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59th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 4-26, 2004

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Vuelta a España fantasy game

Stage 4 - September 7: Soria - Zaragoza, 167 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

14:37 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the fourth stage of the Vuelta, a 167 km downhill run between Soria and Zaragoza. They say that stages into Zaragoza are always the fastest - Igor González de Galdeano set the record here in 2001 and it stands at a respectable 55.176 km/h, helped by a drop in altitude from Soria (1010m) to Zaragoza (200m). Along the way there is the Cat. 3 climb of the Puerto de Lanzas Agudas and intermediate sprints at Aldealpozo (km 21), Pozuelo de Aragón (km 103) and Bardallur (km 130.4).

The weather today could play an interesting role, as it's windy with plenty of cloud cover and the chance of rain.

14:46 CEST    47km/120km to go
Today's stage started at 13:27 CEST, and the riders have now covered 47 of the 167 km on offer. The first sprint at Aldealpozo (km 21) was won by Erik Zabel (T-Mobile), who is obviously interested in the points jersey as he is now too far behind to take the lead after he punctured in the finale yesterday. Second was Fassa Bortolo's Marco Velo, followed by race leader Benoît Joachim (USPS), who gained another 2 seconds bonus on GC.

The first attack of the day was made by Xavier Florencio (Relax-Bodysol) at km 13, but this was unsuccessful and the peloton stayed together until the first sprint. At km 29, Mikel Astarloza (Ag2R Prevoyance) and José Miguel Elias (Relax-Bodysol) attacked, and are currently holding a 25 second lead on a chasing pair, David Fernandez (Paternina-Costa De Almeria) and Aitor Silloniz (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

The first hour was ridden at an average speed of 34.8 km/h.

14:50 CEST    49km/118km to go
The leaders have been caught after 15 km of freedom, and the peloton is compact once more.

14:58 CEST    53km/114km to go
There's been a crash! Quick.Step's Pedro Horrillo and Bram Tankink are down, but not for too long. They receive some treatment from the race doctor and are back on their bikes.

15:09 CEST   
Alessandro Spezialetti (Saeco) was also involved in the crash, along with several others. But the Italian is back on his bike, getting treatment from the doctor for head wounds.

15:23 CEST    71km/96km to go
The peloton is still complete, but being buffeted by some strong head/crosswinds during this fourth stage. The average speed will suffer as a result.

15:24 CEST   
Riders are still trying to break the shackles though, as Xavier Florencio and David Fernandez try again to get clear. They go together with Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Julien Laidoun (Ag2R Prevoyance), and have a 15 second gap to the peloton.

15:39 CEST    86km/81km to go
Florencio, Fernandez, Isasi and Laidoun have managed to eke out a 2'20 lead as they climb the Puerto de las Lanzas Agudas.

15:43 CEST   
Fernandez reaches the top of the climb first, ahead of Laidoun, Florencio and Silloniz. It's only the second climb in the Vuelta so far (and the only one today).

Despite the wind, the sun is shining strongly now and temperatures are in the high 20's.

15:55 CEST    95km/72km to go
The four leaders are on the steady descent of the Agudas, with around 70 km left in this stage. The wind is making it tough going, and they only have 2'45 over the peloton. As we saw yesterday, when the bunch is motivated, it can erase more than 2 minutes per 10 km. Yesterday's quartet had 9'40 with 48 km to go, but was caught with 7 km to go!

15:57 CEST   
The leaders have just passed the feed zone at Boria, with Fernandez and Laidoun grabbing bags of nutritious goodies. The peloton is moving a little quicker, with Illes Balears and Lampre jerseys at the front riding a controlling tempo.

16:01 CEST    97km/70km to go
The leaders are really fighting into this headwind, but the peloton isn't giving them much room today. A few Postal jerseys are also on the front, helping to control things.

Florencio started the day in 59th at 2'03 down, which makes him the virtual leader at the moment, as the gap is 2'53.

16:06 CEST    100km/67km to go
The race turns onto a narrow road, where US Postal continues to ride tempo on the front of the bunch, pegging the le adders at between 2'30 and 3'00. The chase hasn't really started yet, but the sprinters teams should certainly take it up later.

16:08 CEST   
Cyclingnews correspondent Martin Hardie reports that today's finish will be a difficult one to judge for the sprinters. The final straight is 700m long and slightly uphill. But the hardest thing will be the strong headwind - if a rider jumps too early they'll be swamped from behind.

16:10 CEST   
Cyclingnews correspondent Martin Hardie reports that today's finish will be a difficult one to judge for the sprinters. The final straight is 700m long and slightly uphill. But the hardest thing will be the strong headwind - if a rider jumps too early they'll be swamped from behind.

