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60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 11 - Tuesday, September 6: Andorra-Cerler, 192.6 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Hernan Alvarez

Live report

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

14:25 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' temporary tax haven in Andorra, from where we are bringing you the 11th stage of the Vuelta a España live, complete with a 15 percent tax-free bonus. Today marks the second and final Pyrenean stage in this year's Vuelta, and it's also the last stage before the first rest day. After a longer than usual 11 days on the trot for the riders, Wednesday's extended siesta will be a welcome relief.

Today is every bit as tough as yesterday, with four big climbs are on the menu: the Port del Canto (Category 1, 1730 m. above sea level, km 41), Coll de la Creu de Perves (Cat. 2, 1350 m., km 107.3), and Coll de la Espina (Cat. 2, 1410 m., km 140.3) before finishing at the ski station of Aramon Cerler (Cat. special, 1920 m.). What was to be the second climb, the Coll de Bretui (Cat. 2, 1040 m., km 83), has been abandoned because of a landslide.

Three intermediate sprints are also on the cards: Sort (km 61), Castejon de Sos (km 158.8) and Cerler (km 178). Expect to see Heras on the attack. But after yesterday, Russian golden jersey wearer Denis Menchov seems well prepared for war in the mountains.

14:48 CEST   
After yesterday's stage did plenty of damage to the peloton, there were only 166 riders signing on for stage 11. Benoît Poilvet (CA), who crashed yesterday but finished, did not start today. The weather at the start in Andorra was beautiful: 20 degrees and sunny. The riders had a 9.5 km neutral zone before the stage started at 12:09. Unfortunately for Anthony Geslin (Bouygues), he crashed in the neutral zone. But he wasn't too badly hurt and was able to continue.

Once the flag dropped on the Andorran/Spanish border, the attacks started right away. Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), and Bernhard Kohl (T-Mobile) went in the first kilometre, and were joined by Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues), Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner), and Rafael Casero (Saunier Duval). By kilometre six, the break had grown to 13 riders, with David Bernabeu (Comunidad Valenciana), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak), Xavier Florencio (Relax), Pedro Horrillo Muñoz (Rabobank), José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Frédéric Finot (Française des Jeux) and Giovanni Lombardi (CSC) joining in the fun.

After 16 km, the gap was 1'05 as the leaders started the 26 km long Cat. 1 Porto del Canto. As the climb started, Haselbacher lost contact with the front group. A chasing group of 17 including Oscar Pereiro, Joaquin Rodriguez, and Gilberto Simoni, among others, tried to get clear of the peloton, but no dice. After 19 km, the 12 leaders still had a 1 minute gap, but then things got very messy as the climb got harder.

By km 23, the group had reduced to David Bernabeu (Comunidad Valenciana), Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier Duval), Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), and Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), while Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) managed to bridge up. Meanwhile, Markel Irizar (Euskaltel) and Christophe Edaleine (Cofidis) abandoned. The average speed for the first hour was 33.8 km/h.

Liberty Seguros and Rabobank were keeping the peloton under control, riding a minute behind the break. After 35 km, former golden jersey wearer Brad McGee abandoned, followed a few kilometres later by Mathew Hayman (Rabobank). The break was joined by more riders and at the top of the climb, it was Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Saunier Duval), first ahead of Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana), Bernhard Kohl (T-Mobile), Oscar Pereiro Sio (Phonak), Victor Hugo Peña (Phonak), David Bernabeu (Comunidad Valenciana), José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Bingen Fernandez (Cofidis), and Paolo Bettini (Quick Step).

14:52 CEST   
On the descent, the break upped its advantage to 2'26, and pushed it further through the first sprint at Sort (km 61). Adolfo Garcia Quesada was first ahead of Bingen Fernandez and Victor Peña, with the peloton at 3'00. Santiago Botero (Phonak) and Fred Guesdon (FDJ) became the next riders to abandon. That leaves FDJ with just four riders.

The leaders bypassed the Coll de Bretui (landslide) and pushed the average speed up to 41.3 km/h after two hours. At the 92 km point, it has started to rain and the gap is up to 3'52.

14:53 CEST   
The best placed rider in the break is Bernabeu, who sits in 19th at 12'43. Joaquin Rodriguez is 24th at 13'58, but is more here for mountains points. Thus, the break doesn't present a huge threat to any of the top GC riders yet.

14:59 CEST    102km/90.6km to go
The gap has come down to 2'52 as we reach the 100 km point. There have been two more abandons: Luis Perez (Cofidis) and points classification leader Thor Hushovd (CA). That means the points jersey defaults to Menchov, or (probably) Heras if Menchov holds the golden jersey at the end of the day. Heras is tied on points with Petacchi, but with a mountaintop finish, there's no prizes for guessing who will take more points.

