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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 6 - September 9: Benicarló - Castellón de la Plana, 157 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 to Cyclingnews' coverage of Stage 6 of the Vuelta a España, a 157 km southerly leg down the eastern coastline of Spain, starting in Benicarló and finishing in Castellón de la Plana. Today's stage contains three climbs, but the last 25 km are downhill or flat which may cause things to come back together for the finale. The first ascent is the Cat. 3 climb of Puerto de la Mirona (km 48.8), followed by the Cat. 2 Coll de la Bandereta (km 67.8) and the Cat. 2 Desierto de las Palma (km 132).

As usual, there are three intermediate sprints en route: Cervera del Maestre (km 14.6), Vall d'Alba (km 87.7) and Benicassim (km 122). After his longish breakaway yesterday, Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) is now in the sprints jersey, and will be looking to defend his lead today.

The weather at the start is warm, hazy and humid, with temperatures around the 30 degree mark again.

14:43 CEST    54km/103km to go
The story so far: The stage began at 13:25 with 183 riders left in the race, as there were no overnight withdrawals. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty) and Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval-Prodir) were among the first attackers in the opening 10 km, but the peloton stayed together until the first intermediate sprint in Maestre (km 14), which was won by Roberto Heras (Liberty) from Juan Manuel Garate (Lampre) and Rubén Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme).

At km 18, Miholjevic, Isasi, Cortinovis and Cañada attacked, but were recaptured by the peloton. 10 km later, a group of 31 riders split off the front including Isidro Nozal (Liberty) and Oscar Sevilla (Phonak), but they too were caught, this time under the impulse of race leader Manuel Beltran's US Postal team.

At km 37, Manuel Quinziato (Lampre) attacked and was chased by Martin Hvastija (Alessio) and Kevin Hulsmans (Quick.Step). Hvastija fell off the pace at the foot of the Puerto de la Mirona, leaving Quinziato and Hulsmans with a 1'26 lead.

14:46 CEST   
Hvastija is now 1'40 behind the two leaders on the climb, while the peloton follows at 3'30 behind the leaders.

14:56 CEST    55km/102km to go
Quinziato is the first to the top of the Cat. 3 climb of Puerto de La Mirona, followed by Hulsmans, Hvastija and mountains leader Juan Manuel Garate.

15:04 CEST    65km/92km to go
The leaders are continuing to press their advantage, and it's now 4'35 to the peloton, although the persistent Hvastija has pulled them back to 1'08. None of the three are really threatening for the GC, with Hulsmans being the best placed in 122nd at 14'57 down.

15:09 CEST   
The gaps are expanding as the two leaders hit the Coll de la Bandereta. Hvastija is now 4'20 behind Hulsmans and Quinziato while the peloton is lagging at 7'04. It's still far too early yet to speculate on whether they will stay away, but their low GC positions will definitely help their cause.

15:18 CEST    68km/89km to go
Andreas Klier (T-Mobile) has abandoned, the fourth of his team to do so in two days. Alexandre Vinokourov is still in the race, while Cadel Evans has taken over the GC leadership as he was the only one who didn't eat the fish salad.

15:21 CEST    70km/87km to go
This is getting interesting now, as Quinziato and Hulsmans have an 11'30 lead on the peloton and 8'05 to Hvastija, who is slowly cooking himself in between the bunch and the break. There are still over 85 km to go, and we saw the other day that a motivated peloton (and a headwind) could get ride of a 9'40 gap in just 40 km.

15:27 CEST    77km/80km to go
We've received many reader queries about the status of the fauna in the Vuelta, and can assure you that sightings of Zaragozan goat monkeys, rabid pigs, wild cows etc. have been quite rare. There has been the odd horse though.

Quinziato wins the points on the Cat. 2 Coll de la Bandereta, followed by Hulsmans, Hvastija, Fernandez (Paternina), Garate (Lampre) and Unai Osa (Illes Balears).

15:31 CEST    80km/77km to go
Quinziato and Hulsmans have been pulled back to 7'00 by the peloton, which is being led by Rabobank. That's a more manageable gap, and Freire must be feeling good today if his team is working.

15:33 CEST   
Hvastija has been caught by the peloton, leaving just two riders in front.

