59th Vuelta a Espańa - GT
Spain, September 4-26, 2004
Stage 18 - September 23: Béjar - Ávila, 196 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
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Vuelta a España, which is
in its final four days as of today. The 18th stage takes us from Roberto Heras'
home town of Béjar and finishes in the walled town of Ávila, with its famous
cobbled approach. The last winner here in 2002 was Aitor Gonzalez, but the Fassa
Bortolo rider will not be able to repeat that today, as he pulled out before
the start claiming to be suffering from a stomach virus.
With four categorized climbs and almost two hundred kilometres, Stage 18 will
be for sure another day in which to win or lose the whole Vuelta. The main difficulties
in order of appearance will be the Alto de Vallejera (Cat. 3), the Puerto de
Peńa Negro (Cat. 1), the Puerto de Serranillo (Cat. 1), and the Cat. 2 Puerto
de Navalmoral, which rises 20km before the finish in Ávila.
The day's three sprints are at: Puente del Congosto (km 25.7), Navarredonda
de Gredos (km 86), and Navalmoral de la Sierra (km 165.3).
The weather is somewhat cooler today, in the mid-20's but still sunny.
Alexandre Vinokourov and Michael
Barry also didn't sign in this morning, but that doesn't necessarily mean that
they are out of the race. We'll confirm that ASAP.
The stage has
gotten off to a quick start, with 47.2 km covered in the first hour. Over the
first climb, the Cat. 3 Vallejera, mountains leader Felix Cardenas (Cafes Baque)
took the points ahead of Jorge Ferrio (Paternina-Costa De Almeria), David Latasa
(Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme) and Unai Osa (Illes Balears-Banesto). The four
were caught on the descent but the attacks continued.
At the first
sprint in Puente del Congosto (km 26) it was points leader Erik Zabel (T-Mobile
Team) picking up a valuable 4 points ahead of teammate Stephan Schreck and José
Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears-Banesto).
After 31 km, a group with
Joan Horrach and José Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears-Banesto), Ivan Parra and
Hernan Buenahora (Cafes Baque), Rubén Plaza and Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad
Valenciana-Kelme), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), Patrick Calcagni (Vini Caldirola),
Bram Tankink (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Juan Fuentes (Saeco) got clear. They were
chased by David Llorente (Paternina) for a while, but he couldn't make contact.
At the 55 km mark, the break had an advantage of 4'19 over the peloton and 3'40
over Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel), who was trying to close the gap alone.
Cristian Moreni (Alessio) has abandoned.
The break reached the Cat. 1 Puerto
de Peña Negro with Juan Fuentes (Saeco) going over the top first ahead
of Ivan Parra (Cafes Baque), Hernan Buenahora (Cafes Baque), Javier Pascual
Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), Rubén Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme),
Patrick Calcagni (Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step-Davitamon),
Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank) and Joan Horrach (Illes Balears-Banesto).
Laiseka closed to within 2'10 of the break on the climb, with the peloton still
14:56 CEST 97km/109km to go
At the second intermediate
sprint in Navarredonda de Gredos, it's Veneberg taking the points ahead of Buenahora
and Pascual Rodriguez.
The second hour has been raced at 40.1 km/h,
not bad considering the Cat. 1 climb! The break leads Laiseka by 2'04 with the
peloton at 5'07, led by Liberty Seguros.
The breakaway is racing downhill
at a rapid clip, en route to the day's second climb, the Puerto de Serranillo.
At the moment, the 10 leaders have 2'04 on Laiseka and 6'11 on the peloton.
None of the leaders is a threat to Heras on GC - Horrach is the best placed
in 29th at 43'52.
15:05 CEST 103km/93km to go
It's warmed up to
30 degrees again at the finish, with a bit of a tailwind blowing.
The break is suffering a bit as it heads uphill again.
Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile) and
Michael Barry (USPS) have been confirmed as non-starters.
15:10 CEST 105km/91km to go
Laiseka has given
up his effort and looks to be on his way back to the peloton. He got within
1'38 of the break, but couldn't close the gap.
