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59th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 4-26, 2004

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Vuelta a España fantasy game

Stage 5- September 7: Soria - Zaragoza, 167 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Martin Hardie

Complete live report

14:30 CEST   
The finish in Morella
Photo ©: CN
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Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 59th Vuelta a España. After four flat stages, today's fifth stage from Zaragoza to Morella starts with a crossing of the plains for some 100km before the Vuelta's first encounter with mountains. The principal difficulty is the Cat. 2 Puerto de Torremiró which rises from 780m to 1260m over 13km. The finish is at the top of the Cat. 3 climb into Morella itself.

The sprinters will still have three chances to gain points along the way at Alcañiz (km 98), Valdealgorfa (km 112.5) and Valderrobres (km 135.5), but it will be the climbers who will be starting to show their hunger by trying to acquire points towards the gold leader's jersey.

14:48 CEST   
Today's stage started at 12:30 with all 187 riders signing on, as there have been no withdrawals in the race so far. It was warm and sunny at the start with temperatures hovering around the 30 degree Celsius mark. The wind was still blowing and once again the riders can look forward to head and crosswinds today.

After 8 km, the first attack of the day was made by Ricardo Serrano (Cafes Baque) and Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r), who have been two of the most active riders in the Vuelta so far. They were joined by another 13 riders, including US Postal's Victor Hugo Pena who was the best placed on GC (6th at 24 seconds). This prompted Rabobank and Liberty Seguros to chase, and the group could only gain 35 seconds before it was pulled back after 30 km.

After that, several more riders tried to counter attack, but Illes Balears kept control of the peloton and nothing could escape. Igor Astarloa (Lampre) and Carlos Sastre (CSC) attacked at km 55, but Sastre was caught and a new group formed around Astarloa at km 57 with the following riders:

Francisco Cabello (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), Stéphane Berges (Ag2R Prevoyance), Alberto Lopez De Munain (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Unai Osa (Illes Balears-Banesto), Igor Astarloa and Manuel Quinziato (Lampre), David Fernandez (Paternina-Costa De Almeria), Nicolas Jalabert and Santos Gonzalez (Phonak Hearing Systems), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), Jose Luis Rebollo (Relax-Bodysol), Brian Vandborg (Team CSC), Antonio Cruz (US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Hebert Gutierrez (Cafes Baque), Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) and Giampaolo Caruso (Liberty Seguros)

14:50 CEST    83km/103.5km to go
The best placed rider in the breakaway is Antonio Cruz (USPS), who started the day in 18th place at 1'14 behind his teammate Benoit Joachim. The leaders managed to gain as much as 2'56 advantage on the peloton, but that has fallen to 2'24 at the 73 km mark.

15:00 CEST    89km/97.5km to go
The strong headwind has made it slow going again in today's fourth stage. The first hour was ridden at 35.5 km/h and the second at 36.2 km/h. The advantage of the 17 men in front is now 2'37, so although there are many teams represented in front, there is still enough interest in the peloton behind to keep the breakaway in check.

15:06 CEST   
The first rider to abandon the Vuelta is T-Mobile's Steffen Wesemann, the winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen this year. No reason has yet been given for his withdrawal.

15:11 CEST    95km/91.5km to go
This morning between 7:30 and 8:30 am before the start of stage 4, 43 riders were blood tested from the following teams: Saeco, Vini Caldirola, Lampre, Cafés Baque and Saunier Duval. No rider was declared inapt to start.

15:37 CEST   
The race organisers meanwhile have confirmed that Mikel Artetxe (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has no bones broken from yesterday's crash, after getting an x-ray in a hospital. He's still on the race, as well as Tyler Hamilton (Phonak), Damiano Cunego (Saeco) and Pedro Horrillo (Quick.Step-Davitamon), who all suffered small injuries.

15:45 CEST    112km/74.5km to go
T-Mobile's Santiago Botero, Thorsten Hiekmann and earlier on, Steffen Wesemann, are out of the race. Rumour has it that food poisoning is the cause.

