61st Vuelta a España - GT
Spain, August 26-September 17, 2006
Results & report
Stage 18 – September 14: Granada-Sierra de la Pandera, 153.1 km
Live Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Shane Stokes
Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:30 CEST
This is a mountainous stage with
two hard climbs at the end. The first climb is Alto de las Encebras (Cat. 3
– 1,130 m. above sea level – km 45.6). The other two mountains are very near
the end: Alto de los Villares (Cat. 2 – 1,180 m. – km 140.4) and Sierra de la
Pandera (Cat. special – 1,840 m. – km 153.1 – finish line). This should be the
key stage in this Vuelta a España. Valverde and Sastre will play their probable
last cards in order to reduce the distance to Vinokourov, who will do his utmost
14:40 CEST 40km/113.1km to go
With Paolo Bettini
and Danilo Di Luca not starting, there were 136 riders signing on for today's
third and final mountain stage in the Vuelta. Let's get it on!!
they did. At 13:30.
The first to attack was Olivier Kaisen (Davitamon)
after 4 km. He was joined by
Nicki Sorensen (Team CSC), Benoît Poilvet
(Credit Agricole), Raúl García De Mateo (Relax-Gam), Markel Irizar (Euskaltel-Euskadi),
Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) and Pierre Drancourt (Bouygues Telecom). They were
chased by Iñigo Landaluze, but the Euskaltel rider missed the break and went
back to the bunch. At the 26 km mark, the escape had 1'40.
14:42 CEST 46km/107.1km to go
the break 2'52, but Caisse d'Epargne started to get itchy feet and rode to bring
the leaders back to 1'30 by the summit of the day's first climb, the cat. 3
Alto de las Encebras. Kaisen was first over the top ahead of Irizar, Sorensen
and Poilvet. Sorensen is the best placed on GC of this break, but is nearly
39'00 down so he's no threat to Vinokourov.
43.1 km were covered in the first
hour. Milram's Daniel Becke abandoned on the climb, leaving 135 in the race.
14:57 CEST 62km/91.1km to go
The break increases
its advantage to 2'33 as Caisse d'Epargne has eased off the chase, allowing
Astana to control it. It's in Astana's interests to let these guys get right
away and soak up all the bonus seconds, but Vino will still have to be better
than Valverde on the final climb to La Pandera.
15:11 CEST 72km/81.1km to go
At the day's first
intermediate sprint at Huelma, Poilvet, Kaisen and Garcia de Mateo pass in that
order. The sprint points/bonus seconds don't really matter to the breakaways
today, apart from a few extra euros for the team coffers.
is maintaining a good speed and sits 2'40 behind the break.
The action in today's stage is almost
certain to all happen on the final climb to La Pandera. It's only a short climb
at 8.3 km, but it averages a nasty 8.2%, and it's proceeded by the Alto de los
Villares, a cat. 2 ascent.
15:29 CEST 80km/73.1km to go
The break reaches
the feed zone, still working quite hard, as the pace is not easy behind. The
last time check was 2'05. Both Astana and in particular Caisse d'Epargne will
want to set a high tempo to make everyone tired before the last climb. This
tends to hurt the pure climbers a bit compared to someone like Vino, who possesses
a lot of power on the flat. Even Valverde is a good flat rider, as he can win
a bunch sprint.
15:39 CEST 90km/63.1km to go
The pace is relentless,
with the second hour also raced at 43 km/h. The breakaways Sorensen, Kaisen,
Poilvet, García De Mateo, Irizar, Horrillo and Drancourt have done well and
have increased their advantage up to 4'05.
15:49 CEST 100km/53.1km to go
is working in the peloton to keep the pace high. It's obvious that Valverde
is trying to capitalise on Vinokourov's tiredness from yesterday. Vino sits
in about 10th wheel in the gold jersey. The gap to the leaders is 3'25 and falling.
Meanwhile, back in the break, Horrillo,
Sorensen, Garcia and the rest are working hard to keep their advantage. It's
kind of a doomed exercise today, with so much at stake behind. Sorensen might
be able to help Sastre on the climb if they stay away.
Caisse d'Epargne has the peloton
strung right out at 45-50 km/h. This is probably the last day that they'll have
to work really hard.
15:55 CEST 104km/49.1km to go
But the break is
also working at 45 km/h, and should get to at least the second last climb.
The bunch crosses over a bridge over
a motorway, in hot pursuit of the break. Up front, Garcia de Mateo signals for
his team car, and gets something from DS German Nieto.
16:00 CEST 107km/46.1km to go
Today is dry with
a few clouds hovering above the riders. Not rain clouds though.
