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Photo ©: Bettini

63rd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 30 - September 21, 2008

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Stage 8 - September 7: Andorra - Pla de Beret, 151km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Gregor Brown

Live coverage starts: 15:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 18:00 CEST

15:01 CEST   
Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of Vuelta a España stage eight. The peloton, with race leader Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), won't enjoy the downhill out of Andorra for long. After only 23 kilometres the grind of the day starts, with the category one Cantó the first obstacle of the day along the 151-kilometre long route. It is quickly followed by the Alto de Enviny.

Then the tough Puerto de La Bonaigua stands in the way of the riders. It is a stair-step like climb that forces the cyclists to constantly change their rhythm. The summit is at 2070 metres, the highest point of the 2008 Vuelta a España.

The final will be the hors-catégorie finish climb to the Pla de Beret. It is only 1880 metres high and not quite as steep, but it is the finishing climb after all and deserves its higher ranking.

The Pla de Beret was used as a stage finish three times so far. It was scheduled one more time, but in 209.51 the stage was cancelled due to snow in the Puerto de la Bonaigua. With the move from the spring to late summer, this should not happen this time even if the weather is not hot and sunny as it was in Granada last weekend.

Italy's Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) leads the race overall
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:04 CEST   
An escape has formed, at km 38, with An escape has formed, at km 38, with Christophe Kern (Crédit Agricole), Nikita Eskov (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Sébastien Joly (Française des Jeux), Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick Step) and David Moncoutié (Cofidis)..

15:07 CEST   
The move of five passes over the Cantó with Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick Step) at the head of affairs. Marc De Maar (Rabobank) leads the chase, about at 2'30" back.

The Coll del Cantó was 25km long and peaked out at 1725m. (medium gradient: 4.2%, max gradient: 9.5%)

15:10 CEST    60km/91km to go
The peloton passes the town of Sort at 2'48" back.

15:26 CEST    65km/86km to go
The riders are now facing the alto de Enviny – a climb of category two that tops out at 68.7

Our five leaders started the climb with 2'32" in hand.

15:47 CEST   
"Yesterday was a tough stage for everyone, the weather was terrible," confirmed Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) to Bjorn Haake of Cyclingnews. "It was cold and just really difficult. Also, with the wind, it was dangerous too.

"I think the climbs coming in Austria will be harder and we will see the favourites wait until then."

15:47 CEST   
"I like the rain, I actually lose time in hot stages and I don't know why," said "EZ" Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia), second yesterday, to Haake.

15:50 CEST    68.7km/82.3km to go
Over the Enviny with near three minutes for our five lone leaders – at 2'52". Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick Step), former Spanish champion, led the way. Nikita Eskov (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Christophe Kern (Crédit Agricole), David Moncoutié (Cofidis) and Sébastien Joly (Française des Jeux) followed.

Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank) lost 5 seconds yesterday
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:51 CEST   
Haake also talked with Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank). "It was a tough stage and the weather was really bad," said Sastre of yesterday's stage, the first high-moutain stage. "I am still the race for the overall.

"Before it was nice everyday. The first mountain stage is never easy. You don't know how you are going. That is why I can't say I expect a better battle for the GC. Really, I did not expect anything going into the stage."

15:56 CEST    85km/66km to go
Kern takes the fame at the first intermediate sprint, km 85. The five hold 4'40" over the peloton. This gap is going up and up.

15:58 CEST    88km/63km to go
Haake talked to Jelle Vanendert (Française des Jeux). "Yesterday, was okay, I was in a fast gruppetto," he recalled. "Bandage right knee? I crashed a couple of days ago, but it is no problem for me now."

We pull over our Seat Ibiza. We record a gap of 5'14" – Lampre is letting the door open on the escape.

16:03 CEST   
Kern, 27, is without a win in 2008, but had a great year in 2007 with several high placings. He finished second in the Tour de Wallonie stage five and eighth in the French TT championships.

16:04 CEST   
"It was a hard weather day, the first week we had 40°," said Alexandre Pichot (Bouygues Telecom) to Cyclingnews' Haake this morning at the start. "It is my first Vuelta; I have only done the Giro before. The climbs there are harder than here."

