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60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 3 - Monday, August 29: Cordoba-Puertollano, 153.3 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Hernan Alvarez

Live report

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

14:30 CEST   
Welcome to Cordoba for the start of the third stage of the Vuelta a España, a 153 km sprinter-favourable run up to Puertollano. There's just one Cat. 3 climb today, the Alto de la Sierra de Cardena after 61 km, and three intermediate sprints: Fuencaliente (km 91.8), Puerto del Pulido (no points, km 126.5) and Almodovar del Campo (km 143). Although there is a bit of climbing in the first half of the stage, it shouldn't present the sprinters with any problem today.

The temperatures at the start are already 35 degrees celsius, so it's going to be a long hot day. The race leader is Brad McGee (Francaise des Jeux), who is one of the rare riders to have worn the leaders jerseys in all three grand tours. He has a 22 second gap over Leonardo Bertagnolli (Cofidis) on GC, and 31 seconds to Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo).

14:42 CEST   
Today's stage started at 13:30 with all 196 riders signing on. Unlike yesterday, things were aggressive from the start with Relax-Fuenlabrada opening the hostilities, along with French rider Anthony Geslin (Bouygues). After 13 km of attacking, McGee's Francaise des Jeux teammates got to the front and calmed things down for a little while, until km 21 when Veneberg, Baldato, Veikkanen Gomez, Irizar, and Garcia tried to get clear.

Some of these riders were caught and after 28 km, there is a group of four in front: Charteau (Bouygues), Irizar (Euskaltel), Gomez (Saunier) and Piil (CSC).

14:44 CEST    50km/103.3km to go
The four were joined by Rik Verbrugghe and Xavier Florencio, and Verbrugghe's presence spelled the end of the break after 35 km. After 44 km, Joan Horrach (Illes Balears) and Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) got a gap, but were unable to escape. 44.3 km were covered in the first hour.

14:56 CEST    57km/96.3km to go
The bunch reaches the foot of the Alto de la Sierra de Cardeña (Cat. 3) and Francaise des Jeux's Jussi Veikkanen abandons. The Finnish rider might not be enjoying this extreme heat.

The pace is fairly steady on the climb.

15:05 CEST    60km/93.3km to go
The peloton is taking the only climb of the day at a steady pace. No-one wants to attack for the mountain points just yet. The summit is still 1 km off.

15:09 CEST   
One of our Finnish readers has written in to tell us that Jussi Veikkanen's abandon was likely caused by the back pains he has been experiencing lately. He was uncertain even of racing the Vuelta.

15:14 CEST    63km/90.3km to go
At the top of the Alto de la Sierra de Cardeña, it's Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier Duval) going over first ahead of Fredy Gonzalez, Leonardo Bertagnolli (Cofidis), and Aitor Osa (Illes Balears). That will give Rodriguez the lead in the mountains classification, as he now has 13 points to Bertagnolli's 12.

The heat is well and truly on as it's around 40 degrees now. The riders were allowed to start "refueling" at km 25, and you can bet that there will be a lot of empty bidons by the side of the road today.

15:22 CEST    69km/84.3km to go
The next rider to abandon is Angelo Furlan (Domina Vacanze), who climbs off his bike.

There is a small crash involving Rolf Aldag (T-Mobile) and Franck Renier (Bouygues), but both are back on their bikes and, after a visit to the race doctor, are within the confines of the peloton.

15:25 CEST    70km/83.3km to go
We have another attack! This time it's from Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana), who has a small gap over the peloton. After a fast start, it's been pretty quiet of late.

15:35 CEST    82km/71.3km to go
Pascual Rodriguez' move is a good one, and he now has a 2'08 lead over the peloton, which has covered 84.9 km in the first two hours of racing.

15:39 CEST   
For those wondering, there are time bonuses for intermediate sprints during the Vuelta. It's usually 6, 4, 2 seconds, but sometimes, like the second sprint today, there are no bonuses. The finish bonuses are usually 20, 12, 8 seconds.

15:47 CEST    87km/66.3km to go
Pascual Rodriguez passes through the feed zone and into the province of Ciudad Real. He is approaching the first sprint of the day at Fuencaliente.

