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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

59th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 4-26, 2004

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Vuelta a España fantasy game

Vuelta a España fantasy game

Stage 10 - September 13: Alcoi - Xorret de Catí (Castalla-Alicante), 174.5 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Martin Hardie

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:15 CEST

14:29 CEST   
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' daily dose of the Vuelta a España, which is nearing its halfway point with today's 10th stage between Alcoi and Xorret de Catí. On paper, today is not quite as tough as yesterday, but there are still three Cat. 3 climbs and one Cat. 2 before the final ascent of the Alto Xorret de Catí, which is only 4.3 km long but averages a punishing 10.6%. The finish is 3 km from the top, after a quick descent then an uphill to the end.

Today's sprints are at Banyeres de Mariola (km 17.6), Fontanars (km 59.6) and Cruce Dirección Xorret del Catí (km 163.8).

The weather at the start is cooler (23 degrees) and humid.

14:41 CEST    69km/105.5km to go
Today's stage started at 13:00 with the 166 surviving riders taking the depart in Alcoi. Attacks started almost immediately, with Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Eladio Jimenez (Kelme) managing to get away after 14 km. Freire and Jimenez held on until the first intermediate sprint in Mariola and took the points ahead of Jimenez, with Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) claiming third. The two leaders had 30 seconds at that point.

The sprinters were all keeping an eye on each other obviously, and a counter attacking group formed with Zabel, Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), José Miguel Elias (Relax-Bergasol), Juan Fuentes (Saeco) and Ruslan Ivanov (Alessio-Bianchi), which caught Freire and Jimenez after 40 km. The peloton was still 30 seconds behind, but then it sat up and at the intermediate sprint in Fontanars, the seven man break had 5'20 over the bunch.

Zabel took the points in this sprint ahead of O'Grady and Freire. The battle is really on today for the points jersey, and Zabel has increased his lead in that competition.

14:45 CEST    68km/106.5km to go
The seven leaders are now over the Cat. 3 Alto de Benixama, where Jose Miguel Elias crossed first ahead of Eladio Jimenez, Ruslan Ivanov and Oscar Freire. The peloton is 7'28 back, and in no hurry. Jimenez is the best placed rider on GC, but is only in 41st at 14'49 down, so there's no danger from him.

14:57 CEST    80km/94.5km to go
The break has now ridden out to an 8'15 advantage over the peloton, which is still biding its time as there are just under 100 kilometres to go.

Cyclingnews correspondent Martin Hardie reports that the final climb starts in a valley full of olive trees and vineyards, then climbs on a narrow road through pine trees and rocky bluffs. The descent to the finish is narrow and technical.

15:04 CEST   
The "sprinters break" has reached the feed zone at km 79 with a 8'45 lead over the peloton. It's raining at the moment and most of the riders are grabbing rain jackets.

15:10 CEST    85km/89.5km to go
The leaders are hammering through the rain, not looking too cold at the moment as none of them have arm warmers on. Of the break, Eladio Jimenez is the best placed. He is also the last rider to win in Xorret de Cati a four years ago.

Fabian Jeker (Saunier Duval) has abandoned the race.

15:14 CEST    88km/86.5km to go
Elias goes over the top of the Cat. 3 Puerto de Biar ahead of Jimenez, Ivanov, and Fuentes with an 11'10 lead over the peloton, which is now at the feed zone. It's raining pretty hard at the moment, but it doesn't seem to be bothering the riders in the break. It's probably a relief after the last few days of heat.

15:16 CEST   
On the descent it's suddenly stopped raining and the roads are almost dry!

15:17 CEST   
Nicolas Jalabert is also out. He didn't sign on this morning.

15:23 CEST    96km/78.5km to go
The seven leaders are now in Castalla with 78 km km to go, enjoying the drier weather, but with some more rain clouds overhead they'll probably get soaked soon. There are another 70 km to go before the next sprint, but they could well hang on until then.

15:28 CEST    98km/76.5km to go
The gap is up to 13 minutes now as the peloton descends in a long line, picking up pace. This gap may give one of the breakaways the necessary time to stay away until the finish. Jimenez is not a real threat for GC, so there's no incentive to chase hard.

15:31 CEST   
The leading group is working excellently, including the sprinters (Zabel, O'Grady and Freire), who are doing strong turns. Zabel is riding well.

15:37 CEST    104km/70.5km to go
The peloton has finally started to match the speed of the breakaway, but has not made an impact on the gap. It's 13'06 with 70 km to go. But there are a couple of tough climbs to come, so these riders can still come back.

The leaders can see their shadows on the road again.

15:42 CEST   
Saunier Duval is now riding on the front of the peloton, and the pace increases markedly. The gap is 12'50 and falling. US Postal moves its men up to the front too, as does Kelme.

