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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

61st Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 26-September 17, 2006

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Stage 11 - September 6: Torrelavega (Oscar Freire Velodrome) - Burgos, 165 km

Complete live report

14.33 CEST   
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Vuelta! Today, we will see stage 11 depart in Torrelavega' Oscar Freire velodroma, and take on three mountains on its way to Burgos, a city that has hosted so many Vuelta finishes. The climbs are Puerto de la Braguia (Cat. 1 - 720 m. above sea level - km 39), Puerto del Escudo (Cat. 1 - 1,011 m. - km 72.5) and Puerto de Carrales (Cat. 3 - 1,030 m. - km 86.7). The finale will be in an ideal place for the sprinters, as the finishing straight is 1.5 km and flat. Despite the mountains, it should be a day for the sprinters, and a calm day for Valverde and the other favourites.

The big news this morning was that Denis Menchov (Rabobank) did not start today’s stage. Physically and mentally speaking, Menchov is running on empty, his team said, and preferred to quit the race. The Vuelta winner of last year was far behind current leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) anyway: 67th at 47:34. Still, he will be missed.

14:38 CEST   
It was a fast start as the flag was waved for the official departure of the stage at 13.45pm. The first breakaway attempt saw Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel), David George (Relax-Gam) and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval) jump away, but the trio didn't get too far before Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel), Luca Paolini (Liquigas) and Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) joined them... which in turn made the peloton react. After three kilometres, they were caught.

The next attack came from dangerous GC contenders: Alexandre Vinokourov, Andrej Kashechkin (both Astana) as well as Carlos Sastre (CSC) tried to get away, which resulted in immediate reaction from Caisse d'Epargne, of course, who reeled them in again.

14:46 CEST   
The next breakaway, started at km 27, saw Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) get a gap, joined by Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Eric Leblacher (Française des Jeux), Alexandre Usov (AG2R Prevoyance), Volodymir Gustov (Team CSC), Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel), Andrea Moletta (Gerolsteiner), Scott Davis (T-Mobile Team), Dario David Cioni (Liquigas), David Loosli (Lampre-Fondital), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Theo Eltink (Rabobank), Serguei Yakovlev (Astana Team). This group of 13 riders quickly managed to get away, and one rider missed the train: David Cañada (Saunier Duval-Prodir), who then tried to bridge up to the leaders.

At the first intermediate sprint at km 34, won by Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), the breakaway had close to 2 minutes on the bunch, with Cañada sandwiched in between them at 55 seconds behind the leaders.

14:48 CEST   
Christophe Kern (Bouygues Telecom) abandoned.

14:53 CEST   
In the back, the peloton saw no need for any haste and the break's lead grew rapidly to 3.40 minutes as they took on the first climb of the day, the Puerto de la Braguia (Cat. 1). And even though the 13 leaders were climbing, the gap still increased... which meant those behind were really taking their time!!

As the first hour of racing was through, the riders had accomplished 38,3 km, and the top of the first mountain was reached. Again, Hushovd was in front of the breakaway group as the passed the summit, and it was him also who scored the most points again at the last intermediate sprint of the day, at km 46. The Norwegian clearly wants to consolidate the points jersey he's wearing...

14:58 CEST    68km/105.6km to go
So, the race situation at the moment is stable: the 13 leaders have a nice advantage of about 8.30 (!) minutes over the bunch, and our unfortunate Spaniard Cañada follows them all alone at 4.30 minutes, as he missed the moment when the break was going. The front group is now at the foot of the Puerto del Escudo, another Cat. 1 climb.

15:06 CEST   
If this break goes through all the way to the finish in Burgos and it came down to a sprint, Hushovd and Usov (AG2R) would be the fastest men in the group. The break does have a nice advantage there, and the bunch doesn't seem interested to chase.

Looking at the stage profile, reeling them in could be hard even for the sprinter's teams: in fact, there are only 30 kilometres of flat/downhill terrain towards the finish after the last mountain, the Puerto del Paramo de Massa (not categorized).

15:08 CEST   
Meanwhile, during the ascent of the Puerto del Escudo, Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel) broke off the front of the leaders and now has a gap of 13 seconds. Unless the Spaniard can increase his advantage, they will get him again in the descent.

15:18 CEST    72km/101.6km to go
The race has now passed the summit of today's second climb. Martinez has gained 35 seconds over his former breakaway mates. Cañada is 5.15 minutes behind, and the bunch follows at over 9 minutes.