15:55 CEST    95.3km/58km to go
Rodriguez is going well, and has extended his advantage out to 3'03 as he takes the bonus at Fuencaliente.

15:57 CEST    96.3km/57km to go
La Francaise des Jeux is leading the peloton, defending Brad McGee's gold jersey. Unlike Menchov and Rabobank yesterday, FDJ is more interested in keeping the gold. The breakaway, Javier Pascual Rodriguez, is already 10 minutes down on GC, so is no threat.

15:58 CEST   
Second place in the sprint went to Joaquin Rodriguez (4 seconds), while McGee took third (2 seconds).

16:02 CEST    97.3km/56km to go
Rodriguez suffers his way up a false flat, drinking water and trying to keep cool. The road is black and in very good condition.

Any chase will have to come from the sprinters teams, Fassa Bortolo and Quick.Step. FDJ is not interested in getting Rodriguez back.

16:05 CEST    100km/53.3km to go
Rodriguez tosses an empty water bottle overboard to the deserted roadside, and gets another from his team car. It's pretty lonely out there. Outside the cities, the crowds are almost non-existent.

Rodriguez has 3'44 now.

16:06 CEST   
The Phonak boys are enjoying themselves again at the front of the peloton, spraying water over each other.

16:08 CEST   
Rodriguez finds a bit of a downhill and cranks the speed up a bit, but he still has to pedal.

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) looks a bit more comfy today, although he's at the back of the peloton.

16:10 CEST   
Mountains leader Bertagnolli is wearing a pink-ish helmet today, which doesn't quite go with his red-ish mountains jersey. But it's close. I can only work in primary colours anyway.

16:11 CEST    103.3km/50km to go
Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) gets a bit friendly with Jakob Piil (CSC), but the Dane doesn't quite go along with the joke. Riding in 40 degree heat does some strange things to grown men.

16:13 CEST   
Rodriguez rides on the bike path/shoulder on the edge of the road, mainly because it's the shortest route around this curve. He keeps drinking.

16:15 CEST    108.3km/45km to go
Rodriguez has 3'40 on the peloton as he moves to the other side of the edge of the road, again climbing.

16:20 CEST    110.3km/43km to go
Rodriguez is riding well, keeping his 3'40 gap over the bunch, which has not got itself organised in a real chase yet. Another 10 km and it will start to get interesting. Rodriguez has the advantage of not having been out in front all day - he attacked after 70 km so "only" has to ride 83 km alone.

16:23 CEST    113.3km/40km to go
Rodriguez reaches the top of a very long drag and takes some time out to suck down an energy gel or two, as well as more water. The pace in the peloton has picked up a little, and a lot of riders are not finding it easy on his false flat in 40 degree conditions.

16:24 CEST   
Joseba Beloki (Liberty Seguros) doesn't look too bad. He's near his team captain Roberto Heras. Beloki had a shocking start to the race, crashing in the first 500m, but rode well yesterday to finish with the main peloton.

The peloton is stretching.

16:26 CEST   
The bunch reaches the top of the "climb" and the gap to Rodriguez is 3'09. It's still FDJ leading, but now the Fassa Bortolo riders are coming to the fore, led by Fabio Sacchi.

16:28 CEST    116.3km/37km to go
The speed hits 90 km/h as the peloton scorches down this long, straight descent. Rodriguez' gap is down to 2'55.

16:29 CEST    118.3km/35km to go
Today marks the first time that a Vuelta stage will finish in Puertollano.

The speed is still over 60 km/h as the road flattens out in the Valle de Alcudia and the chase is taken up by Fassa Bortolo.

16:31 CEST   
The race has been going for three hours, and Javier Pascual Rodriguez is fighting his way through the valley under the baking sun. His gap is 2'27 and the peloton can probably see him on this long straight road.

16:34 CEST    120.3km/33km to go
Rodriguez keeps punching along as Fassa eases off the pace slightly. The gap is under 2 minutes now, so there's no rush.

