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63rd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 30 - September 21, 2008

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Stage 6 - September 4: Ciudad Real - Toledo, 150.1km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

Stage 6 will be the final opportunity for the sprinters or non-mountain goats breakaway specialists to try to go for stage glory. Afterwards, the mountains will be waiting. Today, only the category three Alto de Arisgotas will stand in the way, but it won't change much for the sprinters.

The riders will have to conquer 150.1 kilometres before they arrive in this UNESCO World Heritage site (for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage as one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire). The riders will get to enjoy the city for a day, as the first rest day will be held here. Then again, the rest day isn't all that restful with riders trying to loosen their legs while also having to travel to Barbastro. And many will be too preoccupied with the mountains ahead to care for some culture in central Spain.

14:47 CEST   
Hello and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Vuelta a España. Today is the last day before many things happen: The riders will have the luxury of a rest day; but they will have to earn it hard via a 500km transfer; and to add insult to injury after the rest day the playing around is over and the mountains will hit the riders hard. Except for those riders who will hit the mountains hard. But today we look into a break succeeding, unless the sprinters manage to pull it back together before the finish and won't let anybody escape at the last little rise.

15:01 CEST   
As you may have seen in our news from today (under the headline "Doping tests in Spain and Germany") the riders face a hectic schedule today, as the AVE train is expected to leave at 18:45 – with or without the riders. Since it wasn't known if the riders would really follow the fastest projected schedule, the organisers decided to prepone the start... The bunch was leaving Ciudad Real 20 minutes ahead of time. Instead of 14:06, the peloton had the real start at 13:45.

15:03 CEST    54km/96.1km to go
Three riders are desperately trying to make the train so they can get to bed early. Volodymyr Diudia (Team Milram), Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Ivan Mayoz (Xacobeo Galicia) have escaped the field at kilometre seven and currently hold an advantage of around three minutes.

Sylvain Chavanel showed why he is the French TT champion and is only two seconds back in GC
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

15:07 CEST   
One rider always attacking in races doesn't need a tight train schedule to get him going. It is Sylvain Chavanel, who was the most aggressive rider in the Tour de France this year. Chava is back writing his diary for Cyclingnews. With only two seconds separating him from the jersey oro, there is little doubt that Chavanel will want to take over from Leipheimer. How he intends to do it? Well, read today's entry!

15:11 CEST    62km/88.1km to go
The peloton has kicked it up a notch. Did the directeurs tell their riders that if they miss the train they will have to ride? The last time check was 2'20.

15:14 CEST   
The best known rider in the break is Mikhail Ignatiev. The time trial and track specialist returned from the Olympic Games with a bronze medal in the Madison. The Tinkoff rider is no stranger to breakaways. It is what the team does.

15:17 CEST   
There will be no more Tinkoffs on the roads next year, but don't despair, the Russian cycling is alive and kicking. There should be some interesting races in Russia next year.

15:24 CEST   
The gap is now down to 1'30. The threat from the directeurs sportifs was successful and getting the riders going...

15:26 CEST    68km/82.1km to go
There is a strong wind blowing and it has caused a crash in the peloton. The plains in Spain are known for the hefty wind and subsequent crashes. Let's hope it is not too bad.

15:31 CEST   
We had riders from Silence-Lotto, Quick Step, Xacobeo-Galicia and Bouygues Telecom go down. Too much wind and too many nerves, and that made things go crash bam boom.

15:33 CEST   
Did we mention that Caisse d'Epargne was involved in the crash, too? And not just any rider, but captain and hopeful Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde. But he is back up and going again, and doesn't seem to have suffered any injuries.

15:39 CEST   
Today's stage is only 150.1km, but that isn't the shortest (non-TT) stage. There are four stages between 150 and 160km, and one of 145.5km (the 19th). But the shortest is the last stage, the traditional and almost ceremonial arrival in Madrid in the last stage, 102.2km.