Lastras and Garcia Acosta have the bunch in a long line.
16:02 CEST 108.1km/45km to go
Horrillo is a handy
man to have in a break, as is Kaisen. They're both big, powerful riders. The
gap is still around 3'20.
Our man on the climb, Shane Stokes,
reports that it's 11 degrees on top of La Pandera and very misty. There are
a lot of frozen looking spectators here.
16:07 CEST 111.1km/42km to go
The break slows
to 27km/h as it hits a small climb, while the peloton maintains 41 km/h, 3'31
behind. Vino looks good surrounded by his Astana cohorts. But Valverde, in the
white combination jersey, looks like he's ready to fight to the death.
16:08 CEST 112km/41.1km to go
Poilvet slips to
the back of the break, and corrects his line to avoid Horrillo's back wheel
in front of him. They are on the outskirts of Jaen. Excellent.
16:11 CEST 113km/40.1km to go
The peloton gets
within range of Jaen and the road starts to climb. Saunier Duval moves its main
man Gomez Marchante up. It's still all Caisse d'Epargne, all the time.
Lastras and Garcia Acosta swap off
in front of the bunch, while the break continues to make good progress. So far,
the bunch hasn't been able to pull back much time on the seven in front, and
it's still 3'21.
16:16 CEST 116km/37.1km to go
ride through the streets of Jaen and are applauded by an estimated crowd. 3'02
is the gap, and it's mostly uphill now.
16:18 CEST 118km/35.1km to go
Garcia Acosta does
another powerful turn in the bunch, gapping his teammates. Ouch. One of the
Caisse d'Epargne riders is no more for this stage.
16:21 CEST 120km/33.1km to go
The break exits
Jane, stage left, and begins to climb. The Alto de los Villares will start in
a bit, but there's a short descent first.
The gap has come down quite a bit,
thanks to Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta who is driving on the front of the bunch.
It's now 1'55.
16:23 CEST 121km/32.1km to go
(Davitamon) moves his teammate Chris Horner to the front. The peloton looks
rather smaller than it did at the start.
16:25 CEST 122km/31.1km to go
The gap is melting
in the sun as Garcia de Mateo tries to keep the pace up. 1'36. Caisse d'Epargne
is trying to hurt Vino as much as possible.
Garcia de Mateo attacks
- no surprise there.
16:26 CEST 123.1km/30km to go
García De Mateo
pumps up and down on the pedals, and is joined by Poilvet, Sorensen and Kaisen.
The others fall back. The Relax rider is anything but, and urges the others
Valverde chats with Goubert and Cuesta,
sharing a joke.
Meanwhile, Nicki Sorensen attacks the break. Kaisen
is forced to close the gap.
16:28 CEST 124km/29.1km to go
The action forces
Poilvet out the back. The peloton is bearing down on the dropped riders now.
Sorensen keeps going on his own.
16:30 CEST 125km/28.1km to go
Pereiro and Garcia
Acosta work in the bunch, with Zandio, Horrach, Karpets and Valverde in tow.
Sorensen has reached the top of the first little climb, and gets a short downhill
before starting the Alto de los Villares. He has 1'44 on the bunch - nice work.
16:31 CEST 126km/27.1km to go
at 70 km/h on the descent, with Garcia de Mateo, Kaisen and then Poilvet alone
in pursuit. The bunch is now on the downhill.
Sorensen is now caught by Kaisen
and Garcia de Mateo, while Irizar has found Poilvet.
16:35 CEST 129km/24.1km to go
The trio reach
Los Villares, and start to climb again. The crowds are thick here.
They come up to the final sprint, where Sorensen takes the points ahead of Garcia
de Mateo and Kaisen.
16:36 CEST 130km/23.1km to go
Poilvet and Irizar
pass the sprint point at 34 seconds, and look back for the bunch. Garcia Acosta
is driving the peloton again and then Oscar Pereiro takes over.
Horrillo and Drancourt are caught right at the sprint, with the peloton 1'27
behind the leaders.
The pace now goes up a notch with
Caisse d'Epargne still hammering with five or six men. Valverde is well protected
today, but Vino and Kashechkin are glued to his wheel.
Sorensen is doing most of the work.
16:38 CEST 131.1km/22km to go
Kaisen rolls through
for a turn as the Alto de los Villares starts. Poilvet and Irizar are 40 seconds
16:39 CEST 132.1km/21km to go
Garcia Acosta gives
it a lot of gas at the front of the bunch, and everyone is in a single line
behind him. Amazing riding by the old warhorse.