16:36 CEST    121.3km/32km to go
Race leader McGee is further back in the peloton as there is no real danger at the moment. The road climbs again gradually, and the peloton has got Rodriguez pegged at 1'25.

16:38 CEST   
39 km were covered in the third hour, and the overall average speed is 41.3 km/h after three hours.

16:41 CEST    124.3km/29km to go
Javier Pascual Rodriguez has won a stage and the overall of the Vuelta a la Rioja this year, as well as the GP Miguel Indurain. He won stage 18 of the Vuelta last year. He has won several other Spanish races, but never anything outside his own country.

16:43 CEST    126.3km/27km to go
Rodriguez has 27 km to go as he continues to hold his 1'25 lead.

Phonak's Jose Enrique Gutierrez, who crashed yesterday on the San Jeronimo, is getting his radio seen to.

16:44 CEST    127.3km/26km to go
The peloton is fanned out about 15 riders wide along this road. It's not because of the wind though. It's just one solid block.

16:46 CEST    127km/26.3km to go
Rodriguez is feeling it now, as he sits up after taking the sprint at Puerto del Pulido. McGee was second ahead of a teammate. Were there bonus seconds for that one? It seems so.

16:47 CEST    128km/25.3km to go
Rodriguez takes another drink, looks back and sees the bunch hurtling towards him on this short descent. He's swallowed.

16:50 CEST    129.3km/24km to go
Oh no! Jose Enrique Gutierrez has crashed again! This time he's just run off the side of the road. He takes some time to get going again, but he's OK. He had a whole lot of bidons with him so he might have been trying to give them to his teammates. He gives them back to the team car after spraying them over the dirt on his legs.

16:50 CEST   
Gutierrez chases back on behind his team car. He'll maybe get a penalty, but it's worth it. He's not a GC rider so the time doesn't matter.

16:52 CEST   
According to the Vuelta road book, there were no bonus seconds at Puerto del Pulido, so McGee's effort might have been a bit wasted.

16:53 CEST    131.3km/22km to go
The bunch has regrouped as a few riders try to improve their position by riding on the path on the edge of the road. Will anyone try to escape before the finish? Very probably.

16:54 CEST   
Well, the road book appears to be wrong :-) McGee has six bonus seconds today (4 + 2), while Rodriguez has 12.

16:55 CEST    133.3km/20km to go
Gutierrez is back in the peloton after his stack, and gives the bidons back to his teammates. His bro Ignacio takes him to the front.

16:57 CEST    134.3km/19km to go
Fassa and CSC are setting the tempo now, trying to keep the pace high enough to discourage attacks. No sign of Quick.Step yet, but you can bet 400 Belgian francs that once Tom Boonen gets a sniff of the finish line, he'll have a go. Sprinters are hard to tame like that.

17:00 CEST    136.3km/17km to go
An attack! Thomas Ziegler (Gerolsteiner) accelerates away on a small climb and gets a gap. That'll wake the others up a bit.

17:01 CEST    137.3km/16km to go
Ziegler chose a good point to attack, as it was near the top of the climb and he gets a descent to recover. The peloton hasn't really reacted, but the pace will pick up a bit now.

17:01 CEST    138.3km/15km to go
Ziegler flies under 15 km to go with 15 seconds on the bunch, where Fassa leads.

17:03 CEST    140.3km/13km to go
Ziegler grabs a drink and continues to power away. He is not leaving anything in the tank, and has a good 20 seconds now. CSC sits behind one Fassa rider, but the chase isn't really on yet.

17:04 CEST    141.3km/12km to go
Ziegler exits the big road, then the peloton follows. 12 km left and it's now Illes Balears with a couple of men in front. Fassa is still up there.

17:06 CEST    142.3km/11km to go
Ziegler has half a minute as he hits a speed hump on the outskirts of town. He'll get to the final intermediate sprint soon.

17:07 CEST    143.3km/10km to go
Ziegler powers up a small climb through the streets, lined with people, motors over some cobbles and gets to the sprint at Almodovar del Campo. The young German has 27 seconds lead.

