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59th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 4-26, 2004

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Vuelta a España fantasy game

Vuelta a España fantasy game

Stage 12 - September 16: Almería - Observatorio Meteorológico de Calar Alto, 145 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Martin Hardie

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:15 CEST

14:38 CEST   

Nice view
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image

Welcome to the Cyclingnews blimp for our live coverage of the Vuelta a España. We're back after a hard rest day with an even harder stage. The 12th stage from Almería to Observatorio Meteorológico de Calar Alto is only 145 km, but it contains three major climbs of Cat. 1 or greater. The first is the Cat. 1 Alto de Velefique, which starts after 44 km and climbs for 13km at an average of 7.5%. This is followed by the Cat. 1 Alto de Calar Alto (for the first time), which averages 5.7% for 17.7 km and summits at km 88. The final climb of the Alto de Calar Alto is 21 km long at 6.4%. This is one tough stage.

The sprints are at Tabernas (km 25.8), Bacares (km 70.3) and Gergal (km 124).

The weather was warm and sunny at the start, with temperatures around 27 degrees. But now it's clouded over a bit.

14:44 CEST    50km/95km to go
The race started at 13:23 without Igor Astarloa (Lampre), who has gone home to prepare for the World Championships. The pace was high from the start, with numerous attacks going in the first 20 km. Valverde, Sevilla and Bayarri all had to see the race doctor for various problems.

The first sprint at km 25 was won by Miguel A. M. Perdiguero (Saunier Duval) from Dariusz Baranowski (Liberty Seguros) and José Enrique Gutierrez (Phonak). After 32 km, Constantino Zaballa (Saunier) attacked, but he was caught by a 22 man group on the first climb of the day.

On the climb, Francisco Lara (Paternina), Joseba Beloki (Saunier), Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Kelme) and Marcos Serrano (Liberty) got a gap, but only Lara wanted to go on with it. He is now being chased by Stefano Garzelli, who has been leading the chase group at 1'20 in front of the peloton. Garzelli is chased by Marcos Serrano, who grabs the Italian's wheel.

14:48 CEST   
Lara is being caught by Garzelli and Serrano, while Vinokourov, Osa and Zaballa are also coming up behind. Liberty Seguros is leading the peloton at 1'30. Valverde is lagging at the back of the main bunch, looking to be in a bit of trouble.

14:50 CEST   
Lara is riding well, as he has a minute on Garzelli's group, which now contains Vinokourov, Zaballa, Serrano and others. But there are more riders coming up to them. There are perhaps 15 here, including Joachim, Sevilla, Garcia Quesada, with the peloton another 47 seconds back.

14:55 CEST    52km/93km to go
The peloton is now just 20 seconds behind the chase group, where Zaballa has attacked again. But Lara now has 1'38 lead on the next rider on the road.

Osa is chasing Zaballa. Then Cardenas has a go.

In the main peloton, Landis is near the front behind a couple of Liberty riders. Valverde is looking better, sitting next to Evans and Heras. There are perhaps 30 riders in this peloton.

14:57 CEST    54km/91km to go
Lara is flying up the climb, now being chased by Cardenas and Serrano at 1'31, who have gotten ride of the rest of the break. The peloton is at 2'22, and looks to be catching the chase group.

15:00 CEST    55km/90km to go
Lara is several hairpins ahead of the two chasers as he nears the top of this snake-like climb of the Alto de Velefique. Cyclingnews correspondent Martin Hardie reports that it's "like an Alpe d'Huez in the desert". The descent on the other side is totally different, descending through pine forests. It's 17 degrees at the top of the climb and 15 degrees at the finish.

15:02 CEST    56km/89km to go
As the "peloton" makes contact with the big break a couple of km before the top, Vinokourov tries to get across to Cardenas and Serrano, together with a few others.

The peloton is now perhaps 35 strong. All the main climbers are, including Floyd, Heras, Valverde, Hamilton, Sastre etc.

