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59th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 4-26, 2004

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Vuelta a España fantasy game

Stage 16 - September 21: Olivenza - Cáceres, 190.1 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

14:25 CEST   
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Vuelta: we're starting the final six stages of this three week Tour, and it's not going to be an easy run into Madrid. Following yesterday's rest day, and a 500 km transfer, the Vuelta's second longest stage from Olivenza to Cáceres is a relatively flat affair. Being the final flat stage of the race, the stage should be the scene of numerous attacks from the gun as it starts its winding course from Olivenza to Cáceres 190km away.

There are no categorised climbs today, just three intermediate sprints: Barcarrota (km 41.2), Montijo (km 108) and Puebla de Obando (km 142).

Today's stage would normally be a lay down misere for a sprinter, but after Petacchi, O'Grady and Freire all pulled out of the Vuelta in recent days, there aren't many teams that can really control things. Erik Zabel's T-Mobile squad is down to just four men, so he'll be lucky to win today. He does have to be alert to try to keep his grip on the points jersey intact, as Alejandro Valverde is 22 points behind him at the moment and the next five stages will suit him over Zabel.

14:42 CEST    70km/120km to go
The big news this morning was of course the positive test involving American cyclist Tyler Hamilton, who withdrew from the Vuelta a few days ago. Blood samples taken from Hamilton during the Athens Olympics and also during the Vuelta showed indications of a homologous blood transfusion, which is considered an illegal method of performance enhancement. Hamilton has denied positive, saying that it was the result of a surgical intervention he had in the past.

All 139 riders remaining in the race started at 13:00 from Olivenza, and it didn't take long for the first attack to be launched. Colombian Ivan Parra (Cafes Baque) attacked at km 3 and was joined by Stephan Schreck (T-Mobile Team), Cristian Moreni (Alessio-Bianchi), David Fernandez (Paternina-Costa De Almeria), Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty Seguros), Kevin Hulsmans (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), José Julia (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), Herbert Gutierrez (Cafes Baque), José Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears-Banesto) and Mariano Piccoli (Lampre).

The break stayed away until km 22, when it was recaptured. Meanwhile there was a crash in the peloton that brought down Francisco Cabello (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), among others. He was treated by the race doctor for concussion and cuts to his right arm, muscle and leg, while struggling at the back of the peloton.

The attacks continued but no-one could stay away for long. The first intermediate sprint (km 41.2) was won by David Fernandez (Paternina-Costa De Almeria) from José Julia (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme) and José Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears-Banesto).

Tadej Valjavec and José Enrique Gutierrez (Phonak Hearing Systems), Ivan Parra (Cafes Baque), Pablo Lastras, José Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears-Banesto), Cristian Moreni (Alessio-Bianchi), Antonio Cruz (US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor), David Fernandez (Paternina-Costa De Almeria), Danilo Di Luca and Alessandro Spezialetti (Saeco), José Julia (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel), Jan Boven (Rabobank) and Erki Pütsep (Ag2R Prevoyance).

The group now has 1'24 on the peloton, which is being driven hard and split along the coast by Liberty Seguros.

Joseba Beloki (Saunier Duval) has abandoned.

14:58 CEST    80km/110km to go
The advantage of the breakaways is hovering between 45 seconds and 1'30. No-one in the group is particularly dangerous on GC, with Valjavec the best placed in 40th at 47 minute down.

Cabello, who crashed earlier, is still in the race but in a lot of pain. He is particularly concerned about his left hand. Also Johan Van Summeren (Relax-Bergasol) has been getting some assistance from the race doctor.

46.8 km were covered in the first hour.

15:10 CEST    93km/97km to go
The peloton sits up as it passes through the feed zone, and the breakaways are now more than 7 minutes ahead. This could be it, as there appear to be no teams interested in organising a chase.

15:16 CEST    97km/93km to go
The second hour of the race has been ridden at 47.5 km/h average, which means over 94 km have been ridden in the first two hours. The break now has 8'02 and is showing no signs of slowing down.

15:25 CEST    102km/88km to go
The 13 man lead group is riding along well, with Garcia Acosta rolling over Valjavec. There's a few good riders in here: Garcia Acosta, Valjavec, Di Luca, Cruz, Moreni... Illes Balears has three riders, Saeco has two.

José Enrique Gutierrez, who was initially part of the break went back to the peloton after 66 km.

15:27 CEST   
US Postal's Dirk Demol drives up to the break and has a chat to Tony Cruz. He's a good sprinter, and if it comes down to a group sprint he should be a favourite. Putsep is also quick.

15:29 CEST    108km/82km to go
The break comes through the palm lined streets of Montijo with thousands of spectators lining the road. No-one contests the sprint - it looks like the Saecos got it.