17:08 CEST    144.3km/9km to go
McGee shoots out of the bunch and takes second place and another 4 seconds. One of the Fassas was third - Flecha, who is close to McGee on GC.

17:08 CEST    144.3km/9km to go
Ziegler is 9'41 down on GC so doesn't present a threat to McGee. But he does to the sprinters! He keeps his 28 second lead as Credit Agricole takes up the chase for Thor Hushovd.

17:09 CEST    145.3km/8km to go
The peloton exits town and the speed picks up. Fassa and Credit have it wound up again. But Ziegler is strong! Great riding by the German who is now under 8 km to go.

17:11 CEST    146.3km/7km to go
Thomas Ziegler remains rock solid as he points his nose towards Puertollano. Rik Verbrugghe is now working for Quick.Step.

17:12 CEST    147.3km/6km to go
The chase has carved 7 seconds off the lead, and it's down to 20 seconds with 7 km to go. Quick.Step and Fassa are working, as Saunier comes up the front too. Petacchi and Boonen look to be the favourites, but don't forget Tom Steels (Davitamon-Lotto)...

17:12 CEST   
The chase is relentless and it's 14 seconds under 6 km to go. The peloton is not too strung out, even so. T-Mobile has a rider up there too.

17:13 CEST    148.3km/5km to go
Ziegler is being sucked back on this wide road. He gets to a roundabout, which will help him a bit. 10 seconds. Some riders chose to go straight over the top of the roundabout.

17:14 CEST    149.3km/4km to go
The bunch has Ziegler in its sights now and the German is swallowed with just over 4 km to go. De Weert lifts the pace for Quick.Step.

17:14 CEST    149.3km/4km to go
The bunch has Ziegler in its sights now and the German is swallowed with just over 4 km to go. De Weert lifts the pace for Quick.Step.

17:15 CEST    149.3km/4km to go
Fassa gets its silver train into gear at the 4km to go banner. The pace is very high now.

17:15 CEST    150.3km/3km to go
Petacchi is in sixth wheel and well placed. Quick.Step has moved Boonen up, but Zabel is there too.

17:16 CEST   
They're in the centre of town now and Fassa winds it up for Petacchi. They have enough men, it looks like.

17:16 CEST    151.3km/2km to go
It's a classic bunch sprint coming up, with Fassa leading it out all the way.

17:17 CEST   
Under two km to go and Petacchi still has four men in front. Zabel is up there on his wheel.

17:17 CEST    151.8km/1.5km to go
Three riders left with 1.5 km to go, then Petacchi. Bettini moves up with Boonen. Zabel and Boonen next to each other.

17:18 CEST    152.3km/1km to go
Last kilometre and Fassa has got a textbook leadout going. Two men for the last 800m. Hushovd and Zabel are there.

17:19 CEST    153.3km/0km to go
The leadout proper starts with 500m to go and Petacchi gets a perfect lead until 200m. He hits out with 150m and gets it from Zabel and Boonen! No danger. That went like clockwork.

17:27 CEST   
Petacchi's finishing speed was 58 km/h, according to the radar, which means it was a pretty hard sprint. But it doesn't matter how fast you go, as long as you win.

The race lead stays with Brad McGee, who put another 10 seconds between himself and his closest rivals. He should keep the points jersey, while Joaquin Rodriguez takes over the mountains jersey.

That's all folks, until tomorrow!


1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                            3.48.41
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                     
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic                        
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                           
5 Giosuè Bonomi (Ita) Lampre - Caffita                           
6 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) Discovery Channel                        
7 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems       
8 Tom Steels (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto                            
9 Marco Velo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                                  
10 Patrick Calcagni (Swi) Liquigas - Bianchi                           

General classification after stage 3

1 Bradley McGee (Aus) Française des Jeux                             8.50.32
2 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis, le credit par telephone           0.32
3 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Fassa Bortolo                      0.39
4 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir                 0.41
5 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                  
6 Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre - Caffita               0.42
7 Unai Yus Kerejeta (Spa) Bouygues Telecom                              0.43
8 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic                          1.02
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                          1.05
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                         1.12

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