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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 5 - Wednesday, August 31: Alcazar de San Juan-Cuenca, 176 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Hernan Alvarez

Live report

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

14:34 CEST   
Welcome to our live coverage of the fifth stage of the Vuelta a España, a flattish 176 km stage from Alcazar de San Juan to Cuenca. Although there is a Cat. 3 climb (Alto del Castillo) with 13 km to go, this stage should still be sprinter-friendly. We'll see.

There are three intermediate sprints on offer, at Campo de Criptana (km 8), Quintanar de la Orden (km 42.6) and Carrascosa del Campo (km 104.5). And it's gonna be hot, damn hot, again.

14:49 CEST   
Today's stage started at 1pm with 193 riders signing on. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) was the last rider to sign on, while Oscar Mason (Liquigas) did not, after abandoning yesterday. After a 3.2 km neutral section out of Alcazar de San Juan, the flag dropped and the attacks started. The peloton stayed together for the first sprint at Campo de Criptana (km 8), where Austrian Bernhard Eisel (FDJ) won ahead of Juan Antonio Flecha and Fabio Sacchi (both Fassa Bortolo). Flecha is seeking bonus seconds to try and grab the leader's jersey from Brad McGee.

Early on in the stage, Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Phonak) was having problems following. He has a broken rib after crashing several times in the opening stages. He abandoned the race after 30 km.

Christophe Le Mevel (CA) attacked after 14 km, and managed to stay away for a couple of kilometres before the bunch caught him and Thomas Ziegler (Gerolsteiner, Mikel Pradera (Illes Balears), and Devis Miorin (Liquigas) countered. Ziegler ended up with Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana) and the pair gained 30 seconds until they were caught at km 33. A crash at km 26 in El Toboso brought down Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana), but he was able to make it back to the peloton.

After 39 km, a group of 20 riders got clear, including Brad McGee, who was obviously looking for sprint bonuses too. But at the sprint in Quintanar de la Orden, it was Matej Jurco (Liquigas) ahead of Sven Montgomery (Gerolsteiner) and Tino Zaballa (Saunier Duval). The speed remained high and 50.9 km were covered in the first hour.

14:52 CEST    90km/86km to go
After 61 km, a new breakaway formed and was more successful, with eight riders going clear: Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Eric Leblacher (CA), Michael Barry (Discovery), Patrick Calcagni (Liquigas), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), Jorge Garcia (Relax), David de la Fuente (Saunier), and Jakob Piil (CSC). Within 3 km, they had 50 seconds lead, and after 85 km, they have stretched it out to 3'14.

14:53 CEST   
Mirco Lorenzetto (Domina Vacanze) has abandoned the race.

15:04 CEST    96km/80km to go
The break's lead is out to 3'43 now as it approaches the day's third and final sprint in Carrascosa del Campo. That makes Michael Barry the virtual maillot oro, as he started the day just 1'34 behind McGee on GC. No doubt, there will be a bit of chasing later.

Bad news for Euskaltel: Iban Mayo has abandoned. After saying that he would try to help out Aitor Gonzalez in the Vuelta, Mayo has had enough and is out of the race.

15:11 CEST   
It's actually not as hot as it has been in previous days, with temps at the finish in Cuenca around 28 degrees. That's going to be well received by the riders, who've had to endure scorching conditions of up to 40 degrees so far.

15:12 CEST    99km/77km to go
The second hour of the race has been quick at just over 45 km/h, and after two hours, the overall average speed is still 48.1 km/h. The eight breakaways lead by 3'57 now.

15:21 CEST    105km/71km to go
The break's lead continues to increase as it passes the sprint at Carrascosa del Campo. Best placed GC rider Michael Barry takes the 6 seconds, followed by Piil and Veneberg. The peloton is 4'08 behind the leading octet.

15:31 CEST    110km/66km to go
Finally, we have a bit of stabilisation in the race, as the advantage of the breakaways stops at the 4'10 mark. That's quite within the capabilities of the sprinters' teams to chase. With 66 km to go, it's likely that that will happen soon.

15:38 CEST    120km/56km to go
The chase hasn't started yet, or if it has, it's not doing much good. The leading eight are 4'20 ahead of the peloton at the moment, and riding well.

