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63rd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 30 - September 21, 2008

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Stage 10 - September 9: Sabiñánigo - Zaragoza, 151.3km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Hedwig Kröner

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

14:58 CEST   
Holá and welcome back to the great loop around Spain, the Vuelta a España. Today's stage from Sabiñánigo to Zaragoza will see the riders on a relatively flat journey, save for the Alto de Monrepós, a Cat. 2 climb to be mastered during the first part of the day. A breakaway could get underway there, but some of the fast men's teams might be interested to bring it back before the finish...

The peloton started out at 2pm in Sabiñánigo. At the moment, the riders are on their way up the climb, after an earlier escape attempt made of Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Juan Manuel Garate (Quickstep), Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto), Philippe Gilbert and Gianni Meersman (Francaise des Jeux), as well as Andriy Grivko (Milram) was neutralized at the foot of the mountain.

Riders are trying to get away one by one; we shall see if anyone succeeds. Team Cofidis is currently in charge of the pace to consolidate David Moncoutié's lead in the mountains classification.

A happy Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) with his precious baby at the start
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

15:09 CEST    35km/116.3km to go
The bunch has come over the summit of the Alto de Monrepós. Juan Miguel Garate was the first on the line, with Nikity Eskov (Tinkoff), David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas), Cyclingnews diarist Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Walter Fernando Pedraza Morales (Tinkoff) following in that order. There is light wind and a drizzle now, which will make the descent a bit tricky.

15:10 CEST   
One rider managed to drive off the front on the way down the climb: Matej Jurco from Team Milram. He already has nearly one minute on the rest of the peloton.

15:14 CEST   
The first hour of the race was ridden at an average speed of 42,9 km/h.

Until now, we have a two abandons: Anthony Geslin and Alexandre Pichot, both from Bouygues Telecom. Not a good day for the French squad, it seems.

15:17 CEST   
Fortunately, the rain has stopped now. It is still a nice 26° Celsius today in northern Spain, and Matej Jurco (Team Milram) seems to have gotten the lucky number. Euskaltel, who are protecting Martinez' golden jersey, are letting him extend his advantage to two minutes.

15:26 CEST   
The poor Slovakian is on his own, though, and it's still a looong way to go to Expo town Zaragoza. What's more, the weather is kind of unstable with more rain coming down on the riders now. Jurco now has 3'20 over the bunch.

15:30 CEST    61km/90.3km to go
Jurco is driving it hard and as he passes through Huesca, the gap has grown to 4'35.

15:36 CEST   
One man to watch out for today is definitely Tom Boonen (Quick Step). If all goes to plan, the stage will see a bunch sprint finish, and the Belgian still needs another win over Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) to equal the score with him at this race. Still, Boonen will not risk everything for his second Vuelta stage win.

"We will see how it goes," he told Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake this morning at the start. "I am still a little sore from my injuries. If there is not a big break today we will try something. The most important thing now is to finish in one piece. If there is a sprint in the upcoming stages I will try, but it is not the most important thing. The Worlds are a big goal, that is why it is important not to crash."

15:41 CEST   
Jurco's lead is up to six minutes. The wind is now coming from the left hand side and has blown away those nasty grey rain clouds for the moment.

15:47 CEST   
After yesterday's medium mountain stage, the GC lead went from Astana's Levi Leipheimer to Egoi Martinez from team Euskaltel. Astana leaders Leipheimer and Alberto Contador are of course still very much in contention for the overall victory, only 11 and 32 seconds back respectively. Andreas Klöden of Astana offered his point of view from the last stage in the Pyrenees to Cyclingnews this morning.

"Yesterday it was hard at the beginning, but afterwards it was OK," said the German. "Losing the jersey? Yeah, playing a little tactics is never bad. There are still very difficult stages. I hope we can win the Vuelta. After that we'll see. I don't know yet what races I will do for the remainder of the season."

15:51 CEST   
All is calm and smooth mid-way through today's stage. Jurco has a considerable lead but it will be easy for sprinter's teams Quickstep and Liquigas to reel him in again on the flat route down south to Zaragoza, where the International Expo on water and sustainable development is held this summer.

15:53 CEST   
A short recap for all of those who are just joining us: Today's stage had only one ranked climb and it was a tough one. Not very steep, but a wide road and the lack of switchbacks made it mentally harder to ride. With 11km it was fairly long, too. The peloton passed it complete and Jurco, the race's current breakaway, escaped on the descent.

15:58 CEST   
The "Elephant race" of the Cofidis and Astana team buses was decided by the blue Astana machine without no problems, reported Cyclingnews Bjorn Haake from the ground. The Astana bus went out of the draft at the bottom of the climb, passed both the Cofidis team bus and a team car and never looked back.

A construction zone at the bottom of the descent left the surface rather rough, with several perpendicular gaps in the road. That was a good spot to catch a flat tyre...

16:00 CEST    80km/71.3km to go
Jurco has passed the intermediate sprint of Almudévar and has grabbed some food from his assistant in the feed zone. The bunch will be getting to this point in approximately seven minutes.

16:09 CEST   
Astana has now started to help out Euskaltel in front of the bunch. The sky is still grey but it doesn't look like rain anymore.

Armstrong ready to face the media scrum one more time around?
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

16:10 CEST   
The Spanish media cornered Astana manager Johan Bruyneel today, as everybody wanted to know about the Lance Armstrong come-back rumours. Even in Spanish, Bruyneel said the same thing he told Cyclingnews yesterday. "I was surprised as anybody when I heard that. He doesn't need to prove anything to anybody, he is OK financially."

