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Welcome to hell. Today begins Darwinian cycling, as the strong shall separate themselves from the weak in their struggle to survive in the mountains. The stage is 198 km over rolling terrain that includes the climbs of the Cat 2 Alto de Berchules at 62.5 km and the Cat 3 Alto de Lanjaron at 117.5 km.
The real kicker comes at the end of the stage, however, as the riders must ascend the legendary Special Category monster known as the Sierra Nevada. The climb starts gradually at 161 km, but kicks up sharply so that the riders will climb 1810 m in 37 km.
The steepest parts of the climb are "only" 8%, not nearly as steep as the Angliru on Stage 15 which hits a steepness of 23.6% near the top. Still, the climb is relentless and steady over its 37 km; its length should combine with the heat to devastate the field. Like the climb up Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France, the Sierra Nevada will crush the hopes of more than a few riders. Huge amounts of time can be lost on a 37 km climb, so any weakness will prove extremely costly.
Look for the hardcore climbers to come to the fore on the Sierra Nevada. While some contenders will fall off the pace and be eliminated from contention, it is doubtful that one rider will be able to make a definitive attack so early in the race.
Men like Heras and Rubiera (US Postal), Simoni (Saeco), Casagrande (Fassa Bortolo), Casero (Coast), Mercado and Mancebo (iBanesto), Sevilla and Botero (Kelme), Beloki (Once), Møller (Milaneza-MSS), and Garate (Lampre) will attack and counter-attack on the climb,feeling each other out while trying to cull the weak from the herd. None of the main contenders will want to attack too soon on the climb and risk bonking, and will likely wait until the last 10 km to begin to go after each other in earnest.
This could provide some of the climbers who are not a threat in the GC to get away and sneak a stage win. Men like Aitor Kintana (BigMat) and one of the Euskaltel-Euskadi boys might be able to hold off the leaders for final glory.
More than likely, however, the leaders will swallow up any breakaways on such a long and relentless climb. Look for the shape of the GC to radically change at the end of the day.
After his crash yesterday, Giro champion Paolo Savoldelli (Index-Alexia) retired from the race overnight.
Seven riders attacked after 8km today. They are Oscar Laguna (Relax), Victor Hugo Pena (US Postal), Mederic Clain (Cofidis), Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (iBanesto.com), Stephane Berges (AG2r), and Jesus Manzano (Kelme).
So Saeco and ONCE have missed the boat, and will have to do the work chasing today. A great move by Kelme, Postal, and iBanesto!!
Hold on now - ONCE has a man there...
Rafael Diaz (ONCE) is in the group, so Saeco is having to do all the chasing. The group has 5' 05" on the peloton, and they are over the first two climbs of the day.
In the peloton, the riders are drinking and eating a lot in preparation for the Sierra Nevada. You don't want to bonk on a 37 km climb.
The hammer is now down in the main field. Saeco is really putting on the gas, as they've missed the party and want to bring Simoni along in a good position to the climb.
Beloki (ONCE), the Gold Jersey wearer, has visited the team doctor a couple of time today. This doesn't bode well for the race leader heading into the first big climb of the race.
Victor Hugo Peña looks good in the break. He's a strong rider, and has had a couple of great results this year. He also helped Lance ride to victory (again) in Paris this year.
All of the Saecos are strung out on the front. Rumor in the peloton is that Cipollini (Acqua e Sapone) will leave the race on Sunday to prepare for the Worlds.
The Saeco train is followed by the ONCE train. Then the big leaders like Sevilla and Heras are not far behind the ONCEs.
6:52 PDT. Under 50 km to go, and 37 of that is the Sierra Nevada. They will hit the climb soon.
The lead group has 4' 46" on the field. The average speed for the 4th hour was 35.9 kph.
Roberto Laiseka has crashed out of the Vuelta! The Euskaltel man is down, and it looks serious.
He is being loaded onto a stretcher, and took a blow to his head. His forks look to have snapped. He is moving and talking, but looks in great pain. Another bad break for the Orangemen in the Grand Tours this year.
He crashed by himself, and took nobody down with him. The crash happened at high speed. Here is wishing him a speedy recovery.
Clain (Cofidis) is building on his lead in the KOM competition in the lead group. This was a good break for him!
