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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

61st Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 26-September 17, 2006

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Stage 8 - September 2: Ponferrada-Lugo, 181.6 km

Live report

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Shane Stokes

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:30 CEST

20:45 CEST   
There is just one climb in tomorrow's stage, a category 3 mountain at km 88 (460 m. above sea level - Alto de Ares). There are two intermediate sprints before the climb: O Barco de Valdeorras (km 43) and Quiroga (km 80), so the sprinters' teams once again have a chance before a very mountainous stage come Sunday.

13:54 CEST    161.6km/20km to go
Welcome to today's live coverage of the eighth stage, which is between Ponferrada and Lugo. The stage started early - at 10:20 - to be exact, and at the moment we have a lone leader. Kevin Van Impe (Quick.Step) has two minutes on the bunch with 20 km to go. The sprinters teams Credit Agricole and Milram are leading the chase on this flat stage.

13:57 CEST    163.6km/18km to go
Van Impe attacked after 68 km after a very aggressive first hour and a half of racing. It was so fast that 53 km were covered in the first hour! And after two hours, the average speed was 48.2 km/h, and after three hours it was 45 km/h.

Van Impe is 18 km from the finish with 1'45 in hand. His maximum lead was 5'48 after 90 km.

13:58 CEST   
The day's only climb was the Cat. 3 Alto de Ares after 88 km. Van Impe took the maximum points there ahead of Pietro Caucchioli (CA), Jose Miguel Elias (Relax) and Raul Garcia de Mateo Rubio.

14:00 CEST    166.6km/15km to go
The two sprints today were at O Barco de Valdeorras (km 43), where Sebastien Minard (Cofidis) was first ahead of Olivier Kaisen (Davitamon) and Thor Hushovd (CA). At the second sprint in Quiroga (km 80), Van Impe was first ahead of Hushovd and Poitschke. So Hushovd is feeling frisky today, but it may cost him in the finale.

Credit Agricole and Milram have the peloton moving along at 72 km/h as they go under 15 km to go, 1'31 behind Van Impe.

14:03 CEST    168.6km/13km to go
The bunch now has a few Liquigas riders in front. Van Impe is still powering along in a big gear - looks like his 53x13, despite having a piece of grass stuck in the derailleur.

14:04 CEST    170.6km/11km to go
The bunch is timing this right again, and should catch Van Impe a few km from the finish. Laszlo Bodrogi is working in the CA train, probably hurting a bit after yesterday's breakaway. Michael Boogerd also moves to the front, another national champion.

14:06 CEST    171.6km/10km to go
Just 50 seconds left for Van Impe, who is inside 10 km to go. The peloton's charge is relentless. Valverde moves up, but probably just to stay out of trouble. Van Impe hits a small climb and this really hurts.

14:07 CEST   
Van Impe keeps it rolling as the peloton hits the small climb 45 seconds behind him. Rebellin and Bettini are close to the front of the bunch.

14:08 CEST   
It's a nice day today, and probably below 30 degrees out there. We are in Galicia, and it's greener, cooler and wetter (in the winter).

14:09 CEST    173.1km/8.5km to go
Van Impe sits up as the bunch comes past with less than 9 km to go. The Belgian's run has finished. He was out there for over 100 km.

Immediately, Olivier Kaisen (Davitamon) counter attacks.

14:11 CEST    173.6km/8km to go
Kaisen gets no more than a few metres as the bunch rides him down. They go under the finish line and have one 8 km lap to complete before the sprint. This is not going to be a fast sprint, as there's a long false flat leading up to it.

Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) attacks, with a Caisse d'Epargne rider on his wheel.

14:12 CEST   
The Caisse d'Epargne rider is Oscar Pereiro! He gets a massive cheer from his home down crowd as he does a turn. This will be a miracle if he pulls this stage win off...

14:13 CEST    174.6km/7km to go
He looks back, but only Haselbacher is there. They have 7 km to go.

14:13 CEST   
Bäckstedt is doing a gigantic turn on the front of the bunch, limiting the gap to seven seconds. He has a Milram rider on his wheel, but then there are Gerolsteiner jerseys, who won't chase of course.

14:14 CEST    175.6km/6km to go
The lead pair ride past the ancient city walls and they are really motoring. But looking back too much, and they are caught by Mr Bäckstedt and the peloton.

14:15 CEST   
Bäckstedt pulls off and Gerolsteiner takes over. The bunch is in a very long and stretched out line.

14:16 CEST    176.6km/5km to go
The road goes uphill and Haselbacher is dropped. The pace is incredible here.

14:16 CEST    177.6km/4km to go
The bunch snakes down alongside the river with Bäckstedt doing a 70 km/h turn with a Quick.Step rider on his wheel, then Gerolsteiner. Bäckstedt pulls off again.

14:17 CEST    178.6km/3km to go
That's the end of Bäckstedt. The peloton is splitting into several groups as Vigano does his turn.

14:17 CEST   
The speed is still at 65 km/h and it's not what you'd call downhill. Gerolsteiner on the front now.

14:18 CEST    179.6km/2km to go
2 clicks to go and the peloton flies along the main road beside the river. The front part is a line, and the sprinters are ready. Fred Rodriguez is up there, as is Valverde.

14:19 CEST    180.6km/1km to go
The peloton reaches the final kilometre, with a Credit Agricole on the front with a Milram and Saunier Duval on his wheel.

14:19 CEST   
The CA man does a huge turn, opening a gap, then the Milram attacks but blows up. Then a Liquigas goes - Paolini? Yep.

14:20 CEST   
Paolini gets a small gap as he fights on this final climb to the finish. Vinokourov counters....

14:21 CEST    181.6km/0km to go
Vinokourov blows past Paolini and hammers to the line. He wins the stage!!!!! Great attack. Made up for yesterday. Marzoli second ahead of Murn and Hushovd.

14:23 CEST   
That was a perfect Vinokourov move. He got the timing right and the sprinters were all tired from the uphill before the flat. He won with a healthy gap, and will help his GC chances with that. Marzoli (7th on GC) also picked up a few bonus seconds, but the overall top five won't change.

14:28 CEST   
So the sprinters didn't have it all their own way today, because of that tricky finish. You've got to hand it to Vino, who never gives up, and seizes any opportunity to win. He is one of the hungriest bike racers in the peloton when he's motivated. And he will be hungrier after missing the Tour.

That's all from today's early stage. Tomorrow we'll be back at the normal time of 14:30.


1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Team                       4.02.11
2 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                           0.01
3 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems                              
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole                                  
5 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic                           
6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram                                        
7 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                              
8 Thomas Ziegler (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                  
9 Andrea Moletta (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                   
10 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                 
General classification after stage 8
1 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    30.50.39
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears         0.05
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                    0.10
4 José Angel 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                           1.05
8 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) T-Mobile Team                               1.37
9 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas                                   1.47
10 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Team                         2.07

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