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61st Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 26-September 17, 2006

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Stage 13 - September 8: Guadalajara - Cuenca, 170 km

Complete live report

14:29 CEST   
Vuelta time again! Welcome back to our exclusive Live coverage of the 2006 Tour of Spain. Today's stage from Guadalajara to Cuenca will be 170 kilometres long and feature three Cat. 3 climbs: the Alto de la Tendilla (km 31), the Alto de Corcoles (km 60) and the dreaded Alto de Castillo (km 168) inside the city of Cuenca, a 3 km-long ascent on narrow cobbled streets leading to the town's castle. After that, the itinerary will see the riders tackle a difficult descent and loop back into town.

It's the perfect day for an escape featuring riders who are down on GC but are willing to cooperate together to build a stage-winning lead. Riders like Bettini would fancy their chances today - but he already left some forces in yesterday's breakaway.

14:34 CEST   
Today's weather forecast predicts good conditions for the first half of the race with temperatures reaching 30° Celsius, but then the cyclists might get some intermittent rain showers, as well as possible thunderstorms towards the finale in Cuenca.

14:41 CEST   
The stage was started in Guadalajara with only one non-starter since yesterday: Lorenzo Bernucci of T-Mobile. The peloton is thus composed of 158 cyclists today, and it took things easy during the first part of the stage. The first kilometres were rather pleasant for everyone, as there were no attacks at all and the pace was gentle. But then, Discovery Channel got moving a bit as the first climb approached.

The points at the summit of the Alto de la Tendilla were taken by Frédéric Bessy (Cofidis), GPM classification leader Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel) and David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) in that order. This climb was taken on at a faster pace, and saw a 30-rider group take some distance. In the descent, a Cofidis rider crashed but was able to continue the race.

14:43 CEST    46km/134km to go
The current race situation is that a front group of about 30 men is riding 40 seconds in front of the chasing peloton, led by Euskaltel and Discovery Channel. 46.2 km were covered in the first hour of racing.

14:48 CEST    52km/128km to go
Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step-Innergetic), Lars Ytting Bak (Team CSC) and Jean-Patrick Nazon (AG2R Prevoyance) have counter-attacked the bunch. They have ten seconds. The front group meanwhile seems determined to pursue, extending its lead to 1.15 minutes.

14:54 CEST   
The three have been joined by by Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Michael Barry (Discovery Channel), David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Ángel Vallejo (Relax-Gam), Frédéric Bessy (Cofidis), Grischa Niermann (Rabobank) and Pieter Mertens (Davitamon-Lotto).

14:56 CEST    51km/129km to go
At the intermediate sprint in Sacedón, Jean-Patrick-Nazon beat Lary-Yitting Bak in front of Matteo Tosatto.

15:00 CEST   
The second climb of today's stage, the Alto de Córcoles, has meanwhile been reached. Five riders come out of the group: Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Lars Ytting Bak (Team CSC), Frédéric Bessy (Cofidis) and Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi). They have 32 seconds over the peloton, which has regrouped.

15:08 CEST    78km/102km to go
To see Boogerd and Rebellin take their chances today isn't surprising: the Alto del Castillo in Cuenca does resemble the sort of Northern Classics cobbled climbs both riders are specialized in.

The gap continues to grow for this breakaway of five. It's now up to 4.30 minutes. This is it!

15:13 CEST   
Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) had dropped back to the race doctor's car, but he has now re-integrated the bunch.

15:20 CEST   
The situation has settled down. With less than 100 kilometres to go, the peloton is letting the breakaway get some distance. It's current advantage is 5 minutes.

15:29 CEST    92km/88km to go
The second hour of racing has been completed: average was 43.8 km/h. Caisse d'Epargne is now riding at the front of the bunch, living up to its responsibilities. Nevertheless, this break works well and continues to increase the gap: 5.20 now.

15:37 CEST   
We talked to David Millar (Saunier Duval) this morning, who told us that he would like to spare his forces for the time trial tomorrow. "Then again, the finish in Cuenca is so beautiful that I could also be tempted to try something there. But it will probably come down to a bunch sprint."

The old city of Cuenca is a UNESCO world heritage site, and definitely worth visiting if you're around the area sometime!

15:42 CEST   
The leaders, after having grabbed their musettes at the feed zone, are now approaching the second intermediate sprint in Priego, home town of Luis Ocaña. The advantage is still growing - if this continues, we might not see a bunch sprint finish in Cuenca as Millar predicted!

15:51 CEST   
The weather is still good, with temperatures rising to 28° Celsius and some clouds hanging in the sky. No rain showers (yet).

Tomorrow's time trial could make another selection on GC, as the course also includes the Alto del Castillo climb which we be raced later on today. But many observers say that the profile finally isn't too demanding, and that the total length of the TT (33 kms) is not long enough to really make a difference. This Vuelta will be won step by step, with the TT on the penultimate day (another 28 kms) also counting for precious seconds.

15:55 CEST    104km/76km to go
The breakaway has passed the sprint in Priego: Landaluze crossed the line in front of Bessy and Bak, therefore also winning the special Luis Ocaña memorial prize. The bunch is now 7.38 behind. Sprinters, where art thou?

16:08 CEST   
The five riders are currently racing downhill, going 70 km/h. Bak is leading them, now Rebellin takes a turn. They all look good!

16:09 CEST    119km/61km to go
Aha: Quick.Step has sent some men up to the front of the bunch, helping out Caisse d'Epargne. One Liquigas rider is also up there. The gap is dropping to 6.48.

