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Photo ©: Bettini

63rd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 30 - September 21, 2008

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Stage 16 - September 16: Ponferrada - Zamora, 186.4km

Complete live report

By Gregor Brown with additional reporting by Bjorn Haake

14:58 CEST    Hola and welcome to coverage of stage 16 of the 63rd Vuelta a España. We are travelling south today, 186.4 kilometres from Ponferrada to Zamora. The stage starts out with the category one Alto del Acebo. After that the rest of the stage is mostly downhill.

14:59 CEST    32km/154.4km to go The riders have gone over the Alto del Acebo intact.

15:02 CEST    France's David Moncoutié (Cofidis) took maximum points over the pass ahead of Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick Step), Christophe Kern (Crédit Agricole), Davide Viganò (Quick Step), Ivan Santaromita (Liquigas), Francisco José Martínez ( Andalucía-Cajasur), Andrea Tonti (Quick Step), Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step)...

15:03 CEST    Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) had gone clear, at kilometer 24, and has now been joined by Walter Pedraza (Tinkoff Credit Systems).

15:04 CEST    Remember it was Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) who featured in stage two's escape group with Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Cyril Lemoine (Crédit Agricole) and Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems).

15:06 CEST    35km/151.4km to go Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Walter Pedraza (Tinkoff Credit Systems) have about two minutes now.

15:18 CEST    Björn Haake of Cyclingnews reported, "It really looks like day will be for sprinters. It will be difficult to stay away due to the open roads."

He talked to Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems). "Today will be for the sprinters. I won't be going into the break," said Brutt. Andriy Grivko (Team Milram) agreed. He said to Haake, "It will be hard to get into the break, everyone wants to make it. I will try. If it comes to a sprint, we will work Erik Zabel."

15:19 CEST    49km/137.4km to go The gap is up to 7:30.

15:21 CEST    Haake reports it is 28° (Celsius) along the roads. There is no shade, no trees – open and hot where he is, at – 25°. He also reports that there is no wind.

15:27 CEST    55km/131.4km to go The gap is going up and up. E-mail us with your guess on how high it could go before the sprinters' teams kick into gear. It is currently 8:30.

World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:43 CEST    62km/124.4km to go World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) is doing something to your time estimates. He heads the peloton, which has brought the gap down to 7:30. Bettini was selected yesterday to lead Italy in the Worlds. He will be joined by Davide Rebellin, Alessandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego, Luca Paolini, Gabriele Bosisio, Maurizio Bruseghin, Andrea Tonti and Matteo Tosatto. Reserve riders will be Leonardo Bertagnolli and Francesco Ginanni. Italian team coach Franco Ballerini said that he had some trouble making his choices for the 2008 Worlds, moreover, held on home turf. "We've organised a team that hopefully will be able to compete for the third Worlds title in a row with Paolo Bettini," he said. "This year was difficult, not only to pick the leaders but to pick the domestiques. The Vuelta showed me that Bettini is ready and has the cards to play. The doubts that were there are gone now."

Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:52 CEST    Greg Van Avermaet of Team Silence-Lotto currently wears the blue sprinter's jersey, but he is only ranked second in that category. Alberto Contador leads the points classification, but is already wearing gold. He also leads the combination competition – white jersey – which is in turn worn by Levi Leipheimer.

Van Avermaet told Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake he doesn't intend to keep the status quo until Madrid. "We will roll today with some of the other sprinters' teams to take some points out of Contador. He will be winning or at least be close at the time trial and get more points then."

Unlike in the Tour de France, the Vuelta doesn't reward sprinters by giving more points for flat stages. That is why non-sprinters frequently take the jersey. Van Avermaet will want to beat the odds. "With the team we will try to get the jersey in Madrid. Today I think it will be a sprint."

15:54 CEST    72km/114.4km to go Bettini is making all the differnece; the gap is now down to by two minutes. It is at 6:15.

16:08 CEST    77km/109.4km to go Silence-Lotto, Quick Step and Milram are working for their sprinters – Greg Van Avermaet, Tom Boonen and Erik Zabel. The gap is now halved to four minutes. Thanks to everyone who wrote in regarding the gap.

16:11 CEST    Lloyd Mondory of AG2R La Mondiale finished second in stage 10 and has gained a lot of confidence to finally take out a big one. Just before the start he and several teammates went back into the AG2R bus to discuss the tactics for the day.

Bjorn Haake got the first hand information when Mondory stepped out of the bus. "We were talking about the climb. If somebody attacks, we should have someone in there as well. The team will do the maximum for me today. My legs are good, I want to do the maximum today to win. I was close twice."

Mondory's heart is set on the peloton arriving in Zamora together. "Today, it really has to be a sprint. There will be other sprinters' teams working, too. Lotto is really motivated and I think Milram, too. Quick Step should be able to lend a hand in the beginning. I think Boonen will still be here today and tomorrow, so I think the team will do the maximum for him to get to a sprint."

