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Photo ©: Sirotti

60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 21 - Sunday, September 18: Madrid-Madrid, 144 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Hernan Alvarez

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

14:28 CEST   
Welcome back to our hard core audience of cycling fans for our live coverage of the final stage of the Vuelta a España. It's been a long, hard three weeks, but it ends today in Madrid with a 136.5 km sprinters stage. In fact, the final part of today's stage takes in two of the 17 km circuits that will be used in next week's World Championships road race, and you can bet that that's one of the prime reasons why Alessandro Petacchi has stayed in the Vuelta all this time. Also, he'll benefit from being in top condition that a grand tour gives you.

Besides the final sprint, there are three intermediate sprints on offer today: Morata de Tajuña (km 32.8), Fuenlabrada (km 69.7) and Madrid (km 101.7). But Petacchi would have to win them all and the final sprint in order to equal Roberto Heras on the points classification, so it looks like the blue fishes jersey will belong to Heras at day's end, along with the gold leader's and green/yellow combination jersey. Heras is about to become the best Vuelta rider in history with a fourth overall win, and he's proved it this year with a sizeable gap to second place.

The weather today is a far cry from the scorching 40 degree temperatures we had at the start, and it's only 19 degrees. It's sunny though, and there's not a cloud in the sky. It's a perfect day for riding your bike.

14:33 CEST   
Today's stage started at 13:51 with all 127 riders turning up. Gilberto Simoni didn't sign on, but he is in the peloton.

Heras will not only become the first rider to win four Vueltas overall, he will also become the second most prolific gold jersey wearer in history, with 37 days in the leader's jersey. Only Alex Zülle, with 45, is better. But Zülle only won the Vuelta twice.

14:41 CEST    23km/113 km to go
As expected in the early part of the final stage, the peloton is taking it steady and riding as one unit. No attacks so far.

14:50 CEST    30km/106 km to go
It's practically impossible for any of the classifications to change today. As already mentioned, the leader's, points and combination jersey are owned by Heras, while Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier Duval) has an unbreakable grip on the mountains jersey with 200 points, compared to Eladio Jimenez's 166. In the teams standings, Comunidad Valenciana is well ahead of Illes Balears, with 54 minute advantage. Thus, today will be one to celebrate and relax a little, until the end of course.

15:01 CEST    33km/103 km to go
Well, Petacchi is keeping his options open as he wins the first intermediate sprint ahead of Michele Scarponi (Liberty Seguros) and Charly Wegelius (Liquigas-Bianchi).

The average speed after the first hour is 31.5 km/h.

15:12 CEST    43km/93km to go
After the sprint, the bunch clicks back into cruise mode - an all too rare occurrence in the last three weeks. The next sprint comes at Fuenlabrada after 69 km.

15:17 CEST    45km/91km to go
This year's Vuelta has been slower than recent years, with an overall average speed of 40.858 km/h over 3220 km. Although the quality of the teams has been better, the race distance has been increased, which tends to reduce the average.

That said, yesterday's tailwind assisted time trial was the fastest ever of any grand tour (56.2 km/h). Yep, Roberto Heras rode quicker than Miguel Indurain ever did in any of his crushing time trial victories. But it's not so often that you get a flat course and a tailwind for a grand tour TT.

15:28 CEST    54km/82km to go
The pace increases a tad, with the sprinters teams of Fassa Bortolo and T-Mobile taking the lead. Maybe Erik Zabel can be The One today.

15:39 CEST   
Race leader Roberto Heras is riding with a special bike, made especially for today. His BH Global Concept has been painted gold by Arte-Ruta and has a message on it commemorating his four Vuelta victories.

15:45 CEST    64km/72km to go
The tempo ups a little more as team Gerolsteiner moves to the fore, perhaps thinking of their sprinters Rene Haselbacher and Heinrich Haussler later on.

15:54 CEST    67km/69km to go
Relax Fuenlabrada has now got the front, as the race goes through...Fuenlabrada. The second intermediate sprint is approaching.

