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61st Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 26-September 17, 2006

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Stage 6 - August 31: Zamora - León, 177 km

Live report

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Shane Stokes

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

23:14 CEST   
The race hits the windy plains across central Spain to Leon. It's a flat stage, but the hairdryer winds at this time of year can wreak havoc with the peloton. Smart GC riders will stay close to the front in case the race splits into echelons. German Marcel Wüst is the only rider who has won this stage twice and compatriot Erik Zabel will be looking to match his record after winning here in 2001.

14:29 CEST   
Welcome to our live coverage of today's stage, a sprinters' special between Leon and Zamora. There are no climbs today, but there are two intermediate sprints at Villarín De Campos (km 34) and Mansilla De Las Mulas (km 156.5). And it's another sunny day...

14:39 CEST    52km/125km to go
It's been a fairly routine sort of a stage so far. 183 riders signed on with Freddy Bichot, Christophe Detilloux (both Française des Jeux) and Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) non starters after missing yesterday's time cut.

The flag dropped and Walter Beneteau (Bouygues Telecom) attacked immediately. He was caught by Benoît Poilvet (CA) and Olivier Kaisen (Davitamon), but they could not get clear of the peloton. Beneteau was in action again at km 7, this time going away in a group of six with Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Kevin Hulsmans (Quick Step-Innergetic), Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (Cofidis), Jérémy Roy (Française des Jeux) and Aaron Kemps (Astana Team). That didn't last long, but Bouygues finally got a man away when Mathieu Claude attacked at km 10, and wasn't chased.

Claude increased his lead, covering 42.9 km in the first hour and building up a maximum 10'55 advantage at that point. This has since dropped to 9'32. Claude naturally won the first sprint at Villarín De Campos (km 34), with Francisco Ventoso (Saunier Duval) taking second ahead of points leader Thor Hushovd (CA).

14:49 CEST    60km/117km to go
Claude has now covered 60 km, and keeps his sub-10 minute advantage over the peloton, which won't be interested in chasing him just yet. A lone rider is much easier to catch than a group.

14:57 CEST    68km/109km to go
Milram has lost a rider as Volodymyr Dyudya has abandoned. There are now 182 riders in the race. Dyudya was lying in 176th overall, so obviously wasn't having an easy time of it. The heat, as usual, has knocked everyone around.

15:09 CEST    75km/102km to go
Claude approaches the 100 km to go mark, and is maintaining 9'34 over the peloton, where Milram and Liquigas are working.

15:24 CEST    86km/91km to go
The average speed in the second hour has been a little slower, as is usual. Claude has covered 41.5 km in that time, all on his own. The profile of the stage is ever so slightly uphill too, with the finish 200m higher than the start.

15:30 CEST   
What's the difference between chasing down one rider and chasing down more than one, in a flat stage like this? I think that we would come up with a better theory than the rule of thumb "1 minute per 10 km", which normally applies when the peloton is chasing a small group, but not too hard.

Any ideas? Bueller? Anyone?

15:32 CEST    91km/86km to go
While we ponder possible theories, the peloton has reached the feed zone 9'40 behind the lone leader Claude, M.

16:01 CEST    114km/63km to go
Milram, Saunier Duval and Quick Step have upped the tempo, and that has spelled doom for Mr Claude out in front. His advantage has fallen to 6'40.

16:04 CEST    120km/57km to go
Claude is bravely riding ahead of the bunch across the flat, brown plains, but his lead is shrinking fast. It's now just 5'20.

16:06 CEST   
Some rules of thumb from our readers:

Greg writes that the rule for one rider is simply "He will be caught with 11 km to go".

Onno and Steve reckons that it's one minute per 7 km.

16:11 CEST   
My own theory is more complex, and almost certainly unnecessarily so. Substituting riders for electrons in the Born-Oppenheimer approximation for a quantum chemical bike race, we can probably get away with applying second order Møller-Plesset perturbation theory. In this case, the solution is trivial, as there is only one rider ahead of a bunch of 181, which we can consider as one unit. The peloton's wavefunction is much bigger and uglier than Claude's, so the two will eventually collapse into each other between 0-30 km to go. i.e. we know he'll be caught, but we don't want to say exactly when because it will violate the uncertainty principle. That would be bad.

If there is more than one rider in front, then the problem becomes more complex. The solution is left as an exercise to the reader.

Sorry, it's the heat.

16:13 CEST    119km/58km to go
Meanwhile, Milram, Saunier Duval, Liquigas, CSC and Credit Agricole are combining in their efforts to chase down Mathieu Claude, who has been away since km 10.

