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60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 16 - Tuesday, September 13: Leon-Valladolid, 162.5 km

Commentary by Shane Stokes and Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Hernan Alvarez

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:00 CEST

14:27 CEST   
Welcome back to the Vuelta a España's third and final phase, with six more stages on offer before the tour finishes in Madrid on Sunday. The riders endured two very tough stages last weekend, which resulted in Roberto Heras finally cracking his rival Denis Menchov to take the golden jersey in a brilliant ride on the Puerto de Pajares. Heras now leads the Russian by 4'30 on the general classification, and there are few chances for Menchov to take back any of that time.

Today's 162.5 km 16th stage from Leon to Valladolid will probably not be one of them. It's pretty much dead flat with no categorised climbs en route. The three intermediate sprints are at Jabares (km 29), Valderas (km 68.9), and La Mudarra (km 131.8). The only difficulty may come from crosswinds, but you can be sure that Liberty Seguros will not be caught napping there. They are the masters of creating gaps when the wind blows from the side.

14:39 CEST   
The 16th stage started at 13:39 with 140 riders signing on today. Only T-Mobile's Paco Lara did not, and he became the 57th rider to abandon since the start. On the other hand, Alessandro Petacchi certainly did put his name down, and he'll be the favourite to take his fifth stage today.

The first attack came in the first kilometre when Hervé Duclos Lassalle (CA) took off, chased by Perdiguero, and Zaballa (Saunier), Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) Adolfo), Velo (Fassa) and Nardello (T-Mobile). They gained 20 seconds before getting caught at kilometre 8. The attacks continued of course, with Voeckler, Bäckstedt, Scheirlinckx, Van Bon, Cañada, and Dueñas trying next, before Fassa Bortolo closed it down after 13 km.

After 17 km, a more promising move went with Jorge Garcia (Relax), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), Bart Dockx (Davitamon-Lotto), Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis), Marcus Ljungqvist (Liquigas), André Korff (T-Mobile), Sébastien Chavanel (Bouygues), and Matteo Tosatto (Fassa Bortolo). The group gained 40 seconds after 29 km, with Quick.Step and Illes Balears chasing hard. Dockx won the first sprint at that point ahead of Veneberg and Chavanel. Since then, the group of eight has maintained its fairly small advantage over the peloton.

14:47 CEST    51km/111.5km to go
Phonak has got to the front to help the chase, and the break has been pulled back to 15 seconds. 49.5 km were covered in the first hour, a very rapid start.

14:54 CEST    52km/110.5km to go
Liberty Seguros also gets to the front to help control things, as the crosswinds start to cut in from the side. The breakaways' lead goes up to 20 seconds again.

15:02 CEST    67km/95.5km to go
Leon Van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto) and Francisco Perez (Illes Balears) have bridged the gap to the eight smoothly working leaders. The lead oscillates between 20 and 40 seconds, but no-one else can close it.

There is no-one in front who is even remotely threatening for the general classification (Perez is 49th at 1:14:15), but some teams have missed the move, hence the chase.

15:06 CEST    70km/92.5km to go
The second intermediate sprint at Valderas is taken by Arnaud Coyot, ahead of Korff and Tosatto.

The full composition of the break: Francisco Perez (Illes Balears), Jorge Garcia (Relax), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), Bart Dockx and Leon van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto), Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis), Marcus Ljungqvist (Liquigas), Andre Korff (T-Mobile), Sébastien Chavanel (Bouygues), and Matteo Tosatto (Fassa Bortolo).

15:17 CEST    75km/87.5km to go
Finally, after 60 km of hard chasing, the bunch has neutralised the 10 man break. It's been an incredibly quick stage up until now, and the attacks will no doubt continue.

15:33 CEST    86km/76.5km to go
The bunch has passed through the feed zone, still all together. No-one has been able to get away on this flat, fast stage.

15:43 CEST   
There is a bit of a lull at the moment, but doubtlessly one or more riders who are still (somehow) feeling aggressive will turn it on again soon.

15:48 CEST   
It's all about eating and drinking in the peloton at the moment, but the fast start to the stage means that the riders have covered the first two hours at over 45 km/h.

15:57 CEST   
This flat stage has 'bunch sprint' written all over it, unless riders manage to give the likes of Fassa Bortolo the slip. But I wouldn't bet on that too much..

The different tactics in preparing for the worlds are interesting. Tom Boonen pulled out of the race several days ago, feeling that he had got the maximum benefit from the race. Alessandro Petacchi believes that sticking around improves his chances, while Robbie McEwen didn't even start the Vuelta. He took wins in Paris-Brussels and GP Fourmies over the weekend, so it seems like Plan C is working out well so far for him.

