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62nd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 1-23, 2007

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Stage 4 - September 4: Langreo - Lagos de Covadonga, 185.1km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Gregor Brown

Live coverage starts: 15:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:20 CEST

15:01 CEST   
Hola! Welcome to Cyclingnews' Live coverage of the 62nd Vuelta a España. The race does what the Tour de France refuses -- offer fans a mountainous romp in the first week of the race. The Lagos de Covadonga has been used 15 times in the history of the Vuelta and its appearance today will likely see the Maillot Oro changes hands with a battle up its 12.6-kilometres road. The riders will face an average gradient of 7.3% with a section of over 13% for half a kilometre.

Marino Lejarreta first won here in 1983 and he was followed over the years by a list of greats; Dietzen, Delgado (2 times), Robert Millar, Lucho Herrera (2 times), Pino, Oliveiro Rincón, Jalabert (2 times), Tonkov, Zintchenko and Eladio Jiménez have all topped this peak in Asturia first.

Asturian rider, Samuel Sánchez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, commented on the stage. "I tried to find a good competitive level facing the Vuelta, where it will be advisable to begin as strong as possible because we will have to confront the first high mountains in the fourth stage, which will finished on the top of the Lagos de Covadonga," he noted to Cyclingnews.

"It is a very demanding climb that favours the specialists. They must take advantage, thinking [that later there will be] the long time trial between Cariñena and Zaragoza."

15:04 CEST    105km/80.1km to go
There is a large escape group currently away with danger-man Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel). Pereiro's Caisse d'Epargne and Rabobank are doing the work now to keep the gap under control. It is currently at 5'37".

15:11 CEST   
The break numbers 30 riders! In the group are two Americans, Horner and Vande Velde (with space in the last name - ed.). 'Litu' is a nice guy, he is riding along with Saunier teammate Lobato. There is also Italian Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), or the Il Delfino di Bibione (The Dauphin of Bibione).

The full 30 riders that make up this escape are Rene Mandri (Ag2r Prévoyance), Stéphane Goubert (Ag2r Prévoyance), Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r Prévoyance), José Ruiz (Andalucia-Cayasur), José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), Joan Horrach (Caisse d'Epargne), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Bingen Fernández (Cofidis), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Dionisio Galparsoro (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Aitor Hernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Alan Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Mickaël Delage (Française Des Jeux), David Garcia (Karpin-Galicia), Ezequiel Mosquera (Karpin-Galicia), David Loosli (Lampre-Fondital), Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas), Mario Aerts (Predictor-Lotto), Chris Horner (Predictor-Lotto), Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick.Step - Innergetic), Francisco José Terciado (Relax-GAM), Rubén Lobato (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Ángel Gómez Gómez (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Alexandr Kolobnev (Team CSC), Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC), Christian Vande Velde (Team CSC), Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile).

Samuel Sánchez
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:20 CEST   
The riders are going through the feed-zone now. We have our lunch in our car, the Seat Ibiza 1.2.

The escape took shape when at kilometre 12, with the start of the first climb of the day, the Alto de la Faya. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) did an amazing thing at the top of the climb. He gunned down the decent with team-mate Iñigo Landaluze on his wheel, trying to enable Landaluze to join the break. As it was Landaluze was stuck in no-man's land for some time, but it was still nice to see such an effort by Sánchez, one of the GC favourites.

15:26 CEST   
Over the category two Alto de la Faya de los Lobos, kilometre 17, the order was
Jurgen Van Goolen (Discovery Channel), Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Joan Horrach (Caisse d'Epargne), Mauricio Ardila Cano (Rabobank) and Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r Prévoyance).

The sprint at kilometre 62 was taken by Mickaël Delage (Française Des Jeux), followed by David Garcia (Karpin-Galicia) and Jurgen Van Goolen (Discovery Channel). The peloton trailed by six minutes at that point.

15:30 CEST    117km/68.1km to go
The gap, which was up to 6'26" at one point, is now under five minutes. The teams' work behind is keeping the group in check, and ready for a show down on the Lagos de Covadonga. The gap is close to 4'42".

The race is heading towards the second of three climbs for the day, the Alto de la Llama. The category three climb comes at kilometre 131. We could see some of the escapees shoot out on their own to distance themselves from the weaker members of the large group.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

15:34 CEST    124km/61.1km to go
Caisse is really motoring along here. Three-time World Champion Oscar 'The Cat' Freire is tucked into this group but don't expect him to keep the golden top that he is wearing. By the end of the stage the slim advantage that he holds will be smashed by the mountain men.

When Freire took the leader's top at the end of stage two it was the first time that the accomplished rider ever wore a leader's jersey in a Grand Tour.

The climb has begun!

15:41 CEST   
Expect to see some of the GC-men's domestiques working hard on this climb to weaken their competitors before the race reaches the day's final climb. The gap is going to crumble quickly in the next 20 kilometres.

Caisse is making an all-out effort, likely for Pereiro's GC chances or for a stage win by one of its other men. For more on the team see today's news item, Caisse check at Caisse d'Epargne. Also read the recent interview with Pereiro, Getting better over time.

