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47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage 5 Live
By Fabio
Date: 4/13/2007
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage 5 Live

Strange but true. Today's leg has got plenty of going up and down the hills of the Basque Country … Will Angel Vicioso hang on and keep the yellow jersey on his shoulders one more day?

Etapa 5: Lekunberri to Oiartzun, 169 km

Good morning (afternoon/evening/night) and welcome to our live coverage of the fifth and penultimate stage in the 47th "Euskal Herriko itzulia". The Tour of the Basque Country comes to its final and crucial stages, with two more tough bike rides on the hills of the region to go, starting with today's journey of 169 km. from Lekunberri to Oiartzun. It's just another leg peppered with climbs, as today's ride features four second category ascents as well as two more cat. 1 additions to the Mountain Men Festival.

The comparatively easy Alto de Huitzi (distance: 1,700 metres; gradient: 6.88 %) kicks off the uphill part of the stage after about 35 km. The following descent takes the peloton all the way to the foot of the equally categorised Alto de Usategieta (distance: 4 km; gradient: 5.62 %). Then they go down all the way to the hamlet of Donetzebe, and enjoy some flat riding until the demanding Alto de Agiña (Cat. 1; distance: 6.9 km; gradient: 6.96 %) welcomes the bunch into the second half of the stage. Straight after that the guys in the saddle have to tackle the easier Alto de Aritxulegi (Cat. 1; distance: 3.5 km; gradient: 5.83 %). But they'd better save some legs for the next uphill challenge: the first category Alto de Jaizkibel (Distance: 7.8 km; gradient: 5.84 %) of Clásica de San Sebastian fame (Cat. 1; distance: 7.8 km; gradient: 5.84 %), and for the last climb to be climbed in this trip: the short but steep Alto de Erlaiz (Cat. 2; Distance: 3.8 km; gradient: 11.05 %) that puts end to today's uphill show 17.5 km from the line.

Those without good climbing legs are going to struggle today (not that they didn't the past few days), and GC leader Angel Vicioso might be given some more hard time, after he had to ride hard in order to limit his time losses to José Angel Gómez Marchante and a few other overall challengers in the last ascent yesterday, while Jens Voigt was flying all by himself to his fourth stage victory in the Basque event. The team CSC strongman first got into the right breakaway very early into the stage, and later made the winning move as he attacked solo (what was left of) the front group in the Huitzi descent.

CSC and Jens Voigt commented after yesterday's stage: Jen's dropped the other members of the break and never looked back.

This M.O. was practically identical to Voigt's previous victories in Vuelta Ciclista a Pais Vasco (in 1998, 2004 and 2005), and the spectators showed their appreciation and support for the German Team CSC rider all the way to the finish line. Sports director Kim Andersen was also full of admiration after the stage.

"It was truly brilliant. Not just the victory – but the way he did it. He initiated the break himself after 80 kilometers and took nine other riders along with him. Then about 50 kilometers before the end he suffered a flat, which meant extra work to catch up again. But he managed and after that he dropped them just like that. It was fantastic," said a very excited Kim Andersen.

The performance was even more impressive considering the fact that Voigt was also in a break yesterday during the third stage, where he ended up being dropped on the final climb.

"Yesterday I didn't feel that strong and the riders in the break were very strong. I felt much better today. Already from the beginning of the break I got the feeling that my chances were better today. And yes, when the opportunity arose I made a move. I like to keep my tactics simple – that's the best way for me," explained Voigt.

1500 CEST - A peloton of 147 rolled off Lekunberri town a few minutes past 01:00 CEST. Danilo Di Luca, overall champion of this same race in the glory days of the year 2005, showed what a difference two years make and put an end to his 2007 Basque Tour campaign, that in fact never saw him really in the spotlight, as he didn't take the start line today.

Other riders no longer in attendance are his Liquigas team-mate and loyal domestique Alessandro Spezialetti, fellow Italian Morris Possoni (Lampre-Fondital), Germany's Bjorn Schröder (Team Milram) and Matthias Kessler (Astana) as well as the French Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom). Kessler's Swiss team-mate Steve Morabito would join all of them after just 14 kilometres.

