61st Vuelta a España - GT
Spain, August 26-September 17, 2006
Results & report
Stage 7 - September 1: León - Alto de El Morredero (Ponferrada), 154 km
Live Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Shane Stokes
Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:30 CEST
A flattish stage with an uphill finish.
There is only one climb at the end of the race: Alto de El Morredero (Cat. 1
– 1,750 m. above sea level) and there are two intermediate sprints: Toreno (660
m. – km 101) and Ponferrada (530 m. – km 124.7). It should be a day for a climber
Welcome to today's second mountain
stage of the Vuelta, between León and Alto de El Morredero. We already have
some idea of the general classification after Wednesday, and after today we'll
have an even better one. Danilo Di Luca is in the leader's jersey, but has stated
that he is not that interested in keeping it. So who will assume the responsibility?
The weather today seems to be relatively kind: it's 27 degrees and pretty sunny,
with slight wisps of cloud trailing across the clear blue skies.
14:38 CEST 60km/94km to go
Today's stage started
at 13:15 with all 182 riders signing on. After 2 km, the first attack went with
Raúl García De Mateo (Relax-Gam), Steve Morabito (Phonak Hearing Systems), Alberto
Benítez (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Walter Beneteau (Bouygues Telecom). They
could not get clear and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Daniele Nardello
(T-Mobile Team), José Antonio Redondo (Astana Team) and Jorge García (Relax-Gam)
tried their hands, lasting until km 12 before they were caught.
24 km of fast racing, a group of three managed to get clear: Laszlo Bodrogi
(Credit Agricole - best on GC at 28'15), David Loosli (Lampre-Fondital) and
Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone). They were able to stay
away, and have made the most of it, now sitting 9'04 ahead of the peloton.
14:49 CEST 70km/84km to go
The lead of the front
trio goes up to 11'28 as they go over the Puerto del Manzanal, an uncategorised
1240m climb. 46.8 km were covered in the first hour, so they're movin'!
15:03 CEST 79km/75km to go
The three leaders
are enjoying a 20 km long descent towards the feed zone of today's stage, still
holding an 11 minute plus advantage. If the peloton wants to catch them, it
had better get a wriggle on.
15:10 CEST 85km/69km to go
The peloton has started
to chase the three up front, reducing the gap to 10'39 as the trio rides towards
the feed zone.
Carlos Sastre (CSC) is one of the
top GC men for this year's Vuelta. We spoke to his team director Kim Andersen
this morning, and he told us that Sastre's objective today will be to follow,
rather than attack.
15:42 CEST 100km/54km to go
The lead has gone
back up again to 12'09, with Bodrogi, Loosli and Scheirlinckx doing a great
job to stay out in front with just 54 km to go. Admittedly there's a bit of
climbing to do, but one of these guys could well win the stage now.
After two hours, the average speed is still a fast 44.8 km/h.
15:51 CEST 114km/40km to go
The peloton is now
definitely chasing, and is in a long line, 11'00 behind the three leaders.
15:52 CEST 115km/39km to go
Quite a few people
are out in Moreno to watch the peloton flash by in about 20 seconds. They're
doing well over 60 km/h and are now on the descent out of town. Saunier Duval,
Liquigas, Euskaltel and Caisse d'Epargne are working.
and Scheirlinckx took the three placings in the intermediate sprint in Moreno.
15:55 CEST 118km/36km to go
Race leader Di Luca
sits behind his Liquigas train near the front of the bunch. The speed is very
high in the bunch, and the gap comes down to 9'30.
We spoke to David Millar (Saunier
Duval) about his good form on Wednesday's mountain stage, where he finished
25th. "I might give it another go today but them am likely to back off," he
said. "Finishing in the top 20 or whatever doesn't interest me - I am more interested
in going for stage wins and preparing for my big objective, the world time trial
"In the second half of the race I am likely to have
a day on, day off - be in the autobus sometimes but then go for a stage on others.
That's better than finishing the race tired...I want to be fresh at the end
for the World's."