The riders in the break again: Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Eric Leblacher (CA), Michael Barry (Discovery), Patrick Calcagni (Liquigas), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), Jorge Garcia (Relax), David de la Fuente (Saunier), and Jakob Piil (CSC).

15:48 CEST    128km/48km to go
Francaise des Jeux has relinquished control of the peloton now, as T-Mobile, Fassa and Quick.Step start to work. The speed lifts and the gap to the leaders is sliced to 3'06.

15:51 CEST    131km/45km to go
The chase is quite intense now as the race climbs gradually to the Puerto de Cabreja. The tailwind has helped keep the speed up around the 48 km/h mark today. Also the lack of heat. For a change, the skies aren't actually blue, but there is a high layer of cloud up in the heavens.

15:57 CEST    135km/41km to go
the breakaways are still working well together, but are still losing time to the now strung out peloton. With three teams chasing, they don't have a hope. It's down to 2'00 now.

16:01 CEST    141km/35km to go
McGee goes to the back of the peloton but is brought to the front by his teammates.

The break hits the steep part of this uncategorised climb, and Calcagni and De La Fuente leave the others behind. De La Fuente uses everything in his power to push the pace. His style looks awful, but it has the desired affect and he and Calcagni have a gap over the top.

16:03 CEST   
The pair are joined by Eric Leblacher (CA), and the three leaders have a total of 1'58 on the peloton. Chasing them are Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Michael Barry (Discovery), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), Jorge Garcia (Relax), and Jakob Piil (CSC).

16:05 CEST    143km/33km to go
Piil and Barry catch the three leaders and straight away, Piil counters with Barry on his wheel. Garcia and Veneberg come back, then De La Fuente, Calcagni, Leblacher and Scheirlinckx. All back together.

16:08 CEST    145km/31km to go
The eight leaders are on the descent of the Cabreja, and really flying on the wide, straight roads. 90km/h at the moment... The gap is still 2'04.

16:10 CEST   
De La Fuente tells the others to start working. Pot, kettle, black.

16:13 CEST    150km/26km to go
Pablo Lastras has a flat and gets a quick wheel change, but he'll have to work hard to get back to the peloton, which is really motoring. It's 1'38 to the eight leaders.

16:15 CEST    153km/23km to go
The leaders should make it to the final climb of the Alto del Castillo, which is a cat. 3 ascent with its summit at 1120m, climbing from 960m in 4 km. It's not too steep, but it's narrow and cobbled, and that could make it interesting. It's summit is at 13 km to go.

1'15 is the gap.

16:18 CEST    156km/20km to go
Fassa is driving it hard, so obviously Petacchi or maybe even Flecha feels good today. It's one of those tricky finishes like in Stage 2.

50 seconds, and the bunch is not slowing down.

16:19 CEST    157km/19km to go
The leaders are under 20 km to go now, less than 7 km from the first finish line passage in Cuenca. But they're history now, as the bunch is just half a minute behind and charging.

16:21 CEST    158km/18km to go
Leblacher attacks in a last gasp suicide move, but he is caught by the rest of the break. The hungry peloton will likely get them before the climb.

16:22 CEST   
The breakaways persist, but are fighting a losing battle as they get back onto the main road coming into Cuenca. 20 seconds...

16:23 CEST    160km/16km to go
The leaders start to sit up as the bunch motors up 10 seconds behind them. The climb hasn't really started yet, but it will soon.

16:24 CEST    162km/14km to go
It's all back together with just under 15 km to go, as CSC takes over in front for a bit.

16:25 CEST   
The climb starts and Quick.Step leads with Boonen in third wheel behind Bettini. The cobbles aren't savage, but they'll hurt.

Ardila attacks, but can't really break clear. The climb snakes up through the old part of Cuenca. Ardila rides on the smooth bit in the centre of the road. An Euskaltel rider counters the Lotto man.

16:26 CEST   
Sammy Sanchez is the rider in the lead. He has a few seconds on the peloton.

16:27 CEST   
Sanchez switches to the gutter on the edge of the road as the climb steepens. The peloton is strung out in pursuit behind, as two riders make it up to the leader.

16:28 CEST   
Sanchez is riding very smoothly, but Carlos Garcia Quesada and Joaquin Rodriguez close the gap. Rodriguez, in the mountains jersey, takes over in front. The rest of the peloton is pretty close though.

