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47th Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco - Stage 2 Live Coverage
 
By Fabio
Date: 4/10/2007
47th Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco - Stage 2 Live Coverage
 

47 Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco Stage 2
From Urretxu to Karrantza over 191.5 km, with eight categorized climbs in between. One for the tough ones, isn't it? Follow all the action. Live. Here.

Etapa 2: Urretxu - Karrantza - 191.55 km

Hello everyone and welcome to our live coverage of the second leg in the 2007 Tour of the Basque Country, going from Urretxu to Karrantza over 191.5 km. It's the longest stage in the challenge, and a very tough one, with no less than eight climbs standing in between the start line and the finish. The battle got underway fifteen minutes before 0100 PM local time (CEST) with Juan Josè Cobo, the man who "made the red bird sing" yesterday in the race opener that finished into Urretxu, as proud (who wouldn't be in his place?) holder of the GC leader's jersey, with Constantino "Tino" Zaballa and Oscar "El Niño" Sevilla as closest GC threats, and with some not so good news for the fans of Cristopher Horner as the Predictor-Lotto rider from the U.S. didn't take the start line today.

Attacks went basically since the flag got dropped, with a wild bunch of 25 guys on the move at km. two. Their attempt didn't last very long, but more and more skirmishes followed. As much as more and more failures followed. Stealing the show in this early kilometres were also the Finland-born Brit Charles Wegelius (Liquigas) and a young gun like Morris Possoni, wearing the jersey of another Italian Pro Tour team, Lampre-Fondital.

Aitor Hernández (Spa - Euskaltel- Euskadi) won the points as the race met the first mountain prime of the day (Urdana, Cat. 3), with the other point-awarding spots filled by Veneto veteran Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-Fondital ) and Javi Ramírez, a teammate of El Niño's in the Fuerteventura-Canarias crew. The next climb to be climbed, the harder (Cat. 2 - km. 6.2; average gradient: 6.7 %) Alto de Krutzeta, saw the former Discovery mountain goat Manolo Beltrán, now making the Liquigas fans happy (well, sort of) as first rider over the top; behind the popular "Triki" came fellow Spaniards José Antonio Redondo Ramos (a very young prospect with the Astana outfit), David López Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) and Carlos Barredo (Quick Step). In the meantime, Brad McGee (Aus - Francaise des Jeux) and Monsieur Samuel Dumoulin (Fra - AG2R) joined the list of DNFers.

Triki, López, Barredo and Redondo made the gap for real though, and along with them as members of the first successful breakaway attempt were compatriots Egoi Martínez (Discovery Channel), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) as well as the French pairing of Anthony Charteau (Crédit Agricole) and Sebastien Joly (La Francaise des Jeux). The eight wonders rapidly built up an advantage of 2 minutes and 11 seconds over the bunch. Such that the Red Alarm started to ring soon for the Red Bird team; Juanjo Cobo's Saunier boys realized there was no time to waste, and quickly got the chase going.

Next on today's mountain menu were the slopes of the second category Alto de Bikotz Gaiñe, a tough thingy of 4.5 kilometres with 9.22% as average gradient. Fans of uphill riding wouldn't complain there. Neither Triki would: Beltrán was first at the summit, with Astarloza, Redondo and Barredo following. Despite some efforts from Saunier Duval the eight-strong front group extended the gap to three and a half minutes by km. 95 check. And to a good four minutes at km. 110, after Triki took first also at the third category Alto de Garate.

More additions to the DNFers club: Sylvain Calzati (Fra - AG2R), his teammate/fellow countryman Hubert Dupont and the Unibet duo of Víctor Hugo Peña (Col) and Michal Golas the Pole dropped out of the race.

1547 CEST - Frontrunners Manolo Beltrán (Liquigas), José Antonio Redondo Ramos (Astana), David López Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quick Step), Egoi Martínez (Discovery Channel), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Anthony Charteau (Crédit Agricole) and Sebastien Joly (La Francaise des Jeux) are on the way to hit the fifth climb of the day; their advantage over the peloton, currently driven by three "red birds" of Saunier Duval, has gone further up to four and a half minutes.

