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62nd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 1-23, 2007

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Stage 9 - September 9: Huesca - Estación de esquí Cerler (Grupo Aramón), 167.6km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

Live coverage starts: 15:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:30 CEST

Hola amigos de Cyclingnews and welcome back to another day of exciting racing at the 2007 Vuelta a España. Yesterday's time trial saw a little shakeup in the overall and Stijn Devolder is heading towards a big victory. But before he can celebrate the organisers threw in a few more uphills and today the Belgian can prove that he can keep up in the mountains. We have a mountain top finish today, at the ski station of Cerler, over 1800 metres high. The riders will come from Huesca and cover 167 kilometres.

15:04 CEST   
Saturday was the day for the time trialists and other "flatlanders", and today it is the turn of the climbers. There are very few flat sections on the course which features two Cat. 2 climbs followed by a cat. 3. And then comes the fun part at the end: Cerler.

At the end of the stage the riders can look forward to a 12.5 km long climb, with an average gradient of 5.5%. But there are sections with 10 percent, and a one-km section of 11 percent.

15:07 CEST    92km/75.6km to go
It's a hot one today, with temperatures of 28° at the start. All 181 riders were at the start. Blood tests were carried out, although we don't know on whom, and all tested riders were declared fit to start.

A lot of riders thought the best way to survive the stage was to take off in an early break, so lots of them tried it. None of them was able to get away, though, as Discovery Channel kept a tight hold on things.

A group finally established itself at km 27, and got away. It contains:
Stéphane Goubert (Ag2r), Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne), David Lopez Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), Christophe Kern (Credit Agricole), Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Serafin Martinez (Karpin Galicia), Morris Possoni (Lampre), Sylvester Szmyd (Lampre), Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas), Wim Van Huffel (Predictor-Lotto) Jose Angel Marchante (Saunier Duval), and Christian Vande Velde (CSC).

They have gotten away and stayed away, but their lead has never gotten much above about 1'50 they now have. Right now it has dropped to 1'14.

15:10 CEST   
Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), who is not feeling well, got dropped early on. He was very nearly a DNS yesterday, saying that in the morning, "At 8 this morning, I didn't think I was going to be able to start. My whole body ached and I had a fever. The doctor gave me a medication and I slept the whole morning. I woke up at 12 noon and little by little, I started feeling better. I was five minutes behind at the finish, but I saved the day and I'm feeling better all the time".

"I'm going to continue until the end. I'm part of a team and you have to set an example. There are people like Efimkin and Karpets who are high up in the standings and I can't let myself go away because I'm convinced that I'll be much better in two or three days." He added, "The one thing that is quite clear is I'm going to fight on to Madrid".

15:12 CEST   
The leading group came over the first mountain, Mon Repos, in this order: Rebellin, Possoni, Martinez Acevedo, Kern, Goubert, and Garcia Acosta.

We have the day's first drop out, too. Brad McGee (FdJ) abandoned at km 48.

15:15 CEST   
Serafin Martinez was first over the Serrablo, and had first mechanical problems on the descent, and then crashed. He was able to bet back to the escape group, though.

The outlook for Pereiro looks quite dreary, as he already 10'18 behind the breakaway group.

15:15 CEST    99km/68.6km to go
And even as we posted that, we got word that Pereiro has given up the fight and dropped out of the rest. He took advantage of the feeding zone to make his exit, as did Arkaitz Duran Daroca ( Saunier Duval).

15:18 CEST   
The results of the mountain ranking at the Puerto del Serrablo were: Martinez , Gomez Marchante, Garcia Acosta, Kern, Vande Velde and Szmyd.

There was an intermediate sprint at km 89, which Van Huffel won ahead of Possoni and Vanotti.

15:21 CEST    108km/59.6km to go
Francesco Chicchi of Liquigas has decided to stop racing too. Meanwhile, the gap has gotten all the way up to 2'20 as they all start up the Puerto de Foradada, a Cat. 3 climb.

15:24 CEST    111km/56.6km to go
The lead is up to 2'30, as they escape group flies up the mountain.

Cerler first appeared as a stage finish in 1987, and has been used 10 times since. The most recent appearances was 2005, when Roberto Laiseka won. The riders will be going all the way up to the ski centre at 1882 meters.

15:29 CEST   
The surprise, and surprised, winner in yesterday's time trial was T-Mobile's Bert Grabsch, whose brother Ralf rides for Team Milram. "I knew I was in good form after the Tour de France. I had good legs, I rode well but the win still came as a surprise," the 32-year-old said. "I've come fourth and fifth in time trials in the Vuelta before, so it's nice that my time has come. There'll certainly be a glass of champagne with the team tonight!"

