Welcome to live coverage of Stage 9 of the Vuelta Espana.
Today the third of a group of three mountain stages, with another uphill finish into the famous Envalira.
Commentary by Andy McDobbin and Janna Trevisanut.
As we join the race, the riders are approximately 90 km into this 174.8 km stage; they climbed the Bonaigua early on, and now are approaching the second climb, the Port de Canto.
There was a group of 19 riders off the front at about the 50 km mark, but this group split with Benjamin Noval of Relax Fuenlabrada, Gorka Gonzalea (Euskaltel) and Jorge Ferrio (Paternina) ahead of the other escapees.
Now the escapees have rearranged and there are nine leaders:
Noval, Ferrio, Gorka Gonzalez, Aitor Osa (Banesto), Felix Cardenas (LaBarca), Fabian Jeker (Milaneza), yesterday's winner Joaquin Rodriguez (ONCE), Vladimir Belli (Lampre) and Bram Tankink (Quickstep).
6:15 am PDT.These escapees have just about 2:50 on the peloton as they reach the top of the Port del Canto.
The riders are at the 95 km mark, at the top of the climb which is where the feed zone is located.
Escapee Cardenas lies at 14th on GC, down 6:21.
ONCE at the front of the pack, the escapees are 2:30 ahead of the pack. The escapees are flying down the descent, with Noval, Garcia Acosta and G. Gonzalez in front of the breakaway. The Spaniards have a slender 20" advantage.
6:35 am PDT. 110 km covered. Marooned between the peloton and the breakaway leaders is Quick Step German starlet Patrik Sinkewitz - look out for him in the future.
There has been some question about Angel Casero, who has not done well so far in this race. He apparently has been ill, and visited the medical car early in the race today, as did Kelme's Oscar Sevilla, who is still suffering from his injuries earlier in the week. Sevilla commented the other day that he is quite bruised - his elbow and hip are bothering him, though he is feeling a little better each day.
Felix Cardenas, who had to transfer from 05 Orbitel to Labarca-2-Cafe Baque just to race the Vuelta, has announced him ambitions to animate the race in the mountains: 'to put on a good show, to win a stage and to win the mountains jersey'.
6:40 am PDT. 116 km covered. The three have been bridged by a fourth. A rider from the break may win today - possibly Cardenas, though Cardenas is not among the front four. However, the gap allowed will ensure that Nozal (or Gonzalez de Galdeano to take it) keeps his golden jersey.
The front four are Gorka Gonzalez, Garcia Acosta, Jeker and Ferrio. There other escapees are in no man's land.
I must say (a bit of journalistic bias) that I love riders who animate races, either on the flat or in the mountains - Glen d'Hollander and Jacky Durand are the more celebrated ones on the flat, but it seems only the Spanish-speaking teams (Orbitel, Euskaltel, Kelme, iBanesto, ONCE) do it in the mountains.
Milaneza of course too... but the doping incidents have bashed their image somewhat this year.
6:48 am PDT. 48 km to go. The riders away are fragmented with Noval and Belli now bridging up to the very front riders. The peloton is approximately 2:48 behind the leaders. In the break: Navas, Noval. G. Gonzalez, Jeker, Belli, Ferrio.
Back in the peloton, Phonak's Oscar Pereiro is receiving treatment from the race doctor - for what we don't know.
Adrall Intermediate Sprint at km 120: Gorka Gonzalez, Fabian Jeker, David Navas. The riders are now approaching the small mountain principality of Andorra. The peloton 1:43 behind.
Alex Zulle has abandoned. The Phonak man had already hinted at retirement...
7:03 am PDT. 130 km covered, 46 km remaining. The gap is down to 1'30" - ONCE are throwing caution to the wind and charging after this sextet: they want everything to be together for the final climb, clearly.
135 km covered. 'Orange Man' Gorka Gonzalez has clipped off the front of the break for a bit, and holds a lead of about 20 seconds. The gap is falling - it's now 1:09.
