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Photo ©: Bettini

63rd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 30 - September 21, 2008

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Stage 2 - August 31: Granada - Jaén, 167.3km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Gregor Brown

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

15:01 CEST   
Good morning and welcome back to our coverage of the 63rd Vuelta a España. Today, we will be travelling in our Seat Ibiza over the first road stage – and the first mountain is awaiting. However, it is only in the form of the category three Las Encebras. It has an early location – after only 80 some kilometres into affairs. However, it will determine the wearer of the mountains jersey.

We are finishing in Jaén, which is back as a stage town for the first time since 1991. The 116,000 citizens will be rewarded for their long wait with seeing the riders three times. A 26-kilometre loop has to be completed twice and the third time across the line will be for the stage victory.

Italy's Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) – with moustache. Making a call to Cozza?
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:04 CEST   
A quick recap of the race so far...
Maryan Hary (Cofidis) did not start today, we will get back to you as to why not. Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) – our race leader and now sans moustache – led the peloton out of Granada.

The action started right away with Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) rocking-n-rolling off the front. Andalucía-Cajasur was very active in forcing the break. Cyril Lemoine (Crédit Agricole) and Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) joined and the four gained a lead over the group. At 16km they had 1'40" and 2'55" at km 36.

After the first hour of racing, the escape had 3'19" over the Filippo Pozzato peloton and had covered 42.35 kilometres.

15:07 CEST    52km
The gap has fallen to 2'52". The peloton does not want to cooperate today. It could be there are riders who fancy their chances on the race leader's golden jersey.

15:08 CEST   
Thanks for your e-mails. We do not know what colour Pippo's shoes are today, but we will find out. Maybe our tech guru, Ben Atkins, can find out for us?

15:11 CEST   
Sunscreen is the word here today. 30° and clear skies can roast your skin if you are not careful, that is the main reason we did not opt for the Mini convertible.

Liquigas has this show under control. The maximum advantage of 3'32" is 'gone daddy, gone.'

15:14 CEST   
Looking down at the road book, we see a change in route. The second stage will cover 176.3 kilometres, instead of the scheduled 167.3 kilometres. The race will not cover the Alto de las Enebras, instead the third category Puerto de Huelma, at kilometre 84. Also, the final closing laps have been changed to one, longer, lap. It pays to pay attention!

15:17 CEST   
Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) should be able to handle his own in Jaén today. It is an uphill riser. He will be keeping one eye on his competitors and the other eye on the line for a chance to wear the golden fleece – and maybe shoes – one more time. "One more time," like Daft Punk would say. Time to flip on the ol' AC in his car, it is getting hot!

15:23 CEST   
Matti Breschel (CSC-Saxo Bank) will want to make a mark today to celebrate his 24th birthday. The Dane has had a good year with two stage wins in his home tour and one in the Ster Elektrotoer. He is also the USA Champion of sorts thanks to his win in this year's Philly Classic, which was the old circuit used for the stars-n-stripes competition. The race has now been moved and, in fact, is being run today. Cyclingnews will bring you live coverage of that race as well.

15:31 CEST    69km
Our theories of Liquigas' Bennati/Pozzato dominance may have been thrown out the window. The gap has gone back up to our four leaders and now stands at 4'06" – the first time that it went over four minutes. The four are on their way up the third category Puerto del Huelma.

15:39 CEST   
What team will Cyril Lemoine (Crédit Agricole) join for next year? The French ProTour team is folding and will force the Frenchman to change teams for the first time since turning professional in 2005. The 25 year-old is a good time trialist with a third in the prologue of the Eneco Tour and a third in the Bayern Rundfahrt time trial.

15:43 CEST    80km
We are still approaching the peak of the Puerto de Huelma, the first pass in the Vuelta. The riders covered 39.9 km in the second hour of racing.

15:48 CEST   
Over in Germany, David De La Fuente (Scott-American Beef), the most aggressive rider of the 2006 Tour de France, has claimed stage two of the Deutschland Tour. We are checking with our sources, but we believe Linus Gerdemann (Columbia) is still in the overall lead.

15:52 CEST   
The peloton at two different speeds? It appears that some riders have an 11th sprocket on their rear cluster. We will have our tech editors check and confirm our spotting. The heat haze off the road makes vision blurry.

15:57 CEST   
An up date with the D-Tour: There is no change in the GC, Linus Gerdemann (Columbia) still leads.

15:58 CEST    84km/92.3km to go
We are reaching the top of this third cat. climb and the four men have 3'52" over the chasing peloton.