Before that it was the Basque Egoi Martínez (Discovery Channel) that made the news as he launched the first attacks of the day at km. 6. Tino Zaballa (Spa - Caisse d'Epargne ) and Mauricio Ardila Cano (Col - Rabobank) made contact with him later, and the trio stayed clear until km. 27, enough for Zaballa to win the Ventas de Mugirro Hot Spot Sprint. Discovery Channel Spaniards stayed in the limelight as the Paris-Nice champion Alberto Contador arrived first atop the opening ascent (Alto de Huitzi), opening a small gap on the peloton along with Aitor Hernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Maxime Monfort (Bel - Cofidis).

While Contador's Portuguese team-mate Sergio Paulinho as well as the all-French pairing of Thomas "Titi" Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) and Remy Di Gregorio (La Francaise des Jeux) were joining the impressively consistent bunch of DNFers, a dozen more guys joined the aforementioned trio up front, so that we got a breakaway group of fifteen riders: Alberto Contador (Spa - Discovery Channel), Aitor Hernández (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Maxime Monfort (Bel - Cofidis) of course, but also Egoi Martínez (Spa - Discovery Channel), on the move again today, Patxi Vila (Spa - Lampre-Fondital) and Giampaolo Caruso (Ita - Lampre-Fondital), Iñigo Landaluze (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi), Mikel Astarloza (Spa - Team Milram), Pablo Lastras (Spa - Caisse d'Epargne), David Pérez (Spa - Caisse d'Epargne) and David Arroyo (Spa - Caisse d'Epargne), Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa - Karpin-Galicia), Anthony Charteau (Fra - Crédit Agricole), and two guys in particular: Oscar Sevilla (Spa - Relax-Gam) and Juan José Cobo (Spa - Saunier Duval-Prodir). Yes, the third placed rider in the GC and the #1 domestique of the yellow jersey holder got into the breakaway.

Hernández took the win at the Alto de Usategieta mountain prime, with Monfort, Cobo and Astarloza in the other top places; the 15-strong bunch kept a 25 second advantage over the peloton by the km. 64 check, but a huge pile-up broke the front group apart a few minutes later, so that only Juanjo Cobo (Saunier Duval), Pablo Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne), Patxi Vila (Lampre), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Anthony Charteau (Crédit Agricole) as the only non-Spaniard, remained in the lead. The accident resulted in Monfort having to drop out of the race; he was just the latest newcomer to a list also containing Daniel Navarro (Spa - Astana), Mickaël Buffaz (Fra - Cofidis) and Didier Rous (Fra - Bouygues Telecom).

1506 CEST - The advantage held by Juan José Cobo, Pablo Lastras, Patxi Vila, Mikel Astarloza and Anthony Charteau on the field went up to 45 seconds by the km. 77 check.

But it didn't take long for three more riders to regain the lead group and for the eight-strong breakaway to extend their margin on the field to 1 minute and 10 seconds by km 92 (77k to go).

1540 CEST - Juanjo Cobo came first at the summit of the first category Alto de Agiña, with Mikel Astarloza in the runner-up spot; Carlos Barredo (Spa - Quick Step) was one of three guys that joined the front group. Patxi Vila was fourth at the mountain prime, David Pérez Arrieta and Luis Pasamontes (Spa - followed.

1550 CEST - Cobo (Saunier Duval) and Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) made the gap. The pair was leading their nearest pursuer Aitor Pérez by thirty seconds at the latest time check.

1602 CEST - Cobo and Astarloza maintained the lead on the Alto de Aritxulegi (Cat.2) slopes, but Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Aitor Pérez showed some "Savoldellish" skills in the following descent and joined the duo; the four-strong breakaway were leading a first chase group with Vila, Barredo and even Scott Davis by 01'17", with the main group a further minute down.

1610 CEST - The race made it to the Jaizkibel in very adverse weather conditions. It's raining badly over the Vuelta roads. Cobo and Sánchez attacked and quickly gained up to 45 seconds on Aitor Pérez and Mikel Astarloza, with the main peloton, led by Vicioso's Relax teammates, trailing by 02'25".

1615 CEST - Juanjo Cobo and Samu Sánchez keep working well together under the Jaizkibel rain, even if it's the "red bird" athlete, going for the overall leadership today, that leads the front duo most of the time. Saunier are really giving Vicioso a tough time today, as also Koldo Gil attacked the peloton (that got thinned down to 20-25 guys on the ascent) and put some 25 seconds into the yellow jersey. Damiano Cunego is being very active at the front of such group.

1620 CEST - The summit of the Jaizkibel is just 1,000 metres away for the leading pair. Arrieta and Astarloza follow about 01'26" back, but they are about to be caught by Koldo Gil. A little further behind it's still Damiano Cunego that leads the peloton charge.

