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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini


58th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 6-28, 2003

Main page    Start List    Stage profile     Map     Latest Live Report    Results

Stage 8 - Saturday, September 13:  Cauterets - Pla de Beret/Val d'Aran, 166km

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: 13:08 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:30 CEST

14:29 CEST    
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the 8th stage of the Vuelta España, the second Pyrenean stage and another tough one. Today's route is from Cauterets to Pla de Beret/Val d'Aran, and contains four categorised climbs. The first is the Col d'Aspin (km 64), which is often used as a prelude to the Tourmalet in the Tour de France. However the riders tackle it from the other direction today, and following the descent head up the Col de Peyresourde (km 95), Col del Portillon (km 120) and finally the ascent to Pla de Beret (km 166).

There are also three sprints, at Bagneres de Bigorre (km 45), Luchon (km 109) and Salardu (km 153).

14:55 CEST    64 km/102 km to go
The current situation in the race is that we have a leading group of nine riders which has just gone over the Col d'Aspin. The still big peloton is nearing the summit, 8'20 behind. The break escaped after around 35 km.

Riders in the break: Joaquin Rodriguez (O.N.C.E.-Eroski), Denis Lunghi (Alessio), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Eladio Jimenez (iBanesto.com), Aitor Osa (iBanesto.com), Constantino Zaballa (Kelme-Costa Blanca), Joan Horrach (Milaneza-MSS), Francisco José Lara (Team Bianchi) and José Jufre (Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada).

Horrach was first to the top of the Aspin, in front of Jufre and Osa.

14:58 CEST    
The peloton has reached the summit, and is now on its way down, with the break some 8 kilometres in front. The next climb is the Peyresourde.

15:05 CEST    74 km/92 km to go
Despite the large advantage over the peloton, there is no real panic. The best placed rider in the break is Aitor Osa, who is 33rd at 16'23. The current lead is 8'13, so that will have to double at least for him to be a threat.

15:10 CEST    81 km/85 km to go
The nine leaders are now on their way to the Col de Peyresourde, riding up the long valley in bright sunshine. The road is gradually uphill here, before the real climb starts.

15:19 CEST    87 km/79 km to go
The peloton has now fallen over 10 minutes behind the nine man break, which is rapidly approaching the foot of the Peyresourde. A Labarca rider is on the front of the bunch, attempting to limit the damage. But the teams of ONCE, Kelme, ibanesto, Euskaltel, Alessio, Milaneza, Bianchi and Relax all have riders in the break, so there's no desire to chase. Also US Postal doesn't really want to take the responsibility to chase - they're quite happy for one of these riders to win.

15:27 CEST    90 km/76 km to go
The leaders, Joaquin Rodriguez, Denis Lunghi, Unai Etxebarria, Eladio Jimenez, Aitor Osa, Constantino Zaballa, Joan Horrach, Francisco José Lara and José Jufre are climbing the Col de Peyresourde now, as the peloton picks up the tempo in pursuit. Labarca has a couple of riders on the front, and the gap has been knocked back to 9'45.

Labarca's interest in bringing the break back is because they have Felix Cardenas in the mountains jersey. With nine riders in front, the points on the Cat. 1 climbs will all be taken. Also Cardenas is 6'41 down on GC.

Several riders are being dropped now off the back, mainly from Alessio.

15:32 CEST    92 km/74 km to go
Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Domina Vacanze) accelerates, but the Labarca boys don't want to let him go. The gap to the nine leaders is down to 8'50.

15:37 CEST    94 km/72 km to go
There is some serious damage being done to the peloton on the Peyresourde, the second of the day's four climbs. It's the Labarca riders who are doing it, and more than half the peloton has been dropped. There are still nine riders up the road, with an 8 minute lead.

Jaime Hernandez (Team Bianchi) has abandoned.

15:44 CEST    96 km/70 km to go
Horrach takes the points at the top of the Peyresourde, in front of Aitor Osa and Josep Jufre. Horrach has won both climbs today, but still needs to get some more points to overtake Cardenas, whose boys are working hard.

15:49 CEST    100 km/66 km to go
Richard Virenque, who was dropped early on the climb, is making his way back to the peloton of 60-70. He is clearly not in the same condition as he was in the Tour, but is fighting.

15:55 CEST    105 km/61 km to go
Cardenas leads the chase in the peloton down the other side of the Peyresourde, trying to limit the advantage of the nine breakaways in order to pull them back within striking distance. It's going to be a hard task, with the gap stable at 8'20 at the moment.

