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63rd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 30 - September 21, 2008

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Stage 13 - September 13: San Vicente de la Barquera - Alto de L'Angliru, 209.5km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Gregor Brown

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

15:02 CEST   
Hello and welcome to the big day, the stage to Alto de L'Angliru. Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) will seek to defend his maillot oro on this mountainous day that includes five categorised climbs – one category three, three category one and the final hors catégorie to the Angliru.

Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) holds the maillot oro
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

15:05 CEST    116km/93.5km to go
There are currently three riders away, Christophe Kern (Crédit Agricole), Matej Jurco (Team Milram) and Maarten Tjallingii (Silence-Lotto). They have just topped the Puerto de Arnicio with a gap of 8'15 over the peloton.

15:08 CEST   
Many at the beginning of today’s stage made attacks. None made it clear until kilometre 37, when France's Christophe Kern of Team Crédit Agricole broke loose. The Frenchman gained three minutes by kilometre 40, before the third category Alto de Ortigueiro.

Slovakian Matej Jurco (Team Milram) and Dutchman Maarten Tjallingii (Silence-Lotto) broke free of the peloton, Kern got word and sat waited for the duo after the descent.

15:11 CEST    130km/79.5km to go
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) and teammate Leonardo Duque are clear of the peloton by nearly 30 seconds. The duo jumped away before the top of the Puerto de Arnicio, where Moncoutié took fourth and added to his mountains lead.

15:14 CEST   
Good news: There is no rain. Bad news: Gone are the days of sizzling temperatures that we saw in Granada. The current reading from our Seat is 16°C. Yeah, Europe is hit with winter!

15:16 CEST   
A special Cyclingnews feature, Agony in Asturias

They either hate it or detest it. No sane cyclist - professional or otherwise - would climb the Alto del Angliru for fun. But for all those whose sentiments for the hardest climb in the world are the polar opposite of affection, no one will argue that whoever wins this stage of the Vuelta a España will become a legend.

Used just three times in the past, the list of winners on Alto del Angliru is a who’s who of the most explosive and exciting climbers in recent history. But what makes the climb, first used in 1999, so exciting for the fans is that they get to see their heroes suffer like mere mortals.

"We’re not animals and this is inhuman," David Millar cursed while refusing to cross the line in 2002.

Having crashed descending the Cordal and gone down again when hit by a team car, Millar rode to the finish, tore off his number and told the bedraggled press corps exactly what he thought of the stage. Read the full Alto de L'Angliru feature.

Matej Jurco (Team Milram) featured in stage 10's escape
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

15:26 CEST   
Quiz, who were the three riders to win on the Angliru? And, what can you remember from their performances?

Have any of our readers ridden the Angliru?

15:29 CEST    150km/59.5km to go
The three escapees reach the Alto de la Colladona, the second of three category one climbs for the day. It is not that long, 5.5 kilometres, but there are some heavy pitches and an average gradient of 7.6 percent. The gap is right at eight minutes.

15:33 CEST   
Regarding our quiz, only one of the riders is still racing.

15:41 CEST    153km/56.5km to go
6'27 is the latest gap from our leaders to the peloton, led by Astana. David Moncoutié (Cofidis) and Leonardo Duque (Cofidis) are back into the fold of the bunch.

15:49 CEST   
It is the fifth time up this climb. The four riders to top this climb first in the past are José Luis Laguia (1986), Roberto Torres (1989) José Pedrero (1991) and Joaquím Rodríguez (2005). Rodríguez is here this year as a faithful lieutenant to Valverde.

15:52 CEST    154km/55.5km to go
The trio is about to cross the top of this climb. The gap, now at 5'49, is looking smaller and smaller. We should see the stage battled amongst the GC favourites on the Angliru.

It is currently 14ºC after four hours of racing.

15:53 CEST   
Today Camino de Santiago is deserted compared to the Angliru pilgrimage. Hikers and bikers are everywhere, noted our own Bjorn Haake.

15:56 CEST   
Haake noted the hard view that the riders will face at four kilometres to go on the ridge, which sits under the fog line and contains the windy road of stardom and suffering.

It is dry and cloudy on the Angliru for now, but the fog is keeping the roads damp. This will play havoc for the riders as they try to keep grip on the road.

Roberto Heras emerges from the fog to win the Angliru stage
Photo ©: Lavuelta.com
(Click for larger image)

16:02 CEST   
Hats off to Fred, Mike, MV from Boulder, Cian, John, Aberdeen and Prospero, who said Heras used a triple gear. The winners were Spain's late José Maria Jiménez in 1999, Italy's Gilberto Simoni and Spaniard Roberto Heras. Simoni is the only one officially still racing and Heras has retired after his EPO suspension.

