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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

58th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 6-28, 2003

Main page    Start List    Stage profile     Map     Latest Live Report    Results

Stage 9 - Sunday September 14: Vielha - Envalira (Andorra), 174.8km

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: 12:46 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:30 CEST

14:27 CEST    
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the third and final Pyrenean mountain stage of this year's Vuelta. Stage 9 is 175 km starting in Vielha and finishing on top of the 2410m Port d'Envalira in Andorra, a massive climb that will surely be a tough test for those with GC aspirations.

Before then, the riders will have to tackle the Port de la Bonaigua (km 22) and Port del Canto (km 95). Both climbs are rated as Cat. 1, but there are long sections of flat in between, which will make it harder for the top riders to attack each other. The finishing climb has plenty in it though: 26.8 km at an average of 5.1 percent, with sections of 9 percent.

There are the usual three intermediate sprints on offer today, at Rialp (km 71), Adrall (km 120) and Sant Eloi (km 140).

14:38 CEST    78 km/97 km to go
The current race situation: We have a group of three riders away, who have just passed through the intermediate sprint in Rialp. Gorka Gonzalez (Euskaltel) led Jorge Ferrio (Paternina) and Benjamin Noval (Relax) through to take the points.

Chasing them at 2 minutes is a much bigger group with Volodymir Gustov (Fassa Bortolo), Mikel Pradera, Joaquin Rodriguez and Angel Vicioso (O.N.C.E.-Eroski), Daniel Atienza (Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone), David Navas (Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada), David Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), José Garcia Acosta and Aitor Osa (iBanesto.com), Jesus Maria Manzano and Antonio Tauler (Kelme-Costa Blanca), Wladimir Belli (Lampre), Joan Horrach and Fabian Jeker (Milaneza-MSS), Patrick Sinkewitz (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Christian Pepoli (Team Saeco) and Bobby Julich (Team Telekom).

The peloton is at 3'14 at the moment.

The breakaway started on the first climb (Port de la Bonaigua), where Felix Cardenas took the points (and now leads the mountains classification) ahead of Aitor Osa and Jorge Ferrio. The break was caught by some riders on the descent, with others dropping back. After about 45 km, the three current leaders attacked.

14:43 CEST    80 km/95 km to go
The best placed rider in the second break is Felix Cardenas, who started the day in 14th at 6'21. Interestingly there are three ONCE riders in the break, including yesterday's winner Joaquin Rodriguez.

The riders are all on the Port del Canto now, the second climb of the day, and the breakaways are splitting up under the pressure of numerous attacks.

We now have six leaders, being pursued by Joaquin Rodriguez, Wladimir Belli, Garcia Acosta and Navas. The rest of the break is gradually being swallowed by the peloton.

14:50 CEST    83 km/92 km to go
The chasers (except for Garcia Acosta) catch the front six, and now we have nine leaders : Benjamín Noval (Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada), Aitor Osa (iBanesto.com), Gorka Gonzalez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jorge Ferrio (Paternina-Costa de Almeria), Fabian Jeker (Milaneza-MSS), Felix Cardenas (Labarca), Joaquin Rodriguez (ONCE), David Navas (Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada) and Wladimir Belli (Lampre).

David Navas doesn't waste much time and attacks. This climb is a very open exposed one, but not too steep.

14:55 CEST    85 km/90 km to go
The situation changes in front as Gorka Gonzalez mounts a counter attack, with David Navas, Aitor Osa and Felix Cardenas following in a small group. But Gonzalez can't hold them off for long. The front group reforms again into approximately nine riders.

Vicente Garcia Acosta is not one of the nine - he's now looking for the peloton, which is 2'55 behind and being led by ONCE and US Postal.

15:00 CEST    90 km/85 km to go
The leaders are 4 km from the top of the Port del Canto, and the peloton is making big inroads into their lead. The gap is now around 2 minutes to the bunch, which is still very large.

In front, Cardenas will aim to take the mountain points to increase his lead over Horrach.

15:02 CEST    91 km/84 km to go
Garcia Acosta has caught the leading nine, after the pace slowed for a while. That'll make his life easier for a while.

15:09 CEST    93 km/82 km to go
The 10 leaders are nearly at the top of the climb, and now have 2'49 to the peloton. There are a few riders in between still, including Sinkewitz, Pradera, Horrach, Julich and Tauler. However they will be caught by the peloton soon.