16:15 CEST    124km/56km to go
Two guys from Milram are now also co-operating in the chase. The sprinter's teams have taken over... The front group still has some 53 kilometres to go, 40 clicks to the cobblestone wall in Cuenca.

16:20 CEST   
The work of Milram, Quickstep and Liquigas is paying off: the gap is down to less than 5 minutes now. Boogerd, Rebellin at al. keep on fighting, but it will be hard to keep their distance as the peloton behind is driving it hard.

At the finish in Cuenca, it is now overcast and starting to rain... That will make that twisty descent in the last few kilometres even more dangerous. The sun is still shining on the bunch, at the moment.

16:28 CEST   
Fabio Sacchi (Team Milram) and José Antonio Garrido (Quick Step-Innergetic) are amongst the front riders driving the bunch, currently at 57 km/h. Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) went down to his team car and got some bottles for Valverde and the rest of his team.

16:33 CEST   
Alessandro Spezialetti (Liquigas), three Milram riders and seven Quicksteppers are putting the pace on. Paolo Bettini is sitting in 12th place, well-protected. Will he be the extra card to play by his team?

The gap is down to 3.10.

16:40 CEST   
The finish today is in the new part of the city, the old part being on the castle hill of Cuenca with the cliff top view. The race will pass the summit of the Alto del Castillo 12.8 km from the line, then plunge into the valley by the old town and come back. The last kilometres are flat.

The riders can now see the grey rain clouds in front of them on the horizon...

16:46 CEST    150km/30km to go
Boogerd is stretching his legs when he can. They probably now they won't get through the way things are going. Only two minutes left for them.

Sprint points leader Thor Hushovd is sitting at the back of the bunch, waiting. What are Bettini's plans? He might want to catch the break in the climb and attack right away.

16:50 CEST   
The peloton is driving at 65 km/h, reeling them in fast. The gap is melting away even though those escapees give it their very best. 10 kilometres to go before they hit the climb in Cuenca.

16:52 CEST    157km/23km to go
The gap is under one minute now. Won't be long until the race will take a different turn.

16:56 CEST    160km/20km to go
Their sitting up now, looking back. Good move of Rebellin, Boogerd and the others! But unfortunately, the bunch today has decided not to let a breakaway succeed. Now, let's see what the Alto del Castillo (1,120 m.) can do.

The break is caught.

16:59 CEST   
The drizzle has stopped in Cuenca, meanwhile, and the roads are dry again. It's still overcast, but it should be dry until the finish (let's hope).

Milram and Quickstep are holding the field together. There shouldn't be any attacks until the climb, as the pace is high.

17:00 CEST    164km/16km to go
Frédéric Bessy (Cofidis) can't hold on to the bunch and drops back. Understandable.

Caisse d'Epargne is back in front, too.

17:03 CEST    165km/15km to go
Discovery opens up a new train, CSC as well. Everyone looks to protect their GC riders now. They're on the outskirts of Cuenca.

At a roundabout, the field splits up and gained positions are lost again.

17:04 CEST   
They're on the cobbles now at the foot of the climb. Hushovd comes to the front. René Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) goes off!

17:05 CEST   
But he won't get away as the climb is pretty steep. Now Di Luca makes a move. This suits him.

17:07 CEST   
He has a 20 metre-gap, but gets caught again. The riders are on the right hand side of the road in the gutter to avoid the cobbles. Di Luca still leads, Bettini in third position, followed by Valverde and Sastre.

Luis Perez (Cofidis) is also in front.

17:08 CEST   
And he gets a gap!! But Valverde catches him again, with Bettini in tow. Sastre is just behind him, holding on.

17:09 CEST   
Valverde was the first at the GPM, and they're now on the descent, but they don't look like they're trying to go for the stage. A chase group has formed, close behind them. Ah: Perez, nevertheless, is off the front.

17:12 CEST    171km/9km to go
The two groups have joined forces in the pursuit of Perez. In the descent, which really starts only now, they will get him.

17:14 CEST   
'Tis done. The group has about 15 riders, including all the favourites except Vinokourov: Valverde, Bettini, Sastre, Di Luca, Kashechkin...

Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) attacks!

17:15 CEST   
He has six seconds, and is fearless in this descent...

17:17 CEST    175km/5km to go
Sanchez is powering away on this false flat downhill. 62 km/h. Eight seconds. Will that be enough??

17:19 CEST    176km/4km to go
The chasers won't give in, either, now that there is a stage win in sight. Sanchez is biting his teeth. The road is still a bit wet at times.

17:20 CEST    178km/2km to go
Sanchez doesn't sit up, he's really determined. He holds his eight seconds!

17:21 CEST   
The spectators cheer him on as he goes under the flamme rouge. 10 seconds!

17:21 CEST   
He looks back and even takes a sip out of his bottle. Gotta stay cool!

17:23 CEST   
And Sanchez takes the win, just a few metres ahead of Hushovd!

17:30 CEST   
Hushovd wins the sprint in front of Valverde and Paolini. But the man of today is Sanchez, who gambled in a seemingly lost game but whose perseverance in the end was rewarded.

17:33 CEST   
Join us again tomorrow in Cuenca (this has got to be one of the most beautiful towns in Spain) for a 33 km-long time trial, starting at 11:30 local time (CEST)/05:30 EDT (USA East)/02:30 PDT (USA West)/19:30 AEST (Aust East). Adios!


1 Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel)                 4.03.43
2 Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole)
3 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
4 Luca Paolini (Liquigas)
5 Paolo Bettini (Quick Step)

General classification after stage 13

1 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)


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