15:15 CEST 108km/88km to go
The break is flying
down the last 10km before the Puerto de Serranillo. It's a very fast road, with
wide sweeping bends. Plenty of vegetation too.
Liberty is setting
a steady tempo in the peloton, probably not wanting to push things too much
today. Valverde might try to take some time back in the finale in Avila, a la
Aitor Gonzalez a couple of years ago.
15:19 CEST 115km/81km to go
The leaders are now
in Villarejo del Valle at the foot of the next climb.
(USPS) has abandoned.
Regarding the Hamilton case, Phonak
has announced in a press release that "The blood samples examined in the B-Test
under the UCI procedure are positive. The B-Test blood samples taken under IOC
however will turn out negative. Since the new method is an effort based on probability
and interpretation measurements, uncertainties will remain in this examination
and procedure in any case."
Phonak added that it is now setting up
its own panel of scientific experts to "look into the entire method and data
and report as to whether the analysis conducted at the lab in Lausanne in connection
with the B-testing is reliable. In order that the scientific board can commence
its work the entire files have to be released from UCI and/or IOC. This is so
far not the case although requested by Tyler Hamilton."
15:28 CEST 120km/76km to go
The 10 leaders are
now on the second big climb of the day, all together and struggling on the lower
slopes. Most have their jerseys unzippered.
The peloton is still
on the descent, at 6'47 behind the break. It's a similar situation to yesterday's
15:31 CEST 124km/72km to go
Igor Gonzalez de
Galdeano looks a bit tired as he leads the Liberty train at the bottom of the
Puerto de Serranillo, nearly seven minutes behind the leaders. The peloton is
still quite large, as the tempo hasn't been too high today.
to be too high for Laiseka, who is now struggling at the back of the bunch,
paying for his earlier efforts to try to get up to the break.
The speed does start to pick up a
little in the bunch, with Liberty in a long line in front. The 10 leaders are
still together, but suffering. Their gap is 5'52.
15:40 CEST 127km/69km to go
Juan Fuentes (Saeco)
has dropped off the back of the break, looking for his team car. Tankink is
leading now with Veneberg and Horrach on his wheel. Fuentes comes back.
Lower down the mountain, Liberty has set a steady but hard enough tempo so that
no-one should feel like attacking.
Unai Osa (Illes Balears) has put
that theory to junk as he attacks the peloton in pursuit of the break. But he'll
have to close a 5 minute gap on his own - not easy.
Aha - here goes Mancebo (who obviously
did sign in)! He goes after his teammate Osa and suddenly there is a Cunning
15:45 CEST 128km/68km to go
Mancebo has pulled
off a move that has caught the Liberty led peloton by surprise. He's now with
Osa, and the set move can be executed. The pair are 4'43 behind the break, with
the peloton another 15 seconds back.
The peloton has definitely picked
up the pace in pursuit of Mancebo and Osa, who are about 15 seconds ahead and
now only 4 minutes behind the break, where there are two more Illes Balears
riders. An enterprising move by Mancebo, who started the day in fourth overall
Mancebo is doing most of the work
with Osa hanging onto his wheel. The peloton has lined out now and is gradually
shedding riders. Igor Gonzalez has done his job, and is out the back.
15:51 CEST 130km/66km to go
Liberty has five
riders (Serrano, Baranowski, Gil, Heras, Nozal) in pursuit of Mancebo and Osa,
who have caused a few problems with their attack on the Puerto de Serranillo.
They have limited the damage to about 20 seconds, and the pair will need more
than that in order to stay away. They realise it and sit up. Full marks for
The gap to the leading break of 10 is now 3'21.
15:56 CEST 131km/65km to go
Baranowski has taken
over the pace making in the peloton, which is down to about 40 riders. The gap
to the 10 leaders has dropped to 3'00 as a result of Mancebo's antics a few
kilometres earlier. But if the tempo eases up a bit, then the break could stay
clear over the next mountain.