The race is now in Andorra. Of the riders resisting the chase in front, Belli and Jeker should be looked out for as arguably the best climbers - but if ONCE keep up the pace, they won't have much of a stage win chance.
Gonzalez has fifteen seconds' lead on the five chasers. La Barca at the front of the peloton.
7:10 am PDT. 31 km to go. Gorka Gonzalez takes the points at the Sant Eloi intermediate sprint. Navas, Noval. Garcia Acosta, Jeker, Belli chasing. The other no man's land riders are falling back to the peloton.
Second and third through the intermediate sprint were Ferrio and Navas. Gonzalez has 30 seconds on his chasers.
7:21 am PDT. 148 km covered. La Barca working hard to hopefully ensure a stage win for Cardenas and to chase down Euskaltel's Gorka Gonzalez. The escapees have reached the base of the final climb, which is very, very long - 29 kms.
Leipheimer is working on the front of the bunch, as are Jaksche and Pradera. Millar may also be forcing things at the front. The steepest part of this climb is 9%.
ONCE seems not to be at the front of the pack anymore, though they have driven the peloton today. Now will be the final set up for this climb - for the climbers such as Heras, Perez of Cofidis, Cardenas. Six or seven riders have a small gap off the front of the peloton.
7:35 am PDT. 156 km covered. Gorka Gonzalez has been caught at the base of the climb. Two or three riders are off the front of the pack - Quickstep's Van Goolen and Banesto's Piepoli and perhaps Rebollo of Fuenlabrada.
Aitor Gonzalez attacks, and is followed by Heras, just like yesterday. Cofidis' Perez and Rabo's Rasmussen, who have been animators the past several days, follow.
Kelme at the front of the peloton. Van Goolen and Piepoli still off the front of the pack. Cardenas attacks with Unai Osa.
7:47 am PDT. 15 km to go. Alejandro Valverde, the hope of Kelme and Spanish cycling, has shot off the front, dancing on the pedals in an attempt to get away. Van Goolen and Piepoli have about 20 seconds.
Valverde is caught by the peloton, as Piepoli stays with Van Goolen (another young talent for Quick Step), doing little work. If they get to the finish together, it might unfortunately be a case of Piepoli blasting past his Belgian companion to take the glory.
Daniel Atienza of Cofidis leads 2 ONCEs in chasing this duo.
7:53 am PDT. Several small groups out in front - Valverde has escaped again, with Aitor Osa (iBanesto), Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel) and the irrepressible Cardenas (Labarca). Van Goolen and Piepoli out in front.
Van Goolen accelerates! Now here comes 'gruppo Valverde', 35 seconds down - under the 10k flag.
The thinning pack, meanwhile, is 1'07" down.
Gonzalez de Galdeano is second wheel behind his teammate.... Heras is right alongside him though. Rasmussen still hanging in.
Under the 9km banner, Heras and Beltran are looking to split the group! IGG pushing it, Perez too.
Heras goes - Rasmussen, Perez and - wow - Nozal are right up with him, though!
Just under 8 km to go. Two riders still away...Van Goolen and Piepoli. A Kelme and iBanesto man link up with these top climbers - Van Goolen is still doing all the work, ahead of the old hand Piepoli. 22 seconds down.
Gonzalez de Galdeano is there, in the Heras group - Laiseka tries grimly to hang on. The road is wide and in good condition, making this a faster climb than on the poorer condition roads we see in other races. Van Goolen working so hard...There's some talking between the ONCEs in the chasing group of favourites, which is about 15 strong.
Up front, Van Goolen and Piepoli have been caught by Valverde, Osa and Cardenas!
It's just 19" between the favourites and this quintet - Valverde is only four minutes down on GC and ONCE will not let him get any time, evidently.
6km to go now, the gap is 22". Cardenas leads the group around a roundabout as they battle to resist the chasing efforts behind them.
Gonzalez de Galdeano is spearheading the chasing effort with 'Ice Man' Dario Frigo in his wheel. The peloton is splintered.
28" is the gap as Luis Perez of Cofidis goes on the attack once more!
Unai Osa accelerates and gets a small gap on his companions, but almost as quickly they reel him in.
