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2001 Vuelta

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Photo ©: Bettini

57th Vuelta a España

Spain, September 7- 29, 2002

Main page    Start List    Map    Stage Profile     Results

Stage 15 - September 22: Gijón - Angliru, 176.7 km

Complete Live Report

Start time: 12:30 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:15 CEST

14:40 CEST    72 km/105 km to go
Welcome to the Cyclingnews coverage of the etapa reina of this Vuelta, the 177 km stage through the seemingly perpetually rainy mountains of Asturias with its finish atop the fearsome Angliru climb. Even more fearsome than in previous years, perhaps, since some recent surveying work has revealed that it is actually fractionally longer and steeper than was previously supposed, with the maximum gradient now revealed as 23.6%. With two first and one second category climbs before the Angliru, it is not wholly surprising that some riders and teams have opted for triple chainrings today (and the others are using 38x29 or so bottom gears). Another tradition of this stage is that low cloud and rough terrain make communications with the race fairly shaky, but we'll be doing our best.

The early action today has come from the Spanish riders; we have a group of three breakaways: Iker Flores (Euskaltel), Juan Antonio Flecha (Banesto) and Oscar Pereiro (Phonak). Two and a half minutes behind them are a group of 21 riders, with the bunch over 6 minutes back. The riders are tackling the first of the day's listed climbs, the first-category Puerto Marabio, a picturesque forested climb on (at least in part) a narrow backroad; the first time a stage finished up the Angliru the descents on these roads (made slippery by harder rain than we have today) proved a major obstacle.

The big crash yesterday produced a few non-starters this morning - Garate (who seemed worst hurt yesterday), Escartin, Bennati and Auger - and today has already proved too hard for Zoran Klemencic and Andreas Klöden who have packed. The Acqua e Sapone team is now down to three riders.

15:01 CEST    78 km/99 km to go
The second group is shedding riders on the climb - with Alexandr Bocharov (AG2R) struggling at the back of a group of a dozen or so - but is making some impression on the leaders whose lead is now down to 1.22. Flores is one of those who has gone for a triple ring today, but it doesn't seem to be doing him much good - he is having trouble staying with his two companions

15:08 CEST    80 km/97 km to go
The summit of the Marabio - the points going to Pereiro - comes soon enough to save Flores for the moment. A still smaller group of eight or nine riders followed them over the top at 1.06, with riders passing through in dribs and drabs; there is bound to be some regrouping on the plateau and descent that follow.

The bunch go over the top just under six minutes behind the leading trio; behind the autobus is already forming with Erik Zabel and several of his team-mates.

Flores slides off the road on a damp patch on the descent but is straight back on his bike. He sticks his knee out too much on corners.

15:17 CEST    92 km/85 km to go
More trouble on the descent - in the bunch a Kelme and an AG2R rider have come down. The Kelme rider, the worse hurt, is Alejandro Valverde; he is quite badly grazed but is continuing.

The chasing group has swelled again to 16 riders. Flores has not made it back to his former companions after his bump and the duo are now powering down the gorge road at the foot of the descent. There are a few tunnels on this stretch too, some quite long - always slightly disorienting at speed, even when they are lit.

Flores is alone at 35 seconds, with the group of 16 or so another minute behind him.

15:35 CEST    107 km/70 km to go
The lead duo pile on the pressure as the road flattens out, and Flores jobs back to be swept up by the chasers who are themselves now nearly two minutes down. The bunch - with all the main contenders and towed along by the Kelme team with Oscar Sevilla close to the front - is mopping up the riders dropped by the chasing group, but are now over 7 minutes behind Flecha and Pereiro.

15:45 CEST    112 km/65 km to go
The next climb is the Alto de Tenebredo, a fairly short but steep affair with about 340 metres of climbing over 3.5 km; steep enough to put Botero in difficulties almost immediately the bunch reach it. The leaders are now coming back a bit, with the gap to the Sevilla group down to six minutes.

15:50 CEST    113 km/64 km to go
Pereiro leads the duo over the top of the climb. The chasing group follows at 2.30.