15:22 CEST    78km/95.6km to go
In the descent, Martinez is powering away and manages to increase his lead. The Spaniard of Team Discovery Channel now has 1.40 minutes over his 12 chasers, while the bunch in the back is already nearly 10 minutes down.

Interesting move by Martinez - will he be able to hold off his chasers even though there still are almost 100 clicks to go until Burgos?

15:28 CEST   
Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) now has trouble hanging on to the chase group. He gets dropped... but he has probably accomplished his mission for today: with now 123 points, he extended his lead in the points classification further on Erik Zabel (Milram), who has 77 points.

15:33 CEST   
Average speed on the second hour of racing today was 36,3 km/h.

And Martinez still increases his lead over his chasers, as he takes on the next climb: Cat. 3 Puerto de Carrales. He now has 2.42 minutes over the chase group, 6.32 over Canada and 10.33 over the peloton.

15:39 CEST    85km/88.6km to go
Hushovd made it back to the chase group, but he's yoyo-ing a bit. Martinez, in front, is now leading with three minutes over the 12-men group. Impressive!

15:45 CEST   
The peloton is 11 minutes behind. If it goes on like this, there will be no bunch sprint finish in Burgos, as many observers had foreseen. Race leader Valverde is having a cool day at the office, that's for sure.

Lone rider David Cañada (Saunier Duval-Prodir) now looks like he's finally got enough of his senseless position in between the pack and the breakaway and is waiting for the bunch to come back on him.

15:52 CEST   
The order of passage on the summit of the Puerto de Carrales was: Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel), followed by Dario David Cioni (Liquigas) and Eric Leblacher (Française des Jeux). That was the last categorized climb today, although there still are about 300 vertical metres ahead of the riders on the Puerto de Paramo (total length approx. 30 kilometres - that's more like a false flat for the pros, isn't it!)

15:54 CEST    92km/81.6km to go
Luis León Sánchez (Astana Team) has abandoned according to Radio Vuelta.

15:59 CEST   
Hushovd is still riding in last position in the chase group, but now that the course is getting flatter, he should be able to hold on. The 12 riders are working well together, but they're not making up significant time on Martinez at the moment, who is in aero position.

The bunch is led by Caisse d'Epargne, taking it easy. they're 11.50 minutes down now.

16:04 CEST   
But the way things are, the chasers should be very interested in catching Martinez again, and will probably do so in this second half of the stage, definitely much easier than the first. Already, Martinez' pedal stroke is getting heavier.

16:10 CEST    109.6km/64km to go
Martinez gets another bottle from his team car, as well as instructions. The chasers are still 2.13 minutes away, but it is doubtful he will last until the finish.

16:16 CEST    114.6km/59km to go
The next 20 kilometres are continuously ascending, taking more power out of everyone. Hushovd has perfectly integrated the chase group again, and looks like he's feeling better now.

Martinez' lead is melting away: only 1.50 minutes left now, and he looks like his legs are hurting a lot.

16:22 CEST   
A word on the countryside: Spain's Northern part is definitely a lot greener than what we saw last week when the race started. Rolling hills all around...

Valverde is sitting comfortably in fifth position in his Caisse d'Epargne train, which leads the bunch out, followed by the Saunier Duval riders.

Martinez takes another drink out of a small red can with a white trademark - will that help?

16:25 CEST    119.6km/54km to go
Now, Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) plays his card. The Spaniard wants to bridge up to Martinez, as a light rain starts to refresh the riders. He has a gap.

16:29 CEST   
Landaluze has company: Volodymir Gustov (Team CSC) has joined him to chase down Martinez. The main breakaway is letting them go for now.

16:33 CEST   
Well, these two are climbers, so their move is understandable if they don't want to be beaten by Hushovd in a sprint. It's still a long way to go, though...

Martinez is waiting for the duo. Maybe they can make a difference as a trio.

16:37 CEST   
Now, things start moving in the chase group. Yakovlev attacks, but gets caught. They don't seem to get along anymore. Loosli, Usov and Davis get a gap now.

16:40 CEST   
Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) and Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (Cofidis) have meanwhile abandoned La Vuelta. The French have not been able to score until now, with AG2R's Stéphane Goubert the first Frenchman on GC in 47th position.

16:44 CEST    132.6km/41km to go
Gustov and Landaluze are meanwhile doing all the work for Martinez, and they're not happy about it. Still, the three are together.