8:10 am PDT. But he tries again and has an advantage under the 4km to go banner!
Beltran and Gonzalez de Galdeano have been dropped!!!!
Heras winds it up, alongside Aitor Gonzalez! How is Nozal doing this? He's still with them!
Gonzalez de Galdeano is back on with Beltran, whilst Rasmussen accelerates! Rasmussen crosses over!
Inside 3 km. He catches the Cardenas group and leaves them like statues! Great Danes! Now a crash!
Gonzalez de Galdeano is yo-yoing on and off! Heras puts the hammer down meanwhile, but Nozal and Perez are there on his wheel!
Gonzalez now latches on to Beltran's wheel at the back - he looks in trouble though. The leaders have caught the four breakaways! TerminAITOR sets the pace, his tongue lolling, his pedals whirring.
2km, Rasmussen is back in too! Will it be a sprint? Or will the climbers attack like there's no tomorrow? It was a Kelme rider down, don't know who.
Gonzalez is still ripping away, trying to shred up this group - Rasmussen is on his wheel vigilantly. Now it's windy.
Felix Cardenas charges - he has that gleam in his eye: he wants the glory of a stage win!
Piepoli latches on, but the contenders are there... it's so close! Final kilometer!
Under the flamme rouge, Osa hitches on! Gonzalez de Galdeano and Beltran have been DROPPED!
Gonzalez is chasing after them - it's all Aitor! Frigo goes! Here's Cardenas! Frigo starts it with Cardenas.... here comes Valverde!
Valverde takes it, by a good three lengths and raises his arms, delighted! Frigo 2nd, an iBanesto third.
1. Valverde, 2. Frigo, 3, 4, 5 iBanesto. I think Gonzalez de Galdeano and Nozal were 6th and 7th... I think Igor got back on...Piepoli, with the unshaven head, 4th I think.
Amazing - Valverde, having attacked twice, is the sprinter of the group and he just flew across the line! This young man can time trial, sprint and climb - is it possible we have a 'little Cannibal' in the making here?
Beltran and Gonzalez de Galdeano were 30 seconds or so down. The rest of the peloton are to come in, and again we have the time cut situation today, as several riders have not made it the past two stages.
Nozal kept in there, incredibly....I don't think he will win but if he keeps up like this a podium placing is possible. Kelme, who have had their finances audited by the government after troubles last year, will be delighted with their 'other' star's victory.
Baden Cooke won the 1.1 GP Fourmies this afternoon in France, by the way.
Nozal maintains the Golden Fleece. Thank you for joining us today on this tremendous stage - what an effort!
Stage 9 Full Results
1º Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel 4:48:36
2º Frigo, Dario Ita Fas a 1
3º Osa, Unai Esp Ban a 3
4º Piepoli, Leonardo Ita Ban m.t.
5º Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ban m.t.
6º Cardenas, Felix Col L2c m.t.
7º Nozal, Isidro Esp One m.t.
8º Scarponi, Michele Ita Dve m.t.
9º Gonzalez, Aitor Esp Fas m.t.
10º Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab m.t.
11º Perez, Luis Esp Cof a 13
12º Heras, Roberto Esp Usp m.t.
13º Gonzalez, Santos Esp Dve m.t.
14º Glez. Galdeano, Igor Esp One a 30
15º Beltran, Manuel Esp Usp m.t.
16º Del Olmo, Txema Esp Mil m.t.
17º Pereiro, Oscar Esp Pho a 58
18º Van Goolen, Jurgen Bel Qsd a 59
19º Serrano, Marcos Esp One a 1:46
20º Jufre, José Esp Crf a 2:11
21º Sevilla, Oscar Esp Kel a 2:16
22º Calvente, Manuel Esp Csc m.t.
23º Flores, Iker Esp Eus a 3:05
24º Gutierrez , José Esp Kel m.t.
25º Montgomery, Sven Sui Fas m.t.
26º Amorim, Gonçalo Por Mil m.t.
27º Trentin, Guido Ita Cof m.t.
