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60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 17 - Wednesday, September 14: El Espinar-La Granja de San Ildefonso, 165.6 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Hernan Alvarez

Live report

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

14:29 CEST   
We're back, and it's as if we've never left the Cyclingnews blimp, which is hovering above El Espinar, the start town of the 17th stage of the Vuelta. It's not over until the gravitationally challenged female yodels (or whatever the PC term is), and today we've got a few more mountains between El Espinar and La Granja de San Ildefonso.

This stage is 165 km long and features four climbs: Alto de los Angeles de San Rafael (Category 3, 1280m, km 12), Puerto de Navacerrada, that will be passed twice (Cat. 1, 1880m, km 55.2 and km 143.2) and Puerto de la Morcuera (Cat. 2, 1798m, km 93.3). The last ascent of the Navacerrada comes with 22 km to go, so it should produce a selection. Today's intermediate sprints are at Evenga (km 28), La Pradera (km 41), and Manzanares El Real (km 119).

Race leader Roberto Heras has the strongest team in the race at the moment, and should have no problems defending his 4'30 lead over Denis Menchov. But the battle for second and third between Menchov and Sastre, who are separated by just 20 seconds, could be interesting.

14:44 CEST   
The story so far: All but one rider signed on in El Espinar this morning, with Fabio Sacchi (Fassa Bortolo) choosing to make an early exit. That left 139 riders in the race. The start was at 12:47 and Victor Peña (Phonak) and Frederic Finot (FDJ) opened the attacking. Mountains leader Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier Duval) took the points on the Alto de Los Angeles de San Rafael after 12 km, ahead of David Blanco (Comunidad Valenciana), Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak) and Santos Gonzalez (Phonak). The peloton regrouped on the descent and after 22 km, Gonzalez (Euskaltel), Latasa (Comunidad Valenciana) and Ardila (Davitamon-Lotto) attacked. They were joined by several other riders, but were caught at km 26.

Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) won the first sprint at Revenga (km 28) ahead of Eladio Jimenez and Marco Manzano, meaning that Petacchi is in the hunt for Roberto Heras' points jersey. These three riders continued in the lead and were joined by 21 others after 38 km, and the group was: Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole), Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez and David Lopez Garcia (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Stijn Devolder (Discovery), Gilberto Simoni and Marco Marzano (Lampre), David Blanco Rodriguez, Eladio Jimenez Sanchez and Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana), Alexandr Kolobnev (Rabobank), Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Saunier Duval), Rik Verbrugghe (Quick Step), Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), Devis Miorin (Liquigas), Manuel Calvente (CSC), Joan Horrach, Pablo Lastras and Mikel Pradera (Illes Balears), Jérémy Roy (Française des Jeux), Preben Van Hecke and Gert Steegmans (Davitamon - Lotto), Xavier Florencio (Relax), Jimmy Casper (Cofidis), and Martin Elmiger (Phonak). Of these Blanco is the best placed on GC at 22'31.

14:57 CEST    95km/70.6km to go
The sprint at La Pradera was again taken by Petacchi, ahead of Elmiger and Verbrugghe, putting Petacchi just 6 points behind Heras for the points jersey. After 46 km, the break had 1'27 on the bunch, but had lost Miorin, who couldn't follow any more, but was pursued by Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) and Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) as they started the Navacerrada for the first time. Naturally there was a reaction from Liberty Seguros behind, as Beloki drove the pace for his team leader Heras. Mancebo and Garcia Quesada were caught, and the lead group thinned down to 14 riders at the top of the climb:

David Blanco Rodriguez, Eladio Jimenez Sanchez and Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana), Joan Horrach and Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears), Koos Moerenhout (Davitamon - Lotto), Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez, Markel Irizar and David Lopez Garcia (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Stijn Devolder (Discovery), Gilberto Simoni (Lampre), Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Saunier Duval), Rik Verbrugghe (Quick Step), and Manuel Calvente (CSC).

The results of the climb of the Navacerrada were 1. Simoni, 2. Jimenez, 3. Blanco, 4. Lastras, 5. Irizar, 6. A. Gonzalez, 7. Devolder, 8. Lopez, 9. Pascual Rodriguez. The bunch passed over the top around a minute later.

