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60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 18 - Thursday, September 15: Avila-Avila, 197.5 km

Commentary by Hedwig Kröner, with additional reporting from Hernan Alvarez

Live report

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

14:18 CEST   
Welcome back to the last of the bumpy mountain stages in this year's Vuelta: stage 18 to and from Avila just West of Madrid, where the race will end on Sunday. Today's stretch is almost a carbon copy of yesterday - and we may expect the Spanish climbers far off on GC to show their talent once again on one cat. 1 climb, three cat. 2 and yet another cat. 3.

14:28 CEST   
The biggest news in Spain this morning was that Swiss team Phonak has taken out Spaniard Santos Gonzalez from the race. He failed an internal test carried out within the team, which showed that unspecified blood levels exceeded the team's tolerance level (lower than those of the UCI). Director John Lelangue told reporters at the start that the rider wasn't suspended, only prevented from racing for his own safety. Gonzalez was placed 8th on General Classification last night.

14:39 CEST   
Another big name who didn't appear at the sign-in this morning was Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step). We don't know if he is ill or if he just wants to spare himself the last couple of stages in view of the World Championships - his form has been very good lately. He outsprinted Ale-Jet Petacchi on stage 16 two days ago, and then announced that he, too, had his word to say in Madrid ten days from now in case the finish would not be concluded in a bunch sprint. We all know what internal quarrels in the "squadra Azzurra" can build up to...

14:52 CEST   
Back to the racing: A breakaway of 17 riders formed as the peloton took on the first difficulty of the stage, the Puerto de la Paramero (cat. 3) after 14 kilometres: Oscar Pereiro, Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), Pablo Lastras, José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Gorka Gonzales, Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), David Blanco, Eladio Jimenez, Javier Pascual Rodriguez, Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Valenciana), Nicki Sörensen (CSC), Anthony Charteau (Bouygues), Moises Dueñas (Relax), Mario Aerts (Davitamon), Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Saunier), and Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile) took off on that hill, and left the bunch behind.

On the descent, Jimmy Casper (Cofidis) also got a gap to the front of the pack and continued on solo.

14:58 CEST   
The break worked well and achieved a lead of more than ten minutes before tackling the second climb - the cat. 1 Puerto de Mijares at km 66 - while poor Frenchman Casper was riding on his own, not even three minutes ahead of the bunch.

In the climb, Illes Balears took control of the pace and the break's gap diminished, slowly.

15:06 CEST   
At the top of the Mijares, Eladio Jimenez took the KOM points in front of Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver. The race situation then did not change significantly, other than that the gaps were further reduced. By kilometre 85, the break was 5.45 minutes faster than the bunch, with Casper caught in between at 3.10 minutes.

Mario Aerts and Moises Dueñas each had took their turn in mechanical problems but both managed to reintegrate the lead group after getting assistance. The breakaway then started to give it more gas again, and at km 107, when brave soloist Casper sat up and got swallowed by the bunch, the gap was 6.30 minutes.

15:10 CEST    113km/84.5km to go
Domina's Matej Jurco abandoned at kilometre 109, leaving only three Domina riders to compete in the final days of the Vuelta.

We are now looking at the ascension of the cat. 2 Alto de Pedro Bernardo, where Pablo Lastras, Eladio Jimenez and, in a later reaction, Gorka Gonzalez have attacked their former break companions. They're riding with almost a minute's lead over the chase group.

15:21 CEST   
It's perfect weather conditions in central Spain again today: sunny, around 24° celsius. That's a relief since the riders have been going through extremes these last two weeks...

15:25 CEST    120km/77.5km to go
Still in the climb, Martin Perdiguero (Phonak) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) couldn't hold the pace of the chasers and got dropped, while the bigger group caught the rebel trio in the front.

15:42 CEST    123km/74.5km to go
Only 11 riders are now still included in the break, whereas the others were left somewhere behind on the road. Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Pablo Lastras, José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), David Blanco, Eladio Jimenez, Javier Pascual Rodriguez, Gorka Gonzales (Euskaltel), Nicki Sörensen (CSC), Moises Dueñas (Relax), Mario Aerts (Davitamon) are leading now.

Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Valenciana), Anthony Charteau, (Bouygues), Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Saunier) and Matteo Tosatto (Fassa) have been dropped.

The mountain points on the top of the Pedro Bernardo were taken by Eladio Jimenez in front of Pablo Lastras and Oscar Pereiro.

15:50 CEST    128km/69.5km to go
But the climbing goes on on the Serranillos, where Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak) finally stepped off the bike after having done a lot of work for Oscar Pereiro.

Under the fierce tempo imposed by Illes Balears, the peloton has also been torn into pieces - there is currently a group of 35 riders, including Golden jersey wearer Roberto Heras (Liberty), still left behind the breakaway. Heras shouldn't experience any problems today as none of the riders in front can prevent him from winning the Vuelta a record-breaking fourth time.

16:01 CEST    134km/63.5km to go
Just before crossing the cat. 2 mountaintop of the Peurto de Serranillos, the lead group still has an advantage of almost five an a half minutes over the main favourites' group.

It's worth noting that both Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) and Carlos Sastre(CSC) are from the region of Avila, so both will be looking to shine when they get into their home town.

16:04 CEST    139km/58.5km to go
Heras has five teammates with him doing their job on the descent of the climb, where more than three minutes before, Eladio Jimenez crossed the peak in front of his breakaway mates.