15:01 CEST   
The number of abandons is not really surprising. This is the third really hard day in a row and it comes at the end of a tough 11 days of racing. In recent times, the first rest day of a typical grand tour has come on the second Monday or Tuesday. Extending it to Wednesday is just a bit too much for many of these riders, especially with a stage like this to finish off with. On the flip side, there are only four stages to get through before the second rest day next Monday, then another six until the finish in Madrid.

15:09 CEST    111km/77.6km to go
With 75 km to go, the break's advantage has crept up to 3'30 again. Liberty and Rabobank are keeping them in check. There have been no more abandons in the last few minutes.

The riders in the break again: David Bernabeu and Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana), Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Saunier Duval), Victor Hugo Peña and Oscar Pereiro Sio (Phonak), Bingen Fernandez and Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Bernhard Kohl (T-Mobile), José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), and Paolo Bettini (Quick Step)

15:23 CEST    125km/63.6km to go
The leaders have now crossed the second climb of the day, the Cat. 2 Coll de la Creu de Perves. Staf Scheirlinckx was first, ahead of Rodriguez, Adolfo Garcia Quesada, Garcia Acosta, Peña and Pereiro. They fly down the descent and after three hours of racing, the average speed is still 39.9 km/h.

15:26 CEST   
A small correction: today's stage is actually 192 km instead of 186, as the removal of the second climb necessitated a slightly longer route.

15:39 CEST   
The leading group is now on the Cat. 2 Coll de la Espina, a 1410m climb. Three teams are represented by two riders in the break: Comunidad Valenciana, Cofidis, and Phonak. Saunier Duval, T-Mobile, Quick.Step and Illes Balears have one rider each up front.

15:43 CEST    132km/60.6km to go
The gap is quite stable at 3'34 at the moment as the Rabobank orange ploeg works at the front of the peloton. Menchov is their guy, and he must have inspired them a bit with his riding yesterday.

15:49 CEST    139km/53.6km to go
Near the top of the Espina, the 10 leaders are hovering 3'04 in front of the peloton. Again, none of them are any particular threat on GC, so Rabobank won't be at all interested in bringing them back. In any case, the race will be really on on the final climb.

16:01 CEST    145km/47.6km to go
Over the top of the climb Coll de la Espina, Bernhard Kohl is tailed off a bit. He's chasing back on on the descent, at 20 seconds.

16:04 CEST   
The rain that was falling at the finish earlier seems to have eased, although the roads are still wet. It's 12 degrees at the finish.

16:05 CEST    150km/42.6km to go
The leaders are now nine: David Bernabeu and Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana), Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Saunier Duval), Victor Hugo Peña and Oscar Pereiro Sio (Phonak), Bingen Fernandez and Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), and Paolo Bettini (Quick Step).

Bernhard Kohl has been dropped for good, and is 2'25 behind. The peloton is another minute back.

16:07 CEST   
Kohl is about to be caught by the peloton, which is being led by Rabobank and Liberty, 3'04 behind the break.

The results of the Col de la Espina: 1. Rodriguez, 2. A. Garcia Quesada, 3. Scheirlinckx, 4. Pereiro, 5. Peña, and 6. Bernabeu.

16:10 CEST    152km/38.6km to go
Thorwald Veneberg is leading the bunch for Rabobank, with an Euskaltel rider coming through for his turn. Then a whole pack of Liberty riders. The bunch is a good 80-90 riders strong, single file on the wet roads.

16:14 CEST    154km/38.6km to go
The leaders are now going up over the Coll de Fadas, an uncategorised climb. The roads are slightly damp here and the peloton is just 2'14 back.

16:16 CEST    156km/36.6km to go
Menchov is sitting a bit further back in the peloton, behind most of the other GC riders. He has a long sleeved jacket on, disguising his gold jersey.

Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano does a strong turn on the front. Heras sits in fourth wheel.

The leaders are on the descent, and the roads are dry with the appearance of the sun.

16:16 CEST   
Joaquin Rodriguez has moved himself back into the lead in the mountains classification with his strong riding today.

16:18 CEST   
Bettini has opened up a bit of a gap on the descent, trying to keep the pace up as the bunch is just 2 minutes back.

16:19 CEST    159km/33.6km to go
The others come back to Bettini, taking care on the occasionally wet roads.

The average speed after four hours has dropped to a still very respectable 37.7 km/h.

16:22 CEST    160km/32.6km to go
The roads aren't in great condition on the descent - wide enough, but quite bumpy with a lot of patches in them. It's Liberty doing most of the work with a token bit of help from Euskaltel.

