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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 19 - September 24: Ávila - Collado Villalba, 142 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

14:31 CEST   
Looking down from Abantos
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image
Welcome to today's live coverage of the 19th stage of La Vuelta, a relatively short leg breaker at just 142km, crowded with four Cat. 3 climbs, one Cat. 2 and one Cat. 1 climb through the Sierra to the east of Madrid between Ávila and Collado Villalba. It will be another day of high tension in what promises to be an open race till the end, with the wind and mountains always a factor. Today and tomorrow are the last days for the climbers to get themselves a buffer before the final flat time trial on Sunday.

The main climb today is the Alto de Abantos (starting at km 66), averaging 5.6% for 15.6 km, with some very steep 17% ramps at the bottom. It's here where Isidro Nozal lost the Vuelta to Roberto Heras last year. This year they are riding on the same team, but race leader Heras will be under pressure from Santi Perez and Paco Mancebo. But it may well be too far from the finish to crack the Liberty train.

Today's sprints are at Las Navas del Marques (km 34.6), Peguerinos (km 90.7), and Alpedrete (km 135.8).

It's already warm at the start in Avila, with temps in the mid- to high-20's. It's supposed to be a bit cooler in the mountains and at the finish.

14:39 CEST    22km/120km to go
The only non-starter today was Italian Luca Paolini (Quick.Step). There are now 124 riders left in the race.

The first rider to attack (from kilometre zero) was Francisco Tomas Garcia, of the always aggressive Cafes Baque team. After almost snaring a second stage win yesterday in Avila, the Baque boys are in the hunt for one today.

Isidro Nozal chased down Garcia, and the peloton reformed with the attacks continuing. The Cat. 3 Alto de Valdelavia (km 16) saw mountains leader Felix Cardenas (Cafes Baque) go over first, followed by Ruslan Ivanov (Alessio-Bianchi), Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme) and Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval-Prodir).

14:46 CEST    32km/110km to go
Over the top of the climb, a break of 20 riders has formed: Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros), Felix Cardenas, David Plaza, Ivan Parra (Cafes Baque), Eladio Jimenez, Francisco Cabello and David Latasa (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), Juan Manuel Garate (Lampre), José Luis Arrieta (Illes Balears-Banesto), Haimar Zubeldia and Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Dario David Cioni (Fassa Bortolo), Ruslan Ivanov (Alessio-Bianchi), Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola), Luis Pasamontes (Relax-Bergasol), Damiano Cunego and Eddy Mazzoleni (Saeco), Constantino Zaballa, Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Benoît Joachim (US Postal).

They currently have 1'46 on the peloton. The best placed rider in the break is Garzelli, who is 17 minutes down on GC in 12th place. It's a well mixed group, and all the big teams are here.

14:56 CEST    37km/105km to go
Zaballa has attacked the break shortly before the sprint at Las Navas del Marqués (km 34). He takes the points, 50 seconds ahead of Ivan Parra and Benoît Joachim and the rest of the 20 man break. The peloton is now four minutes back.

15:05 CEST    44km/98km to go
The leaders are now on the Cat. 2 Puerto de Santa Maria, altogether except for Zaballa, who has 1'20 on the 19 chasers and 4'30 on the peloton. It's an interesting break, with Cunego, Cardenas, Garzelli...

Zaballa is first over the climb, with Cardenas taking second place and more points for his jersey. Garate was up there for third or fourth.

15:08 CEST   
This morning, another 26 riders from the following teams were blood tested: Fassa Bortolo, Illes Belears-Banesto, Cofidis, Alessio-Bianchi and Liberty Seguros. All riders were declared fit to start.

15:11 CEST    48km/94km to go
The leaders are descending the Santa Maria, en route to the Cat. 3 Alto de Robledondo. Zaballa is still away.

15:17 CEST    52km/90km to go
Dedicated fan
Photo ©: CN
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The break is working fairly well, with Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier) sitting on because he has Zaballa up the road. Mazzoleni is working hard to try to set up Cunego. Serrano (Liberty) is not doing too much.

They're climbing the Robledondo at the moment. The skies are crystal clear and there's not a lot of wind.