15:10 CEST    95 km/80 km to go
Cardenas takes the points at the top of the climb from Aitor Osa and Gorka Gonzalez. Now a long descent before the final climb.

Julich, Tauler and Horrach are swallowed by the peloton, just before the top of the climb. No more mountain points for Horrach today.

The peloton cruises over the top, led by three ONCE riders, 2'51 behind the leaders.

Correction: Felix Cardenas is the best placed rider in the break, starting the day in 14th place at 6'21. Hence the ONCE riders don't want to let them get too far in front.

15:21 CEST    105 km/70 km to go
The riders are now on the descent of the Port del Canto, and the peloton is moving rapidly under the influence of the ONCE train. The lead has been cut to 2'30, as the front riders try and pick up the pace on the long, wide roads. The climbs/descents in the Spanish Pyrenees are a bit different to those in France.

15:24 CEST    
Navas, Gorka Gonzalez and Vicente Garcia Acosta have broken away from the other seven on the descent, and are a handful of seconds in front as they pass through the feed zone.

15:32 CEST    112 km/63 km to go
Jeker and Ferrio have now caught Gorka Gonzalez, David Navas and Vicente Garcia Acosta on the descent, forming a group of five. The remaining five riders in the break: Cardenas, Osa, Rodriguez and Belli are not far behind.

The peloton is in full flight again, having passed through the feed zone. Angel Casero and Joan Horrach are chasing back on - not sure whether they were dropped or just went back to the team cars.

The peloton is now just 2'48 behind the leaders, with ONCE to the fore. The average speed after three hours is 38.5 km/h, including the two climbs.

15:38 CEST    120 km/55 km to go
The five leaders are flying towards the base of this descent, and are more than 20 minutes ahead of the fastest schedule. The sprint in Adrall is taken by Gorka Gonzalez from Jeker and David Navas.

Cardenas's group is caught by the peloton at the foot of the descent, 2'45 behind the leading five, which are now seven after Belli and Noval joined them.

Gustavo Otero (Labarca) attacks the peloton just before the sprint, and will try and close this 2'45 gap on his own. He is told by his team director not to, and sits up. Larbarca will try and get Cardenas in a good position to take some mountain points on this last climb.

15:48 CEST    128 km/47 km to go
The leaders are approaching the Spanish/Andorran border. It's all uphill from now on, even though the last climb officially starts with 26 km to go.

Labarca is working very hard on the front of the peloton to try and reduce the gap to the leaders.

15:55 CEST    131 km/44 km to go
George Hincapie drops to the back of the bunch to grab a few water bottles for his teammates. He can fit quite a few in his jersey, and begins moving up the long line of the peloton looking for people to hand them to.

The seven leaders are now under 2 minutes in front of the Labarca led peloton, which is strung out.

15:58 CEST    133 km/42 km to go
Alex Zulle's Vuelta is finished. The Swiss has suffered during the last few stages and has just abandoned.

Gorka Gonzalez has attacked the leading group, as the peloton closes to 1'30.

16:02 CEST    136 km/39 km to go
Gorka passes the border control into Andorra, but is not asked for a passport. He has a 15 second lead on six chasers: David Navas, Benjamín Noval (Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada), José Garcia Acosta (iBanesto), Jorge Ferrio (Paternina-Costa de Almeria), Fabian Jeker (Milaneza-MSS) and Wladimir Belli (Lampre). The Labarca led peloton is around 1'20 behind.

This last climb is long and tough, but it's not really a pure climber's mountain as it's not that steep. In addition the roads are very wide and smooth and there aren't too many corners. Heras and the other climbers will really have to work hard to put time into the ONCE men.

16:06 CEST    140 km/35 km to go
Gonzalez takes the sprint in Sant Eloi, as some of the other riders in the break are caught. The peloton is at 1'21 at the sprint point, with Labarca having made zero impression on Gorka. Second in the sprint was Jorge Ferrio followed by David Navas.

16:13 CEST    144 km/31 km to go
The rest of the break is now caught, and there's just Gorka Gonzalez in front. The peloton is only 45 seconds behind, and should catch him before the foot of the final climb.

