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63rd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 30 - September 21, 2008

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Stage 17 - September 17: Zamora - Valladolid, 148.2km

Complete live report

By Gregor Brown

15:01 CEST    Hola! Welcome back to the Tour of Spain! We are heading towards Madrid with Al Contador in the driver's seat. He put the big golden stamp on the Vuelta envelope during the Angliru stage and delivered the letter the following day.

Alberto Contador (Astana) in the driver's seat of the Vuelta's 18-wheeler
Photo ©: AFP
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15:03 CEST    32km/116.2km to go We have an escape up the road. Italian 'cross man, Enrico Franzoi (Liquigas), just tried to bridge up, but no dice for the rider from NE Italy.

15:05 CEST    Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) threw the escape hammer down at kilometre 12. He was chased by José Ruiz (Andalucía-Cajasur). They joined their forces against the world's sprint evils at kilometre 13. Please e-mail with your guess on how big this gap will go.

15:07 CEST    36km/112.2km to go The gap is now 7:05.

15:10 CEST    Sébastien Joly (Française des Jeux) abandoned some time ago. He joins Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) on the airplane out of Spain. The latter will prepare for the Worlds, where he should be a serious threat on a tough Varese parcours.

15:10 CEST    "Tom Boonen is going strong, but the course is too tough for him. Amongst the Belgians I have the most faith in is [Greg] Van Avermaet," Bettini said of his rivals, in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. "[Oscar] Freire is always dangerous: it is already two years now that I have been saying that he can win in Varese. [Alejandro] Valverde will be third, but you can't let him out of your sights. ... [Philippe] Gilbert, [Nick] Nuyens and [Sylvain] Chavanel will be very strong. I don't have news about the Schlecks."

Bettini did not mention Germany's Stefan Schumacher, but he did point to Linus Gerdemann. "If he is going like he did in August, then that is the stuff needed to win the worlds. He will have to try to drop us, because in the sprint he does not have possibilities."

15:13 CEST    Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) and Jens Voigt (CSC-Saxo Bank) celebrate birthdays today. Flecha, in the moves yesterday, is 31 and Voigt, not here at the Vuelta a España, turns 37.

Angelo Furlan in the Tour de Pologne
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:15 CEST    Someone has to combat this "sprint evil." The evil seems to be spreading with cases in Poland as well as Spain. Boonen took yesterday's stage in the Vuelta a España, while Furlan won over in the Tour de Pologne. Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) and José Ruiz (Andalucía-Cajasur) have decided to make it their mission today. It is about time someone stood up and said, "I am not taking it any more!"

15:22 CEST    42km/106.2km to go The gap goes up to 8:26 for Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) and José Ruiz (Andalucía-Cajasur). Spain's Horrillo will be going for his first win since 2006's Sachsen-Tour International stage one win. Ruiz will be going for his first career win. You might remember, the Spaniard placed 10th last year in a stage of the Vuelta.

15:29 CEST    Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) should be doing well in the uphill time trial on Saturday, should he participate. He told Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake that "Saturday should be a nice course and important for me. But I am not sure yet if I will finish the Vuelta, we will see. If I am riding Saturday, I definitely want to get the best possible result."

15:33 CEST    Haake reports a freeway sign near Valladolid has Arroyo above Flecha. The actual towns that the sign refers to are called Arroyo de la Encomienda and Las Flecha. Will it be a sign that we see these two riders in a break and Arroyo finishes ahead? Both looked very relaxed this morning at the start. Arroyo was riding from the hotel to the start, elegantly passing the traffic jam. It certainly is the better way to go by bicycle in a city.

A different escaped formed, but with Flecha's teammate, Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank).

15:35 CEST    50km/98.2km to go Phew... we are going faster today. The first hour was covered at 46km/h. We see Lotto and Euskaltel-Euskadi pulling the teams along. The gap has come back down to 7:30.

15:47 CEST    Sebastian Lang of Gerolsteiner summed up his race for Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake. "The feeling in the team is good. We went into the Vuelta very relaxed, as the majority of the team came here to prepare for the Worlds. We have no pressure and support Oli [Oliver Zaugg] in the general classification."

Lang is set for Varese. "I know the Worlds course, although it is not too interesting for me. I will be there 100% to help the two captains [Linus Gerdemann and Stefan Schumacher - ed.] For me it is more important to get through the Vuelta healthy. I was a little bit sick the last couple of days. The Vuelta is a great preparation for the Worlds and then I can support Gerdemann or Stefan Schumacher, whoever has the best reserves."

15:58 CEST    Olivier Kaisen revealed the Silence-Lotto plan for the day to Cyclingnews. "Normally we should try to get back the blue jersey and maybe even the stage victory. Yesterday, Greg [Van Avermaet] was well placed behind Boonen. But then he took a turn badly and was quickly back into 50th position!."

Kaisen added that Van Avermaet was fine physically. "His legs are good. It is a major chance for us and normally we should try again today, tomorrow and into Madrid."