15:43 CEST    128km/57.1km to go
The work is paying off, the gap is now under four minutes, at 3'52". The pace after three hours of racing is 41.2km/h.

15:52 CEST   
Over the top, at 425 metres, the riders will drop down to 50 metres elevation at Arriondas. At this point, 30 kilometres to go, there will be 1060 metres of climbing before the riders reach the hors catégorie summit.

15:54 CEST    133km/52.1km to go
The gap at the top of the Alto de la Llama is 3'45". The front group was led by home rider Carlos Barredo (Quick.Step - Innergetic). Behind him were Jurgen Van Goolen (Discovery Channel), Rene Mandri (Ag2r Prévoyance) and Joan Horrach (Caisse d'Epargne).

15:57 CEST   
Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile) is riding in his last race. After the Vuelta a España the rider from Bergamo will hang up his racing bike and focus on life as a non-racer. Cyclingnews spoke with him last month, read Guerini to retire.

15:58 CEST   
This has been a dismal day for the German cycling teams, as Gerolsteiner learned it would lose its sponsor and T-Mobile fired Lorenzo Bernucci after he tested positive for an appetite-suppressant. The magenta boys don't have to worry about their sponsor, though. "We won't throw in the towel just because Bernucci used an appetite suppressant," sponsor spokesman Christian Frommert said. "That is not how we understand our responsibility." The German telecommunications company announced last month that it would continue its sponsorship through 2010, but had the right to cancel it if further doping problems appeared on the team.

16:05 CEST   
The riders are really strung out. There is a Saunier rider on the front hammering out the tempo for the chase group. Now CSC takes over.

16:08 CEST    146km/39.1km to go
Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is back at the team car. He is having a chat, probably talking about team strategies.

There are really some interesting riders in this escape. Horner would like to go for a stage win but he will be thinking about setting up the team's leader, Cadel Evans. The Aussie finished second in the Tour de France and continues to show good form.

16:12 CEST    152km/33.1km to go
José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) has dropped back from this lead group to join the main pack. His team-mate, Joan Horrach, is still in the move that now numbers 29.

The gap is now at 3'25" to the main gruppo. José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is looking smooth in the main pack. He will be one of the GC men gunning for the stage win and time on his rivals.

16:14 CEST   
A reminder on the 29. They are Rene Mandri (Ag2r Prévoyance), Stéphane Goubert (Ag2r Prévoyance), Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r Prévoyance), José Ruiz (Andalucia-Cayasur), Joan Horrach (Caisse d'Epargne), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Bingen Fernández (Cofidis), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Dionisio Galparsoro (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Aitor Hernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Alan Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Mickaël Delage (Française Des Jeux), David Garcia (Karpin-Galicia), Ezequiel Mosquera (Karpin-Galicia), David Loosli (Lampre-Fondital), Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas), Mario Aerts (Predictor-Lotto), Chris Horner (Predictor-Lotto), Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick.Step - Innergetic), Francisco José Terciado (Relax-GAM), Rubén Lobato (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Ángel Gómez Gómez (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Alexandr Kolobnev (Team CSC), Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC), Christian Vande Velde (Team CSC) and Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile).

16:18 CEST    157km/28.1km to go
Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is in the back of the pack here. He looks better after yesterday, when he took a NASTY spill. We have to dodge a lot of these traffic islands in Spain with our Seat and so do the riders. Zubeldia was not so lucky yesterday.

Up front, in the escape, Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick.Step - Innergetic) pulls off after a hard pull. The riders are single-file and jamming it along as the sun beats down on their right. They will have to hold the gap at two or so minutes to make this day profitable. The gap is currently right under three minutes.

16:19 CEST   
CSC and Rabobank are putting their weight into this chase. They are 2'51" back of the 29 leaders.

16:22 CEST    160km/25.1km to go
Il Grillo Livornese is back at the team car picking up water bottles. He has about five or seven jammed into his World Champion's jersey. Today he is working for his team-mates. It is great to see the change of roles. Bettini, who got his start in the services of Michele Bartoli, knows what it means to be a team helper.

Mickaël Delage (Française Des Jeux) takes his second sprint of the day. He was followed through by Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas).

16:24 CEST    161km/24.1km to go
Jason McCartney (Discovery Channel) and some others have been involved in a nasty spill. Pietro Caucchioli (Crédit Agricole) is there. José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is in the crash too. So is the Estonian champ, Erki Pütsep (Bouygues Telecom).

16:27 CEST   
The riders are checking their bikes and getting going. They will have a heck of a time to get back on to the gruppo now that the race is going at top speed. It is a shame to see such a crash decide the fate for the riders. Really, it will be impossible for them to re-join the main peloton. Marchante and Caucchioli really wanted to ride a high GC in the Vuelta.

16:30 CEST   
Chavanel pulls off to the left after a hard pull on the front of the 29-man escape. The rider, in all red, drifts back and releases control to Quick.Step.