15:56 CEST    68km/68km to go
Alessandro Petacchi moves up to the front, and wins the sprint uncontested. Hmm...he's keeping his chances open for the points jersey. He's won more stages, so if they finish on equal points, he'll win the fishes jersey.

15:58 CEST    69km/67km to go
Relax continues on the front, getting a bit of exposure for their sponsors.

The average speed is around 32 km/h in the first two hours.

16:01 CEST   
The peloton is stretching out a bit now as Relax pushes the tempo. It's not lined out, but the speed is closer to 40 than 30 now.

16:04 CEST    73km/63.5km to go
Luis Pasamontes took second in that sprint ahead of Josep Jufre, with Petacchi taking the maximum 4 points.

16:07 CEST    76km/60.5km to go
The bunch reaches the outskirts of Madrid and snakes its way through the streets, towards the centre. It's still the six Relax Fuenlabrada jerseys leading.

16:11 CEST    79.5km/57km to go
The peloton passes through Mostoles, a suburb of Madrid, with a big crowd out to cheer it on.

16:15 CEST    82km/54.5km to go
Relax Fuenlabrada wants to get this stage done sooner rather than later, and has lifted the tempo to 40 plus. Heras sits back a bit, left knee still heavily bandaged from his crash 10 days ago, but looking quite relaxed on his golden motifed bike.

The bunch goes through Alcorcon now.

16:19 CEST    85.5km/51km to go
Aha, the blue jerseys of Liberty Seguros have moved to the fore, ahead of Relax Fuenlabrada. They're riding on the big road, direction Madrid centre. They'll cross the finish line for the first time at km 101.7, then do two 17 km circuits.

16:23 CEST    87.5km/49km to go
Joaquin Rodriguez cruises up next to his teammate Leonardo Piepoli, happily wearing the burgundy (not peppermint flavoured...) coloured jersey of mountains leader.

16:26 CEST    91.5km/45km to go
Carlos Sastre, wearing the combination jersey today, rides off the back of the peloton in the caravan. Probably after a mechanical of some sort. None of his teammates have dropped back yet, but the speed's not so high so he'll have no problems rejoining the peloton.

The first attack comes from a Relax rider. The battle has been joined.

16:27 CEST    93.5km/43km to go
It's Jorge Garcia who's tearing off the front at 55 km/h. He's flying!

16:28 CEST   
If Garcia gets away, this will sink Petacchi's chances for the points jersey. Ahh, Fassa realises it and puts five men on the front to chase down Mr Garcia.

16:29 CEST    95km/41.5km to go
Fassa Bortolo clicks into gear and lines out the peloton. If Garcia makes it to the next sprint, Petacchi can forget about the points jersey.

16:30 CEST   
Garcia is sucked up by the Fassa boys. They're serious about this sprint.

16:31 CEST    97.5km/39km to go
Now the peloton is quite strung out as it descends on the main road, through a tunnel and along the treelined Cuesta de San Vicente.

16:33 CEST   
The peloton passes the Palacio Real, led by Fassa Bortolo, now through the Plaza de España and into the Grand Via in the centre of Madrid. A huge crowd is out to watch the spectacle.

16:35 CEST    98.5km/38km to go
Michael Barry is last wheel as the peloton drives up Madrid's main drag. Fassa is on the front with five men, and Petacchi of course. Liberty is next in line, but may have to concede the leadership to Fassa for a while, as the next sprint is coming in 3 km.

16:36 CEST    99.5km/37km to go
They're going through the Plaza de Colon now, and there's plenty of room on this massive boulevard.

16:38 CEST    100.5km/36km to go
Everyone knows the score and Fassa and Liberty share the lead now.

16:41 CEST    102km/34.5km to go
On the Pasteo de la Castellana now, and Baranowski leads them up to the line, before Petacchi takes over and takes the sprint ahead of Baldato and Ongarato. Petacchi needs to win the stage, and for Heras not to take any points, to get the points jersey.

