardet as the group explodes.
We have a real race within the race.
The attacks are coming on the steepest parts of the 29km Alto Collado Venta Luisa climb.
The 11-rider attack is split into four groups, with the Roglic peloton at 1:40.
With 10km of the climb to go, Caruso is 30' seconds ahead of Bardet and Majka.
Elissonde, Tusveld and Amezqueta are at 40 seconds.
Meanwhile, further north in Europe, Ethan Hayter (Ineos) has won the Tour of Norway, while his Madison partner at the recent Olympics Matt Walls (Bora-Hansgrohe) takes victory on final stage to take his first pro win.
Click below for our stage report.
Ethan Hayter wins the Tour of Norway (opens in new tab)
60km to go
As the summit nears and riders can see the telescopes, the pace remains high.
Pavel Sivakov and Dylan van Baarle are leading the GC peloton on the climb, making most of them hurt.
Roglic has three teammates riding around him, with another further down the line.
Ineos have five riders: Sivakov, van Baarle, Bernal, Carapaz and Adam Yates.
The pace is slowly spitting riders out of the GC peloton. Guillaume Martin is the latest to suffer.
As the gradient eases near the summit of the Alto Collado Venta Luisa, both Ineos and Jumbo feed, with domestiques taking the musettes and passing bottles to their leader.s
Caruso is on fire.
He's extended his lead to 1:30 on the chasers over the top. The peloton is at 2:00.
Kenny Elissonde has slipped back to the GC group from the break. He will now help Ciccone, who is 11th at 1:28.
Interesting Romain Bardet (Team DSM) was second over the top of the Alto Collado Venta Luisa. That gives him the lead in the mountains competition.
Caruso is diving down the descent of the Alto Collado Venta Luisa, chasing a motorbike.
He's taking risks and using all the road, every inch.
The GC group is closing down the chasers. The final 50km will be a pursuit match.
Caruso is not a GC threat but could move up overall today.
Here's Caruso out front.
🏁 - 57 km | Etapa 9 - Stage 9 | #LaVuelta21🏔️ @CarusoDamiano corona en solitario el Alto Collado Venta Luisa con casi dos minutos🇮🇹 Caruso from @BHRVictorious leads solo in the Alto Collado Venta Luisa with almost two minutes!@loterias_es 👉https://t.co/zqaO4Bw62K pic.twitter.com/apa9HzHsqJAugust 22, 2021
The descent from the Venta Luisa is considerably shorter than the climb but a good deal steeper and leads directly into the third-category climb of the Alto de Castro de Filabres.
This is another long climb but rolls throughout 20km, gaining only 500 metres in height over that time.
45km to go
The peloton is not taking risks on the descent and so their gap opens to 2:25.
As the Alto de Castro de Filabres begins, Caruso digs deep to stay away.
As the climb begins to hurt, Ineos appear to have eased the pace. Jumbo take over and Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R) takes off alone in pursuit of the chasers and Caruso.
40km to go
The mountains are barren and exposed here in the south of Spain.
Less than half an hour’s drive away from the summit finish of Velefique, fans of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti western movies can still visit the original film sets, complete with stagecoaches, wigwams and bullet-riddled saloons.
But if paying homage to Eastwood’s cowboys and gunslingers doesn’t appeal, don’t worry: on Sunday the chances of a two-wheeled GC shoot-out in the Vuelta a España are also extremely high.
Who will draw faster? We suspect Roglic is the man with no name.
Caruso leads the trio of chasers by 2:00 with the GC group at 3:00.
The heat of eastern Spain in the height of summer is hard enough to face on the coast, as riders like Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) already commented about the stage to Manga del Mar Menor on Saturday. But further inland, with temperatures set to soar to 33C degrees, on the deeper mountain valleys the stage could end up feeling like a ride through an airless furnace.
The three riders chasing: Romain Bardet (Team DSM), Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural-Seguros), Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates), are 2:20 behind Caruso.
The GC peloton is riding slower after Ineos stopped riding and is at 4:00.
Jumbo-Visma seem happy with the status quo, perhaps confident that Roglic can deal with his rivals on the final climb up to the finish.
Bouchard has dug deep and joined the trio chasing Caruso.
They are at 2:25, with the GC peloton at 4:20.
Caruso is on fire and on a ride.
These are the exposed roads of the Southern Spanish sierras.
Caruso is over the Alto de Castro de Filabres and diving down the descent.
He can again take risks on the wide curves.
The four chasers are also on the descent, taking more careful line.
Jumbo-Visma lead the GC group over the top at 4:20.
There are only 25km to race: 12 km of descending and then 13km of hard climbing.
Bardet was second over the climb and so extends his KOM lead by 2 points.
However Caruso is also scoring points today and can perhaps take the lead if he wins the stage.
Caruso won the Giro d'Italia to Valle Spluga-Alpe Motta with a solo move and is set to win again today in a similar way.
His stage win secured him second overall in the Corsa Rosa and today he could climb up the GC today.
He is 24th at 6:47 down on Roglic but could surely jump up into the top ten.
This is the profile of the Alto de Velefique.
This is the typical landscape of the stage.
Roglic was smiling at the start and is no doubt smiling now as the Alto de Velefique nears.
Bernal had more of a frown but perhaps he will come alive on the Alto de Velefique.
We will soon find out.
