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60th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 27-September 18, 2005

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Stage 6 - Thursday, September 1: Cuenca-Valdelinares, 217 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Hernan Alvarez

Live report

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

14:27 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' online dirigible for our live coverage of the 6th stage of the Vuelta a España. Today is the toughest stage so far, although there's going to be a lot more of this in the coming weeks. Starting in Cuenca, the riders will travel 217 km before the finish at the Aramon Valdelinares ski station. This is a Category 1 climb (1980 meters above sea level) that will test the main candidates for the overall like Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros-Würth), Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears), Carlos Sastre (CSC) or Denis Menchov (Rabobank).

The stage has three intermediate sprints: Villalba de la Sierra (km 19.3), Puebla
de Valverde (km 171.8) and Virgen de la Vega (km 206). And apart from Valdelinares, there are three climbs: Cat. 3 Alto de la Ciudad Encantada (1310 m.), Cat. 2 Puerto El Cubillo (1630 m.) and Cat. 2 Alto de San Rafael (1580 m./km 203.2).

Time for the climbers to shine and for the sprinters to rest today.

14:30 CEST   
The race leader Brad McGee (FDJ) was upbeat this morning, and relatively confident of maintaining his golden jersey, which he has worn since finishing second on stage 2. He also said that he is targeting the time trial stage in Lloret de Mar as one that he wants to win.

14:42 CEST   
It has been a fairly animated stage so far. Yesterday's stage winner Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) didn't sign on, but he did start the stage. He'll get a fine for doing that.

After a 3.2 km neutral zone through Cuenca, the stage started at 11:48am. The flurry of early attacks saw Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) get clear after 5 km, causing a split in the bunch with 40 riders in the lead. However, it was chased down by Liberty Seguros. After 15 km, Koos Moerenhout (Davitamon-Lotto), Stijn Devolder (Discovery), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues), Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears) and Guido Trenti (Quick.Step) got a gap that they extended out to half a minute, which they held until the first sprint at Villalba de la Sierra (km 19), won by Lastras from Voeckler and Moerenhout.

The first climb of the day started shortly after the sprint, and Voeckler had to let go on the Cat. 3 Alto de la Ciudad Encantada. Lastras crossed the summit first ahead of Moerenhout, Devolder and Trenti. They were pursued by Angel Vicioso and Dariusz Baranowski (Liberty), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) and Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) at 12 seconds, with the bunch at 30 seconds. The two quartets merged to form a group of eight in front, but after 43 km, Comunidad Valenciana had brought the peloton back to them. Simone Cadamuro (Domina Vacanze) abandoned at this point.

The first hour was raced at 46 km/h.

14:55 CEST   
After 50 km, a group of 16 riders went clear, and at the top of the Cat. 2 Alto El Cubillo (km 66), it was David Cañada (Saunier Duval) leading Jakob Piil (Team CSC), Jose Miguel Elias (Relax Fuenlabrada), Eladio Jimenez (Comunidad Valenciana) and Anthony Charteau (Bouygues Telecom) over the top. Luca Solari (Domina Vacanze) abandoned the race at this point.

One of the breakaways was Eric Leblacher (CA), who was also in yesterday's move. He rode solo for a while at km 70, before he was reabsorbed by the break. Illes Balears was leading the first part of the peloton at 1'15, with a second group chasing at another 40 seconds. Ludovic Auger (Française des Jeux) retired at km 76, followed by his teammate Bernhard Eisel at km 123, leaving McGee with two fewer helpers.

The Illes Balears led chase group caught the 16 breakaways after 87 km, but leader McGee was in the second group at this stage, one minute behind and chasing. Mario Aerts (Davitamon-Lotto) took advantage of the confusion to attack the front group, and although McGee's group joined the front in the feed zone at km 103, a new breakaway had established itself:

Unai Yus Kerejeta (Bouygues Telecom), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Michael Barry (Discovery Channel), Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros), Pablo Lastras and José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Mario Aerts (Davitamon - Lotto), Juan Manuel Fuentes (Lampre - Caffita), Marco Velo (Fassa Bortolo), Devis Miorin (Liquigas-Bianchi), Linus Gerdemann (Team CSC), Kevin De Weert (Quick Step). Yus is the best placed rider on GC in 5th at 0'53.

After 118 km, the advantage to the 13 leaders was 1'45, but the 13 became 12 at km 124 when Lastras dropped off. The race then hit the wind and immediately broke up into several echelons. Most of the favourites have made it to the front echelon, although McGee has again missed the cut.

