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Photo ©: Bettini

58th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 6-28, 2003

Main page    Start List    Stage profile     Map     Latest Live Report    Results

Stage 12 - Thursday, September 18:  Cuenca - Albacete, 168.8km

Complete Live Report

Commentary by Jeff Jones, 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: 13:26 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:15 CEST

14:24 CEST    
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Vuelta España. Today the riders will tackle the 12th stage in the three week event, from Cuenca to Albacete. Today's stage is downhill for over half of it, and we can expect a very fast average speed again. Sprinters Alessandro Petacchi, Erik Zabel and Tom Boonen will more than likely fight it out for the win again, but you never know. Both Zabel and Petacchi have two stage wins apiece, while Boonen is still looking for the breakthrough.

There are three intermediate sprints today at Motilla del Palancar (km 63), Quintanar del Rey (km 90) and Barrax (km 138). The only climb of the day is near the start, the Cat. 3 Puerto de Tordiga (km 15.7).

14:33 CEST    43 km/126 km to go
The current situation in the stage is that we have a breakaway of four riders: Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Domina Vacanze-Elitron), Constantino Zaballa (Kelme-Costa Blanca), Paulo Barroso (Milaneza-MSS) and Pedro Diaz Lobato (Paternina-Costa de Almeria) with a 5 minute lead to the peloton after 45 km.

The quartet attacked after only 4 km, and reached the top of the Cat. 3 climb with a healthy 3 minute lead. First over was Constantino Zaballa, followed by Pedro Diaz Lobato and Miguel Martin Perdiguero.

None of the breakaway riders is remotely a threat on GC, with Zaballa the best placed in 36th, 43'00 down on Isidro Nozal.

14:49 CEST    55 km/112 km to go
The four leaders are swapping off well, increasing their advantage to 5'35 over the peloton. Again not a cloud in sight and the temperature is 27 degrees at the finish.

The wind is quite strong at the moment, and Fassa Bortolo is working in the peloton, along with Quick.Step. The average speed in the first hour was 41.1 km/h, so we probably won't have another 50 km/h day today.

14:56 CEST    63 km/106 km to go
The leaders reach the sprint at Motilla del Palancar (km 63) and don't bother contesting the sprint. First across was Pedro Diaz Lobato followed by Constantino Zaballa and then Miguel Martin Perdiguero.

15:00 CEST    67 km/102 km to go
The peloton motors through Motilla del Palancar some 5'30 behind the break. It's still Quick.Step and Fassa setting the tempo, but no-one from Telekom surprisingly, given Zabel's form at the moment.

15:12 CEST    76 km/93 km to go
The chase still hasn't started in earnest, although there are quite a few Quick.Step and Fassa guys on the front of the peloton. ONCE is up there too of course, protecting leaders Isidro Nozal and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano from the wind.

The gap is still around the 5'00 mark, with Perdiguero, Zaballa, Lobato and Barroso the riders in the break.

15:22 CEST    82 km/87 km to go
The peloton is starting to pick up the pace, ready to begin the hunt for the four breakaways. It's not strung out yet though, but the gap has come down under the five minute mark.

Luis Perez (Cofidis) is sporting bandages on his leg after being involved in the crash yesterday.

15:28 CEST    86 km/83 km to go
The tension is apparent in the front of the peloton now, as the pace picks up in the cross winds to try and force splits. ONCE and Kelme are now taking turns with Fassa and Quick.Step. The gap to the four leaders has plummeted to 3'40.

15:34 CEST    91 km/78 km to go
The leaders have reached Quintanar del Rey, the location of the second sprint. First across the line is Perdiguero, followed by Diaz Lobato and Barroso. The gap to the peloton is now under 3 minutes, despite the fact that the breakaways have got their collective heads down.

The average speed in the second hour was 42.5 km/h, for an overall average of 41.8 km/h.