16:03 CEST    110 km/56 km to go
The descent off the Peyresourde is quick, and the nine leaders now on the second last climb, the Col del Portillon. This is an 8 km long mountain at an average of 8.1 %.

The peloton rides through Luchon, led by David Latasa (Kelme).

16:10 CEST    114 km/52 km to go
A few more Kelme riders have appeared at the front of the peloton with the Labarca boys. They're running out of time though, and will have to do a lot of hard tempo making on this climb.

Levi Leipheimer is dropped, as Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Kelme) tries to give his teammates some of the many bottles he has collected. However he's too tired and it it's too much weight, and he can't get to the front again. He'll be well stocked at any rate...

In the breakaway, Jimenez and Aitor Osa are helping keeping the pace high, as they have a good chance of a stage win today.

16:17 CEST    117 km/49 km to go
The Kelme/Labarca chase is having a good effect, reducing the gap to the nine leaders to 6'00. The peloton has 5 km to go on the Portillon, and is still fairly large with 40 odd riders.

16:25 CEST    119 km/47 km to go
Three iBanesto riders are on the front of the peloton now, despite having two riders in the break. That's a curious tactic. Luis Perez is up there too.

Kelme's work didn't help Oscar Sevilla, who is dropped off the back of the peloton!

16:27 CEST    120 km/46 km to go
Aitor Gonzalez and Michael Rasmussen are forcing the pace, along with Valverde, Del Olmo and Luis Perez. These five have a small gap to the peloton. Rasmussen attacks, just as Piepoli, Unai Osa, Heras, Scarponi and Cardenas close the gap.

The leaders are over the top of the Portillon now. Joan Horrach takes another 16 points, followed by Aitor Osa and Josep Jufre.

16:29 CEST    122 km/44 km to go
Rasmussen slows his pace and waits for the rest of the front group. Smart move, as he'll need his strength on the last climb. He crosses the top, 3'39 behind the leaders.

16:38 CEST    132 km/34 km to go
Unai Etxebarria, Joan Horrach and Josep Jufre attack the leading break, but get the company of Aitor Osa. They are losing ground to the peloton, which has Cardenas on the front now.

16:41 CEST    
Now Eladio Jimenez, Denis Lunghi, Joan Horrach and Josep Jufre attack the break. Horrach goes even harder, taking Lunghi with him. The other two react and bridge the gap.

The peloton has regrouped on the descent, with Isidro Nozal, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano and Jose Azevedo coming back to the front and now setting tempo. Some 30-35 men are in the main bunch.

16:45 CEST    137 km/29 km to go
Richard Virenque attacks! He's been dropped on every climb, but the slow pace in the peloton has forced his hand. There's still a bit of flat left before the next climb begins. He gets Jose Luis Martinez (Paternina) for company.

16:50 CEST    140 km/26 km to go
We still have four leaders: Jufre, Lunghi, Horrach and Eladio Jimenez. 20 seconds behind them are Joaquin Rodriguez, Unai Etxebarria, Aitor Osa (iBanesto.com) and Constantino Zaballa. Francisco Lara is somewhere behind them, then Virenque and Martinez, then the ONCE driven peloton.

Horrach and Jufre attack, and Lunghi and Jimenez can't follow them. They are looking around for the other four.

16:54 CEST    
Horrach and Jufre are caught by the other six, and now we have eight leaders again. However it's not for long, as Unai Etxebarria mounts an attack. It doesn't work, and we still have eight.

The gaps have blown out again, as the peloton goes into cruise mode. Virenque and Martinez are 5'15 behind the eight leaders, with the peloton another 1'07 back, still led by ONCE.

17:02 CEST    143 km/23 km to go
The leaders have just passed through Vielha, with 25 km to go of uphill work to come. They will climb all the way now, with 20 km at 4 percent average, then a short 2 km flat before the finish.

Oscar Sevilla has made it back to the peloton, which is quite big again.

17:09 CEST    148 km/18 km to go
The leaders are heading up the long final climb of the Pla de Beret now, with Virenque and Martinez 5'25 behind them, and the peloton at 7 minutes. The gap had been reduced to 3'30 at one stage, but the lack of cohesion in the peloton in the valley saw it blow out again.

Aitor Osa is the best placed rider in the break, starting the day 33rd at 16'23.

