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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

61st Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 26-September 17, 2006

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Stage 17 – September 13: Adra-Granada, 159.2 km

Live report

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Shane Stokes

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

00:16 CEST   
Wednesday’s stage will be the second of three important mountain stages. There are three climbs and a finale in the city of Granada. The mountains are: Alto de Albondon (Cat. 1 – 1,300 m. above sea level – km 37), Alto de Lanjaron (Cat. 3 – 660 m. – km 79) and Alto de Monachil (Cat. 1 – 1,510 m. – km 139.4). There is a final 20-kilometre descent to Granada. Monachil and the downhill seem to be the crucial parts of the stage.

14:33 CEST   
Welcome to today's 17th stage of the Vuelta a España, where we are en route to Granada after having started in Adra. Apart from the two cat. 1 and one cat. 3 climbs today, there are intermediate sprints at Durcal (km 107) and Monachil (km 137), the latter being at the foot of the final climb.

14:46 CEST    52km/114.7km to go
142 riders signed on this morning in Adra, after yesterday's stage reduced the field by 14. With only a few more chances for glory in the Vuelta, the attacks were on from the gun. Relax-GAM was aggressive and after a couple of kilometres, the bunch had already split with a 43 rider group off the front. After 8 km on the lower slopes of the Alto de Albandon, another large group containing Bettini, Nardello, Horrach, Caucchioli, Paulinho, E. Martinez, Rasmussen and Mayo went clear, gaining 1'05. But several teams worked to reduce the gap, and after 25 km, most of the riders were caught.

After 32 km, and still on the climb, race leader Valverde, together with Vinokourov, Kashechkin, Sastre and most of the other GC riders had formed a rearguard action behind the front group. Andrey Kashechkin was able to get across, but on the descent, Valverde and co. all rejoined. The pressure is definitely on today!

14:59 CEST   
Egoi Martinez won the maximum mountain points at the summit of the Alto de Albondón ahead of mountains leader Pietro Caucchioli. The mountains competition is very much alive now, as both those riders are on equal points!

15:02 CEST    64km/102.7km to go
The attacks haven't really let up after the descent, and we now have a group 1'15 in front of Valverde's group and 2'06 ahead of the main peloton. The group contains Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel - best placed on GC at 8'05), Sergio Paulinho (Astana Team), Lars Ytting Bak (Team CSC), Stéphane Goubert (AG2R Prevoyance), Dmitriy Fofonov (Credit Agricole), and Eric Leblacher (Française des Jeux).

15:07 CEST    70km/96.7km to go
The lead group reaches the bottom of the descent and starts to go back up again with 2'15 on Valverde's group, which is being caught by the main bunch. The next summit will be the cat. 3 Alto de Lanjarón.

15:14 CEST    76km/90.7km to go
Danielson's group keeps increasing its lead over the gold jersey. It's 2'44 now - not enough to threaten Valverde just yet.

15:25 CEST    80km/86.7km to go
The average speed in the second hour is 36.4 km/h, which is quite decent for this sort of terrain. The break nudges out to three minutes ahead of the favourites' group.

15:33 CEST    90km/76.7km to go
The sextet in front reaches the top of the not-that-mighty Alto de Lanjarón, with Leblacher crossing first ahead of Goubert, Paulinho and Danielson. That won't really have a big effect on the mountains GC. Their lead is now 3'42, which means Danielson is threatening fifth place on GC.

15:46 CEST    95km/71.7km to go
It looks like the lead group won't get much more than this. The gap is 3'47 as Caisse d'Epargne works to stabilise it. Danielson's a good climber, as is Paulinho (they will be teammates on Discovery next year), and Valverde won't want to give him too much room.

15:52 CEST    98km/68.7km to go
The leaders get a short descent and then start climbing again up to the feed zone. The next part should be a little easier before the final climb starts at km 137.