1550 CEST - The eight wonders made it to the Alto de San Cosme (Cat. 3) slopes. Their advantage over the field still hovering around 04'30"-04'35". The escapees are working well to each other's advantage. Now it's Astarloza and the young Redondo taking turns as pace setters.

1600 CEST - Their lead over the "Tropela" (that's "peloton" in the Euskera/Basque Language), is a good 04'40" now. The breakaway made it to Zalla town, home to a mid-stage sprint that wasn't really contested at all. Anthony Charteau of Credit Agricole just drove the group of tough guys across the line there.

Triki Beltran was first at the summit of the San Cosme climb too, by the way. Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Redondo (Astana) were in the other top three spots.

1606 CEST - The "Tropela" made it to Zalla too, but four minutes and thirty seconds behind the breakaway. The gap started to come down anyway, albeit very slowly.

Just "interviewed" on the road, Astana's manager Adriano Baffi sounded pleased with what their prospect Redondo is doing today: "He's a young rider, and he's doing what a young rider has to do. We don't know how things will pan out later in the stage, but in any case his move today was a good thing, and will help him gain experience in the bunch. He's still very young, and even if he should falter today, he has got time on his side".

1612 CEST - The "Lasterketa Burua " (yes, that's "breakaway group" in Euskera!) got back to their uphill ways, with Charteau as platoon leader, and Egoi taking over on the front soon later. The whole "Red Bird Army" of Saunier drive the chase back in the pack. Their efforts are starting to bear some fruit as the gap went down to slightly over four minutes with slightly over 48 kilometres yet to be covered.

But overall we're in a "quiet" part of the stage. The quiet before the storm? We'll just waaaaaaait and seeeeeee ...

1624 CEST - Nothing really worthy of mention took place over the past few minutes/miles. The gap is still about four mins with the finish line now 43 kms away. By the way, there are three Basques in the front group: David Lopez, Mikel Astarloza and Egoi Martinez. Martinez is at his second year with Discovery.

1628 CEST - Another rider that used to wear the jersey of Americas number one cycling time, e.g. Manolo Beltran, chats with a guy in his team car, who at his turn is having a look at the stage profile. Is Triki planning some kind of move? Sure he has shown great climbing legs all thru his career, and today's course perfectly suits the skills of the tough veteran from Jaen, Andalusia. The (now) Liquigas athlete also made the news today by winning nearly all KOM primes so far in the stage. Whether this was a sign of great condition or such efforts will took toll on his legs is one thing we'll get to know soon.

1631 CEST - Escapees and chasers alike are taking in the second category Alto de Escrita (average gradient: 5.7 %).

1632 CEST - 37 km to go Again, the eight members of the breakaway group are Manolo Beltrán (Liquigas), José Antonio Redondo Ramos (Astana), David López Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Quick Step), Egoi Martínez (Discovery Channel), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Anthony Charteau (Crédit Agricole) and Sebastien Joly (La Francaise des Jeux). Their lead on the Saunier-led field fell under four minutes.

1636 CEST - The ascent is currently taking toll on Saunier Duval. The Red Bird Army lost one of their best-known members as Iban Mayo got dropped on the Escrita slopes. The guy is VEEERY far from the winning form he showed at L'Alpe de Huez and several other occasions years ago. Another man that used to delight us with good climbing performances in past years, Paco Mancebo, had a flat on the climb. Team-mate Elias helped him change the wheel and the Relax guy got quickly back in the saddle.

1639 CEST - Gap update: 34 Km. to go, and the gap was down to 03 minutes and 15 seconds. Beltran, Redondo, Joly and Astarloza are the best-placed riders overall in the front group.

1643 CEST - The Saunier-driven field also made it to the top of the Escrita ascent, cutting the gap further down to 02 minutes and 43 seconds. 31 km to go for the eight fugitives (Beltrán, Redondo, López, Barredo, Martínez, Astarloza, Charteau and Joly). The pace set by Saunier on the Escrita had some impact also on the peloton, that was thinned down to about 50 riders only.

1646 CEST - Uh! One of the main suspects to win this race, and soldiers of the Red Bird Army, Koldo Gil, punctured on the descent. He's lost some time to the group. Hopefully (and likely) he'll regain the peloton's wheels soon. Damiano Cunego and a teammate of his sit in third and fourth wheel just behind the Saunier tempo-makers. With the Giro kickoff just about one month away, the "Little Prince" from Verona could well use the Vuelta al Pais Vasco to send a strong message to his Tour of Italy rivals.

