58th Vuelta a España - GT
Spain, September 6-28, 2003
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Live Report Results
Stage 11 - Wednesday, September 17: Utiel - Cuenca, 162km
Complete Live Report
Commentary by Chris Henry, with additional reporting by Hernán Alvarez Macías
Time conversion guide: GMT = CEST - 2 hrs, AEST = CEST + 8 hrs, EDT = CEST
- 6 hrs, PDT = CEST - 9 hrs
Start time: 13:39 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:30 CEST
Welcome back after the rest day for Cyclingnews' live coverage of Stage 11 of the Vuelta a España. Today is an ideal transition day following a tough weekend and the day off. The race could see a successful breakaway take advantage of the uneven terrain between Utiel and Cuenca. With a modest distance of just 160km, the pace should be high and the profile will challenge the sprinters' teams to keep the race in one piece.
The ONCE-Eroski team remains in control of this year's Vuelta, having taken the lead on the opening day's team time trial. Isidro Nozal is proving more than worthy of his leader's jersey, and despite all the talk that Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano is the team leader, Nozal is still the top man after the first major mountain stages.
14:50 CEST 58 km/104 km to go
The race has started at an incredibly fast pace today, averageing nearly 50km/h in the first hour. A flurry of attacks from the field has not yet seen a real move get away, but the team leaders such as Gonzalez de Galdeano have been active at the front.
The first intermediate sprint in Landete was taken by Francisco Cerezo (Labraca 2 Café Baque) ahead of Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis) and José Vicente Garcia Acosta (iBanesto.com).
Roberto Heras suffered an early puncture but US Postal paced him back without incident, and has since been keeping an eye on affairs at the front, closing down several breakaway attempts.
14:59 CEST 65 km/97 km to go
A group of around 13 riders made an effort to go clear, but once again the pace remains very fast and it was the turn of iBanesto.com to pull the move back. The peloton has been riding nearly single file with just under 100km still to race.
Garcia Calvo (Labarca 2) is trying the next break, with two groups forming behind him, but the field is pulling him back quickly. US Postal is riding very attentively today, managing to get a man in each group that gets clear, however briefly.
A new group of 7 or 8 riders has gone clear at the top of a long, gentle rise on a wide road. Teams represented include iBanesto, Cofidis, US Postal, Phonak, Quick.Step.
Niki Aebersold (Phonak) leads the descent as the group tries to create a good gap on the main field, which is under the control of ONCE-Eroski and race leader Nozal.
The break has established itself and all of the riders are working well together to keep things rolling. Kelme has sent several men to the front of the field to lead the chase.
George Hincapie is in the break for US Postal, and the gap is now around 20".
The composition of the break is as follows:
George Hincapie (USPS), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Angelo Lopeboselli (Cofidis), Jurgen Van Goolen (Quick.Step), Niki Aebersold (Phonak), Aitor Osa (iBanesto.com), Denis Lunghi (Alessio), Fabrizio Guidi (Bianchi), Cesar Garcia Calvo (Larbarca 2), Benjamin Noval (Colchon Relax Fuenlabrada)
15:17 CEST 90 km/72 km to go
The break has 30" as the field hits the feed zone behind. The race is well ahead of schedule, and the peloton remains under the control of Kelme for the moment, as that team has nobody in the break.
15:22 CEST 94 km/68 km to go
There's a split forming in the middle of the peloton, which is practically single file from front to back. The riders have to pay particular attention to any gaps opening up, as to lose contact with the front half on a stage this fast could prove fatal. This time the gap has been closed.
Jurgen Van Goolen has attacked the lead group just before the peloton makes contact with the leaders. Garcia Calvo has jumped across to reach Van Goolen's wheel.
Van Goolen and Garcia Calvo are back in the bunch and the break is now finished. Kelme continues to drive the peloton as a fairly large group is attacking out the back...
Teams are riding together, as US Postal sends several riders to the front, along with the ONCE squad.
Among those who have found themselves out the back and in a group of riders dropped is Angel Casero, Bianchi's leader and former Vuelta winner. Casero has been suffering from knee problems and is no longer a contender for the overall.
Some riders in the field are still filling their pockets with food from the musettes, having been unable to take the time and energy after the feed zone during Kelme's massive chase of the break. Now the pace has eased just enough to regroup and for many to catch their breath.
15:35 CEST 109 km/53 km to go
Tour hours of racing and the average speed is still just over 49 km/h. The main field has slowed for a bit, which should help the second group (which also includes David Millar) to rejoin, which it has just done.
Michael Sandstod (CSC) is the next rider to take his chances with an attack. The peloton lets him go for the moment. He's trying to take advantage of the healthy tailwind to build up a gap on his own, and the fact that he's a talented rider against the clock doesn't hurt either.
Kelme continues to set the pace in the main field, but ONCE, US Postal, and iBanesto.com all have riders near the front. The sprinters' teams such as Fassa Bortolo and Telekom (for Petacchi and Zabel, respectively), are not interested in doing any work too early.
Sandstod is still away on his own.
15:50 CEST 120 km/42 km to go
TV Time is over for Sandstod as he is pulled back by the peloton.
