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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 7 - September 10: Castellón de la Plana - Valencia, 170 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

14:26 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of Stage 7 of the Vuelta. We're almost one week down with two to go in the last grand tour of the season. Today's stage takes place between Castellón De La Plana and Valencia, and looks on paper to be a walk in the park. However, the short Cat. 3 climb up Coll del Marianet (km 45), and the longer 17km Cat. 2 climb up Puerto de Montemayor (km 80), will do its best to split the peloton. The final 90km descent into Valencia will see the peloton trying its hardest to regroup before tomorrow's individual time-trial in Almufases.

Today's three intermediate sprints are at Azuebar (km 50.5), Altura (km 65.8) and Lliria (km 114.7). Manuel Beltran (USPS) is still in the gold leader's jersey, while Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) wears the mountains jersey and Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) the points jersey.

The weather at the start today is similar to yesterday, but not quite as humid. It's sunny and hot and approximately 30 degrees.

14:42 CEST    57km/113km to go
The seventh stage started at 13:15 and it only took a couple of kilometres before the first attacks were launched. After 16 km, a group of seven riders got clear and are now some five minutes ahead of the peloton after 57 km.

The names in the group: José Miguel Elias (Relax-Bodysol), Patrick Calcagni (Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie), Hebert Gutierrez (Cafes Baque), Ruslan Ivanov (Alessio-Bianchi), Erki Pütsep (Est) Ag2R Prevoyance), Carlos Torrent (Paternina-Costa De Almeria) and Daniele Righi (Lampre).

None are really threatening on GC, with Elias the best placed at 8'46 down.

14:52 CEST    66km/104km to go
At the top of the Cat. 3 Coll de Marinet, Jose Miguel Elias was first over ahead of Herbert Gutierrez, Erki Putsep and Patrick Calcagni. The intermediate sprint at Azuébar followed shortly afterwards, and it was Calcagni first ahead of Gutierrez and Elias. The second sprint at Altura was also taken by the Swiss rider Calcagni ahead of Torrent and Gutierrez.

The break still has around 5 minutes on the Fassa Bortolo led peloton.

15:05 CEST    71km/99km to go
The first hour was raced at 43.7 km/h - it's been the quickest start yet of this year's Vuelta, but it can and will get faster.

Iñigo Cuesta (Cofidis) is suffering some problems at the moment and is being attended to by the race doctors.

The breakaways are climbing the long, but not too steep Puerto de Montemayor, with its summit at 90 km to go. Fassa Bortolo and Rabobank are leading the peloton, thinking of their sprinters Alessandro Petacchi and Oscar Freire.

15:12 CEST    73km/97km to go
Rabobank and Fassa have the race well under control, and there are also a couple of Saeco jerseys in front. The leading group is now 4'35 in front, toiling away on the climb.

15:15 CEST   
The Fassa boys have dropped back from the front rank, trying to keep things easy for Petacchi. Rabobank is riding a bit harder though, trying to make things hard for Petacchi.

15:19 CEST    81km/89km to go
Elias (Relax) leads the breakaway group over the top of the climb with Gutierrez, Righi and Calcagni on his wheel. Now they can enjoy a nice long - but also not too steep - descent.

The average speed after the second hour is 39.9 km/h. It's slowed down considerably due to the climbs.

15:22 CEST    84km/86km to go
Rabobank leads the main bunch over the top of the climb at 3'49 behind the seven leaders. Petacchi is still there, so we can expect Fassa to start riding again.

The leaders are now at the feed zone, having reached the halfway point.

15:26 CEST    87km/83km to go
The seven leaders (Elias (Relax-Bodysol), Calcagni (Vini Caldirola), Gutierrez (Cafes Baque), Ivanov (Alessio), Pütsep (Ag2R), Torrent (Paternina) and Righi (Lampre) quickly refuel on the descent, sucking down bidons and tossing them away. Gutierrez is annoyed when he misses one of his feed bags, but he grabs one from his second soigneur.

It's so hot today that the riders will be constantly drinking. It's almost impossible to drink too much on a stage like this.

15:32 CEST    90km/80km to go
The feed zone has slowed down the peloton somewhat, but its still only 4'09 behind the leaders. With two or three teams controlling things, there's no way that this break will stay away unless Petacchi and Freire crash or something.

15:38 CEST   
Elias has gone off the road on the descent, but he looks unhurt and he should be able to get back into the race. The break isn't waiting though. They have 4'23.

15:40 CEST    95km/75km to go
Elias is back with them now. He missed a corner and did a "Jan Ullrich", finding a gap in the safety fence and shooting off into the bushes. Fortunately there was no ravine. He gets some attention to his bike, but everything is ok, luckily.

15:47 CEST    106km/64km to go
The break is motoring along at between 55 and 60 km/h on this long descent, and has kept the peloton at 4'20-4'30. Rabobank and Fassa have things strung out, but we get the impression that they haven't really started chasing hard yet.