15:58 CEST    105km/61.7km to go
Caisse d'Epargne has the peloton lined out 3'52 behind the break. The sprint in Durcal is won by Danielson ahead of Paulinho and Leblacher.

15:59 CEST   
Danielson and Paulinho do strong turns in the break, but Fofonov and Bak are not working.

16:03 CEST    115.7km/51km to go
Paolo Bettini chats to yesterday's winner Igor Anton. The Euskaltel camp is very happy now after that win.

The lead break effectively has four riders working: Danielson, Paulinho, Leblacher and Goubert.

16:08 CEST    117.7km/49km to go
Horrach lifts the tempo a bit in the peloton, as the gap is now 4'27. Danielson needs 8'05 to take the jersey, and he's trying to conserve as much energy as possible before the final climb.

The Valverde group is a about four minutes ahead of the main peloton.

16:12 CEST    120.7km/46km to go
A cloud covers the sun for the time behind, but there's no chance of rain at the moment. The Valverde group has five Caisse d'Epargne riders working for the leader. The rest of the group, which is a good 40-50 riders strong, is lined out.

The average speed after three hours is 37.5 km/h as the break hits 72 km/h on a bit of a descent. Lars Bak looks quite happy with himself on the back of the break, as he doesn't have to work.

16:15 CEST    122.7km/44km to go
The pace eases in the chase as one of the Caisse d'Epargnes stops for a mechanical.

The leaders are perfectly happy with that. They continue to roll along at high speed.

16:17 CEST   
With their teammate back in the bunch bearing many bidons, Caisse d'Epargne starts to ride again. Valverde looks very relaxed and confident today.

16:20 CEST   
Tom Danielson writes in his Cyclingnews diary today, "I am getting better and I hope to improve more today and tomorrow, and then in the time trial. I felt good yesterday and tried to go in a lot of breakaways at the beginning of the stage. I wasted a lot of energy doing that but I was hoping to be in a break and try for the stage win from there.

"Now it is not possible for me to be in the early breakaway, so I will just
be concentrating my efforts on the end of the race."

16:23 CEST    131.7km/35km to go
Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta, who clearly enjoys this work, leads the Valverde bunch 4'20 behind the break. Monachil is approaching and the speed is going up.

16:28 CEST    134.7km/32km to go
The break and the bunch exits the main drag and heads into Monachil. It's a bit windy here is the four working riders continue to drive it. Danielson is using the hands draped over the tops position a lot, which is usually more efficient than riding on the drops.

Caisse d'Epargne has their six riders on the front, while CSC and Astana are also well represented. The rest of the peloton is sitting in the gutter on the left.

16:31 CEST    135.7km/31km to go
the break is working well too, as it nears the day's second sprint. Danielson and Paulinho are the strongest, but their gap is only 3'17.

16:32 CEST    136.7km/30km to go
The road starts to climb and Danielson eases up and Fofonov comes through for a rare turn. The 40 rider GC group is now led by CSC, with Ljungqvist and O'Grady driving it.

16:35 CEST    137.7km/29km to go
The climb of the Monachil starts, and Millar and Landaluze choose to take it a bit easier and drop off the back. O'Grady hammers on the front, then Sorensen takes over. At the sprint banner, the mini-peloton is just 2'28 behind the leaders.

16:38 CEST    138.7km/28km to go
The gradient steepens to 10-11% and Danielson and Paulinho lead the break. Bak hangs on in third wheel.

In the bunch, it's CSC's Gustov working with Cuesta and Sastre. CSC is really working hard. Vino and Valverde are next, with Valverde suffering a bit on the 12% section. Kashechkin looks a bit better.

16:39 CEST   
Now Piepoli comes to the front and tries to lift the pace even more as the Valverde group shreds to pieces on this nasty climb. Kashechkin attacks!

16:41 CEST    139.7km/27km to go
Luis Perez reacts with Piepoli, while Valverde hangs back with Vino. Kashechkin looks back and sees he has a gap, and continues to hammer.