15:46 CEST    114km/60 km to go
Saunier has cranked the pace right up, probably to give Piepoli another chance (or maybe Perdiguero) today. Mancebo, Heras, Beltran, Landis and Sastre have all moved to the front.

Impressively, the gap is still 12'58.

15:48 CEST    115km/59.5km to go
The leaders are now on the Cat. 3 Alto de Tibi, a short climb that shouldn't present too many problems. Elias will want to take more mountain points to grab the jersey back from David Fernandez.

Eladio Jimenez looks good in the break.

15:54 CEST    116km/58.5km to go
Dariusz Baranowski (Liberty) has lunched his rear derailleur, so he gets a bike change from his team car. He uses the front wheel from his existing bike and just remembers to grab the bidon. His new bike only has one bidon cage.

The chase has stopped in the peloton, and Illes Balears is on the front, sitting on the tops. The gap has gone up to 13'32 - this could be enough, perhaps for another Jimenez win?

15:57 CEST    117km/57.5km to go
Fuentes, Elias and Jimenez are doing the work on the climb - Fuentes also looks good as he pedals a small gear.

The peloton is not doing a lot, except for a few riders taking nature breaks.

15:58 CEST   
14'27 - Jimenez is almost the virtual leader.

15:59 CEST   
Zabel has punctured on the climb, but gets a quick wheel change and is chasing. He checks his gears and they're ok, so he'll have to close a 30 second gap. The rest of the break is easing up.

16:00 CEST    118km/56.5km to go
Zabel is back with the break, and the speed increases again as Elias takes the points at the top of the climb ahead of Jimenez, Freire and Ivanov. Just two more climbs to come and a 14'30 lead.

16:03 CEST    119km/55.5km to go
Liberty Seguros has plonked Igor on the front of the peloton, and the pace picks up again. Hruska and a couple of others are there, then Cruz, Landis and Beltran for Postal.

Next up for the breakaways is the Puerto de la Carrasqueta, a 15 km climb at about 4-5%.

16:04 CEST    120km/54.5km to go
The break is hitting speeds of 80 km/h on the fast descent of the Alto de Tibi, but have to slow down to about 30 km/h for a couple of sharp corners.

16:08 CEST    121km/53.5km to go
The break is now in Xixona, at the foot of the Carrasqueta, navigating some extremely tight roads. Jimenez keeps leaving gaps - he's not the best descender - but he makes it to the bottom.

Petacchi has been shelled due to the Liberty Seguros pace making in the peloton. He's with most of his teammates. There are five Libertys on the front as they tackle the Alto de Tibi.

16:10 CEST   
Jaksche and Astarloa are also dropped. There is no respite from Igor on the front.

16:13 CEST    123km/51.5km to go
Bjarne Riis encourages some of the dropped CSC riders as he drives past.

It's 12'43 as the peloton crosses the top of the Alto de Tibi. In the break, Freire is doing a turn on the long climb of Carrasqueta.

16:18 CEST    126km/48.5km to go
In the peloton, David Blanco (Kelme) punctures on the descent - he was one of the driving forces yesterday. The bunch is nearly in Xixona.

The breakaways are riding into some more rain now.

16:26 CEST    129km/45.5km to go
Igor continues to drive the front of the bunch as it tackles the Carrasqueta. Beloki is dropped in a group with a T-Mobile rider, which looks like Cadel Evans.

Hruska and another Liberty rider are in second and third wheel, then Floyd - looking good - and Beltran. Sastre and Perdiguero are up there, as is Vinokourov.

16:27 CEST   
Mountains leader David Fernandez (Paternina) is a fair way back in the bunch, suffering from his injuries sustained in his crash yesterday. A wound in his thigh is still bleeding through his shorts.

16:29 CEST    132km/42.5km to go
The seven leaders are heading up towards the top of the Puerto de la Carrasqueta, still all together, still cooperating well. The stage win isn't in the bag yet, but they have 10'52 to the chasing peloton.

16:31 CEST   
O'Grady drops back a bit to chat to his team director, who shows him the profile of the final climb. "4.3 km at 10.6%. Piece of cake...mmm...cake..."

16:34 CEST    134km/40.5km to go
Now it's Zabel's turn to drop back to the T-Mobile car for some tuna-salad-in-a-box. "Don't worry Erik, we've kept it cool on the back seat of the car."

The leaders can see the summit.

16:36 CEST    135km/39.5km to go
No change in the peloton. Igor is doing an impressive job riding on the front, as he has done for the last 20 km.

16:38 CEST    137km/37.5km to go
Elias, Jimenez, Fuentes, Zabel, O'Grady and Ivanov cross the summit of the Puerto de la Carrasqueta in that order. That effectively gives Elias the mountains jersey, as Fernandez has taken no points today.