On the descent, Samuel Sanchez tried to bridge up, without success. Meanwhile, his teammate David Lopez was dropped from the break and was joined by Phonak's Miguel Martin Perdiguero from the bunch. After 84 km, the pair were chasing at 1'48, with the bunch at 2'10 behind the break. Cuesta and Rodriguez (Saunier) and Santos Gonzalez (Phonak) started to chase after 86 km, and caught Lopez and Perdiguero fairly quickly. The five were joined by Carlos Garcia Quesada and Roberto Laiseka. After 89 km, the gaps were 58 seconds between the chase group and the now 12 man break, and 1'45 between the break and the peloton.

15:09 CEST    91km/74.6km to go
The leaders are on the third climb of the day, the Cat. 2 Puerto de la Morcuera, and it's still a tense race. Blanco and Simoni have a small gap to their companions, who are being chased by...Francesco Mancebo at 58 seconds. The peloton is still at 1'46.

15:11 CEST   
Mancebo is now with the second chase group with Perdiguero and Rodriguez in it, trying to close the gap to the bigger group ahead.

15:19 CEST    102km/63.6km to go
The break has fragmented somewhat, meaning a lot of typing. It's still Simoni and Blanco with 12 seconds ahead of Jimenez and Moerenhout. The Mancebo group has caught the rest of the break, and is just 33 seconds behind the two leaders. The bunch is now at 1'42.

15:24 CEST    105km/60.6km to go
Comunidad Valenciana (4), Illes Balears (3), Saunier Duval (3) and Euskaltel (3) are very well represented in front.

The various groups: Gilberto Simoni (Lampre), David Blanco Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana) in front, Eladio Jimenez Sanchez (Comunidad Valenciana), Koos Moerenhout (Davitamon - Lotto) chasing, then: Carlos Garcia Quesada, Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana), Francisco Mancebo, Joan Horrach, Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears), Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez, Roberto Laiseka Jaio and David Lopez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Stijn Devolder (Discovery), Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez, Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver and Iñigo Cuesta (Saunier Duval), Rik Verbrugghe (Quick Step), and Manuel Calvente (CSC), Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero and Santos Gonzalez (Phonak) at 0'33

15:34 CEST    112km/53.6km to go
Sebastien Chavanel (Bouygues) has abandoned.

The break has reformed, and now we have the following riders in front: Francisco Mancebo, Joan Horrach, Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears), Santos Gonzalez, Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), David Blanco Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana), Carlos Garcia Quesada, Eladio Jimenez Sanchez, Javier Pascual Rodriguez, Koos Moerenhout (Davitamon - Lotto), Stijn Devolder (Discovery), Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez, Roberto Laiseka Jaio (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Gilberto Simoni (Lampre), Rik Verbrugghe (Quick Step), Iñigo Cuesta, Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver, Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Saunier Duval), Manuel Calvente (CSC).

Mancebo is the best placed on GC, starting the day at 6'45 in fourth place. It's not likely he'll get much more than the 1'28 he has now on Heras and co.

15:35 CEST   
The results of the Alto de La Morcuera: 1. Blanco, 2. Simoni, 3 Jimenez, 4. Moerenhout, 5. ? 6. Zaballa.

15:40 CEST    125km/40.6km to go
The big break reaches the last sprint of the day at Manzanares el Real, with Blanco winning the points ahead of Horrach and Lastras. The peloton has picked up the pace though, and is a minute behind now.

15:50 CEST    132km/33.6km to go
Aitor Gonzalez attacks the lead group, forcing Joaquin Rodriguez and Rik Verbrugghe out the back. They're on the second climb of the Navacerrada now, and Liberty still has the break pegged at 1'00.

15:58 CEST    133km/32.6km to go
The Navacerrada is doing some damage to the break, as Zaballa is the next to drop off.

In front, Aitor Gonzalez has been joined by Garcia Quesada, C. and Pascual Rodriguez, J. They have 15 seconds on the rest of the break, which includes Paco Mancebo. There's still a bit of climbing to come though - 10 km.

16:01 CEST    140km/25.6km to go
Garcia Quesada has now dropped his two companions, and leads Gonzalez by 28 seconds, with the Mancebo group just about to catch TerminAitor. The peloton is 1'12 behind the leader.