15:22 CEST    56km/86km to go
Zaballa is first over the climb, while Cafes Baque sets the tempo in the break behind him, allowing Cardenas to take the points for second place again at 1'36. Pasamontes is third, then Parra.

The peloton is now at 5'15.

15:28 CEST    60km/82km to go
Andrle and Hruska (Liberty) lead the peloton over the Robledondo, not at a particularly hard pace. The bunch is lagging four minutes behind the 19 man break, and 5'41 behind the lone Zaballa.

15:36 CEST    67km/75km to go
Carlos Garcia Quesada (Kelme) has set off in pursuit of the break, probably to give Valverde a few more men in front for later on. Eladio Jimenez, Francisco Cabello and David Latasa are all in the break for Kelme.

Zaballa is now riding on the cobbles through San Lorenzo del Escorial, just before the Alto de Abantos starts.

15:38 CEST    68km/74km to go
Zaballa hits some more cobbles and opts for the footpath, but not for long. The Abantos is starting to bite - the bottom is the steepest part of this climb.

15:43 CEST    70km/72km to go
The 17 percent bit
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image
Zaballa hits a steep section of the climb - 12-13% - and gets a couple of kids jogging beside him for company. But then it gets steeper and he's in a bit of trouble.

Behind him, Cardenas has attacked the break and looks very strong. Rodriguez goes after him, then Garzelli and Cunego.

15:45 CEST   
Further back, the peloton is starting to tackle the climb's lower slopes, led by Andrle and Hruska.

Cardenas and Rodriguez hit a 15 percent section, and suffer.

Ellis Rastelli has abandoned.

15:48 CEST   
Cunego has now made contact with Cardenas and Rodriguez. This is a good chase group. Zaballa still has about 1'30.

Liberty is setting a hard enough tempo that they hope no-one will attack. But Nozal will be having flashbacks about now: "The cobbles...17 percent...narrow streets...noooooo..."

15:50 CEST    72km/70km to go
Zaballa is still solo, and he's riding well! 1'56 to the Cardenas, Cunego, Rodriguez group, which has now got Garzelli, Mazzoleni and Cioni in it.

15:56 CEST    72km/70km to go
The Cardenas chase group has been joined by more riders as the climb descends for a short period. Joachim and Laiseka are back, as is Parra.

In the bunch, it's Andrle, Hruska and Gil leading.

Ruben Plaza (Kelme) has abandoned.

16:01 CEST   
Ruslan Ivanov has joined the chase group too - and has attacked. He's the second rider on the road behind Zaballa, who is in an open section before he heads back into the dense forest.

16:05 CEST    77km/65km to go
The peloton, still led by Liberty, is now 7'41 behind Zaballa.

The first chase group has Ruslan Ivanov (Alessio-Bianchi), Felix Cardenas and Ivan Parra (Cafes Baque), Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Damiano Cunego and Eddy Mazzoleni (Saeco), Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola), Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros), Dario David Cioni (Fassa Bortolo), Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel), Benoît Joachim (US Postal) in it

16:08 CEST    81km/61km to go
Zaballa reaches the top of the climb, still with a nice gap. Behind him, Garcia Quesada has bridged up to the chase group and puts in an acceleration. But he is well marked. Cardenas leads the group to the top of the Abantos.

16:11 CEST   
Cunego powers for a bit, with Cardenas, Rodriguez and Garzelli on his wheel. But the others come back - still 14 riders in the chase group.

16:14 CEST    85km/57km to go
Top of Abantos
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image
The results of the Alto de Abantos: 1 Zaballa, 2 Cunego, 3 Cardenas, 4 Garate, 5 Rodriguez, 6 Garzelli, 7 Serrano, 8 Joachim, 9 Plaza. The gap was 2'20 to Zaballa at the top.

16:17 CEST   
The peloton passes over the top, 8'43 behind Zaballa and catching Paco Cabello (Kelme) under the banner. None of the GC riders are obviously interested in attacking today, but that probably makes sense given tomorrow's tough mountain top finish. Liberty will just control things as best they can.

16:23 CEST    91km/51km to go
Zaballa rides through the cobbles in Peguerinos with 50 km to go, before hitting another small climb. He's got a 2 minute plus lead as Joachim and Cunego try to keep the pace going in the chase group. They take second and third respectively behind Zaballa in the intermediate sprint.

