61st Vuelta a España - GT
Spain, August 26-September 17, 2006
Results & report
Stage 3 - August 28: Córdoba - Almendralejo, 220 km
Live Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Shane Stokes
Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:30 CEST
The longest stage of the race has
two third category climbs in the first 30 kilometres, which limits the opportunities
for escapees as there is a long way to go after these springboards. The final
kilometre is completely flat, but has a couple of nasty bends that are tailor-made
for the handling skills of Robbie McEwen. Expect to see Davitamon-Lotto on the
front for their team sprinter.
Welcome to the third stage of the
Vuelta a España, a 220 km long journey between Córdoba and Almendralejo.
It's the longest one of the race, in fact, and the riders also have to cope
with 40 degree temperatures out on the road today. That will not be easy.
Besides the two mountain sprints, there are also two intermediate sprints at
Peñarroya-Pueblonuevo (km 82.6) and Azuaga (km 128).
14:42 CEST 90km/130km to go
The stage started
shortly after midday with all 189 riders signing on. It was an uphill start,
and with the first climb - the Alto de Villaviciosa - after only 6 km, the peloton
stayed together. At the top, and probably hurting a bit after yesterday's long
solo effort, Mario De Sárraga (Relax-Gam) won the points ahead of his teammate
Jorge García, then José Antonio Garrido (Quick Step-Innergetic) and Benoît Joachim
(Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team). That gave him the mountains jersey for
at least another day.
Immediately after the climb, Enrico Franzoi
(Lampre-Fondital) and Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (Cofidis) and David De La Fuente
(Saunier Duval-Prodir, who tried to get in yesterday's break) attacked, and
straight away got clear of the bunch. Race leader Thor Hushovd's Credit Agricole
team was happy to let the trio go, as they could take all the bonus seconds
en route and not really threaten the jersey, even if De La Fuente is only 20
seconds down on GC.
After an hour, the leaders had covered 30.1 km
(mostly uphill) and had a 5'30 gap over the bunch, where Credit Agricole was
riding tempo. On the second climb, the Alto del Aire, it was De La Fuente ahead
of Franzoi, Duclos-Lassalle and then Mads Kaggestad (Credit Agricole) in the
After two hours, the average increased to 36.5 km/h, with
the gap going up to 6'40. At km 80, the lead was 7'42, the highest to date.
De La Fuente also won the intermediate sprint at Peñarroya-Pueblonuevo ahead
of Duclos-Lassalle and Franzoi. They are worth 6-4-2 bonus seconds.
After the sprint, the tempo has picked up a little behind, and the gap has been
reduced to 7'06.
14:54 CEST 100km/120km to go
The three leaders
are at the feed zone, and grab their bags that are hopefully filled with extra
bidons. It's very hot out there today. The feed zone is located 520m above sea
level, like most of the rest of the stage. That is it's main distinguishing
14:56 CEST 103km/117km to go
The peloton has
reduced the gap a little further, and it's now down to 6'47 as the main bunch
also rides through the feed zone. Although a three man break is harder to pull
back than a lone leader, the peloton is not going to make its task too difficult.
Yesterday, the maximum gap was 13'05, and the stage was much shorter!
15:06 CEST 115km/105km to go
We leave Andalucía
behind us and enter the province of Extremadura. The terrain is flattish and
the leaders have a good tempo going, with 6'40 of their advantage intact.
When looking at the profile of this
stage before the start, one name sprang to mind: Rigoberto Uran.
The Colombian who rides for Tenax-Salmilano would be ideally suited to this
stage. The only problem is that his team isn't actually here.
15:17 CEST 120km/100km to go
After three hours
of racing, the average speed has lifted to 37.4 km/h. That means the last two
hours have been run at around 41 km/h.
The leading three are not
getting any further ahead, as Milram and Credit Agricole lead the chase, 6'38
15:22 CEST 126km/94km to go
The front trio is
approaching the second and final sprint of the day at Azuaga, holding a 6'30
advantage over the main bunch. It's baking hot, and the temps are over 40 degrees
at the moment.
15:31 CEST 129km/91km to go
Carlos Barredo (Astana)
has suffered a puncture, but is on his way again after a wheel change. Meanwhile,
the three up front have passed the intermediate sprint with 6'20 of their lead
intact. Results of that sprint shortly.
The early starts continued for some
riders today. The UCI's medical inspectors visited several teams at 7:00am for
blood tests. The teams concerned were Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, Phonak,
Quick Step, Relax-Gam and Liquigas. All riders were declared fit to start.
16:03 CEST 155km/65km to go
While we're on the
subject of potential winners of this stage are not necessarily racing, Martin
has written in with the following picks:
1 Djamolodine Abdoujaparov
2 Mario Cipollini
3 Jan Svorada
He asks whether we should expand
the category to include dead people. Admittedly, that could create quite a large
pool to pick from.
In the actual race, Credit Agricole and Milram
are working solidly to bring the break back to heel.
For those wondering, Hervé Duclos-Lassalle
is the son of Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, who won Paris-Roubaix twice. Hervé is
26, and hasn't quite followed in his dad's rather large footsteps.