15:49 CEST    114km/72.5km to go
Stuart O'Grady won the second intermediate sprint in Valdealgorfa, before David Fernandez (Paternina and Unai Osa (Illes Balears). O'Grady also won the first sprint in Alcañiz (km 98), again ahead of Fernandez and Osa.

15:52 CEST    120km/66.5km to go
The front group has split up, Stuart O'Grady taking five riders with him including Igor Astarloa (Lampre). Unai Osa (Illes Balears) also joined the attack.

15:58 CEST    122km/64.5km to go
At the back of the race, Saeco has decided to put the chase on. But the group including O'Grady, Astarloa, Osa, Tankink and Vandborg are still trying not to get caught.

16:04 CEST   
A correction: O'Grady's break contains Unai Osa (Illes Balears-Banesto), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank) and Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak) (not Vandborg and Astarloa, as reported earlier).

16:06 CEST    130km/56.5km to go
Cyclingnews spoke to Stuart O'Grady before the stage. "I'll just try and hang in and see how it goes, as I don't know these roads at all."

Asked to comment on Alejandro Valverde, O'Grady said that he'd "only seen him at the Olympics...mate, he has a kick on him like a track sprinter."

If this break can stay away, today's finish might be good for O'Grady. It climbs for a bit over 2 km, winding around the hill, but is not steep - perhaps 4-5%.

16:08 CEST    132km/54.5km to go
Saeco has pulled back most of the break now, leaving just five leaders out front with a 1'15 lead: O'Grady, Osa, Veneberg, Tankink and Jalabert.

16:14 CEST    136km/50.5km to go
The Italian Saeco squad is probably thinking their leader, Damiano Cunego will do well on the last couple of climbs (cat. 2 and 3), that's why they are leading the pack. The breakaway is not willing to give away that gap yet, as they are working hard.

16:25 CEST    140km/46.5km to go
At the intermediate sprint in Valderrobres (km 135.5), Stuart O'Grady won with Unai Osa second and Nicolas Jalabert third.

Berges and Vandborg are 2'10 behind, and the peloton at 3'19.

16:27 CEST    142km/44.5km to go
Berges and Vandborg have been caught by the combined Kelme/Saeco chase, which is now 2'55 behind the five breakaways.

16:33 CEST   
A little more on the T-Mobile food poisoning, which has claimed Botero, Hiekmann and Wesemann so far. The whole team is reported to be suffering, and it's not sure whether they will remain in the race.

16:38 CEST    152km/34.5km to go
The group of five in front have reached a small climb, while the Kelme team is heading the peloton for their leader Valverde. T-Mobile's Alexandre Vinokourov is suffering badly, as he is sitting at the very end of the peloton.

16:49 CEST    157km/29.5km to go
The five leaders are working hard to stay away from the bunch. Everyone of them looks good, with Osa taking particularly long turns.

16:52 CEST    157km/29.5km to go
The peloton is moving along quickly, and has gained some time on the front group. It's down to 1'40 now.

16:57 CEST    159km/27.5km to go
Alexandre Vinokourov of T-Mobile has been dropped from the stretched-out peloton. He is still riding, but must suffer a lot.

17:02 CEST    161km/25.5km to go
His teammate Andreas Klier is now with the Kazakh Vinokourov, to help him out. While they were moving along the car caravan, one rider of the Costa Almeria squad, Joaquin Lopez had crashed, but got a new bike and is chasing again.

17:04 CEST    162km/24.5km to go
More and more riders are getting dropped now as the pace quickens, and the group around Vinokourov is growing to around 15 riders.

17:10 CEST    163km/23.5km to go
The peloton has swallowed all of the break riders except Jalabert and Osa, but they will be caught soon in the Cat. 2 climb towards Puerto de Torremiró.

17:13 CEST    165km/21.5km to go
Only about fifty riders are left in the front peloton, with lots of smaller groups behind. Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo), Tyler Hamilton (Phonak), Landis and Benoît Joachim are all there.

Gonzalez, Di Luca, Cunego and Perdiguero are attacking, but Postal closed the gap. Di Luca is trying hard and keeps going.

17:15 CEST   
Luis Perez (Cofidis) is in front too, he looks good riding a big gear next to Di Luca (Saeco). Piepoli attacks now.