16:15 CEST   
Scot writes:

Here are the factors to be considered:

Wind speed and direction
Importance of the stage
Length of stage
Distance remaining to be traveled

These factors must be multiplied by the following additional factors:

Grand tour effect
Urgency to rider's sponsor
Elevation of remaining kilometers
Speed of lone rider
Speed of peloton

Put them together and you get WILD GUESS.

16:17 CEST    122km/55km to go
The average is still brisk at 42 km/h after three hours, and it will only get quicker as the bunch is doing 45-50 km/h. Poor ol' Claude is coming back fairly quickly, as his lead is now just 3'58.

16:20 CEST    127km/50km to go
Claude looks across at the time board carried on the race moto, which reads 3'45. He looks to be riding in a 53x15 gear, maintaining 42 clicks per hour. The bunch is going quicker than that, for sure.

No sightings of any wildlife in this arid landscape today.

16:22 CEST    130km/47km to go
Claude gets cheered on by a few fans breaking their siesta as he rides through Valencia De Don Juan with 3'18 over the peloton. Race leader Danilo Di Luca chats to a Lampre rider, then calls for a bit of an easing in the chase for a mass toilet stop. Valverde and many others follow suit. They can afford it.

16:26 CEST    132km/45km to go
Di Luca is back on the bike and eating something, as he rejoins the peloton, which now passes through Valencia De Don Juan.

Mathieu Claude shifts up a gear as he gets out on the open road.

16:28 CEST    134km/43km to go
The mass toilet break has given Claude another 40 seconds. The lead was as low as 3'10, went up to 3'50, and is now coming back down. CSC is also riding, for Sastre and also for O'Grady, who has been consistent in the sprints.

16:31 CEST    136km/41km to go
Claude rides through Fresno De La Vega, blink and you'll miss it. He's suffering now, and there are little fjords of salt encrusted on his jersey.

16:36 CEST    138km/39km to go
At least there are more towns in this bit. Claude rides through Gigoso De Los Oteros now.

Lampre, Saunier, Liquigas and Credit Agricole are chasing. Liquigas has the most riders, of course, protecting Di Luca. Astana is also prominent near the front, protecting Kashechkin.

16:40 CEST    141km/36km to go
Mathieu Claude continues his attempt at a 167 km solo time trial. He now has three minutes lead over the bunch, which doesn't look like it's going to slow down much now.

16:42 CEST   
John has found another thing to be taken into account when considering the time to catch a lone rider: "Don't forget to factor in the length of time in days until the expiration of the rider's contract. I'm sure there is an inverse relationship of the effort of the rider in relation to the number of days left on his contract."

16:46 CEST    144km/33km to go
2'30 now between the peloton and Mathieu Claude. He will make it inside 30 km to go, thereby not disproving the MP theory proposed a few updates back. Phew, scientific cred is maintained.

16:48 CEST    146km/31km to go
The gap reduces further: it's now 2'13 as Liquigas wind it up in the bunch.

16:51 CEST    150km/27km to go
Claude enters and exits Villanueva De Las Manzanas with around two minutes. He's going to need more than that.

16:53 CEST    152km/25km to go
Liquigas has started to work harder - not only for Di Luca, but also for Bäckstedt and Paolini. The gap is just 1'23 to the leader.

I got my Dons mixed up before, sorry.

16:55 CEST    153km/24km to go
Claude rides through Villacelama, trying to keep his speed up. He's done well on his own, but having a bunch of 181 riders 44 seconds behind you is not exactly good odds. There's an intermediate sprint in 4 km...

16:56 CEST    155km/22km to go
Discovery's Egoi Martinez is back at the team car, getting bidons.

Claude has just half a minute and the peloton can see him just ahead.

16:57 CEST    156km/21km to go
Astana and CSC are working now, probably to try and gain some bonus seconds for their leaders. The sprint at Mansilla De Las Mulas is getting close...

16:59 CEST    157km/20km to go
Claude can't hang on until the sprint as Saunier Duval leads out Ventoso for the points. It wasn't even much of a sprint.

17:00 CEST    158km/19km to go
CSC takes over again with three riders ahead of Sastre and O'Grady. Better safe than sorry.

17:02 CEST    159km/18km to go
Olivier Kaisen (Davitamon) chooses an appropriate moment to attack. He is joined by a Lampre rider - Enrico Franzoi.