7:00 PDT. The lead is 4'. The riders look to be in the false flat leading up to the Sierra Nevada.
The ambulance is rolling by on the left of the peloton. This must be a grim reminder for the riders of the dangers of their sport.
Peña is sitting on the back of the breakaway group. He looks to be a passenger. The work is being done by Clain, Garcia Acosta, and Manzano.
7:10 PDT. Martin Derganc, one of Cipo's wild zebra-men from Acqua e Sapone, has abandoned the race.
Berges is also a passenger in the breakaway. So is Diaz Justo of ONCE. Seems that they are either waiting to attack, or marking the break for their leaders.
The peloton is rolling through the beautiful city of Granada, where Jaime Nichols says she misspent some of her youth. Or rather spent it properly.
7:13 PDT. 41 km left in the stage, and only 4 km to the climb. The pain is rapidly approaching.
Estimates of the length of the climb vary because of the shallow slopes on the lower part of the climb. The official Vuelta site lists the length at 37 km, but some estimate that it is shorter.
In the break, Manzano is gesticulating and yelling at Peña and Berges. Now Manzano and Peña attack at the base of the climb!!
They get caught, and now Garcia Acosta has attacked. He has a little gap.
Diaz Justo of ONCE is leading the chase of Garcia Acosta. Meanwhile, the peloton is hitting the climb with the Saecos, Kelmes, and Posties joining the ONCEs in the cabeza del peloton that now spreads across the road.
7:21 PDT. With 29 km to go, Garcia Acosta is still off the front. The fuga (breakaway) is falling to pieces in pursuit.
Laguna (Relax) is now the first chaser on the mountain. He is pulling back Garcia Acosta, and the two have now joined forces.
The Milaneza boys have come to the front of the peloton to raise the pace for their man, Claus Møller! I've been predicting good things for the pasta-men of Milaneza...looks like they are preparing to attack!
Laguna has now dropped Garcia Acosta, but the peloton is rapidly closing and the hill is getting steeper.
Milaneza-MSS dominated the Volta a Portugal, sweeping the podium and taking the Mountains and Points Jerseys as well. Møller was the victor of the race.
Sprinter Angel Edo is leading the peloton for Milaneza boys. He is a sprinter who can actually climb for real. That is evidenced here by his pulling on the front in the bottom slopes of a Special Category climb, a la George Hincapie in the Tour.
Now the iBanestos and the Kelmes are attacking on the bottom slopes!
Two iBanestos and two Kelmes are off the front, with a Fassa and an Once rider. They are not the team leaders...looks like the team tactics are really heating up.
We've heard that Beloki has hit his knee/s on his handlebars...
7:30 PDT. As the riders head up the Sierra Nevada, the time checks are hard to come by. Laguna and Manzano lead, and have under 3' over the group, probably much less.
The big guns have yet to fire. They are loaded and cocked, but no firing yet.
Men from the break are being swept up. Now a Milaneza man is attacking, with a Coast rider. The Milaneza rider is Rui Sousa, a strong climber who finished 3rd in the Volta a Portugal.
Casero is in the middle of the pack. Not a good sign for the defending champ from Coast. The pack is still pretty big, with the lesser climbers attacking while the big men mark each other.
7:35 PDT. Okay, men are all over the mountain. Heras was off the back doing something, and now easily accelerates back up to the group and heads towards the front again.
Manzano (Kelme) is still off the front. In the main group, Escartin (Coast) looks in pain towards the back.
The peloton is whittling down. It really is survival of the fittest, as everyone seems to be attacking freakin' everyone!
Millar (Cofidis) is tailed off with a sizable group.
And now the peloton is regrouping a bit on an easier part of the climb. Hard to track all of the attacks that are off the front. But none from a big hitter...they are still all marking each other in the bunch.
7:42 PDT. They appear about halfway up the climb. Lopez de Munian of Euskaltel is now having a go from the peloton. His leader Laiseka has serious facial injuries (lacerations) from his crash, and should be okay.
Botero (Kelme) looks in trouble. The "Battler" has trouble with climbs like this, long and shallow. He lost huge chunks on the similar climb of the Ventoux in the Tour this year.
So most of the breakaways have been swept up. Dominguez (Phonak) and Lopez de Munian (Euskaltel) are chasing Manzano (Kelme) off the front.