Mikel Pradera (Illes Balears) attacks
and takes Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis) with him. Well, Illes Balears won't lie down
without a fight!
Pradera and Vasseur work together
as they near the final part of the climb. Neither are threatening on GC - maybe
this is a setup move for Mancebo on the last climb?
Vasseur accidentally drops Pradera.
He slows and waits for the Illes Balears rider, who is suffering.
The break is still 3'00 ahead, now being pursued by a lunatic of some sort.
16:02 CEST 133km/63km to go
Over the top of the
climb, it's Fuentes who beats Parra(?) for the points in a bit of a sprint.
16:05 CEST 135km/61km to go
With 60 km to go,
we still have a group of 10 riders in front: Joan Horrach and José Garcia Acosta
(Illes Balears-Banesto), Ivan Parra and Hernan Buenahora (Cafes Baque), Rubén
Plaza and Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), Thorwald Veneberg
(Rabobank), Patrick Calcagni (Vini Caldirola), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step-Davitamon),
Juan Fuentes (Saeco).
They are chased by Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis)
and Mikel Pradera (Illes Balears) at 2'17, with the peloton led by Mancebo and
Perez (now in the white jersey) coming up at 2'44. Mancebo's tempo has split
the peloton into bits, but the top GC riders are there. The rest of the peloton
is 20 seconds behind at the top of the climb.
Mancebo and Perez drive a 19 man
group on the descent of the Puerto de Serranillo. Heras is definitely there,
as is Luis Perez. Is Valverde?
16:09 CEST 140km/56km to go
The leaders hit Serranillo,
but they're through it in the blink of an eye. Behind them the race has picked
up, with a group led by Mancebo and Perez leading the remnants of the peloton
by 10 seconds. They are picking up Vasseur and Pradera, who went over the top
of the climb ahead. The second peloton is closing the gap.
of the climb: 1. Fuentes, 2. Garcia Acosta, 3. Parra, 4. Buenahora
16:13 CEST 145km/51km to go
The peloton reforms,
2'50 behind the break. But Garzelli is having none of it and attacks hard. We've
still got another 15 km of descending, and Garzelli can go downhill fast. But
not quick enough for the Liberty train...he's caught.
Liberty has assumed the position
at the front again with four riders, then Santi Perez (Phonak) and Heras.
16:20 CEST 151km/45km to go
Impressive - Igor
Gonzalez is back leading the peloton, despite having been dropped on that last
climb. He's passed by Maarten den Bakker, who gives a bidon to Pieter Weening,
also in front of the peloton.
The leaders still have around 3 minutes.
16:27 CEST 155km/41km to go
The break has now
been allowed some freedom as the Liberty train is at full strength on the front
of the peloton. The latest time gap is 3'47 to the 10 in front.
16:34 CEST 160km/36km to go
The peloton passes
through Burghohondo, 4'00 behind the break, which has another 5 km of flat before
the final climb, the Cat. 2 Puerto de Navalmoral.
Vasseur and Pradera have survived!
They are 52 seconds behind the leading group and should be able to make the
junction. Impressive descending.
CN correspondent Martin Hardie reports
from the finish in Avila that it's a tailwind sprint wit the last 300m uphill.
But the entrance into the town is tricky, passing along the cobbles alongside
the outer wall in the last 2 km.
16:38 CEST 163km/33km to go
A pony has tried
to insert itself into the peloton, but is dropped by the pace of the Liberty
Seguros train. The race director orders it out of the caravan, and the (riderless)
pony obliges. Any relation to TinTin of Gent-Wevelgem fame a few years ago?
16:42 CEST 164km/32km to go
There's some action
in front, as Calcagni and Veneberg attack at the foot of the last climb. Calcagni
is now solo, having created a nice gap. But the break behind is starting to
16:45 CEST 165km/31km to go
Horrach and Parra
have set off in pursuit of Calcagni, who is still going strongly as he reaches
31 km to go. They catch him. Then a Kelme rider - Rubén Plaza - joins the fun.
