61st Vuelta a España - GT
Spain, August 26-September 17, 2006
Results & report
Stage 5 - August 30: Plasencia - Estación de Esquí La Covatilla (Béjar), 178
Live Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Shane Stokes
Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:30 CEST
Greetings and welcome to the fifth
stage of the Vuelta a España, the first serious mountain stage in this
year's race, and one that will give us a good indication of who will fight it
out for the final GC. Following yesterday's relatively short 142 km leg, today
is 178 km between Plasencia and the ski station at La Covatilla in Bejar. The
final climb is a special category ascent taking the riders up to almost 2000m,
but there are also two cat. 1 climbs: Puerto de Piornal and Puerto de Honduras
at km 52.7 and km 100.5, and the cat. 2 Alto de Lagunilla after 138 km. There
are two intermediate sprints at Jaraiz De La Vera (km 136.5) and Cabezuela Del
Valle (km 79.8).
188 riders started today's stage
in Plasencia, and the bunch rolled out at 12:15 in front of a huge crowd. The
only non-starter was Andre Korff, who was sick and didn't sign on. Carlos Barredo
(Astana) made the first attack, which was caught by the peloton, and although
his Astana teammates were very active, no-one could get away before the first
sprint at Jaraiz de la Vera (km 31). The honours there went to Milram's Daniel
Becke ahead of Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole) and Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval).
Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) crashed, but was able to rejoin the bunch.
A counter attack of 10 after the intermediate sprint went nowhere, and the bunch
was still together by the time it hit the base of the Puerto de Piornal with
42.1 km covered in the first hour. At the summit of the climb, a group with
the following riders had formed: Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Xavier Florencio
(Bouygues Telecom), Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), David Arroyo, Joaquin
Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Vladimir Gusev, Benoît Joachim (Discovery
Channel Pro Cycling Team), Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R), Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval),
Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Eric Leblacher (Française des Jeux), Torsten
Hiekmann (Gerolsteiner), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step-Innergetic), José Miguel
Elias, Ángel Vallejo (Relax-Gam), Sergio Paulinho (Astana Team).
The gap at the top was 1'40, with Angel Vallejo taking the points ahead of Xavier
Florencio, Benoît Joachim, Jose Miguel Elias and Pietro Caucchioli. The lead
has been hovering between 1'28 and 1'40, with CSC doing the work in the peloton.
14:47 CEST 85km/93km to go
The leading break
is now on the second climb of the day, the Puerto de Honduras, still holding
a slender 1'28 on the bunch. Thor Hushovd has had a mechanical problem, but
it's not too serious.
The results of the first sprint at Cabezuela
Del Valle (km 79.8): 1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), 2. Xavier Florencio
(Bouygues), 3. Eric Leblacher (Française des Jeux).
Of the breakaways, Paolo Bettini
(Quick.Step) is the best placed on GC, in fifth overall at 34 seconds. He can
climb, but it's unlikely he will be among the top riders at the finish.
14:56 CEST 93km/85km to go
Wegelius has crashed
again, and this time it's enough to force him to abandon. Bad luck for the Brit.
The leading group, meanwhile, has upped its advantage to 2'09.
The weather today is definitely not
as hot as in previous days. There's a nice breeze blowing and the countryside
is most scenic around here.
15:11 CEST 101km/77km to go
The Puerto de Honduras
has taken its toll, and the break has split in half. In front, we have Michael
Rasmussen (Rabobank), Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), David Arroyo (Caisse
d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Vladimir Gusev, Benoît Joachim (Discovery Channel
Pro Cycling Team), Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Torsten Hiekmann (Gerolsteiner),
José Miguel Elias (Relax-Gam), Sergio Paulinho (Astana Team) and Jose Luis Arrieta
(AG2R). Then at 36 seconds, Paolo Bettini (Quick Step-Innergetic), Xavier Florencio
(Bouygues Telecom), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Ángel
Vallejo (Relax), Eric Leblacher (Française des Jeux), Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval).
The peloton follows at 4'24.
Discovery's Vladimir Gusev is first
to the top of the Puerto de Honduras, followed by Caucchioli (CA), Joachim (Discovery),
Jose Miguel Elias (Relax) and Sergio Paulinho.
15:32 CEST 115km/63km to go
The two front groups
have rejoined on the descent, and now we have a big happy family with: Paolo
Bettini (Quick Step-Innergetic - best on GC at 0'34), Vladimir Gusev, Benoît
Joachim (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank),
Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), David Arroyo, Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse
d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Torsten Hiekmann
(Gerolsteiner), José Miguel Elias, Ángel Vallejo (Relax-Gam), Sergio Paulinho
(Astana Team), Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R), Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom),
Eric Leblacher (Française des Jeux), Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval).