16:18 CEST   
Over in Germany, McEwen tops an all-Australian podium in the Vattenfall Cyclassics. And Enrico Gasparotto won in the Giro di Romagna.

16:22 CEST    101km/50km to go
The gap has hit is maximum so far, 5'22". The second sprint of the day is approaching.

Alberto Contador (Astana) keeps watch of the race, like music lovers to Rolling Stone
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

16:28 CEST    106km/45km to go
Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick Step) is the the highest placed GC rider of the five; he is at 9'01" in the Vuelta pop charts. Astana watches the numbers like music lovers flip to the back page of Rolling Stone to see at what position Conor Oberst debuts. Sure enough, the team of Alberto Contador kicks into gear. The Lampre-Astana peloton are now 4'54" back.

16:32 CEST   
What a difference a day makes. The sun is back out today and the riders – and fans – should enjoy a finish without unwanted rain. There are partly cloudy skies out the dirty windows of our rental car.

16:34 CEST    112km/39km to go
Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) and another rider hit the deck. Oh, with him is Australia champion Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto).

16:35 CEST   
Lloyd gets back going, but looks in pain. Bjarne Riis is helping Matti Breschel (CSC-Saxo Bank), who also crashed. We think Bingen Fernández (Cofidis) was part of the crash mix as well.

16:37 CEST   
The front five approach the second intermediate sprint.

16:38 CEST   
Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) is rolling with his team-mates in the blue points jersey.

16:41 CEST   
A Liquigas riders slams the pavement. It is Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) again.

16:41 CEST    117km/34km to go
He is chasing back with Bingen Fernández (Cofidis).

16:43 CEST   
Alessandro Petacchi is back with force following his suspension and job loss. He wins in the first stage of the Tour of Britain for Team LPR.

16:46 CEST   
We have started the Puerto de La Bonaigua, 19.7km and peaks at 2070m.

16:48 CEST   
Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is suffering and heading backwards. He is passed by a group with Germany's Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner).

16:48 CEST   
Jean-Marc Marino (Crédit Agricole) abandons the race.

16:50 CEST   
Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) and Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) are chasing back alone. They will have their work cut out for them as the race is firing upwards on this climb. Lloyd will be cheered on from Italy, as he has a special Italian Miss that worked as a podium girl in the Giro d'Italia.

Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

16:51 CEST    118km/33km to go
Another crash... This one concerns Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner). Eduard Vorganov (Xacobeo Galicia) and Marco Marzano (Lampre) were held up as well.

16:52 CEST   
Race leader Ballan is going backwards as the road goes upwards.

16:54 CEST   
Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) and Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) re-join the group.

16:55 CEST   
Joly leads David Moncoutié (Cofidis) in the front group.

16:55 CEST   
We see a lot of riders calling for water bottles. They are at the back of the group, right with Ballan, who is being led by a team-mate.

16:56 CEST    122km/29km to go
Astana and CSC have control of the pace-making. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) is up front as well, joining Sastre and Contador.

17:00 CEST   
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) pulls this escape along. Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick Step), winner of a Giro mountain stage in 2006, is right here on the Frenchman's wheel.

17:04 CEST    126km/25km to go
Gap is now at 3'04"

17:08 CEST   
There is about six more kilometres to climb.

17:09 CEST   
The chase group numbers around 40 to 45 riders. Now led by Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

17:10 CEST   
Ballan's group is about 1'15" behind the main group, which is firing along now.

17:11 CEST    128km/23km to go
David Garcia (Xacobeo Galicia) finds the pace strong and appears to be suffering.

17:12 CEST   
Astana takes the lead of the chase.

17:13 CEST   
Mauricio Ardila Cano (Rabobank) and Yannick Talabardon (Crédit Agricole) fade from the main chase group.

David Moncoutié (Cofidis) hits out on his own.

David Moncoutié (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Stephen McMahon
(Click for larger image)

17:15 CEST   
France's David Moncoutié (Cofidis) has 20 seconds on the other four. He wants a win after many second places this year, the last coming in the Tour de l'Ain overall.

17:19 CEST   
Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) leads the chase in the main group.

17:20 CEST    130km/21km to go
Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) is right on the wheel of Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi). There are about 30 men in this move, which is very close to our escapees.

17:21 CEST   
Moncoutié looks over his shoulder, down the side of the mountain to see the gap to Joly. He may consider waiting for his compatriot.