Interestingly, in last year's second stage of the Vuelta, Duclos-Lassalle broke
away with David de la Fuente. The latter was too strong for the Frenchman and
eventually left him behind, but it didn't matter as he was caught on the last
climb and Leonardo Bertagnolli (a teammate of Duclos-Lassalle's) won.
16:17 CEST 160km/60km to go
covered in sweat and water that he's been pouring over himself. The three ride
along a gunbarrel straight road through the brown landscape under the bright
blue sky. The gap is now 5'39.
Credit Agricole is getting help from
Davitamon and Milram in the chase. The sprinters teams have this stage in hand
16:22 CEST 163km/57km to go
De la Fuente does
another strong turn as the three ride through olive groves. The peloton is stretched
in pursuit. Riders are going back to the team cars almost continuously to get
bidons of water.
After four hours, the average is
up to 37.8 km/h. Nacor Burgos (Relax-Gam) punctures, but it doesn't take long
to get back to the bunch.
The results of the second sprint (sorry
about the delay): 1. David de la Fuente, 2. Enrico Franzoi, 3. Hervé Duclos-Lassalle.
16:28 CEST 166km/54km to go
The leaders take
a right hander, direction Valencia de las Torres, and get a cheer from a small
crowd gathered here. They are working well together, with De la Fuente looking
the strongest. Duclos-Lassalle takes a bidon from a neutral motorbike.
Race leader Thor Hushovd chats to
Fabian Cancellara as he sits behind his Credit Agricole train. Hushovd is also
nicknamed "Schwarzy", in reference to a certain Governator of California and
great method actor of the past three decades.
16:37 CEST 170km/50km to go
The lanky Olivier
Kaisen (Davitamon-Lotto) is working on the front of the bunch now, keeping the
pace up. The bunch will probably start to up the tempo soon to catch the break.
It's now 5'09.
16:40 CEST 172km/48km to go
Credit Agricole has
started to lift the pace, as they want to protect Hushovd's jersey. The gap
is 4'57. De La Fuente is the virtual leader, and has taken 12 bonus seconds
today. But he needs 20 seconds to take the jersey. That's quite possible if
the break stays away, but it's a long way to go yet.
The leaders ride through Llera with
just under 48 km to go. They can sense a bit of urgency, and are working harder
to stay away.
16:47 CEST 175km/45km to go
Although the leaders
are riding harder, the bunch is in proper chase mode, and has reduced the advantage
Franzoi, the cyclo-cross specialist, does a turn on the
front of the break.
16:52 CEST 178km/42km to go
The road undulates
a little more through the sparse, tree studded terrain. De La Fuente is talking
to his director in the car, grabbing an energy gel on the way. The trio leads
The break works, with De la Fuente
signaling for Duclos-Lassalle to go through. The Frenchman looks to be the weakest
of the trio, but you never really know until they start attacking.
One of the Liquigas riders, Dario
Andriotto, gets a few bidons from the team car. It seems that the handover is
quite difficult, and takes a good half a minute. You wouldn't want to drop it,
17:00 CEST 183km/37km to go
Now it's Bäckstedt's
turn to grab bidons, but he doesn't spend as long at the team car.
Credit Agricole's Bodrogi drops back for some too.
The gap is 3'43
as the bunch negotiates a small road.
17:02 CEST 186km/34km to go
Chris Horner has
been relieved of his duties today, it looks like, and is at the rear of the
peloton, squirting water on himself.
The leaders ride through Hinojosa
Del Valle, which doesn't take very long.
17:05 CEST 188km/32km to go
Horner hasn't quite
been relieved of his duties. He flies up the side of the bunch with a lot of
bidons to give to his teammates. Some kids waving a Spanish flag adorned with
a black bull cheer on the peloton as it passes by.
17:07 CEST 189km/31km to go
The peloton passes
through Hinojosa Del Valle, 3'34 behind the break. The effort on the faces of
the workers is evident. Caucchioli, Charteau are up there for Credit Agricole,
Kaisen for Davitamon, Becke for Milram, and several more.
17:10 CEST 191km/29km to go
The front trio passes
30 km to go, and still has more than three minutes on the chasing peloton, where
Credit Agricole is doing most of the work.
17:15 CEST 195km/25km to go
Duclos does a short
but fast turn, then flicks his elbow for Franzoi to come through. The Italian
does the same, and De la Fuente takes his turn. It's more downhill now as the
leaders reach Ribera Del Fresno with under three minutes.
17:19 CEST 197km/23km to go
The bunch is in full
flight now as it flies past the white walled buildings of Ribera Del Fresno,
2'31 behind the break. Davitamon, Credit Agricole and Milram are really working.
It takes approximately a minute to get through town.
17:21 CEST 199km/21km to go
There's even a Quick.Step
rider in the chase now. Bettini profited from the work of the sprinters teams
yesterday, and he might want to have another go today, even if he said he wouldn't
risk anything in light of the world championships.