The bunch trails 4'20 behind, not an insurmountable task by any means.
15:39 CEST 120km/58km to go
The lead break has
flown past the feed zone, which is towards the bottom of the descent of the
Honduras, and is now en route to the penultimate climb of the day, the Alto
15:46 CEST 125km/53km to go
After three hours
of very mountainous racing, the average speed is a brisk 38.3 km/h. The peloton
has pulled back the lead group to 3'18, and with another two climbs to come,
it doesn't look like this break will go that far.
Iban Mayo has a mechanical, but gets
a bike from a teammate and is brought back to the bunch on the climb of the
Alto de Lagunilla. CSC is still setting a solid tempo.
has attacked the lead group on the climb, as race leader Thor Hushovd is dropped
by the bunch.
15:59 CEST 133km/45km to go
The peloton is just
2'09 behind the leaders now, who have caught Joachim. Rasmussen leads Caucchioli,
Gusev and a couple of others up to the Luxembourger.
Australian champion Will Walker (Rabobank)
is clinging onto the back of the bunch.
Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero
(Phonak) has retired from the race, and that is quite possibly the end of his
Rasmussen sets a good pace on the
climb, with Caucchioli and Elias on his wheel.
The lead group is
now: Vladimir Gusev (best on GC at 48 seconds, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling
Team), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), Iñigo
Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears),
José Miguel Elias, (Relax), Sergio Paulinho (Astana Team).
16:06 CEST 137km/41km to go
Elias sprints for
the mountain points and gets them at the summit of the Alto de Lagunilla, ahead
CSC's Lars Bak is sweating in the heat just over two
minutes behind the break. The peloton is still a good 50 riders strong. Valverde
is well placed near the front.
16:08 CEST 139km/39km to go
and Paolo Bettini are caught just at the top of the climb, with the bunch 2'24
behind the lead group.
A correction: Benoît Joachim is also
in the lead group, where Iñigo Landaluze has just attacked.
16:13 CEST 141km/37km to go
There's not much
of a descent after this climb, and Landaluze has a bit of a gap over the rest,
who are just choosing to ride tempo. The peloton passes through a forest in
pursuit of the lead group. Caisse d'Epargne have their boys on the front: Three
ahead of Valverde.
Florencio and Gomez are caught by
16:15 CEST 143km/35km to go
Ángel Vallejo (Relax)
is the next rider to be caught by the Caisse d'Epargne led bunch. Torsten Hiekmann
(Gerolsteiner), Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R) and Eric Leblacher (Française des Jeux)
should be next.
Landaluze has 12 seconds on the rest
of the break, but has to really work for it. They won't be able to see him much
as the road curves around, goes up and down and is often shaded by trees.
16:20 CEST 147km/31km to go
The peloton is now
very strung out, with 70-80 riders following the wheels of Caisse d'Epargne.
The final climb to Covatilla awaits...
Landaluze has extended his
lead to 20 seconds as he negotiates another small descent.
16:23 CEST 150km/28km to go
Rasmussen is still
doing quite a bit of work in the first group behind Landaluze. Caucchioli sits
on his wheel, with the two Discoverys next. Rasmussen probably wants to keep
ahead to help Menchov on the last climb.
16:25 CEST 152km/26km to go
The high tempo is
shedding riders quickly now. Bettini is dropped by the bunch, which is approaching
Landaluze has 1'04 on Rasmussen's group, then the
bunch is another 1'26 back.
16:29 CEST 153km/25km to go
Landaluze, the lone
leader, is cheered on as he puts him between himself and the break. He has 1'25
now, with the peloton at over 3'00. The Euskaltel rider is doing well.
16:32 CEST 154km/24km to go
Four Caisse d'Epargne
riders lead Valverde in the peloton, and their pace has reduced the peloton
already before the last climb. CSC with Sastre is right behind. This will be
a battle royale between the big guns.
Jose Luis Arrieta, Torsten
Hiekmann and Eric Leblacher are all caught by the bunch. Only eight left in
16:33 CEST 156km/22km to go
along by himself through Cantagallo. He is maintaining three minutes on the
16:36 CEST 157km/21km to go
The first chasing
group with Gusev is working well together, but still losing ground to Landaluze.
Ho ho. The gap between the leader and the first chasers is 1'30. Landaluze is
on one of the last downhills before the last climb.
hasn't been working in the bunch, moves up beside cap'n Valverde.
16:37 CEST 158km/20km to go
Landaluze goes under
20 km to go, and has a couple of km left before the climb starts.