Botero is really fighting, struggling with his teammate Tauler to make it back through the cars to the peloton.
At the front of the peloton there are some ONCEs, Coasts, Posties, but no Golden Jersey of Beloki. He's not near the front, which could be bad news for him.
Perez (Coast) and Lopez de Munian (Eus) are catching Manzano (Kelme), and have dropped Dominguez (Phonak).
Beloki has now appeared near the front of the peloton. Botero is hammering trying to latch on to the peloton, which seems to have slowed. Botero is in the cars.
7:52 PDT. Now Manzano has been dropped by Perez and Lopez de Munian in the breakaway. And now Botero is in trouble again, dropping away from the peloton.
This long, shallow climb goes on forever. A Kelme man now leads the peloton and is putting the hammer down. The pace is increasing. The men at the front of the peloton are looking at each other, 40" behind the breakaways. The leaders are watching and waiting for attacks. The peloton looks as nervous as a pimp at the altar.
Now a bigger attack goes off the front. The Posties are there to mark it, Rubiera and Heras are there. Horrach (Milaneza), the 2nd place finisher at the Volta a Portugal, now attacks...he's a brilliant climber.
That move by Horrach is the first serious move of the day. He'll have to be chased by the big guns.
Garate (Lampre) is in the main peloton, which is about 40 men still, and Garate looks in pain. He doesn't like this long, shallow climb it seems.
8:00 PDT. As they wind towards the top third of the climb, the peloton hits a steep portion. There are two breaks up the road. The first is a group of two, who are hammering, and the second group of about 8 men has sat up to wait for the peloton. The big men are grouping at the front.
That second group off the front has picked it up again. It contains Blanco (iBanesto) and Horrach (Milaneza), both great climbers. They are likely there to help their team leaders when the big attacks come, however.
That second group also contains Etxebarria (Euskaltel) and Vinokourov (Telekom).
Now on the front of the peloton is Christian Vandevelde! The Postie has Heras on his wheel! Looks like the big attacks are ready to launch!
A great ride for Christian to be there this late on a mountain stage!!
Now the second chase group has been brought back by Vandevelde's acceleration.
8:05 PDT. Now a Phonak, Oscar Perreira attacks with Rui Sousa of Milaneza from the peloton. Vandevelde still has the hammer down on the front of the peloton. We'll have to call him "little George" if he keeps this up!
So with 10 km to go, there are 3 men in the lead, and there is a group of about 12 riders in pursuit. The men are all close together, attacking and counterattacking, but not far off the front. One good attack by a leader will bring them back in a heartbeat.
Vandevelde is still pulling on the front of the peloton! Wow! Now Zarrabeitia is attacking for ONCE. Lastras of iBanesto responds and joins him.
Zarrabeitia and Lastras have attacked from the chase group, and are joined by Vinokourov, Zubeldia (Euskaltel), and Garcia Casas (BigMat). They have 49" ahead of the of the Vandevelde-led peloton.
8:16 PDT. Less than 8 km to go.
On the front, about a dozen men lead the race and have regrouped after a lot of attacks. Now Garcia Casas and Guido Trentin (Cofidis) are attacking on the front of the race. The peloton is now 1' 09" with 7km to go.
Trentin has won a couple of big races recently, and his ride here is a continuation of his good form.
Meanwhile, the race leaders are ham-gazing away, looking at the ass of Vandevelde while he still hammers at the front of the peloton. The two men off the front go under the 6 km banner.
Vandevelde is finally spent. The peloton is whittled to about 25 riders. Nobody is picking up the chase now that Vandevelde has pulled off the front!
Other race news: Steffen Radochla of team coast has just won the GP Rik van Steenbergen. 9 riders were left in the final after being part of an escape of 21 riders. Of those nine were the brothers Jalabert (Nicholas and Laurent); McEwen and Dierxksens. Laurent Jalabert worked very hard. it was his last race on Belgium soil except for the world champs in Zolder.
8:22 PDT. The two men off the front go under the 5 km banner. Looks like Garcia Casas and Trentin might well have pulled off a coup today, taking advantage of the ham-gazing of the big guns on the long climb of the Sierra Nevada.
