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Photo ©: Bettini

60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 15 - Sunday, September 11: Cangas de Onis-Valgrande Pajares, 191 km

Complete live report

Commentary by Hedwig Kröner, with additional reporting from Hernan Alvarez

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

14:27 CEST   
Welcome folks, to another mountain stage of this year's Vuelta! Today is Roberto Heras' last chance to get that Golden jersey from Rabobank's Denis Menchov, but the young Russian looked strong enough to resist the Spaniard's attacks in recent days. We will see what he makes of it on stage 15, as two cat. 1 and two cat. 3 climbs are to be mastered before the final cat. 'especial' climb up to Valgrande Pajares, where it'll all be about the GC.

14:31 CEST   
Rain and cold are the two main characteristics of Northern's Spain's weather conditions today. That’s exactly the opposite than in the first week, when boiling heat and dry days throughout Andalusia and Castilla-La Mancha made the racing barely bearable. At noon in the finish in Pajares, the thermometer marked 13° Celsius with a very cloudy sky and chances of rain.

14:36 CEST   
145 riders signed for today’s stage. The attacks were constant from the very beginning. There were many moves with many riders who tried to get in the right breakaway, but nobody made it. After the first cat. 3 climb, Alto de la Faya, a group of 17 riders finally managed to hold a gap to the peloton. At km 60, this group included mountain jersey wearer Joaquin Rodriguez (Sauniel Duval), Angel Vicioso, Joseba Beloki (both Liberty), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

Behind them, 6 riders chased: Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Mario Aerts (Davitamon-Lotto), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Benjamin Noval (Discovery Channel), Mauricio Ardila (Davitamon-Lotto) and Giampaolo Caruso (Liberty). A few kilometres later, both groups got together, therefore there were 23 men leading the race while the peloton was around 1 minute behind.

14:47 CEST   
The break was composed of the following riders: Angel Vicioso Arcos, Michele Scarponi, Joseba Beloki (Liberty), Egoi Martinez, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), Paco Lara (T-Mobile), Daniel Atienza (Cofidis), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Benjamin Noval, Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Maurico Ardila Cano, Mario Aerts (Davitamon), Mikel Pradera, José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Javier Pascual Rodriguez, Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana), Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Fassa Bortolo), Nicki Sörensen (CSC), Paolo Bettini (QuickStep), Bram De Groot (Rabobank).

Their advantage grew to over two minutes as they ascended the second climb of the day, where Oscar Pereiro punctured and had to continue by himself... while Benjamin Noval couldn't hold the pace and dropped back also.

14:49 CEST   
Joaquin Rodriguez took the points at the Alto de la Collandona at km 79, as behind them a counter-attack formed: 14 riders started chasing with Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step), Victor Hugo Peña (Phonak), Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears) and Marcos Serrano (Liberty) among them.

14:58 CEST   
The riders engaged in the chase of the front group are: David Latasa, David Bernabeu, David Blanco (Comunidad Valenciana), David Cañada, Constantino Zaballa (Saunier), Gorka Gonzales (Euskaltel), Juan Miguel Mercado (QuickStep), Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile), Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner), Victor Hugo Peña (Phonak), Pablo Lastras, Joan Horrach (Illes Balears), Marcos Serrano (Liberty), Benjamin Noval (Discovery), Christian Vandevelde (CSC).

At km 100, before gearing down to take on the next climb, the 21 riders in front had a 1.42 minutes advantage over the chasers and 2.49 minutes on the main pack.

15:09 CEST   
NZ's Julian Dean (Crédit Agricole) has given up the race, as well as Jukka Vastaranta (Rabobank), who got into the car at km 110 - that leaves only four riders to support Menchov in his quest for overall victory: : Bram de groot, Pedro Horrillo, Alexandr Kolobnev and Thorwald Veneberg.

On top of the Alto de Santo Emiliano, Joaquin Rodriguez continued scoring all the KOM points to consolidate his jersey.

15:13 CEST    120km/71km to go
It appears the race is quite open at this stage, as the 15 chasers have joined the front group an now form a fairly big bunch of about 40 riders. The peloton is distanced at 2.38 minutes.

15:21 CEST    130km/61km to go
The leaders are putting quite a tempo on, heading towards the next cat. 1 climb, and have already gained an advance of 5.30 as the hit the Alto de la Colladiella.

15:24 CEST    135km/56km to go
Luis Pasamontes (Relax), Francisco José Ventoso (Saunier) Leon Van Bon (Davitamon), Mikel Pradera (Illeas Balears), Jurgen Van Goolen (QuickStep), Patrick Calcagni (Liquigas) and Christophe Kern (Bouygues) have set out on the chase, and got a good two-minute gap off the peloton.

15:29 CEST    136km/55km to go
Ha! And all the while we're talking about the break and counter-attacks, Roberto Heras has decided not to wait any longer and jumped out of the peloton! Of course, the GC contenders all reacted, especially Menchov, and now there's a little group clear on the slopes of the cat. 1 climb, where Heras is trying to destabilise the Golden jersey.

15:39 CEST   
But young Sevilla, who jumped with Heras, Menchov and Sastre - Tom Danielson also tried to go with them - can't hold on to their violent pace and drops back. There's only Heras, Menchov, Sastre, Santos Gonzalez (Phonak) and Garcia Quesada left now, and the front group is still 4.16 minutes away.