28º Martinez, Alberto Esp Eus a 3:12
29º Garcia Casas, Félix Esp Tbi a 3:28
30º Laiseka, Roberto Esp Eus a 4:49
31º Cardoso, Pedro Por Mil a 5:18
32º Lopez, Joaquin Esp Alm a 5:33
33º Cuesta, Iñigo Esp Cof a 6:08
34º Werner, Christian Ger Tel a 8:27
35º Torrent, Carlos Esp Alm a 10:18
36º Casero, Rafael Esp Alm a 12:34
37º Joachim, Benoit Lux Usp m.t.
38º Guidi, Fabrizio Ita Tbi m.t.
39º Silva, Renato Por Mil m.t.
40º Ferrio, Jorge Esp Alm m.t.
41º Atienza, Daniel Esp Cof m.t.
42º Pospyeyev, Kyryl Ukr Dve m.t.
43º Gerrikagoitia, Gorka Esp Eus m.t.
44º Zaballa, Constantino Esp Kel m.t.
45º Gonzalez, Gorka Esp Eus m.t.
46º Fernandez, Bingen Esp Cof m.t.
47º Lopez, David Esp L2c m.t.
48º Azevedo, José Por One a 13:44
49º Golbano, Carlos Esp Alm a 17:01
50º Leipheimer, Levy Usa Rab a 19:50
51º Garcia Calvo, Cesar Esp L2c
52º Vila, Francisco Esp Lam
53º Garate, Juan Manuel Esp Lam
54º Navas, David Esp Crf
55º Sanchez, Domingo Esp Alm
56º Edo, Angel Esp Mil
57º Horrach, Joan Esp Mil
58º Tankink, Bram Ned Qsd
59º Jaksche, Jörg Ger One
60º Van De Wouwer, Kurt Bel Qsd
61º Jeker, Fabian Sui Mil
62º Jimenez, Eladio Esp Ban
63º Barry ,Michael Can Usp
64º Lastras, Pablo Esp Ban
65º Lara, Francisco José Esp Tbi
66º Latasa, David Esp Kel
67º Luttenberger, Peter Aut Csc
68º Rodriguez, Joaquin Esp One
69º Hincapie, George Usa Usp
70º Arrieta, José Luis Esp Ban
71º De Los Angeles, Juan José Esp Fas
72º Möller, Klaus Den Mil
73º Martinez, José Luis Esp Alm
74º Farazjin, Peter Bel Cof
75º Arrizabalaga, Gorka Esp Eus
76º Blanco, Santiago Esp Crf
77º Martin Perdiguero, Miguel Esp Dve all same time
78º Zabel, Erik Ger Tel a 27:12
79º Bertolini, Alessandro Ita Als
80º Wesemann, Steffan Ger Tel
81º Aebersold, Niki Sui Pho
82º Engels, Addy Ned Rab
83º Belli, Wladimir Ita Lam
84º Barroso, Paulo Por Mil
85º Hiekmann, Torsten Ger Tel
86º Horrillo, Pedro Esp Qsd
87º Cabello, Francisco Esp Kel
88º Fuentes, Juan Esp Sae
89º Grabsch, Bert Ger Pho
90º Rebollo, Jose Luis Esp Crf
91º Cañada, David Esp Qsd
92º Tauler, Antonio Esp Kel
93º Mercado, Juan Miguel Esp Ban
94º Zberg, Beat Sui Rab
95º Otero, Gustavo Esp L2c
96º Noval, Benjamín Esp Crf
97º Van Heeswijk, Max Ned Usp
98º De La Fuente, David Esp Vin
99º Garcia Acosta, José Esp Ban
100º Astarloa, Igor Esp Sae
101º Pradera, Mikel Esp One
102º Julich, Bobby Usa Tel
103º Hruska, Jan Cze One
104º Perez, Santiago Esp Pho
105º Fofonov, Dmitri Kaz Cof
106º Boonen, Tom Bel Qsd
107º Mutsaars, Ronald Ned Rab
109º Bayarri, Gonzalo Esp Pho
110º Gustov, Volodymir Ukr Fas
111º Cheula, Giampaolo Ita Vin
112º Vicioso, Angel Esp One
113º Sinkewitz, Patrick Ger Qsd
114º Laguna, Oscar Esp Crf
115º Herrero, Ivan Esp L2c