16:42 CEST   
Now the attacks resume, with another Relax rider haring off the front, with a Credit Agricole rider for company. It's Pasamontes and Botcharov.

16:43 CEST    104km/32.5km to go
The leaders get their taste of the World's circuit for the first time. The roads are still huge here - it's not too technical.

16:48 CEST    108.5km/28km to go
The two leaders have 20 seconds on the Liquigas/Fassa Bortolo led peloton.

16:50 CEST    108km/28.5km to go
They're now on the climb, as Wegelius cranks up the speed behind. It's about 5 percent for a couple of kilometres. Pasamontes drives the pace at 35 km/h.

16:51 CEST   
The gap goes up to 27 seconds. The two leaders are at the top.

Shane Stokes has ridden the World's course, and reports that while there are two hills each lap, they are definitely power drags which will be tackled in the 53 ring each time, rather than anything like at Verona last year. This, together with the fact that the roads approaching the finish line are wide and feature sweeping bends would seem to favour a bunch gallop next Sunday. That is, of course, if the Italians and Australians can keep it together and so set up things for Petacchi and McEwen.

The Spanish would normally do the same, but with Valverde being a bit more explosive on the climbs, he will probably try to get away in a small group before the finish.

16:52 CEST    110.5km/26km to go
Botcharov takes the front now, giving Pasamontes a short rest. The peloton picks up speed on the descent, led by Fassa and Liquigas all the time. Liberty hasn't had to do much at all today.

16:56 CEST    112.5km/24km to go
The leaders hit the second climb, which is not as long, and Pasamontes gesticulates at Botcharov to come through, which he does.

The gap is 22 seconds.

A crash in the peloton - oh dear. Bernhard Kohl is down while a Phonak rider is lying on the ground. It's Victor Peña. He's helped up and is back on his bike. That was right at the back of the bunch.

Peña feels his collarbone...

16:57 CEST   
Peña gets a new bike but he's chasing now. The peloton is just 17 seconds behind Botcharov and Pasamontes.

16:58 CEST    116.5km/20km to go
The leaders go under the 3 km to go sign at the end of a false flat/climb. Just 20 km of the Vuelta to ride.

17:01 CEST    119.5km/17km to go
Pasamontes is doing the most work as a counter attack comes from the peloton. Moises Duenas (Relax) is one of them, along with Staf Scheirlinckx (Saunier Duval), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues), Rafa Casero (Saunier Duval), Fabio Baldato (Fassa Bortolo), Rolf Aldag (T-Mobile) and Matej Mugerli (Domina Vacanze).

They are swallowed.

There's a U turn with 600m to go - that's going to make it interesting. Pasamontes wants to go straight ahead but Botcharov gets it right.

17:02 CEST    120.5km/16km to go
Botcharov leads Pasamontes with one lap to go, but the peloton is just 9 seconds behind. Stijn Devolder (Discovery) counters. The finish is slightly uphill - after a very quick downhill into the U turn.

Devolder catches the leaders and they get his wheel.

17:03 CEST   
Devolder's turn is a good one, and Botcharov can't follow any more. The Russian goes back to the peloton, leaving Devolder with Pasamontes.

17:05 CEST    122.5km/14km to go
Benoît Vaugrenard (FDJ) joins the two leaders. Pasamontes is not doing much work now.

17:06 CEST   
Liquigas with Wegelius and Fassa drive the tempo up in the bunch, as Vaugrenard rides clear of the other two in a suicide mission. Well, not for long.

17:07 CEST    124.5km/12km to go
Vaugrenard extracts a bit of gas out of his legs but the peloton is right on his wheel now. The Frenchman is dangling 50 metres in front, at 71 km/h.

17:08 CEST    125.5km/11km to go
Vaugrenard flies down the descent, takes a right hander, then another, and continues to lead the race. Fassa has help from Gerolsteiner, CSC and Liquigas at the moment.