16:08 CEST    143km/22.6km to go
Garcia Quesada opens out his gap to 40 seconds over the Mancebo group. He started the day 1'17 behind Mancebo in fifth, so he could move up here. The peloton, meanwhile, is at 1'23, also 40 seconds behind Mancebo's group.

16:10 CEST   
Carlos Sastre takes over at the head of the peloton. His third place is threatened by both Mancebo (who needs 2 minutes) and Garcia Quesada (who needs over 3 minutes) to get him.

16:12 CEST   
Garcia Quesada now has 1'06 on the Mancebo chase group, and 1'51 on the peloton, where Denis Menchov is also working. Garcia Quesada has three teammates in the chase group too...

16:15 CEST    143km/22.6km to go
Carlos Garcia Quesada takes the points at the summit of the Navacerrada, as Mancebo and Santos Gonzalez chase him, with the rest of the group further down the mountain.

16:17 CEST    145km/20.6km to go
It's 1'40 at the top between the leader and Mancebo and Santos Gonzalez. Impressive. Mancebo has already lost his fourth place on GC, virtually.

Sastre leads the Heras group over at 2'24.

16:19 CEST    147km/18.6km to go
The rest of the big break has been caught by Heras's group, and there are now just three riders ahead of the golden jersey on the descent of the Navacerrada. What can Mancebo and Garcia Quesada do to their GC positions today?

16:21 CEST    149km/16.6km to go
Mancebo pushes it hard on the descent, and pegs Garcia Quesada back to 1'30. 1'17 is the gap between these two on GC.

16:24 CEST    153.6km/12km to go
With just 12 km to go, it looks like Carlos Garcia Quesada is en route to the stage win. Francisco Mancebo should hang on for second or third, as Santos Gonzalez has come back to him. The gap is still around 1'30-1'40, while the Heras group is another 40 seconds back.

16:26 CEST    155.6km/10km to go
The gaps stay fairly constant as Garcia Quesada reaches 10 km to go. Comunidad Valenciana has really made the race today.

16:29 CEST    157.6km/8km to go
Oscar Sevilla is also with the Heras, Menchov, Sastre, Plaza group, which is 40-odd seconds behind Mancebo and Gonzalez, and 2'00 on Carlos Garcia Quesada, who is leading the race.

16:30 CEST    158.6km/7km to go
Most of the final part of this stage is flat, except for the finish, which is a little bit uphill.

16:31 CEST   
The gold jersey group contains: Heras, Sastre, Calvente, Menchov, Plaza, Sevilla, and Ardila.

16:32 CEST    159.6km/6km to go
Garcia Quesada drives it hard along the final 6 km. He's doing everything to not only win the stage, but also to try to take fourth place from Paco Mancebo. But the gaps are shrinking.

16:34 CEST    160.6km/5km to go
Mancebo is just 1'09 behind Garcia Quesada, and is getting little help from Santos Gonzalez, who is fairly cooked. But the Heras group is now at 1'40 from the leader.

16:36 CEST    161.6km/4km to go
Mancebo's chase should just be enough to save his fourth place on GC, but it'll be close as Garcia Quesada nears the finish now. Heras's group still can't get closer than 1'48. Mancebo is good today!

16:38 CEST    165.6km/0km to go
Garcia Quesada nearly goes off course! But he corrects it in time and doesn't lose too much time. He comes to the finish and wins the stage! Great ride by the Comunidad Valenciana rider.

16:40 CEST   
Mancebo limits the damage to 46 seconds at the finish as he comes in ahead of Santos Gonzalez. Nice ride! Fourth place goes Ardila, another minute or so back. Heras takes ninth and keeps his jersey.

16:49 CEST   
OK folks, that's all folks. We'll be back with more Vuelta action tomorrow! Until then, happy blimping.


1 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                    3.51.00
2 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                 0.46
3 Santos Gonzalez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                           0.48
4 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon - Lotto                   1.37
5 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                              
6 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile Team                                          
7 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                           1.40
8 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                               
9 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                   
10 Marcos Antonio Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team     1.42
General classification after stage 17
1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team           69.21.16
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                           4.30
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                           4.50
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                 5.51
5 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                       6.22
6 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile Team                                     11.13
7 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                         11.36
8 Santos Gonzalez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                          13.28
9 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic                     15.19
10 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel                                15.39


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