15:36 CEST    83km/74km to go
For the benefit of disgruntled US readers who are asking about TV coverage of the Vuelta, to the best of our knowledge, none of the US TV networks are broadcasting this year's Vuelta. Don't ask us why, but it's probably a budgetary decision.

15:38 CEST    86km/71km to go
The leaders have reached a downhill section and are trying to maintain their advantage over the Rabobank-led peloton, which has just reached the feedzone at km 81 at 6'18 behind the pair. The next sprint at Vall d'Alba is coming up soon.

15:40 CEST    87km/70km to go
Race leader Manuel Beltran (USPS), who has a very low saddle position by the way, is moving up to the front of the bunch where he finds his teammate Floyd Landis. Meanwhile Maarten den Bakker is driving the Rabobank train at a hard tempo. Rabo has most of its riders on the front.

15:45 CEST    94km/63km to go
Quinziato, who is now doing his turn in front, is a good rider against the clock and has won several time trials during his career. He wins the sprint at Vall d'Alba ahead of Hulsmans, although the two don't actually contest it.

The peloton passes the sprint at Vall d'Alba 6'48 behind the two leaders, who are doing well to keep their advantage. Mutsaars is the third rider across the sprint line.

15:47 CEST   
Some more news about US TV coverage: You will be able to watch the race if you can get TVE (the Spanish broadcaster that is covering the Vuelta). It's available through many cable companies through Spanish language channel packages.

15:49 CEST    97km/60km to go
Bert Roesems (Bodysol) punctures, but doesn't look too bothered as he gets a new wheel from the team car. He is back on the bike now, chasing back on through the caravan.

The leaders are in Cabanes now with 60 km to go.

15:55 CEST    101km/56km to go
The peloton is not totally stretched out, but it's clear that there is some serious chasing going on. A group of 20 riders is trying to close the gap to the bunch, containing Jacksche (CSC), Bodrogi and Tankink (Quick.Step), Flickinger (Ag2r), Hvastija (Alessio) and several more. They are clawing their way back on.

In Cabanes, the Rabo-train is 5'35 behind the two leaders, who looked to be doomed.

15:59 CEST    103km/54km to go
Hulsmans grabs a bottle and takes a bit of advice on board from his team car. He and Quinziato will probably need 4 minutes by the top of the last climb in order to have a ghost of a chance to stay away. It looks like Rabobank isn't going to give them that chance. 5'00 and falling.

Jackshe has regained the peloton, as has Roesems, but is sitting right at the back.

16:02 CEST    107km/50km to go
The leaders have 50 km to go and are flying along a downhill section. The last climb begins in about 15 km.

16:13 CEST    115km/42km to go
The chase is relentless, all the time with the orange and white jerseys of Rabobank in front. They're on bigger roads now, and that's helping the peloton. Jaksche is now moving up the bunch with the help of his teammates.

16:16 CEST    117km/40km to go
With just over 40 km to go, Quinziato and Hulsmans have around 4 minutes lead on the chasing bunch, where it's all Rabobank, all the time. US Postal is in the second rank with Beltran and Landis well placed.

16:20 CEST    120km/37km to go
The final climb of Desierto de las Palmas is reported to be not too steep, and it's followed by a 7 km descent, which might be suitable for a downhill attack by Samuel Sanchez (Euskadi). The final 17 km is flat and windy, and at 4 km to go it's a tailwind. The riders turn right with 800m to go and the sprint will be in a crosswind.

Vinokoruov is taking on the role as a domestique for his remaining teammates. Only three of them (Evans, Zabel and Schreck) have managed to avoid the food poisoning.

The gap is 3'30 as the leaders make their way up a false flat and down the other side.

16:24 CEST    122km/35km to go
The two leaders are on the outskirts of Benicassim, where the day's third and final intermediate sprint is located. Quinziato is driving hard with Hulsmans on his wheel. The bunch is now 2'50 behind.

Simone Bertoletti (Lampre) has abandoned.

16:27 CEST    123km/34km to go
Rabobank's Pieter Weening punctures, and is quickly attended to by his team director. The bunch is now in Benicassim, where Hulsmans takes the intermediate sprint and 75 euros from Quinziato.