16:42 CEST    140km/34.5km to go
The leading break: Erik Zabel (T-Mobile Team), José Miguel Elias (Relax-Bergasol), Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis, le credit par Telephone), Juan Fuentes (Saeco), Ruslan Ivanov (Alessio-Bianchi), Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) is descending now as the peloton motors up the rest of the climb. It's all Igor, all the time. Marcos Serrano comes up with a few bidons and hands them off to his teammates. That is not easy on a climb!

Laszlo Bodrogi (Quick.Step) has abandoned.

16:44 CEST    141km/33.5km to go
The break has been led off course for a bit, but is back on the right road. That shouldn't cost too much time, but it will be annoying.

Perdi inhales an energy drink on the climb and throws the package off the side of the road. There's a long drop!

16:46 CEST    143km/31.5km to go
At the top of the climb, Igor leads the bunch over at 8'54. It's all Liberty, all the time.

[For the benefit of MVM: There is only one Igor in the Liberty team: Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano!]

16:51 CEST    147km/27.5km to go
The Liberty blue train is flying down the descent of the Carrasqueta, making good time on the breakaways. The leaders are riding on a side road next to the motorway, all working well together as they know they need to keep as much of their advantage as possible until the final climb. 8'37 - not bad.

Liberty's plan is probably to make it hard and have Heras do his set move on the Xorret de Cati to improve his position on GC. The stage win is secondary.

16:53 CEST   
It's still Igor (ok, there are two in the Vuelta, but there's only one at Liberty) on the front of the bunch, with Heras in about sixth wheel. Tyler Hamilton is right next to Heras, which bodes well for the American who lost 11 minutes yesterday.

16:54 CEST   
And if you'd been following the live coverage closely, you'd know that Astarloa was dropped a while ago :-)

16:55 CEST    151km/23.5km to go
The leaders are now in Ibi, where there are plenty of folks out to cheer them on. Only 23 km to go and just one tiny little 4.3 km climb. O'Grady is thinking about the profile and cake again.

16:58 CEST    155km/19.5km to go
Freire takes the lead under the 20 km to go banner, as Ruslan Ivanov shakes his legs to try to get some feeling back in them. With an 8'10 gap, one of these riders should win today.

Jörg Jaksche (Team CSC) is at the back of the peloton, but hanging on.

17:00 CEST    158km/16.5km to go
Freire, somewhat bandaged after a crash (not today) smiles as he talks to his team director and grabs a drink. He's been climbing well, as has Zabel. O'Grady is now eating cake.

17:02 CEST    160km/14.5km to go
The peloton is now in Ibi, somewhat reduced in size. Nozal is towards the back, but moving up. Liberty has cranked it up to full gas - 61 km/h with Hruska on the front. It's slightly downhill.

17:04 CEST   
The day's final intermediate sprint is approaching, but the leaders are still cooperating well. Also if Zabel, O'Grady and Freire make it over the top of the climb ahead of the peloton, they can still pick up points at the finish.

17:05 CEST    162km/12.5km to go
The gap has fallen to 7'45 and there are some really threatening clouds just ahead of the break. If it rains, the last descent to the finish will be very sketchy.

17:07 CEST   
Fuentes accelerates a bit, but Zabel is onto him, then Freire and O'Grady.

17:08 CEST    163km/11.5km to go
The leaders are just 1 km from the sprint in Cruce a Xorret de Cati.

The peloton is still at full speed, with Igor and Hruska on the front.

17:10 CEST    164km/10.5km to go
It looks like the break will have a 7 minute plus lead by the final climb. That's got to be enough.

17:12 CEST   
The peloton passes under 15 km to go 7'35 behind the break. I think that's enough. It will probably be Elias, Fuentes and Jimenez fighting it out for the stage win. It may come down to who is the best descender.

It's now raining very hard on the breakaways. This is going to make things very difficult on the climb.

Zabel takes the sprint from O'Grady and Jimenez.

17:13 CEST   
The leaders have just 2 km to the foot of the climb, which averages 10.6% for 4.3 km, with sections of 17%. This is going to be a test of traction!

17:15 CEST    167km/7.5km to go
Igor finally drops off the back of the peloton, after doing a very good job for Heras. The peloton is now getting very wet in Castalla. It's still Liberty leading, and Floyd is well placed near the front.

The climb starts for the breakaways. It gets steep, very quickly.

17:17 CEST    168km/6.5km to go
The peloton almost comes to a halt in Castalla as it navigates a corner.