15:00 CEST    143km/74km to go
Lastras is absorbed by the peloton, which is now 30 seconds behind the leading 12. McGee had another hard chase to stay in contact. It's not going to be his day today.

The breakaway is caught after km 136.

Worse news for Floyd Landis (Phonak). The American has decided to abandon after 138 km, just as the race splits up and reforms again.

15:10 CEST    148km/69km to go
The peloton continues its advance towards the final climb, and Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana) has a go. He was the main attacker in stage 3, when he snuck off the front after 70 km of 153, and wasn't seen again until 25 km to go. Let's see if this move has any more success.

15:19 CEST    155km/62km to go
Rodriguez is caught by 22 riders, and we now have the following group leading by 24 seconds:

Giampaolo Caruso, Isidro Nozal Vega and Angel Vicioso Arcos (Liberty Seguros), Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), José Vicente Garcia Acosta, José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios and Aitor Osa Eizaguirre (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne), Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues), Eladio Jimenez Sanchez and Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana), Eric Leblacher and Benoît Poilvet (Crédit Agricole), Koos Moerenhout (Davitamon - Lotto), Leif Hoste and Benoît Joachim (Discovery Channel), Julian Sanchez Pimienta (Fassa Bortolo), Juan Manuel Fuentes (Lampre - Caffita), Devis Miorin (Liquigas - Bianchi), Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank), David De La Fuente and Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Saunier Duval - Prodir), Nicki Sørensen (Team CSC), and Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile).

15:29 CEST    158km/59km to go
The situation changes as the lead group grows to 36 riders, but now Koos Moerenhout (Davitamon-Lotto) has a half minute gap over this group.

15:39 CEST    160km/57km to go
Moerenhout is still out in front, but now leads a group of just five riders by 32 seconds: Jakob Piil (CSC), Eric Leblacher (Crédit Agricole), Benoît Joachim (Discovery), Nacor Burgos (Relax), Devis Miorin (Liquigas). The peloton has caught the rest of the big group.

15:46 CEST    167km/50km to go
Moerenhout, who started the day only 2'36 behind on general classification, now leads the chasing quintet by 25 seconds. But the peloton is at 2'53, making Moerenhout the virtual leader on the road.

Piil's presence in the chasing group is impressive too, as the Dane also spent most of the day out in front yesterday.

15:55 CEST    179km/38km to go
Moerenhout has been joined by the five chasers, and that's going to help him. He's still the virtual leader on the road.

At the sprint in Puebla de Valverde, Miorin crossed first ahead of Piil and Burgos.

15:56 CEST   
The latest gap is 3'46 to the peloton. Moerenhout has been very active all day, and this isn't the first time he's attacked.

15:58 CEST   
Torsten Schmidt (Gerolsteiner) has abandoned, the sixth rider to do so.

16:00 CEST    184km/33km to go
The peloton is not really chasing hard at the moment, and is reasonably bunched as it descends into Valbona. It's not too hot today, but still around the 29 degree mark. The sky is overcast again.

Juan Antonio Flecha has a mechanical problem, but is going again. He crashed yesterday and is bandaged up now.

16:03 CEST    186km/31km to go
The pace is still relaxed in the bunch. The leaders have a real chance now, although the final climb is going to be tough.

16:05 CEST    188km/29km to go
Like Piil, Leblacher was also in the break yesterday. The Frenchman is going well.

Illes Balears and Comunidad Valenciana are starting to ride a bit, as the gap reaches 5'00.

The average speed after four hours is 42.5 km/h.

16:13 CEST    192km/25km to go
Comunidad Valenciana is taking the responsibility to chase the six leaders. Interestingly, Davitamon-Lotto has put a few riders up there to maybe spoil the chase a bit.

Flecha has made it back to the bunch.

16:15 CEST   
The gap is up to 6'05 as the peloton starts to accelerate. But the kilometres are counting down very quickly now, and the last climb is not that long: 9 km at an average of 6.2%, with a maximum of 8%.

16:17 CEST    194km/23km to go
The peloton rides through Mora De Rubielos, over some cobbles and past some ancient looking buildings. Pascual Rodriguez is now doing the chasing for Comunidad Valenciana. The gap comes back down to 5'25.

16:20 CEST    196km/21km to go
The leaders are on the Cat. 2 Alto de San Rafael now, with a five minute plus advantage over the peloton.

16:23 CEST    197km/20km to go
The Comunidad boys are putting the hurt on the bunch, but not too hard yet.

In front, Joachim, Piil, Moerenhout, and Leblacher attack one by one. Burgos and Miorin have problems following.