1650 CEST - Koldo Gil showed some Savoldellish skills and got back into the pack in the descent. And at the same time ... there was an attack in the front group: Carlos Barredo of Quick Step rode away from his breakaway companions as the race reached Karrantza town.

1654 CEST - It's the mighty David de la Fuente driving the peloton charge at Karrantza. The gap strangely got back to its growing antics: its 02 minutes and 55 secs now. Well, not that strangely after all: the new gap must have something to do with Saunier slowing down in order to wait for Koldo Gil.

24 km to go now. Barredo was caught. But two other guys attacked the breakaway: surprising Redondo and much less surprising Triki Beltran. The Liquigas boy is flying today. The race just hit the toughest climb of the day: the first category Puerto de Ubal (6.5 km / gradient 6.8 %).

1657 CEST - Beltran and Astana's Redondo hold on to a tiny lead on the other remainders of the eight strong breakaway; Astarloza is the one trying to regain the wheels of the front duo. Iker Camaño is doing a helluva job back in the chasing pack, that was further down to about 40 members. Carlos Sastre, another guy far from his best form, is not having a easy time in the saddle.

1700 CEST - GAP UPDATE, folks! Triki and Redondo lead Astarloza by 15 secs, with the other closest chasers a further seven seconds down, with twenty kilometres left. The pace set by Saunier's Camaño is splitting (what's left of) the field, with more and more riders unable to follow. Another gap we've not mentioned yet is the "age gap" between the two current leaders, Beltran being older than Redondo by a dozen years. The Astana rider was just ten when Triki became a professional cyclist.

1704 CEST - Besides breaking the field apart, the pace set by Camaño brought the gap down to 02'10". That's the gap to the lead ... trio, as Redondo and Beltran were joined by Mikel Astarloza. Those are the only three riders from the previous breakaway group that are still clear. The five other escapees have been swallowed up by the chase bunch of about 25/30 guys.
Well, not ALL of them. Martinez, Barredo and Joly are 48 seconds down on the lead trio. But they are going to be caught by the bunch very soon anyway, thats for sure.

1709 CEST - Beltran didn't give a warm welcome to Astarloza into the front group. Triki forced the pace to try and drop the "orange warrior" of Euskaltel, and did it twice, but without much success. The Liquigas rider was more successful as he took first also atop the Ubal climb. Redondo and Astarloza were with him. Joly took fourth at some 50 secs. Egoi Martinez is about to be caught by the field, while David Lopez already was.

1712 CEST - The peloton also made it to the summit, and had splintered even more on the way to the top of the Ubal. Only one (easier, buy crucial) climb to be tackled. The bunch broke into pieces on this past difficult climb.

1714 CEST - 16k to go as many contenders are taking in the Ubal descent into Karrantza. Still Beltran, Astarloza and "stage revelation" Redondo in the lead. And still Iker Camaño doing the lion's share of the chase job for Saunier Duval and Cobo, trailing the front trio by about two minutes.

1717 CEST - José Antonio Redondo (20th on GC at the stage start) is current race leader on the road. Beltran and Astarloza have the same GC time as the Astana boy. The trio keeps a two minute advantage on Cobo with under ten kilometres to go. And with only Camaño working for Saunier, the trio has many a good chances to make it to the line.

1719 CEST - Redondo, Astarloza (possibly the fastest guy in the lead trio) and Beltran are still flying with the line just seven and something kilometres away. Euskaltel's Astarloza also has the advantage of knowing the stage course quite well.

1720 CEST - Seven km to go folks. They are at the foot of the final climb (of about 4.3 kilometres). Martinez and Barredo were caught by the pack. Lampre realized that Camaño couldn't help them bring the gap down any more, and took over the job up front. The advantage stays a good 01'40" with 5k to go. Is it a bit too much of an advantage for Damiano Cunego to keep harbouring hopes of a stage victory?

1723 CEST - The front trio got to the first slopes of the Pozalagua climb (4.3 km / gradient 7.8 %). The gap is coming down, but maybe not enough.