16:41 CEST 133.1km/20km to go
Suddenly, the pace
eases off in the bunch under instruction from Valverde. The peloton bunches
up for a bit. Maybe too hard, too soon.
Sorensen accelerates again,
but the gap is just 1'12. Garcia de Mateo tries but fails to hold the Dane's
16:42 CEST 134.1km/19km to go
Jose Garrido (Quick.Step)
attacks the bunch, passing Poilvet and Irizar very quickly. The pace goes up
again in the peloton, with five Caisse d'Epargnes still with Valverde.
16:45 CEST 135.1km/18km to go
to drive it - he's the most important rider in this break, in case he can help
Garrido's effort doesn't last long and the bunch passes
16:46 CEST 136.1km/17km to go
Kaisen is caught
by the Caisse d'Epargne bunch. Pereiro is doing a lot of work. He pulls off,
but then sees his teammate isn't ready, and keeps working. The gap to Sorensen
is 55 seconds.
Pereiro pulls over to the right and
puts it into "park". Now Arroyo takes over.
16:48 CEST 137.1km/16km to go
Garcia de Mateo
is absorbed next, leaving just Sorensen out front with 42 seconds. He's probably
not going to be able to help Sastre much today, as the peloton is still relatively
Arroyo, Zandio, Karpets and Valverde
are the first four in the bunch, then Rodriguez, Paulinho and Vinokourov. 37
seconds to Sorensen. Egoi Martinez is up there, ready to go for mountains points.
16:51 CEST 138.1km/15km to go
There are a good
30-40 riders left in the bunch as Mayo attacks! The Basque rider gets a small
gap, and works hard to try to get up to Sorensen.
Mayo goes under 15 km to go just
17 seconds behind Sorensen, then Martinez attacks the bunch in a big gear.
16:54 CEST 139.1km/14km to go
Mayo and goes to the front. Sorensen should be caught soon. Martinez can secure
his lead in the mountains competition.
Sorensen sits up. All over?
He accelerates to hold onto the other two. It hurts a lot.
Arroyo is still doing the tempo making
in the peloton, which rides 20 seconds behind the three leaders. Martinez hammers
and Sorensen is dropped.
Mayo glues himself to Martinez' wheel,
and really suffers to hold onto the Discovery rider.
Martinez' closest rival in the mountains
GC, Pietro Caucchioli, is nowhere to be seen at the moment. The first two placings
on this cat. 2 climb will be taken.
16:58 CEST 140.1km/13km to go
The bunch is down
to 30 riders. Five Caisse d'Epargnes including Valverde. At least three Astanas,
Sastre has teammates, and the Discovery boys are mostly there. Horner is last
wheel. The gap is 41 seconds.
17:00 CEST 141.1km/12km to go
10 points at the summit of the climb, with Mayo still right on his wheel. Third
place goes to Arroyo at 42 seconds, then Zandio. Caucchioli has been dropped.
17:01 CEST 142.1km/11km to go
Beltrán and Luis
Perez move up behind Vino. The road descends slightly now before the final climb
to La Pandera. Mayo is working with Martinez.
17:02 CEST 143.1km/10km to go
The gap falls to
half a minute as Martinez obviously gave it a lot of effort to get those mountain
points. It will probably be worth it.
Arroyo is continuing on the
front, with Zandio and Karpets waiting for their turn to sacrifice themselves
for their captain.
17:03 CEST 144.1km/9km to go
The two leaders
reach the 9 km to go banner, and the climb will start in less than 1000 metres.
17:04 CEST 145.1km/8km to go
The bunch goes under
at 25 seconds, Sorensen now in last wheel. Arroyo lifts the pace even more.
The leaders start the climb to La Pandera, and the road narrows immediately.
17:05 CEST 145.6km/7.5km to go
Arroyo pulls off
at the base of the climb, leaving Zandio to ride next. Paulinho has got Vino
17:06 CEST 146.1km/7km to go
The gradient is
a nasty 14 percent here. Danielson starts to move up a bit, before Luis Perez
launches the first attack. He will catch Mayo and Martinez very quickly.
17:08 CEST 146.6km/6.5km to go
Martinez, as Rodriguez bridges the gap with Valverde and Vino on his wheel on
a 15 percent section. The bunch shreds quickly to a dozen riders.
Gomez Marchante attacks first but
is hindered by a moto. He's caught. Rodriguez hammers and the group looks like
this: Vino, Valverde, Rodriguez, Perez, Sastre, Beltrán, Devolder, Kashechkin,
Gomez Marchante, Piepoli, Sanchez, Anton, Szmyd. But Karpets and Cuesta have
17:11 CEST 147.1km/6km to go
Karpets gives it
full gas and Rodriguez and Valverde take his wheel. Vino looks good, but he
needs to attack because there are bonus seconds at stake. They pass 6 km to
go. Devolder looks quite good. Danielson is nowhere to be seen, but that is
And Kashechkin attacks! Sastre counters
and takes the Astana rider's wheel.