16:24 CEST   
Piil rides up to Joachim and checks behind - they've gapped the others at the moment.

16:25 CEST    198km/19km to go
McGee is already suffering on this climb, and is a fair way back in the peloton. He looks a bit unkempt today. The gap comes down to 4'22.

16:28 CEST    198km/19km to go
Now the peloton is stringing out, courtesy of Comunidad Valenciana. They have a few riders who could win today - maybe one of the Quesadas or Eladio Jimenez.

The peloton is split into two, but McGee is still with the front group...just. These climbs can be tough, because you have to do them in the big chainring at a relatively high speed. At least with a steep climb, you don't feel as guilty when you drop off the peloton.

Piil and Joachim have under 4'00 now on the bunch. They are joined by Leblacher.

16:30 CEST    201km/16km to go
Liberty moves its men up to the front, and Joaquin Rodriguez gets ready too. The three leaders have reached a flatter part of the climb.

16:32 CEST    202km/15km to go
McGee has glued himself to Angel Casero's wheel, trying to survive the pace on the San Rafael. It's flattening out a bit now.

Piil, Leblacher and Joachim are near the summit, keeping their four minute gap. Piil is the leader on the road now, as he started the day at 3'01. No sign of Moerenhout.

16:34 CEST    202km/15km to go
The Alto de San Rafael is nearly over, and Benoît Joachim for one will be happy. He follows Piil as the slightly built Dane does another turn.

Comunidad Valenciana continues its relentless work in front of the peloton, but the gap to the leaders is still 4'00 or so.

16:35 CEST   
The peloton is riding at 30-35 km/h on a flatter part of this climb, but it's still definitely uphill. Iñigo Cuesta (Saunier Duval) looks pretty comfy near the front, just behind the green train.

16:38 CEST    203km/14km to go
Bettini looks pretty settled at the back of the peloton. Hopefully he didn't lose too much sleep after Quick.Step cooked up the finish of yesterday's stage.

The climb gets steeper and Piil gets out of the saddle, making Joachim and Leblacher suffer. Piil takes the points ahead of Joachim and Leblacher.

The bunch goes under 15 km to go at 3'50.

16:39 CEST    204km/13km to go
A short descent now, then the last climb up to Valdelinares. The three leaders have a decent chance of staying clear.

Two Discovery riders have moved up to the front of the bunch, maybe to keep an eye on things.

16:40 CEST    205km/12km to go
The descent is not too technical and the speed picks up.

Michael Barry takes over in front of the peloton. They probably don't believe in Joachim's chances today.

Nacor Burgos is caught. Five total left in front.

16:42 CEST    206km/11km to go
Leblacher misses a corner and stacks it into a barrier. Fortunately, it's padded. He went down hard on his behind. Ouch. Joachim was behind him and had to go the other way to avoid it. Piil is now alone in front.

McGee has been dropped, just near the top of the climb. One more to go.

16:43 CEST    208km/9km to go
McGee takes the descent as fast as he can, getting a very aero position to try to regain the bunch. He doesn't have to pedal, at least.

Piil is not hanging around as he reaches the foot of the final climb with 9 km to go.

16:44 CEST   
The peloton is riding through Virgen De La Vega 3'19 behind Jakob Piil, and the leading rider almost misses the same corner that Leblacher did. McGee is back on.

16:45 CEST    209km/8km to go
Illes Balears has a couple of men in front as the bunch flies through 10 km to go. But Piil is at 8 km to go, and finding the last climb getting steeper.

16:46 CEST    209.5km/7.5km to go
Nozal takes over in the peloton, and McGee is shelled immediately. He swings over to the right, and gets into cruise mode. Five days in gold ain't bad though.

16:47 CEST   
It's Baranowski in front, not Nozal. Mikel Pradera pulls off, his work done.

16:48 CEST    210km/7km to go
Baranowski is followed by Osa, U. and another Balears rider. Then a couple of T-Mobiles, including Sevilla. The high speed has got the bunch in one long line.

Eladio Jimenez is dropped, having done his work earlier.

16:49 CEST   
Baranowski (Liberty) continues to hammer under the 8 km to go banner, really making life tough for everyone. But Piil still has 3'08!

Bettini drops off.

16:50 CEST    211km/6km to go
The red jersey of Joaquin Rodriguez moves up as Baranowski is joined by teammate Angel Vicioso. And Roberto Heras... Menchov moves up too.

Angel Casero is dropped.

16:51 CEST   
Beloki does a turn on the front now. He has Heras on his wheel, and suddenly the peloton gets very small. Good work by Beloki.