1725 CEST - 4 to go for Beltran, Redondo and Mikel Astarloza. Their lead just fell to a minute and fifteen seconds. The Lampres are chasing damn hard there in the pack.

1726 CEST - Oh, Redondo attacks! And it looks only Triki can counter his move. Astarloza just cannot follow any longer. Redondo attacks again. Even Triki has to give up! Redondo is away solo now. But the Lampres and Caisse d'Epargnes riding tempo are flyiiing too. The gap went down under the minute.

1728 CEST - Never say give up when Mr. Manuel Beltran is around! Triki is trying hard to regain Redondo's wheels. The bunch stays one minute back with under three kms to go. Beltran is just a few minutes down on Redondo, but he has a damn hard time closing down on the young gun of Astana.

1760 CEST - Skirmishes come in the chase group too, as they see the "two km to go" sign. Lampres and Sauniers still very active. It looks like Damiano Cunego is having a go at breaking away, with Koldo Gil trying to counter his move.

1732 CEST - Redondo hangs on. The young gun went down the red pennant of the last km. Astarloza is thirty seconds down on him. But Beltran is still a threat. Back in the pack it's the turn of 2006 race winner Gomez Marchante to try and make his move. Next on the attack are Cobo and Cunego (again).

1734 CEST - UH, DID REDONDO BONK??? YES, HE DID. He just can't go ahead! BELTRAN PASSED HIM. Triki is on the way to stage victory (maybe). Redondo paid the price of his young age and lack of experience. He asked for too much from his legs and was left without any more gasoline in the last thousand metres.

1736 CEST - So here goes Triki the Veteran. He's going to win the stage ... AND HE WON! 04h51'55" was his winning time.

MANOLOOOOO TRIKIIIIII BELTRAAAAAN WINS!!

Yes, Redondo kept his second place at least!! He still had some gasoline in his legs. 22 year old Young Gun Redondo from Alcazar de San Juan, Spain came in second at 15 seconds saving his runner-up spot by a mere four seconds on Gomez Marchante (that finished 19 seconds down on Beltran)

Gomez Marchante takes third place.
Samuel Sanchez was fourth at 24 seconds.
Koldo Gil and Angel Vicioso followed in the same time.
Mikel Astarloza crossed the line 57 seconds behind the winner.

1742 CEST - The top places on General Classification after stage two are as follows:
1. Juan Josè Cobo (SPA - SAUNIER)
2. José Angel Gomez Marchante (SPA - SAUNIER) at 06"
3. Manuel Beltran (SPA - LIQUIGAS) at 06"
4. Koldo Gil (SPA - SAUNIER) at 15"
5. Tadej Valjavec (SLO - LAMPRE) at 15"

6. Samuel Sanchez (SPA - EUSKALTEL) at 17"
7. Davide Rebellin (Ita - Gerolsteiner) at 17"
8. Joaquin Rodriguez (SPA - CAISSE D'EPARGNE) at 17"
9. Franck Schleck (LUX - T-MOBILE) at 19"
10. José Antonio Redondo (SPA - ASTANA) at 21"

Manolo Beltran missed taking the GC lead, but captured the top spot both in the mountains and points classification. Needless to say, Saunier Duval continue to dominate the team standings.

Damiano Cunego finished twelfth in the stage, 26 seconds behind winner Beltran, and showed that his condition is getting better by the day. All you wannabe Tour of Italy winners are warned! Alberto Contador had a bad day instead and lost over four minutes.

Stage 2 Results
1. Manuel Beltran (SPA - LIQUIGAS) 04h51'55"
2. José Antonio Redondo (SPA - ASTANA) at 15"
3. José Angel Gomez Marchante (SPA - SAUNIER) at 19"

4. Samuel Sanchez (SPA - EUSKALTEL) at 24"
5. Koldo Gil (SPA - SAUNIER) at 24"

6. Angel Vicioso (SPA - ASTANA) at 24"
7. Juan Josè Cobo (SPA - SAUNIER) at 26"
8. Franck Schleck (LUX - T-MOBILE) at 26"
9. Tadej Valjavec (SLO - LAMPRE) at 26"
10. Davide Rebellin (Ita - Gerolsteiner) at 26"

47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage One
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Preview

 
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