15:59 CEST    71km/77.2km to go If this two man break was a rock band, can you guess which one it would be? The duo has a gap of 6:40 now.

16:15 CEST    Yesterday was one slow day. We were reminded of the Giro d'Italia stages of 10 or 20 years a go. We had a lot of you writing in asking, "why were they going so slow?" We really don't know. The riders decided amongst themselves, something they hardly do, to just go at a snail's pace.

Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

16:16 CEST    Filippo Pozzato is always all smiles before the start. This morning the Liquigas rider happily talked about his Vuelta a España. "The form is good and let's hope I can still get a good result." With that he obviously means a win, as he had finished second yesterday.

He was less happy about being left out of the Italian Worlds team, but was diplomatic about it. "I had great hopes to be at the Worlds. In the end, it is [Franco] Ballerini who decides."

Pozzato will be riding for Katusha next year and is hoping to get back on the winning track. "Next year, I will try to get the wins again that I was lacking in the last two years." Despite not being at the Worlds, Pozzato has given it some thought of who could be winning. "Tom Boonen looks very strong. He was also good here on the climbs and he will have a great chance of winning. Another rider who I think can win is [Philippe] Gilbert."

16:18 CEST    85km/63.2km to go The gap is at 5:26

16:19 CEST    Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) is with the team car getting some water bottles and talking strategy.

16:20 CEST    The main pack passes the feed-zone.

16:25 CEST    Graeme in London wrote the duo would be the "Talking Heads" because of their song, "Road to No Where." Sorry Graeme, we did not organise prizes. I wonder if there is anything in the Cyclingnews offices to give away. Brian from the USA wrote, "Wayne and Garth from Wayne's World... A movie rock band." Yes, because they are "Dream Weavers?" Robert wrote, "Hall and Oates. I guess one of them needs a moustache then..." Well Robert, if this stage runs as long as yesterday's there is time to grow a ZZ Top-like beard.

16:27 CEST    93km/55.2km to go The gap is now at five minutes, or 4:55.

Pedro Horrillo had some facial hair in 2007
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

16:28 CEST    The second hour was run at 44.6 km/h. Caisse sends a man to the front to help Euskaltel keep an eye on Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) and José Ruiz (Andalucía-Cajasur).

16:30 CEST    98.2km/50km to go 4:44 is the gap with 50km left to race.

16:35 CEST    The city of Zaratán welcomes the escape duo. It looks like all 4200 inhabitants are out to wave on the race. Hola Zaratán!

16:37 CEST    Jeremy Hunt told Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake that he expected a sprint finish, but without him. "I got sick a few days ago. I was up all night for two nights in a row. It will be more for Hinault today and also for Roche, who is going very well. He tried yesterday, but went from a little far out."

Hunt was surprised about the amounts of people on the Angliru a couple of days ago. "When I did the Vuelta few years ago it was nothing like that on the mountain top finish. There were thousands of people!" Hunt was also rather impressed with how they got to the top. They must have walked the 12 kilometres up." Indeed, there was very restricted vehicle access to the top.

16:38 CEST    Team Euskatel leads the gruppo through Zaratán.

16:39 CEST    A sharp right slows down the pace somewhat, but it is now going again. The peloton gets closer to the finish and to the escape.

16:43 CEST    The duo comes through the finish line in Valladolid. They will head out for another loop before the finish.

16:46 CEST    Silence leads through the left-hander at 750m to the line. They have three men leading a line of Euskaltel riders. This dry-run will help the sprinters get an idea of the finish. Another day for Boonen?

16:47 CEST    There was no sprint finish in the Tour de Pologne today – in fact, there wasn't really any finish at all. The field simply stopped after the second of three planned laps of the closing circuit, in protest of the bad weather and the dangerous run-up to the finish. So no winner was declared, and Allan Davis of Quick Step remains the leader.

16:48 CEST    Robert Gesink is doing very well for his first Grand Tour. He told Cyclingnews before the start that he didn't have any expectations for Saturday. "I have never done a three-week race before. I don't know what to expect at the time trial. I will do as good as possible and we'll see." But the young Dutch rider was very happy with his race so far. "I was hoping for a top 10 maybe; now, I am fifth." Fans in the USA can already look forward to seeing Gesink again in February. "I would like to do the Tour of California again. It is a very nice race."

16:56 CEST    116km/32.2km to go The gap is 3:40.

16:58 CEST    Spain's Euskaltel and Belgium's Silence lead the peloton. Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) pulls ahead of José Ruiz (Andalucía-Cajasur) to take over the pace-making of the two-man escape. They went clear at kilometre 13.

17:01 CEST    Italy's Stefano Garzelli won the GP Wallonie today in Belgium, ahead of Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) and Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom).

17:01 CEST    The French NADA has announced that it will re-analyse certain blood samples taken during the Tour de France, after an examination of urine samples showed a suspicion of CERA, the new EPO preparation. Names of involved riders were not released, and results are expected in about two weeks.