15:04 CEST    57km/88km to go
Lara crests the summit of the climb with a 1'41 advantage over Cardenas and Serrano. There aren't too many people up here, but enough to cheer him on. It looks pretty bleak.

Cardenas takes the points for second ahead of Serrano, and may be on track to reclaim the mountains jersey from Jose Miguel Elias.

15:06 CEST   
Vinokourov's group is just 13 seconds behind Cardenas and Serrano over the top. Laiseka, Gil and two others are with Vino. The peloton is at 2'43.

15:09 CEST    60km/85km to go
Full results of the climb: 1. Lara, 2. Cardenas, 3. Serrano, 4. Osa, 5. Pascual Rodriguez, 6. Laiseka, 7. Vinokourov, 8. Gil, 9. Eladio Jimenez. Elias took no points, so his grip on the jersey is loosening.

Lara is solo on the descent with 1'50 on a group of seven: Cardenas (Cafes Baque), Vinokourov (T-Mobile), Laiseka (Euskaltel), Serrano and Gil (Liberty), Rodriguez (Kelme), Osa (Illes Balears).

15:15 CEST    65km/80km to go
The peloton is now 3'20 behind Lara and 1'20 behind the chase group of seven, being led by three Liberty riders. Cunego is also in the main group, which numbers 35 or so. It looks as though Triki Beltran (USPS) is also here to help Landis.

Liberty also has two men in the chasing group with Vino, but it's doubtful whether they will work too hard at the moment.

15:20 CEST    72km/73km to go
Francisco José Lara takes the sprint in Bacares with a 2'05 lead, but now he has 17 km of climbing ahead of him. The Alto de Calar Alto averages 5.7% but has some steeper sections at the bottom.

The peloton is growing a bit as the pace isn't flat out on the descent. Lara is placed 22nd on GC at 8 minutes, so they won't want to let him get too far.

15:24 CEST    73km/72km to go
Laiseka takes second in the sprint ahead of Pascual Rodriguez. The peloton passes through Bacares another 2 minutes behind the chase group.

Lara is now enjoying himself on the Alto de Calar Alto, with a total of 4 minutes lead on the main bunch. It's still very barren here, but the road quality is good.

15:27 CEST   
Lara hits a steeper section but maintains a nice cadence. He makes a 9 percent grade look easy. The clouds are starting to look threatening, and there's a bit of rain falling on the final climb.

A rather solid looking guy in a fluoro yellow outfit runs in front of Lara, actually putting time into him for a bit before he blows up. There's no danger, as there's no crowds here.

15:32 CEST    75km/70km to go
The chase group is not making any ground on Lara: Vino, Cardenas, Laiseka, Serrano, Gil, Rodriguez and Osa are now at 2'20, with the peloton still another 2 minutes behind them. A few riders are trying to stir things up in the peloton, which will start to break up again on this long climb.

15:34 CEST   
Osa decides to attack the chase group, but Serrano lifts the pace and closes the gap. They're on one of the steep sections now. Vino looks good, but a bit listless. They are 3'10 behind Lara.

Mancebo is riding at the head of the peloton, really stretching it out.

15:37 CEST    77km/68km to go
Mancebo is caught by Nozal, Heras, Cunego, Beltran, Landis, Perez, Sastre, Blanco...but no Valverde. Sevilla, Pasamontes, Perdiguero, Evans, Hamilton, Valjavec, Igor Gonzalez...finally Valverde is towed up by his teammates.

There have been a few abandons today: Christophe Oriol, Jon Del Rio, Michele Scotto d'Abusco, Joseba Albizu and Oscar Freire.

15:37 CEST   
Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier) takes advantage of the slowing in pace of Mancebo's group to attack. He should be able to get up to Vino's group.

15:40 CEST   
More riders are chasing back onto the mini peloton as Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier) is joined by Angel Gomez (Paternina) in pursuit of the Vinokourov group. They have nearly made contact.