16:01 CEST 119km/35km to go
The speed hits 75
km/h in the bunch, which is on one of the main highways in pursuit of the break,
which is now 8'37 ahead.
16:04 CEST 120km/34km to go
The three leaders
look fairly comfy as they work together, probably well aware of the speed of
the bunch behind them. They should reach the foot of the climb with a bit of
a gap, but then it will be tough.
The gap falls to 7'48 as the high
speed chase continues. Euskaltel, Caisse d'Epargne, Saunier Duval and Liquigas
are doing most of the damage.
The next sprint is coming up for
the three leaders, in 4 km time. Bodrogi, Loosli and Scheirlinckx present no
threat to Thor Hushovd for the points jersey, so there will be no real changes
to that today.
16:10 CEST 126km/28km to go
The bunch continues
to sit on 60-65 km/h in pursuit of the leaders, who are now in Ponferrada. The
advantage drops to seven minutes, and continues to fall.
16:15 CEST 128km/26km to go
Bodrogi, the Hungarian
champion, does another powerful turn as the break rides through town. Scheirlinckx
is having problems following already. He takes second in the sprint behind Bodrogi,
and Loosli is third.
Scheirlinckx is on the comeback trail after
crashing badly in the 14th stage of the Giro d'Italia. The Belgian came off
and broke his collarbone, a bone in his hand, and two fingers.
16:17 CEST 130km/24km to go
Bodrogi takes another
left hander and Scheirlinckx is again gapped. The leaders are heading out of
town, just as the bunch rides into it some six and a half minutes behind.
16:19 CEST 132km/22km to go
The leaders head
out on a small road in the direction of the Alto del Morredero, an 18.9 km climb
averaging 6.1%, with some fairly steep sections. It's like a stair-step climb
with three hard bits.
Bäckstedt does a big turn on the front of the
bunch. Maybe Di Luca is looking at another win today?
16:22 CEST 134km/20km to go
The bunch flies past
the massive castle on the outskirts of Ponferrada, six minutes behind the break.
Denis Menchov is near the back, and probably isn't thinking of the win today.
16:25 CEST 135.5km/18.5km to go
The leaders can
see the climb looming in front of them as they ride up a deserted back road,
with some yellow signs indicating that the Alto del Morredero has started. They
turn left, and the road steepens and narrows. It's poor quality too.
Loosli gets a gap straight away, then Scheirlinckx and Bodrogi try to follow,
but it doesn't look good. This bit is 10%.
Now Astana is on the front, stringing
out the peloton, which is splitting under pressure. The climb hasn't started
for the bunch yet.
16:30 CEST 137km/17km to go
Now the bunch takes
the left hander and hits the foot of the climb, with Astana to the fore. Vino
is in second wheel, protecting Kashechkin. The gap is around 4'30.
The back of the bunch is very damaged.
Up front, Scheirlinckx has slowed
and is signaling for water. Ahead of him is Bodrogi, then Loosli.
After you've done a 130 km breakaway,
your legs tend not to cooperate when you're 80kg and the road is going uphill
at 10%. Bodrogi is realising this now.
16:32 CEST 138km/16km to go
Arroyo hits the gas on a 15% section with Valverde well placed in second wheel.
The bunch is still fairly big, but it won't stay this size for long.
16:35 CEST 139km/15km to go
David de la Fuente
crashes in the rear part of the bunch. Not sure what caused that. Maybe he ran
over a bidon. He's on his way again, riding with the dropped riders like O'Grady
Menchov is also not bothering to
hang onto the lead group, which is now 30 riders strong. Valverde is towards
the back, it looks like. The three Discoverys: Danielson, Brajkovic and Beltrán,
are well placed.
Up front, Loosli has 50 seconds on
Bodrogi, 2'15 on Scheirlinckx, and 4'08 on the bunch. He's doing well!
Luis Perez (Cofidis) attacks the
peloton, and all hell breaks loose. Valverde is not on a good day today.