17:16 CEST    166km/20.5km to go
The front group is about 20 riders big. Dario Cioni (Fassa) is going now, Cunego counters.

17:19 CEST    171km/15.5km to go
Joachim (USPS), wearing the golden jersey, is really suffering at the back of this front group. Beloki (Sainier) looks good, Valverde, Sastre, Heras are all there.

17:22 CEST    173km/13.5km to go
Some names in the front group: Valverde, Landis, Beltran, Heras, Beloki, Perdiguero, Igor Gonzalez, Nozal, Mancebo, Sastre, Cunego, Di Luca, Aitor, Luis Perez, Vasseur.

Joachim has been dropped and is in the second group with Zabel.

17:24 CEST    174km/12.5km to go
The lead group passes under the 12 km to go banner driven hard by Kelme, as Joachim's group comes through at 50 seconds. He's effectively out of the leader's jersey now. Landis is the virtual leader.

17:25 CEST    175km/11.5km to go
More riders in the lead group: Evans, Hamilton, Gomez, Garzelli. They're nearly at the top of the climb now.

17:27 CEST    176km/10.5km to go
Garcia Quesada and Jimenez drive it to the top of the climb where Mancebo and Garate go for the mountain points. Joachim crosses the top 55 seconds behind the lead group, tongue hanging out over the handlebars. The Luxembourger is not giving up easily.

17:28 CEST    177km/9.5km to go
Valverde looks comfy in third wheel in front of Sastre, Hamilton, Cunego, Cioni and Menchov as his two Kelme teammates push the pace on the descent.

17:30 CEST    178.5km/8km to go
Garcia Quesada and Eladio Jimenez continue to hammer with 8 km left.

The points on the climb were taken by Garate ahead of Mancebo, Garcia Quesada, Jimenez, Beloki and Valverde.

17:32 CEST    180km/6.5km to go
The gold jersey group is making good ground on the front group, which has only got two riders working. Beltran is up there, looking good too - if he finishes higher than Landis in the stage, he will take the jersey.

17:33 CEST    182km/4.5km to go
The mini Kelme train is flat stick with 4 km to go, as Joachim's group closes to 27 seconds. They could get them before the final climb, but then it will blow up again.

17:35 CEST    184km/2.5km to go
3 km to go and the Joachim group is 25 seconds back.

Martin Hardie reports from the finish line that from 400 to 250m is really steep - 12 percent.

17:35 CEST    185km/1.5km to go
Perdiguero attacks with 2 km to go and Cunego reacts, with Valverde on his wheel. But Perdi is strong.

17:35 CEST   
It's Rodriguez, not Perdi. Aitor Gonzalez closes the gap.

17:36 CEST   
Gonzalez and Rodriguez are together with 1.5 km to go, with a 10 second gap.

17:37 CEST    185.5km/1km to go
Joachim is suffering up the final climb as Gonzalez accelerates through an ancient archway. Nozal is chasing, driving the front group with Sastre on his wheel. Then Cunego.

17:37 CEST   
Gonzalez and Rodriguez are caught. Menchov comes up with Sastre and Valverde on his wheel. Gonzalez is still leading. Then Menchov attacks with 500m to go.

17:39 CEST    186.5km/0km to go
There's a little descent then Menchov hits the last 12 part with 350m to go. Menchov drives all the way to the line and wins the stage!! Aitor takes second ahead of Valverde, Piepoli and Sastre. Excellent sprint by Menchov.

17:41 CEST   
Menchov might have done enough to take the jersey, as Beltran and Landis finished a little way down. We'll see soon enough.

Yes it's confirmed: Beltran was nine seconds down in ninth place, the same time as Landis but by virtue of his higher finishing position he will be the new leader.


1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Illes Balears-Banesto                     5.07.44
2 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo                               0.03
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme             
4 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                  
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                     0.05
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile Team                                  0.09

General  classification after stage 5

1 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor                   18.47.16
2 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Illes Balears-Banesto                        0.04
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme              0.09
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile Team                                  0.16


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