15:40 CEST    94 km/75 km to go
The peloton has reached the feed zone, with ONCE in front but not forcing the pace. Floyd Landis (USPS) gets to the front of the bunch as he unpacks his lunch.

The pause doesn't last long however, as Domina Vacanze and Bianchi get to the front and put the hammer down. That puts a few riders under pressure at the back.

15:49 CEST    101 km/68 km to go
The high and nervous pace in the peloton is really taking its toll on the breakaways, who are now just 1'40 in front. Many teams are trying to get to the front to be in the preferred position, but only ONCE has been able to maintain its presence. The riders have turned right, and the crosswinds aren't as bad at the moment.

15:56 CEST    108 km/61 km to go
Zaballa, Perdiguero, Barroso and Diaz Lobato have sat up, with the peloton 50 seconds behind them. Fassa Bortolo has put its men on the front again, and they're moving. Obviously no desire to let the break hang out there until near the finish. There's still a lot of racing to come that means.

16:03 CEST    112 km/57 km to go
The peloton hasn't remained agrupado for long, as two riders launch an attack. Jose Luis Martinez (Paternina) and Michael Sandstod (CSC) are the two on the chopping block.

16:08 CEST    115 km/54 km to go
Martinez and Sandstod realise that they're not making any headway on the massive peloton, and sit up after a brief chat. It's going to be hard for anything to get away today.

US Postal and ONCE are in front now, along with the Fassa boys. Heras is well protected by Hincapie.

16:11 CEST    
The peloton crosses a bridge and suddenly the pace increases, with the front riders trying to force a split. US Postal are on the front driving at 55 km/h.

It has the desired effect and about 100 riders are dropped. The gap is not big but it's growing. There are now three groups.

Nozal takes his turn in front too, and it's ONCE and USPS doing the damage.

16:17 CEST    121 km/48 km to go
The second - and by far the biggest - group is losing ground rapidly to the first peloton, which is led by ONCE and USPS. The gap is up to 26" and many Cofidis, Euskaltel, CSC and Quick.Step riders seem to be in the second group.

Now the first peloton of 70-80 is stringing out in the gutter. This is really hurting the guys at the back. Splits are already happening. There are now three groups, and the front group is reducing to 25 riders.

Frigo is in difficulty, it's reported. There are riders all over the place now. Valverde is in Frigo's group, which is losing time to the front group with Nozal.

16:23 CEST    
In front it's all happening. Heras, Gonzalez de Galdeano and Nozal are all swapping off turns. They've put a good chunk of time into Frigo/Valverde's third group, and the fourth (and biggest) group is nowhere to be seen.

Petacchi and Zabel are in the front group, which is down to about 25-30.

16:29 CEST    139 km/30 km to go
In the front group, besides Nozal, Gonzalez de Galdeano, Beltran and Heras, we also have Luis Perez, Michael Rasmussen, Erik Zabel, Alessandro Petacchi, Francisco Mancebo and Oscar Sevilla. No sign of Aitor Gonzalez.

The second group is at 22 seconds, while the third group with Frigo and Valverde is at 33 seconds.

16:32 CEST    141 km/28 km to go
The second group has been caught by the third group, which is 40" behind the 27 leaders. Aitor Gonzalez is in the second group, along with Frigo. Their teammate Petacchi is in group one. Valverde and Boonen are also in group 2. Aitor and Frigo have to do a lot of work to try and keep the damage to a minimum.

16:40 CEST    147 km/22 km to go
The gap between the two groups is 36 seconds, and US Postal and ONCE are still working hard in front. There are a few sprinters in this front group of 27: Petacchi, Zabel, Fred Rodriguez, Giovanni Lombardi and Rafael Schweda. Most, if not all, of the US Postal-Berry Floor team is here too. The main riders not here are Aitor Gonzalez and Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo) and Alejandro Valverde (Kelme).

The average speed for the third hour is 44.6 km/h.

16:44 CEST    149 km/20 km to go
Mathew Hayman is also working hard in the front group, because his teammate Rasmussen stands to move up the GC. The second group is not giving up though, and is 38 seconds behind with 20 km to go.