16:04 CEST   
Rik Verbrugghe (QuickStep Innergetic) and Egoi Martinez de Esteban (Euskaltel) fell but are back up and on their bikes, returning to the main group.

16:16 CEST    112km/50.5km to go
It's still relatively tranquil in the bunch. Although riders had a rest day yesterday, they are still going to be tired from two weeks of racing and some tough days in the mountain. Many of them will be happy to roll in today as part of the main bunch, rather than launching any bids for glory. Race leader Roberto Heras and his Liberty Seguros team won't argue against that, being content if riders opt to keep their remaining strength in reserve today. They also know that the sprinters' teams will take up the pace setting as they get a little closer to the finish.

16:20 CEST    117.5km/45km to go
The peloton passes through Medina de Rioseco with 45 km to go, Liberty Seguros still driving hard at the head of affairs. Fassa Bortolo is well placed behind the dark blue boys, ready to crank things up in the finale so that no more riders get away.

The average speed after two hours is 45.8 km/h.

16:25 CEST   
32 riders were blood tested by the UCI this morning, from Team CSC, Liberty Seguros, T-Mobile and Fassa Bortolo. All riders were declared fit to start the stage.

16:28 CEST    122.5km/40km to go
The peloton is passed by an ambulance, as it hammers up a small climb. Menchov sits next to Heras, looking good. Heras has his left knee bandaged fairly heavily.

An attack! Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval) and Nacor Burgos (Relax) take off on this climb with 40 km to go.

16:29 CEST    123.5km/39km to go
The two leaders have nine seconds, but they'll have a hard time holding off the bunch in the final 40 km. It's flat, a bit windy, and everyone is fresh and re-motivated.

16:31 CEST    125.5km/37km to go
Liberty isn't too concerned about the two leaders, who now have 15 seconds. It'll be up to the sprinters teams to chase them down, maybe in about 10 km.

16:34 CEST    126.5km/36km to go
The leaders eke out a 25 second lead on this long, straight road. They're hugging the left hand side, possibly because the asphalt is a bit better here.

16:39 CEST    128.5km/34km to go
Gomez and Burgos continue to drive hard, with Gomez taking short turns. Burgos is definitely the stronger of the two at the moment. They're holding the peloton at 35 seconds.

16:41 CEST    132.5km/30km to go
Burgos takes the final sprint at La Mudarra ahead of Gomez, while the peloton comes through at 50 seconds, led by Laiseka, who sprinted for the point.

16:42 CEST   
The two leaders have carved out an impressive gap in this late stage of the race, but they're going to need a lot more than that to stay clear until the end.

16:47 CEST    135.5km/27km to go
The gap grows to 1'09, the biggest lead anyone has got in this very tightly controlled flat stage. The peloton is relaxed at the moment, still led by Liberty. Phonak has moved up there, ready to work if necessary.

The road is flat and as straight as a gunbarrel. The leaders are now back in the centre of the road.

16:48 CEST    137.5km/25km to go
After three hours, the average speed has dropped to 43.6 km/h. Basically it was very quick in the first hour (nearly 50 km/h), but since then it's been a steady 40 km/h. On a stage like this, sitting in the peloton is fairly relaxing.

16:51 CEST    138.5km/24km to go
Burgos gets some encouragement from his team director in the Relax car again, as the gap stabilises at 1'05-1'10. No-one is helping Liberty set the tempo yet.

16:56 CEST    142.5km/20km to go
The two leaders are chased by a man on a horse, riding on the other side of the road. But 45 km/h is hard for the horse to maintain. The bicycle is one of the most efficient means of transport in the world.

Francesco Mancebo (Illes Balears) has a flat, but is on his way again, looking for cars to draft behind to get back to the peloton. He finds Quick.Step and motorpaces his way past four teammates who dropped back for him. They come back to him, and Mancebo is almost back in the peloton.

16:58 CEST   
Mancebo's team brings him right to the front of the bunch, where Liberty are still patrolling. At the back, Jimmy "the ghost" Casper cruises along with a teammate.

Burgos and Gomez now lead by less than a minute.

17:00 CEST    145.5km/17km to go
The tempo increases, but it's still Liberty in front. The leaders are suddenly only 29 seconds ahead of the hungry peloton.

17:01 CEST    146.5km/16km to go
Aha - the road curves to the right and the CSC team gets to the front to join Liberty, perhaps trying to split the bunch in a crosswind. Then Quick.Step assumes the position as the speed lifts to 55 km/h. This will be fatal for the breakaway, which has 19 seconds.