But he blows up.
The rest of the break self destructs in pursuit.
Veneberg has had enough, and gives up. Rodriguez goes off the front in search
of Plaza and finds his teammate in a pool of lactic acid. But they still catch
the three leaders, until Parra attacks! Another Cafes Baque win?
16:47 CEST 167km/29km to go
Parra is now alone,
but the other four: Horrach, Calcagni, Plaza and Rodriguez are chasing at 10
seconds. No sign of the rest of the break.
The sprint in Navalmoral
de la Sierra was won by Calcagni ahead of Parra and Horrach
16:50 CEST 168km/28km to go
Garcia Acosta and
Buenahora have made it up to the chase group, but it's splintered again as Rodriguez
and Horrach set off after Parra. Rodriguez looks at Horrach to chase, but the
Illes Banesto rider says nada.
Three leaders now: Ivan Parra (Cafes
Baque), Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme) and Joan Horrach
(Illes Balears). They have 4'25 on the peloton, which doesn't seem interested
in closing the gap down.
Igor is leading the peloton for Liberty.
Parra attacks again. He doesn't like company.
Jan Ullrich has won the Coppa Sabatini
in a three man sprint ahead of Pellizotti and Boogerd (apologies to all readers
who were taping the coverage to watch later on this evening. Oh wait...)
16:56 CEST 169km/27km to go
Parra is now 5'02
ahead of the peloton, but is being caught again by another rider - is it Rodriguez
or Horrach? He's making life difficult in the Current Race Situation dept.
It's Rodriguez. Two leaders.
17:01 CEST 171km/25km to go
Rodriguez and Parra
form an unlikely pair in front of the race, as Parra definitely doesn't want
to arrive with the Spaniard in a two man sprint. He attacks again, but Rodriguez
answers with an acceleration of his own and it goes nowhere. The climb is not
really steep enough to suit Parra.
Behind, the peloton is thinning
out again as Banesto lifts the pace. Mancebo in second wheel, then the Libertys
with Heras in sixth. Mancebo attacks....
Mancebo leads a group of about 10
riders, with Heras, Gil, Serrano, L + S. Perez...
Mancebo is throwing everything into
this as he hammers towards the top of the climb, with a group of 9 riders in
pursuit containing Heras. But they get him back, led by Koldo Gil. Watch out
17:04 CEST 174km/22km to go
Santi Perez counters!
Heras and Valverde are onto him in a flash.
Over the top, Parra
goes over ahead of Pascual Rodriguez.
17:05 CEST 175km/21km to go
Serrano and Mancebo are chasing Santi Perez, Heras and Valverde. They can see
the summit. They're picking up some of the earlier breakaways.
17:07 CEST 177km/19km to go
In the Heras group,
Santi Perez does a strong turn. Valverde clings to the other two - he can't
do any more. Mancebo is now 45 seconds behind.
They pick up Veneberg
and Pradera. No time for salutations.
Heras's group goes over the summit
3'54 behind the leaders, with another 29 seconds back to Mancebo's group which
has caught Horrach, and also has Luis Perez, Marcos Serrano and Carlos Sastre.
17:11 CEST 179km/17km to go
Mancebo now has Garcia
Acosta and Horrach as company as well as L. Perez, Sastre and Serrano. They
are chasing S. Perez, Heras and Valverde at 30 seconds.
Parra and Javier Pascual Rodriguez have 3'55 at 20 km to go. One of them will
Racing for the stage win we have
Ivan Parra and Javier Pascual Rodriguez. There are bits of the early break trying
to catch them. Parra takes a drink from his car with 16 km to go.
The race for the GC is interesting but it looks like Mancebo's group is closing
the gap to the Heras trio. It's 7 seconds. Veneberg is with them too.
17:15 CEST 181km/15km to go
Ruben Plaza has joined
the Heras group, but the gap between them and the chasers is now zero. The gold
jersey group: Heras, S. Perez, Valverde, Plaza, Mancebo, Garcia Acosta, Horrach,
Sastre, L. Perez, Serrano, Veneberg.