116º Cerezo, Francisco Esp L2c
117º Bertoletti, Simone Ita Lam
118º Pugaci, Igor Mda Sae
119º Pepoli, Christian Ita Sae
120º Piccoli, Mariano Ita Lam
121º Etxebarria, David Esp Eus
122º Bertogliati, Rubens Sui Lam
123º Burgos, Nacor Esp Crf
124º Landis, Floyd Usa Usp
125º Petacchi, Alessandro Ita Fas
126º Schreck, Stephan Ger Tel
127º Isasi, Iñaki Esp Eus
128º Sandstod, Michael Den Csc
129º Mondini, Gianpaolo Ita Dve
130º Lunghi, Denis Ita Als
131º Garcia Quesada, Carlos Esp Kel
132º Rubiera, José Luis Esp Usp
133º Nieto, Germán Esp Crf
134º Manzano, Jesus Maria Esp Kel
135º Schweda, Raphael Ger Tbi
136º Zucconi, Pietro Sui Vin
137º Gomez Gozalo, José Javier Esp L2c
138º Etxebarria, Unai Ven Eus
139º Osa, Aitor Esp Ban
140º Garmendia, Aitor Esp Tbi
141º Moreni, Cristian Ita Als
142º Sironi, Gianluca Ita Vin
143º Diaz Lobato, Pedro Esp Alm
144º White, Matthew Aus Usp
145º Millar, David Gbr Cof
146º Lombardi, Giovanni Ita Dve
147º Casero, Angel Esp Tbi
148º Rund, Thorsten Ger Tbi
149º Bruun, Thomas Den Csc
150º De Jongh, Steven Ned Rab
151º Christensen, Bekim Den Csc
152º Sorensen, Nicki Den Csc
153º Sastre, Carlos Esp Csc
154º Simeoni, Filippo Ita Dve
155º Hayman, Mathew Aus Rab
156º Masciarelli, Simone Ita Vin
157º Usov, Alexandre Blr Pho
158º Righi, Daniele Ita Lam
159º Perez, Sergio Esp L2c
160º Lopeboselli, Angelo Ita Cof
161º Trenti, Guido Usa Fas
162º Virenque, Richard Fra Qsd
163º Tosatto, Matteo Ita Fas
164º Boven, Jan Ned Rab
165º Rodriguez, Fred Usa Vin
166º Ivanov, Serguei Rus Fas
167º Gutierrez, Francisco Esp L2c
168º Bucciero, Antonio Ita Sae
169º Calcagni, Patrick Sui Vin
170º Furlan, Angelo Ita Als
171º Maestre, José Esp Crf
172º Kroon, Karsten Ned Rab
173º Vinale, Alberto Ita Als all same time
174º Casagranda, Stefano Ita Als a 27:52
General Classification after Stage 9
1º Nozal, Isidro Esp One 29:46:47
2º Glez. Galdeano, Igor Esp One a 1:48
3º Beltran, Manuel Esp Usp a 2:01
4º Rigo, Dario Ita Fas a 3:05
5º Heras, Roberto Esp Usp a 3:28
6º Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ban a 3:40
7º Gonzalez, Aitor Esp Fas a 4:00
8º Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel a 4:00
9º Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab a 4:04
10º Osa, Unai Esp Ban a 4:14
11º Perez, Luis Esp Cof a 4:25
12º Scarponi, Michele Ita Dve a 5:52
13º Cardenas, Felix Col L2c a 6:21
14º Gonzalez, Santos Esp Dve a 8:56
15º Serrano, Marcos Esp One a 9:10
16º Del Olmo, Txema Esp Mil a 9:18
17º Garcia Casas, Félix Esp Tbi a 9:18
18º Flores, Iker Esp Eus a 10:02
19º Sevilla, Oscar Esp Kel a 10:40
20º Pereiro, Oscar Esp Pho a 13:00
21º Trentin, Guido Ita Cof a 13:20
22º Jufre, José Esp Crf a 20:10
23º Piepoli, Leonardo Ita Ban a 23:17