Valverde, Sastre, Vino and Devolder are all together, and Valverde has to work until Zandio gets to the front and helps him. Now Devolder is working (?)

Kashechkin has 18 seconds, with several Saunier Duvals coming up to him ahead of Valverde.

16:42 CEST   
The first group behind Kashechkin contains Piepoli, Marchante and Luis Perez. Then the Valverde group at 20 seconds. Gomez Marchante now does a turn to bridge up to Kashechkin.

16:44 CEST    140.7km/26km to go
Up front, Danielson has dropped the rest and is hammering away on his own. Paulinho and Goubert are second and third on the road, with the other three further back.

Gomez Marchante hasn't made it up to Kashechkin yet, but he's 10 seconds ahead of Valverde's group which now has just Devolder, Valverde, Vino and Sastre.

16:46 CEST    141.7km/25km to go
Leblacher is the first of the breakaways to be caught and spat. Fofonov and Bak will be next.

Valverde accelerates and Vino gets his wheel, then Sastre. They catch and pass Luis Perez, and Devolder is tailed off.

16:47 CEST   
The Valverde trio makes its way through a phalanx of motorbikes and closes in on Marchante and Kashechkin. Not yet though.

16:48 CEST    142.7km/24km to go
Gomez Marchante has finally caught Kashechkin, and the pair have 11 seconds on Valverde's group as they pass Lars Bak. The young Dane holds on for a bit.

16:48 CEST   
Meanwhile, up front Danielson is still going strong. He likes the hills, and if he makes it to the summit with a bit of a gap, he could well win the stage. He has 1'15 on Marchante/Kashechkin, and 1'25 on Valverde's group.

16:50 CEST   
Fofonov is the next rider to be caught and dropped by the GC men. Valverde is driving the chase, as Vino doesn't have to work today. They catch Bak, who does a big turn to try to close the gap to Kash and Marchante. Not for long though. The two favourites' groups are 20 seconds apart.

16:51 CEST    143.7km/23km to go
Fofonov is now caught by the Valverde group, which has Valverde, Perez, Vino, Sastre and Bak in it.

16:53 CEST   
Sastre now does a turn in the Valverde group, which is 24 seconds behind Kash and Marchante. Bak and Fofonov are doing a great job to hang on here.

16:54 CEST   
Danielson is holding ground on Valverde's group, while Kash and Marchante are within 1'06.

Vinokourov attacks!! That was a huge move! He gaps Valverde and Sastre!

16:56 CEST    144.7km/22km to go
Marchante looks back and sees Kashechkin suffering, but then a blue and white flash as Vino bridges the gap in about a minute. Holy fiery Kazakhstanis Batman, that was a massive attack.

Sastre and Valverde are working together now, 23 seconds behind Vino's trio, which has just caught Paulinho and Goubert. The Astana Cunning Plan is now revealed.

16:57 CEST    146.2km/20.5km to go
Valverde is now dropping Sastre as they reach a steep section at the top of the climb. But the CSC man clings on. It's about 17 seconds at the top.

Danielson is already over, but has a little uphill and then the descent to go.

16:59 CEST    147.7km/19km to go
The climb goes down a bit and the chasing group behind Danielson splits, with Paulinho and Goubert dropped. Vino is on the front, hammering. They will catch Danielson soon methinks.

17:03 CEST    148.7km/18km to go
Valverde powers away from Sastre on the next uphill section, and bridges up to Vino, Kashechkin and Marchante, who are 30 seconds behind Danielson. Valverde is doing 80 km/h on the descent. He takes a breather as he catches Marchante and Kash, but Vino attacks again on the descent.

17:04 CEST   
Marchante works with Valverde in pursuit of Vino, but Kashechkin doesn't.

17:05 CEST    151.7km/15km to go
Sastre has lost out here, as he's behind all the riders that matter. Danielson is still clear of Vino, then Valverde, Kashechkin and Marchante, then Sastre. The gaps are small. Vino is descending like a demon.