15:42 CEST    80km/65km to go
Sergio Azkarate from the Basque country reliably informs us (again) that Francisco Jose Lara's nickname is Paco. That will be easier to type - thanks Sergio!

Paco Lara has 4'46 on the peloton.

15:43 CEST   
Martin Hardie reports that it's getting colder and foggier at the finish, also noting that there's 60 km of climbing today. What a monster mountain stage!

15:50 CEST    82km/63km to go
Lara has reached a flatter section of the climb, and is making good use of it. He has five minutes over the next group with Vino, which is still a little ahead of the Liberty-driven peloton. The pace is not so high in the bunch, allowing riders to drop back to the team cars for bidons.

15:52 CEST   
Paternina's Gomez has attacked the chase group now, so we have two Paternina riders in the first two positions on the road. Five riders are in pursuit.

15:53 CEST    84km/61km to go
Gomez has made it up to Felix Cardenas, who attacked earlier - we missed him. Cardenas wants to stay away until the top to pick up more mountain points. They're on a very fast section of the climb at the moment.

15:56 CEST    86km/59km to go
The Vinokourov group is sitting up a bit, still numbering six riders.

Lara is almost at the top of the climb, flying up the last 2 km. The peloton is back at 5'26.

16:00 CEST   
It's beginning to rain a little as Lara approaches the top of the climb. That prompts Heras in the peloton to drop back for his rain jacket.

The Vinokourov group has caught Cardenas and Gomez and is 4'05 behind Lara.

16:03 CEST    88km/57km to go
Paco Lara (Paternina) crests the summit of the Alto de Calar Alto and takes the full 16 points for the mountain sprint. He also gets around €1000 for being the first to the top of the Vuelta's highest point. Only one more climb to come - a mere 21 km.

Liberty's Igor Gonzalez is leading the bunch with two teammates behind him. US Postal has several riders around Landis, who is in second wheel and looking good.

16:04 CEST   
More riders out: Coyot (Cofidis), Mutsaars (Rabobank) and Bruun (CSC).

16:08 CEST    92km/53km to go
Landis at the top of the Alto de Calar Alto
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image
The nine men in pursuit of Lara come up to the finish line for the first time with Cardenas taking the points ahead of Osa, J. Rodriguez, Serrano, P. Rodriguez, Gomez, Vinokourov, Gil and Laiseka, the gap being around 4'40.

Liberty's Igor (there's only one Igor in the race now) leads the bunch over at 5'43. There are maybe 50 riders in the bunch.

16:10 CEST    94km/51km to go
Lara sits up on the descent, stuffs most of El Pais down his jersey, puts his arm warmers on, and sets off for over 30km of downhill. It's not raining too hard, just a few annoying spots.

16:11 CEST   
By the way, Paco is short for Francisco, hence we have Paco Lara, Paco Mancebo, Paco Garcia and Paco Cabello in the Vuelta.

16:13 CEST    95km/50km to go
It's getting a bit wetter on the descent, but it's not particularly technical yet and Lara is having no problems keeping it upright.

The Vinokourov group, still nine strong, doesn't look as though it will stay away for long. It's been about a minute ahead of the peloton for the last 50 km. Another by the way: It's Vinokourov's 31st birthday today, so perhaps he'll be dreaming of cake...mmm...

16:17 CEST    98km/47km to go
Martin Hardie chimes in: "But if you are Francisco and Basque you are not Paco but Patxi (as in Patxi Vila).

The autobus comes over the top of the climb 13 minutes behind the leader. Tyler Hamilton is there, which is a little surprising. So is O'Grady, which is not. No sign of Petacchi, who is off the back. Here he is - he makes it back on. There aren't going to be many sprinters left in the Vuelta by the end of tomorrow, we suspect.

16:25 CEST    103km/42km to go
The peloton is picking up a bit of speed on the descent as it gets to within 5 minutes behind leader Paco Lara. There's still plenty of time to catch the leader, although the Liberty plan will be more to get Heras some time on GC.