Jonathan wrote of 2002, "One of the most exciting moments in cycling I remember was on Angliru. The top two riders had disappeared into the soupy fog near the summit. The camera at the finish just pointed down the empty road. Suddenly car headlights appeared followed by a single rider – Roberto Heras." Hares finished second that year, with one additional stage win.

16:05 CEST    160km/49.5km to go
Over the top of the Alto de la Colladona it was Christophe Kern (Crédit Agricole), Matej Jurco (Team Milram) and Maarten Tjallingii (Silence-Lotto). David Moncoutié (Cofidis) got clear of the group again to take fourth place points. The group is just over five minutes back at the top, 5'02".

16:08 CEST    172km/37.5km to go
Sastre stops for a quick bike check. He is the brother-in-law of the late gifted climber, José Maria Jiménez.

The gap is growing slightly for the trio.

16:18 CEST    175km/34.5km to go
The gap is 5'15".

Thanks to everyone who wrote in today for our quiz.

16:29 CEST    183km/26.5km to go
The trio starts the Alto del Corda with a 4'47" gap.

16:30 CEST   
With this gap, and the heat from behind, it will be hard for the three to make it to the base of the Alto de L'Angliru.

16:34 CEST   
The Cordal is the third first category climb of the day. The Vuelta has raced this climb on three previous occasions, when the race finished on the Angliru. It is climb of six kilometres, but with an average gradient of 8.1 percent and a maximum 12 percent. The three racers who topped this climb first on the way to the Angliru were Ruslan Ivanov (1999), Gilberto Simoni (2000), and Oscar Pereiro (2002).

16:34 CEST   
Kern is on his own now...

16:35 CEST   
Matej Jurco (Team Milram) and Maarten Tjallingii (Silence-Lotto) are right there with him. The Frenchman is not going anywhere.

16:36 CEST   
The Angliru, with pitches of up to 23.5%, will present a formidable obstacle for the riders, and it will require some unusual measures on their behalf if they hope to ascend to the finish without walking. Several riders have admitted that they will use fairly extreme gearing to conquer the shocking grades. Tea saucer-sized inner chain rings in the front, just 34 teeth around, with pie-plate sized rear cogs with 28 or 29 teeth seem to be the popular gears.

It is an unusual choice for professionals, who prefer a 39 or 42 as their smallest chain ring, and rarely exceed 23 teeth in the rear cog. David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) and Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) all said they would be riding the tiny gears.

There was one rider who chose differently: Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), who lost the overall battle in the rain Thursday. He will put on a 36x29, trying to outfox his under-geared rivals.

16:38 CEST    187.8km/21.7km to go
Sorry, Kern is in fact clear. He is spinning his red shoes, his hands on the bar tops and his back rocking-n-rolling.

16:40 CEST    188.1km/21.4km to go
Kern tops the Cordal solo. So the rider who was 2nd in the Tour du Doubs and who started the escape group today is back on his own.

16:40 CEST   
He will want to regain his composure on this descent and maybe decide to wait for the chase duo.

16:42 CEST   
The main group hits the top... Moncoutié, from Lyon, nips off for the points.

16:45 CEST   
We see Sergio Paulinho (Astana) doing a heck of a job for teammate Contador. Contador, winner of the Giro d'Italia, is in the white top of the combination classification.

16:46 CEST   
Kern topped the climb with 27 seconds on the duo and 2'05" on the favourites group.

Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) on the rest day
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

16:49 CEST   
Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) crashed on a left-hand bend. A teammate stops with him, as he is the captain of the team even if Egoi Martínez holds the gold jersey. This is too bad for Antón, who sits about 2'23" back in the overall.

16:52 CEST   
Andreas Klöden (Astana) is muscling the chase. WE see Moncoutié about ten places back in the red mountains jersey; he will need to place well today if he wants to win the overall competition. Moncoutié will evaluate his GC position after the weekend. "Monday, or even Sunday if I lost enough time on the Angliru, I can try to get into a break to get more points."

16:52 CEST   
Igor Antón drops out of the race.

16:54 CEST    194km/15.5km to go
A bad day for Euskaltel and Antón, who crashed on the same descent that put paid to Olano a few years back. The team must now shift its weight to Egoi Martínez's chances.

16:55 CEST   
Before the race Martínez said, "I won't carry the jersey much longer. But I hope it will go from my shoulders over to Igor Antón... He has confirmed his talent here at the Vuelta, climbing with the best."

16:56 CEST    198km/11.5km to go
Maarten Tjallingii (Silence-Lotto) and Matej Jurco (Team Milram) are caught. Only Kern remains.

