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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

62nd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 1-23, 2007

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Stage 18 - September 20: Talavera de la Reina - Ávila, 153.5km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Gregor Brown

Live coverage starts: 15:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:20 CEST

14:59 CEST   
Hola! Welcome to another day of the Vuelta a España. Sure this stage ends with a flat finish but that does not take into consideration the category 1 Porte de Mijares (km. 56) and category 2 Porte de Navalmoral (km 120). These brutes will allow for a team to work for its captain and the possibility to eliminate some of his GC rivals. The finale, last visited in 2005, presents a technical cobblestone avenue.

15:01 CEST   
The race approaches the top of the Porte de Mijares. There is a large escape group of around 15 riders free, but they only have 30" on the peloton.

15:04 CEST    51km/102.5km to go
19 riders are clear. They include Hubert Dupont (Ag2r Prévoyance), Stéphane Goubert (Ag2r Prévoyance), Luis Pérez Rodriguez (Andalucia-Cayasur), Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne), David López García (Caisse d'Epargne), Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Jurgen Van Goolen (Discovery Channel), Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Iñaki Flores (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Santos Gonzalez (Karpin-Galicia), David Loosli (Lampre-Fondital), Sylvester Szmyd (Lampre-Fondital), Ángel Vallejo (Relax-GAM), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Volodimir Gustov (Team CSC), Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC), Christian Vande Velde (Team CSC).

The move started at five kilometres into the race, but since then it has lost an gained members to include the 19 we now have.

15:07 CEST   
Luis Pérez Rodriguez (Andalucia-Cayasur) is in his last season as pro. He announced he will retire at the end of the Vuelta. His career started in 1995 with Team ONCE.

15:08 CEST    51km/102.5km to go
Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) attacked from the main group. The Spaniard is eager to put Menchov in difficulties. He quickly joins with the front escape group.

Iñigo Cuesta (Team CSC), Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) and Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole) are scattered on the road, between the two groups.

15:10 CEST   
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) gives chase with Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) in tow. There are also Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne), Daniel Moreno (Relax-GAM)...

15:12 CEST   
Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) is suffering, and is dropping off the pace. He is now about 30 seconds back. The Russian seems to be losing more time.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is now with Sastre in the front group.

15:14 CEST    56km/97.5km to go
The lead has completely changed. We now have Volodimir Gustov (Team CSC), Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Luis Pérez Rodriguez (Andalucia-Cayasur), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Ezequiel Mosquera (Karpin-Galicia), Stéphane Goubert (Ag2r Prévoyance), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

Efimkin is now one minute back. His GC spot will be in risk. He started today in second overall.

This climb is doing some destruction!

15:15 CEST   
Further behind is Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas). He will want to come to terms on the descent.

15:21 CEST   
The break has 38" on Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas). The Spaniard wants to avenge his second place of the other day to Sammy Sánchez. Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) is further back, by one minute. He is virtually losing his second place overall, and really needs to come to terms if he desires a podium spot for this year's Vuelta.

The gruppo is at 1'47".

15:24 CEST    64km/89.5km to go
We are on the downhill run. There are almost 40 kilometres of downhill before we hit the start of the day's second climb, the category 2 Porte de Navalmoral (km 120).

15:27 CEST   
The order over the Puerto de Mijares was
1 Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
2 Carlos Sastre (Team CSC)
3 Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne)
4 Maxime Monfort (Cofidis)
5 Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
6 Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
7 Ezequiel Mosquera (Karpin-Galicia)
8 Stéphane Goubert (Ag2r Prévoyance)
9 Luis Pérez Rodriguez (Andalucia-Cayasur)

15:29 CEST    77km/76.5km to go
Efimkin has found refuge in a 10-man move. Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne), José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne), Ángel Vallejo (Relax-GAM),Daniel Moreno (Relax-GAM), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas), David López García (Caisse d'Epargne), David Loosli (Lampre-Fondital), Jurgen Van Goolen (Discovery Channel) are in a gruppetto 38 seconds the Menchov lead group.

