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55th Vuelta a España - Grand Tour
Spain, August 26 - September 17, 2000
Stage 18 - September 14: Béjar - Ciudad Rodrigo, 159 km
14.00 CET - 130 kms to go
Welcome to the eighteenth stage of the Vuelta a España, 159 kms from leading Roberto Heras' (Kelme) home town, Béjar to Ciudad Rodrigo. There are four climbs today, the toughest being up to Alto de el Portillo at 92 kilometres. A couple of more climbs follow but the question is if anything will happen in the general classification. The same stage was ridden last year with 23 riders in a mass sprint won by Jan Ullrich ahead of all other major competitors, including Olano and Vandenbroucke. This suggests that there is time for the less specialized climbers to rejoin on the way down to the finish. The Kelme team has two options today. Either to crack second placed Casero (Festina) once and for all on the Portillo and then try to keep the gap on the descent. Or to stay cool and pick some more minutes from Casero on Saturday's mountain top finish at Alto de Abantos.
Attacks started immediately today with Garcia Acosta (Banesto), Brochard (Jean Delatour), Peron (Fassa Bortolo) and Garrido (Fuenlabrada) getting a gap from early on. Then Hvastija (Alessio) , Moreni (Liquigas) and Faresin (Mapei) went off but right now the peloton is assembled. Small attacks are happening all the time though.
14.30 CET - 110 kms to go
On the first climb, cat. 3 Alto de Mogarraz Kelme rides at the front at a steady speed. Banesto's Jon Odriozola tries a solo attack after one hour of riding and gets a reasonable gap. Van Kessel (Farm Frites) and Sastre (ONCE) bridges and Sastre takes the mountain prime to defend it from Heras who is second in that competition. The gap at the top: 13 seconds and no panic from Kelme.
14.50 CET - 100 kms to go
After the mountain prime Sastre falls back at lets the others go on at the front for a while. At 30 Odriozola has no wins in his career. He is a strong rider and has been close several times.
15.00 CET - 85 kms to go
Five riders are off from the peloton to chase the leading duo. Among them Garcia Acosta (Banesto), sprints competition leader Faresin (Mapei), Petacchi (Fassa B), Soler (Jazztel) and Moreni (Liquigas) and they are nineteen behind the leaders and two minutes ahead of the peloton approaching the cat 1 climb Mogarraz.
15.10 CET - 78 kms to go
The five finally caught the leading duo. Kelme took it easy in the peloton and the gap grew until the climb started. It begins with a relatively easy part at 2.4 percent in the first kilometre before the serious climbing starts. Bermejo (Fuenlabrada) lanterne rouge (last rider overall) is alone two minutes after the leaders while the peloton follows at 3.36. Cabello is the Kelme worker at the moment at the beginning of the climb in las Mestas with some 80 km to go. The front group is a couple of kms ahead.
15.20 CET - 72 kms to go
Kelme is driving the peloton as expected, but not as hard as on earlier mountain stages when Txema del Olmo attacks. He is 17th in the general classification at a bit over 15 minutes. After a minute he is joined by team mate Roberto Laiseka. Kelme stays cool.
15.40 CET - 67 kms to go
The Euskaltel duo catches and passes the leaders one by one while Garcia Acosta attacks alone in the front and takes the mountain prime. In the peloton Olano is already out in the back on the Alto de Portillo. Kelme is driving harder now. Hervé is seen at the back.
15.50 CET -
Five riders are at the front now down in the valley chasing Garcia Acosta in the valley: Laiseka and del Olmo (Euskaltel), Moreni (Liquigas), Faresin (Mapei) and Odriozola (Banesto). In the peoton it is still Kelme at the front. The gaps: 1.18 for Garcia Acosta to the quintet that has only 41 seconds to the peloton.
16.00 CET - 45 kms to go
Laiseka is now trying to catch Garcia Acosta alone on the climb to Paso de los Lobos, cat. 2. Laiseka is eleven minutes behind Heras in the overall classification.
16.10 CET - 50 kms to go
Laiseka catches Garcia Acosta before the summit of the Wolves' Pass, Paso de los Lobos, at the tree limit. Laiseka has lost is orange cap now and does all the work. The two riders are actually very different. Laiseka, winner of stage eleven, a typical climber, Garcia Acosta a tall heavy roleur who has won the GP Eddy Merckx pair TT with Olano some years ago . Oscar Sevilla pulls the peloton at a minute and a half.