Mondory was hoping the hot temperatures and the climb at the beginning would be cooling off people. "I hope today we will take off a bit calmer. But of course, it only takes one rider to not be OK with that, and that changes everything..." As for the tough weekend, Mondory survived it OK. "I passed the three days in the mountains really well. I was riding at the back to minimise my efforts. Now I feel I have more power than in the first week.

16:21 CEST    88km/98.4km to go The race hits the feed-zone.

16:22 CEST    The gap is near 4:15.

16:25 CEST    We are facing another sprint today, just like in Poland. The stage was won by Angelo Furlan of Team Crédit Agricole over Luciano Pagliarini.

Loyd Mondory (AG2R La Mondiale)
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

16:33 CEST    Cyril Lemoine of Crédit Agricole entered his thoughts on his second Vuelta to Cyclingnews before the start. "We are in the final week, which is good. The legs are bit tired, but one can see that the entire peloton is pretty tired as well. The breaks tend to go earlier in the race now." Lemoine was hoping to be in the break yesterday, but it didn't work out. Lemoine said that he had done the Vuelta two years ago, "when Vinokourov won it." As he recalled back then the weather was equally nice. "But the race seemed harder. It took a lot longer for a break to go. This Vuelta, 15 or 20 minutes, then it is established."

16:34 CEST    96km/90.4km to go We are in the third hour of racing.

16:37 CEST    Quick Step has the peloton completely lined out.

16:39 CEST    This day is a slow one. The riders only covered 15 kilometres in the first hour of racing. Sure it was mostly uphill, but that was slow.

16:39 CEST    The third hour was done in 31.530 km/h.

16:43 CEST    Sastre and Valverde are joking about. This is a true light-hearted day.

16:43 CEST    106.4km/80km to go The gap is 3:28

16:46 CEST    Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Walter Pedraza (Tinkoff Credit Systems) are thumping along. Pedraza is dwarfed by Rosendo.

The super-duper fan
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

16:49 CEST    Super-duper fan, the guy with the antlers in his head who runs along with the huge US flag, is surprised. Running alongside the peloton, he did not see Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), who grabbed the flag and kept riding. The super-duper fan seemed either upset or out of breath. Maybe America's Levi Leipheimer (Astana) will have a word with Flecha.

16:54 CEST    If the race continues like this, we will finish at 8:00 pm.

16:55 CEST    The pace is slowly ticking along. We see riders catching up on their summer vacations and what they plan to do over the winter. We see Yaroslav Popovych talking to another rider.

16:57 CEST    73.1km/113.3km to go We are in the town of Benavente, where the gap is slightly above three minutes.

16:57 CEST    Walter Pedraza (Tinkoff Credit Systems) nips off for some extra points.

17:01 CEST    Heinrich Haussler of Gerolsteiner was in the break yesterday. He told Cyclingnews before the start today that he realised the terrain wasn't his. "I really didn't mean to go into the break yesterday, as it was a bit too hilly for me." But in he went and did all he could. "The last climb was really hard, so I tried to get away before that. I attacked four or five times. "Sometimes the others look at each other and you can get away." Unfortunately for Haussler that time it didn't work out.

17:09 CEST    115km/71.4km to go Quick Step still leads this slow train to Zamora. The race is cover a bridge and a beautiful river down below. The gap is 3:37.

17:18 CEST    124km/62.4km to go The peloton passes one of those advertising bulls. It looks to be going as fast, or faster, than the riders today. Please write in and tell us your favourites for the World Championships. We looked at the course recently and will post a full preview of it soon.

17:18 CEST    The gap is 3:18

17:21 CEST    128km/58.4km to go Walter Pedraza (Tinkoff Credit Systems) talks with his team car. We are not sure if Team President Oleg Tinkov is in the car, but we know he was riding the course yesterday. The gap dips below three minutes, 2:59.

17:25 CEST    A recap: 15 kilometres were covered in the first hour, 28.3 kilometres in the second and 31.3 kilometres in the third. This is really the speed of cyclo-tourists.

17:35 CEST    Quick Step is still doing the work in this peloton. We don't know how long Bettini will stay in the Vuelta, but Cunego has already left to prepare for the Worlds. Bettini will be gunning for his third title in a row.

17:36 CEST    The riders continue at their pace and cover 33.1km in the fourth hour of racing. Milram now leads the race.

17:42 CEST    141.4km/45km to go We are 45 kilometres away from the finish, where the temperature is 28°C

17:48 CEST    145km/41.4km to go A motorcyclist rides along side the two escape artists. The gap now drops below two minutes - to 1:58.

17:56 CEST    Milram continues to lead the race for Zabel.

17:59 CEST    150.6km/35.8km to go Bettini, once at the head of the race, is now at the back of the group joking about.

18:04 CEST    The sun is getting low on the riders' right, casting a long shadow.

18:16 CEST    161.1km/25.3km to go The escape enters Montamarta, with 25 kilometres left to race.