15:32 CEST    80km/73.5km to go
An update on the lead group; American Vande Velde is still there. He is having a great Vuelta. Here are the members. Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Luis Pérez Rodriguez (Andalucia-Cayasur), Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne), Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), Ezequiel Mosquera (Karpin-Galicia), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), Volodimir Gustov (Team CSC), Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC) and Christian Vande Velde (Team CSC).

Vande Velde will work with the other CSC members here to help Sastre's chances.

15:32 CEST   
The average after two hours of racing is 39.6km/h.

15:33 CEST   
Michael Rogers has joined the list of new dads. His wife delivered twin girls on Tuesday, names so far not made public.

15:35 CEST   
Cyclingnews congratulates another rider on becoming a father; Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne).

Vladimir Efimkin early on in the Vuelta
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

15:45 CEST   
The door is opening on Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne), and the Russian will soon find himself off the steps of the final Vuelta podium. Let's not forget, he has really been a surprise to many, taking the jersey oro early in this Vuelta. The gap is 2'00".

Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom) is on the hunt. He is trying to bridge, solo, to the front runners.

15:46 CEST    93km/60.5km to go
Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) is caught by the Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) gruppo, at 2'45" back.

16:03 CEST    100km/53.5km to go
Mission incredible, undercover convoy...

CSC has the hammer down. They are driving this semi-truck full-tilt towards Ávila. Sastre has the possibility of moving into third overall with the disadvantage of Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne). The gap is now 2'30" at kilometre 100.

We are driving through El Barraco, where there are sprint points on offer. This is also the birth place of 'Chaba' José María Jiménez, one of the finest climbers in the history of Spanish cycling. He passed away on December 6, 2003. We miss you 'Chaba.'

16:06 CEST   
Oh.. A Quick.Step rider hits the deck.

16:08 CEST    105km/48.5km to go
The rider was Dutchman Addy Engels (Quick.Step - Innergetic). He clipped wheels with another rider, and hit the deck. He is now back on his bike, and getting service by a team mechanic.

16:13 CEST   
Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step - Innergetic), Laszlo Bodrogi (Crédit Agricole), Allan Davis (Discovery Channel) and Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) did not start today. We know the Italian World Champion and Schumacher will be going home to prepare for the World Championships, September 30 in Stuttgart.

Here is a complete list of riders no longer in the Vuelta:
Stage 1 DNF - Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel
Stage 3 DNF - Mathieu Claude (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
Stage 4 DNS - Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) T-Mobile
Stage 5 DNS - Sergio Paulinho (Por) Discovery Channel
Stage 5 DNF - Giovanni Bernaudeau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
Stage 5 DNF - Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Crédit Agricole
Stage 7 DNF - Alberto Fernández De La Puebla (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir
Stage 7 DNF - Bert Roesems (Bel) Predictor-Lotto
Stage 9 DNF - Arkaitz Durán (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir
Stage 9 DNF - Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas
Stage 9 DNF - Bradley McGee (Aus) Française Des Jeux
Stage 9 DNF - Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
Stage 10 DNS - Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
Stage 10 DNF - Ian McLeod (RSA) Française Des Jeux
Stage 10 DNF - Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel
Stage 10 DNF - Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
Stage 12 DNS - Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir
Stage 12 DNF - Cyrille Monnerais (Fra) Française Des Jeux
Stage 12 DNF - Egoi Martínez (Spa) Discovery Channel
Stage 12 DNF - Rony Martias (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
Stage 13 DNS - Xavier Florencio (Spa) Bouygues Telecom
Stage 13 DNS - Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step - Innergetic
Stage 13 DNS - Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
Stage 14 DNS - Michael Blaudzun (Den) Team CSC
Stage 14 DNS - Carlos Castaño (Spa) Karpin-Galicia
Stage 14 DNF - Angelo Furlan (Ita) Crédit Agricole
Stage 14 DNF - Josep Jufré (Spa) Predictor-Lotto
Stage 14 DNF - Serafín Martínez (Spa) Karpin-Galicia
Stage 14 DNF - Dimitri Champion (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
Stage 14 DNF - Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Crédit Agricole
Stage 14 DNF - Jesús Hernández (Spa) Relax-GAM
Stage 15 DNS - Mickaël Delage (Fra) Française Des Jeux
Stage 15 DNF - Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Bouygues Telecom
Stage 15 DNF - Andreas Klier (Ger) T-Mobile
Stage 16 DNS - Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
Stage 17 DNS - Giuseppe Guerini (Ita) T-Mobile
Stage 17 DNS - Bert Grabsch (Ger) T-Mobile
Stage 18 DNS - Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step - Innergetic
Stage 18 DNS - Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crédit Agricole
Stage 18 DNS - Allan Davis (Aus) Discovery Channel
Stage 18 DNS - Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner

16:18 CEST    113km/40.5km to go
Chris Anker Sørensen (Team CSC) and Christian Vande Velde (Team CSC) are out of the lead group. They did a lot of work for Sastre to lead to this second climb of the day, Porte de Navalmoral.

The gap is 2'30" to the Caisse led chase.

16:18 CEST   
We have a whole slew of birthdays today, from all around Europe and running from 34 to 20 years old. The only one in the Vuelta is Vladimir Karpets of Caisse d'Epargne, who has turned 27. The others, from youngest to oldest, are Stefan Denifl (Elk Haus), 20; Clements Frankhauser (Elk Haus), 22; Kilian Patour (Slipstream) 25: Gustav Eric Larsson (Unibet), 27; and Olaf Pollack (Wiesenhof), 34. We wish them all a very happy birthday and lots of yummy cake.

16:20 CEST   
Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is doing a lot of work here for his team-mate, Samuel Sánchez. Volodimir Gustov (Team CSC) is on his wheel for Sastre.

16:22 CEST    117.5km/36km to go
Gustov comes to the front to work.

"EZ" Mosquera (Karpin-Galicia) is stretching his legs at the back of the lead group. He is in sixth overall.

16:23 CEST   
Three kilometres to go to the top of Porte de Navalmoral. This is really a dry climb. Rocky, brown and very Spanish. The fans are lining along the road; they are cheering the work of Gustov and Antón.

16:26 CEST   
CAS has announced that it will hear the case of Valverde, presented by the Spanish Federation, RFEC. For background on this, read Spanish Federation confirms Operación Puerto dossier is unusable.

16:28 CEST   
Rock on... Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is banging along like John Bonham. Sam Sánchez will kick it in the final, like Jimmy Page.

16:33 CEST    121km/32.5km to go
Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) flies over the top of the climb first.... Antón and Gusev on the curly-haired rider's wheel.

Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) is not enjoying the driving rhythm of Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi). He is losing time. The group he is in will likely never catch the front runners.

16:34 CEST   
Ezequiel 'EZ' Mosquera (Karpin-Galicia) is third wheel, behind the domestiques of Euskaltel and CSC.

The chase is being led by Xabier Zandio and Joan Horrach for their team-mate Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne).

16:37 CEST    121km/32.5km to go
In the GC battle: Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) is under pressure from Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne), who made the escape. We see Quick.Step coming to the front and working for Carlos Barredo. The Spaniards ninth overall is threatened by Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), who are in 10th and 11th, and both in the escape.

We have entered the feed zone.

16:41 CEST   
We see the two Ag2r riders helping the escape. Hubert Dupont (Ag2r Prévoyance) and Stéphane Goubert (Ag2r Prévoyance), who joined the lead group at kilometre 85, are working. They will want to try for a stage win.

16:43 CEST   
Over the top of the last climb it was
1 Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
2 Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
3 Carlos Sastre (Team CSC)
4 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)
5 Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
6 Denis Menchov (Rabobank)

16:49 CEST    138.5km/15km to go
The gap has increased to three minutes with 15 kilometres to go. Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) and Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) have almost locked in their podium spots in Madrid.

16:51 CEST   
Ávila: The race hits the cobbles of Ávila. This is very classic Vuelta stuff.