16:11 CEST    103km/64km to go
The intermediate sprint at Pozuelo de Aragon is not contested by the four leaders, and it's Inaki Isasi who takes the points ahead of Fernandez, and Laidoun.

In the peloton, Postal is being helped by Illes Balears to set the tempo.

16:18 CEST    106km/61km to go
The road has narrowed a little, as the peloton approaches a section of the race where the wind is reported to be blowing very strongly from the right hand side. Possibly an opportunity to break it up?

16:23 CEST    108km/59km to go
There has been a crash on this narrow road: Eladio Jimenez (Kelme) and Fabian Jeker (Saunier Duval) are down, but getting on with it quickly. A few groups a chasing back to the front - they're not too far away, so they should make it. The headwind is already very hard.

16:28 CEST    109km/58km to go
Eladio Jimenez is getting a new front wheel from his team car and is riding hard with Santiago Perez (Phonak), just evading a second crash within the team car caravan.

Liberty Seguros' Koldo Gil is getting a new bike, too, riding back to the bunch behind a Saunier Duval car. In front, there's Illes Balears and T-Mobile.

16:32 CEST   
The four leaders are working really well and taking turns of only a few seconds. Behind, Liberty's Koldo Gil is getting back into the bunch, which is very compressed and nervous because of the upcoming turn and the crosswinds awaiting them.

16:35 CEST    115km/52km to go
The peloton is rarely as slow as this on the flat: only 35 km/h at the moment! And this is not due to laziness. Also, there's no trees in this region at all, so they're getting the full blast of the wind.

16:40 CEST    118km/49km to go
Another crash! Mikel Artetxte and CSC's Thomas Bruun will have to wait a while for their team cars, but not really hurt. A few hundred metres down, there's a crash again...

A group of about 30 riders is chasing down the peloton, they should make it. Marius Sabaliauskas (Saeco) is getting technical assistance from his team mechanic out the window.

16:42 CEST    122km/45km to go
The chase group is back with the bunch now. The route is descending in curbs.

Johan Van Summeren (Relax) is left behind, trying hard to get to the front again after changing his bike.

16:45 CEST    125km/42km to go
Unai Osa (Illes Balears) is getting some water bottles, and the peloton has finally got off that narrow road onto a two-lane road.

The head quartet still has 2'09, but will that last?

16:51 CEST    127km/40km to go
The break is passing through Urrea de Jalon, with the next intermediate sprint about 4 km away. The speed picks up now, because the wind is no longer directly in front of them.

16:56 CEST    131km/36km to go
And the sprint in Bardallur (km 130.4) goes to... Florencio, followed by Laidoun and Fernandez, while the peloton is getting near, only a minute behind now. Kelme is working again.

17:00 CEST    133km/34km to go
A lot of different teams are fighting for the front positions now, as everyone intends to be the winning team if a split takes place. Joachim seems to be more at the back of the peloton.

The racing gets serious now, the break only 0'23 away. Laidoun and Fernandez are trying to continue by themselves.

17:03 CEST    136km/31km to go
The other two leftovers from the break are caught. Liberty's in the front, and the fast pace has caused small groups to be dropped from the back of the peloton. Caucchioli and Tonkov are off the pack.

17:08 CEST    140km/27km to go
The speed is currently 53 km/h. Illes Balears has four riders helping the second group to catch up, as there's Denis Menchov with them. Most of the Cafés Baque Team is there, too.

17:10 CEST    141km/26km to go
Cunego has crashed! He gets a bike change, and some teammates are waiting for him.

The work of Illes Balears has paid off: They're back in front.

17:11 CEST    143km/24km to go
Six Saeco's are now pacing back to the bunch. Astarloa is also with them after puncturing.

17:14 CEST    144km/23km to go
US Postal is riding tempo in front, and after returning to the peloton, Cunego has also positioned himself up there.

At the back of the group, Eladio Jimenez is getting seen to by the Kelme team car, grabbing a few bottles along the way. He has too many!

17:15 CEST   
The Saunier Duval team is now helping Joseba Beloki get back on, after a mechanical.

17:18 CEST    145km/22km to go
Race leader Joachim drops back to the team car to pick up a few bottles - this is becoming a bit of a tradition in the US Postal team! Four of his hard working teammates are on the front of the peloton, which Saeco and T-Mobile also up there. It's very nervous, with this strong headwind.

17:20 CEST    147km/20km to go
The pace slows somewhat, as a Saeco rider moves off the front to check his bike. At the back of the peloton it's a bit calmer - as long as it stays a headwind.

17:23 CEST    148km/19km to go
They're on a flat out, straight motorway now, with a chain of mountains on the left hand side. It's a if they had reached an agreement not to attack right now, as some riders are still getting bidons. It's now slowed to 29 km/h.