The chase group has knocked half
a minute off Landaluze's lead, and passes under 20 km to go just 56 seconds
16:39 CEST 159km/19km to go
And now the peloton
flies under the banner at 2'22 behind the leader. The fireworks are about to
16:41 CEST 160km/18km to go
Landaluze is in Bejar
now, and is suffering as the road goes uphill as the Covatilla starts.
16:43 CEST 161km/17km to go
moves up beside Valverde, who still has four teammates in front of him. Three
now, as one has dropped off. They still have their teammate Arroyo up front,
who was in that first chase group.
Landaluze puts his head down as the
lower part of the climb is relentless. It's not super steep, but there's no
let up. The chase group is just 30 seconds behind.
16:47 CEST 162km/16km to go
The peloton, meanwhile,
is just 1'45 behind the leader. Valverde gets out of the saddle and stretches
his legs. He hopes they'll be good today.
Today's final climb is
18.2 km long at 5.6%, with sections of up to 10.5%.
16:48 CEST 163km/15km to go
Landaluze goes under
15 km to go, reaching into his back pocket for a bit of food. He grabs a drink
as well. The climb only gets harder from here on. He has 28 seconds on the first
group, and 1'21 over the bunch.
The first part of the climb is more
of a power climb, but with about 8 km to go, it kicks up and gets a whole lot
Landaluze is looking back and is absorbed and dropped by
the seven chasers. The group is: Vladimir Gusev (best on GC at 48 seconds),
Benoît Joachim (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team), David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne),
Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), José Miguel
Elias, (Relax), Sergio Paulinho (Astana Team).
16:51 CEST 165km/13km to go
Landaluze is quickly
on his way back to the bunch. His pre-emptive strike did not work.
The bunch is only 49 seconds behind the leaders.
The bunch is about 40 riders strong
now, and is less strung out than it has been. The road is plenty wide enough,
and although it's uphill, it's not steep. Menchov sits in the middle of the
bunch next to Ardila.
16:54 CEST 166km/12km to go
Benoît Joachim, salt
caked on his shorts, has been working a lot for Gusev in the break, which is
going to have trouble staying away from the main bunch. Landaluze is now at
the back of the peloton, getting ready to peel off.
16:55 CEST 167km/11km to go
Alberto Benitez (Saunier
Duval) attacks the bunch on a flatter section, and gets a gap immediately. He
has a 50 second gap to close on his own. The tempo increases behind...
16:57 CEST 168km/10km to go
and the peloton passes him when the climb steepens again. One of the Astana
riders punctures - Vino?
In front, Gusev attacks, but that only succeeds
in getting rid of Joachim. Rasmussen has disappeared too.
Paulinho spots the team bus parked
on the side of the road and asks for some food. But there's no-one there to
give him one.
Gusev attacks again and again, but can't get rid of
anyone. Then Paulinho reacts and Arroyo goes with him. Elias tries to close
the gap with the other two, but he's goooone.
Paulinho has a decent
gap on Arroyo.
Joachim is caught by the bunch.
17:00 CEST 169km/9km to go
Paulinho looks solid
as he rides at a good tempo. The bunch is not going super hard yet, but it's
still Caisse d'Epargne in front. Boogerd is well placed near Valverde.
Paulinho goes under 9 km to go, and
is about to hit the hard part of La Covatilla. Arroyo follows him at a handful
of seconds, then Gusev, Caucchioli and Elias.
De La Fuente is the
next Saunier rider to attack the peloton. He is in the white combination jersey,
and has a similar jersey to Valverde from a distance. He goes under 9 km at
1'07, then the peloton at 1'18.
17:04 CEST 170km/8km to go
Paulinho is now at
8 km to go as Valverde puts in a little acceleration. CSC is on the front with
Cuesta and Sastre. Then Brajkovic (Discovery), so Danielson is not far behind.
Arroyo catches Paulinho.
17:05 CEST 171km/7km to go
Zubeldia is dropped
by the bunch as everyone bar Arroyo and Paulinho are caught.
The two leaders are on the steep
10 percent part of the climb at 7 km to go, still riding well. Cuesta is really
damaging the bunch. He has Sastre and Valverde on his wheel, then Di Luca who
is riding well, and Kashechkin.
Menchov is being dropped too. Not
good for Rabobank's chances!
17:07 CEST 172km/6km to go
Paulinho and Arroyo
continue to work as Jose Angel Gomez Marchante attacks on a very steep corner.
He gets a small gap, but it could be very costly.