Aitor Gonzalez is dropped.

16:52 CEST   
Piil is going well, reaching the 6 km to go banner with 2'25. It may not be enough, unfortunately for the Dane.

Serrano takes over from Beloki. Piepoli is dropped. There's damage being done by the Liberty boys today.

16:54 CEST    212km/5km to go
The peloton is down to 25 riders as Serrano and Vicioso drive it with Heras on their wheels. Simoni is dropped. The bunch is down to maybe 15 riders. Menchov is hanging on, as is J. Rodriguez. Could he be the new leader today?

Danielson is hanging...no he's not. He's off the back of the main group. Sevilla accelerates to get up to the front. Luis Perez is there, as is Mancebo.

Beltran is dropped, just. He's bearing the signs of a crash.

16:55 CEST   
Leblacher and Joachim are caught, leaving Piil 1'53 in front. Joaquin Rodriguez is dropped with Marcos Serrano. Well, maybe not his day.

16:57 CEST    213km/4km to go
Rodriguez and Serrano pass Leblacher as the chase group gets to 5 km. They're dropping like flies now. Sevilla is gone.

In the first chase group behind Piil: Heras, Scarponi, Sastre, Menchov, Garcia Quesada, Mercado, Blanco, Mancebo.

16:58 CEST   
The pace is savage, courtesy of Scarponi in front. Mancebo is really fighting to hang on. That's a lot of pain showing in his face.

Menchov and Heras look great, and Sastre is good too. They go under 4 km to go at 1'17 behind Piil.

17:00 CEST    214km/3km to go
Piil now gets to 3 km left, but just has 1'07 left. He hasn't exploded, but the pace behind is too high for him to stay away. Scarponi has done a great job for Heras.

17:01 CEST    215km/2km to go
Heras winds it up as it gets steeper. The others react. Mancebo is dropped, as is Scarponi. Pretty much everyone actually, except for Menchov.

17:03 CEST    215km/2km to go
It's now Heras (Liberty), Menchov (Rabobank) and Garcia Quesada (Comunidad) chasing Jakob Piil. The rest of the group is blown to bits. Blanco is the next rider behind these three.

Piil has 20 seconds of his lead left. He might be told to sit up to help Sastre.

Garcia Quesada is dropped again. Just as Piil gets caught at 2km to go.

17:05 CEST   
Menchov hasn't done a turn yet, but Heras is putting the hurt on him. Menchov has 15 seconds advantage on Heras on GC - one of these two will take the jersey today.

17:05 CEST    215.5km/1.5km to go
It gets steeper at 1.5 km to go. Heras changes down a few gears.

The two Comunidad riders are together: Blanco and Garcia Quesada.

Menchov is dropped!

17:06 CEST    216km/1km to go
Heras is an amazing climber. He looked so comfortable most of the way and rode the others off his wheel, one by one. Menchov is at 10 seconds with 1 km to go. The jersey will be Heras's. Probably.

17:07 CEST   
Heras powers to the finish with a good gap over prologue winner Denis Menchov, who has also impressed today. But he's not a pure climber like Roberto Heras.

17:09 CEST    217km/0km to go
Heras wins the stage, riding hard all the way to the finish. Menchov is second at 12 seconds, then Blanco at 26 seconds, then Carlos Garcia at 41 seconds. Mancebo, Mercado, and Sastre are next, followed by Piil. Scarponi and Serrano aren't too far behind either!

17:09 CEST   
Danielson comes in with Simoni and a small group at 1'39.

17:17 CEST   
As Heras is presented with a gigantic leg of ham(?) (just the thing after a 217 km mountain stage), we leave you at the end of stage 6. Heras has taken over the leadership of the race and was extremely impressive today. No-one can stay with this guy when he's on song. He's also the mountains and combination leader.

We'll be back tomorrow with Stage 7. Until then!


1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team            5.27.20
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                           0.13
3 David Blanco Rodiguez (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                       0.28
4 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                       0.42
5 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic                      0.49
6 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                     
7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                               
8 Jakob Piil (Den) Team CSC                                              0.52
9 Marcos Antonio Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team      1.15
10 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                         
General classification after stage 6
1 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team           23.42.13
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                           0.06
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                           1.01
4 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Saunier Duval - Prodir                  1.03
5 David Blanco Rodiguez (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                       1.05
6 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne                 1.20
7 Carlos Garcia Quesada (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana                       1.33
8 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step - Innergetic                          
9 Unai Yus Kerejeta (Spa) Bouygues Telecom                                   
10 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                     1.52

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