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62nd Vuelta a España - Stage 3 Live Coverage
By Staff
Date: 9/3/2007
62nd Vuelta a España - Stage 3 Live Coverage

62nd Vuelta a España - Stage 3 Live Coverage
Another day for the sprinters or will the break survive to the Luarca?

Stage 3 03/09 Viveiro - Luarca - 155 km
Today the race leaves the roads of Galicia and enters Asturias en route to the first day of the climbers festival. But before reaching the finish line in Lagos de Covadonga, the racers must overcome the 153 kilometres which lie between Viveiro and Luarca.

Today's stage has difficulties and opportunities enough; as shortly after the starting line in Viveiro, they will confront the first 2nd category climb of the Vuelta at San André de Boimente, and three more 3rd category climbs featured along the way. The last climb comes at 33 kilometres from the finish line where the riders will race two circuits through the streets of Luarca.

The route today favors the long break over the first climbs for the riders brave enough to take their chances and open their climbers point account; or perhaps an attack late in the race on the final climb the cat.3 Babia. The escapees will have to evade capture by the formidable sprinters teams who will use the last 35 kilometers to chase down any escapes to ensure one more chance for a sprinters victory before the race is turned over to the mountain goats.

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The climbing challenges: Santo André de Boimente (cat-2; at Km. 8.6), Cruz da Campa (cat-3; at Km. 33), Cadeira (cat-3; at Km. 48.7), and Babia (cat-3; at Km.120).

Weather today is predicted to be mostly cloudy between Lugo and Asturias with moderate temperatures in the range of 19ºC, cooling to around 16 to 17ºC on the summits of the climbs. The wind may be a challenge for the riders, coming from the North East throughout the day.

The 188 riders left Vivero after a 5.3 kilometer circuit of the city's streets at half past one pm and the initial attacks came at 4 km with Angel Vallejo launching the first attack with joined by Serafin Acevedo Martinez and David de La Fuentes (Saunier Duval/Prodir) and quickly took a 1 minute gap on the Rabobank led peloton.

Serafín Martinez (Karpin-Galicia) the current leader in the climbers competition, led over the Cat. 2 San André de Boimente climb with Dominguez and De La Fuentes with two minutes on the peloton led by  Gustavo Cesar, Christian Sorensen and Joost Posthuma taking the remaining points. By the finish of the descent the trio had 2:30 lead on the Oscar Freire's Rabobank squad who led the peloton.

By the 29 km mark as the trio started the Cat. 3 Puerto Cruz da Campa the three riders had a gap of  3:30 minutes.

33 km on the summit of Puerto Cruz da Campa Serafin Martinez led taking the max points with De La Fuente second and Dominguez third with Rabobank's Marc Demar leading the peloton at almost 4 minutes back. Oscar's Raboriders look to be keeping the trio on a three minute leash and discouraging any efforts for others to join them.

At the 53 km mark, David De La Fuente took the intermediate sprint ahead of Vallejo and Martinez. The lead has been staying steadily around 3 minutes. The other teams appear to be in  agreement with the arrangement to keep the leash tight on the trio and use the 33 kms to the finish after the last climb to set up the sprint finish on the local roads of Luarca.

1621 CET - 83 km left. The three leaders roll through the feed zone. The riders have a bit of a head wind at this point, so the lead of the three escapees dips just under 3'. Soon they will turn so that the wind will be from their left. 

61 km left. Rabobank keeps the race under control. Menchov chats with a teammate a bit further back in the pack, while his domestiques keep the pressure up for Freire at the sharp end of the pack. Quick Step has now added a rider to help with the chase. 

Koos Moerenhout stuffs his Dutch Road Champion's jersey full of water bottles and rolls back up to his teammates. He gives one to Freire. The pace is steady, but doesn't seem too hard yet. Looks like a lot of guys are saving energy for the first real climbing stage tomorrow. 

Lampre now puts a couple of guys into the train at the front of the peloton. They are still smarting from that crash in the final two kilometers yesterday, where Bennati lost any hope of keeping that Gold Jersey. He's just out for stage wins now.

Congratulations to Levi Leipheimer of Discovery Channel, whose two big attacks dominated the U.S. road championship yesterday. He soloed away over that last 30 kilometers and just worked over the field. Great job Levi! No word yet on where the Tour's third place rider will be riding next year. There are quite a few teams rumored to have interest. 

For some reason, Freire is hanging out at the back of the peloton chatting with Pereiro of Caisse d'Epargne. He just looks to be hanging out, no problem really. Tomorrow will see the first time splits of any importance. There are no time bonuses on these early stages of the Vuelta, so most of the peloton is still at the same time. Tomorrow the riders face that finishing climb which is listed as "Especial" with some 13% gradients over about 13 km. That will get some time splits. 

The time gap of the two leaders is coming down. With Lampre contributing to the chase, it is now down to 1' 55". The pack is on a slight uphill right now. It's a Cat 3 climb supposedly, but it doesn't look that tough. There is still a lack of panic in the peloton; slowly but surely the gap is coming down. This is a big ring climb for sure. 