16:31 CEST    110km/35km to go
Paradoxically, this descent of the Alto de Calar Alto is not completely downhill. The pace has slowed as four Liberty riders lead the peloton over one of the small humps. It's not too damp at the moment.

Vino's group was caught near the top of the descent, so we have just one leader.

16:35 CEST    111km/34km to go
Paco Lara is riding a nice tempo at the moment, wondering what happened to this descent. "The profile was all downhill. Ripped off."

He has 5'16 on the Liberty-led peloton, which is in a long, thin line as it flies down the almost barren mountainside.

16:40 CEST    113km/32km to go
Liberty now has five men on the front of the peloton with Heras in sixth wheel. Then leader Floyd Landis, who is looking good today, and Beltran. They have reached a windy, flatter part of the descent and the rest of the peloton is hugging the left hand gutter.

16:42 CEST    115km/30km to go
Lara is not getting much help on this descent, which is not really steep enough to keep an advantage over a peloton. The bunch has wound it up a bit and is now only 4'26 behind the tiny Paternina rider.

16:43 CEST   
Valverde is well placed behind Heras in the bunch, taking his jacket off at the moment. Igor is driving, as is his wont.

16:47 CEST    120km/25km to go
Lara's lead is melting as the chase clicks into top gear behind him. It's now 4'11, and he'll be lucky to have 3 minutes at the foot of the final climb. It always feels like a bit of a waste climbing the same mountain twice, even though it's from a different side.

Cunego is looking good, protected by two teammates near the front. There's a bit of a fight for position behind the Liberty train, with USPS, Banesto, Saunier, Phonak and Saeco all up there.

16:48 CEST    124km/21km to go
Paco Lara takes the third and final intermediate sprint in Gergal, and he now has 20 km to go, all uphill.

16:52 CEST    126km/19km to go
The six man Liberty train leads the bunch up past the sprint banner in Gergal, 3'25 behind Lara. Koldo Gil takes second ahead of Dariusz Baranowski.

Lara has now shed his helmet, and is en route to the finish 200g or so lighter.

16:53 CEST   
Beloki is dropped along with Igor, who has once again done a fantastic job for his team today. Now it's Koldo Gil, puffing hard as he leads Baranowski at the foot of the climb.

16:56 CEST    127km/18km to go
Liberty has got it cranked up to 11 as the peloton thins down to 30 riders. Baranowski takes over with Caruso(?) and Nozal in tow, then Heras.

Zubeldia is dropped. So is Cioni. And Latasa, Van Summeren, then Gil. Aitor Gonzalez is having problems.

16:57 CEST   
Baranowski has got the mean look on and has already brought Lara back to 2'50. Behind the Liberty boys, Landis, Beltran, Perez, Vinokourov, Cunego, Garzelli, Sastre, Valverde and Mancebo are all well placed.

16:59 CEST    128km/17km to go
Veneberg (Rabobank) is doing his best to hang on to the back of the peloton, along with Jaksche and Sammy Sanchez. Most of the Saunier Duval boys are back here too, including Piepoli and Perdi.

There is some relief as the road goes downhill for a bit, but that merely means more climbing!

17:01 CEST    129km/16km to go
Paco Lara looks good as the road steepens a bit. He's climbing in sunshine now, 2'35 ahead of the Liberty train. Baranowski looks a bit knackered, but he continues in front of the peloton.

Cardenas is dropped. No more mountain points for him today.

17:02 CEST    130km/15km to go
Veneberg is the next one off the back.

Menchov and Sastre ride past the Libertys. But Serrano is waiting and closes the gap. They fall back.

Lara is 15 km of climbing to go.

17:04 CEST   
Liberty is running out of men. Only Serrano and Nozal are left with Heras. Valverde is towards the back of the group.

Sevilla is dropped, but is fighting hard to regain contact. Jaksche goes past him, looking better.

17:05 CEST    131km/14km to go
Valverde is not showing the hurt yet - Vino is dropped, and Eladio Jimenez. But they can chase back on as it flattens out with 15 km to go. 2'11.