16:25 CEST    165.6km/27km to go
The leaders go over a narrow bridge as Garcia Acosta takes off his wind vest and stuffs it in his pocket. Some of them are up here in front for a possible stage win, while others will be trying to help their teammates behind on the final climb, by providing them with a little bit of a tow when they come past.

16:28 CEST    164km/28.6km to go
It's Igor Gonzalez back on the front of the bunch, keeping the tempo quite high. Serrano and Beloki are also up there. Heras is in fifth or sixth wheel, clad in the combination jersey and being tailed by Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick.Step).

16:32 CEST    169km/23.6km to go
Scheirlinckx has a bit of a go on the flat, but the others come back to him. However, the peloton is hungry behind, at 1'45.

The results of the sprint at Castejón: 1. Paolo Bettini, 2. Adolfo Garcia Quesada, 3. OScar Pereiro.

16:37 CEST    171km/21.6km to go
The riders are on the approach to the final climb to the ski station in Cerler. The main part of the climb is 11.6 km at 6% average gradient, with a maximum of 12%. The summit is at 1920m above sea level.

Euskaltel's Egoi Martinez is helping out the Liberty boys in the chase, and the gap is 1'35.

16:41 CEST    174km/18.6km to go
Igor, Egoi, and Joseba are the three riders leading the peloton at the moment. It's mostly been Igor and Egoi, who have done a good job to haul back nine riders to within striking distance. The pace is still fairly high, although the road is gradually uphill.

16:44 CEST    175km/17.6km to go
The CSC jerseys have moved up now, with Carlos Sastre well placed. He lost a little bit of time yesterday. Tom Danielson is also being moved up by his Discovery Channel teammates. Scarponi (Liberty) tells Gerdemann (CSC) to get behind the Liberty train, not in the middle of it.

16:44 CEST    177.6km/15km to go
Beloki is now driving the tempo in the peloton, really stringing it out.

The nine leaders go under 15 km to go.

16:45 CEST   
The peloton is now at the 15 km to go banner, only 43 seconds behind the break. Beloki's work is having a big effect.

16:46 CEST    178.6km/14km to go
The leaders are just about through Benasque now. The two Phonaks are working hard to keep the gap, as are the Cofidis boys. But it's not enough to hold off the bunch.

16:47 CEST    179.6km/13km to go
Preben van Hecke (Davitamon-Lotto) is the first to attack the peloton. He's no threat so he gets a gap. But then he blows, and the peloton motors past.

16:49 CEST    180.6km/12km to go
Beloki drops off the pace, reasonably satisfied with his work. He'll do the climb at his own pace.

The break is caught at last, with some riders spending the best part of 180 km in front.

Now it starts to get hard - nicely timed chase.

16:50 CEST    181.6km/11km to go
Vicioso sprints at the foot of the climb and creates plenty of holes in the peloton. He starts to die, but gives it everything until SCarponi takes over with Heras and Mercado on his wheel. Menchov and Sastre get up.

16:50 CEST   
Scarponi is out of the saddle with Heras on his wheel, looking back to check the damage.

16:51 CEST    182.1km/10.5km to go
The lead group is reduced quickly, with Menchov, Mercado, Scarponi, Heras, Sastre, Mancebo, Ardila, Danielson, and C. Garcia Quesada all surviving the Liberty assault. There's one Phonak there too - that must be Santos Gonzalez.

16:53 CEST    182.6km/10km to go
Sevilla gets up to the group as Danielson lets a small gap open.

It's not Santos Gonzalez, it's Miguel Martin Perdiguero in the front group. He attacks!

16:55 CEST   
Perdiguero gets a bit of a gap but Scarponi brings the group back to him. Well he will, once this motorbike gets out of the way.

David Blanco (Comunidad Valenciana) is trying to get onto the group. Sevilla drops off as it gets steeper. Aitor Gonzalez is there.

16:56 CEST    183.1km/9.5km to go
The leaders: Menchov, Mercado, Scarponi, Heras, Sastre, Danielson, Beltran, C. Garcia Quesada, S. Gonzalez, Perdiguero, Mancebo, Laiseka

16:57 CEST    183.6km/9km to go
Laiseka attacks, but goes nowhere. Scarponi's pace is even, but very hard. Heras sits on his wheel, waiting, with Menchov also there. The roads are quite good here, and the sun is still out.

16:58 CEST   
Under 9 km to go and Perdiguero and Mercado are suffering on the back. A little further behind are Sevilla, Blanco and Ardila.

17:00 CEST   
Perdi and Mercado are now 20m off the back, with the Phonak rider working hard to try to get on. Mercado comes round, bobbing up and down, and tries to close the gap on his own. But they're not waitin'...

17:01 CEST    184.6km/8km to go
Scarponi continues on the front, riding quite hard but not blowing himself up yet. Still, it's been enough to get rid of quite a few riders. Finally, the road flattens and Mercado and Perdi get back on as Laiseka attacks.