17:03 CEST    162km/15km to go
The two put 10 seconds into the bunch, which is not chasing hard at the moment. Di Luca tells his Liquigas boys to let these two ride for a bit.

17:05 CEST    163km/14km to go
The big Davitamon motor, Olivier Kaisen, is powering along with Franzoi on his wheel. They get to 22 seconds.

17:07 CEST    164km/13km to go
Franzoi finally does a turn and the pair get 25 seconds on the peloton.

17:09 CEST    166km/11km to go
The speed in the bunch has lifted again, courtesy of Credit Agricole. Hushovd's men keep the gap to 24 seconds. One Milram and a number of Liquigas riders are ready to help.

17:10 CEST    167km/10km to go
Kaisen stretches out over his machine, pedaling a biggish gear and looking strong. Franzoi holds his wheel - he's definitely doing the mouse's share of the work.

17:11 CEST    168km/9km to go
Kaisen does what he does best - time trials. He finally pulls off and lets Franzoi have a go. The compact cyclo-crosser comes through for a short turn. The peloton is 17 seconds back at 9 km to go.

17:13 CEST    169km/8km to go
Eight clicks left in the bike race, and the sprinters teams are gearing up for the big finish. Paolo Bettini sits in last wheel, maybe not contesting it today. You never know though.

17:14 CEST    170km/7km to go
Bodrogi and Caucchioli do their turns, then Liquigas takes over again with the two riders just 5 seconds ahead.

17:14 CEST    170.5km/6.5km to go
Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta signals to Liquigas to take it easy, but it's academic now as Kaisen and Franzoi have sat up. Break over with 6.5 km to go.

17:15 CEST    171km/6km to go
The bunch rides past a large Volvo dealer and there is another counter attack. A T-Mobile, Cofidis and Bouygues rider get clear.

17:16 CEST    172km/5km to go
It's Stephan Schreck (T-Mob), Fred Bessy (Cofidis) and Anthony Geslin (Bouygues). The three have a good cooperation.

17:17 CEST   
The descend into Leon and Liquigas pushes the pace behind. The three leaders won't get much advantage. Nope. They are caught. At nearly 90 km/h.

17:18 CEST    173km/4km to go
The pace slows to 80 km/h as they fly under 4 km to go, with the green Liquigas men in front. Leon is approaching very fast. Say hello to Leon.

17:19 CEST    174km/3km to go
3 km to go and It's Liquigas and Milram. The boys in blue have six men for Zabel, but now Cancellara brings up O'Grady.

17:19 CEST    175km/2km to go
Cancellara drops off O'Grady next to Zabel, who is behind Petacchi it looks like. Or is Petacchi going for it today? Could be.

17:20 CEST   
The bunch snakes into the final 2 km, into the heart of Leon. Five Milrams left in front. Velo leads Ongarato, Petacchi and Zabel. Millar brings Ventoso up.

17:20 CEST    176km/1km to go
Final kilometre and Millar has disrupted the Milram train with a massive turn. But that might put Ventoso in front too early?

17:21 CEST   
Millar leads until 600m -massive job there. Then Milram takes over.

17:21 CEST   
Two more for Zabel. As Tosatto starts but goes nowhere. Petacchi goes for it...

17:22 CEST    177km/0km to go
But it's Hushovd on the left side who gets it from Greipel and Zabel!!! Petacchi almost...but ends fourth.

17:27 CEST   
Petacchi hit out on the right but Greipel came up the middle with Hushovd and Zabel on his wheel. Hushovd fairly easily got around the German on the left to take his first Vuelta stage win, and strengthen his lead in the points classification. Nice sprint!

No changes to GC, and Di Luca keeps the gold jersey.

17:32 CEST   
Thor crossed the line at 59 km/h, which means it must have been a headwind or slightly uphill. These guys can go over 70 km/h when the conditions are right.

That will be all from us today from the live Vuelta. Please join in the fun again tomorrow for stage 7 between León and Alto de El Morredero (Ponferrada).


1 André Greipel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                 4.09.10
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole                    
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram                          
4 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram                 
5 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital               
6 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Française des Jeux               
7 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas                           
8 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC                         
9 Alexandre Usov (Blr) AG2R Prevoyance                  
10 Francisco José Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir    

General classification after stage 6

1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas                                    22.47.11
2 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team             0.04
3 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team                                  0.18
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                         0.29
5 José Ange Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                 0.35
6 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears              0.36
7 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team              0.55
8 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team            0.58
9 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) T-Mobile Team                                    1.00
10 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                              1.04

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