1622 CEST - Juan José Cobo and fellow Spaniard Samu Sánchez are already challenging the fog in the Jaizkibel descent. The Saunier Duval rider is the current overall leader on the road. Arrieta, Astarloza (01'28") and Cunego stay in between the leading pair and the "Vicioso group". But the yellow jersey wearer is fighting bravely to hold onto his race lead, and his gap to the front duo fell under two minutes.

1626 CEST - With fog and rain making their appearance on Basque roads today, the Jaizkibel descent has turned into a very tricky portion of the stage; but it's in situations like these that guys like Samuel Sánchez can show off their skills. The guy is taking plenty of risks while coming down the Jaizkibel. Juanjo Cobo stays on his wheels. The 20-man chase bunch was trailing by 01'48" at the latest check. Vicioso is about to "regain" the yellow jersey, and to bring back Cunego and Astarloza.

1630 CEST - Mikel Astarloza and Damiano Cunego were caught by the "Vicioso group". Only the pair of Samuel Sanchez and Juan José Cobo can stay up front.

One update from France: Chris Sutton (Aus - Cofidis) has won the final stage of Circuit de la Sarthe. Andreas Kloeden of Germany was overall winner of the event.

1634 CEST - Back to the Basque Country of Spain, with Cobo and Sánchez still clear and the Vicioso group about 01'40" behind them, with about 24k (and one short but very tough ascent) to go.

1637 CEST - 20 k to go for the front pairing, that is about to hit the slopes of the last climb. The yellow jersey group gained some more members over the last few mins, but lost some time to the leaders, their gap going up to about 01'55".

1639 CEST - Samu Sanchez and Juanjo Cobo got to the opening slopes of the second category Alto de Erlaitz. They can still boast a lead of 01'50" on Angel Vicioso and the other closest chasers. This ascent will arguably decide who will be wearing the GC leader's mantle later today. And perhaps also who will be wearing the jersey on the eventual podium.

The going is getting more foggy as the riders climb to the summit. The ascent and the helluva pace set by Saunier's Leo Piepoli thinned the peloton down to fifteen men only; Angel Vicioso has no teammates around any longer. Things are not panning out well for the Spaniard.

1644 CEST - The situation is very fluid on the Erlaitz slopes. Koldo Gil, J.A. Gómez Marchante and Alejandro Valverde attacked Vicioso, and immediately gained 20-25 seconds on him. Also Cunego put some time into the Spaniard; poor Vicioso is having a VERY hard time now. And there's room (and uphill road) enough for things to get worse for him!

1646 CEST - The Gil/Gomez Marchante/Valverde trio is making gains not just on Vicioso, but also the front duo, whose advantage fell under the minute as they get into the last km. of the ascent; Damiano Cunego follows some 20 seconds later. Vicioso is one minute down on the afore mentioned trio.

1648 CEST - The Red Bird is singing big style! Koldo Gil and Gomez Marchante dropped Valverde by their wheels and are flying on the way to join Samuel Sanchez and their teammate Cobo. But Angel Vicioso is giving it everything to keep that jersey on his shoulders.

The Relax athlete is celebrating his birthday today, and the gift he is getting from the Sauniers is not being that appreciated by the man.

1651 CEST - Joaquin Rodriguez caught Damiano Cunego. This duo is chasing another duo - Gil and Gomez Marchante - who at their turn are trying to chase down the lead duo of Cobo and Sanchez.

1652 CEST - Oops ... lead duo we said? NO WAY!! Cobo attacked and sped off on his own! Sanchez is over 20 seconds down already!! Juanjo Cobo is the only rider on the front in the final descent!

1655 CEST - More and more riders crested in the meantime; also Vicioso managed to get to the top of the Alto de Erlaitz. He's inside a group of about 8-10 riders now containing, among others, Alejandro Valverde.

1657 CEST - About 15 km to the line. Juan José Cobo leads in the last downhill piece, and is fighting over the yellow jersey too! Samuel Sanchez is his closest pursuer, then comes the "red bird" duo of Gomez Marchante and Koldo Gil. The Vicioso group also features Rebellin, Schumacher, Schleck and Contador. Top-quality riders that could help the leader cut down the current gap (01'56") to Cobo.

1700 CEST - re-ooops! Stephan Schumacher fell on the dangerous wet descent and a motorbike got close to running over him; thankfully it didn't happen and the German could quickly get back in the saddle. Phew!