15:32 CEST    112km/55.6km to go
Kern is having trouble keeping up the blistering pace up the mountain, and has dropped off the back of the escape group.

15:35 CEST   
Stijn Devolder parleyed a third-place stage finish into a first-place overall. The 28-year-old Discovery Channel rider said, "It was a tough time trial, so exposed and empty there was nowhere to hide, no chance for a moment's recovery." He sees his closest rival as Denis Menchov, who he described as "an excellent climber as well as good in the time trials."

Devolder is one of the lucky Discovery riders who knows where he will be next year. He has already signed with Quick.Step Innergetic.

15:39 CEST   
Devolder was thrilled to get the leader's golden jersey from his idol, Miguel Indurain, calling it "a completely beautiful moment." Does he think he can win the Vuelta? "Yes, but it's still a long way to Madrid."

15:42 CEST    112km/55.6km to go
The escape group is almost at the top of the day's third climb, and it has definitely dropped Kern, who is now 1'09 behind them. Their lead over the peloton has climbed to 2'45.

15:47 CEST   
The escape group came over the top with Martinez before Gomez Marchante, Rebellin and Possoni. Kern has now been absorbed back into the peloton. Despite the best efforts of Discovery and Rabobank to keep a hold on things, the gap has grown to 2'55.

15:50 CEST    123km/44.6km to go
And the gap is falling rapidly and is now down to 1'49. Meanwhile, Luis Perez Rodriguez of Andalucia-Cayasur visits his team mechanic and Iker Camaño Ortuzar of Saunier Duval visits the race doctor.

15:52 CEST   
Menchov and his Directeur Sportif Erik Breukink will be looking to the two days in the Pyrenees to see how strong the new leader is. Devolder "was not a favourite beforehand, but I must admit that he is making a very strong impression. We will have to find a way to bridge that gap. But, Denis is in a much better position after the time trial, which gives a lot of hope," Breukink said.

15:54 CEST    127km/40.6km to go
The lead continues to shrink and is now down to 1'04.

15:56 CEST   
CSC was philosophical in light of Carlos Sastre's 25th place finish, 4'03 down, which dropped him to 7th overall. "We'd hoped to lose slightly less time today, but when we checked out the route this morning we knew it would be extremely hard for Carlos. It couldn't have been a worse route for him. There was nothing resembling any kind of hill on it and there were no technically difficult bits either, but still – it's the same for everyone. Madrid is still a long way off and there are many battles to be fought and lots of excitement left yet," said DS Kim Andersen.

Carlos Sastre was realistic before the start
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

16:02 CEST    135.6km/32km to go
It looks like it won't be much longer before the peloton catches the escape group.

16:03 CEST   
Today's birthday boy is Gerolsteiner's Markus Fothen, who doesn't really have a lot to celebrate. He finished 12th in the Giro d'Italia and 15th in the Tour de France in 2005, but has never really been able to live up to those results. A hand injury earlier this season hindered his preparations for the Tour de France, where he finished 34th. He is currently languishing back in 154th in the Vuelta. Nevertheless, we wish him all the best on his 26th birthday, and congratulate him as well on his recent wedding.

16:06 CEST    136km/31.6km to go
The escape group seems to be falling apart in disunity, but the peloton is not. Rabobank and Discovery not only have things well in hand, but are working well together. They are holding the gap steady at 1'05.

16:13 CEST    142.8km/24.8km to go
The peloton can see the escapees now.

16:15 CEST   
T-Mobile had the unusual -- or dubious -- honour of having both the fastest and slowest riders in the time trial. Bert Grabsch sped his way along the course to take the stage win, but his team-mate Adam Hansen finished dead last, 12'47 down. What happened to the "Crocodile Man"? Two punctures and no spares on the neutral car that was accompanying him......

16:19 CEST   
"The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home" ---- well, we don't know about Kentucky, but the sun is surely shining brightly on the peloton. A number of riders have their jerseys totally unzipped in an effort to stay cool.

16:20 CEST   
No sunshine right now, though -- the peloton has disappeared into a tunnel! Let's hope they find their way out.....

16:22 CEST    147.6km/20km to go
Vanotti is trying his luck and has taken off in front.

16:22 CEST   
And the peloton -- which found its way out of the tunnel,thank goodness -- goes under the 20 km banner only 45 seconds later.

16:24 CEST   
Vanotti looks back to see where the rest of the gang is. He doesn't have time to see the all the lovely green in the landscape. That's too bad, because the days will come when there won't be anything green around -- except the Liquigas and Credit Agricole jerseys.

16:28 CEST   
The peloton still hasn't reached the escape group, but the time difference can't be much more than 20 seconds or so. And Vanotti is still somewhere up in front.

