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62nd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 1-23, 2007

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Stage 13 - September 14: Hellin - Torre-Pacheco, 176.4km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

Live coverage starts: 15:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:30 CEST

Welcome back to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the Vuelta a España. Today the sprinters will try again to bring it all together in the end, for a mad dash to the line in Torre-Pacheco, where the riders will arrive after 176.4 kilometres. They started earlier today in Hellin. We hope there won't be any crashes. One of the victims of a fall in Zaragoza, Tom Boonen, may do his last stage today before heading home to get some X-rays taken. He is questionable for the Worlds, too.

15:03 CEST   
We're looking at another one of those "early escape group who gets a big lead but is gobbled up by the peloton five km before the mass sprint finish" stages today -- the suspense is killing us as to what will happen today. Anyone want to bet on Alessandro Petacchi making it three in a row? Anybody want to throw their money away betting against him?

There are a few minor ups and downs in the stage, with even one Cat. 3 climb not quite halfway through, before it turns into a flat-as-a-pancake run in to the finale.

15:05 CEST    75km/101.4km to go
Surprise, surprise! We have a breakaway group underway! Who would have thought it! Today's group is made up of Jeremy Roy (FdJ), Tom Stamsnijder (Gerolsteiner) and Andreas Klier (T-Mobile). They got away at kilometre 20 and have built their lead up to 9'52

15:07 CEST   
Three riders didn't start today. Gerolsteiner's Davide Rebellin and Xavier Florencio of Bouygues Telecom have dropped out to prepare for the Worlds. The third rider is Tom Boonen, who also hopes to ride the Worlds, but is suffering from some physical problems that could stop him from going to Stuttgart.

15:08 CEST   
The other big story of the day is the weather. The forecast was for warm and mostly sunny, with a chance of showers. Well, weather forecasts seem to be the same the world over -- and that is, they are always wrong.

It started raining about 1:30, and hasn't stopped. There are even forecasts about some nasty heavy storms, so let's hope those forecasts are wrong, too. Good thing we had new windshield wipers put on our Seat before the Vuelta -- didn't we?

15:11 CEST   
There was a crash at km 45, with Bouygues Telecom and Saunier Duval being involved. David de la Fuente (SD) and Luis Perez Rodriguez (Andalucia - Cayasur) subsequently paid visits to the race doctor.

15:13 CEST   
At km 56, Alessandro Petacchi flatted, but his loyal teammates were on the spot to bring him back to the peloton. Looks like the rain has stopped too, which makes us happy as when we look at our smeared windshield we realize that someone forgot to have the wiper blades changed.

Meanwhile, the temperature has dropped from 25° at the start to 19°. We sincerely hope that storm system isn't moving in. Oh yes, it's raining again, too...

15:15 CEST    69.5km/106.9km to go
Our leading trio has passed the first intermediate sprint in this order: Roy, Klier, and Stamsnijder.

15:18 CEST    85km/91.4km to go
So much for "partly cloudy"! We are now suffering torrential rains, which means we don't see a darned thing through the windshield, and there is water standing on the road. The gap is now 8.54. Back in the pack, a group of about 30 has broken away to try to swim its way to the lead.

15:22 CEST    89km/87.4km to go
The lead is staying steady at 8'40.

The riders over in the Tour of Poland must be jealous: today's stage is 176 km, as was yesterday's. Thursday's Poland stage was a whopping 255,7 km. Compare that to our longest stage here: 207 km tomorrow. The riders in Poland have their experiences with the rain, too.

15:24 CEST   
At km 38, the peloton drove through the town of Cieza, the home of former pro rider Mariano Rojas. He turned pro with ONCE in 1994 and showed himself to be a tireless worker for captains Laurent Jalabert and Alex Zülle. He never achieved any wins but showed promise. Unfortunately he never had a chance to live up to that promise. He was in an auto accident while driving to the Murcia airport in June 1996, en route to the Spanish national championships. Despite several operations, including liver and kidney transplants, he died two days later at the age of only 23.

15:28 CEST    93km/83.4km to go
The heavy downpours have split the peloton, with one group 15 seconds ahead of the other. The three in front are still over eight minutes ahead.

15:32 CEST   
Our start today was in Hellin, where the stage finished yesterday. This is its first experience with the Vuelta. It is 578 meters above sea level and has a population of nearly 30,000. It is known for its sulphur mines, which have been worked since the days of the Romans, and also boast clay and gypsum quarries.

Hellin is in the province of La Mancha, and we will keep our eyes open for Don Quixote. We hope that he won't mistake our Seat for a windmill!

15:33 CEST    95km/81.4km to go
The rain has let up a little and the two halves of the peloton have come together again.