15:34 CEST    111km/79km to go
There's almost no wind today, and this is helping the break stay away. It's a bit big for perfect cooperation, but there's not much chasing going on at the moment.

It's also very warm and sunny as the break races through corn fields.

15:38 CEST    114km/76km to go
The leaders now have a healthy 13'34 over the peloton, which is riding two abreast at the moment. It's very doubtful now that the break will be caught.

15:44 CEST    118km/72km to go
In the peloton, race leader Roberto Heras is talking to Comunidad Valenciana's Paco Cabello, who has a ripped jersey following his crash earlier in the stage. Valverde is also back there. The peloton is choosing to have an easy day today, and rolls through the sprint at Montijo at 14'48 behind the 13 leaders. It's still two abreast, with no teams looking interested in riding.

15:52 CEST    124km/66km to go
The pace is picking up a little bit in the peloton, but it's now 11 km behind the 13 men in front. We can't expect a lot from the bunch today.

The leaders still have quite a few kilometres to go before they'll start attacking each other.

16:04 CEST    130km/60km to go
We've been asked to comment on the wildlife in today's stage, but (once again) I have to report that it's pretty barren out there. Apart from cornfields and sun, there's not a lot of fauna-related activity programs. Our correspondent Martin Hardie reports that it's 36 degrees on the course now.

16:11 CEST    135km/55km to go
The 13 leaders are now up to 17'28, and will probably come in 25-30 minutes ahead unless the bunch stirs itself. Valjavec still needs another 30 minutes before he's the virtual leader :-)

Aha, Saunier Duval has put five men in front of the peloton and has started a bit of a chase.

16:16 CEST    142km/48km to go
The pace certainly hasn't slowed down in front, with the leaders covering 45.7 km in the third hour.

The bunch is starting to look like it's doing something now, with Saunier Duval riding hard. It's way too late to catch the break, but it should be enough to finish within a reasonable gap behind the break.

16:20 CEST   
The landscape is really parched out here in southern Spain, and today's very warm temperatures are not helping it. Trees dot the sides of the road, with grass struggling to survive on the brown land.

Is that a herd of goats trotting towards the peloton? Could be!

16:25 CEST    148km/42km to go
Saunier has got a nice little echelon going in the peloton, with Illes Balears then Liberty behind them. The gap to the leaders is still around 17 minutes, so it's just having a stabilising effect.

In the break, all riders are cooperating well at the moment.

16:32 CEST    152km/38km to go
The riders in the breakaway are as follows: Tadej Valjavec (Phonak Hearing Systems), Ivan Parra (Cafes Baque), Pablo Lastras, José Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears-Banesto), Cristian Moreni (Alessio-Bianchi), Antonio Cruz (US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor), David Fernandez (Paternina-Costa De Almeria), Danilo Di Luca and Alessandro Spezialetti (Saeco), José Julia (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel), Jan Boven (Rabobank) and Erki Pütsep (Ag2R Prevoyance).

The third intermediate sprint in Puebla de Obando (km 142) was taken by Spezialetti from Di Luca and Isasi.

16:38 CEST   
Koldo Gil (Liberty) punctures and gets a rather tardy wheel change. But the peloton isn't going at warp speed at the moment, so he should get on via the caravan.

The leaders are in the final 40 kilometres, all eyeing each other off to see who's got the legs for an attack.

16:42 CEST    154km/36km to go
The Saunier Duval yellow pace-makers have cut the break's lead to a mere 15'09, and have the peloton strung out now.

The intense heat is prompting a lot of water bottles being ferried backwards and forwards between team cars and riders.

Koldo Gil is back with the peloton.

16:45 CEST   
A reader has asked whether the goats spotted earlier were in an echelon. We believe they were.

16:53 CEST    165km/25km to go
The gap has fallen to 14'46, but the break is definitely not going to get caught. Maruis Sabaliauskas (Saeco) runs off into the rocks on the side of the road and crashes, taking a bit of skin off his knee and puncturing his front wheel. It takes him a while to get going again.

In the break, Putsep does a turn, then Spezialetti, Valjavec, Parra... They don't even turn their heads to look at the herd of cows to their right!

16:54 CEST   
Sabaliauskas gets on his bike and the team car comes up next to him and helps adjust his brakes while travelling at 50 km/h. He is now back into the caravan.

16:58 CEST   
Roy Denoon has asked whether the goats were chamois goats... *boom tish!*

17:00 CEST    170km/20km to go
Italian champ Moreni stretches his back a little at the rear of the break. They are approaching 20 km to go and are on a long, flat, straight road.

Sabaliauskas has returned to the peloton, somewhat battered but intact.

17:02 CEST    171km/19km to go
It's down to 13'30 with 19 km to go as all the riders pour water over their heads. It's been a pretty long day, and most are trying to stretch their backs now. The pace has slowed a bit in the break. Who's going to attack first?

