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62nd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 1-23, 2007

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Stage 21 - September 23: Rivas Vaciamadrid - Madrid, 104.2km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

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

Hola fans and welcome back to the Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Vuelta a España for one final time in 2007. Most decisions have been made in yesterday's time trial and Denis Menchov will take home the overall win, barring accident, which of course we don't hope to happen. There are only two more open questions, which is who will today's stage, with many favouring Italian Alessandro Petacchi. But also the points jersey is still a close battle between Menchov and Samuel Sánchez, who is only eight points behind the Russian. So on we go to stage 21 and the ride into the Spanish capital.

14:58 CEST   
We expect a casual and relaxed ride leading up to the usual mass sprint finish on the closing course in Madrid today. There won't be anything relaxed about the finale, though, as the sprinters' teams will go all out to win the final sprint of the race. We expect to see Alessandro Petacchi and Daniele Bennati fight it out – but one thing we have learned from our years observing cycling is that we should always expect the unexpected.

15:01 CEST    3km/101.2km to go
The race has only just started, so nothing has really happened. No surprise, the peloton is all together and setting an easy pace.

15:05 CEST   
We are on our way today to Madrid, which has more experience with Vuelta stages than any other city. It has hosted 63 stages in all, with 38 of those being the final stage. Traditionally the Vuelta ended with a time trial, but in the last few years it has moved that to the next-to-last stage, giving the sprinters their chance to strut their stuff.

15:10 CEST    5km/99.2km to go
The riders are enjoying the lovely late summer weather -- 75° and partly cloudy -- and don't see any reason to hurry along today.

15:14 CEST    10km/94.2km to go
The riders are whopping it up today, indulging in the usual jokes and light-heartedness of the last stage -- they are all relieved to have made it his far and looking forward to having the whole thing come to an end.

15:16 CEST   
Last year's final sprint went to Milram's Erik Zabel. The German would doubtless love to repeat that win today, but equally doubtless he will be riding for Petacchi today.

15:22 CEST   
Our birthday wishes today go to Martin Elmiger of Ag2r, who is turning 29 and Roberto Traficante of Team LPR, who is 23. Also celebrating today is Michael Rich, Directeur Sportif at Team Gerolsteiner. The former time trial ace, who rode up until 2005, turns 38 today.

15:25 CEST    16km/88.2km to go
Here's some action at last! Jose Luis Carrasco Gamiz of Team Andalucia-Cayasur has flatted. He gets right back to the slow-moving peloton without problem, though.

15:28 CEST   
Madrid lies pretty much smack in the middle of Spain. It has a population of over three million and is of course the nation's capital and home of the government and the Spanish royal family.

Its roots go back to the time of the Arab Emir Mohamed I (852 - 886) who ordered that a fortress be built on the left bank of the Manzanares River.

15:32 CEST    18km/86.2km to go
Saunier Duval has tired of the slow pace. They have taken over at the head of the peloton and picked up some speed. Perhaps they all checked their flight schedules home this evening....

15:34 CEST   
Unlike most of the riders, we will not be flying home tonight but will park our Seat in front of a good restaurant and scarf down some typical Madrid specialties, such as Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup), Tortilla de patatas (potato omelet) or one of the delicious fish dishes. We admit, though, that we will take a pass on the Caracoles (snails).

We will wash it all down with a glass of Spain's best red wine -- or maybe even two glasses?

15:38 CEST   
No doubt you have often wondered how Madrid came by its name. Well, we are going to tell you (whether you have ever wondered or not). There are any number of theories -- which is another way of saying that nobody really knows why -- but the most commonly accepted of these is that after the Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in the 7th century, the settlement known as "Matrice" became known as "Mayrit", which referred to water as a mother or source of life. This eventually became "Matrit" or "Madrid".

15:42 CEST   
Madrid may be a modern, sophisticated city, but it also includes beautiful nature and wildlife. Over the last few days, the peloton may have noticed the large black vultures and Spanish Imperial eagles which live in the area. We suspect that they were happy not to have noticed the Iberian lynx, which is reported to have been sighted again.

15:47 CEST   
We expect it to be a real quickie today, as the course is only 104 km and there are no climbs at all. The peloton may take its time on the first part of the stage, but once it starts on those five rounds of the 6 km course in Madrid, we can expect the action to be fast and furious.

15:53 CEST   
We can look forward to the "coronation" today of Denis Menchov, who will take his second Vuelta title -- but the first one which he will win in Madrid. We remember that he was awarded the title for the 2005 Vuelta after winner Roberto Heras tested positive.

15:54 CEST    30km/74.2km to go
The good news is that there is nothing really happening in the race. Saunier Duval has everything nicely under control and the riders are enjoying their leisurely journey to Madrid. The bad news is that this is not so very interesting to the fans and those who are trying to write live reports.......