15:44 CEST    76km/74.1km to go
The escapees have taken advantage of the crash behind them to add a few seconds to their lead, which is now up to 1.40. We are just over the halfway mark of the stage.

15:45 CEST   
Today's stage ends in the city of Toledo, which is in the province of Toledo. It is in central Spain, only 70 km from Madrid. No doubt some of the riders would be just as happy to ride those 70km tonight and have the race over with, rather than heading up to the Pyrenees.

15:49 CEST    80 km/70.1km to go
The luncheon buffet is open. Time for the riders to pick up something to give them a little energy for the upcoming intermediate sprints and category three climb.

15:53 CEST   
Ignatiev is not the only one in the break who was in the Beijing Olympics. Milram's Diudia was also there and placed fifth in the individual pursuit. The 25 year-old Ukrainian turned pro in 2006.

15:55 CEST    90km/60.1km to go
The lead is now down to 1.23 (now that's an easy one to remember!). The wind has changed directions and is now a tailwind.

15:59 CEST   
And in case you were wondering, yes, Toledo, Ohio, USA, was named after Toledo, Spain. The US city is in northwestern Ohio, on the western end of Lake Erie and on the Michigan border.

16:02 CEST    100km/50.1km to go
The lead has now shrunk to only 45 seconds, as a crosswind hits everybody. But probably the real reason that the gap has dropped is because Astana and Cofidis are leading things at the back and putting on a lot of pressure.

16:05 CEST   
Looks as if Tom Boonen may have been one of those Quick Step riders who went down earlier. He has obviously lost some skin from his left elbow.

16:08 CEST   
Speaking of that crash, Valverde has just called for the race doctor, as has Claudio Corioni of Liquigas. We hope everyone is ok.

16:10 CEST   
There's a whole flock of red and white Cofidis jerseys at the head of the field now. They should have the escapees any second now.

16:11 CEST   
Tom Boonen joins those who want to visit the race doctor. We hope it is nothing more serious than the boo-boo on his elbow.

16:13 CEST   
We ought to stop talking about crashes. There was just another one, as a handful of riders more or less fell off the road into a plowed field.

16:15 CEST   
That was it for this escape, everyone is all back together again with about 40km to go.

16:18 CEST   
Cofidis does practically a team time trial at the first intermediate sprint. No surprise, they let Sylvain Chavanel go over first and collect the points and time bonus.

16:19 CEST   
As a matter of fact, the time bonus is enough to give Chavanel the virtual lead in the race, four seconds ahead of Leipheimer.

16:20 CEST   
A flurry of attacks, and Yannick Talabardon (Credit Agricole) leads a group of four riders slightly ahead of the field.

16:21 CEST   
They are joined by more riders from behind, so the group is about 12 strong. But the field is closing in on them rapidly.

16:22 CEST   
Things are fast and nervous right now, with many riders thinking of doing something. The pace has picked up A Quick Step rider is the next to jump, along with someone from FdJ.

16:24 CEST   
The pace has picked up enough that much of the field is strung out single file and the first riders are falling off the back.

16:24 CEST    122.1km/28km to go
Astana wants to keep the gold jersey on Leipheimer's shoulders and has moved to the front of the peloton.

16:26 CEST   
The field doesn't seem to want to give Astana the upper hand, though. Cofidis is at the front again, and the sprinters' teams are already making their moves to be up near the front.

16:28 CEST   
The landscape today is pretty much that which we associate with the Vuelta -- very brown, little vegetation and even fewer fans along the way.

16:32 CEST   
The field is now rapidly approaching Toledo (population 78,618). It is a World Heritage site, as declared by UNESCO. The artist El Greco spent the last years of his life here.

16:33 CEST   
As the race approaches the city, we actually see four or five fans standing on the side of the road!

16:35 CEST   
Since the Middle Ages, Toledo has been known for its production of swords and other bladed steel products.