The reason for Jaksche's earlier problem off the back of the bunch was that he too had a flat.

16:29 CEST    124km/33km to go
Illes Balears has taken over the tempo making from Rabobank with Unai Osa and Garcia Acosta leading the bunch past the sprint line 2'15 behind the leaders.

16:30 CEST   
The two leaders are on the Desierto de las Palmas and are feeling the effects of their efforts now. Hulsmans is grimacing as he leads Quinziato. Meanwhile the peloton is reaching warp speed.

16:33 CEST    124km/33km to go
Hulsmans takes a bottle from his team car as he continues to lead, jersey flapping in the hot breeze. Quinziato is looking for his car.

Liberty has massed on the front of the peloton as Zaballa (Saunier) attacks. A Liberty rider follows, it's Giampaolo Caruso. But one of his teammates has punctured at a particularly bad time.

16:34 CEST    125km/32km to go
Caruso and Zaballa are being chased by a group of seven, as the peloton begins to break up under the pressure. Joachim is one of them, as is Joachim. Alberto Martinez, Aitor Perez are also there.

Most of the Rabobank team are off the back now, having done their work for Freire.

Quinziato has dropped Hulsmans, but won't last long in front.

16:36 CEST    126km/31km to go
The peloton reforms, led by Kelme, and Hulsmans is finally caught and the Belgian goes backwards through the bunch.

Jeker (Saunier) is dropped.

16:37 CEST    126km/31km to go
The peloton is snaking its way up the climb as Jimenez (Kelme) attacks with Joachim (USPS) on his wheel again. Caruso (Liberty) comes with them. Quinziato is only 30 seconds ahead now.

Vinokourov (T-Mobile) is going out the back now.

16:38 CEST   
Angel Gomez (Paternina) closes the gap to Jimenez, Joachim and Caruso, and there are four in pursuit of Quinziato.

Van Heeswijk and Zabriskie are dropped.

16:40 CEST    128km/29km to go
The four chasers are being joined by another couple of riders - another Paternina is there, and an Illes Balears. The group reforms with Joachim and Caruso glued to the Paternina rider's wheel. But the peloton is coming up behind them.

Quinziato is caught.

16:41 CEST   
It's not Caruso, it's Nozal who is driving the pace at the head of the race now with Joachim glued to his wheel. Mancebo brings up the front part of the peloton up to them. The attacks continue - it looks like Francisco Lara (Paternina).

16:43 CEST    129km/28km to go
Lara is caught by Nozal and Trentin, with perhaps 25 riders left in the fornt group and another group of 15 chasing at 10 seconds.

16:44 CEST   
Less than 1km of climbing and the pace is intense, with Liberty's Nozal riding hard tempo on the front of the group for Heras. They reach a flatter section and the pace picks up to 35 km/h.

Zubeldia is dropped together with Sacchi.

16:46 CEST    30km/127km to go
Joachim is now struggling on the front of the group, but he's still there. At the summit of the climb it's Mancebo first (Joachim survives). A biggish group of 25 comes over at 30 seconds. It looks like Zabel is in the group.

16:47 CEST    134km/23km to go
Luis Perez (Cofidis) attacks on the twisty descent, but will have to get a big lead to keep it to the finish. It's not that techincal, as the corners are quite gentle. Perez sits up.

16:50 CEST    136km/21km to go
The results of the Cat. 2 Desierto de las Palmas: 1. Mancebo, 2. Beltran, 3. Luis Perez, 4. Lara, 5. Heras, 6. Cunego. The front group is hanging together on the descent, but the chasing group at 30 seconds might be able to bridge and we'll get a reasonable sized bunch finish at the end.

Group 2 is at 24 seconds.

16:53 CEST    140km/17km to go
The descent is fast, but not too technical and both leading groups are flying along. Joachim is still last wheel in the front group, but he's in no danger of being dropped.

Four riders get a small lead over the rest of the group, but sit up and are recaptured. Another kilometre or so of descending and then it's flat to the finish. Two Liberty riders are on the front.

16:56 CEST    142km/15km to go
Caruso, Lopez and Lara have a small gap now, forcing a panicked chase.

The second group has made contact with the first, and we have a peloton of 50 riders.