17:10 CEST    126.5km/10km to go
Vaugrenard is doing well as he reaches the foot of the first climb with about 7 seconds on the strung out peloton. 10 clicks to go.

17:11 CEST    127.5km/9km to go
Another attack, this time it's a Gerolsteiner rider. So much for the Haussler/Haselbacher Plan.

Vaugrenard is caught and passed by two riders. Garcia Acosta is one.

17:12 CEST    128.5km/8km to go
It's Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears) and Thomas Ziegler (Gerolsteiner) with a six second gap as they take the hairpin near the top of the climb. They have six seconds.

17:14 CEST    129.5km/7km to go
Ziegler mashes away in front but the chase is pretty relentless, with Fassa and Liquigas to the fore on this fast descent.

Garcia Acosta is now alone, as Ziegler has been swallowed.

17:15 CEST    130.5km/6km to go
The big Spaniard reaches the false flat with 6 km to go and looks back. The bunch is right there.

17:15 CEST    131.5km/5km to go
Garcia Acosta explodes as a new attack goes with a Credit Agricole and T-Mobile trying to get clear. Nope. Liquigas is attentive.

17:16 CEST    131.5km/5km to go
It's still uphill slightly here, and the speed drops but it's still tough in front at 5 km to go. Enter, Petacchi? Not yet.

17:17 CEST    132.5km/4km to go
Bäckstedt is in fourth wheel as a Liberty rider attacks - Angel Vicioso! That'll put the cat among the pigeons.

17:17 CEST    132.5km/4km to go
A Saunier rider tried, but failed to go with Vicioso. The Spaniard reaches the downhill false flat with 4 km left, and the peloton picks up speed.

17:18 CEST   
Vicioso also explodes. Bunch together.

17:18 CEST    133.5km/3km to go
The peloton strings out - no Fassa train to be seen. It's a great big mess. Gomez tries to attack. And dies.

17:19 CEST   
That's the top of another false flat and now the speed will pick up. Korff drives off the front, in a huge gear.

17:20 CEST    134.5km/2km to go
Korff looks back as he sits on 60 km/h. Not fast enough. He's gone.

17:20 CEST    135.5km/1km to go
Steegmans moves up on Van Bon's wheel, and there's a bit of argy bargy going on between the Liquigas and Lotto boys. Where is Petacchi? Ah there, in sixth wheel.

17:21 CEST   
They fly past one km to go and it's a big rush to the U turn. It's a Fassa round first. Now it's uphill and a Liquigas rider goes from a long way. It's Zanotti.

17:22 CEST    136.5km/0km to go
Zanotti continues but at 100m to go he dies and Petacchi comes through and wins from Zabel! That's a tough sprint - look out for Bettini next week....

17:28 CEST   
Haussler was a handy third there. Next week's race into the U-turn is going to be very interesting...

So Petacchi wins the points jersey in extremis. Nice work by the Fassa sprinter, who took every intermediate sprint today.

But the big honours go to Roberto Heras, who wins the golden jersey for the fourth time and the combination jersey. Joaquin Rodriguez wins the mountains jersey, while Comunidad Valenciana takes home the teams classification.

And that is it from us at the Vuelta, where we have just seen a dress rehearsal for the World Championships next week. Thanks for following it with Cyclingnews. We'll be back with more patented live coverage next Wednesday with the World Championships time trials for U23 and Women.

Until then!


1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                             3.34.41
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                            
3 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner                              
4 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                            
5 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Cofidis, le credit par telephone          
6 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto                    
7 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank                            
8 Michael Barry (Can) Discovery Channel                           
9 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Cofidis, le credit par telephone          
10 René Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner                          

Final general classification

1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team           82.22.55
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                           4.36
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                           4.54
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                 5.58
5 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                       8.06
6 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                         11.36
7 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile Team                                     13.22
8 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel                                 16.38
9 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon - Lotto                  18.19
10 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic                    18.31

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