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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 14 - Saturday, September 10: Nestlé La Penilla-Lagos de Covadonga, 172.3 km

Complete live report

Commentary by Shane Stokes, with additional reporting from Hernan Alvarez

14:58 CEST   
Good afternoon and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 14th stage of the Tour of Spain, a 172.3 kilometre mountain stage from Nestle La Penilla to Lagos de Covadonga.

15:05 CEST   
There were two non-starters this morning, Belgian sprinter/classics rider/world championship hopeful Tom Boonen and the Spaniard David de La Fuente. Boonen had already indicated he was to leave the race, preferring to return home and fine-tune his form in training rather than continue in the Vuelta.

He didn't manage to beat chief rival Alessandro Petacchi for a stage win during the race, but remains upbeat about his chances for Madrid on September 25th.

15:14 CEST    102km/70.3km to go
There is a group of 15 riders clear. These went away in the first hour of racing and now have a lead of over seven minutes on the rest of the field. They are gambling that the difficult finish of this stage means that the peloton will give them a bit of leeway, with the strongest then trying to hold off to the finish.

15:16 CEST   
Historically, the Lagos de Covadonga finish has always ensured a worthy winner, reflecting perhaps the difficulty of the hors categorie climb. It is 14.3 kilometres long with an average gradient of 6.5% and a maxiumum pitch of 13%; more than enough to put riders under serious pressure.

15:19 CEST   
The Covadonga finish was first introduced in 1983, when Marino Lejaretta won.

More recently, Pedro Delgado, Laurent Jalabert, Lucho Herrera, Raimond Dietzen, Robert Millar, Alvaro Pino, Oliveiro Rincón, Pavel Tonkov, Andrei Zintchenko and Juan Miguel Mercado have been victorious, with Jalabert and Herrera each taking two wins there.

15:23 CEST   
Today's stage could prove of vital importance to the race. Three time Vuelta winner Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) started this morning with a deficit of 47 seconds to Rabobank's Denis Menchov. Taking time back today is crucial, as he will need to have a buffer over Menchov in the final time trial; however, Heras' knee has been giving him problems since his bad crash earlier this week, so it remains to be seen if he will be at full strength today.

15:40 CEST   
The leading riders were clear at the 26 kilometre point. These were as follows:

Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty Seguros), Martin Elmiger (Phonak), Unai Osa (Illes Balears), Anthony Charteau (Boygues Telecom), Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana), Bart Cockx (Davitamon – Lotto), Aketza Peña (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Heinrich Haussler (Team Gerolsteiner), Guido Trenti (QuickStep – Innergetic), Bram De Groot (Rabobank), David Canada, Angel Gomez, Iñigo Cuesta, and Joaquin Rodriguez (all Saunier Duval – Prodir) plus Marcus Brughardt (T-Mobile).

Gomez was dropped from this bunch, making it 13 clear.

15:46 CEST   
One motivation for Saunier Duval’s strong presence in the lead group is the mountains jersey of Joaquin Rodriguez. He started this stage with 96 KOM points, 30 more than the total of Heras. Scoring heavily today will do him a lot of favours.

And, sure enough, that is what he has done. Rodriguez took maximum points on the three second category climbs – Alto de Carmona (49 km), Collada de Ozalba (66.3 km) and the Collada de la Hoz (80.2). Where possible, his team-mates have also snuck into the mountain points, providing a buffer against others who may harbour ambitions of going after the KOM jersey.

15:47 CEST    130km/42.3km to go
The break is now on the third category Alto del Ortigueiro, holding an advantage of 8 minutes and 12 seconds on the peloton. They've got just over 40 km of racing left, so that's not a bad lead.

15:51 CEST   
CSC and Euskaltel are riding behind.

16:00 CEST   
Generally, the rule of thumb is that the bunch should be able to take back 1 minute every ten kilometres, so by that reckoning the break looks like it is home and dry. However, the same doesn't apply on mountain stages, where the fresher, stronger climbers in the bunch can dynamite the race once they hit the final climb. That said, there are some strong riders up front so it's by no means guaranteed that guys such as Heras and Menchov will catch everyone in the break. It will be interesting to see what happens...

16:11 CEST    148km/24.3km to go
The bunch has become more active, slicing a chunk of time off the lead of the break. With about 24 km left to race, they are now 5 minutes and 10 seconds behind the front runners.

16:14 CEST    157.3km/15km to go
Liberty are now driving the pace as the riders near the start of the final climb. So perhaps that suggests that Heras is feeling okay at the moment and that his knee has settled down.