The Alto de Velefique first featured on the Vuelta route in 2004 and last appeared in 2017, when Romain Bardet led over the summit as the race headed for the nearby Calar Alto observatory.
Extended to 13.2km this year, the Velefique averages 6.4 per cent, but its opening 4km are closer to 10 per cent, the gradient easing back thereafter to around six as the road climbs through a series of sweeping hairpins to the summit.
Race director Fernando Escartín has said this stage resembles the one in 2009 that finished on this same summit.
Victory that day went to Ryder Hesjedal, the Canadian finishing a second clear of Spaniard David García. The gaps behind this pair weren’t substantial, the first dozen riders finishing within 28 seconds of each other.
13km to go
Here we go!
Caruso starts the Alto de Velefique.
He leads the chasers by 3:25 and the peloton by 5:20.
Caruso pours cold water over his head and takes a long drink.
It's 32C out there and he's climbing at speed on the 10% gradient.
In the GC group, lots of riders have their jerseys open.
Oopps... Romain Bardet lost his chain but avoids crashing.
Bardet is with Majka and Bouchard, some 3:30 down on Caruso.
10km to go
As the GC group begin the steep part of the climb, riders are dropping out of thew back.
Oomen sits up after doing a lot of work for Roglic.
Sivakov and van Baarle are leading the pace in the GC group.
Landa is at the back and is clearly suffering.
That is what we suspected when Bahrain sent Wout Poels and then Caruso on the attack.
Pop. There's goes Landa.
Poels and another rider are pacing him but he's clearly suffering.
That's a real pity because Landa fought back from his Giro crash and looked good when he won the Vuelta a Burgos.
Up front Majka is chasing alone after the trio split around him. However he is 3:10 down on Caruso.
Bahrain also have Jack Haig as an alternative GC leader.
Landa faces a painful final 10km ride to the finish.
🏁 - 9,5 km | Etapa 9 - Stage 9 | #LaVuelta21🇪🇸 @MikelLandaMeana, entre los que pierden contacto en las primeras rampas de Velefique🚴Mikel Landa, one of the GC guys suffering in Velefique!👉https://t.co/zqaO4Bw62K pic.twitter.com/YDR5XRWQmSAugust 22, 2021
Here we go!
Adam Yates attacks on the steep part of the climb.
Lopez goes with Yates. so does Kuss but he seems to have been called back to help Roglic.
Yates eases but then goes again.
Roglic sits in the saddle and surges up to Yates.
He closes down Yates and Lopez in a few seconds.
Bernal has made it across too.
Roglic laid down the law with that surge. But Yates goes again.
The Yates attack splits the quality GC group again.
Bernal is there, Roglic too, with Lopez and Mas for Movistar.
6km to go
Meanwhile, Caruso is trying to fight to hold his gap to at least win the stage.
His lead is down to 3:15.
This is the move.
🏁 - 6,5 km | Etapa 9 - Stage 9 | #LaVuelta21 🔥 Only Bernal, López, Roglic and Mas can follow @AdamYates7 🇬🇧 Yates makes a selection with Bernal, López, Roglic and Mas.👉https://t.co/zqaO4Bw62K pic.twitter.com/P7enijnZyyAugust 22, 2021
The chasers crawl up to the Roglic group and Carapaz immediately attacks to force others to lead the group in chase.
5km to go
More attacks and more gaps.
Yates has gone but Bernal is struggling.
These attacks have swept up Majka and Bouchard.
Only Caruso remains out front.
Roglic is trying to control Yates.
Caruso leads by 3:00.
Mas and Roglic join and pass Yates.
Yates is struggling and losing contact. Bernal is further back and so is Carapaz.
The rest are scattered over the road.
Roglic is sitting on Mas but seems strong and could attack sooner or later.
3km to go
Caruso's lead is down to 2:30.
He can sense them coming but should hold on to win.
The Alto de Velefique winds up the side of the mountain.
The final 3km are above the tree line. Every metre is hurting everyone.
Mas calls Roglic to do a turn on the front. They don't want the likes of Bernal and others to come back.
Bernal is 15 seconds behind and has Yates to help lead the chase.
Lopez and Haig are with Bernal and Yates.
But Bernal can't hold the pace.
His pre-race frown was revealing.
Mas and Roglic are now working together to gain as much time as possible on their rivals.
1km to go
Caruso is suffering and losing time.
Mas and Roglic are only 1:40 down now.
Bernal is suffering but trying to limit his losses.
Haig cruelly attacks to further distance him. What racing.
Bernal's head drops as his gap opens further.
Caruso is driving to the finish.
He is going to win the stage.
Caruso zips up his jersey and prepares to celebrate.
Caruso waves his arms in the air in joy.
He holds his head as he crosses the line, struggling to believe he has won.
Caruso spent 70km out front solo.
Roglic accelerates in the final 100m to take second and a few seconds on Enric Mas.
Lopez finishes with Hig and Yates. They're at 30 seconds down on Roglic.
Mader and Ciccone catch and pass Bernal.
Here come other riders but they're at least a minute down on Mas and Roglic.
What a stage.
After an intense nine stages, the climb to Alto de Velefique really shook up the Vuelta.
Here comes Landa. He finishes 5:00 down on Caruso and so lost 4:00 to Roglic and Mas.
His GC hopes are surely over with Haig now Bahrain's leader.