Fuentes, Elias and Zabel lead the break. Ivanov, O'Grady, Freire and Jimenez are being dropped. O'Grady goes past and Freire takes his wheel. Zabel falls back. It's now Fuentes alone, with Elias at 20m, then O'Grady.

17:18 CEST    169km/5.5km to go
Kelme has taken over the lead in the peloton, which rides through a river on the road with 10km to go.

Fuentes is flying. No-one can follow. Out of the mist it's O'Grady chasing him, and he closes the gap to the Australian born Spaniard.

17:19 CEST   
O'Grady is out of the saddle, holding Fuentes' wheel. But Freire and Jimenez have closed the gap. It all comes back together.

Landis is in third wheel in the peloton behind two Kelme riders.

17:21 CEST    170km/4.5km to go
Fuentes goes again and then Jimenez counters hard on a really steep bit. Freire is chasing in third position.

17:21 CEST   
Kelme leads the peloton to the foot of the climb too.

Jimenez is being caught by Freire. Then O'Grady, then Fuentes are at various intervals.

17:23 CEST   
The peloton starts to explode as a Paternina rider attacks. But right behind him, Nozal is leading the peloton.

Jimenez reaches a ridiculously steep bit and has problems keeping it going. Freire is about 10m behind him. Then O'Grady.

17:24 CEST   
Jimenez gets to a flatter section and takes good advantage of it. Then it gets steep again, then shallow. He's nearly at the top. Freire has fallen to 50m back. Jimenez gets a push from a spectator - oops.

17:25 CEST   
Jimenez can almost see the banner for the summit of the climb, and he's opening up a nice gap to the rest.

In the peloton, Ferrio and Valverde are leading Heras, Nozal and Piepoli. Same as yesterday. Ferrio accelerates.

17:26 CEST   
In the peloton, Ferrio has a little gap over Valverde, Heras, Piepoli and Nozal. They're coming back to him though. No sign of Landis here.

17:27 CEST    170.5km/4km to go
Jimenez has four km to go as he is chased by a trouserless spectator. He goes faster.

Landis is about 30 seconds behind Ferrio, with Beltran and Garzelli and several others for company.

17:29 CEST   
Nozal has fallen back a bit, but he's still very close to Piepoli and Valverde. He gets them. Ferrio leads by about 20m.

Jimenez is giving it everything as he nears the summit. At least it's not raining, but the roads are wet.

17:30 CEST    171.5km/3km to go
Jimenez is finally at the top, just 3 dangerous kilometres of descent to come. He gets huge cheers. Meanwhile, Valverde is leading Piepoli and Heras. Landis is a fair way behind, but maybe not enough to lose his jersey. We'll see by the finish.

Ferrio is making good ground on Valverde and co.

17:31 CEST    173km/1.5km to go
Landis is now solo, passing Sanchez (EE).

Jimenez is descending on dry roads - lucky!

17:32 CEST   
Nozal has made it back to the Heras group! But yo-yoing.

17:32 CEST   
Landis is with a Phonak rider now, not too far behind Valverde and co.

17:33 CEST    174.5km/0km to go
Nozal goes off the back of the Valverde/Heras/Piepoli group, suffering.

Jimenez has reached the foot of the descent and tackles the final uphill to win the stage in Xorret de Cati for the second time!

17:34 CEST   
O'Grady takes second place at 31 seconds, and that will help his points ambitions. Freire is third at 47 seconds ahead of Ivanov. Then Fuentes at 1'03 and Elias at 1'09. Zabel is seventh, which means O'Grady does take the points jersey.

17:38 CEST   
Ferrio takes eighth place as Valverde drives the group with Heras and Piepoli behind him. Valverde is ninth, then Heras and Piepoli at 4'16. Sastre and Nozal come in together at 4'45, then Cunego and Hamilton, Mancebo and more. Finally Landis in about 20th at 5'05, just enough to keep the gold.

Thanks for following our coverage of Stage 10. We'll be back at the same time tomorrow for the last stage before the rest day.


Very provisional
1 Eladio Jimenez (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme                4.31.57
2 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone             0.31
3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank                                       0.49
4 Ruslan Ivanov (Mda) Alessio-Bianchi                          
5 Juan Fuentes (Spa) Saeco                                          1.03
6 José Miguel Elias (Spa) Relax-Bodysol                             1.09
7 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                    1.50
8 Jorge Ferrio (Spa) Paternina-Costa De Almeria                     4.05
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme               4.16
10 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros                             
11 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                     
Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor                5.05

General classification after stage 10

1 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor          36.23.52
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme               0.08
3 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto                     0.28
4 Isidro Nozal (Spa) Liberty Seguros                                0.41
5 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros                               0.46
6 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor            0.59
7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                     
8 Denis Menchov (Rus) Illes Balears-Banesto                

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