CSC are also helping out, as the gap drops to 3 minutes and 42 seconds. The break have lost considerable time and so they must be getting worried.

16:19 CEST   
The break is now on the final hors category climb of the Lagos de Covadonga, and in the process of breaking apart. The friskier guys are applying the pressure, aware that they need to ramp up the speed if they are to stand a chance of staying clear of the charge behind.

16:21 CEST   
Liberty are still charging along, going for all they are worth as the slope steepens.

Up front, the break has officially broke...Jimenez goes clear of the rest while, behind, Joseba Beloki leads the chase.

16:23 CEST    162.3km/10km to go
Heras is riding hard, with Menchov looking relatively composed on his wheel. In terms of style, the Spaniard looks more under pressure. Mancebo looks to have blown, as does Danielson.

Sastre pushes the pace and gets a slight gap on the rest of the leaders.

16:25 CEST   
Michele Scarponi is the only one of Heras' Liberty team still left at the front of the bunch. Sastre is now clear on his own. He started this morning 4th overall, 1'57 back, and is drawing away of the three riders ahead of him in GC. Good riding!

16:26 CEST   
Eladio Jimenez is still clear up front. Sastre looks good, concentrating on the task at hand as he tries to increase his 12 second lead.

16:27 CEST   
Sastre has just flown past mountains leader Rodriguez.

16:28 CEST   
He now passes Dockx and Bram de Groot, picking off those in front one by one.

16:31 CEST    164.3km/8km to go
Sastre now has 18 seconds on the Menchov/Heras group. He is closing up on those in front, passing Pena now.

Behind, Robert Laiseka (Euskaltel) has come back up to the Heras group.

16:36 CEST   
The riders are now at the La Huesera section of the climb, the 13% section. Jimenez is out of the saddle but riding strongly. Sastre is a picture of concentration, whipping the pedals around as he approaches that section.

Gonzalez de Galdeano has come back to the front and puts in one last burst in an attempt to springboard Heras. The treble Vuelta champion goes, with Menchov looking good on his wheel. Gilberto Simoni's form has awoken and is up there, too, although he looks a bit rougher than the other two.

He's gone...

16:39 CEST    167.3km/5km to go
Now he's back...kinda. Simoni yo-yo's off the back as Heras does what he can to drop Menchov. No cracks so far, the Russian is looking strong.

Sastre is now just 9 seconds clear of the Heras-Menchov-Simoni group.

16:45 CEST    169.3km/3km to go
Simoni now attacks as the climb levels out somewhat! He's got a good chance of getting a gap as Heras and Menchov will be watching each other.

Jimenez has reached the downhill section and is looking good, holding a decent lead as he gets ready for the final couple of kilometres. He's heading uphill again.

Sastre is 13 seconds ahead of Heras and Menchov. The Spaniard is doing what he can to get rid of the race leader, but no joy as yet.

16:47 CEST   
Heras and Menchov are now on the downhill section. Looking good for Jimenez, surely he'll hold on now...

Sastre goes under the 3 km to go banner, 1'47 back. Then Heras and Menchov, 10 seconds later.

16:50 CEST    171.3km/1km to go
Jimenez is stomping along nicely, less than 2 km to go now..

Behind, Simoni catches Sastre. They are on a section of 7-8 % steepness. Some crazy fans are running alongside the two of them, but drop back.

Jimenez goes under the kite and is on the fast downhill towards the line. It goes up again just before the finish. He's got this won, unless he falls off.

16:51 CEST   
He does it! The Comunidad Valenciana rider crosses the line, waving to the crowd.

16:52 CEST   
Sastre and Simoni go under the kite, as do Menchov and Heras about 5 seconds later.

16:52 CEST   
Cuesta is still up there, taking second on the stage.

16:57 CEST   
He was 1'21 seconds back, with Simoni at 1'31 and Sastre at 1'36. Menchov leads Heras across the line 1'43 back. Other riders come in in dribs and drabs, with Menchov finishing 2'35 down. He'll slip down the GC tonight..Sastre will move up to third.

16:58 CEST   
Danielson comes in 3'46 down...that's a shame, he was riding well in this Vuelta and had picked out this stage as one he wanted to do a big ride on. However, these aspirations were compromised as he had stomach problems last night. We'll hopefully get a diary from him later on with more details of his stage.

17:04 CEST   
So Menchov preserves his overall lead over Heras..things are certainly looking more difficult now for the Liberty Seguros rider, who is running out of opporunities to win his fourth Vuelta. He's got another summit finish tomorrow, though, so look for him to try again on the road to the Puerto de Pajares.


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