16:29 CEST    95km/47km to go
The chase group at the moment: Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola), Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros), Felix Cardenas and David Plaza (Cafes Baque), Damiano Cunego and Eddy Mazzoleni (Saeco), Juan Manuel Garate (Lampre), Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Dario David Cioni (Fassa Bortolo), Benoît Joachim (US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor), David Latasa (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme), Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Ruslan Ivanov (Alessio-Bianchi).

Joachim and the Italians (who look to be working together) try to break it up, but Rodriguez is always there to protect his teammate Zaballa, who now has 1'45. The peloton is 6'40 behind the leader, but picking up speed.

Cardenas, Cunego, Mazzoleni, Joachim, Rodriguez and Garzelli now have a little gap on the rest of the break.

Perdiguero (Saunier) has crashed on the descent of the Abantos and abandoned.

16:31 CEST   
The attempt by the Italians and Joachim fails, and the chase group reforms.

Danilo Di Luca has abandoned. We're left with 120 riders.

16:36 CEST    103km/39km to go
Back in the peloton, which is riding a hard controlling tempo at 7 minutes behind Zaballa, Santi Perez is sitting on Heras's wheel. Beltran is also up there, as is Mancebo. Zabel is about 40 riders back with Evans for company.

16:40 CEST   
Zaballa gets some encouragement from his team car as he rides up the Cat. 3 Alto de Robledondo (again). Just one more climb after this one before the finish. He attacked the break at 34 km, and has never got more than 2'20 lead.

16:43 CEST    104km/38km to go
Zaballa can start to sniff victory as he nears the top of the Robledondo. He's looking strong, concentrating hard as he muscles his way up the climb.

16:46 CEST    106km/36km to go
Plenty of riders are being dropped from the peloton, with some taking some very long "bottles" from the neutral car. The pace is fairly high, but the bunch is still big.

The break is 2'00 behind the leader Zaballa at the top. Cardenas is second, then Rodriguez and Mazzoleni, who continues to drive on the descent. They had it down to 1'30 at one stage.

16:52 CEST   
The chase group gets organised behind Mazzoleni, who has a slight gap on the descent. Garcia Quesada is riding very hard, as he knows the peloton is now 9'00 back. That's dangerous for the GC.

16:54 CEST    112km/30km to go
Garcia Quesada started the day just 11'18 behind Heras. At the moment he is about 7 minutes ahead on the road, as the Liberty led peloton crests the Robledondo 9'02 behind Zaballa. So it's in Garcia Quesada's best interests to work hard in the break. Marcos Serrano tells him to slow down :-)

16:56 CEST   
Somewhere in between the chasing breakaway and the peloton, we have José Luis Arrieta (Illes Balears-Banesto), Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Luis Pasamontes (Relax-Bergasol). But we haven't heard much from them lately. <insert references to trees falling in the forest here>

16:57 CEST    114km/28km to go
Mazzoleni has sat up as David Latasa leads the break back up to him. Zaballa is still in front by about 2 minutes.

16:59 CEST    116km/26km to go
Zaballa has been bitten by an insect, but he's battling on - riding along the cobbles in San Lorenzo del Escorial now.

In the break, Kelme is chasing a bit harder with Latasa and Garcia Quesada.

17:03 CEST    120km/22km to go
Zaballa crests the final climb of the day, the Alto de San Lorenzo del Escorial. He has 1'52 on the break, which has Saeco and Kelme working. They're not going to get him, it looks like.

17:05 CEST    122km/20km to go
Zaballa reaches 20 km to go, gradually downhill, and he's now got his head down with victory in sight. The break isn't working well enough behind to catch the Saunier Duval rider.

17:07 CEST    124km/18km to go
Cardenas, Ivanov and Garcia Quesada took second through fourth on the Cat. 3 climb. Zaballa has won every climb today, save for the first one. But Cardenas should be assured of the mountains jersey now.

17:09 CEST    125km/17km to go
The peloton is still 8'41 behind the leader, with the break at 1'43. Ruslan Ivanov grabs a coke from a following car. Kelme is working hard in the break to put Garcia Quesada up as far as possible on GC.