17:23 CEST 199.5km/20.5km to go
Up another false
flat, the break is doing its utmost to stay ahead of the peloton. But the gap
is now just 2'05 with a little over 20 km to go.
17:25 CEST 201km/19km to go
There's not even
a hint of a cloud in the sky as the race heads towards the finish in Almendralejo
at high speed. The difference under the 20 km to go banner is just 1'34.
17:27 CEST 202km/18km to go
Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel)
still finds the time to get bidons from the team car.
David de la
Fuente does another strong turn and the sweating Hervé Duclos-Lassalle comes
past him, followed by Franzoi. The break is giving it everything to stay away,
but it isn't enough.
The road widens as the bunch rides
through more olive groves. Up front, the trio is trying desperately to stay
17:30 CEST 204km/16km to go
And De la Fuente
attacks on a slight descent. Duclos-Lassalle can't follow, and only Franzoi
is left with the leader.
17:31 CEST 205km/15km to go
The two leaders go
under 15 km to go, and the speed is a lot higher now they can sense the finish.
But there is no panic in the bunch.
17:33 CEST 206km/14km to go
The bunch is under
15 km to go just 1'06 behind Franzoi and De La Fuente. These two have been away
since kilometre 6 - 200 km in front now!
Duclos-Lassalle waits for
the bunch and is absorbed.
17:35 CEST 207km/13km to go
Van Impe is the Quick.Step
rider on the front of the bunch, keeping the tempo up over 50 km/h. The two
front riders are just 50 seconds clear now.
The finishing straight
today will be tricky. It's narrow, two cars wide at most, and there are a few
17:37 CEST 208km/12km to go
Despite the best
efforts of David de la Fuente and Enrico Franzoi, they're going to have a hard
time making it much past 10 km to go. Full credit for trying. It's not easy
to spend 200 km in front in 40 degree heat with just a couple of others for
17:39 CEST 209km/11km to go
The bunch has eased
up a little, leaving the two in front with 44 seconds as they go under 11 km
to go. That will give the leaders some hope.
17:40 CEST 210km/10km to go
10 km left and it's
38 seconds. They're going to need more than that as Credit Agricole lifts the
pace to warp speed.
17:41 CEST 212km/8km to go
The bunch cuts another
5 seconds off in that kilometre, with Bodrogi doing a monster turn. The two
leaders have 35 seconds as they approach 8 km to go. The road is completely
straight and the bunch has the break well in its sights.
That was a good turn by Bodrogi,
removing another 7 seconds from the breakaways. The gap is 27 seconds with 8
km to go.
17:43 CEST 213km/7km to go
Franzoi looks back
and sees the bunch looming. He and David de la Fuente run out of gas in the
block headwind, and sit up. Nice try though.
17:45 CEST 215km/5km to go
That will make things
slightly easier for the bunch, which is grouped together under the control of
Credit Agricole's Laszlo Bodrogi. Part of the bunch splits on a traffic island,
and has to take the long way around.
17:46 CEST 216km/4km to go
Now the sprinters
trains start to form as we approach the outskirts of Almendralejo. 4 clicks
to go in the bike race.
17:47 CEST 217km/3km to go
One of the AG2R riders
is on the front, working for JP Nazon. Milram has set its train up just behind
The headwind makes it easy to gain
position, but hard to keep it. AG2R, Liquigas , Quick.Step and Milram are giving
it full gas.
17:48 CEST 218km/2km to go
A Quick.Step rider
does a big turn up to 2 km to go, then AG2R challenge on the left. But Quick.Step
comes back. Bettini is well placed in third wheel. Perhaps too well placed.
Hushovd is in about 10th.
17:49 CEST 219km/1km to go
Bettini lets a couple
of Milrams go ahead of him as a Saunier Duval rider attacks inside the final
kilometre. Nice move!
The Saunier rider - Millar - can't
hold it. He's caught inside 500m to go as Rodriguez leads out McEwen.
17:50 CEST 220km/0km to go
McEwen has to go very
early again and is beaten again. Ventoso wins it!!! Hushovd is second, and keeps
the jersey. A very similar sprint to yesterday.
In the end, Saunier Duval got it
right. Davitamon's Fred Rodriguez lost his momentum when Napolitano came around
him. McEwen had to go then, but Ventoso rode a great sprint on the left to beat
Hushovd, O'Grady, Zabel, and McEwen.
So there you go, another surprising
finish in a bunch sprint. Hushovd has increased his lead in the general classification
and is now 11 seconds clear of O'Grady, with Ventoso in third place at 12 seconds.
That's all folks. Time for some cold sangria...
1 Francisco José Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 5.43.45
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
3 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC
4 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
5 Robbie Mcewen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
6 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
7 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas
8 Pedro Horrillo (Spa) Rabobank
9 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems
10 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) AG2R Prevoyance
General classification after stage 3
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 10.10.13
2 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC 0.11
3 Francisco José Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.12
4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 0.14
5 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 0.19
6 Nicki Sorensen (Den) Team CSC
7 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team CSC
8 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC
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