17:07 CEST    175km/15km to go
The 13 leaders pass by a service station, one of the few signs of life out here today. They ride up to the 15 km to go banner, all taking turns.

17:08 CEST    176km/14km to go
Garcia Acosta listens to his team director on the radio, who is probably telling him to attack soon.

Heras is near the front of the peloton, alongside Beltran, Landis, Nozal, Valverde... Saunier still have five men chasing. 13'00.

17:12 CEST    178km/12km to go
The 13 leaders roll under the 12 km to go banner, with four people (I counted) cheering them on. Di Luca adjusts his shoe straps...

17:13 CEST   
Aha - the first attack comes from Garcia Acosta. Spezialetti chases him down. Then Moreni, Putsep and Boven. It's on now...

17:14 CEST    180km/10km to go
The break is more or less back together, but now everyone is looking at each other. Lastras counters, but gets Valjavec, Julia, Di Luca and Cruz for company. Seven riders are dropped.

17:15 CEST   
Julia continues with his effort and the four behind him are chasing. Di Luca closes the gap with Valjavec, Lastras, Cruz and Isasi all there. Then a gap to the rest.

Fernandez has been dropped for good.

17:19 CEST    183km/7km to go
We now have: Tadej Valjavec (Phonak Hearing Systems), Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears-Banesto), Antonio Cruz (US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor), Danilo Di Luca (Saeco), José Julia (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme) and Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel) with a gap to Ivan Parra (Cafes Baque), José Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears-Banesto), Cristian Moreni (Alessio-Bianchi), Alessandro Spezialetti (Saeco), Jan Boven (Rabobank) and Erki Pütsep (Ag2R Prevoyance). The chasers have given up, it looks like. Parra tries to bridge the gap under the 8 km to go banner but it's useless as Garcia Acosta gets on his wheel. Moreni counters, but also Garcia Acosta and Spezialetti chase him. They get a gap to the other three.

In front, Lastras attacks and puts Valjavec and Julia in trouble. Isasi, Di Luca and Cruz go with the leader. Valjavec closes, but Julia is dropped.

17:20 CEST    184km/6km to go
The gap between the two groups is now 28 seconds. The chasers aren't coming back.

Five leaders: Tadej Valjavec (Phonak Hearing Systems), Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears-Banesto), Antonio Cruz (US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor), Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) and Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel).

José Julia (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme) is chasing a few seconds back.

17:22 CEST    185km/5km to go
Julia has returned to the front group with 5km to go, and there are now six. Cruz is probably the best sprinter on paper, but Lastras and Di Luca are also quick.

17:22 CEST    186km/4km to go
The six leaders reach four kilometres to go, still rolling over to keep the chasers at bay. Cruz does a hard turn, then Di Luca.

17:23 CEST   
Lastras keeps the momentum going as they go under 4 km to go. Julia is sitting on - the others don't like that.

17:24 CEST   
The speed slows but then increases as Valjavec attacks hard out of a roundabout. Isasi gets his wheel, and Lastras. Di Luca, Cruz and Julia are chasing at 10m.

17:24 CEST    187km/3km to go
Lastras does a turn but the others come back to them. Six men together with 3 km to go.

17:24 CEST   
Julia attacks! Good counter.

17:25 CEST    188km/2km to go
Jose Julia, who had been saving himself for the last few kilometres, is now en route to victory. No-one wants to chase him.

17:26 CEST    189km/1km to go
Jose Julia has 12 seconds with 1.5 km to go, and surely will not get caught. But Lastras and Isasi have one more try... Cruz, Di Luca and Valjavec close it. Julia is hammering.

17:26 CEST   
Julia has 14 seconds in the final kilometre. He's powering up the finishing straight.

17:28 CEST    190km/0km to go
Julia struggles up the last 500m, which is slightly uphill. He puts his arms up and celebrates with 100m to go. He can't believe it.

Valjavec solos in for second place. Di Luca wins the sprint for third ahead of Cruz, Lastras and Isasi. Then Parra comes in for seventh, just over a minute down.


1 José Julia (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme                   4.19.23
2 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems                      0.12
3 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Saeco                               
4 Antonio Cruz (USA) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor        
5 Pablo Lastras (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto                        
6 Iñaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                         
7 Ivan Parra (Col) Cafes Baque                                     1.19
8 Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Saeco                               1.25
9 Erki Pütsep (Est) Ag2R Prevoyance                                1.33
10 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                      

General classification after stage 16

1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros                          
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme              0.05
3 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                      1.45
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto                    2.02
5 Isidro Nozal (Spa) Liberty Seguros                               3.45
6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                     6.12
7 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor             8.21
8 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor           8.44
9 Angel Gomez (Spa) Paternina-Costa De Almeria                     8.51
10 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme          8.59

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