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60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 7 - Friday, September 2: Teruel-Vinaros, 212.5 km

Commentary by Hedwig Kröner, with additional reporting from Hernan Alvarez

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:10 CEST

14:26 CEST   
Welcome back to today's Live coverage of the Vuelta a España stage seven from Teruel to Vinaros. The 212.5 km-long ride includes three Cat 3 climbs, all located in the first half of the course, as well as three intermediate sprints on a fast downhill route to coastal finish town Vinaros, located only 10 metres above sea level (with the stage departing in 1000 metres altitude!). The peloton will surely be glad to leave behind those mountains for today! A bunch sprint finish is pretty likely at the sea, with top favourite "Ale-Jet" Petacchi being a good bet...

14:36 CEST   
At the sea side finish, it is a mild 26° out this Friday, with a light breeze coming from South-East. Perfect conditions for a bike race, unlike in the year 2001, when the Vuelta first finished in Vinaros: We still can remember the torrential rain of that day, with the sky being so dark that it was hard for the cameras to record the moment when Juan Manuél Gárate won the stage.

14:44 CEST   
Stage seven of this year's Vuelta started fast and furious, with a series of attacks: At first, it was Phonak's Oscar Pereiro who wanted to make up for his teammate, Floyd Landis' abandon yesterday. But his jump didn't evolve into a real break, and after 10 kilometres of racing, a group of three emerged: Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step), Eladio Jimenez Sanchez (Comunidad Valenciana) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) made it as the route steepened for the first of the climbs, the Puerto de Cabigordo (km 20).

14:55 CEST   
The fast pace of the racing caused the bunch to disintegrate right away. A chase group formed around Christophe Le Mevel (C.A.), Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana), Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile) and Santiago Botero (Phonak) trying to catch up at that point.

At the top of the climb, the chasers were caught by the main bunch, with Iñigo Cuesta (Saunier) managing to join the three leaders on the descent. At 46 seconds, Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak) was chasing with Benoît Poilvet (C.A.). Along the back, the golden jersey kept an advantage of 1:10 over the second group.

15:05 CEST   
But around kilometre 30, the two big groups joined, and let the leaders get a bigger gap from that moment on. At the sprint at km 36, the peloton was already three minutes behind, with the two chasers joining the front men to form six: Iñigo Cuesta (Saunier), Eladio Jimenez Sanchez (Comunidad Valenciana), Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step), Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Benoît Poilvet (Crédit Agricole).

15:08 CEST   
Their lead increased to around 4 minutes as Liberty let them loose. This situation stabilised the race and Eladio Jimenez Sanchez (Comunidad Valenciana) could go for the mountain points as planned. After 81 kilometres and the third hilltop, he had scored enough points to become the new KOM.

15:15 CEST   
Liberty Seguros continues to lead the train, with Fassa Bortolo joining in as well now. Both teams are interested in a bunch finish in Vinaros... although, from a GC perspective, the best placed in the break is Egoi Martinez, but he's still 36th at 5.28 behind Heras.

15:22 CEST    112km/100.5km to go
The race´s average speed in its third hour 36,2 km/h, and the bunch is comfortably controlling the situation: the break's advantage is 3.30 now, with still about 100 kilometres to go.

15:35 CEST   
Except for a few little hiccups, the parcours is all downhill from now on. The riders take their time to eat some out of their musettes, looking like they're enjoying this part of the race! For sure, after that long hard day of climbing yesterday, this must seem like a piece of cake...

We'll see if Petacchi has the legs for a third stage win in this Vuelta, or if tall Scandinavian Hushovd can get another one to match Petacchi's score.

15:42 CEST    130km/82.5km to go
One rider that will probably have to pay a fine (that is, his team will pay it) is Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank). The second-placed of yesterday's stage didn't sign up at the start this morning.

The bunch is rolling along, and slowly diminishing the gap to the six-men breakaway. It is now down to 2.17. The riders have turned towards Morella, where a crosswind is blowing lightly. If the break gets caught too soon, we might see some fireworks!

15:53 CEST    140km/72.5km to go
The gap is getting smaller and smaller... It is now only 1.47.

Earlier in the race, at km 88, Crédit Agricole's Sébastien Joly abandoned.

16:04 CEST    145km/67.5km to go
Liberty and Fassa are taking it easy, as they're not interested in catching the riders too soon. The race situation is stable.

16:11 CEST    148km/64.5km to go
The six riders in front are doing a good job circling, each of them taking turns in the wind, but once the peloton is that close behind, there's really no way they can make it to the finish before the bunch. Isidro Nozal (Liberty) is leading the pack now, squirting some water out of his bidon over his helmet. Fortunately, it's not as hot today, 'only' 26-27° Celsius.

16:17 CEST    152km/60.5km to go
There's still one sprint to go at Montero Golf (km 196), as the riders race down the dry hills towards the much greener Spanish coastline. A Fassa rider is leading now, the two teams perfectly sharing the workload. But it's still an easy task, as the race's average speed is 37 km/h - still 15 minutes slower than the slowest schedule calculated by the race organisation.

They're rolling down those hills at about 50 km/h now.

16:20 CEST   
There are quite some hairpin curves down that mountainside now. The road is wide enough though to make that as fast and safe descent.