15:38 CEST   
The stage ends today in Torre Pacheco, which has a largely agricultural economy. It raises and exports around Europe such yummies as peppers, melons, lettuce, beans, artichokes and celery. Too bad the riders won't have any time to pull over for a picnic. Although, it is, we admit, hardly perfect picnic weather.

15:42 CEST    96km/80.4km to go
The one and only climb of the day, the Cat. 3 Alto de Espuña, has given out its points in this order: Stamsnijder, Klier, and Roy. Meanwhile, the nasty weather has caused a number of riders, including Igor Anton, to puncture.

15:44 CEST    103km/73.4km to go
The second sprint of the day went: Roy, Stamsnijder, and Klier. It is still raining, and the gap is now up to 9'20.

15:47 CEST   
Will the sprinters' teams be able to catch the breakaway today? Or will they need canoes or flippers?

Petacchi dedicated his win yesterday to his teammates, saying, "They worked hard to catch the breakaway group." He also had a lot of praise for Erik Zabel, saying "What Erik did today was extraordinary. He has enormous experience and when he saw that I was on Bennati's wheel, he took over. I was in a good position and felt strong, but I broke almost too soon."

15:49 CEST    109km/67.4km to go
Hail, hail, the gang's all here -- and the hailstones, too. We are afraid to ask what the weather has in store for us next. The trio is still 9'20 ahead.

15:53 CEST   
T-Mobile invested a lot of manpower in the lead to the finish yesterday, but it came -- again -- to nothing. "We are trying everyday to get on the podium," said DS Brian Holm. "Unfortunately Andre (Greipel) waited too long." Greipel finished fourth in the sprint Wednesday and tenth yesterday.

15:56 CEST    112km/64.4km to go
It's a miracle -- the rain has stopped! At leasts for the moment.

The breakaway group now has a lead of 10'20 -- are they going to make it? Will they be able to stay away until the end?

15:59 CEST   
It sounds like a real love-fest developing over there at Milram between Petacchi and Zabel. "I'm lucky to have a champion like Zabel preparing the sprints for me," the Italian gushed. He is "a real champion, a great person and we get along just great."

But will they have a chance for a mass sprint today?

16:02 CEST    118km/58.4km to go
We hear that our finish line is dry, and that gives us hope. As does the fact that the rain seems truly to have stopped and is not supposed to return.

The lead is still at 9'55.

16:07 CEST   
Rabobank jumped in to help hunt down the breakaway group yesterday. "It is not like we really wanted them to be captured, it is just that we wanted to help out Milram a little bit. And, with a view to the final ten kilometres and a potential change of wind direction, we also wanted to position ourselves in the front ranks," said DS Erik Breukink.

16:10 CEST    122km/54.4km to go
Oops! Crash in the field, with a number of riders down. No details yet.....

16:12 CEST   
There is either another crash or an extension of the first mass crash -- kind of hard to tell, sometimes.

16:16 CEST    128km/48.4km to go
With less than 50 km to go, the escape group still has a lead of 8'44, and we think their chances of making it to the finish alone are increasing.

16:19 CEST    130km/46.4km to go
Just relax guys .... the crash has broken the peloton into several groups. The last group is the relaxed group, well, Team Relax-GAM. They are so relaxed that they are trailing by 1'10.

16:22 CEST   
One Rabobank rider was happy just to finish the stage yesterday. 22 year-old Sébastien Langeveld, who is making his Grand Tour debut, became very ill Wednesday night. According to DS Breukink, "He had to vomit; he was complaining about a headache and was bothered by diarrhoea. He did not eat a lot this morning. Hence, he was actually feeling too weak to give a lot of effort. Hopefully, he will feel better quickly so that he can also eat a little bit more." The youngster finished the stage absolute last, over 16 minutes down.

Incidentally, Langeveld is from Lisse, Netherlands, home of the famous Keukenhof Gardens, which are world renowned for their fabulous spring blooms -- and highly recommended by us!

16:24 CEST    136.4km/40km to go
The peloton is stretched out in one long line. Allan Davis (Discovery Channel) is just coming back to the tail end of it. Crashes always bring hectic into the otherwise orderly group.

16:26 CEST   
In the mean time the three breakaway riders at the front - Tom Stamsnijder (Gerolsteiner), Jérémy Roy (Française Des Jeux) and Andreas Klier (T-Mobile) - still have over eight minutes. The skies look threatening. The three will hope to stay dry, but now they have a good chance of succeeding with their break. Less than 40km to go and over eight minutes

16:28 CEST   
And another roundabout that the peloton needs to master. Stijn Devolder is now moving up in his Belgian Champ jersey. He grimaces and looks like he may have been beaten up in the crash a bit.

16:30 CEST   
Zabel also went down. He is showing his wounds on the elbow to team-mate Sabatini. The Italian takes a bottle of water and provides First Aid. Zabel is tough, even a horse couldn't completely knock him out a few years ago in Gent-Wevelgem.