16:03 CEST    84km/92.3km to go
Congratulations to Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur). He will wear the mountains jersey thanks to topping the Puerto de Huelma first. Behind him were Cyril Lemoine (Crédit Agricole), Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Team Andalucía-Cajasur is awarded with its early aggression and will have Jesús Rosendo on the podium to collect the mountain's top at the end of the day.

16:04 CEST   
The four will have a bit of respite on this descent. They should work out a plan that will see them with space over the peloton by the stage finish.

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) looks to the finish in Jaén
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

16:08 CEST    98km/78.3km to go
The finish suits a strong sprinter who can handle a slight uphill dig, like our race leader, Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas). Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) are also ones to watch.

16:15 CEST    102km/74.3km to go
Liquigas continues to pull along the peloton and the gap kept under its control – at 3'47". The escape will not make it based on our calculations.

16:17 CEST   
Over in Italy, Francesco Ginanni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) wins the Giro del Veneto over Serhiy Honchar (Preti Mangimi) and Andrea Masciarelli (Acqua Sapone-Caffè Mokambo).

16:30 CEST    114km/62.3km to go
Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) is back talking to the directeur sportif in the car.

16:33 CEST   
Mikhail Ignatiev's season is lacking the results that he had last year. He is winless for 2008 and he would like to turn the tables around today. His best place this year is third in the Giro d'Italia's final time trial, in the world's fashion capital, Milano

16:35 CEST   
Liquigas holds all three leader's jerseys, a blue and red (points) one in addition to Pozzato's gold.

16:43 CEST   
Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) takes his turn back at the team car. He spent 2006 and 2007 at Discovery Channel, and this year he pulled his weight to help the Basque team to a nice second in the Vuelta TTT. Look for him to shine later on in the mountains. This year his best result came with the mountains competition of the País Vasco. In 2006, he won the mountains competition here in the Vuelta and stage 11.

We just got a glimpse of World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step).

The riders have been racing for three hours now.

16:44 CEST    120km/56.3km to go
Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) rides ahead of Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) in the group. Both of the Italians should represent the squadra azzurra at the World Championships, this year in their home country.

16:46 CEST   
Pippo stops for a pee-pee along a wall set up for construction. The peloton calls for a pause and we see other riders following Pippo's example. Where is Pozzato riding next year? Where is McEwen riding next year? Maybe we should ask one of our escapees.

16:54 CEST    134km/42.3km to go
Here comes the Pozzato treno... The Liquigas boys are pulling the Italian captain back into the head of affairs. He jokes about as the atmosphere is quite easy-going.

We see World Champ Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and next to him – someone just as coloured – Tomas Vaitkus (Astana). An all white kit with yellow, green and red stripes.

Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) bolts off the front of the escape group.

16:55 CEST   
Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is only eight seconds back in the classification. He will have a hard time staying clear as no one will want to let that chance at the overall lead slip up the road.

16:56 CEST   
He enters Jaén for the big closing loop.

16:56 CEST   
Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur), Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Cyril Lemoine (Crédit Agricole) cross the line next.

17:00 CEST    133km/43.3km to go
Public Enemy once rapped "Shut 'em down" and that is the beat that must be playing in ears of these Liquigas boys. The gap is not getting any bigger and Egoi Martínez's looks more like a desperate attempt to salvage something from an ill-fated escape group.

17:02 CEST   
The gap is at 3'37"

Egoi Martínez climbing his way through the País Vasco
Photo ©: cyclinginside.com
(Click for larger image)

17:03 CEST   
Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) will have the chance to get more of the points on offer if he is riding solo. So, with this move he could be in the blue points jersey at the end of the day.

Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) rides up to Egoi Martínez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

17:08 CEST    137km/39.3km to go
Russian power-house Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) charges hard to pull back the lead duo.

Quick-Step is helping Liquigas for its sprinter, Tom Boonen. The Paris-Roubaix winner will be looking for redemption after not being asked to race in the Tour de France.

17:10 CEST   
We take a cue from 'Pippo' and pull over our car for a rest before the final artilleries are fired. And no, we are not growing a moustache. We will leave that to Cozza and our Belgian correspondents!

17:13 CEST    138km/38.3km to go
The front duo's gap is now over one minute.

17:20 CEST   
Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) had a busy year, which included an eighth place in the Ruta Ciclista del Sol. He is working well with amigo Egoi Martínez to make this escape stick. Further back, the Russian/French duo have seemed to let off on the throttle.

Tom Boonen hopes for a 'Belgian Shuffle' in Jaén
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

17:22 CEST   
The 'Stones' may sing the Harlem Shuffle, but here in Spain it is the 'Belgian shuffle.' Super-squad Quick Step takes over control from Liquigas for 2005 World Champion Tom Boonen. Liquigas will want to stay attentive for its riders, Bennati and Pozzato.