In the bunch, Kelme and ONCE vests are massed at the front on the climb, joined by Francesco Casagrande and Massimo Codol. They crest the summit at 6.40. From here there are a few kilometers of descent, then 25 km or so of flat valley roads before the race tackles the first category Alto de Cordal, with the final climb starting straight after the descent from the Cordal.

Massimiliano Lelli has packed from the race.

One correction: Zabel is not in the laughing group, but in fact in the group of chasers, which seems however to be splitting up and is losing ground on the leaders now.

16:19 CEST    129 km/48 km to go
Nothing significant to report during the long run up the valleys; the stronger section of the chasers has closed to 2.49 behind the leading duo, with the bunch, now led by a couple of Saeco vests (Simoni is a previous stage winner on the Angliru as well as being the leader of the mountains classification) at 6.16.

16:28 CEST    138 km/39 km to go
The gaps are coming down slightly as the leaders pass through the little town of Mieres. The main bunch was down to about 70 riders over the last climb, but more have obviously come up from behind. It is still Saeco who are doing the work, with four men at the front of the bunch, now about 5 minutes behind the leaders and 2.50 behind the dozen chasers. The 17.15 suggested finishing time now looks seriously optimistic, given what is to come.

16:44 CEST    150 km/27 km to go
The Alto de Cordal is a climb of 505 m over 5.5 km, with the gradient pitching up to 12.3% at the top. Nothing compared to what follows it, but a chewy morsel all the same.

As the two leaders turn right up the climb, the pressure from the Saecos has brought the bunch closer behind them. Camenzind and a couple of Cofidis riders have also moved up to join the serried ranks of Kelme, ONCE and Saeco vests.

The chasers are 2.01 down as they turn off the main road, but the bunch are hard on their heels as well, 2.46. There is basically no more flat road from here on.

Fabrizio Guidi (Team Coast) has retired from the race.

16:48 CEST    151 km/26 km to go
Early on the climb the bunch is already shedding riders by the dozen. And the first riders from the chasing group - including Zabel - are caught very rapidly. The first attacker from the bunch is Cyclingnews diarist Danilo Di Luca.

16:53 CEST    152 km/25 km to go
The remnants of the chasing group are in ones and twos all the way up the road. The group with Sevilla is now down to 30 or so, too small to be called the bunch any more really. Toni Tauler (Kelme) is setting the pace with Aitor Gonzàlez on his wheel. Rubiera and David Etxebarria are among those dropped; Heras now has only Christian Vandevelde in support. The Sevilla group is now less than 1.40 behind the leaders.

17:00 CEST    156 km/21 km to go
On the steeper upper slopes the two leaders have not yet been caught by anyone, but their lead is not much over the minute now. Pereiro looks the stronger of the two and takes the top of the climb first, but they will not be in front for long now.

Aitor Osa joins the two leaders on the descent just as the bunch go over the summit, a minute down.

The descent is twisty and none too wide; the road is mostly dry but there is the odd wet patch or two. Pereiro is having trouble following the two ibanesto.com riders. In the bunch the Portuguese champion Rui Lavarinhas has gear trouble and has to change bikes.

There is a crash in the bunch - Guido Trentin (8th on GC) and double stage winner Pedro Lastras are among the riders down but they are up again. Tadja Valjavec (Fassa Bortolo) is also down.

17:11 CEST    164 km/13 km to go
Osa is the first down the descent and is now on the final climb - 1270 of climbing in 12.5 km, pitching up to a fearsome 23% in the final stretches.

It is actively raining at the foot of the climb, from the clouds which are shrouding the finish area.

David Millar has crashed (for a second time) near the bottom of the descent; he is in some discomfort and sitting up with difficulty. Problems with his left foot or ankle I think. He is now back on his bike.

17:19 CEST    167 km/10 km to go
Osa has 1.08 lead over a group of 20 or so including Sevilla, defending his lead from near the front with a cluster of green vests. Di Luca is back in that group again. Garcia Casas is also prominent. There is a lot of water on the road.