16:40 CEST 140.5km/13.5km to go
comfy as he reaches a flatter part of the climb. Behind, Boogerd, Morabito,
Devolder, Brajkovic, Danielson, Valverde, Sastre are in a largish group going
under 15 km to go.
16:41 CEST 141km/13km to go
4th rider on the
road is still Luis Perez (Cofidis), who is being chased by Beltrán, Perez, J.
Rodriguez, Vinokourov, Kohl, and Szmyd. They are working well on a flat section.
They look back to see Karpets leading the Valverde/Sastre 'peloton'.
Perez is being slowly caught by the
Race leader Di Luca is in the Valverde peloton, which
is a good 30 riders strong, towed by Caisse d'Epargne.
16:46 CEST 142km/12km to go
The chase group behind
fourth on the road Luis Perez: Beltrán, Devolder (Discovery), Hesjedal (Phonak),
J. Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vinokourov and Paulinho (Astana), Kohl (T-Mobile),
Szmyd (Lampre). They have now caught Perez.
Still, David Loosli
is leading the race on this final climb, and is making good ground as he maintains
a 3'30 gap on that group. Di Luca/Valverde/Sastre are another 26 seconds back.
16:48 CEST 144km/10km to go
Loosli rides through
San Cristobal De Valdueza, on a very narrow rough road through town. Vinokourov
lifts the pace in the chase group behind, which should catch Scheirlinckx and
The chasers reach a downhill part
of the climb (this is why it only averages 6.1%). Meanwhile, Loosli is on a
10% uphill bit, and really feeling it as he pedals squares.
Vino chase group is at 3'00, and the Di Luca peloton at 3'19.
16:51 CEST 145km/9km to go
Scheirlinckx is caught
through the town with his teammate Luis Perez riding on the front. Scheirlinckx
gives him a bidon, then drops off. 2'50 to the leader, with Bodrogi still to
be caught too.
The road steepens and Di Luca, Danielson
and Brajkovic are immediately in trouble. Loosli goes under 9 km to go with
less than three minutes. He looks cooked.
Di Luca is fighting hard,
but it's more about survival now as he is dropped a bit.
The chasing group loses riders as
the Valverde group - now just 10 riders strong - gobbles them up. Under 9 km
to go, and the gap is 1'59 to the leader. Perez, Beltrán and Vinokourov are
the only ones left chasing. Now Valverde is coming up with Kashechkin on his
wheel, just. Where is Sastre? Not there.
16:56 CEST 146km/8km to go
Loosli goes under
8 km to go and there have been some serious changes behind him. Bodrogi has
been caught and spat, and now we have a group chasing with: Valverde (Caisse
d'Epargne), Luis Perez (Cofidis), Beltrán (Discovery), Vinokourov (Astana),
Kashechkin (Astana), Sastre (CSC), Mayo (Euskaltel), Gomez Marchante (Saunier
Duval), Szmyd (Lampre).
Perez sets tempo with Mayo on his
wheel, then Valverde, who will test his legs again soon, surely.
The Valverde group is joined by Joaquin
Rodriguez, and he now gets to the front of the group, which is 1'27 behind the
17:00 CEST 147km/7km to go
Beltrán is the best
Discovery rider today, as he sits in fifth wheel. Danielson and Brajkovic are
trying to get back on.
Di Luca is losing group, riding with Paulinho
and a few others. He's already 1'04 down on Valverde.
Devolder has rejoined the chase group,
and is now riding at the front with Rodriguez. He looks back to see where his
teammates are. Brajkovic is there, Beltrán is there, Danielson is not there.
The chase group now looks like this:
Valverde, Karpets, Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Luis Perez (Cofidis), Beltrán,
Devolder, Brajkovic (Discovery), Vinokourov (Astana), Kashechkin (Astana), Sastre
(CSC), Mayo (Euskaltel), Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval), Kohl (T-Mobile) Szmyd,
Petrov, Marzoli (Lampre).