Steenbergen: McEwen was pulled by teammate Stefan Van Dijk but Radochla managed to pass McEwen just before the finish line.
Oscar Sevilla has attacked! The Kelme man is followed by a few riders, but no big names!!
Jorg Jaksche from ONCE has Sevilla's wheel, but Beloki is nowhere to be seen! This could be a big move for Oscar!!
No sign of Simoni, Heras, Beloki, Casero, or the other big guns. Sevilla has the legs, and nobody else does! Casero is struggling on the back of the remains of the peloton!
Heras, Beloki, Mancebo, and about a dozen others are chasing, but hurting. They aren't bringing back Sevilla.
Møller is in that group of chasing big names. Sevilla has a 19" lead, and the two men at the front of the race have over a minute!
8:28 PDT. Garcia Casas and Trentin are into the final 3 km. Sevilla is chasing with Jaksche on his wheel. Then a group of big names including Heras, Møller, Casero, and Beloki are chasing.
Sevilla is riding a todo hostia! He is putting big time into his rivals. He now has over 30".
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONCE) leads the chase of Sevilla. Simoni (Saeco) is in that group too.
The chase is at 2 km banner. The two leaders are nearing the finish. "Scarecrow" Casagrande is also in the group of big names chasing Sevilla.
Now Danilo DiLuca (Saeco) is chasing down the Sevilla group! DiLuca if flying too! For his part, Sevilla is taking about 40" out of Beloki et al. Now Beloki has attacked!!
Casero is chasing, but not bridging! Beloki has a nice gap on the other big names, and is now in pursuit of Sevilla.
8:35 PDT. Trentin breaks away from Garcia Casas, and wins the stage!! Garcia Casas crosses in 2nd. Trentin may have snatched the Gold Jersey with this ride!!
Sevilla crosses the line about 50" behind Trentin. DiLuca finishes right behind the Sevilla group of three.
Now Beloki has been caught by Simoni and Casagrande as they finish. Heras loses some seconds to the Beloki group. It looks like Trentin will be in Gold!
Millar (Cofidis) comes across 3' back.
Correction: Zarrabeitia will be in Gold tonight. ONCE keeps the Gold Jersey.
Stage 5 Results
1. Guido Trentin (Ita) Cofidis @ 5h 45' 59"
2. Felix Garcia Casas (Spa) BigMat-Auber 93 @ 8"
3. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 10"
4. Mikel Zarrabeitia (Spa) ONCE-Eroski @ 10"
5. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Telekom @ 28"
6. Jörg Jaksche (Ger) ONCE-Eroski @ 45"
7. Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 47"
8. Pablo Lastras (Spa) iBanesto.com @ 47"
9. Danilo DiLuca (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport @ 51"
10. Rui Miguel Sousa (Por) Milaneza-MSS @ 53"
11. Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 58"
12. Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 1' 13"
13. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com @ 1' 35"
14. Fernando Escartin (Spa) Team Coast @ 1' 38"
15. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Fassa Bortolo @ 1' 38"
16. Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski @ 1' 38"
17. Jose Azevedo (Spa) ONCE-Eroski @ 1' 38"
18. Manuel Beltran (Spa) Team Coast @ 1' 38"
19. Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport @ 1' 38"
20. Roberto Heras (Spa) U.S. Postal @ 1' 45"
21. Angel Casero (Spa) Team Coast @ 1' 49"
22. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spa) ONCE-Eroski @ 1' 49"
23. Oscar Camenzind (Swi) Phonak @ 1' 51"
24. Claus Møller (Den) Milaneza-MSS @ 1' 51"
25. David Etxebarria (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 1' 54"
36. David Millar (GBr) Cofidis @ 2' 54"
45. Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) iBanesto.com @ 3' 50"
47. Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Lampre-Daikin @ 4' 10"
58. Santiago Botero (Col) Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 6' 08"