Ete Zabel
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner/CN
Click for larger image

16:34 CEST   
Iñigo Cuesta (Team CSC) is getting chain lube. The mechanics are amazing, hanging out the window and fixing stuff on the fly. Rabobank is in control of things on the front, but the sprinters may miss out today.

16:39 CEST    146km/30.4km to go
Lots of riders are sporting natty bandages now. Kevin Hulsmans is jealous and wants one too, so he calls for the race doctor.

The lead is still 8'50 and it looks like the peloton is conceding this stage.

16:41 CEST   
Pedro Horrillo Munoz of Rabobank eats what looks like - but probably isn't -- a chocolate cookie.

16:42 CEST   
Meanwhile Scott and Alan Davis catch up on family news.

16:44 CEST    148km/28.4km to go
Andrea Tonti wants to wear the new in-style gauze look and calls for race doctor, too. We hope that the race doctors packed lots of gauze bandages today. We are thinking about which parts of our body to adorn.

16:46 CEST   
Good heavens! The leading trio just rode through a little sunshine, enough to see their shadows on the (still wet) road. It didn't last, though.

16:49 CEST    153km/23.4km to go
The three leaders ride into a town and have to be very careful. Everything is very wet, and not only are the street markings dangerous, but there are lots of puddles, too.

16:50 CEST   
Erki Pusep of Bouygues Telecom is the latest to adopt the new fashion fad, having just visited the race doctor.

16:52 CEST   
Caisse d'Epargne has taken over the lead -- do they really think they can catch the breakaway group?

16:54 CEST    151.4km/25km to go
Since the gap is still over nine minutes, we have our serious doubts that the peloton will get to the escape group. But Caisse d'Epargne has put on enough speed that it has blasted the peloton into many little groups.

16:57 CEST   
Caisse d'Epargne has a man second in the overall, Efimkin. Are they hoping to pickup a few seconds, if they can drop Menchov? It doesn't seem to be working, as the Russian is in the first group, right there with Caisse d'Epargne.

17:00 CEST    161km/15.4km to go
There is a group of about 30 riders, including the favourites Menchov, Sastre, Evans and Efimkin, being led by Caisse d'Epargne. Behind them is a group of 20 or so, with lots of littler groups dribbling on behind. Devolder and Cunego are among those who aren't in the first following group.

17:01 CEST    162km/14.4km to go
Devolder has made it up to the C d'Epargne group.

17:03 CEST    163km/13.4km to go
The three in front still have a lead of over 7 minutes. Behind them, C d'Epargne turned it up a notch and dropped some out of their group, it's about 20 or so now.

17:06 CEST   
The three are 5'43 ahead of the C d'Epargne group, which is 18 seconds ahead of the next following group. Devolder has fallen back to that third group. Menchov, Sastre, Bettini, Evans are all in the C d'Epargne group.

17:07 CEST   
A flat for Stamsnijder. Will the tall youngster be able to catch up again with his two companions?

17:09 CEST    170km/6.4km to go
C d'Epargne leads the way around a near-hairpin curve, and seems to have given up hope of overtaking the two leaders. They slow down and are caught by the second group behind them.

The two in front continue on and are no doubt starting to whether the other one can sprint.

17:10 CEST    170.4km/6km to go
The two in front are now the three in front again, as Stamsnijder has caught up with them.

17:11 CEST    171.4km/5km to go
And Stamsnijder goes for it! The others don't let him get away with it , though. But then Klier opens up a gap to the others, as they don't even try to follow.

17:13 CEST   
Will Klier win the stage and give T-Mobile an unusual honour today? T-Mobile riders finished third in the tour of Poland, and second in the Tour of Britain -- now they just need a first place to round it out.

17:13 CEST    172.4km/4km to go
Stamsnijder has caught up with Klier. Roy is nowhere to be seen.

Will the young Netherlander neo-pro take his very first pro win today?

17:15 CEST    173.4km/3km to go
Klier and Stamsnijder work well together -- but not for much longer, we suspect. Who will have the biggest kick left, the youngster or the veteran?

17:17 CEST    175.4km/1km to go
The last kilometre. Klier looks back to make sure no one is sneaking up. Stamsnijder goes!

17:18 CEST   
Stamsnijder leads and Klier flies by him with 200 meter left , winning by some 20 meters. Experience shows!

17:23 CEST   
Bennati takes the sprint of the field ahead of Petacchi, a little more than 4 minutes after Klier jubilantly crossed the line. Nearly a minute later another big group comes in. We assume that Roy was somewhere ahead of the Bennati group.

17:24 CEST   
T-Mobile came in to the Vuelta with very modest expectations, and surely didn't expect to win two stages. They, like us, will be looking forward to what tomorrow might bring. Hope you enjoyed the stage and will join us again tomorrow!

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