17:06 CEST   
Heras still looks pretty comfy as Floyd goes past him, looking very focused and somewhat annoyed as Heras left a gap. Beltran is glued to Landis' wheel.

17:07 CEST   
The race leader Floyd Landis is a picture of concentration as he clings to Heras's wheel. Valverde is looking better now, having moved up behind a teammate next to Beltran. Then Mancebo, Cunego, Garzelli - about 20 riders left.

Serrano still leads the group.

17:08 CEST    132km/13km to go
Sastre stops to change his bike. Not sure if it was a mechanical, but it's a very fast change and he's riding again. That cost maybe 15 seconds.

17:10 CEST    133km/12km to go
Lara reaches 12 km to go with a 1'55 lead on the peloton. He still has a chance, but only a slim one. The gap is coming down steadily. Vinokourov is hanging onto the back again, but Evans is no longer there for T-Mobile.

17:11 CEST    134km/11km to go
Serrano leads the bunch up past 12 km, 1'50 behind the lone Paco Lara. It's Nozal's turn next, but Serrano will try to ride for a bit longer.

17:14 CEST   
Jimenez and Vino go out the back of the 22 man peloton as the road gets steeper. Vino makes a throat cutting signal. It's over for today. Osa is dropped now, as is Pasamontes. 18 riders left chasing Lara.

17:15 CEST   
Cunego is now being dropped but he hangs tough. Piepoli explodes right in front of him. It's Serrano doing all the damage.

Landis is being dropped!

17:16 CEST    135km/10km to go
As the road steepens, Landis loses time and Serrano knows it as he drives hard. Nozal has his head down behind him, then Heras and Luis Perez.

Lara has 1'10.

17:17 CEST   
Landis buries himself and closes the gap as the bunch reaches 10 km to go, 1'03 behind Lara. That will hurt later.

17:18 CEST   
Perdi and Blanco are being dropped. We have perhaps 14 riders left.

17:19 CEST    136km/9km to go
In front of the peloton, it's all Serrano, all the time. Then Nozal, Heras, Perez, Mancebo, Beltran, Valverde. Floyd is second last wheel, fighting hard.

17:19 CEST   
Valverde decides he's had enough and attacks!

17:20 CEST    136km/9km to go
Leg heavily bandaged, Valverde strings the peloton out a bit and Landis is off the back with Serrano and Ferrio. Nozal now takes over...

17:21 CEST   
Now it's the axe man, Isidro Nozal, leading Heras and Valverde. The rest of the bunch is splintering.

17:22 CEST    137km/8km to go
Nozal, Heras, Luis Perez, Santi Perez, Mancebo, Sastre and Valverde are within 15 seconds of Paco Lara with 8 km to go. That's the end of the lone breakaway.

Chasing them are various bits of the lead group, including Landis (now 27 seconds down), Garzelli, Ferrio...

17:24 CEST   
Nozal powers along as Gomez, Sastre and Peio Arreitunandia close the gap. Nine men.

17:25 CEST    138km/7km to go
Heras attacks! No-one can follow. He catches Lara under the 7 km mark and flies past. It's early, but why not? Chasing Heras are Valverde and Mancebo and Santi Perez. Luis Perez and Nozal are next.

17:27 CEST    139km/6km to go
Heras has 11 seconds on Valverde and Mancebo, 12 seconds, 13 seconds... Valverde is the virtual leader, but Heras might get that back. He needs to win by 38 seconds.

17:28 CEST   
Heras is solo as he goes under 6 km to go. He is chased by Santi Perez (Phonak), who is just in front of Mancebo and Valverde. Then Luis Perez and Isidro Nozal are further back. It's 20 seconds with 6 km to go.

17:29 CEST    140km/5km to go
Mancebo is doing all the chasing work with Valverde and Santi Perez stuck to his wheel. But the super climber Roberto Heras now has 26 seconds lead. Another 12 and he'll be virtual leader. No sign of Floyd, or Beltran for that matter.

