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Today's Stage 13 will be another day for the battle between the sprinters and the breakaway men. The 189.8 km course goes straight north through the central region of northern Spain.
The stage begins in Burgos and ends in Santander on the northern border, and takes in four categorized climbs along the way. That sounds like a lot of climbing, but it isn't, as the stage actually has a net descent of 880m on the day.
After some rolling terrain with some descents, the riders hit the Cat 3 Alto de Bocos at 79 km. They then move on to the only real difficulty of the day, the Cat 1 Alto Portillo de la Sia: the climb begins at the 99 km mark and last for 7 km, with the steepest gradient of 7.5% coming near the top.
After the climb there is a long descent that leads up to the final two climbs, the Cat 3 Alto Cruz Uzano at 135 km and the Cat 3 Alto Fuente de las Varas at 145 km.
After that, it's downhill and then flats for the final 44.8 km. A breakaway will have to have a big lead and work like hell to stay away on such straight and flat roads, but the many small climbs could provide enough of a springboard for a few no-name heroes to make us all smile with a win.
Especially with Cipollini out of the race, the breakaway men have better chances these days.
Jeroen Blijlevens (Domo) has just abandoned the race...more good news for the breakaway men, as Domo no longer has a sprinter to work for.
Pre-Race favorite Juan Miguel Mercado (iBanesto) has also abandoned after a miserable Vuelta. Fortunately, his teammates (especially Lastras) have picked up the slack for the team with some stellar attacks.
6:32 PDT, 132 km into the stage. There is a breakaway with over 9' on the peloton. The breakaway includes the following riders:
Santiago Blanco (iBanesto), Rui Sousa (Milaneza-MSS), Oscar Laguna (Relax), Dave Bruylandts (Domo), Pietro Caucchioli (Alessio), Marco Velo (Fassa Bortolo), Paolo Bossoni (Tacconi Sport), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Davide Bramati (Mapei), Fabrizio Guidi (Coast), Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis), Mariano Piccoli (Lampre), Andrej Hauptman (Tacconi), and Giovanni Lombardi (Acqua e Sapone).
The Kelmes lead the tempo in the peloton, but the men in the break are no threat to the lead. The best placed rider is Sousa, who is over 15' back.
In the break, the sprinters Lombardi, Hauptman, and Guidi are danger men for the stage win. They are on the final Cat 3 climb of the Alto Fuente de las Varas, and Blanco and Bruylandts are raising the tempo trying to drop the sprinters.
This break looks strong. If they can work together, they will stay away and fight for the stage win.
6:44 PDT: The peloton is behind the leaders by 9' 31". Kelme is still riding tempo, not chasing too hard but keeping the pace up. Six riders in the front group of 15 have broken away on the climb, but will likely be caught on the descent.
Fernando Escartin (Team Coast) has announced that he will retire at the end of the season after a long and illustrious career.
Laguna, Sousa, Blanco, and Bruylandts are in the group of six off the front of the breakaway. They have crested the climb. They now have 45 km to the finish, all downhill or flat.
Caucchioli and Pereiro are the other two men off the front of the breakaway.
6:51 PDT. 42 km left. The six leaders are flying on the descent. They are pursued by a group of 9 that includes three sprinters (Guidi, Lombardi, and Hauptmann) who will really want to catch back on.
Now an Euskaltel rider, Iker Flores, has attacked from the peloton as they head up the final climb. No response from the field yet.
The leading group of six is really flying, working well together. They know they have to cooperate to keep the sprinters behind them.
6:58 PDT. The peloton still does not care about the attacks. The Kelmes still set the pace. Seems like the peloton is already trembling in their underoos about the coming climb of the Angliru on Stage 15, as they are not wasting any energy. The lead group is 10' 04" ahead.
The peloton has now crested the final climb and is heading down the descent. No word on the position of Flores.
The lead group of six has 56" on the nine chasers. There are under 40 km left. Caucchioli is sitting on, not a wise move with the sprinters trying to hunt them down.
The lead group of six again is Blanco (iBanesto), Sousa (Milaneza-MSS), Caucchioli (Alessio), Bruylandts (Domo), Laguna (Relax), and Pereiro (Phonak).