The riders are enjoying perfect conditions today, with the slight tailwind, blue skies, and pleasant temperatures.
Pedro Diaz Lobato (Paternina Costa de Almeria) has attacked right as Sandstod was caught.
Lobato's move has sparked a little more interest than Sandstod's, and several riders are trying to bridge the gap and form a new break. They've reached him, and straight away a Cofidis rider jumps clear.
The peloton is not far behind as the race climbs a gentle hill, still on a wide open road typical of the Vuelta.
Around ten riders have slipped ahead, with three chasing in between.
The group of three riders chasing includes Kelme's Oscar Sevilla. Not only is it a good move for Sevilla, trying to fight his way back into the race after an early crash, Kelme will not have to handle the chase this time around. Along with Sevilla there's Bert Grabsch (Phonak) and Santiago Blanco (Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada).
Sevilla, Grabsch, and Blanco have joined the lead group now, and the consolidated lead group has 35" on the peloton. But the riders are still attacking each other, and three have tried to go clear off the front.
Two CSC riders have jumped clear of the peloton: Bruun and Sandstod. They're trying to bridge to the lead group of 11 or so riders.
ONCE is back in command at the head of the peloton, 35" behind the break. Bruun and Sandstod are 10" ahead of the field.
Bruun and Sandstod shake their heads and decide that they're going nowhere. They've drifted back into the field which is once again gathering steam.
16:14 CEST 142 km/20 km to go
The break has an advantage of 50" on the field, and it's slowly going up. There are ten teams represented up front, which will help the group's chances, as no other teams are taking over for ONCE in the peloton.
There's one climb coming up in the finale of today's stage, the Alto del Castillo, a Cat. 3. climb. The summit is just 12km from the finish in Cuenca and the sprinters' teams will have a tough job ahead to both bring back the break and keep the field together.
Gorka Gerrikagoitia (Euskaltel) has tangled wheels and crashed, along with a Domina Vacanze rider and Bingen Fernandez (Cofidis). Gerrikagoitia is up and riding but Fernandez is not pleased and is staying by the side of the road. He looks more annoyed than injured.
At the final intermediate sprint of the day, the man who started this break, Lobato, takes the points ahead of Torsten Hiekmann and Renato Silva.
Onto the finishing circuit and the final climb, the leaders start to force the pace dramatically. Santos Gonzalez (Domina Vacanze) has jumped clear and is powering up the climb through the streets of Cuenca.
Gonzalez is maintaining his effort well and holding off the chasers, climbing over some sections of pavé in the town.
David Etxebarria makes the junction to Gonzalez, but the rest of the group is just behind, but is breaking apart after the summit of the climb.
In the big move are/were: Renato Silva, Angelo Lopeboselli, Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta, Constantino Zaballa, Torsten Hiekmann, Pedro Lobato, Karsten Kroon, Stefano Casagranda, Floyd Landis, Daniel Atienza, Santiago Blanco, Oscar Pereiro, and Oscar Sevilla.
Etxebarria and Gonzalez are staying clear on the descent, with Valverde and Pereiro chasing 39" behind. The peloton is closing in and sweeping up the remnants of the break, which exploded on the climb.
With 40" in hand for the two leaders, the move could stay away. Most of the GC leaders appear to have made the first split in the main field.
Five riders have joined up in the chase of the two leaders.
Team Telekom now is taking up the chase, as Zabel has made the split in the peloton and fancies his chances in a sprint should the race come back together.
16:31 CEST 155 km/7 km to go
Telekom is bringing the gap down to 33", bolstered by the knowledge that Petacchi may not have made the split.
16:32 CEST 156 km/6 km to go
Etxebarria and Gonzalez are giving everything they can to stay away on the long descent to the finish. The five chasers are 18" behind, the peloton is another 9" back from them, closing in quickly.
The two leaders are losing time throughout the descent, down to just 12" ahead of the field.
Erik Zabel is in 6th position in the field, looking for a shot at his second Vuelta stage win. Valverde is there for Kelme, ready to challenge in Petacchi's absence.
16:38 CEST 160 km/2 km to go
Two kilometres for the leaders and the gap is within 10".
Etxebarria has just attacked! Knowing the field was closing in quickly he's jumped, but Gonzalez comes back and pulls through under the 1km to go banner.
The two leaders are caught as the sprint starts. The field is led by Aitor Gonzalez, who made the big push to catch the lead duo.
Tom Boonen comes bursting through and looks set to take the sprint, but Erik Zabel digs deep to pass the big Belgian right at the line by a matter of centimetres. Angel Edo takes third place.
1 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom 3.14.59
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon
3 Angel Edo (Spa) Milaneza-MSS
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com
6 Gorka Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
7 Stefano Casagranda (Ita) Alessio
8 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor
9 José Jufre (Spa) Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada
10 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
General classification after stage 11
1 Isidro Nozal (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 37.12.40
2 Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 1.48
3 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor 3.03
4 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 3.05
5 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor 3.28
6 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com 3.40
7 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 3.57
8 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 4.00
9 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 4.04
10 Unai Osa (Spa) iBanesto.com 4.14
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