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60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 4 - Tuesday, August 30: Ciudad Real-Argamasilla de Alba, 232.3 km

Complete live report

14:37 CEST   
Welcome back to the Vuelta a Espana for today's coverage of the longest stage in this three-week event. Flat, long and hot - that's the easiest way to describe stage 4, as there will be no climbing to do today, but three intermediate sprints might shake things up a little. After yesterday's final Italian show-off, with Petacchi and his Fassa Bortolo men returning to 'use the force', we might see the same scenario over again today.

14:43 CEST   
Indeed, the heat of this year's first stages in the Vuelta has its consequences: About 200 bidons are used per team right now, as temperatures reach as high as 43° Celsius. As we all know, having to drink that much increases the risk of stomach bugs...

15:02 CEST   
We have a three-men break at the moment, which got away after only 16 kilometres this morning. Christophe Edaleine (Cofidis), Leon Van Bon (Davitamon), Frédéric Finot (Francaise des Jeux) and Sébastien Joly (Crédit Agricole) attacked before the first sprint in Almagro (km 22) and got a good gap.

15:09 CEST    129km/103.3km to go
Golden jersey wearer Bradley McGee didn't sign in this morning at the start - but we can assure you right away: he did start and the peloton is currently riding through the Quijote region for the 400th anniversary of the famous Spanish book (1605-2005).

The breakaway's lead was as much as 11.30 minutes around Manazares (km 74), but has been growing smaller again as the sprinter's teams like Fassa Bortolo, T-Mobile, Domina Vacanze and Quick.Step have slightly increased their pace. Right now, the bunch is only 4.42 minutes behind.

15:16 CEST   
The riders passed the feed zone half an hour ago, and fortunately the expected cross wind hasn't come up. To the contrary, a soft back breeze should ease the pain of the four front men. It is highly questionable, however, that they will be able to keep their lead until the end... even if it's not as hot as yesterday, with an approximate temperature of 30° Celsius in finish town Argamasilla de Alba.

15:26 CEST    132km/100.3km to go
Frenchman Christophe Edaleine (Cofidis) in front has won all three intermediate sprints today, which amounts to 16 points altogether in the Points Classification, still led by Bradley McGee (42 points).

The Vuelta a España is now coming into Albacete, and it looks like the gap is reduced to 3.40 minutes only, with 100 kilometres of racing yet to do. Maybe we'll see some counter-attacks, if anyone has the guts to defy the Silver superpower, let alone the legs, of course.

15:38 CEST    142km/90.3km to go
As T-Mobile's Oscar Sevilla rode through his home town Ossa de Montiel, waving at all of his friends and family, Leon Van Bon has lost contact with his break companions. The Dutchman obviously hasn't got the power today.

15:46 CEST    145km/87.3km to go
There's been a crash in the bunch! Riders from CSC and Phonak are involved... but it seems no one got seriously hurt.

15:52 CEST    145km/87.3km to go
The parcours turned to the North on a descent and Liberty Seguros and Illes Balears riders went to the front of the bunch to avoid future surprises with the wind. Leon Van Bon has been caught.

15:56 CEST    154km/78.3km to go
The average speed for the fourth hour of the race is 38,1 km/h. As the speed was a little higher during the fist two hours of racing, the overall average is 39,950 km/h. The break's advantage is now 3.02 minutes with still 78 kilometres to go before the finish line.

16:03 CEST    158km/74.3km to go
The riders are now on long, straight and wide open roads, with the wind coming from the West, thus from the side. But the breeze hasn't picked up significantly, so the race situation hasn't changed much because of it. The gap is still around three minutes.

16:14 CEST    170km/62.3km to go
The race passes through arid, harvested fields, with Juan Antonio Flecha sitting pretty much at the front now, chatting to a Saunier Duval colleague. The gap has diminished again to 2.38.

José Enrique Gutierrez Cataluna (Phonak) was one of the riders involved in the crash earlier, and is now wearing a bandage around his right leg. He looks fine though. Manuel Calvente (CSC) also went down with him, but is still in the race too.

16:21 CEST    174km/58.3km to go
The three French riders in front - Christophe Edaleine (Cofidis), Frédéric Finot (Francaise des Jeux) and Sébastien Joly (Crédit Agricole) - are still looking smooth, although there is absolutely no shelter from the blazing sun in this part of Spain. Virtually no trees, barely some bushes... Finot is doing his turn now, with all of them are working of course. But their advance is melting away, now only 2.17.