17:28 CEST    154km/22.3km to go
Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) cues his boys into position. The guns are going to be fired load when the race hits the city streets of southern Spain's Jaén. Gilbert, a Walloon and winner of Het Volk, will hope for some sort of 'Belgian Shuffle' as well.

17:35 CEST    156km/20.3km to go
Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) and a small group of riders Shut 'em Down. The day's escape is over. We have some small counter-moves going now.

17:36 CEST   
Mauricio Ardila Cano (Rabobank) and Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne) are the duo clear. Cano takes some points at an intermediate sprint. But the duo has a small gap.

17:37 CEST   
Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole) powers over to the duo.

17:38 CEST   
His mouth is open wide, gasping for air, as he covers the distance up to the duo.

17:38 CEST   
There is about a group of 15 behind and then the main group.

17:39 CEST   
This group of 15 looks good, as most of the big teams are represented.

17:39 CEST   
Ohhh, but the peloton are hot on their carbon heels.

17:40 CEST   
Roche does not close the gap, but a Rabobank rider closes to him from that group of around 15.

17:41 CEST   
That group now looks to be sucked into the 'Belgian Shuffle' – nearly gruppo compatto except for the front duo of Mauricio Ardila Cano (Rabobank) and Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne).

17:42 CEST    162km/14.3km to go
That is Grischa Niermann (Rabobank) with Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole). They are pushing on, but looking back.

17:44 CEST   
Roy Sentjens (Silence-Lotto) has a go. He is getting over to Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole) and Grischa Niermann (Rabobank).

17:44 CEST   
We are nearing the final 10 km.

17:45 CEST    164km/12.3km to go
Grischa Niermann (Rabobank) fades as David Moncoutié (Cofidis) joins Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole). We think Roy Sentjens (Silence-Lotto) is gone too.

17:47 CEST    166.3km/10km to go
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) leads through 10 km to go.

We think Mauricio Ardila Cano (Rabobank) and Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne) have faded. We lost track of them.

17:48 CEST   
About six join the Irish/French duo.

17:48 CEST   
Our leaders:
Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Daniel Moreno (Caisse d'Epargne)
Evgeni Petrov (Tinkoff Credit Systems)
Marc De Maar (Rabobank)
Nick Nuyens (Cofidis)
David Moncoutié (Cofidis)
Nicolas Roche (Crédit Agricole)

17:49 CEST   
A great move by Cofidis, who has two strong men in the move of seven.

17:49 CEST   
Bennati drives the peloton as he senses the danger.

17:50 CEST   
They all get pulled back, Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) being the last.

17:51 CEST   
Gianni Meersman (Française des Jeux), Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto) and Matej Jurco (Team Milram) make a move.

17:53 CEST    171.3km/5km to go
This looks to be a bunch sprint day. The riders are being led by Liquigas towards the finish in Jaén.

The gap is nine seconds.

17:54 CEST    172.3km/4km to go
Marco Pinotti wins the overall of the Tour of Ireland.

Back in Spain, our trio is caught.

17:55 CEST    173.3km/3km to go
Three kilometres to go. Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) looks well placed, but where is Tom Boonen (Quick Step)? Matti Breschel (CSC-Saxo Bank), birthday boy, is right up there.

17:55 CEST   
Quick Step drive up the right. They are working for Boonen.

17:56 CEST   
Bettini is there too. He is on the wheel of Valverde.

17:56 CEST    174.3km/2km to go
We are in the final 2km. Brace yourself.

17:56 CEST   
Quick Step has control. In third spot is a Liquigas rider.

17:57 CEST   
We see an Astana rider in the top five... It is Al Contador – keeping safe.

17:57 CEST   
The roads are nice and wide.

17:57 CEST   
A rider fires on the right with 1200 metres.

17:57 CEST    175.3km/1km to go
We don't know who, maybe Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne).

17:58 CEST   
He still leads, through a left turn.

17:58 CEST   
The sprinters will have him.

17:58 CEST   
Or will they...

17:58 CEST   
4:22 of racing. Tinkoff takes up the chase.

17:58 CEST   
A Tinkoff rider passes...

17:59 CEST   
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) counters the Tinkoff rider.

17:59 CEST   
Bettini is chasing...

17:59 CEST   
But it is all Valverde!

17:59 CEST   
Rebellin looked to be third.

17:59 CEST   
Cunego there too.

18:00 CEST   
Valverde was mostly on the left of the road. He drifted to the centre as a Lampre rider and Rebellin came up for second and third.

18:00 CEST   
Nice work by his team-mate and close friend, Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne).

18:01 CEST   
Thanks for joining. Please check back later for full results and reporting from Cyclingnews. Adios.

Provisional results

1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
2 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
3 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre
General classification after stage 2
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne

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