17:27 CEST    151km/16km to go
Mikel Astarloza (Ag2R Prevoyance) and Antonio Colom (Illes Balears-Banesto) attack, joined by David Herrero (Paternina-Costa De Almeria) and Bert Roesems (Relax-Bodysol). They have a 10 second gap, but the peloton is chasing. Fassa and T-Mobile are leading with four men.

17:28 CEST   
The four leaders stretch their advantage out to 14 seconds, with the huge figure of Roesems working hard. The peloton is not flat out chasing yet, probably allowing these riders a bit of a lead to reduce the nervousness in the bunch.

17:30 CEST    152km/15km to go
Astarloza comes through for his turn, then Herrero. All riders are taking short pulls, due to the strong headwind.

Rabobank has put a couple of men at the front of the peloton, to help T-Mobile and Fassa. Now Cofidis come up with four riders. This will probably be too much for the break.

17:32 CEST    154km/13km to go
Gustov is the man on the front of the bunch now, pegging the leaders back to 20 seconds. Roesems, Herrero, Astarloza and Colom are doing 34 km/h, and they're going flat out! This will give you an idea of the headwind today.

17:34 CEST    155km/12km to go
Roesems is giving it full gas, and Astarloza (who is also tall) is the lucky rider who has his wheel. 12 km to go, and the peloton is pulling back the leading four.

17:35 CEST    156km/11km to go
T-Mobile, Rabobank, Fassa, Cofidis and Vini Caldirola all have men on the front of the bunch, riding a hard tempo in pursuit of the break, which is still managing to keep a 15 second lead.

17:37 CEST    157km/10km to go
Cioni, Sacchi, Gustov are all up the front now for Fassa, trying to set up Petacchi for another stage win. It's going to be a tough sprint into the headwind, and the winner will have to have plenty of patience in the final straight. Fortunately for Petacchi, he has a leadout train that can get him as far as he wants to the finish.

The gap is 10 seconds and closing.

17:39 CEST   
In the break, Colom cracks first as he sees the peloton coming behind. Now there are three with less than 10 seconds. Roesems, Astarloza and Herrero.

17:40 CEST    159km/8km to go
Herrero comes back to the bunch, leaving the two big guys out in front. The peloton is swarming all over the right hand side, T-Mobile in charge.

17:41 CEST    160km/7km to go
One rider doesn't stay on the main road, and is now riding on a side road looking for a way back! It's not easy either.

17:42 CEST    161km/6km to go
It's Matt White (Cofidis) - he's now back on the main road, but at the back of the bunch. Oops. He laughs about it with Garcia Acosta and Scott Sunderland, who give him directions.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Serrano (Cafes Baque) attacks.

17:43 CEST   
Serrano's suicide move nets him about 50m, but it's going to be impossible for him to hold off the peloton for the next 6 km.

17:44 CEST    162km/5km to go
T-Mobile marshals itself at the front of the bunch again, hoping that Zabel can pull off the victory today - you never know.

Serrano goes backwards very fast once the magenta train gets going. Peloton compact again.

17:46 CEST    163km/4km to go
It's getting close now - 4km to go and the speed has picked up to 48 km/h. Fassa's train is riding with T-Mobile.

17:47 CEST    164km/3km to go
The bunch is clustered on the right hand side of the road, but the crosswind isn't strong enough to split it today. Sacchi (Fassa) takes a turn after Schreck (T-mobile), then Ongarato. An Alessio rider is up there too.

17:48 CEST    165km/2km to go
Who will it be today? Zabel or Petacchi or ... ?

17:49 CEST    165km/2km to go
The road goes uphill with 2km to go and Sacchi and Ongarato force the pace, with Velo up there. Petacchi is on Trenti's wheel. Sacchi pulls off.

17:49 CEST   
Botero takes over the lead, then Barry (USPS). But the Fassas are back with Ongarato and a Vini Caldirola rider. It's 48 km/h into a strong headwind.

17:50 CEST    166km/1km to go
The road turns to the right with just over 1 km to go, and the peloton lines out.

17:51 CEST    167km/0km to go
Fassa leads out Petacchi with two riders, Zabel is on Petacchi's wheel, then Furlan....

Trenti goes with 250m to go, then Petacchi jumps at 150m. Zabel almost gets past him, then Freire comes, but Petacchi comes back with an incredible burst and wins!!! Zabel second and Freire third.


1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                       4.23.01
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                 
3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank                                     
4 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone           
5 Angelo Furlan (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                   

General classification after stage 4
1 Benoit Joachim (Lux) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor      
2 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor         0.18
3 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor             0.24
4 Michael Barry (Can) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor                
5 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor               
6 Victor Hugo Peña (Col) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor             
7 David Zabriskie (USA) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor              
8 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                         0.40
9 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile Team                                      
10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme             0.47

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