17:30 CEST    141km/4km to go
Valverde explodes a bit as the road steepens. He nearly takes out Perez, who goes around him and grabs Mancebo's wheel. Heras is now the virtual leader.

17:31 CEST   
Heras goes under the gigantic yellow 5km to go banner with 35 seconds on Paco Mancebo and Santi Perez. Valverde is at 44 seconds.

17:33 CEST    141km/4km to go
It's all Heras, all the time. The defending champion is en route to a big stage win and the gold leader's jersey as he gets to 4 km to go. He gets out of the saddle as the climb steepens.

17:34 CEST   
Mancebo is still doing all the work behind Heras, but is not pedalling as quickly. It's 42 seconds at 4 km. Then Valverde is at 1'00.

17:35 CEST    142km/3km to go
Valverde, in fourth, is struggling to limit his losses as the road continues up with 3 km to go. Heras has now got 46 seconds between himself and Mancebo/Perez. Valverde is at 1'10.

17:37 CEST    142.5km/2.5km to go
Heras reaches 3 km to go with 54 seconds to Mancebo and Perez. He should win by 1'20 or so. Valverde is trying to close to the two in front, but he's at 1'17.

17:38 CEST   
The road starts to flatten out as Heras puts it up a gear and hammers, trying to gain as much advantage as possible on his own terrain.

17:39 CEST    143km/2km to go
Heras isn't there yet, but he's got time to kill as he comes past the 2 km to go banner, still 56 seconds ahead of Mancebo and Perez.

17:40 CEST    144km/1km to go
Valverde is caught by Nozal, L Perez and Gomez with 2 km to go. But they're at 1'20.

Heras is over 1'00 ahead of Mancebo/Perez as he nears 1 km to go.

17:41 CEST   
Nozal takes over in the Valverde group and Gomez goes out the back.

In front, his teammate Heras has got it back into the low gear, pedalling furiously up the final steep part.

Nozal is pulling Valverde now. He probably shouldn't be doing that.

17:42 CEST   
Santi Perez finally does a turn and drops Mancebo as Heras reaches 1km to go. Heras has 1'00 advantage now.

17:43 CEST    145km/0km to go
Here comes Heras - he went from 8 km out and rode everyone off his wheel. He wins the 12th stage and takes over the lead! Vuelta win number 3 on the way?

17:46 CEST   
Santi Perez has made up time in the last kilometre and crosses the line just 34 seconds behind Heras. Mancebo is next at 53 seconds, then Valverde and Nozal at 1'27. Nice ride by Valverde.

Next in are Gomez and Luis Perez at 1'37. Then Garzelli at 2'02. Then Peio Arreitunandia at 2'16, followed by Sastre, Beltran and another Paternina at 2'28.

17:52 CEST   
Heras also takes the mountains and combination jerseys, while O'Grady will keep the points jersey.

Landis finished 15th at 3'07, which drops him to fifth on GC. Mancebo is now in second ahead of Valverde, Nozal and Landis.


1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros                           4.19.30
2 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                      0.34
3 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto                    0.53
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme              1.27
5 Isidro Nozal (Spa) Liberty Seguros                             
6 Angel Gomez (Spa) Paternina-Costa De Almeria                     1.38
7 Luis Perez (Spa) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone           
8 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie        2.02
9 Peio Arreitunandia (Spa) Cafes Baque                             2.17
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                    2.28
11 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor        
12 Francisco José Lara (Spa) Paternina-Costa De Almeria          
15 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor            3.07

General classification after stage 12

1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros                          44.50.50
2 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto                    0.35
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme              0.49
4 Isidro Nozal (Spa) Liberty Seguros                               1.12
5 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor             2.19
6 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor           2.40
7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                     3.16
8 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                      4.22
9 Angel Gomez (Spa) Paternina-Costa De Almeria                     5.07
10 David Blanco (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme                   6.12

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