Astana is doing the work, Leipheimer is on the wheel of Contador.

16:56 CEST   
Andreas Klöden (Astana) drops off after his turn. He is drifting back.

16:57 CEST    199.5km/10km to go
Kern passes the 10km to go banner.

17:01 CEST    200.5km/9km to go
Nine kilometres to go for the riders on one of the most challenging climbs in the racing world. Contador sits second wheel, behind Rubiera.

17:02 CEST   
José Luis Rubiera is doing great work. Kern is at 1'00" up the road.

17:04 CEST   
We are on the easier parts of the climb, near five percent gradient.

17:06 CEST   
The riders hit sections of 15%, from 6.5 to 7.5km of the climb. Leipheimer leads the race for Alberto Contador.

17:07 CEST   
The riders hit 20 percent gradients as USA's Leipheimer hammers the front of the race.

17:08 CEST   
He is doing the damage for Contador. Valverde is there, but we don't see Sastre.

17:08 CEST   
Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) is there too.

17:09 CEST    203.5km/6km to go
Valverde sets the pace-making after Leipheimer pulls off to take a bit of air.

17:10 CEST   
It is Leipheimer for Contador and Rodríguez for Valverde. Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) comes to the front now.

17:10 CEST   
Sastre, winner of the Tour de France, is managing his self on this climb, just off the front runners.

Kern, we believe, was caught.

17:11 CEST   
Yes, he was caught at kilometre 200.

17:13 CEST    204.5km/5km to go
Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank) ride further back, there is also Oliver Zaugg (Gerolsteiner) in that group of four.

Sastre catches Leipheimer, who was drifting back from Contador.

17:13 CEST   
Contador throws down the hammer.

17:14 CEST   
Joaquím Rodríguez and Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) chase. Contador does not drop them.

17:14 CEST   
Further back, Sastre is riding with Leipheimer in tow.

17:16 CEST   
Contador looks a little smoother than Valverde, whose head seems to be bobbing. Valverde will be gunning for a stage win, as he is a little far off for the race overall.

17:17 CEST   
Contador, at this rate, should move into the race overall.

17:18 CEST    205.5km/4km to go
Contador, Rodríguez and Valverde have 31" on Sastre and Leipheimer, then there are 18 seconds back to Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia).

17:19 CEST   
Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) rides with Oliver Zaugg (Gerolsteiner) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank)

17:21 CEST   
Contador had dropped Rodríguez and Valverde. What an excellent climber this Spaniard is. He looks ready to add his name to the list of Simoni, Heras and Jiménez.

17:22 CEST    206.5km/3km to go
Contador hits 19% grades. These final kilometres are very steep and killers!

17:22 CEST   
Fans are easily running alongside their heroes.

17:23 CEST   
Contador splits the crowd into two long rows, this looks similar to the mountain time trial of Plan de Corones.

17:24 CEST   
Sastre keeps his composure, he keeps going strong with the weight of Leipheimer on his back. Leipheimer does not work as he has team leader Contador up the road.

17:24 CEST   
It is cloudy here, but no rain and the fans are having a great day out.

17:26 CEST   
Contador is taming this 20 percent grade!

17:27 CEST    207.5km/2km to go
2000 metres to the finish, a stage win, the gold jersey and Spanish stardom for Contador, only 25 years old.

17:28 CEST   
Contador maintains one minute on Sastre and Leipheimer. The USA rider moves ahead of the Spaniard as they pass the 2km banner.

17:28 CEST   
Rodríguez is back with Valverde, the two are working together.

Alberto Contador (Astana)
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

17:29 CEST   
20 percent grade for Contador in this section that goes from kilometre 11 to 11.5 for Contador. He charges into a wall of fans, just hoping they clear the way at the last minute.

17:31 CEST    208.5km/1km to go
Contador passes the worst of Angliru, he is 1000 metres to the line.

17:31 CEST   
Contador leads, Valverde and Rodríguez follow, Leipheimer next and then Sastre.

17:33 CEST   
Contador is on the 'downhill' portion of the climb.

17:33 CEST   
Contador wins the stage!

17:34 CEST   
Valverde will get second, at 50 seconds. Rodríguez is further back.

17:34 CEST   
Leipheimer crosses at 1'04". Sastre is in the distance.

17:35 CEST   
Sastre loses 1'33" to Contador on this demanding day.

17:36 CEST   
Cunego finishes at 2'43".

17:42 CEST   
Contador also moves in to the race overall. What a day out for the young Spaniard and winner of the Giro d'Italia.

Please join us tomorrow for more live action. Thanks and adios!

Provisional results

1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
3 Joaquím Rodríguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo Bank
6 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia
General classification after stage 13
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana

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