15:48 CEST   
Here's the composition of the leading group: Scarponi, Beloki, Caruso (Liberty Seguros), Martinez, Sanchez (Euskaltel), Botcharov (Crédit Agricole), Rodriguez (Saunier Duval), Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Bettini (QuickStep), Pradera (Illes Balears), Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana), Lara (-Mobile), Atienza (Cofidis), De Groot (Rabobank), Sanchez (Fassa Bortolo), Sörensen (CSC), A.Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana), Pereiro (Phonak), Devolder (Discovery), Ardila, Aerts (Davitamon).

15:53 CEST    147km/44km to go
And Heras accelerated further... and got a gap over Menchov, Sastre etc. This is finally the moment of truth. Can he increase his lead enough to distance Menchov?

He's got 27 seconds now.

15:58 CEST    153km/38km to go
In return, Mancebo wasn't able to follow Menchov and there's currently a gap of over one minute to Heras, who's driving along very impressively. But will this effort have any consequences on him at the final climb?

16:03 CEST    158km/33km to go
Heras is strong: 40 seconds now. He's 47 seconds back on Menchov on the Overall Classification - but there are still more than 340 clicks to go and a Hors Category mountaintop finish to master. This is interesting!

16:06 CEST   
Menchov leads a trio of Sastre behind him, and Garcia Quesada in third. No Rabobank teammate in sight. Menchov is talking to his DS in the team car.

In front, Bettini is driving the train on this flat terrain leading up to the final challenge.

16:12 CEST    171km/20km to go
Heras has bridged up to a number of his teammates in the front group, and has already gained a massive lead now: over 1.30 minutes! Beloki is doing a great job in front now, really suffering for his captain.

16:17 CEST   
We're at the beginning of the final ascent to Pajares now. In front, Liberty is driving full gas for Heras, as Menchov also got more company with a CSC rider helping Sastre - but there are counter-attacks going now so Menchov is still really alone in this one.

16:20 CEST    176km/15km to go
Heras looks extremely focused, as Scarponi leads him out. Beloki is gone, and Menchov doesn't look very fresh anymore neither, as he's trying to limit his losses.

16:24 CEST   
With Heras and Scarponi are: Javier Pascual Rodriguez(Comunidad Valenciana), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) and Paco Lara (T-Mobile), who all look good but only follow Scarponi.

Menchov is on his own, stomping. There's over a minute between him and Mancebo now too.

16:27 CEST   
The weather hasn't improved since we started our coverage: it's still raining here, with some fog at the top.

16:28 CEST    181km/10km to go
Lara (T-Mobile) has dropped back. It's still Scarponi in front, but Heras looks like there's still some gas left in him.

16:33 CEST    182km/9km to go
it looks like Heras is taking the overall lead for good here! Menchov is cooked, very much in pain but there's already more than 3 minutes between him and Heras now!

16:35 CEST    184km/7km to go
Bettini is also in the Sastre group, as well as Quasada and Pereiro.

16:37 CEST    184km/7km to go
At the moment, there are 2.27 minutes between Heras and the Sastre group, with Menchov falling at 40 seconds.

16:39 CEST    185km/6km to go
The rain is still pouring - terrible racing conditions.

Scarponi has exploded, that's it for him. Heras is taking off in front of Rodriguez - the three-times Vuelta winner still looks very powerful even though he's got 15 stitches in his leg - amazing!

16:40 CEST   
Sanchez drops back, too. There are 20 metres gaps between the three, as Sanchez gets out of the saddle, again.

16:42 CEST    187km/4km to go
Heras is incredibly smooth. He'll take the stage it looks like, as well as the overall lead and a huge advantage over Menchov, as well as Sastre. 2.33 minutes in front of Sastre now.

Ouch. This part is really steep.

16:45 CEST   
There are quite some spectators up here in the rain, as Heras is riding through a narrow passage through them in this 17 percent gradient stretch.

16:48 CEST   
Two clicks to go. Heras has taken up speed again as it's flatter up there and the fans are behind the barriers. Menchov is over 4 minutes back now! And Sastre is struggling at 2.40 minutes.

16:50 CEST   
Mancebo has now joined Menchov again. But the one-man-show in front is excellent. What a ride! This looks like the Vuelta winner again...

16:51 CEST   
Heras is under the one-kilometre mark. Samuel Sanchez is about 30 seconds behind, also a great ride by the Basque!

It's pouring still, and so foggy one can barely see!

16:53 CEST   
And Heras wins! brilliant. Second is Sanchez, third Quesada.

16:57 CEST   
And here comes Menchov: 5.17 minutes behind! he's lost it today...

17:14 CEST   
That was an impressive come-back of Roberto Heras to the top of the race - whoever thought him giving way to the young Russian Menchov was proved wrong. Heras now stands the greatest chance of taking Vuelta victory n° 4 - join us again for the next happenings in tomorrow's stage 16, a pretty flat bit to Valladolid, where the GC contenders will surely ease up to leave the 'stage' to the sprinters.



1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team        4.53.53
2 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                             0.32
3 Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                0.46
4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                  2.28
5 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon - Lotto               3.11
6 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                   3.12
7 Mario Aerts (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto                                3.19
8 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                     3.47
9 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                           
10 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel                            4.09
General classification after stage 15
1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team       61.47.40
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 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                14.53

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