16:52 CEST   
Luis Pérez Rodriguez (Andalucia-Cayasur), in his last Vuelta, attacks. Watch Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas). The Italian has been sitting quietly in this escape all day.

16:53 CEST   
Luis Pérez Rodriguez has 15".

16:54 CEST    143.5km/10km to go
Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) still leads. Riders are taking drinks of water, and then launching their bottles to the roadside.

The gap is 20".

16:56 CEST    144.5km/9km to go
Luis Pérez Rodriguez (Andalucia-Cayasur) has left the walled-zone of Ávila. He has nine kilometres to go. The race will re-enter the city centre for the finale. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) will need to fire soon. Or any other riders home for the race win.

16:58 CEST    145.5km/8km to go
The gap is 45" at eight kilometres to go. This could be Luis Pérez's stage.

17:01 CEST   
His won a Vuelta stage in 2003, with Cofidis. This year he won a stage and the overall of the Clasica de Alcobendas.

17:01 CEST   
Thomas Dekker of Rabobank won the second stage of the 3-Länder Tour in Germany, and has taken over the GC lead, ahead of Jens Voigt (CSC) and teammate Michael Boogerd (Rabobank). They were part of six man escape group which finished nearly 12 minutes ahead of the peloton -- that kind of reduces the suspense about who might win the race.

17:02 CEST    148.5km/5km to go
Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is now setting the pace, with the two Ag2r guys right behind. The gap is 38" with five kilometres to go.

He will soon hit those cobbles again...

17:02 CEST   
The chase is in single file.

17:03 CEST    149.5km/4km to go
No one is really dedicated to this chase. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) seems cooked, and will likely not figure in the finale. (We think.)

The gap is 38".

17:04 CEST    149.5km/4km to go
Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) has passed three KM to go. Over to his left is the walled city of Ávila. The gap is 42".

17:05 CEST    151.5km/2km to go
Luis Pérez Rodriguez (Andalucia-Cayasur) hits the cobbles, starting at 2km to go. He looks determined. This will be a great departing win for the rider who will retire at the end of the Vuelta a España.

17:05 CEST   
The gap was 48" at 2km.

The city of Ávila has a 2.5-kilometre long wall around its edge.

17:06 CEST   
The gap of Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) chase group is now down to 1'48".

17:06 CEST   
Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) fires!

17:06 CEST   
He went on the cobbles. Now he is on the smooth pavement.

17:07 CEST   
Luis Pérez Rodriguez (Andalucia-Cayasur) catches the chase group of Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne)! This is confusing! He passes them.

17:07 CEST    152.5km/1km to go
The group cheers him on! He is in the final kilometre.

17:08 CEST   
The 34 year-old is going to get it. His second Vuelta career stage win.

17:08 CEST   
His right fist pumps. He caps off his career in style. A win in front of big named riders. Bravo.

17:09 CEST   
Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) leads the sprint for second.

17:10 CEST   
The gap was 45" to Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas). The Italian looked to have taken second.
The Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) group passes, and still has the 10km loop to finish.

Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) is off on his own. He is suffering on the cobbles. His team-mates wait.

Adam Hansen (T-Mobile) is there too.

17:12 CEST   
The Vladimir Efimkin group comes over the line at 3'06". The Russian lost about 2'20" today.

17:15 CEST   
That was Evans in second.

17:15 CEST   
Pellizotti finished in third.

17:17 CEST   
The top five in the GC:
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto 2.27
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 3.02
4 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 4.01
5 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 4.27

17:17 CEST   
Thanks for joining us today. Please come back tomorrow for the mountain top finish. Adios!

Provisional results

1 Luis Pérez Rodriguez (Spa) Andalucia-Cayasur
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
3 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
4 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
6 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Karpin-Galicia
7 Stéphane Goubert (Fra) Ag2r Prévoyance
8 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC
9 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis
10 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne
11 Igor Antón (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi

General classification after stage 18

1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto        2.27
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC             3.02
4 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi   4.01
5 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne  4.27

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