Boogerd, Hesjedal and Jufre are trying
to get back to it, as Karpets sets tempo. This is a moderately steep part of
the climb. They should get a flat bit soon.
17:04 CEST 148.5km/5.5km to go
Loosli is still
in with a shout of a stage win, as he reaches a flat/downhill section with 59
seconds on the chasers. This will be a close finish.
17:05 CEST 149km/5km to go
Valverde's two teammates
lead the ProTour leader less than a minute behind Loosli, who hammers along
under 5 km to go.
17:06 CEST 150km/4km to go
Loosli even has to
stop pedaling as this part descends around a few gentle corners. He'll like
Di Luca is only 51 seconds behind Valverde's group.
17:07 CEST 150.5km/3.5km to go
to tow the chase group, and they go under 4 km to go 53 seconds behind the leader.
It's still downhill.
17:08 CEST 151km/3km to go
Di Luca and Paulinho
are working together in their little chase group, but they're having problems
closing the gap.
The road goes up again and Karpets gives it all
he has left. So does Loosli, who can sense a possible victory with 3 km to go.
Mayo attacks the chase group, and
Valverde and Rodriguez react immediately. This is going to hurt a lot.
17:10 CEST 152km/2km to go
But the attack doesn't
break the group. Rodriguez gets to the front and sets a steadier tempo. Now
Mayo goes again, with Valverde, Brajkovic, Vino, Devolder, Perez, Beltrán all
able to react. Kashechkin is in trouble.
Valverde attacks with Brajkovic,
then Beltrán counters, but Valverde takes his wheel.
Loosli will be caught soon as Valverde
winds it up again.
17:11 CEST 152km/2km to go
Brajkovic is the first
rider to get up to Loosli, followed by Vinokourov, who counter attacks hard....
Vino and Brajkovic lead the stage
now, with Loosli trying to hold them, but he can't. The Valverde group is 10
17:13 CEST 153km/1km to go
Brajkovic is working
with Vino, as the gap is still small. Rodriguez is trying to tow Valverde and
the rest up.
Valverde and Perez are on the front
of their group, trying to close the last little gap. Marchante jumps across
to the two leaders. Valverde, Beltrán, Sastre, Kashechkin can all follow.
17:14 CEST 153km/1km to go
Vino goes under the
1km to go banner!!
Marchante leads the chase, but no-one
will work with him. Vino puts his head down and hammers.
The chasers: Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne),
Luis Perez (Cofidis), Beltrán, (Discovery), Devolder, Brajkovic (Discovery),
Kashechkin (Astana), Sastre (CSC), Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval), Mayo (Euskaltel).
Vinokourov has seven seconds. He can see a win...
17:16 CEST 153.5km/0.5km to go
Valverde is doing
all the work behind with Brajkovic on his wheel. Vino has 10 seconds, as it
17:17 CEST 154km/0km to go
Vino fights for it
in the final 200m and almost wins the stage, but Valverde sprints up behind
him, passes him with 100m to go and wins it!!! Huge gap, then Sastre second,
then Marchante. Vino was sixth. Great finish!
Di Luca finishes at 1'57 and that
means Brajkovic will be the new leader! Wow, amazing work for the young Slovenian!
We've covered a third of the Vuelta
and two mountain stages, and we can see that Discovery has got a very strong
team here. Even without Danielson today, they had three men up in the lead group.
Brajkovic can time trial too, but he may be a little young for a three week
stage race. We shall see...
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 4.01.05
2 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 0.04
3 José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.06
4 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.07
5 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
6 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Team 0.12
7 Luis Pérez (Spa) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone 0.16
8 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team
9 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.23
10 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 0.29
11 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
General classification after stage 7
1 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 26.48.27
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 0.05
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 0.10
4 José Ange Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.22
5 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team 0.23
6 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.51
7 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 1.17
8 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 2.27
9 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Team 2.28
10 Luis Pérez (Spa) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone 3.40
11 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 4.31
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