The main bunch is now less than 15
riders strong. Beltrán is there at the back, as is Vinokourov, Danielson and
CSC's Cuesta is still doing the damage,
setting it up for Sastre. But can the CSC captain pull off yet another big ride
in a grand tour?
Di Luca and Kashechkin are well placed, and Piepoli
is there too.
17:11 CEST 172.5km/5.5km to go
is still between the two leaders and the bunch, which is 35 seconds behind the
front. The climb steepens again, and Cuesta checks back to see how Sastre is
Vinokourov is dropped now.
17:13 CEST 173km/5km to go
Cuesta pulls off with
just over 5 km to go. It's up to the favourites to go now. Valverde attacks,
with Sanchez and Brajkovic on his wheel. Di Luca and Sastre are next, then Danielson.
Mayo is dropped.
17:15 CEST 173.5km/4.5km to go
has caught the two leaders, who are just 20 seconds ahead of Valverde's group,
where the attacks continue. Di Luca looks good, while Sastre is hanging tough.
Di Luca forces the pace with Valverde on his wheel, and Sastre goes back. Brajkovic
looks back for Danielson, who is still there. And Kashechkin is also up there.
17:17 CEST 174km/4km to go
Paulinho is caught
and passed by the Valverde group, which almost has eight riders: Valverde, Sastre,
Brajkovic, Danielson, Piepoli, Kashechkin, Di Luca. S. Sanchez is yo-yoing off
Gomez Marchante is alone with 4 km to go, having dropped
The chase group loses Paulinho and
Sanchez again, as it catches Arroyo. Gomez Marchante has just 21 seconds, but
he's holding it. Now Arroyo does a turn for Valverde.
17:21 CEST 175km/3km to go
Valverde grits his
teeth - 3 km to go and Gomez Marchante is still 21 seconds up the road. Di Luca
attacks, Sastre gets his wheel but blows. Now Brajkovic gets up to Di Luca.
Great ride by the Slovenian.
Kashechkin, Sastre and Valverde recover
from their efforts, 10 seconds behind.
17:23 CEST 175.5km/2.5km to go
want to work with Di Luca, as he has Danielson behind. So Di Luca tries to drop
the Discovery rider, but fails. Brajkovic looks really good. Behind them, Sastre,
Valverde and Kashechkin are working together.
Gomez Marchante is
caught by the two chasers.
17:23 CEST 176km/2km to go
But Gomez Marchante
attacks again! Di Luca doesn't react, and the Saunier rider has a nice gap again.
Valverde does another turn in the
chase, as Sastre clings to his wheel. Kashechkin looks tired, but he's holding
Gomez Marchante knows he's near the top. Just a bit more, then
it's downhill. But Di Luca drags Brajkovic come back. Three again. Di Luca piles
on the pressure.
17:26 CEST 177km/1km to go
Kashechkin tries to
get up to the three leaders, who are at 1 km to go. Gomez Marchante is just
off the back of Di Luca and Brajkovic. The Disco rider hasn't worked yet.
Kashechkin isn't far back, but neither are Valverde and Sastre.
Di Luca can sprint, and has to use
it as Brajkovic attacks and almost hits a moto. He can't drop Di Luca.
Kash passes and drops Gomez Marchante.
Brajkovic still doesn't want to work.
And that means Kashechkin has caught them. Oops.
17:29 CEST 178km/0km to go
But Di Luca accelerates
and powers away form the other to to win the stage on La Covatilla! Brajkovic
second, then Kashechkin at 5 seconds, then Gomez Marchante at 14, then Sastre
and Valverde at 21.
Di Luca will also take the gold jersey
after that great win.
Menchov has lost over 3 minutes. His chances
of defending his Vuelta title are very slim.
This is turning out to be a Vuelta
of surprises too! Di Luca has finally found his legs, while Brajkovic has put
himself up into contention too. He can ride against the clock - he was U23 world
champ a couple of years ago - and will be a useful alternate captain if Danielson
has a hard time of it.
Don't discount Sastre, Kashechkin and Valverde
either. They are definitely still in the race. On the other hand, Menchov, Pereiro
and Vinokourov have lost a bit too much time to be considered for the final
GC. But, as the Tour de France showed us, ya never know...
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 5.02.25
2 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
3 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team 0.07
4 José Ange Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.15
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 0.22
6 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears
7 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 0.36
8 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.39
9 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
10 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) T-Mobile Team 0.42
General classification after stage 5
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 18.37.56
2 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.04
3 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team 0.18
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 0.29
5 José Ange Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.35
6 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 0.36
7 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.55
8 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.58
9 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) T-Mobile Team 1.00
10 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.04
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