16:08 CEST    146.5km/51km to go
Joan Horrach (Illes Balears), Alexandre Botcharov (C.A.) and Andrea Peron (CSC) have now attacked out of the Heras group, while in front, another rider has gone off: José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears)!

Garcia Acosta has a gap of about 30 seconds now.

16:13 CEST   
Garcia Acosta is going flat out. The TV motorbike behind him is too close, though, so the Spaniard constantly waves backwards to keep the driver away.

16:17 CEST    159.5km/38km to go
Garcia Acosta now has a 1.15 minute lead over his 10 chasers, with Roberto Heras' group another 5.22 off the back.

16:21 CEST   
Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Valenciana) and Nicki Sörensen (CSC) have now decided to go for Garcia Acosta on their own. The chase group is breaking up, with one of the Euskaltels dropping behind.

16:26 CEST    161.5km/36km to go
The bunch is now passing through Burgohondo, where the parcours starts to go uphill again. The Puerto de Navalmoral (cat. 2) is up next, where Garcia Acosta is still using all of his power to try and go for the stage win.

The chase group is all over the place - nobody wants to do the work to catch Mario Aerts, who has jumped. Gorka Gonzales has sat up.

16:37 CEST    163.5km/34km to go
The bunch behind is taking things slowly. Balears won't work of course with Garcia Acosta in front - although Joan Horrach just went off the front again. The Libertys are looking at each other.

The chase group behind Garcia Acosta has disintegrated to: Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Euskaltel), Nicki Sörensen (CSC), Mario Aerts (Davitamon) and Gorka Gonzales (Euskaltel).

16:44 CEST   
Garcia Acosta's advance is still 45 seconds, although it seems that the chasers have recomposed to: Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears), Aerts, Gonzalez, Sörensen and Dueñas. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Valenciana) is going for Garcia Acosta on his own now.

Behin, another counter-attack was launched by Christian Vandevelde (CSC).

16:46 CEST   
And Rodriguez us really going strong here! he just passed Garcia Acosta like a motorbike...

16:50 CEST    174km/23.5km to go
Sörensen has now also caught Garcia Acosta, while behind, Illes Balears is forcing the tempo in the main bunch. But it's all staying together.

The first riders crossed the Navalmoral now. Mancebo himself tries to get away in the favourites' group, but he's closely watched.

16:53 CEST   
The chasing on the descent is going very fast of course, with Sörensen trying to bridge to Rodriguez, who got another bottle from his team car. Only eight seconds left for the Danish rider.

16:56 CEST   
The main bunch has now crossed the top of the climb, with Mancebo relentlessly testing his rival's legs - that doesn't really make any sense.

In front, Sörensen has joined Rodriguez.

16:59 CEST    183.5km/14km to go
Only 15 kilometres to go and the two front men share the work to stay away. The peloton won't catch them as it's more than 5 minutes off - but maybe some of those remnants of the breakaway might try: there's Mario Aerts (Davitamon), Pablo Lastras and José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Gorka Gonzales (Euskaltel) and Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile).

17:04 CEST    188.5km/9km to go
Sörensen is leading as the two of them pass the 9-km mark. Garcia Acosta, who's not giving up and might be helped a little by the motorbikes (?), follows at 24 seconds.

17:06 CEST   
Sörensen and Rodriguez are still talking to each other. They're also sharing a water bottle, and are now steadily sharing the workload again.

17:09 CEST    192.5km/5km to go
But Garcia Acosta has a difficult time bridging to the to leaders. There are about 300 metres left, and on these straight lines, the two have noticed him of course. 15 seconds.

17:10 CEST   
Garcia Acosta gets a few shouts from a couple of spectators, but there's nobody helping him now... Ah - there's more fans cheering at the roundabouts.

17:12 CEST    194.5km/3km to go
Sörensen and Rodriguez can't start any smart tactics here, as Garcia Acosta is only eight seconds back. This will be interesting!

17:13 CEST    195.5km/2km to go
There's a cobblestone section just before the finish in Avila too - and Garcia Acosta has made it!! Incredible. But will he have power left for a sprint?

17:14 CEST   
They're on the cobbles now around the castle - and Garcia Acosta attacks!! Sörensen follows in second.

17:15 CEST    196.5km/1km to go
Still together. Now Sörensen tries on a descent...

17:17 CEST   
Sörensen leads with Rodriguez on his wheel. Garcia Acosta is cooked, left behind.

And Sörensen starts the sprint from the front... and wins!

17:18 CEST   
Daniele Nardello comes in with Oscar Pereiro - and the T-Mobile rider takes fourth.

17:22 CEST   
In the final section, Mancebo attacked to take some time off Sastre for third place on GC. He took four small seconds in the end.

17:28 CEST   
That's all from us hovering over the beautiful town of Avila today - join us again for another exciting Vuelta action tomorrow, when the peloton will race from San Martin de Valdeiglesias to Alcobendas, covering 142.9 kilometres.


1 Nicki Sørensen (Den) Team CSC                                       5.05.34
2 Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                        
3 José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne        0.22
4 Daniele Nardello (Ita) T-Mobile Team                                   1.06
5 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                             
6 Mario Aerts (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto                                    1.10
7 Pablo Lastras (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                         
8 Gorka Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                                 1.25
9 Moises Dueñas (Spa) Relax Fuenlabrada                                  2.32
10 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                3.55

General classification after stage 18
1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team           74.30.48
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                           4.30
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                           4.50
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                 5.48
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 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic                     15.28
9 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel                                 15.50
10 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon - Lotto                 15.53


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