15:59 CEST   
Menchov is far more than "just" the overall winner! He will also win both the mountain and combination classifications. He even leads the points classification going into today's stage, but we can reasonably expect Sanchez, Petacchi and Bennati to have something to say about that. The only category that the Russian hasn't been able to put his stamp on is the team ranking. Caisse d'Epargne has that one pretty well sewed up.

16:03 CEST   
Getting back to that point classification: Menchov currently leads with 135 points, with Sanchez second with 127 points, Bennati third with 118 and Petacchi fourth with 106. There are two intermediate sprints in the stage, which give points, plus the 25 points which go to the stage winner. We can expect some exciting battles today!

16:06 CEST   
Bennati and Petacchi are, of course, the hot favourites to win the mass sprint this afternoon, but they aren't the only sprinters still in the race. Erik Zabel (Milram), Alexandre Usov (Ag2r), Andre Greipel (T-Mobile), Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas), Leonardo Duque (Cofidis), and Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole), among others, might just take advantage of their opportunity today.

16:10 CEST    37km/67.2km to go
The riders are enjoying the blue skies and fluffy white clouds, as Caisse d'Epargne has moved to the front of the peloton. Lots of laughs and smiles are to be seen today!

16:11 CEST   
Five of the 22 teams are still here with all nine riders. Two teams are down to only three: Discovery Channel and Bouygues Telecom.

16:14 CEST   
As we earlier noted, Menchov is taking home the mountain jersey as well as the golden jersey. He has 90 points, ahead of Jurgen Van Goolen of Discovery Channel with 78 points and Carlos Sastre with 69 points.

16:16 CEST   
Luis Perez of Andalucia-Cayasur holds up a hand-written sign, which we are unfortunately unable to translate.

16:18 CEST   
The Russian will also take the combination ranking, which he leads with 3 points over Sanchez (10 points) and Sastre (4 points).

Meanwhile, Marc De Maar of Rabobank has his mobile phone with him and is busy sending a text-message. We ask ourselves if that is really such a good idea, while riding in the middle of the peloton?

16:27 CEST   
The only classification that Menchov wasn't able to do anything about was the team ranking, where Rabobank is lingering all the way down in 13th. Caisse d'Epargne will be happy to take that honour home with them. They are proud to boast of three riders in the top 15: Efimkin (6th), Karpets (7th) and Lopez (14th).

16:29 CEST   
The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming! There are three Russians in the top seven. Menchov is first, Vladimir Efimkin 6th and Vladimir Karpets 7th.

The Spaniards have done even better: they have three riders in the top five: Sastre 2d, Sanchez 3d, and Mosquera 5th

16:31 CEST    50km/54.2km to go
Carlos Sastre of CSC finished only 15th in yesterday's time trial, but he cemented his second place overall.
In an interview with El Mundo, he said that he was "very happy" with his Vuelta, and noted that "If not for the work that all my teammates have done, I would not have been able to be second."

The Spaniard finished fourth in this year's Tour de France, as he did last year. However, with Floyd Landis' recent disqualification, he has now moved on to the 2006 podium.

16:35 CEST   
Third place overall will go to Samuel Sanchez of Euskaltel-Euskadi. "The objective before the Vuelta was the podium," he said. "I have already won two stage -- difficult to do better!" He also praised his countryman Sastre, saying, "I'm very happy for Carlos because he deserves to be second."

16:35 CEST   

16:35 CEST   

16:37 CEST   
Menchov was still only "95 percent sure" after Friday's mountain stage that he would hold on to his overall lead and win the Vuelta. He would have liked to have won the time trial yesterday, but ended up having to ride much of it in the rain, so that he ended up second, 11 seconds behind Sanchez.

"Whether second place is a disappointment or a success?" Directeur Sportif Erik Breukink asked rhetorically. "It simply does not matter. We are going to win this race. Additionally, we were victorious in four stages, which is great in itself."

16:40 CEST   
This is a familiar Vuelta picture: the peloton on the highway, in a brown landscape. No fans on the side of the road, but lots of cars over on the other side of the highway.

16:41 CEST    65.2km/39km to go
We suspect that there has been an intermediate sprint somewhere along the way, but so far the race organizers haven't seen fit to tell us the results.

16:44 CEST   
There was indeed a sprint held, and Daniele Bennati won it, picking up 4 valuable points. Gustavo Cesar of Karpin-Galicia was second and Bennati's teammate Morris Possoni picked up the final points.