16:18 CEST    148 km/27 km to go
The Labarca team is having a tough time closing the gap to Gorka Gonzalez, who has hit the base of the climb with 53" lead. Immediately ONCE get to the front with Jaksche and Pradera driving. That really impacts on Gorka's lead, which shrinks to 26" very quickly.

The numbers for this climb again: 26.8 km in length, 1340m altitude gain, average gradient of 5.1 percent, steepest part 9 percent (at the beginning and after 9 km).

16:24 CEST    151 km/24 km to go
Aitor Osa is one of the first dropped as the pace picks up in front. Luis Perez has one of his Cofidis teammates in front, and also Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) is there working for Michael Rasmussen.

Gorka Gonzalez is caught with 24 km to go.

16:26 CEST    152 km/23 km to go
Benoit Joachim (USPS) lifts the pace and gets a small gap, hoping to produce a bagarre in the peloton. It doesn't have the desired effect, as he is caught. The ONCE boys are about 6-7 riders back now, letting others do the work.

Hincapie is now off the back of the bunch, which is now down to 40 odd riders. Gorka Gonzalez is also dropped.

16:31 CEST    154 km/21 km to go
The peloton is being led by Inigo Cuesta (Cofidis), with Luis Perez in the blue combination jersey well placed. Two ONCE riders, Jorg Jaksche and Jose Azevedo, are dropped.

Cuesta gets a little gap and is joined by Cardenas, then a few more riders including Laiseka. The peloton is closing the gap however.

Jurgen Van Goolen (Quick.Step) attacks - impressive stuff from this young Belgian. Maybe a little too early. He gets Leonardo Piepoli for company, and the pair put a decent gap into the peloton.

16:35 CEST    155 km/20 km to go
Isidro Nozal drops back to Manolo Saiz in the team car, just inside the 20 km to go mark. Maybe Manolo will be fined for that, as you're not supposed to feed in the final 20 km.

Van Goolen and Piepoli are making good their escape, as Cuesta, Montgomery, Jose Gutierrez, Santos Gonzalez mount a pursuit 20 seconds behind. Montgomery rides away from the others as the climb gets a bit steeper. The peloton is not far back though.

16:38 CEST    158 km/17 km to go
Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa) attacks. This will cause a reaction of course, and Roberto Heras is right on his wheel. Montgomery is caught and the peloton is stretched. Nozal is on Rasmussen's wheel, who is in turn on Heras and Gonzalez. There are some 12 riders left in the front peloton.

Oscar Sevilla is dropped again, as Cardenas attacks with Unai Osa on his wheel. They should catch Van Goolen and Piepoli soon.

16:41 CEST    160 km/15 km to go
The peloton has grown again to 25 riders or so, as Cardenas, Osa, Piepoli and Van Goolen keep a 20 second advantage.

Jose Gutierrez (Kelme) attacks, taking Laiseka with him.

16:43 CEST    161 km/14 km to go
We now have four groups on the road, with Van Goolen/Piepoli holding a 25 second advantage on Cardenas and Osa, then Laiseka/Gutierrez at 40 seconds and the peloton at 56 seconds.

Alejandro Valverde (Kelme) is next to attack. He's a bit of a danger man for ONCE, sitting 8th on GC at 4'03. He catches Laiseka and Gutierrez.

16:47 CEST    163 km/12 km to go
Van Goolen and Piepoli are still 20 seconds in front of Osa and Cardenas, while Valverde and Laiseka (Gutierrez is dropped) are at 46 seconds. The peloton, still 25 riders strong, is at 1'05.

Van Goolen is doing all the work in front, as Piepoli has teammates coming behind. Now Valverde and Laiseka have caught Osa and Cardenas. These four are 40" behind the two leaders, with the peloton at 1'10 led by Cuesta.

16:53 CEST    165 km/10 km to go
The main peloton is still looking relaxed, as they motor up this climb at 30 km/h. Beltran is in front of Heras, looking more comfortable. Sevilla is back too. Cuesta still leads the bunch, with a couple of ONCEs on his wheel including Igor.

Van Goolen continues to work hard in front, putting Piepoli under a bit of pressure. The four chasers (Cardenas, U.Osa, Laiseka and Valverde are at 36 seconds. The gold jersey group is at 1'10. Great riding by Van Goolen.

16:57 CEST    166 km/9 km to go
Beltran lifts the pace in the peloton with Heras on his wheel. Serrano and Igor are right behind them, as are Rasmussen and Perez.