24º Cuesta, Iñigo Esp Cof a 25:07
25º Calvente, Manuel Esp Csc a 25:42
Points Classification after Stage 9
1º Nozal, Isidro Esp One 59
2º Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel 57
3º Rodriguez, Joaquin Esp One 57
4º Perez, Luis Esp Cof 55
5º Etxebarria, Unai Ven Eus 53
6º Cardenas, Felix Col L2c 51
7º Petacchi, Alessandro Ita Fas 50
8º Glez. Galdeano, Igor Esp One 49
9º Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab 46
10º Frigo, Dario Ita Fas 44
11º Zabel, Erik Ger Tel 42
12º Etxebarria, David Esp Eus 40
13º Zaballa, Constantino Esp Kel 35
14º Beltran, Manuel Esp Usp 34
15º Osa, Unai Esp Ban 33
16º Hruska, Jan Cze One 32
17º Edo, Angel Esp Mil 30
18º Osa, Aitor Esp Ban 24
19º Gonzalez, Aitor Esp Fas 22
20º Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ban 21
21º Sastre, Carlos Esp Csc 20
22º Horrach, Joan Esp Mil 20
23º Millar, David Gbr Cof 20
24º Jufre, José Esp Crf 18
25º Vicioso, Angel Esp One 17
Climbing Classification after Stage 9
1º Cardenas, Felix Col L2c 132
2º Osa, Aitor Esp Ban 106
3º Horrach, Joan Esp Mil 97
4º Perez, Luis Esp Cof 62
5º Jufre, José Esp Crf 55
6º Rodriguez, Joaquin Esp One 49
7º Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel 42
8º Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab 37
9º Osa, Unai Esp Ban 36
10º Zaballa, Constantino Esp Kel 34
11º Etxebarria, Unai Ven Eus 31
12º Nozal, Isidro Esp One 31
13º Frigo, Dario Ita Fas 29
14º Jeker, Fabian Sui Mil 28
15º Piepoli, Leonardo Ita Ban 27
16º Jimenez, Eladio Esp Ban 22
17º Heras, Roberto Esp Usp 21
18º Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ban 18
19º Etxebarria, David Esp Eus 17
20º Lunghi, Denis Ita Als 17
21º Scarponi, Michele Ita Dve 14
22º Sastre, Carlos Esp Csc 12
23º Ferrio, Jorge Esp Alm 12
24º Pereiro, Oscar Esp Pho 11
25º Lara, Francisco José Esp Tbi 11
Teams Classification after Stage 9
1º Once - Eroski ONE 89:24:16
2º IBanesto.com BAN a 3:01
3º Kelme - Costa Blanca KEL a 16:17
4º Euskaltel - Euskadi EUS a 20:39
5º Cofidis, le credit par telephone COF a 24:21
6º Milaneza - MSS MIL a 34:21
7º Fassa Bortolo FAS a 42:39
8º Domina Vacanze-Elitron-RDZ DVE a 49:02
9º US Postal Service Berry Floor USP a 1:01:57
10º Quick Step - Davitamon QSD a 1:40:46
11º Team CSC CSC a 1:54:27
12º Labarca-2 Cafe Baque L2C a 2:00:35
13º Paternina - Costa de Almeria ALM a 2:03:15
14º Team Bianchi TBI a 2:09:19
15º Colchon Relax - Fuenlabrada CRF a 2:13:08
16º Rabobank RAB a 2:27:40
17º Lampre LAM a 2:31:39
18º Phonak Hearing Systems PHO a 2:51:09
19º Team Telekom TEL a 3:04:00
20º Alessio ALS a 3:46:51
21º Saeco - Longoni Sport SAE a 4:35:20
22º Saunier Duval - Vini Caldirola VIN a 4:49:14