17:07 CEST    153.7km/13km to go
This is a fantastic finish as Valverde and Marchante try to close to Vino, who is descending like a loony. He still hasn't caught Danielson.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Sastre is with Paulinho and Goubert, chasing, chasing, chasing...

17:08 CEST    154.7km/12km to go
Vino is 31 seconds behind Danielson, but 13 seconds ahead of Valverde, who is doing all the work in the chase. Sastre is another 21 seconds back.

17:11 CEST    157.7km/9km to go
Vino goes under 9 km to go 17 seconds behind Danielson. Then the Valverde group at 45 seconds. Valverde isn't getting much help as Gomez Marchante is sitting last wheel, and obviously Kashechkin won't work. Sastre's trio is 1'06 behind.

17:11 CEST    159.7km/7km to go
Vino is puffing his way down the descent at 70 km/h, 15 seconds behind Danielson. Less than 8 km to go. Valverde on Vino on Danielson.

17:12 CEST    160.7km/6km to go
The Astana captain powers away, drink cages empty (faster if he had a bidon now). Valverde leads while Kash and Marchante discuss the price of oil in the Middle East.

17:14 CEST    161.7km/5km to go
Sanchez, Bak and Piepoli have joined the Sastre group, which is still 1'00 behind the leader.

Vino bears down on Tom Danielson. There will be no stopping him now. Valverde's group is 44 seconds back.

17:15 CEST    162.7km/4km to go
Vino catches Danielson with 5 km to go and goes to the front. Will Danielson work?

Marchante is working with Valverde, the gap is nearly a minute. The Sastre group is another 10 seconds back.

Vino needs 1'42 to take the jersey...

17:16 CEST    163.7km/3km to go
Marchante and Valverde swap off as Kashechkin checks back to see Perez leading the next group up. That contains Sastre, Paulinho, Goubert, Piepoli, Sanchez and Perez.

Danielson is working with Vino.

17:18 CEST    164.7km/2km to go
Less than 3 km to go, and Vino and Danielson are over a minute ahead of the Valverde group, which is growing in size. Danielson is cooperating fully with Vino, maybe getting the stage win as a bonus, but maybe not. Bonus seconds will be important. And Danielson will improve his GC place.

Sanchez attacks the Valverde group.

17:18 CEST    164.7km/2km to go
Vino has taken 1'17 out of Valverde on this descent! He and Danielson are driving, driving it to the finish.

17:20 CEST    165.5km/1.2km to go
Piepoli works on the front of the Valverde group in pursuit of Vino, Danielson and now Sanchez. The group has Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Kashechkin, Paulinho (Astana), Piepoli, Marchante (Saunier Duval), Sastre (CSC), Goubert (AG2R) and Perez (Cofidis) in it.

1'24 is the gap!

17:21 CEST    166.7km/0km to go
Vino hammers to 1 km to go with Danielson in tow. He wants every second possible. Danielson sprints at 100m to go and wins the stage!!!!!!!!

17:22 CEST   
Sanchez comes in for third at 1'08, then Kashechkin powers his group home at 1'38. Vinokourov has taken the jersey!!

17:25 CEST   
Incredible finish to that stage. Valverde had just bridged up to Vino's group on the descent when Vino attacked and put 1'38 into the Vuelta leader, with Danielson taking a great stage win. That was good bike racing all round.

Vino now has the gold jersey by 9 seconds. Tomorrow's stage is in the mountains, and there's still a TT to come...


1 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    4.09.55
2 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Team                              
3 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                          1.10
4 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team                             1.39
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                        
6 Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R Prevoyance                              
7 Luis Pérez (Spa) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone                   
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears             
9 José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir               
10 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                        
General classification after stage 17
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Team                      67.29.41
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears         0.09
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                    1.51
4 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team                             2.14
5 José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir           4.32
6 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team       6.09
7 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                          7.25
8 Luis Pérez (Spa) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone               9.04

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