16:26 CEST    156km/56.5km to go
The situation is still the same, as the bunch is slowly eating away at the escapees' advantage of just under 2 minutes. Each of the riders in this group of six - Iñigo Cuesta (Saunier), Eladio Jimenez Sanchez (Comunidad Valenciana), Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step), Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Benoît Poilvet (Crédit Agricole) - is taking his share of the wind, but the turns are getting shorter.

16:28 CEST   
The bunch has just left behind the small village of Vallivana now, the roads still bending, as the breakaway is on a wide open straight already. Current time gap: 1.36.

16:33 CEST   
Santiago Botero (Phonak) has been chatting to former teammate Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile) for quite a while now. Maybe discussing why the Colombian performed so poorly at the German squad, whereas he's been having a very successful season with the Swiss team this year?

At the end of the bunch, Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) is getting some horn honking as he's stretching his left leg, with is foot placed on the saddle.

16:39 CEST    175.5km/37km to go
Former 'camiseta de oro' Brad McGee and teammate Ian McLeod are also taking the time to make some jokes. Heras takes a sip out of his bidon, safely tucked in 12th position in front of the pack, surrounded by other GC favourites such as Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears).

Oh! Surprise! The gap is now down to 55 seconds, but the bunch doesn't show that this costs energy at all. The break is almost in sight.

16:45 CEST   
The Vuelta is now in a much greener region, nearer to the coastline. It's lemon and oranges country here... beautiful! The road is one straight line right now.

16:51 CEST   
Liberty and Fassa are still doing the work for the peloton, very harmoniously, keeping the break's lead at a comfortable distance of around one minute. One can say about today's stage that, except for the upcoming finish, the ride has been pretty easy so far for most of the guys.

Any takers for a final attack? Probably not...

16:54 CEST    185.5km/27km to go
The tempo is picking up. Some riders of the 'smaller' teams are coming up front and the pace immediately gets going.

16:59 CEST   
Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak) has let go of the break and dropped back into the bunch, as the break was caught. Illes Balears and Liberty are putting on a very fast pace with 20 km to go.

17:02 CEST    194.5km/18km to go
They're on a pretty narrow road winding through the orange trees... doing close to 60 km/h when on a little downhill stretch.

17:05 CEST    195.5km/17km to go
The last intermediate sprint was won by... Roberto Heras himself! The golden jersey wearer thereby scored another 6 seconds on his rivals. Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears) got second, Fabio Sacchi (Fassa Bortolo) third.

17:08 CEST    198.5km/14km to go
The peloton is stretched out and some riders have trouble holding onto the back of the train.

17:11 CEST    202.5km/10km to go
The final sprint is getting prepared. Illes Balears and Lotto are working in front now, really flying over a highway's bridge. There's also a CSC rider spotted in front. We'll see when Fassa will take over again.

17:13 CEST    203.5km/9km to go
An Illes Balears rider has a little problem getting around a tighter left-hand curve, but he's alright. The roads are very narrow for that kind of a finale...

And Bettini attacks on a little climb!!

17:14 CEST    205.5km/7km to go
He got a little gap, too, and is getting cheered by some spectators on that uphill stretch.

17:15 CEST   
'Il Grillo' got about 14 seconds, as Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) has set out on his chase.

17:16 CEST   
But it's all coming back together again, as the bunch is on the descent. They've got him now.

17:17 CEST    206.5km/6km to go
But the race has split up into groups with that attack, and it's not actually the bunch who bridged up to him. He's resisting, still.

17:18 CEST   
T-Mobile is reeling him in, there, and now he's sat up for good. Oh well, nice move!

17:19 CEST    208.5km/4km to go
T-Mobile is doing the pacing now in front of a fairly big bunch. All the sprinter's seem to be there.

17:21 CEST    210.5km/2km to go
Coming into town now. Zabel must feel good today too, as it's still Magenta in front. Right hand curve. Two T-Mobiles, two Fassas leading.

17:22 CEST    211.5km/1km to go
There's a left hand curve in front of a roundabout again, and the bunch is strung out. Zabel in third position? It's not clear there.

17:23 CEST   
Fassa is leading out, as Steels is there too and Van Heeswijk in front. Zabel tried to come round but Van Heeswijk is stronger and wins!!!

17:24 CEST   
Zabel gets second, Ongarato third. The Discovery rider started his sprint early, but was able to take it all the way. Impressive!

17:28 CEST   
Zabel was in third position behind Steels, who 'led him out'. Petacchi? Nowhere to be seen.

Join us tomorrow for another slice of Spanish cycling action in stage 8 from Tarragona to Lloret de Mar: 189 km of pretty flat parcours, making another bunch sprint likely.


1 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) Discovery Channel                            5.21.21
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                             
3 Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                                       
4 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi                                     
5 Tom Steels (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto                                         
6 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                                         
7 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne          
8 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                                      
9 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                                     
10 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems                               

General classification after stage 7

1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team           29.03.28
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                           0.12
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                           1.07
4 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir                  1.09
5 David Blanco Rodiguez (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                       1.11
6 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                 1.26
7 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                       1.39
8 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic                          
9 Unai Yus Kerejeta (Spa) Bouygues Telecom                                   
10 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                     1.58


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