60. Christian Vandevelde (USA) U.S. Postal @ 6' 43"
90. Jose Luis Rubiera (Spa) U.S. Postal @ 13' 30"
GC Standings After Stage 5
1. ZARRABEITIA, Mikel (Spa) ONCE-Eroski @ 16h 53' 20"
2. TRENTIN, Guido (Ita) Cofidis @ 16"
3. JAKSCHE, Jörg (Ger) ONCE-Eroski @ 35"
4. VINOKOUROV, Alexandre (Kaz) Telekom @ 36"
5. SEVILLA, Oscar (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 52"
6. ZUBELDIA, Haimar (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 1'03"
7. GONZALEZ, Aitor (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 1'03"
8. LASTRAS, Pablo (Spa) iBanesto.com @ 1'04"
9. GARCIA CASAS, Félix (Spa) BigMat-Auber 93 @ 1'14"
10. BELOKI, Joseba (Spa) ONCE-Eroski @ 1'28"
11. AZEVEDO, José (Por) ONCE-Eroski @ 1'28"
12. GONZALEZ DE GALDEANO, Igor (Spa) ONCE-Eroski @ '39"
13. HERAS, Roberto (Spa) U.S. Postal @ 1'49"
14. CASAGRANDE, Francesco (Ita) Fassa Bortolo @ 1'51"
15. MANCEBO, Francisco (Spa) iBanesto.com @ 1'52"
16. DI LUCA, Danilo (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport @ 1'54"
17. MAYO, Iban (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 2'06"
18. BELTRAN, Manuel (Spa) Team Coast @ 2'07"
19. ESCARTIN, Fernando (Spa) Team Coast @ 2'07"
20. CASERO, Angel (Spa) Team Coast @ 2'18"
21. CAMENZIND, Oscar (Swi) Phonak @ 2'28"
22. MØLLER, Claus (Den) Milaneza-MSS @ 2'35"
23. SERRANO, Marcos (Spa) ONCE-Eroski @ 2'37"
24. VALJAVEC, Tadej (Slo) Fassa Bortolo @ 2'38"
25. SIMONI, Gilberto (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport @2'41"
26. ETXEBARRIA, David (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 2'47"
27. BLANCO, Santiago (Spa) iBanesto.com @ 3'03"
28. MILLAR, David (GBr) Cofidis @ 3'10"
29. GUTIERREZ, José (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 3'22"
30. HORRACH, Joan (Spa) Milaneza-MSS @ 3'31"
38. MERCADO, Juan Miguel (Spa) iBanesto.com @ 4'07"
45. GARATE, Juan Manuel (Spa) Lampre-Daikin @ 4'54"
52. BOTERO, Santiago (Col) Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 6'13"
74. RUBIERA, José Luis (Spa) U.S. Postal @ 13'34"
Mountains Competition after Stage 5
1. CLAIN, Mederic (Fra) Cofidis 32 pts
2. TRENTIN, Guido (Fra) Cofidis 30pts
3. GARCIA CASAS, Félix (Spa) BigMat-Auber 93, 25 pts
4. ZUBELDIA, Haimar (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 20 pts
5. ZARRABEITIA, Mikel (Spa) ONCE-Eroski 16 pts
6. LAGUNA, Oscar (Spa) Relax-Fuenlabrada 15 pts
Points Competition after Stage 5
1. ZABEL, Erik (Ger) Telekom 56 pts
2. CIPOLLINI, Mario (Ita) Acqua e Sapone 50 pts
3. PETACCHI, Alessandro (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 41 pts
4. DI LUCA, Danilo (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport 32 pts
5. EDO, Angel (Spa) Milaneza-MSS 32 pts
6. TRENTIN, Guido (Ita) Cofidis 27 pts
7. GARCIA CASAS, Félix (Spa) BigMat-Auber '93, 24 pts
Stage 6 is another tough day in the mountains with an uphill finish. This 153.1 km stage starts in Grenada and hits the first climb of the Cat 3 Alto de las Encebras at 43 km. There is then a largely downhill rolling section until the beginning of the Cat 2 Puerto de los Villares, an 11 km climb that hits at the 129 km mark.
After a moderate downslope of a few kilometers, the riders' respite ends as they must then tackle the Special Category Sierra de la Pander. This is the first time the Vuelta will go over this climb. The Sierra de la Pander is 8.3 km in length, and its lower slopes are the steepest. Within the first 500 meters of the climb it hits a steepness of 14%.
The climb is completely different from the one today, so we may see an entire new pack of men at the front tomorrow.
So be sure to join us right here, AND, we have a very special guest as our commentator tomorrow, who will be calling the race from the DP Chatroom! So be sure to join us!
Thanks for reading!