18:21 CEST    Walter Pedraza (Tinkoff Credit Systems) takes a power bar from his pocket. He must be thinking, "Let's just get this suffering over with." The gap is still hovering around two minutes between him and the gruppo.

18:25 CEST    Jeri wrote of the World Championships, "Of course Spain." Gregory from Toronto wrote, "Well the best scenario would be Bettini beating Schumacher after Quick Step made the best mistake and let Paolo Bettini go. Rebellin also looks to be one which could conquer the day. "Will Zabel finally pull off a world title? Is he on the German team anyway? Being from Toronto. Canada, I must mention Mike Barry. who has done a great Olympics and previous Worlds..." Yes, Zabel is selected.

18:26 CEST    166.4km/20km to go The gap is 1:53 with 20km to race.

18:27 CEST    Jonas from Denmark wrote, "I think Matti Breschel is going to take home some medal. I'm Danish so I'm not objective at all, but Matti has really improved his climbing skills. As a guy who has been in top 20 in a race like Paris-Roubaix the last two years, the distance will not be a disadvantage to him. Matti has shown that he's a more then decent sprinter and right now he is in the shape of his life. So I believe in him!" For more on Breschel, read the LE news from today.

18:29 CEST    Andy from Moses Lake, Washington, USA, said, "As an old guy, 41, I would bet on the old guy, Paolo Bettini."

18:30 CEST    The pace, believe it or not, seems to be climbing.

18:30 CEST    The gap is at 1:11, and it is all Milram, Quick Step and Silence on the front.

18:32 CEST    171.4km/15km to go The gap drops below one minute with 15 kilometres to Zamora.

18:35 CEST    The gap is falling like crazy as the peloton travels at 59km/h. It is now at 25 seconds.

18:35 CEST    The fifth hour was run at 34km/h.

18:36 CEST    We will see the capture of Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) Walter Pedraza (Tinkoff Credit Systems) in any minute, the gap is near 15 seconds.

18:37 CEST    Astana is moving forward for Contador.

18:38 CEST    176.4km/10km to go The duo are leading by 15 seconds. They will be smashed soon to make way for the big men of sprints.

18:38 CEST    Tom Boonen, Erik Zabel, Greg Van Avermaet ...

18:38 CEST    177.4km/9km to go Nine kilometres left to race.

18:39 CEST    The peloton is now on the heels of these two Spaniards.

18:39 CEST    178.4km/8km to go The riders are going at 66km/hour in the peloton.

18:40 CEST    Quick Step has its men at the front. We see the orange of Koldo Fernández's Euskaltel-Euskadi team.

18:41 CEST    179.4km/7km to go The duo, Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Walter Pedraza (Tinkoff Credit Systems), is caught.

18:42 CEST    A run down the side of the waterfront, a wonderful finish here in Zamora.

18:42 CEST    Liquigas is up front, maybe for Pozatto.

18:42 CEST    Euskaltel-Euskadi keeps it going...

18:42 CEST    Flecha tries his luck...

18:43 CEST    181.4km/5km to go Liquigas chases him down.

18:43 CEST    Flecha still leads with a Liquigas rider...

18:43 CEST    Quick Step is closing this down.

18:44 CEST    Flecha and co. are back.

18:44 CEST    Quick Step, with Bettini second wheel, is in charge.

18:44 CEST    182.4km/4km to go 4000m to go.

18:44 CEST    Six Quick Step men on the front.

18:45 CEST    Another Quick Step moves around the left to join the train.

18:45 CEST    The race is lined out down the right side of the road.

18:45 CEST    183.4km/3km to go Through a roundabout.

18:46 CEST    Riders get stuck on the outside of the road... They are able to re-enter 300m later.

18:46 CEST    A hard right, Bettini leads. The last kilometre is coming...

18:46 CEST    184.4km/2km to go 2000m left now. Bettini leads for Boonen.

18:47 CEST    A roundabout, four Quick Steps behind Bettini. Tosatto and Wouter Weylandt ...

18:47 CEST    Bettini pulls off.

18:47 CEST    Pozzato is on the wheel of Boonen, watch out.

18:47 CEST    The Italian will have a hard time against Boonen.

18:48 CEST    Zabel has to come up on his own power.

18:48 CEST    Boonen starts long.

18:48 CEST    He holds them off!

18:48 CEST    Bam! The 2005 World Champion gets one more here in the Vuelta.

18:48 CEST    Pozatto was on his left, as Boonen was on the right side barriers.

18:49 CEST    Boonen launched off the right side of his teammaate with about 200 metres remaining. Pozzato tried.

18:52 CEST    Zabel was washed out there in the sprint with that late surge.

18:53 CEST    Fellow German, Heinrich Haussler, took third behind the former Quick Step teammates, Boonen and Pozzato.

18:53 CEST    Thanks for joining us today in the LONG stage 16 Live Coverage.

18:53 CEST    Adios!

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