17:11 CEST   
Mancebo gets to the front of the peloton as Liberty keeps control, 8'37 behind the stage leader Zaballa. Nozal's fifth place on GC is in danger from Garcia Quesada, but Liberty will probably pick up the pace a bit now.

17:13 CEST    126km/16km to go
Zaballa is fighting pretty hard to keep his lead over the break - it's still 1'44 and he's doing incredibly well to hold them off. He doesn't have too long to go now, another 20 minutes or so of pain.

17:14 CEST    128km/14km to go
It's a headwind for the last 15km, and the break is also struggling to hold the tempo. 1'42 to Zaballa. The peloton is lined out - they'll make up a few minutes now.

17:17 CEST    131km/11km to go
Zaballa reaches 12 km to go, having ridden the last 100km solo. He's en route to a very impressive stage win. It doesn't get much harder than this. He sits up momentarily and stretches.

17:18 CEST    132km/10km to go
The break comes through 12km to go at 1'31 behind Zaballa. It's not quite over, but they're going to have to ride flat out to get him.

17:20 CEST   
CSC is now helping Liberty chase in the peloton, which is at 7'49 with 15km to go (for the peloton). The break is disorganised, still 1'31 behind Zaballa.

17:21 CEST    134km/8km to go
Zaballa is now under the 8km to go banner, head down and riding fast. It's not a headwind at the moment and he's got it cranked up to 45-50 km/h.

17:23 CEST    135km/7km to go
The chase group is still being led mainly by Kelme, although most of the other riders are helping from time to time, including Cunego and Garzelli. They're at 1'32 with 8 km to go. Incredible riding by Zaballa.

17:24 CEST    136km/6km to go
Zaballa reaches 6 km to go with the break over a kilometre behind. The peloton is at 7'30 and closing very gradually.

17:25 CEST    137km/5km to go
Zaballa can really smell victory now as he flies under 5 km to go, then 4 km. It's still 1'30, and the break is strung out in pursuit.

17:26 CEST    138km/4km to go
Zaballa continues at 50km/h on a slight downhill to go under 4 km to go. He's nearly home.

17:27 CEST    139km/3km to go
Zaballa is under 3km to go, at warp speed. He has well over a kilometre lead now, but it's still 1'30. That gives you an idea of the speed.

17:28 CEST    140km/2km to go
Zaballa takes a roundabout, then heads down a long straight to go under 2km to go. The yellow of the banner matches his jersey.

17:29 CEST    141km/1km to go
Zaballa takes another roundabout, safely, and rides through the crowds into the final kilometre. Up a little rise, then under the orange banner.

17:29 CEST   
One more roundabout and Zaballa is into the finishing straight.

17:30 CEST    142km/0km to go
Zaballa drives and drives all the way up the straight, then sits up with 100m to go to celebrate his win. A couple of victory salutes, then a big one over the line.

17:32 CEST   
The break comes in at 1'22, with Latasa hammering for his teammate Garcia Quesada. Laiseka and Cardenas start the sprint, but it's Ivanov and Cunego taking second and third.

The peloton comes in at 6'25 with Mancebo leading out the sprint but being passed by a few others. So that means Carlos Garcia Quesada moves up to 6th overall ahead of Sastre, but his gap wasn't quite enough to get past Nozal for 5th.


1 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                  3.33.32
2 Ruslan Ivanov (Mda) Alessio-Bianchi                                1.23
3 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco                                   
4 José Luis Arrieta (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto                
5 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Saeco                                   
6 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Lampre                              
7 Felix Cardenas (Col) Cafes Baque                             
8 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie    
9 Benoit Joachim (Lux) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor       
10 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                       

General classification after stage 19
1 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros                             72.13.01
2 Santiago Perez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                         1.13
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme                 2.15
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto                       2.16
5 Isidro Nozal (Spa) Liberty Seguros                                  6.08
6 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme              6.16
7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                        7.56
8 Angel Gomez (Spa) Paternina-Costa De Almeria                       10.21
9 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie          12.21
10 Luis Perez (Spa) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone                 12.25

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