16:49 CEST    153 km/16 km to go
The situation on the road is status quo, with the US Postal-led front group holding a 40 second gap on the second group with Frigo, Aitor and Valverde. In group one, Luis Perez is at the back, stretching his legs.

If these groups stay apart, then who will lead out Zabel and Petacchi? It doesn't look like any other Fassa/Telekom riders made the cut in front.

16:52 CEST    155 km/14 km to go
The front group turns into a headwind with 14 km to go. Interestingly while in the crosswind, US Postal was keeping the paceline on the left hand side, even though the wind was coming from the right. It doesn't seem to have done much harm to the speed though, but now the ONCE riders aren't working in front.

16:55 CEST    157 km/12 km to go
The pace has slowed into the headwind, as the second group is now 45 seconds behind the front riders. Besides seven of the top 10 on GC in front, we also have Petacchi, Zabel, Lombardi, Fred Rodriguez and Rafael Schweda, who can all sprint.

16:58 CEST    160 km/9 km to go
The leaders hit the 9 km to go mark, with a 46 second gap to the Frigo/Aitor/Valverde group. Nozal and Gonzalez de Galdeano are no longer working in front, but some of the other ONCE riders are, along with all of US Postal of course.

17:00 CEST    162 km/7 km to go
The speed of both groups is about 44-45 km/h into this stiff headwind. It looks like Gonzalez and Frigo will lose a precious 40 seconds today, as well as having to expend reserves before tomorrow's time trial.

17:02 CEST    164 km/5 km to go
The cooperation is not perfect in the front group, but it's good enough as they hold off group two at 45 seconds with 5 km to go. Now Zabel and Petacchi (who has De Los Angeles with him) can start to think about the sprint.

17:04 CEST    165 km/4 km to go
US Postal leads through the 4 km to go banner, still swapping off hard to maintain the gap over group 2.

17:05 CEST    166 km/3 km to go
Peloton 2 is losing more seconds now - it's 50 with 3 km to go, as group 1 hammers along the streets of Albacete.

17:06 CEST    167 km/2 km to go
The leaders now have 2 km to go, and the gap is increasing all the time to 54 seconds. This will hurt Frigo and Aitor tomorrow.

17:07 CEST    168 km/1 km to go
Last kilometre, and De Los Angeles moves to the front for Petacchi.

17:08 CEST    0 km to go
Unai Etxebarria attacks with 800m to go, but then Lombardi leads out the sprint with Zabel and Petacchi on his wheel. Rodriguez goes from a long way out but can't do it. Zabel almost does it again, but this time it's Petacchi who wins! Zabel takes second by less than half a wheel, Rodriguez takes third.

The gap to the second group is up to over a minute at the finish: 1'08 as Tom Boonen leads them home.

That's all folks from stage 12, which turned out to be a lot tougher than it looked. The big winners today on GC were ONCE and US Postal, while Kelme and Fassa Bortolo lost time. The consolation prize for Fassa was that Petacchi won his third stage, but he had to really fight for that one.

Please join us again tomorrow at 14:30 for the 13th stage individual time trial: 53.3 km around Albacete, which will certainly suit the specialists against the clock.


1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo            3.41.49
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom                         
3 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Saunier Duval-Vini Caldirola     
4 Alessandro Bertolini (Ita) Alessio                    
5 Raphael Schweda (Ger) Team Bianchi                    
6 Angel Vicioso (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski                   
7 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com                  
8 Michael Barry  (Can) US Postal-Berry Floor            
9 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank                      
10 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca               

General classification after stage 11

1 Isidro Nozal (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski                           
2 Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski        1.48
3 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor             3.03
4 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor              3.28
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com                   3.40
6 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank                       4.04
7 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                        4.14
8 Unai Osa (Spa) iBanesto.com                            4.14
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca            5.06
10 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo                    5.09

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