Bruylandts is back shaking his hand at Caucchioli, talking to him in a way that is usually associated with Italians trying to make a point. So Bruylandts must be speaking Italian with his hands too while trying to convince Caucchioli to work.
Caucchiolo for his part ignores the Belgian, unimpressed by his gesticulations. Caucchiolo maintains his position as the passenger on the back of the train. Now Blanco comes back to try to force him to pull through.
Caucchioli looks over his shoulder to see if the sprinters are closing. He will likely counterattack and try to go it solo when the chasers get close. That's a big risk, and he'll have 14 angry men out for his hams.
7:11. PDT. Yawn. Kelme still leads the peloton, who couldn't give a rat's ass about the breakaway as they worry about the Angliru coming in two stages. Nine men chase a group of six men. The group of nine still has three sprinters, the group of six has five workers and a passenger. Still. The chasers have closed the gap to 28" with 28 km left.
This is a good move by all the teams who aren't in Kelme green. The Kermits are having to work on the front to keep the pace up and protect their two men at the top of the GC, Oscar Sevilla in the Gold Jersey and Aitor Gonzalez at 1" behind in 2nd place. They are spending a lot of energy despite the fact they aren't chasing hard.
There's going to be a lot of ham-gazing awards tonight. Like, pretty much everyone but Kelme...and the breakaways.
7:18 PDT. Last weekend at the San Rafael Criterium, I was chatting with Chris Wherry and Gord Fraser from Mercury about the two cheerleaders who come to many of their races to root them on. They agreed that cycling needed more of that. You know, cheerleaders. To keep things interesting and entertaining on days like today.
And the women in skimpy outfits and shaved legs would nicely balance out the herd of men in skimpy outfits and shaved legs. Everybody wins!
7:24 PDT. The five men at front still work hard with Caucchioli on their wheel, ass-watching. They haven't been caught by the chasers yet.
Blanco, Laguna, Sousa, Bruylandts, and Pereiro work a double pace-line with Caucchioli enjoying the view of the hams. They still have a 27" lead with about 20 km to go.
7:28 PDT. Mariano Piccoli (Lampre) is attacking with Velo (Fassa Bortolo) and Lombardi (Acqua e Sapone) from the chase group. These attacks have closed the gap! The leaders are all back together. There is an immediate counterattack by Bruylandts that is chased down by Laguna. Now that the group together again, the attacks and counterattacks are flying off!
Lombardi is off the front with Caucchioli, Velo, and Hauptmann. They have about 150 meters on the chasers. There are 10 km to go!
Check that, it is Paolo Bossoni of Tacconi Sport and not Hauptmann in the group of four off the front. Lombardi is the best sprinter in the group. All four men off the front are Italians, likely upset about my ethnic stereotyping earlier in the ticker and out to teach me a lesson. Or not.
7:36 PDT. 7 km to go. Interesting that Caucchioli is now working hard in a group with a sprinter, whereas earlier he was sitting on a group of climbers. Now the front four are breaking up, with Velo and Caucchioli trying to shed Lombardi. The group comes back together.
6 km left. A chasing group of 2 riders is 8" behind. With the front men now not cooperating, the two chasers have a good chance to catch back on.
Caucchioli is really hammering at the front now. The four men are working together again, for the moment. They are winding through the city streets crowded with fans, and now there are only 4 km to go.
7:40 PDT. Bossoni has a handy sprint, but Lombardi has to be the favorite with 3 km to go. The four men are holding their lead over the two unidentified chasers.
Caucchioli and Velo are doing the most turns right now. Lombardi actually looks to be struggling with the pace. Lombardi pushes Bossoni through, smacking his ham to get the Tacconi rider to take his turn.
7:43 PDT. The riders go under the 2 km banner, still working well together. Bossoni is pulling through after Lombardi. The pace is high.
The two chasers have caught on! They are coming into the finish!
Now here comes Lombardi! He takes the sprint easily, with Bramati from Mapei (one of the two chasers) taking 2nd.
So with Cipo out of the race, Lombardi takes advantage of his opportunity to ride for himself. He won a stage of this year's Giro in a similar breakaway, and now adds a Vuelta stage to his palmares as a wild zebra-man!