16:28 CEST    180km/52.3km to go
Finot got three bottles from his team car as a reserve for the last 50 kilometres, as the bunch behind is now really chasing, and very stretched out. Finot has trouble holding on to his companions with the three bottles on his back, but has now reconnected with them. The gap should be less than a minute now, as the team cars were called back by the race directors.

16:38 CEST    188km/44.3km to go
There has been a split in the peloton as the speed increased. It blew apart when they turned back to the West, but the second group has just reconnected with the main bunch. A Phonak rider in front of the bunch just sat up on his saddle and signalled to slow down, moving his hands and arms up and down.

16:45 CEST    199.3km/33km to go
The pace is more moderate now, and the breakaway has been swallowed.

16:50 CEST    200km/32.3km to go
Marco Marzano (Lampre) was back in the team cars but moved up again into the back of the bunch, led by Francaise des Jeux now. The riders have eased up a bit, talking to one another before the inevitable finale.

16:54 CEST    203km/29.3km to go
And here we go: Christophe Kern (Bougyes) put his hands down the handlebars, his bottom out of the saddle and attacked. But he's being followed and can't get away, looking back on the bunch who's just 20 metres behind him. He's brave, though, and continues.

16:58 CEST    211.3km/21km to go
The fifth hour of the stage was raced in 39 km/h, and the total average is now 39,475 km/h. Kern sat up - it's no use. But Gerolsteiner's Torsten Schmidt is now out there on a quest with 21 kilometres to go. It's good sponsor TV time, that's for sure, but the sporting aspect seems rather hopeless.

17:01 CEST   
Benoît Joachim (Discovery) now joins the Gerolsteiner rider in front, as well as a man from Relax: Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez. They're three now with a a 20 seconds gap.

17:05 CEST    213.3km/19km to go
The trio is able to increase their gap to 30 seconds, working well together. But will that be enough? Saunier Duval and Cofidis are controlling the peloton now.

17:08 CEST    220.3km/12km to go
Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa) sits comfortably inside the pack, getting a ride to the finish almost. He's just called for his team car, not sure what that was about. The break now has 42 seconds at the 12 km-mark.

17:12 CEST    222.3km/10km to go
Here we go: Davitamon and Fassa are working now. So is Quick.Step. The gap is decreasing...

17:14 CEST    224.3km/8km to go
A few more spectators are now lining the roads, as the Relax rider in front tries to get away to finish solo. The two other have sat up.

17:16 CEST    226.3km/6km to go
A lot of teams are leading the bunch, a pure Fassa train hasn't formed yet. Pasamontes is suffering, and here comes the Silver train, finally.

17:17 CEST    227.3km/5km to go
Seven seconds under the 5 km-mark. Pasamontes is eaten... now.

17:19 CEST    228.3km/4km to go
Another Bouygues rider is doing a kamikaze on the left side of the road, while Fassa is on the left. A Crédit Agricole man was up there now, too. No way out at this stage...

17:21 CEST    230.3km/2km to go
The road get a little shade now. It's very straight lines. Zabel is sitting in 10th position or so. Liberty is up there too. Petacchi has three riders in front of him. Boonen is in Zabel's wheel

17:22 CEST   
Velo is hammering, but Boonen looks to his rivals and sits up??? And Fassa lost the plot, with Hushovd coming around too... Steels is there... and Petacchi wins!! Again!

17:24 CEST   
Hushovd second, Zabel third. What a tight finish again!

17:30 CEST   
Thanks for tuning in and we sure hope you'll read us again tomorrow, when another 176 kilometres have to be mastered by the pros here in sunny Spain.



1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                 5.41.29
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                             
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                 
4 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi                         
5 Tom Steels (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto                             
6 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Française des Jeux                        
7 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                      
8 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic                       
9 Giosuè Bonomi (Ita) Lampre - Caffita                           
10 René Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner                           
General classification after stage 4
1 Bradley McGee (Aus) Française des Jeux                         
2 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Cofidis, le credit par telephone    
3 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Fassa Bortolo               
4 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir          
5 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team           
6 Francisco Javier Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre - Caffita        
7 Unai Yus Kerejeta (Spa) Bouygues Telecom                       
8 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic                   
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                   
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                  

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