17:22 CEST    169 km/8 km to go
Vandevelde tows Heras up to the front of the group; Mayo, Azevedo and Zarrabeitia are also well up. Noone seems willing to try and break the rhythm of the climb too early, though. The visibility is getting pretty bad.

17:29 CEST    170 km/7 km to go
Osa's lead is steady at just over the one minute mark and now reaching the point where the gradient starts getting serious.

Casagrande - racing on a triple for the first time ever, is the first to make a tentative attack; Mayo goes with him but it doesn't last.

17:30 CEST    171 km/6 km to go
Aitor Gonzalez stretches it, and Sevilla is in a bit of trouble. Heras goes with Gonzalez. The are now on the Cabanas stretch with gradients of 22%.

Heras jumps and Gonzalez follows with difficulty. Sevilla is almost at a standstill in the group behind him. This could be the race-deciding move.

17:34 CEST    172 km/5 km to go
Heras is alone. Beloki is catching Gonzalez, but Heras is going away from them - 20 seconds gap already.

Sevilla is digging deep to limit the damage in the company of Casero and Møller, but they are nearly a minute down.

17:40 CEST    173 km/4 km to go
Beloki has dropped Gonzalez, who might have put too much in too early. Heras is alone in front, as Osa falls back through the field. Beloki is 40 seconds down, Gonzalez 50, Sevilla 1.25. Mayo has moved up a gear (figuratively, probably the opposite in practice) and is catching Gonzalez.

Check out the course profile here.

17:43 CEST    174 km/3 km to go
Casagrande is catching Mayo and the two have passed Gonzalez and are closing on Beloki, now the best part of a minute down on Heras, who (for the gear ratio obsessed) looks to be riding with a 30x23 or so bottom gear - I think that it will be a victory for the triple chainset today, although there is still a way to go ... Sevilla is at 1.50 at the 3 km banner.

17:47 CEST    175 km/2 km to go
The steepest section, the 23.6% Cueña de Las cabres, and Heras is zigzagging. The wet road means that one bit of wheelslip could leave you on the ground and almost unable to restart.

Under the 2 km banner Beloki is 1.14 down with Casagrande five seconds further back. Behind them every rider is at the mercy of stalled cars and motorbikes. Mayo has dropped Gonzalez, another half a minute behind.

17:54 CEST    Finish
Heras takes the top of the climb, then just a few hundred metres of gentle descent (but with some unforgiving-looking cliffs to make it interesting) to through the fog to the finish to take it alone, barely able to raise one arm for a salute. But has he done enough?

Beloki comes in for second at 1.35, Mayo third at 1.50, emerging from the fog. Then a steady stream of riders - Gonzalez just over two minutes with Simoni and Di Luca. Heras will take the jersey.

Provisional result

1 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal Service           5.01.02
2 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski                    1.35
3 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Fassa Bortolo           1.41
4 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                  1.54
5 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca            2.16
6 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport
7 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport
8 Angel Casero (Spa) Team Coast                      2.22
9 Fabian Jeker (Swi) Milaneza-MSS                    2.34
10 Félix Garcia Casas (Spa) Bigmat.Auber 93          2.42
11 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca            2.50
12 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Team Coast

General classification after stage 15

1 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal Service          55.14.08
2 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca            0.35
3 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca             1.08
4 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski                    1.57
5 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                  2.16
6 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Fassa Bortolo           3.56
7 Félix Garcia Casas (Spa) Bigmat.Auber 93           4.05
8 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport          4.55
9 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Team Coast                    5.20
10 Angel Casero (Spa) Team Coast                     5.31
11 Fabian Jeker (Swi) Milaneza-MSS                   6.43
12 Carlos Garcia (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca           15.20
13 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport         23.20

There are more summit finishes to come, but there is also the closing time trial, which favours Gonzalez and Beloki, so Heras is far from having this race won already, but the ranks of the pretenders have been well trimmed down. Heras also takes over the white jersey for the combined classification; Gilberto Simoni did enough to hang on to the mountains jersey, while Zabel remains well enough ahead in the points competition not to worry for the moment. Team Coast lead the team classification.

Results     Mail the Cyclingnews commentary team!


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