15:56 CEST    111km/59km to go
For the GC riders, today will be a relatively relaxing day in the peloton. There are no sneaky climbs to break things up in the finale, and it should be a regulation bunch sprint.

T-Mobile's Alexandre Vinokourov is looking slightly better than he has been, sucking down an energy gel as he endeavours to keep up his reserves. Riders are using the opportunity to take on-the-bike nature breaks.

The Relax-Bergasol mechanic puts his fingers at risk by adjusting Elias's rear brake with a small spanner, all done from out of the team car window. As long as the rider doesn't hit a bump, he'll be ok...

15:59 CEST    115km/55km to go
The third and final sprint in Lliria is not contested by the breakaways, but it's still Calcagni who takes the 6 points and 75 euros ahead of Putsep and Ivanov. That's about a fifth of the amount of a sprint prime at the Tour de France.

16:02 CEST    118km/52km to go
Rabobank and Fassa are doing the majority of the chasing, although Rabo only has two men on the front. At the sprint line, the gap is 3'30.

16:07 CEST    122km/48km to go
Tyler Hamilton is cruising along in the peloton with a brace on his right wrist. There's nothing broken, but he does have some strained ligaments which is making it harder to change gears.

Matt White (Cofidis) has moseyed on up to the front of the peloton to assist in the chase. Vasseur and Atienza are up there too.

16:08 CEST   
Josu Silloniz (Euskaltel) has abandoned. He was the last rider to finish yesterday.

16:12 CEST    126km/44km to go
We're still on the lookout for some elusive wildlife in this Vuelta a España, but so far it's been slim pickings. Wait, is that a very fierce Rice Pudding lurking in the bushes? We await confirmation.

The gap has fallen to 2'53. The seven leaders are not laying down without a fight.

16:15 CEST    128km/42km to go
At the back of the peloton there is quite a bit of action with riders constantly signalling to their team cars for bidons of water. It's very warm and sunny, and it's essential to drink constantly.

The road is fairly flat now, although we descend a little more before getting to Valencia. Cofidis, Fassa and Rabobank are putting the screws on. O'Grady is quite well placed near the front.

16:22 CEST    132km/38km to go
The break is cooperating quite well at the moment, but steadily losing time to the juggernaut of the peloton behind it. Clearly the sprinters' teams are not worried about catching the break too early, because with three teams riding on the front there is almost no chance that a late counter attack will succeed. That shouldn't stop riders from trying, as there is still a bit of publicity to be gained.

It's now 2'34.

16:24 CEST    134km/36km to go
The peloton divides and reforms as it navigates one of the many roundabouts on today's route. It's fairly strung out, but the pace is not super high yet. That is usually saved for the last 10 km.

16:25 CEST   
The leaders pass a couple of kids riding on the bike path next to the main road. They're clad in shorts and pretty much nothing else. But they can't keep up for more than a couple of seconds.

16:28 CEST    138km/32km to go
The break is working well at 43-44 km/h, but it's not going to be enough to hold off the peloton. Putsep, Ivanov, Elias, Calcagni, Gutierrez, Torrent and Righi are the men in front, having attacked at km 16.

16:33 CEST    141km/29km to go
In the break, Jose Miguel Elias punctures his front wheel and has to chase back on. The Alessio team car helps him a bit, and he should make it to the breakaway group again.

16:34 CEST   
The group sits up and waits for Elias, who is now back with them. He is one of the strongest, so they need him!

16:35 CEST   
The peloton is now just a kilometre behind the break, and can see it ahead on this long straight road.

Vinokourov is at the back of the bunch, taking on bidons for his surviving teammates. Maybe today will be a Zabel day?

16:37 CEST    143km/27km to go
The cooperation is not quite as good now in the break, as the riders realise that they are doomed. The gap is 1'10 to the peloton with 27 km to go. They would need about four times that to ensure success.

16:39 CEST   
Jeff from Wisconsin writes: "You can identify a Spanish Rice Pudding by the way it trots. They may look fierce, but...their barf is worse than their bite."

16:40 CEST    145km/25km to go
The gap is exactly (allowing for time dilation and Einsteinian relativity) one minute as Cofidis, Rabobank and Fassa Bortolo continue the hunt for the breakaways.

16:42 CEST   
It's 51 seconds now as Putsep looks back and sees the bunch riding hard. Not a sight to instill confidence into a breakaway rider.

16:45 CEST    150km/20km to go
The peloton is racing along a nice wide road - no more hills, just a flat and fast run into Valencia. Petacchi knows this city well, having won the Trofeo Luis Puig, which finished here last year.

At 20 km to go, it's 34 seconds.

16:48 CEST    152km/18km to go
Gutierrez does a strong turn in the break, even though there is realisation that the peloton will swallow them up. There's no "most combative" prize in the Vuelta, so there's less of an incentive to stay out in front for as long as possible.