Current situation

  • Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas)
  • Stéphane Goubert (Ag2r Prévoyance), José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), David Garcia (Karpin-Galicia), Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Serafín Martínez (Karpin-Galicia), Morris Possoni and Sylvester Szmyd (Lampre-Fondital), , Wim Van Huffel (Predictor-Lotto), José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Christian Vande Velde (Team CSC)
  • Peloton at 0'45"

16:30 CEST   
The green landscape has disappeared momentarily, but that is because there is a big construction area next to the road. A new street or a bypass around the next village, perhaps?

Alessandro Vanotti is now with Liquigas
Photo ©: Emmanuel Isnard
Click for larger image

16:32 CEST    153.6km/14km to go
Vanotti is about ready to take on the climb. He is now passing all the team buses, patiently waiting at the bottom. The buses are laughing at our Seat, because it has to go up the mountain and they don't.

16:33 CEST   
Vanotti is currently 80th in GC, over 22 minutes back, so it is unlikely he is a threat to the golden jersey.

16:35 CEST    154.6km/13km to go
The peloton finally tires of the chase and overtakes the now-former escapees. Vanotti's lead is about 20 seconds.

16:37 CEST   
CSC and Saunter Duval lead the peloton as they hit the first 10 percent gradient.

16:39 CEST   
At the back of the peloton, the non-climbers are gathering to make their slower trip up the mountain. The peloton has splintered on its way up. Cuesta and Piepoli lead the way, with Karpets not far behind.

16:39 CEST   
Devolder has fallen back from the lead group and is making his way alone.

16:40 CEST   
The golden jersey is now 20 seconds behind.

16:43 CEST   
Carlos Castaño of Karpin Galicia has taken a 20 second lead over the first group which contains Menchov and Sastre.

16:45 CEST    158.6km/9km to go
Devolder is no longer alone but now in a group about 30 seconds behind the Menchov group, which is about 14 seconds behind Castaño.

16:46 CEST   
And Devolder is losing ground again, as he falls off the back of the group. And yes, we apologize, of course it is Castaño and not Castaño.

16:48 CEST    159.6km/8km to go
Devolder finally has a helper, as one of his team-mates has fallen back to him.

16:49 CEST    160.6km/7km to go
Daniel Moreno has moved into the lead, about 15 seconds ahead of the peloton. Not real sure what happened to Castaño.

16:50 CEST   
The Menchov group is falling apart as it moves up the mountain.

16:52 CEST   
Piepoli leads the ever-smaller group past Moreno. Menchov is right behind him. Will he take over the golden jersey today?

16:52 CEST    161.6km/6km to go
Menchov takes over the lead work.

16:53 CEST   
Menchov and Piepoli have distanced Sastre now and are moving on alone.

16:54 CEST   
Another favourite, Cadel Evans, has also been dropped. His team-mate Jufré is by him to help.

16:56 CEST   
Menchov and Piepoli are 10 seconds ahead of Sastre, who is 21 seconds ahead of the Evans group. Devolder is nowhere to be seen.

16:57 CEST    163.6km/4km to go
10 seconds for the leaders ahead of Sastre.

16:59 CEST    164.6km/3km to go
12 seconds for Sastre, who is accompanied by Mosquetera.

17:00 CEST   
Oliver Zaugg of Gerolsteiner has jumped out of the Evans group and is making his way to Sastre.

17:02 CEST    165.6km/2km to go
The gap is down to 10 seconds for Sastre and Mosquera of Karpin Galicia.

17:03 CEST    166.6km/1km to go
The green is slowly disappearing from the landscape, as the two leaders pass under the 1 km mark. Will Menchov let Piepoli take the stage, while he takes over the race lead?

17:06 CEST   
And that's exactly what happens. Menchov obediently follows Piepoli over the finish line.

Sastre and Mosquera follow about 14 seconds later, and Zaugg comes in as fifth, 50 seconds behind the leaders.

17:11 CEST   
Devolder finally crosses the finish line, 4'58 behind Piepoli. The Belgian had surely hoped to wear the golden jersey more than one day.

17:12 CEST   
Denis Menchov of Rabobank will take over that golden jersey and wear it tomorrow as the peloton spends its second day in the Pyrenees. We look forward to it and hope you will join us again!

Provisional results
1 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir       4.28.22
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
3 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Karpin-Galicia               0.16
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC   
5 Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Gerolsteiner                      0.50
6 Luis Pérez Rodriguez (Spa) Andalucia-Cayasur
7 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
9 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne
10 Manuel Beltrán (Spa) Liquigas

General classification after stage 9

1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
2 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne          2.01
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto                2.22
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC
5 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Karpin-Galicia
6 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel
7 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
8 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne

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