16:29 CEST    163km/13km to go
Rodriguez reaches the steeper part of the climb, which is not cobbled. He wins the mountain points, looks back, and eases up. Quesada catches him, and a few more.

16:30 CEST   
A group of 30 or so is chasing the leaders. Bettini makes it to the front group, which has five seconds or so on the bunch behind. Adolfo Garcia and Carlos Sastre are also up there in the lead.

16:31 CEST    165km/11km to go
Sastre and Heras are up there too, but now the chasing group has bridged the gap. Mercado accelerates on the descent, which is not too steep.

16:33 CEST    166km/10km to go
Gaps are still starting to form as Mercado is joined by a few more.

A crash at the back as Piepoli and Azevedo come down. Piepoli takes time to get going, and Azevedo is already on his way. He won't get the leaders now though.

A lead group of six forms but sits up.

16:34 CEST    168km/8km to go
The lead group reforms as three or four Liberty riders get on the front. No sign of McGee, but he should still be there.

16:35 CEST   
Another Euskaltel rider tries to get a gap, or is that Sanchez again?

16:36 CEST    169km/7km to go
It's Aitor Gonzalez! Watch out for him. He's good at this sort of move.

16:37 CEST    170km/6km to go
It's Sanchez, not Gonzalez. He gets a gap but this descent isn't really technical for him to ride away from the peloton. He doesn't have aero wheels on either, which is not going to help.

Mercado joins Sanchez.

McGee is in the lead group.

16:38 CEST    171km/5km to go
Sanchez and Mercado are working together now but are caught by the peloton again. It's too fast to get away, but that doesn't stop riders from trying.

16:39 CEST    172km/4km to go
Luis Perez (Cofidis) is also in the front group, as is Menchov and Bernabeu.

16:39 CEST    173km/3km to go
A couple of riders, Botero and Plaza, close the gap to the lead group. Mercado attacks again, and a Liberty rider chases him.

16:40 CEST    173.5km/2.5km to go
Mercado looks back and sees his teammate Bettini there too. But the group comes back to them.

16:41 CEST    174km/2km to go
Bertagnolli is up here in the front group, which has 38 seconds on the second group. This is a perfect sprint for McGee, but there are other riders like Bettini here too...

16:42 CEST    174.5km/1.5km to go
Mercado stops trying to attack and instead tries to lead out Bettini as the group hits the final kilometre and a bit.

16:42 CEST    175km/1km to go
A Lampre rider attacks before the kilometre to go banner... not much of a lead. He's caught.

16:42 CEST   
Boonen(!) leads out in the final kilometre, with Bettini on his wheel.

16:43 CEST    176km/0km to go
McGee hits out on the right side of the road with Sanchez on his wheel. That's a long sprint. Bettini comes past and McGee is sunk. Then Hushovd from nowhere wins the stage!!! Perdiguero second.

McGee keeps the golden jersey.

16:50 CEST   
Josep Jufre snuck up for third ahead of Jose Ivan Gutierrez.

Amazing win by Hushovd, who had plenty of time to celebrate. It seemed as though all the other sprinters shot their bullets too early. After Boonen led out, McGee went from about 500m, then Bettini from 300m...Hushovd just timed his run perfectly. Bettini finished up 12th as a result.

Flecha and Vicioso missed the split today, so they are out of the top 10. McGee still leads ahead of Bertagnolli and Rodriguez.

That's it from us for Stage 5. Join us tomorrow for the sixth stage, between Cuenca and Valdelinares, which finishes with a Cat. 1 climb. Maybe a chance for Joaquin Rodriguez to take the lead.


1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                                 3.41.52
2 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems        
3 Josep Jufre (Spa) Relax Fuenlabrada                                  
4 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne   
5 David Blanco Rodiguez (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                  
6 Unai Yus Kerejeta (Spa) Bouygues Telecom                              
7 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon - Lotto            
8 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir              
9 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                               
10 Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                            

General classification after stage 5

1 Bradley McGee (Aus) Française des Jeux                            18.13.53
2 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis, le credit par telephone           0.32
3 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir                 0.41
4 Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre - Caffita               0.42
5 Unai Yus Kerejeta (Spa) Bouygues Telecom                              0.53
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                          1.05
7 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic                         
8 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                          1.12
9 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel                                 1.17
10 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team             1.20

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