16.18 CET - 42 kms to go
Laiseka took the mountain prime and is countering on Sastre in the King of the Mountains competition. But Sastre makes an effort for the summit in the peloton to keep Laiseka on a comfortable distance. He passes a little bit ahead of the peloton. The blue and white climber's jersey seems to be his.
On the way down the front duo stays together approaching the final climb of the day, Alto de Monsagro, cat. 3, 33 kms from the finish.
16.25 CET - 37 kms to go
The gap is shrinking now. Garcia Acosta is waving up Laiseka on the descent. They don't seem to be completely on terms. Finally Laiseka is left behind on the way down, where Garcia's raw power rules at Monsagro village. The Basque Laiseka catches Garcia Acosta as soon as the three km climb begins.
16.35 CET - 33 kms to go
Laiseka once more first over the top. An attack in the peloton from Gentili. I think we can expect some attacks now on the way down to the finish by riders wanting to win the stage. Kelme will just keep a fair speed. Gentili passes 1.30 behind, the peloton comes another 15 seconds behind.
16.42 CET - 25 kms to go
There are some 30 riders in the peloton and more are coming up from behind. Laiseka passes the last sprint without sprinting. Gentili manages to barely hold the peloton off and passes at 1.34 and is caught immediately in the little village hosting the "meta volante".
16.50 CET - 20 kms to go
The gap shrinks. A couple of Euskaltel riders are advancing in the peloton but it is Vinokourov (Telekom) who attacks trying to bridge. There are still some minor hills to conquer. Kelme is not worried at all by Vinokuorov who soon is within a minute of the front duo.
17.00 CET - 13 kms to go
Vinokourov rides at 70 kph down the road now and should be able to catch the duo but the gap doesn't shrink anymore. It was stabilized at 40 seconds for a while but then he closes in a couple of seconds again. There is a cross wind so things might happen in the peloton. Casero sticks close to Heras though.
17.04 CET - 10 kms to go
There are probably no sprinters in the little peloton, some 30 riders, so there is no team building a train, except Kelme that has no sprinters on the team at all. Otherwise the minute from the leading pair to shouldn't be enough at 10 kms to go. The peloton passes however at 1.15.
17.08 CET - 4 kms to go
There is a straight road, down slope, and Garcia Acosta is up front. Laiseka is too small to be able to push on this type of road. Virenque attacks the peloton but is soon caught.
17.15 CET - Finish
Laiseka doesn't help at all. There is a small rise in Ciudad Rodrigo and Laiseka might try something. And he does. Going into town the Basque attacks but is caught. Now they start looking at each other and then Vinokourov closes in considerably.
It's 9 seconds now at the km banner. It's loose riding up front. Garcia has forgotten Vinokourov. He catches them at 300 metres. Laiseka starts the sprint but Vinokourov does it. He wins. What a finish!
Peloton comes at 53 seconds with Moreni and Gentili at the front.
1. Aleksandr Vinokourov (Kaz) Telekom 3.52.57 2. Roberto Laiseka (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 3. Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Banesto 4. Cristian Moreni (Ita) Liquigas-Pata 1.01 5. Massimiliano Gentili (Ita) Liquigas-Pata 6. Raimundas Rumsas (Ltu) Fassa Bartolo 7. Jon Odriozola (Spa) Banesto 8. Wladimir Belli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 9. Andrej Zinchenko (Rus) LA Pecol 10. Alvaro Gonzales de Galdeano (Spa) Vitalicio Seguros General classification: 1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 63.09.18 2 Angel Casero Moreno (Spa) Festina Watches 3.41 3 Pavel Tonkov (Rus) Mapei-Quick Step 4.50 4 Raimundas Rumsas (Ltu) Fassa Bortolo 6.37 5 Santos Gonzalez Capilla (Spa) ONCE-Deutsche Bank 7.03 6 Manuel Beltran Martinez (Spa) Mapei-Quick Step 9.09 7 Fernando Escartín (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 9.16 8 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) ONCE-Deutsche Bank 9.23 9 Roberto Laiseka Jaio (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 9.58 10 Massimiliano Gentili (Ita) Cantina Tollo 10.36 11 Wladimir Belli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 10.39