The breakaways are just soft pedalling now, sitting on the tops of the hoods.

16:50 CEST    153km/17km to go
It's over. With just under 17 km to go, the break sits up after 137 km in front. They all take long drinks from their bottles and allow the peloton to swarm past. No-one feels like attacking for that last kilometre of glory.

The pace isn't super high at the moment and we can except a few more attacks.

16:54 CEST    156km/14km to go
Cofidis has kept men at the front of the peloton and we can see a few other teams trying to move up as well. US Postal is there, keeping Beltran and Floyd out of trouble. Also Vini Caldirola (for Zanotti and Garzelli).

The bunch is not in a long line, but it seems that most riders will happily settle for a bunch sprint. Cofidis drives it at 47 km/h up a small climb. Ouch.

16:55 CEST    158km/12km to go
Ahah, Stéphane Berges (Ag2r) decides that he can achieve the impossible and attacks on the left hand side of the road. But Cofidis lift the pace slightly and he lasts all of 200m.

16:58 CEST    159km/11km to go
A Cafes Baque rider misses a corner as the peloton now rides along the coast into Valencia. Phonak takes over in front, trying to break the peloton in the offshore breeze. It's hurting a lot of people, and it's a very long line. Petacchi is just behind Beltran and surrounded by teammates. Beltran moves up behind Michael Barry, who is at the front of the peloton.

16:59 CEST    161km/9km to go
10 km to go and the Phonak offensive hasn't done much except drop a couple of riders. There's just enough shelter from the trees on the median strip to avoid the crosswinds.

Garcia Acosta is on the front, pedalling at 53 km/h. That's gotta hurt.

17:00 CEST    162km/8km to go
The bunch is a big block again - not strung out despite the high speed. The final kilometres are ticking away rapidly, but Fassa is biding its time in the second rank.

17:02 CEST    164km/6km to go
The bunch passes a hotel monstrosity as it heads into Valencia, led by Vini Caldirola. At the back, the Cafes Baque rider who crashed has regained the safety of the bunch. CSC is also there, pacing Sastre up after a mechanical.

17:03 CEST    165km/5km to go
6 km to go and there's another attack. It's Paternina's David Fernandez, who puts in a huge sprint and gets about a 70m gap. Not a bad effort at all. He'll feel it in about 30 seconds.

17:04 CEST   
Cofidis has three riders on the front and Fernandez blows up and goes backwards fast. Then Fassa is next in line, not panicking.

17:05 CEST   
Valverde is very close to the front, looking for Petacchi. He finds him, with Zabel on his wheel. O'Grady is also there and Freire.

17:05 CEST    166km/4km to go
The Rabobank train moves up on the outside with 4 km to go, with Cofidis still on the front. They are all clustered on the right hand side because of the wind. That could be dangerous for punctures.

17:06 CEST    167km/3km to go
3 km left and Rabobank, Cofidis and one T-Mobile are in front. Fassa is ready.

17:07 CEST    168km/2km to go
Fassa has four men leading Petacchi, while Freire and O'Grady are fighting for the Italian's wheel. Zabel has chosen to sit behind them. Freire gets Petacchi's wheel and O'Grady is not happy.

17:07 CEST   
Zabel slides up next to Petacchi now, trying to get rid of Freire.

17:08 CEST    168.5km/1.5km to go
The Fassa quartet takes over with 1.5 km to go and it'll be between Petacchi, Freire, Zabel and O'Grady it looks like.

A Lampre rider attacks. It doesn't work.

17:08 CEST    169km/1km to go
1 km to go, and three Fassas lead Petacchi. Then Zabel, Freire and O'Grady. they turn into the final straight...

17:09 CEST    170km/0km to go
Trenti leads out from 300m then Petacchi comes past at 200m with Zabel on his wheel. Zabel tries to get round but he can't and Petacchi wins his third stage!! Freire third, O'Grady fourth. Petacchi was clocked at 71 km/h across the line as he won by a bike length.

No changes to the GC, and Manuel Beltran will wear the golden jersey going into tomorrow's 40km individual time trial. But as he's on the same time as Floyd Landis on GC, it could well be that Landis takes back the jersey. The performances of Hamilton and Gonzalez will also be interesting.

Results

Provisional
1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                       3.53.04
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                       
3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank                                
4 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone                
5 Luca Paolini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon                     
6 Pedro Horrillo (Spa) Quick.Step-Davitamon                  
7 Giosue Bonomi (Ita) Saeco                                  
8 Andy Flickinger (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance                     
9 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                      
10 Miguel A. M. Perdiguero (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir        

General classification after stage 7
 
1 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor       26.28.43
2 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal Service p/b 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
6 Benoit Joachim (Lux) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor           0.23
7 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto                    0.39
8 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme           0.47
9 Victor Hugo Peña (Col) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor             
10 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems                     0.50

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