Scarponi went through the final sprint in first place ahead of Menchov, but no bonus seconds there.

Laiseka is using the moto and the descent to get a big gap.

17:02 CEST    185.6km/7km to go
The descent doesn't last for long, and now the leaders are greeted with a 10 percent section. Laiseka reaches 7 km to go with 8 seconds.

17:03 CEST   
Sastre is the next to attack behind Laiseka. That forces Heras and Menchov to react. They chase him down.

17:05 CEST   
It's now four leaders: Laiseka, Heras, Sastre, and Menchov. But Laiseka is suffering. A gap back to Garcia Quesada and Mancebo, then the rest of the group: Mercado, Danielson, Beltran, S. Gonzalez, and Scarponi.

17:06 CEST    186.6km/6km to go
Now Heras surges, but Menchov and Sastre react. Laiseka is tailed off a bit. 10 seconds back, Mancebo and Garcia Quesada are chasing.

17:07 CEST   
We now have three leaders, being towed by Roberto Heras. Laiseka is caught by Mancebo and Carlos Garcia Quesada, who come back to the three front riders. As soon as they do, Sastre attacks again. No-one reacts.

17:08 CEST   
It's Mancebo who reacts first behind Sastre, towing the other five back to the CSC rider. But it's not easy.

17:09 CEST    187.6km/5km to go
5 clicks to go and Sastre is a 10 second gap as Mancebo can't really control it. Heras sits in second wheel, looking back at Menchov, who's not going to do anything except follow Heras today.

17:11 CEST    188.6km/4km to go
Sastre grits his teeth but the others come back to him, helped by a tailwind and a short descent. And Mancebo. Menchov does a turn on the downhill, without actually pedaling :-)

17:11 CEST    189.6km/3km to go
Sastre still holds a small advantage as the road goes up again in the final 3.5 km. But Mancebo performs the coup de grace and Sastre is back in the group at 3 km to go.

17:13 CEST    190.1km/2.5km to go
The leading group with less than 3 km to go: Roberto Heras (Liberty), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel), Paco Mancebo (Illes Balears), Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana), and Carlos Sastre (CSC).

Mancebo is continuing to set the pace. Heras sits on his wheel and then Laiseka, who has been in last wheel for a while, attacks again.

17:14 CEST    190.6km/2km to go
Although Laiseka isn't really a danger, Carlos Garcia Quesada is. His counter attack is jumped on by the rest. Laiseka has 2 km to go and has 8 seconds!

17:15 CEST   
Mancebo is back on the front. Can Heras do anything today? Menchov looks very good.

17:16 CEST    191.6km/1km to go
Mancebo gets out of the saddle but it looks like Laiseka might have this one in the bag. 18 seconds!!

17:17 CEST    191.6km/1km to go
Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel) is looking great for a stage win in the Pyrenees, while Denis Menchov will certainly save his golden jersey. Laiseka hammers up to the 1 km to go banner.

17:18 CEST   
Laiseka gives it everything, as Mancebo can't pull the others back to him. 16 seconds.

17:19 CEST    192.6km/0km to go
Laiseka reaches the final 500m, which are almost deserted of people. 100 metres and he starts to celebrate, crossing himself has he wins the stage! Excellent ride.

Second place at 15 seconds goes to Sastre from Heras, Mancebo, Menchov and Garcia Quesada.

17:20 CEST   
Perdiguero wins the sprint for 7th from Danielson, Beltran and S. Gonzalez at 55 seconds.

17:29 CEST   
No changes at all to the top five of the GC, which is somewhat surprising. Danielson and Beltran lost 40 seconds to Menchov, and are sitting in 6th and 7th overall, while Mercado, Plaza and Scarponi round out the top 10. Menchov takes over the points jersey from the abandoned Hushovd, and he gets the combination jersey too. Joaquin Rodriguez will take the mountains jersey.

Menchov looks very happy to have survived another mountain stage. Three more to go, but one of those isn't much of a mountaintop finish. His final victory is looking like a real chance now.

Thanks for following stage 11 with us. Tomorrow is a rest day, so we'll be back on Thursday, European time, in Logroño for the relatively easy 12th stage.


1 Roberto Laiseka Jaio (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                         5.09.38
2 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                            0.15
3 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team             
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne               
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                              
6 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                
7 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems             0.55 
8 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel           
9 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel                                
10 Santos Gonzalez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 

General classification after stage 11

1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                        45.07.35
2 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                0.47
3 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                  1.53
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                            1.57
5 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                        3.31
6 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel                                   5.03
7 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel                                  5.09
8 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic                       5.45
9 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                           5.58
10 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                      6.37

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