Stage Map here.

1703 CEST - Cobo leads Sanchez by 45 seconds; Samuel is about to be caught by Gil and Gomez Marchante (that are 53 secs down on the solo leader). Also Schleck fell in the descent. Lampres are giving some helping hand to Vicioso, but Cobo's advantage on the Vicioso group went up to 02'03", growing by 18 seconds in the last few hundred metres.

1705 CEST - AAARGH. Koldo Gil's wheels slipped on not wet roads, and his team-mate Gómez Marchante fell in order to avoid running into his wheels!! They are back in the saddle but lost some VERY PRECIOUS time!! This final descent is having some impact on the race. Thankfully (for him) Juan José Cobo is very close to the end of the (last) downhill piece.

1709 CEST - Less than 5k to go for Cobo. His margin over Samuel Sanchez stays around 47 seconds. It was just too bad for Gil and Marchante, that were caught by the Vicioso group after the two guys hit the tarmac.

But wait, only Gomez Marchante was chased down (and dropped) by the Vicioso group! Koldo Gil stays clear, currently sitting in third place.

1712 CEST - Samuel Sanchez chose not to take excesive risks in the descent, and subsequently was uncapable of making gains on Cobo, who is currently going under the red pennant.


1713 CEST - Sanchez goes under the red pennant too! But his gap to Cobo is way too big! Juanjo Cobo is going to win!

1714 CEST - 300M to go for Cobo ... 200 ... 100 ...

JUAN JOSE' COBO WINS THE STAGE!!!  The Saunier Duval Red Bird is singing again!!

1715 CEST - Here comes Samuel Sanchez, he lost more time to Cobo in the final 1,000 metres, and came in second at 01'03". Koldo Gil takes third place at 01'39". And here comes the Angel Vicioso group. The yellow jersey wearer crossed the line about 01'54" behind the winner. He might have maintained the race leadership, he might have lost it to Cobo. It's a matter of a very, very few seconds, maybe just one.

1718 CEST - More riders coming to the line, one after another. One of them was Josè Angel Gomez Marchante, who was clearly struggling a lot in the last part of the stage.

1720 CEST - YES, JUAN JOSE COBO assumed the race leadership ... and by JUST ONE SECOND over Angel Vicioso!! Definitely NOT the best birthday gift Vicioso could hope for.

Here's the top ten for today's Stage 5:
1. Juan José Cobo (Spa - Saunier) - 04h18'38"
2. Samuel Sánchez (Spa - Euskaltel) - at 01'03"
3. Koldo Gil (Spa - Saunier) - at 01'38"

4. Davide Rebellin (Ita - Gerolsteiner) - at 01'50"
5. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa - Caisse d'Epargne) - at 01'50"

6. Tadej Valjavec (Slo - Lampre) - at 01'50"
7. Franck Schleck (Lux - Team CSC) - at 01'50"
8. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Lampre) - at 01'53"
8. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Lampre) - at 01'55"
9. Angel Vicioso (Spa - Relax-Gam) - at 01'55"
10. Alejandro Valverde (Spa - Caisse d'Epargne) - at 01'57"

Four days after claiming stage victory under similarly adverse weather in the race opener, Juan José "Rain Man" Cobo Acedo scored again, and regained the top of the leaderboard.

General Classification after Stage 5
1. Juan José Cobo (Esp - Saunier Duval/Prodir) 21:34:58
2. Ángel Vicioso (Esp - Relax-Gam)  a 1
3. Samuel Sanchez (Esp - Euskatel) a 1:20

4. Koldo Gil (Esp - Saunier Duval/Prodir)  a 1:53
5. Tadej Valjavec (Slo - Lampre/Fondital) a 2:05

6. Joaquin Rodriguez (Esp - Caisse d'Epargne) a 2:07
7. Davide Rebellin (Ita - Gerolsteiner)  a 2:07
8. Frank Schleck (Lux - CSC) a 2:09
9. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Lampre/Fondital) a 2:16
10. Alejandro Valverde (Esp Caisse d'Epargne) a 2:24

Full official results when available. Thank you for joining us here, and see you tomorrow for the last, key stage: a challenge against the clock of 14 kilometres with both the start and finishing line at Oyartzun.

47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage Four Results
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage Four Live Coverage
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage Three Results
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage Three Live Coverage
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage Two Results
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage Two Live Coverage
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Stage One
47th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - Preview

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