Stage 13 Results
1. Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) Acqua e Sapone @ 4h 11' 21"
2. Davide Bramati (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step @ ST
3. Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Tacconi Sport @ ST
4. Marco Velo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo @ ST
5. Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Alessio @ ST
6. Oscar Laguna (Spa) Relax-Fuenlabrada @ ST
7. Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak @ 18"
8. Andrej Hauptmann (Slo) Tacconi Sport @ 18"
9. Dmitri Fofonov (Kaz) Cofidis @ 22"
10. Alessandro Guerra (Ita) Index-Alexia @ 22"
11. Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Team Coast @ 22"
12. Mariano Piccoli (Ita) Lampre-Daikin @ 22"
13. Dave Bruylandts (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites @ 22"
14. Rui Miguel Sousa (Por) Milaneza-MSS @ 22"
15. Santiago Blanco (Spa) iBanesto.com @ 22"
16. Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) iBanesto.com @ 8' 19"
17. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo @ 8' 21"
18. Denis Zanette (Ita) Fassa Bortolo @ 8' 21"
19. Gerrit Glomser (Aut) Saeco-Longoni Sport @ 8' 21"
20. Carlos Torrent (Spa) Jazztel-Costa de Almeria @ 8' 21"
21. Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 8' 21"
22. Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 8' 21"
23. David Millar (GBr) Cofidis @ 8' 21"
GC After Stage 13
1. SEVILLA, Oscar (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca @45:51:22
2. GONZALEZ, Aitor(Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 1
3. HERAS, Roberto (Spa) US Postal @ 1:42
4. MAYO, Iban (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskaltel @ 2:04
5. BELOKI, Joseba (Spa) Once-Eroski @ 2:04
6. ZUBELDIA, Haimar (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 2:47
7. GARCIA CASAS, Félix (Spa) BigMat-Auber 93 @ 3:05
8. TRENTIN, Guido (Ita) Cofidis @ 3:34
9. MILLAR, David (GBr) Cofidis @ 3:36
10. JAKSCHE, Jörg (Ger) ONCE-Eroski @ 3:51
11. MÖLLER, Klaus (Den) Milaneza-MSS @ 3:52
12. CASAGRANDE, Francesco (Ita) Fassa Bortolo @ 3:57
13. BELTRAN, Manuel (Spa) Team Coast @ 4:12
14. SIMONI, Gilberto (Ita) Saeco-Longoni Sport @ 4:21
15. LASTRAS, Pablo (Spa) iBanesto.com @ 4:30
16. CASERO, Angel (Spa) Team Coast @ 4:51
17. ZARRABEITIA, Mikel (Spa) ONCE-Eroski @ 5:47
18. JEKER, Fabian (Sui) Milaneza-MSS @ 5:51
19. ESCARTIN, Fernando (Spa) Team Coast @ 6:28
20. SOUSA, Rui Miguel (Por) Milaneza-MSS @ 7:23
Points after Stage 13
1. ZABEL, Erik GER TEL 112 pts
2. PETACCHI, Alessandro ITA FAS 94 pts
3. GONZALEZ, Aitor ESP KEL 86 pts
4. LASTRAS, Pablo ESP BAN 70 pts
5. DI LUCA, Danilo ITA SAE 64 pts
Climbing after Stage 13
1. SIMONI, Gilberto ITA SAE 67 pts
2. GARCIA CASAS, Félix ESP BIG 50 pts
3. HERAS, Roberto ESP USP 44 pts
4. CLAIN, Mederic FRA COF 42 pts
5. SEVILLA, Oscar ESP KEL 39 pts
Team Competition after Stage 13
1. Team Coast @ 137:39:59
2. Kelme - Costa Blanca @ 37
3. Milaneza - MSS @ 3:47
4. Once - Eroski @ 5:21
5. Cofidis @ 7:23
In a very big development, Team Coast has overtaken Kelme-Costa Blanca by 37" in the team competition. The winner of this competition gets an automatic invite to all of the Grand Tours. Coast will likely go all out to win this and ensure their place in next year's Tour de France after getting shafted this year.
Milaneza-MSS jumped to third in this competition at 3' 47" behind. They have some great climbers and time-trial riders, so they could also pose a threat here.
This concludes the Stage 13 live coverage. Tomorrow's stage is a dead flat 190.2km, but beware L'Angliru the following day. Please join us tomorrow and thank you for reading!