The Spaniards then wanted to know if Bruyneel thought Armstrong could still be a factor in the races. "I can't see that right now. He has been out of the sport for three years, even though it is true that he has kept in shape and ran marathons."

What do you think? Will the Texan cowboy riding back into action? Read Cyclingnews' full feature.

16:15 CEST   
The bunch rode at 44,8km/h during the second hour of racing.

Matej Jurco, the Slovakian from Poprad, is still almost seven minutes ahead of the peloton. His left cheek bears a big band-aid but he powers on.

16:17 CEST   
Jurco's lead is dropping slowly, though, now a 'mere' 4'55 minutes.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) recapped his glory days in yellow for Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake before today's stage. "I feel good, but I still feel my legs from the stage to Andorra. Yesterday was a bit better. Today we hope for another break. I never had the leader's jersey in a Grand Tour. It is something new for me, but it is a really nice feeling. It was a great satisfaction to win the stage and take the jersey."

16:21 CEST   
Liquigas riders are spotted at the front of the bunch now, too. The field is a bit more strung out, a clear sign that a certain pace is being put on to catch the Slovakian Road and Time Trial champion.

16:23 CEST   
Race leader Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) also talked to Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake before the stage. "For me this is like a dream. I never hoped to take the leader's jersey in the Vuelta. This is a really great moment for me," he said, adding that he knew the precious jersey would not last him until Madrid.

"The final overall result is not important to me. I know I will lose several minutes in the Angliru. But I am hoping to keep the jersey until the rest day [Friday - ed.]. It would be really nice to leave the stage after the rest day with the yellow jersey."

16:27 CEST   
Along with Liquigas, it's also Rabobank and Gerolsteiner who are driving to bunch down to stage finish Zaragoza. They have worked the breakaway's lead down to 3'35.

16:31 CEST   
Sorry - contrary to what we have reported, Bennati is not riding the Vuelta anymore! We were just informed that the Italian abandoned the race this morning. Sorry about the confusion this may have caused.

16:33 CEST    106.3km/45km to go
Jurco's lead is dropping rapidly, under three minutes now.

16:37 CEST   
It's still pretty warm here in Spain, but there is always some rain in-between today. It was nicer just before the start, but now it is well overcast.

Lone escapist Jurco is riding just two minutes ahead of the Rabobank-led field now.

16:41 CEST   
The Dutch team is pf course working for triple World champion Oscar Freire, who still has to score at this year's Vuelta. The Spaniard is sitting comfortably inside the bunch at the moment, waiting for the finish.

16:49 CEST    122km/29.3km to go
Jurco is now riding through the town of Zuera. Some spectators line up along the road. But the Slovakian knows his game is soon over. The bunch is closing in, 58 seconds away now.

16:56 CEST    126.3km/25km to go
Rabobank and Euskaltel are in charge of the bunch as they have taken out the pace a bit before catching the breakaway rider. Freire is riding towards the end of the field, now being dragged back to the a better position by a team-mate.

Matej Jurco marks stage 10
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

17:01 CEST   
Another sprinter to watch out for today's finish - except Boonen and Freire - is Erik Zabel (Milram), whom you can never count out and who won last year's stage to Zaragoza. Danilo Napolitano (Lampre), Koldo Fernandez (Euskaltel) and Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole) are also good bets.

17:04 CEST   
José Antonio Lopez Gil from Andalucía-Cajasur has bridged up to Jurco. But they only have a few seconds left over the bunch with less than 17 kilometres to go.

17:08 CEST   
20 seconds at the 15km-banner - a sprint finish was programmed all along for today, and now it is happening. Riders are getting into position as the fight for a good placing will begin soon.

They are on a motorway on the outskirts of Zaragoza now.

17:12 CEST   
Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas) just crashed. He's getting up now from the road but seems in shock... he's getting his bike to continue.

17:14 CEST    141.3km/10km to go
Two French riders, Yannick Talabardon (Crédit Agricole) and Mickael Delage (FDJ) have used the moment to bridge up to the leaders. Further counter-attacks go. But the bunch is watching, just a few hundred metres behind.

17:16 CEST   
The Tour of Britain's stage 3 has just finished. Emilien Berges (Agritubel) won the stage ahead of his team-mate Geoffrey Lequatre.

17:18 CEST    144.3km/7km to go
The peloton is strung out single-file, with attackers going as soon as the pace comes down a bit - but none succeed. A Cofidis and a Silence rider are taking turns trying to hold the field together. The four breakaway riders are now caught.

17:19 CEST    146.3km/5km to go
World champ Paolo Bettini is riding at the back end as it is getting nervous in front. They are on long, straight and wide open roads. No chance of getting away.

17:22 CEST   
A Liquigas rider is giving it all at the front before Quickstep takes over. Boonen in fifth position, followed by Milram with Zabel in tow and Napolitano.

17:23 CEST    149.3km/2km to go
They wind over a huge roundabout. Crédit Agricole also works for Roche, but Quickstep is still leading out.

17:24 CEST   
Flamme rouge. A Liquigas rider has made up a small gap, but Milram is closing in.

17:26 CEST   
The sprint lead-out disintegrates. Boonen is trapped on the left. It's Sebastien Hinault (Crédit Agricole) who wins!

17:26 CEST   
AG2R's Lloyd Mondory takes second, followed by Greg Van Avermaet (Silence). Freire fourth, Boonen fifth.

17:31 CEST   
General classification is unchanged, of course. Egoi Martinez will again start tomorrow's stage wearing gold.

Vanotti also just came in, shaking his head. But he made it.

Join us again tomorrow - same time, same place or almost. Until then, Hasta la vista!

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