17:21 CEST   
Joly is caught now by Nikita Eskov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) et al.

17:22 CEST   
The gap is 1'44" for the lone Frenchman.

17:23 CEST   
Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick Step) is gone from the chase. Only Nikita Eskov (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Sébastien Joly (Française des Jeux) and Christophe Kern (Crédit Agricole) are chasing.

17:24 CEST    132.7km/18.3km to go
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) tops the Puerto de La Bonaigua.

17:25 CEST   
The chase of Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and the GC favourites come through at 1'42" back.

17:30 CEST   
This descent is testing the suspension of our rental car. The wisest riders will stay at the front of the group so they can see the corners, cracks and holes in this Spanish road.

Joly joins David Moncoutié (Cofidis). Joly jammed it on the decent.

17:34 CEST   
We see Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Jurgen Van Goolen (CSC-Saxo Bank), Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia), Oliver Zaugg (Gerolsteiner), Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Dominique Cornu (Silence-Lotto), José Luis Rubiera (Astana), Alberto Contador (Astana), Levi Leipheimer (Astana), José Antonio Carrasco (Andalucía-Cajasur), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Alberto Losada (Caisse d'Epargne), Daniel Moreno (Caisse d'Epargne), Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Volodimir Gustov (CSC-Saxo Bank), Julien Loubet (AG2R La Mondiale), Ivan Mayoz (Xacobeo Galicia), Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole), Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale), Andreas Klöden (Astana), Carlos Castaño (Xacobeo Galicia), Javier Moreno (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Sergio Paulinho (Astana) in the the chase group.

17:34 CEST   
The Pla de Beret starts right away. Astana is driving the pace.

17:35 CEST   
Bettini is quickly dropped.

17:37 CEST   
Astana's pace drops Sastre.

17:38 CEST    145km/6km to go
Sastre is in a group with Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole). CSC is staying in the front group, and not dropping back yet.

Our leader has 3km to the top of the climb.

17:39 CEST   
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) is still there for the Alto Pla de Beret – 6.2km long and tops out at 1880m. This group is 1'10" back.

17:39 CEST   
John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) is with Sastre too, and Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems).

17:41 CEST   
Joly is no longer with Moncoutié.

Sastre is clawing back with Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale).

17:42 CEST    146km/5km to go
Astana is really nailing this pace to hurt the Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank). At five km to race, they are at 1'10".

17:43 CEST   
Alberto Contador (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) fire!

17:43 CEST   
A good move to hurt Sastre.

17:43 CEST   
Sastre keeps on fighting. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) is there too.

17:44 CEST    147km/4km to go
Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is with Alberto Contador (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) at 4km to go.

Contador goes again with Valverde in tow. Antón is gapped.

17:46 CEST    148km/3km to go
Sastre, Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) are in the move behind.

David Moncoutié (Cofidis) is still alone, at 3km to go.

17:46 CEST   
37" back at 3km for Contador, Valverde and Antón.

17:47 CEST   
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) hits the top of the Pla de Beret.

17:47 CEST   
Contador attacks again.

17:48 CEST    149km/2km to go
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) is at 2000m to go.

17:48 CEST   
The chase trio keeps tight on Moncoutié.

17:49 CEST    150km/1km to go
One kilometre for Moncoutié, he could get this stage. Last conquered by Zülle.

17:49 CEST   
France's David Moncoutié (Cofidis) wins the stage.

Contador and Valverde keep the pace high behind.

17:50 CEST   
Contador leads Valverde and Antón to the line. What are they going to get on Sastre?

17:50 CEST   
Valverde looks to get second and the bonus second.

17:51 CEST   
John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) leads to the line.

17:53 CEST   
Sastre seems to have finished, but we did not see the time gap.

17:57 CEST   
Sastre was five seconds back of Contador's group.

Leipheimer moves into the race lead.

17:59 CEST   
Contador is in second overall at 21", Valverde at 49" and Sastre now moves to 1'27" back.

Thanks for joining our coverage of this eighth stage of the 63rd Vuelta a España.

Provisional results

1 David Moncoutié (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone                4.24.58 (34.19km/h)
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                        0.34
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana                                         
4 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                                
5 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                                  0.39

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