17:17 CEST    153 km/13 km to go
The eight leaders hit the intermediate sprint at Salardu with Etxebarria taking the points from Jufre and Jimenez. 5'30 behind them, Virenque and Martinez have caught the lone Francisco Lara (Bianchi) who was with the break at the beginning. The peloton is another 1'45 back.

17:20 CEST    155 km/11 km to go
Carlos Sastre (CSC) decides it's time to attack the peloton, which is now 6'50 behind the leaders with 14 km to go. He's left it too late to catch those in front, but he could take some time out of the other GC riders. ONCE lifts the tempo a little behind him.

17:24 CEST    156 km/10 km to go
Aitor Osa attacks in the front group, splitting it. Joan Horrach, Josep Jufre and Joaquin Rodriguez join him. Eladio Jimenez closes the gap, and immediately counters.

In the peloton there is more action as Luis Perez and Felix Cardenas attack, taking Unai Osa with them. The peloton is still some 30 riders strong.

17:29 CEST    158 km/8 km to go
Now Rasmussen goes in pursuit of Cardenas and co. There is still no reaction from the peloton, with ONCE in front.

17:33 CEST    160 km/6 km to go
In the very front of the race, Aitor Osa and Joaquin Rodriguez look to have dropped their companions, and are en route to the stage win.

Further down the mountain, Virenque has been caught by Perez, Sastre, Rasmussen, Cardenas and Unai Osa (Martinez has been dropped and is back in the peloton).

Both Virenque and Sastre have been dropped by the Luis Perez group.

The peloton is still led by ONCE, and there are about 25 riders in the bunch.

17:38 CEST    161 km/5 km to go
Virenque has done well, as the ONCE led peloton passes him a few km from the top of the Pla de Beret. We still have two leaders: Aitor Osa and Joaquin Rodriguez. The others (Horrach, Etxebarria, Zaballa, Jimenez, Jufre) are at 29 seconds. Then Perez's group at 4'43 and the gold jersey group at 5'12.

17:41 CEST    
Aitor Osa is doing the most work in front, with Joaquin Rodriguez looking to profit a bit with a stage win.

Aitor Gonzalez ups the pace in the peloton, and Heras goes with him. But ONCE's Serrano is right there on his wheel, despite leading the bunch for the last 10 km or so. A few riders are dropped - it looks like Sevilla has gone off the back again.

Aitor Gonzalez puts in a really strong attack, and that hurts a lot. Heras goes with him and Santos Gonzalez. A Milaneza rider is there too, as Isidro Nozal tries to close the gap with De Galdeano, Mancebo. Beltran is off the back.

17:44 CEST    164 km/2 km to go
Aitor Osa crosses the summit first, with Rodriguez on his wheel. Now just two km of downhill to go.

Nozal's group closes to Aitor Gonzalez and Heras, and there are about 10 riders there now. Beltran is definitely suffering off the back.

17:45 CEST    165 km/1 km to go
Aitor Osa tries an attack for the stage win, but Rodriguez is right there. Just 1 km to go for the leaders.

17:46 CEST    0 km to go
Rodriguez starts the sprint, takes the final corner and wins the stage. Aitor Osa takes second place, but will move up on GC.

Constantino Zaballa wins the three up sprint for third, with Jufre and Horrach following. Then the rest of the break trickle in. Rasmussen leads his group home for 9th at 3'32, while Nozal leads De Galdeano, Heras and a group home at 3'50. Beltran comes in at 4'29, which means Nozal has increased his lead on GC. Excellent riding by ONCE today.

The GC has Nozal in the lead, with his teammate Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano second at 1'21, and Beltran falling to third at 1'34. Frigo is fourth at 3'07 and Heras fifth at 3'18. Tomorrow's ninth stage should be another interesting mountain battle - join us then for live coverage, beginning 14:30 local time.

Results

Unofficial
1 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) ONCE                 4.45.40
2 Aitor Osa (Spa) iBanesto.com
3 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Kelme                 0.50
4 Josep Jufre (Spa) Relax Fuenlabrada
5 Joan Horrach (Spa) Milaneza
6 Unai Etxebarria (Spa) Euskaltel                 1.11
7 Denis Lunghi (Ita) Alessio                      1.32
8 Eladio Jimenez (Spa) iBanesto.com               2.10
9 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank                3.32
10 Luis Perez (Spa) Cofidis

General classification after stage 8

1 Isidro Nozal (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski                    
2 Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski 1.21
3 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor      1.34
4 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                 3.07
5 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor       3.18 

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