16:46 CEST   
The other trio of Loosli, Davis and Usov are back with the other chasers now - they realized their best chance was staying inside a bigger group. They're still 1.44 minutes off the leaders though, with the bunch more than 10 minutes behind - no worries there.

16:52 CEST   
Weather update: It has stopped raining, but a few clouds are still hanging in the sky. It's mostly sunny though on the way to Burgos.

Now, Martinez is working again in the leader's trio. Good on him, as that's the only way to go if they want to make it to the finish together.

16:55 CEST    139.6km/34km to go
The chasers have lost a bit of time on the leading riders during their gambling and attacking: 2.42 minutes separate them from Gustov, Landaluze and Martinez. As of now, it's all downhill or flat towards the finish.

16:58 CEST   
The three in front are giving it their very best, circling harmoniously, while the guys chasing start to discuss their situation. We are just about to reach the decisive moment of this stage... The leaders are definitely motivated to stay away!

17:01 CEST   
And they're increasing their advantage now! 2.42 minutes with 27 kilometres to go, that should be it! If they can hold their current pace, that is.

17:04 CEST   
Well, who of those three is going to be today's winner? Landaluze is more known to be a climber than a sprinter, but he has experience. Gustov is a good worker, but is he quick? And Martinez should be tired from his long solo ride. Hmm.

17:08 CEST   
Hard raindrops are hitting the riders now, and there is some headwind going on, as well, as a summer storm comes down on them. That hurts! Their lead, however, is stable at just less than 3 minutes.

17:16 CEST   
The storm has passed more or less, with the riders now headed towards a brighter horizon. The finale is all on straight roads so this rain shower isn't actually dangerous.

Scott Davis (T-Mobile) has a mechanical, and gets a wheel change.

17:19 CEST    161.6km/12km to go
The road has dried real quick... and it's still 2.33 minutes for the three leaders as they have about 12 kilometres to go.

17:21 CEST   
The bunch now rides through the remains of the storm, getting wet just like the others. Unchanged picture: Caisse d'Epargne is leading, no pressure.

17:23 CEST   
In front, Martinez has attacked! He has 14 seconds over Gustov and Landaluze.

17:26 CEST    164.6km/9km to go
Martinez is powering away now. Who would have known that he still had that much power left?

17:30 CEST    168.6km/5km to go
Landaluze is leading Gustov now, chasing, but Martinez is gooone. He has 35 seconds, giving it all, tongue out.

17:32 CEST    169.6km/4km to go
He's suffering now, but he will pull it through it looks like. He's out of the saddle, biting his teeth, and gets a bit of support from a few roadside fans.

17:33 CEST   
Landaluze is trying to get rid of Gustov, but can't shake him off his wheel. Martinez is 2.5 km off the finish line.

17:34 CEST    172.6km/1km to go
Martinez is on large city boulevards, and there are a few spectators at last, cheering him on.

17:37 CEST   
And Martinez zipps up his jersey and wins, raising his arms! Here come the others...

17:38 CEST   
Landaluze is sprinting off the front, and Gustov can't get past him! Landaluze gets second.

17:41 CEST   
And as the chasers get in, Usov starts the sprint from a bit far and is then passed by Hushovd for the fourth place.

17:51 CEST   
Here comes the bunch, still led by Caisse d'Epargne. They took it easy today, getting in 15.04 behind today's winner.

17:52 CEST   
Join us again tomorrow for another Vuelta transition stage from Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara, which will probably be decided in a bunch sprint looking at the profile... then again, the last three kilometres before the line will be uphill, so a big break could well be allowed to get through. Cya then! Adios!


1 Egoi Martinez (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team             4.20.32
2 Iñigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                               0.55 
3 Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Team CSC                                  
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole                                    3.35
5 Alexandre Usov (Blr) AG2R Prevoyance                             
6 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Fondital                               
7 Andrea Moletta (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                
8 Theo Eltink (Ned) Rabobank                                       
9 Scott Davis (Aus) T-Mobile Team                                  
10 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears          
11 Eric Leblacher (Fra) Française des Jeux                         
12 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Liquigas                                
13 Serguei Yakovlev (Kaz) Astana Team                              

General classification after stage 11

1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears            45.54.45
2 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team                                    0.27
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                           0.44
4 José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                  0.56
5 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Team                                 1.38
6 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team               2.05
7 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas                                          2.21
8 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team                2.28
9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears                  3.02
10 Sergio Paulinho (Por) Astana Team                                     3.42


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