1648 CET - 42 km to go.  The gap hovers at around 1' 50" as the trio do the final climb Cat. 3 Babia. Vallejo attacks for some reason. There was some kind of sprint there, but it wasn't the mountains points. All our leaders are out of the saddle, but no real difficulties apparently. Three Rabobank riders are leading the group, Pettachi's Milram team are well positioned too. It will be interesting to see if Zabel beats his leader again.

Finally, this climb seems to be getting slightly harder. But not much. Martinez will be after maximum points again. With only a gap of 2 minutes the escapees have little chance to avoid being caught before the entrance to the Luarca circuits.

 The peloton will probably leave these guys dangling off the front as long as they can at this point. They can nail them back whenever they want. The Mad Milkmen of Milram will have to make some interesting decisions if Zabel looks better than Petacchi again today. That could sour their milk a bit. 

The run-in to the finish doesn't look to be too flat again. Looks more like yesterday's. They will be riding loops around Luarca, and there is a little bit of a hill on the course that the sprinters will have to get over not too far from the finish. Quick Step has come up to raise the pace of the peloton. The peloton is now strung out. They look to be trying to thin the herd. If Quick Step can cause some splits here, then they could force some of the sprinters for the other teams to spend a lot of energy. That will favor Bettini and Boonen, both of whom can win a sprint finish. The overall average is 35.2 kilometres per hour after the third hour of racing.

Though if they are going like this on a hill, then they are probably working for Bettini. The guys in the break are looking back down the hill at how close the peloton is. Only 45 seconds guys! The team cars are coming up trying to get the guys in the break watered and ready for the descent. They won't be off the front much longer at this pace. Petacchi is struggling off the back of the peloton. Quick Step's pacemaking is doing some damage. 

Vallejo and De La Fuente have dropped Martinez on the harder section of this climb. So two men are about 45" ahead of the pack. They are taking their turns setting the pace still. Martinez is caught by the peloton. 

The two leaders are sprinting for the top of the climb. Vallejo gets it ahead of De La Fuente. Quick Step is still leading the peloton. Martinez now tries to attack again from the peloton to get the final mountain points. 

1707 CET - 33 km to go. Euskaltel is all over the front of the peloton on the descent. Why? Who knows. Vallejo and De La Fuente have been swept up by the Euskaltel-led peloton. Inaki Isasi must be feeling like he can win this stage if Euskaltel is working this hard. 

While we congratulated Levi Leipheimer for his victory as US champ one more congratulations due to Saunier Duval/Prodir's Scotsman David Millar, who won the British National ITT Championships. Millar is the double British Champs, as he had taken the National Road Race Championships early in August. Millar dominated the 43-kilometre time-trial held in Holmes Chapel, and he clocked a time 1:30  better than Chris Newton (Recycling) and over 3´ better than Michael Hutchinson (In-Gear Quickvit RT), who filled out the podium.

We will be glad to see Millar riding in the North America with Slipstream and wearing the British Jersey. Millar is a great signing by Vaughters;  his anti doping stance is what I like to hear, and Millar's honesty is the kind of example the peloton needs more of.

1720 CET - 23 km to go. The greatly thinned peloton is all strung out. Euskaltel's pressure looks to be driving home the advantages gained on the climb. A Quick Step rider is attacking. Boonen and Petacchi were among those off the back on that climb, by the way.

Crash right under the 20 km banner. Zubeldia has crashed heavily. He's gone over one of the roadside cones and holding his left shoulder. He's getting some treatment. They have a bike there, but he hasn't remounted yet. Now he's up and riding again. It will be an impossible task for him now, the peloton has shrunk rapidly and the pace is increasing.

So Quick Step wasn't attacking, they were just bringing riders up to work with the Euskaltel squad. Quick Step seem to be working to set up Bettini. The Euskaltel squad has pulled off the front of the peloton, with their GC man on the deck behind. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Euskaltels drop en masse to help Zubeldia out soon. Two of their riders are at the back of the peloton as we speak

So Quick Step has several men at the front of this first peloton setting the pace. They are flying through some tight corners. There are a couple of groups off the back chasing this peloton. Hmmm... now Lampre has put a guy up here to help set the pace. Wonder if that means Bennati is in this front group. 

The road is deceiving, some of the riders' faces are a mask of pain. The pace and the awkward ascent caused problems for our riders. Euskaltel's main leader for the GC, Sammy Sanchez, looks to still be in the front group. This is a loop now. The riders head back out and do the final circuit. The peloton looks to be gefattening. That's a pseudo-Belgian term that means the pace is not as high as it was. It's still fairly high, but it's not completely single-file any more. It looks like one of the larger chase groups have rejoined the peloton in Luarca.