16:36 CEST    130.1km/20km to go
Valverde is not having a good day today. He just had a mechanical. He was quickly helped but it will take him a while to get back up to the pack.

16:38 CEST   
Valverde is practically back in the field, but he is back at the team car again and the mechanic is hanging precariously out of the car making some kind of additional repair.

16:40 CEST    133.1km/17km to go
Cofidis has things firmly in hand and charges off again for the final intermediate sprint. And again, no surprise, Chavanel goes over first and takes another six seconds.

16:40 CEST   
Now that that is out of the way, the sprinter teams will take over. Who else but Quick Step moves up to the front.

16:42 CEST    135.1km/15km to go
Attack! A Credit Agricole rider shoots out. It appears to be Talabardon again.

16:44 CEST   
The Frenchman is one of many looking for a new team next year, since his team is one of those stopping at the end of this season.

16:46 CEST   
The 27 year-old Talabardon is a native of Paris. He turned pro in 2002 with Auber 93 before joining CA in 2005. He doesn't have any pro wins to his credit -- perhaps he will pick up his first one today?

16:47 CEST    140.1km/10km to go
The field has split up as it races along the cliffs on its way into Toledo, 13 seconds behind Talabardon.

16:48 CEST   
This closing circuit is anything but flat. Talabardon goes up a short steep climb.

16:49 CEST   
Another crash in the field. A CSC and a Rabobank rider were involved.

16:50 CEST   
It was Jurgen van Goolen (CSC) and Marc de Maar. The Rabo rider needed some help with his bike.

16:51 CEST    142.1km/8km to go
Talabardon is going all out, which is a little dangerous on this city course. Behind him, it almost looks as if the field has slowed down a little.

16:51 CEST   
No, it hasn't. They have the Frenchman all of a sudden.

16:52 CEST    143.1km/7km to go
Yaroslav Popovych of Silence Lotto is the next to jump. But he is caught.

16:53 CEST   
David Herrero of Xacobeo-Galicia takes advantage of a TV motorcycle and tucks in behind it to take a lead over the field. A lot of riders have now fallen off the back.

16:54 CEST    144.1km/6km to go
He doesn't get away, and Nicolas Roche of CA gives it a try.

16:55 CEST   
A Lampre rider gives chase and the whole field is not far back. This looks like a very long climb right now, with lots of riders struggling.

16:55 CEST   
Three riders with a small lead: Nocentini, Roche and Cunego.

16:56 CEST   
Needless to say, the field doesn't really want to let this trio get away and ropes them in.

16:57 CEST   
A large group of about 60 riders, all strung out single file, are heading towards the finish line.

16:57 CEST    146.1km/4km to go
Caisse d'Epargne leads the way.

16:59 CEST    148.1km/2km to go
Caisse d'Epargne continues to lead for Valverde.

16:59 CEST   
Valverde couldn't take over the race lead even if he wins the stage.

17:00 CEST    149.1km/1km to go
Two Tinkoff riders take off at the 1 km marker, Ignatiev and a teammate.

17:01 CEST   
Bettini, Gilbert and Valverde sprint it out! What a high-powered trio!

17:01 CEST   
And the World Champion takes it -- Paolo Bettini!

17:02 CEST   
It was a close one, for sure, and we aren't sure who took second, but we would tip off Gilbert.

17:03 CEST   
Gilbert is now confirmed as second, with Valverde third, Freire fourth and Bennati fifth.

17:05 CEST   
Levi Leipheimer was only able to wear the gold jersey of the Vuelta leader for one stage. It now changes over to Sylvain Chavanel. He now leads Leipheimer by 10 seconds and Valverde by 26 seconds.

17:08 CEST   
That was it for today, at least for us. The riders now have that long train ride to look forward to (or not). At least they will have time to shower first and not rush too much to catch the train at 6 p.m. Join us again Saturday when we all go up in the mountains for the first time this race, and our first mountaintop finish.

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