16:32 CEST   
David Garcia (Karpin-Galicia) cannot stand the pace of the group, which is going at 43km/h. The Spaniard drops back and leaves the escapees to number 28.

The weather is warm but the sun is hiding behind some clouds.

16:32 CEST   
CSC has about five men here on the front of the chase. The are going full-gas for Sastre.

16:36 CEST    173km/12.1km to go
Arkaitz Durán (Saunier Duval-Prodir) was in that crash and not José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir). It is good news for the Spanish team that its GC man was not in the crash. Italian Pietro Caucchioli (Crédit Agricole) really looked the worse off.

The climb of Lagos de Covadonga has started!

16:37 CEST   
The escape is falling apart fast. Chavanel busts a move off the front end of affairs. He is joined by two others.

16:38 CEST   
Cunego is in the back of this bunch. The 2004 Giro d'Italia winner is not having a great day. He was involved in the crash that ended the Vuelta for Tom Danielson on the first day.

CSC still has two men on the front.

16:41 CEST   
Bettini is riding an 'easy' tempo at the back.

The escapees are being picked up by the main pack. Garate and a Cofidis rider are caught.

16:43 CEST   
Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) is on his own. We are trying to figure out the current situation as it is very confusing at this point in the race.

Efimkin keeps checking over his shoulder.

16:47 CEST    177.1km/8km to go
Sastre and Evans seem to still be in the main pack. CSC keeps driving the pace and it would not do so if Sastre was not there.

The climb has taken its toll.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is there, so is Marchante. Pereiro is there too. Sastre IS on his wheel. So is Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas).

16:47 CEST   
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is further back behind the pace-making of Team CSC. Much further back is Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir).

16:48 CEST    178.1km/7km to go
Sastre attacks! Pereiro follows.

16:49 CEST   
This move ditched many of the riders. We now have a group of around 10. Sastre leads, then Pereiro, Menchov. They catch a Saunier rider from earlier. Guerini is also caught.

16:50 CEST   
Efimkin is still riding alone.

Pereiro has been dropped by Sastre and Menchov.

16:52 CEST   
Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) his a section of 15%! He is cruising along smoothly.

CSC keeps it cool and steady for Sastre, who is now back with his team-mates. The move was important in that it showed Menchov and Sastre to be two of the strongest in the early part of this race.

16:53 CEST    179.1km/6km to go
The gap is right under two minutes to our lone leader. 1'52"

Americans Horner and Vande Velde are being picked up. Horner may grab on because Evans is not here with the favourites.

16:55 CEST   
Evans has dug his way back! The Aussie is showing true grit. Horner will guide him along.

16:56 CEST   
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) powers off the front! Sastre responds!

16:57 CEST   
Evans and José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) are chasing. Evans is the last to join the Russian.

16:57 CEST   
Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) leads by 1'44".

17:00 CEST    180.1km/5km to go
José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is with Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) and Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) further back the move of Menchov.

Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) powers through the clouds at the top of this mountain. He looks like a stage winner.

17:02 CEST    181.1km/4km to go
Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC) is pulling for Sastre. Menchov is hanging on to the CSC duo with four kilometres to go. There is another Saunier rider there too. It is Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir).

The three are followed by Pereiro, Beltrán, Pellizotti, Marchante.

17:05 CEST    183.1km/2km to go
The gap to the lone Russian is two minutes at two kilometres remaining.

17:05 CEST   
Pereiro is suffering.

17:06 CEST   
Menchov throws down the hammer again!

17:06 CEST   
Evans is out the back but Sastre gives chase with Leonardo Piepoli.

17:07 CEST   
Sastre and Piepoli re-join the Russian of Rabobank. Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC) is gone with the wind.

17:08 CEST   
It is very cloudy at the top of this climb. Visibility is very low. We are having to wipe the windows clean on our Seat 1.2. Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is lacking the punch he showed in the Giro d'Italia.

17:09 CEST   
Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) takes the win! Epic!

17:09 CEST   
After 4:39' of racing the race for second is approaching.

17:10 CEST   
Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) is driving the pace after catching up with the group.

17:10 CEST   
But it is Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and then Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel).

Evans crosses the line with cramps

17:15 CEST   
The young, 26, Russian takes his first win in a Grand Tour, and he will also don the leader's Maillot Oro.

Behind there was battle for second that was taken by Piepoli after a hard charge by Belgian Devolder.

17:16 CEST   
The riders are wrapping up for a descent back down to the team buses. It is very cold at the top of this climb.

17:22 CEST   
What a stage! Thanks for joining Cyclingnews today on this epic run to Lagos de Covadonga. Please re-join us tomorrow for stage 5 and check back later for a full stage report. Thanks!

Provisional results

1 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne
2 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir
3 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
5 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis
6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis
9 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Karpin-Galicia
10 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Liquigas
11 Chris Anker Sørensen (Den) Team CSC
12 Stéphane Goubert (Fra) Ag2r Prévoyance
13 Manuel Beltrán (Spa) Liquigas
14 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
15 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas

General classification after stage 4

1 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne

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