Perez counters and takes Heras and Rasmussen and Nozal with him.

Laiseka is dropped from group in front.

17:00 CEST    168 km/7 km to go
The attacks spell the end for Valverde and co. who are caught by the Heras/Rasmussen/Nozal group. Van Goolen and Piepoli are just 22 seconds in front. Igor's group is 6 seconds behind Heras/Nozal's group.

Aitor Gonzalez is trying to close the gap to Heras's group. He has Frigo, Gonzalez de Galdeano for company, and they do it. All together, save for the two leaders.

17:02 CEST    169 km/6 km to go
Now we have five leaders, with Jurgen Van Goolen (Quick.Step), Leonardo Piepoli (iBanesto.com) being caught by Felix Cardenas (Labarca), Unai Osa (iBanesto) and Alejandro Valverde (Kelme). They have six km to go.

The gold jersey group is 19 seconds back.

17:05 CEST    170 km/5 km to go
The climb is flattening out a bit as they get to the final 5 km. But there's still plenty of up to come for the leaders.

Cardenas attacks in front, but there is an immediate reaction. The gold jersey group is being towed by Serrano for ONCE.

Van Goolen is dropped as one of the iBanesto riders attacks. There are now four leaders.

17:08 CEST    171 km/4 km to go
Unai Osa attacks the front group, and gets a small gap. He is caught again.

Behind, Aitor Gonzalez gets to the front again and has Luis Perez on his wheel. The defending champ is riding well, but he is not the strongest.

17:10 CEST    
They hit the 4 km to go mark and it looks as though Igor Gonzalez and Beltran have been dropped a little. The gap is not big, and Heras and Aitor Gonzalez try to force the pace in their group. Nozal is still there though and he has the leader's jersey.

In the front group there are a lot of attacks, but no-one has gotten clear yet.

17:11 CEST    172 km/3 km to go
Rasmussen attacks the main group just as Igor makes it onto the back. He closes the gap to the front four very quickly. The gap between the two groups is 13".

17:13 CEST    172.5 km/2.5 km to go
Heras lifts the pace behind Rasmussen's group, and gets Nozal on his wheel. Luis Perez is also there, as are Frigo and Scarponi. There are now 10 leaders.

Igor is chasing back on with Beltran, as is Aitor Gonzalez, who was involved in a crash with Del Olmo.

Aitor attacks immediately and Cardenas chases him down. Del Olmo is back on, and the peloton is essentially together.

17:15 CEST    173.5 km/1.5 km to go
Igor is fighting to get on to the back of the group with 2 km to go, with Beltran right on his wheel. The gap is opening and closing as the front riders attack and slow. Still together.

17:16 CEST    174 km/1 km to go
Cardenas attacks and takes Piepoli with him, as they approach 1 km to go. There is a reaction from behind, and the peloton is strung out again. Unai Osa closes the gap to Cardenas and Piepoli. Three leaders, then Valverde joins.

17:19 CEST    
Aitor Gonzalez lifts the pace and closes the gap to the four leaders inside the final kilometre. All back together. Nozal is hanging tough, but Igor is still chasing a few seconds behind.

17:20 CEST    175 km/0 km to go
A 13 man group sprints for the victory, and it's Dario Frigo from a long way out, then Valverde takes over and wins the stage! Frigo second then Osa. Nozal keeps the lead, while Igor finishes 30 seconds back.

An interesting finish to the last Pyrenean stage - no-one was strong enough to get away on the wide roads that marked the final climb. Nozal certainly showed he is a worthy gold jersey wearer yet again, reaction to the important attacks of Heras. Igor and Beltran suffered, but limited the damage to just 30 seconds.

Be sure to join us for tomorrow's 10th stage, which we will start coverage at 14:30 CEST.


1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca           4.48.36
2 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                          0.01
3 Unai Osa (Spa) iBanesto.com                              0.03
4 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) iBanesto.com  
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com                 
6 Felix Cardenas (Col) Labarca-2-Café Baqué                0.06
7 Isidro Nozal (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski                    
8 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron
9 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo
10 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank    

General classification after stage 9

1 Isidro Nozal (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski                    
2 Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski          1.46
3 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor               1.59
4 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                          3.04
5 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor                3.18

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