17:08 CEST    121.1km/27.1km to go Why is Euskaltel pulling the weight of the peloton? It has Koldo Fernández in its ranks and wants a sprint win. However, Fernández will have a hard time against Tom Boonen and Greg Van Avermaet. The escape enters the town of Villanubla, -27.1km.

17:08 CEST    When will Quick Step come to the fore? They must make an appearance in the next 10 kilometres to get the pace going for Boonen.

17:12 CEST    Paul wrote, "I believe they went in the escape with No doubt in their mind. They just love this Simple kind of life, but now they're Trapped in a box.

17:13 CEST    125km/23.2km to go Flecha comes up and yells at the TV motobike pilot. He is worried about him being too close to the gruppo, aiding in the chase of his Rabobank teammate in the escape.

Another day for Tom Boonen?
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

17:15 CEST    128.2km/20km to go Bettini takes a bottle from the team car, he keeps his hand on it for a long time. Bettini has been professional for a while and knows all the tricks. The gap is 1:35, going through the town of Wamba.

17:16 CEST    We see Contador riding in the front ten riders.

17:20 CEST    Astana leads the race up this small climb. The team, and Levi Leipheimer, passes the super-dupe fan on the side of the road. The gap is now sub-one minute.

17:21 CEST    133.2km/15km to go The gap is 42 seconds at -15km. The main peloton is split into two groups, it looks like the wind is coming from the right along with the sun.

17:22 CEST    Zabel is in the second group.

17:22 CEST    The German will have a hard time in the sprint if he has to work so hard to get back to the main field. But wait, Boonen is there too!

17:23 CEST    The gap is 14 seconds between the two groups. Euskaltel still leads the front group.

17:26 CEST    138.2km/10km to go We are now at 10km remaining. The gap is cut to 21 seconds to the first group. The second group is right there as well; the split is mended under the power of Caisse.

17:28 CEST    139.2km/9km to go The final nine kilometres. The duo is keeping its space, but it won't be for much longer.

17:28 CEST    We get a look of Valverde, who is integrated with the first group.

17:28 CEST    140.2km/8km to go The gap is 11 seconds. Zabel has a rear tyre flat. Bad luck for the German.

17:29 CEST    141.2km/7km to go -7km for the duo.

17:29 CEST    Zabel is forced to stop.

17:30 CEST    He stops for seven or so seconds and is then pushed off.

17:30 CEST    He will be very tired after this chase back.

17:30 CEST    142.2km/6km to go Still no sign of Quick Step at the fore.

17:31 CEST    Zabel zig-zags his way to the back of the pack.

17:31 CEST    143.2km/5km to go One Euskaltel still leads with five Caisse on his wheel.

17:31 CEST    Zabel has one rider for him.

17:31 CEST    144.2km/4km to go A Caisse rider nips off the front.

17:32 CEST    We believe the duo was caught. Yes, at km 142.

17:32 CEST    Imanol Erviti (Caisse d'Epargne) leads the race. He attacked and has a gap.

17:33 CEST    The Euskaltel rider pulls him back.

17:33 CEST    We see Liquigas now at the front.

17:33 CEST    145.2km/3km to go It is all green on the front for Pozzato.

17:33 CEST    We now see the blue train of Boonen move to the front.

17:34 CEST    Zabel is back on the back of the group.

17:34 CEST    A Rabobank rider hits the front. Flecha?

17:34 CEST    Quick Step will shut this down.

17:34 CEST    We will have to see what happens here.

17:34 CEST    The Rabo man is washed out.

17:35 CEST    Euskaltel is there again with Quick Step.

17:35 CEST    147.2km/1km to go Final 1000m. Quick Step leads.

17:35 CEST    Boonen will not contest, he is soft pedalling in.

17:35 CEST    -750m to go. Tosatto leads.

17:36 CEST    He pulls off for Loyd Mondory (AG2R La Mondiale)

17:36 CEST    Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step) charges long.

17:36 CEST    Matti Breschel (CSC-Saxo Bank) is there too.

17:37 CEST    Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step) throws his bike and gets it!

17:37 CEST    Alexandre Usov (AG2R La Mondiale) came on the right and Matti Breschel (CSC-Saxo Bank) on the left of Weylandt. Usov got third and Breschel third.

17:41 CEST    Koldo Fernández nipped in there between Weylandt and Usov, but could only get fourth. Euskaltel did a lot of work today for him, but the Spanish sprinter could not come through. Weylandt really pulled off a number for Quick Step. It was an effective day for the team, who did not really do much of a pull at all. Silence's work yielded a sixth for Greg Van Avermaet. He is a young sprinter that could be dominating next year's sprints.

17:41 CEST    Giro d'Italia winner Alberto Contador (Astana) continues to carry the maillot oro of the 63rd Vuelta a España.

17:42 CEST    Thanks for joining today. Please come back tomorrow. Hasta Luego.

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