17:12 CEST 147.6km/5.5km to go
That causes the
group to split, and now it's on again. Kash rides tempo for a bit, then stops.
Rodriguez back on the front and Vino attacks!
17:13 CEST 148.1km/5km to go
Vino yells at the
motos to get out of the way as he powers along behind them. Valverde doesn't,
or can't react. Rodriguez does. But Kashechkin lets a gap go. Nice work. Rodriguez
tries to bridge the gap, then sees Valverde is dropped. Stops. Gomez Marchante
and Anton are next in line.
17:15 CEST 148.6km/4.5km to go
is now chasing alone, and all hell breaks loose. Valverde is in trouble. Vino
already has 16 seconds on Gomez. And doesn't he know it.
Kash and Sastre close to Gomez Marchante
on a murderously steep section. Vino puts his head down, selects a low gear,
but keeps it going. It's hurting. Valverde is chasing with Devolder, Rodriguez,
Piepoli and Anton.
It's windy here too. Not easy.
17:17 CEST 149.1km/4km to go
on the steep gradient, but Valverde is not much better today. He's already 36
seconds behind Vino. That could be the Vuelta.
Vino rocks back and fourth in his
gold jersey, and you can tell he's giving it everything on his climb. The damage
behind is fairly serious. Gomez M is leading his trio with Kashechkin following
easily, and Sastre clinging on. It's 16% here!
Gomez Marchante checks back and sees
the chasers are in bits. Sanchez is returning to the Valverde group, which is
still 32 seconds behind Vino. The Astana rider is definitely hurting a lot.
It's not in the bag yet as he shifts gear, looks back.
17:21 CEST 150.1km/3km to go
Valverde now accelerates
on a 17% section. He gets plenty of support from the fans. This is an insanely
hard climb. Vino is now on 18% grade.
Kashechkin has attacked the
Gomez trio and is in pursuit of his leader.
30 seconds between Valverde
And now the two Kazakhstanis are
together. Here we go. Kash takes Vino's wheel for a while as the mist gets thicker.
Valverde has caught and passed Sastre, and the gap is 22 seconds...
17:23 CEST 151.1km/2km to go
again, dropping Anton and going off in pursuit of Gomez Marchante. Now Kashechkin
is working for Vino, then Vino takes a turn.
The road flattens a bit as Valverde
is caught by Anton and Piepoli again. 22 seconds.
17:25 CEST 151.8km/1.3km to go
Vino and Kashechkin
work together as they near 1 km to go. The Valverde group is doing its best
to close the gap. It will be small, in any case. Vino checks back.
Another nasty steep section, and
the gap goes up to 29 seconds. Valverde is paying for his effort while Kashechkin's
work is helping Vino a lot. Sastre is off the back, and it looks as though Gomez
is actually behind the Valverde group. It's not easy to tell.
17:27 CEST 152.3km/0.8km to go
Sastre is 44 seconds
behind the two leaders, who are at 1km to go and on a downhill. It's rocky and
very misty here. Valverde is getting help from Anton, but is at 28 seconds.
Vino hammers with his teammate Kashechkin,
taking a sharp corner near the top. Vino will get the stage win for sure.
17:29 CEST 153.1km/0km to go
But no, it's Kashechkin
who takes the win! Vino second, and they're both happy. Maybe the bonus seconds
aren't that important.
Gomez Marchante is third at 29 seconds, then
Valverde at 31, Piepoli and Anton at 35 seconds, then Sanchez, Danielson, Perez
The two winners are delighted with
their efforts as they hug each other after the line. Again, perfect teamwork.
And Kashechkin may move up to the podium now. Valverde is a good 50 seconds
down on Vino on GC.
It's confirmed: Vinokourov now leads
Valverde by 53 seconds, with Kashechkin in third at 2'06, then Sastre fourth
at 2'51. Tomorrow's stage shouldn't change things, unless Valverde goes in pursuit
of bonus seconds in a bunch sprint... We shall see you then!
1 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team 3.57.39
2 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Team
3 José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.30
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 0.32
5 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.35
6 Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
7 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.46
8 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
9 Luis Pérez (Spa) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC
General classification after stage 18
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Team 71.27.08
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 0.53
3 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team 2.06
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 2.51
5 José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir
6 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 7.05
7 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
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