17:02 CEST   
Now Phonak gets to the front, trying to get a split happening. But maybe the wind isn't strong enough. Fassa moves up too.

17:03 CEST    147.5km/15km to go
The bunch flies under 15 km to go and Gomez and Burgos are caught soon after. Nice try lads - 25 km of freedom. Fassa now moves more men to the fore.

17:05 CEST    149.5km/13km to go
A new attack, again involving a Saunier rider. It's Rafaele Casero. He powers along the flat, really motoring.

17:06 CEST   
There's no panic in the peloton, as various teams put riders in front. Illes Balears, Phonak, Fassa, and Liberty all have men there.

17:07 CEST    150.5km/12km to go
Casero goes under 12 km with a 10 second gap to the bunch, which has him in its sights.

17:08 CEST    151.5km/11km to go
CSC, Phonak, Liberty and Rabobank all have men in the front rank, which is four riders across sometimes. It's not strung out yet.

17:08 CEST   
Paolo Bettini slides himself up the side of the bunch, next to the Fassa train.

17:09 CEST    152.5km/10km to go
Casero is caught by the bunch after about 3 km of freedom. It gets harder and harder to get away in the finale.

17:10 CEST    153.5km/9km to go
The speed lifts to 75 km/h on a slight descent, with CSC and Phonak now in front. You can't escape at this speed.

17:11 CEST    154.5km/8km to go
CSC holds the speed at above 70 for quite a while. Their 53x11 gears will be turning over quickly. The kilometres fly by.

17:12 CEST    155.5km/7km to go
The bunch exits the main road as a longish string, but not totally strung out. 7 km now, still CSC on the front.

17:12 CEST   
Fassa Bortolo is lying in wait, ready to lead out Petacchi for a likely fifth win. But, anything can happen...

17:13 CEST    156.5km/6km to go
It's 6 km now and no-one is going to be able to attack effectively at this speed. Zabel is moving up on the left side with T-Mobile. Heras is also well placed.

17:14 CEST    158.5km/4km to go
Here comes Fassa, with three men alongside the remaining CSC rider. A Discovery rider leads up Danielson, but ends up with Heras on his wheel. Baldato keeps it at 65 km/h with under 5 km to go. It's almost flat too.

17:15 CEST    159km/3.5km to go
The sprint itself is uphill, and that could make it interesting.

A sharp right hander with a few barriers in the middle of it. All riders make it intact. Baldato looks back and sees the train intact, as the other Fassa riders move up. Bäckstedt is there for Zanotti too.

17:16 CEST    160km/2.5km to go
The speed is still extremely high as Baldato leads under 3 km. Petacchi is in about 6th wheel, ready to go. Baldato pulls off at 2.5 km.

17:17 CEST    160.5km/2km to go
Petacchi still has plenty of teammates in front of him, as Lotto leads Steegmans up.

17:17 CEST    160.5km/2km to go
Two clicks to go and Fassa has five riders for Petacchi! Zanotti moves up on Bäckstedt's wheel, next to Petacchi and Zabel. A right hander now.

17:18 CEST    161.5km/1km to go
It's uphill from now on, and the Fassa train keeps the pressure on. An attack by Fuentes just before the final kilometre. He gets a Cofidis rider on his wheel, but he blows. Then a Gerolsteiner counters - is that Ziegler?

17:19 CEST   
The Gerolsteiner rider has 20 metres with 700m to go.

17:20 CEST    162.5km/0km to go
He blows, as the road continues uphill. Sanchez attacks! Bettini counters, Petacchi in third wheel. Petacchi comes up but can't quite get around Bettini, and the Quick.Step rider wins the stage!! Perdiguero third. That was a really tough sprint uphill.

17:27 CEST   
Well that was a pretty impressive sprint by Paolo Bettini, who definitely has the advantage over Petacchi in an uphill finish like this. Bettini hit out from a long way and Perdi and Petacchi battled all the way to the line to try to get him, but he had it by half a bike length.

No changes to GC, as Heras took 10th today. We'll be back with tomorrow's tougher mountain stage from El Espinar to La Granja de San Ildefonso. Join us then!


1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step - Innergetic                         3.40.56
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                          
3 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems       
4 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir          
5 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                           
6 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon - Lotto        
7 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                
8 Pablo Lastras (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                 
9 Thomas Ziegler (Ger) Gerolsteiner                               
10 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team  
11 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                 

General classification after stage 16

1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team           62.28.36
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                           4.30
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                           4.50
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                 6.45
5 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                       8.02
6 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile Team                                     11.16
7 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                         11.30
8 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel                                 12.05
9 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic                     13.32
10 Santos Gonzalez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                         14.20


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