Caruso is sitting on the two Paternina riders. They only have 10 seconds on Perez, Joachim and Garzelli. Then the peloton at another 10 seconds. Joachim is giving it everything to stay there.

16:58 CEST    144km/13km to go
Caruso comes through for a turn now, with Lara and Lopez grabbing his wheel. It's a tailwind now and the speed is ridiculously high. O'Grady is in the front group too, wearing the points jersey.

Joachim, Garzelli and Perez are caught.

16:59 CEST   
Cofidis is riding hard on the front of the smallish peloton in pursuit of the three leaders. There are two Kelme riders behind, ready to take their turn for Valverde.

The three are caught.

17:00 CEST    145km/12km to go
Lopez and Caruso keep going for a bit, but Cofidis has the situation under control. They are on the outskirts of Castellón de la Plana now.

17:02 CEST    147km/10km to go
10 km to go and it's back together, with Cofidis driving on the front. They only have two men there, and O'Grady will have to look after himself a bit in the sprint. The bunch is perhaps 50 strong, with all the main GC riders in it.

17:04 CEST    148km/9km to go
The peloton heads along with sea front with 9.5 km to go, assisted by a tailwind. The Cofidis riders are still on the front and there's also a Saunier jersey up there, probably trying to set things up for Perdiguero. It looks like Zabel is also in this group.

17:05 CEST   
The speed is 57 km/h now as Liberty take over the lead. Zabel is definitely there, as is O'Grady. Will Valverde contest it today?

17:06 CEST    150km/7km to go
Cristian Moreni (Alessio) is being moved up by a teammate, as is Cunego. This isn't really a Cunego sprint.

17:07 CEST    151km/6km to go
Today could be Erik Zabel's big chance as Petacchi is not here. But watch for Perdiguero, O'Grady, Freire and Valverde.

Beloki moves up to the front with plenty of yellow Saunier teammates.

17:08 CEST    152km/5km to go
They're screaming down the loooong straight with 6 km to go, heading for a 50 rider bunch sprint.

Joachim has dropped back to the rear of the peloton again. His teammates Beltran and Landis are well placed though.

17:09 CEST   
5 km left and Schreck (T-Mobile) is doing a good job in front, then three Cofidis riders take over. The bunch stretches out again in the tailwind.

17:10 CEST    153km/4km to go
The speed picks up again with the tailwind, and the riders have another 3 km before making the last turn into the finish straight. Schreck is back on the front, with the Cofidis riders in tow.

17:11 CEST    154km/3km to go
Schreck pulls off with just under 3 km to go. Freire moves up next to Zabel and O'Grady, in about 7th wheel.

17:11 CEST    155km/2km to go
There's three Cofidis riders leading out O'Grady with 2.5 km to go. Zabel is next, then Freire.

17:12 CEST    155.5km/1.5km to go
The speed is 50 km/h as two Paternina riders attack under the 2 km to go banner. But they get nowhere. That will actually help Cofidis.

17:13 CEST    156km/1km to go
The two Paterninas lead until just over 1 km to go, but Cofidis decide to hammer to the last roundabout. They can't control it.

17:14 CEST    157km/0km to go
Zabel is third whgeel behind O'grady and a teammate with 800m to go. O'Grady's man leads out from a loooong way and O'Grady has to wait. Horillo is also up there.

Horrillo goes early with Perdi on his wheel. Then Zabel hits out with 100m to go but it's Freire who comes off his wheel to win the stage!!! O'Grady third in the end.


1 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank                                    3.48.23
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                              
3 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis, le credit par Telephone         
4 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                          
5 Miguel A. M. Perdiguero (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir              
6 David Fernandez (Spa) Paternina-Costa De Almeria            
7 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie    
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme             
9 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Lampre                                
10 Luis Pasamontes (Spa) Relax-Bodysol                

General classification after stage 6 

1 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor   
2 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor                 
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Illes Balears-Banesto                        0.04
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme              0.09
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) T-Mobile Team                                  0.16
6 Benoit Joachim (Lux) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor           0.23
7 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto                    0.39
8 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme           0.47
9 Victor Hugo Peña (Col) US Postal Service p/b Berry Floor             
10 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems                     0.50

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