The pace is still so high and we are getting so many helicopter shots that it is hard to discern who is in this peloton and who is not. Quick Step still sets the pace in the peloton. Freire and his Gold Jersey is near the front of the pack. It appears that Zubielda has abandoned due to his injuries. He landed awkwardly following on from his nasty crash. That's a big loss for Euskaltel. Zubeldia was supposed to be there with Sanchez in the big mountains.

A Relax rider has a mechanical. His teammate gives him a tire and pushes him off again. Bettini in his World Champ jersey is right near the front of the peloton behind the train of his Quick Step boys. Garate, the climber, is now bringing the pain on the flats. Moreno was the Relax rider who punctured.

1736 CET - 8 km to go. There is a Milram rider or two lurking near the front. You can bet that Zabel is in there, then. Relax dropped a few riders back and got Moreno back up to the peloton. Rabobank has a few men near the front, alongside the Milram riders behind the Quick Step train. Looks like another usual suspects sprint. 

5 km left. Oh, the peloton is just strung out and going full gas right now. There is a nasty little climb of 7.5 % coming up here before the finish. That will sort out some of the sprinters, but guys like Zabel, Bettini, and Freire will still be in contention like yesterday. Cunego of Lampre is in here who could launch if he's feeling well. 

3km to go. The lead-out to this last little climb is just flat out. Bettini is going to try to win this, that much is clear. We could see a classics style rider launch on this climb. Guys like Gilbert and Rebellin gave it a go yesterday, so look for them up front again today. Lampre's Bennati is up in the mix here, and so is Rebellin and Freire and Bettini. The peloton is splitting up on the run-in. 

Schumacher on the front. Sammy Sanchez near the front too. Oh, a crash by a Saunier Duval rider!
Allan Davies goes early. Whoa, Chris Horner is leading out the peloton now! Horner pulls off, just keeping Evans out of trouble. 

Paolo Bettini Wins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

World Champion Paolo Bettini in Luarca! Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti

Rebellin looked fairly strong, Freire was blocked by Bettini.

Lots of splits in the field here, so good job by Evans to stay up near the front and out of trouble, and good job by Horner to get him up there. Davis went up the right barriers.

Bettini snuck around him on the right as Davis drifted a bit towards the center. Freire tried to come up between Bettini and the barriers on the right, but there was no place to go. Davis was to his left, and Bettini was in front of him, so Freire had to kind of sit up. So Bettini pays his mates back for all of their hard work today by taking the stage. Freire will keep the Gold Jersey of race leader.

Paolo Bettini, victory thanks to information from Carlos Barredo
In the press conference following his stage victory, Paolo Bettini explained part of the reason for his success today:

 “I wanted to win in the Vuelta, but I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it so quickly. Nevertheless, Barredo explained to me what the finish in Luarca was like and told me it was good for me. That gave me confidence and my legs responded better than I thought at the end".

Bettini’s triumph breaks a dry spell: “I haven’t won since the Tour of California, but I'm a professional and I know that if you work hard, you'll get good results in the end. And that’s the way it worked out.

Victory Paolo Bettini!!           Photo by Greg Parks Photo/Design

Controversy with Freire? Not a bit. I spoke with him. We’re friends and we respect each other. I explained to him that I maintained a straight line in the sprint and I didn’t see him. There’s no way anyone can say I cut him off. It’s no big deal and our relationship continues being as good as it's always been".

As for his plans for the Vuelta, Bettini says: I want to finish the first two weeks of the Vuelta at least. There’s a chance I may also take part in some stages in the third week, but then I’ll go off to rest up a little before the World Championship”.
© Unipublic

Portrait of a very contented World Champion after his win in Stage 4.
Photo by Greg Parks Photo/Design

Tour of California Stage 4 Report & Photos.

So Nick, who will win tomorrow? I really don't know, the race is always open... I fancy one of the smaller Spanish teams to get a win.

A few might like to put their stamp of authority on the race... like Cunego? I would think the Cavadonga matches his skills and favors him. If Cunego hadn't crashed, I would pick him to win a sprint from a group of about six or seven guys. But now... There aren't any really hard climbs before that final climb tomorrow. 

Stage 3 Results: (Provisional)
1. Paolo Bettini (Quick Step)
2. Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
3. Allan Davis (Discovery Channel)

4. Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)
5. Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux)
6. Rene Mandri (AG2r)
7. Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom)
8. Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)
9. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
10. Francisco Terciado (Relax)
11. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
12. Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne). 

General Classification:
1. Oscar Freire
2. Duque
3. Eric Zabel

4. Rene Mandri

So a lot of the GC hopefuls were up there paying attention at the end of this stage. In the first group was Evans (8th), Pellizotti (9th), Sanchez (11th), Pereiro (12th), Menchov (19th), Beltran (23rd), Brajkovic (38th), Sastre (44th), Piepoli (47th). Here is some news: Cunego of Lampre came in 94th on this stage and lost 34". Not looking good for him right now with that banged up left knee. 

This concludes our live coverage, thanks to Locutus and Nick Bull who provided the race commentary. We'll see you tomorrow for the Vuelta's opening of the climbing festival on stage 4.  Photos and complete results to follow.

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