17:16 CEST 184km/12km to go
In between the two
leaders and the Heras group are: Patrick Calcagni (Vini Caldirola), Hernan Buenahora
(Cafes Baque), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Juan Fuentes (Saeco), Cedric
It's 3'48 with 15km to go, so the stage winner
will not come from Heras's group. Watch for Valverde in the finale in Avila
17:17 CEST 186km/10km to go
Fuentes is now back
with the Heras group, which numbers 12. The leading pair have 10 km left, mostly
17:19 CEST 188km/8km to go
Garcia Acosta and
Horrach are driving the Heras group at 3'30 behind the two leaders. Calcagni,
Buenahora, Tankink and Vasseur are still in between.
grabs a drink from his car.
17:21 CEST 189km/7km to go
Javier Pascual Rodriguez
does a turn with 8 km to go, then Parra. The chasers have 10 km to go, with
Serrano now grabbing a bidon from the car. It must be allowed today.
Parra attacks but Rodriguez is far too strong and sits in the saddle, not even
giving the Colombian a gap.
Correction: the other Illes Balears
rider in the Heras group is Pradera, not Horrach.
17:24 CEST 190km/6km to go
The leaders have 6km
left, with Javier Pascual looking the stronger. Parra will be going for Cafes
Baque's second stage win, while Javier will attempt Kelme's fourth victory.
17:27 CEST 192km/4km to go
The leaders reach
4 km to go as the Heras group is pursued by a much larger group on the descent
at 30 seconds.
17:28 CEST 193km/3km to go
Heras's group is now
about 25 riders strong, with Nozal, Ferrio and Gomez joining on, among others.
Another big group is chasing them at 30 seconds. The gap to the two leaders
is 2'57 with 3 km to go.
Rodriguez and Parra are now on the
outskirts of Avila. Rodriguez tightens his shoe straps as they reach the wall...
17:30 CEST 194km/2km to go
Parra leads under
2km to go, with Rodriguez looking relaxed behind him. Parra is going to pull
off something special to beat the Kelme rider in a sprint.
The road goes uphill in the final
2km, with Rodriguez taking over for a steady turn, hands on the hoods.
They're on the cobbles with 1.5 km
to go and Rodriguez leads, Parra has problems, but he can follow.
Rodriguez looks back and sees that
he has a metre or two, and makes it tough for Parra on the cobbles. There are
huge crowds sitting under the walls of the city, cheering the two riders on.
17:32 CEST 195km/1km to go
Rodriguez leads all
the way until 1km to go. Parra gets ready
The road flattens out but it's still
cobbled. 750 m to go and Rodriguez leads Parra. He must be confident.
The cobbles finish.
17:34 CEST 196km/0km to go
Rodriguez takes a
drink with 500m to go. Why? Parra doesn't move. Rodriguez is still on the hoods
of the bars, while Parra is on the drops. They wait, and Parra swerves from
side to side. Rodriguez gets in the drops and goes as soon as Parra gets out
of the saddle with about 100m to go. He wins!!!
The chasing group
is led in by Horrach with Buenahora and Calcagni at 20 seconds. Then Vasseur
at 33 seconds, followed by Tankink.
Sastre has a little gap as he reaches 500m to go, the Heras group having split
again. But Valverde easily wins the sprint with Mancebo, Garzelli and Heras
right behind. No changes to the GC.
1 Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme 5.02.58
2 Ivan Parra (Col) Cafes Baque
3 Joan Horrach (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto 0.19
4 Hernan Buenahora (Col) Cafes Baque
5 Patrick Calcagni (Swi) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie 0.24
6 Cedric Vasseur (Fra) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone 0.35
7 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quick.Step-Davitamon 0.37
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme 1.33
9 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto
10 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie
11 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros
General classification after stage 18
1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros
2 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 1.13
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme 2.15
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto 2.16
the commentary team