16:46 CEST   
T-Mobile's Adam Hansen is hanging around the back of the peloton, which is where we didn't expect to see him today. We thought that if the pace was slow, he would be up front trying to hustle them along. Why? "The race should finish about 5:10 p.m., and my plane out of here is at 6:15 p.m. It's 20 minutes to the airport -- it's not looking good!" he told us yesterday. "So I hope I can make it to the flight. Maybe I might sit on the front and keep the pace high, to come in earlier!"

16:49 CEST    60km/44.2km to go
Now here's big news! The guys are so slow underway today, that the organizers have eliminated the last lap of the closing round course, in order to meet the TV schedules. That means they only to ride 98 km today.

16:50 CEST   

16:50 CEST   

16:55 CEST   
Carlos Sastre just pulled a baby pacifier out of his pocket and showed it around. We remember when he did that when he won a Tour stage and crossed the line with the pacifier in his mouth. Has he perhaps become a father again? Or what is he trying to tell us?

16:57 CEST    71km/33.2km to go
The rides enter Madrid. We expect to see some action soon! At least, we hope we see some!

16:58 CEST   
The first attack! Raul Garciade Mateos of Relax shoots out. He is quickly joined by a Predictor-Lotto rider and they have a few seconds lead over the peloton.

17:00 CEST   
It's not a Predictor rider, but Gomez Marchante. The peloton has overtaken them anyway, as they race around the round course.

17:02 CEST    72km/32.2km to go
Riders continually try to get away but the sprinter teams are ruthlessly tracking them down.

17:03 CEST   
Liquigas and Milram are both represented at the head of the fast-moving peloton.

17:04 CEST   
Speaking of Erik Zabel -- which we did sometime today -- the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung a German newspaper better known as the "FAZ", reports today that the sprinter will be returning to T-Mobile Team next season. There he will serve as mentor and teacher to young sprinters Gerald Ciolek and Mark Cavendish, according to the theory. No confirmation on this from anywhere.......

17:06 CEST    86km/18.2km to go
A group of seven riders has a slight lead over the peloton. Hard to tell who is in the escape group, but we could identify a Milram and a T-Mobile jersey.

17:07 CEST   
Patrick Calcagni takes off. He is quickly reabsorbed, as two others take flight.

17:08 CEST   
All together again as the peloton goes around the hair-needle curve towards the finish line. They still have two more laps to go, though.

17:10 CEST   
A Liquigas rider is trying his luck as an escapee. But also he is quickly caught.

17:11 CEST   
Addy Engels and a few others are starting to drop off the back. The Liquigas rider hasn't been caught, he is still in front and it is Alessandro Vanotti.

17:13 CEST    86km/18.2km to go
We were too optimistic about the kilometres before, but now it should really be only 12 more to go. Vanotti is back in the pack as they cross the finish line, and three more riders have shot out to look for their luck. Milram and Lampre are leading the chase and determined to hold everyone together.

17:15 CEST   
All the riders get around that hair-needle curve safely again. That's about halfway though the lap.

17:16 CEST   
A Gerolsteiner and a Caisse rider try it this time, but have the same luck as all other escapees.

17:17 CEST   
Predictor Lotto is leading the way now.

17:19 CEST    92km/12.2km to go
There was another intermediate sprint in there somewhere, from which we hope to get the results at some point.

The peloton tears over he finish line again, for the start of the last lap. And another Gerolsteiner rider has a slight advantage.

17:20 CEST   
It's Marcus Fothen, who has to be disappointed with his season this year. This is practically the first time he had drawn attention to himself in the Vuelta.

17:20 CEST   
Milram and Lampre aren't going to have any of that, thank you very much, and haul him back in.

17:21 CEST   
Once more around the bend and another Liquigas rider shoots out to try for an upset.

17:22 CEST   
It's Vanotti again, but now he has been caught.

17:22 CEST    65.2km/39km to go
Time for the sprinter teams to start getting serious......

17:23 CEST    102.2km/2km to go
Lampre and Milram in the lead. Zabel will pull the sprint for Petacchi.

17:24 CEST    103.2km/1km to go
Zabel leads the way and looks back to see what is happening behind him.

17:24 CEST   
A Saunier Duval rider shoots out but can't do anything.

17:25 CEST   
Zabel pulls out and turns it over to Petacchi.

17:25 CEST   
But it's not Milram' day -- it's another win for Daniele Bennati!

17:26 CEST   
Bennati wins it by a hair over Petacchi, with Usov third. That gives Bennati the win in the points classification, too.

17:28 CEST   
We congratulate Denis Menchov on his second victory in the Vuelta a España, Daniele Bennati to his further stage win, and all the riders who crossed the finish line today. Now it's on to the Worlds!

17:28 CEST   
Adios and gracias for staying with us!

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