Welcome to live coverage of the Vuelta Espana - today is Stage 12.
So today is going to be a classic sprintfest, barring major sprinter apathy. The 169km course from Cuenca to Albacete has one climb early, a Cat 3 that ends at 16km, then it's nothing but downhill and flats, and maybe a minor uphill bump or two, until the finish. Erik Zabel will be looking to spank his rivals once again, but this course actually favors a man like Petacchi a bit more.
Commentary by Locutus and Jaime Nichols.
6:36 am PDT. As we begin our coverage, there is a four man break that includes Constantino Zaballa (Kelme-Costa Blanca), Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Domina Vacanze-Elitron), Paulo Barroso (Milaneza-MSS), and Pedro Diaz Lobato (Paternina-Costa de Almeria).
Well, yesterday there was some confusion as to which Postie had crashed. As it turns out, neither crashed: Heras had to clip out because of a crash, but never went down. This was at the bottom of the climb near the end, and Heras was able to fly up and lose no time.
However, Beltran was caught napping when the field split, and he ended up losing 1' 02", but he was not in a crash either.
Perez (Cofidis) went down in the crash, and had to be helped by his teammate Bingen Fernandez (Cofidis). Perez lost 1' 02", as well as some bark. Perez has been a powerful man in the race so far, so that time loss has got to hurt.
79km left. The break has had a lead of over 5' for awhile. We're waiting for the most recent time gap.
The latest word on the break: their gap is now under 4', and a fierce crosswind is messing with the field. Postal is up near the front of the pack en masse, likely trying to avoid more time losses like yesterday. Spain is beautiful today, by the way.
The peloton is a bit stretched out as Bianchi and Domina Vacanze teams drive the chase. The riders are through the feed zone now. There are some oinking and tearing noises. (Just kidding.) Now, there are a bunch of riders at the front putting the hammer down trying to break away and split up the field in the wind. ONCE is trying to keep things together.
The crosswinds could be pretty dangerous today, and there are a few men gapping off the back.
The gap is now down to 2' 20".
There are some guys in this field who are gonna need some bold moves to make it happen at this point.
Milaneza, Domina Vacanze, and Kelme have been sending men up the road a lot over the last few days, despite the fact that all have ace sprinters. Likely, they are trying to force Fassa Bortolo and Telekom to burn their matches in the chasing.
6:52 am PDT. The break is down a lot. They are in the same straight stretch of road as the peloton. The lead is down to just over a minute or so. US Postal is moving to the front of the pack...
The men in the break are sitting up a bit, looking over their shoulders now. It won't be long. The gap is 57".
The breakaway is in sight, and the peloton is bearing down on the four escapados.
The Fassa Bortolo men are speaking Italian with their hands at the front of the peloton, planning what to do next. Keep a grip on those handlebars, boys!
7:01 am PDT. 61km left The group is all together, rolling along with the Fassa Bortolo men at the point. More attacks will certainly start any minute. On a side note, Lance is thinking of riding the Tour de Georgia! That will be SOOOOO good for that race.
The riders are on a mild up-slope, and they are getting a bit more strung out. Lots of Kelmes and a Telekom or two near the front as well.
The wind is driving the pack into a wedge at the front, and the main field is keeping it close together...Jose Martinez (Paternina-Costa de Almeria) and Michael Sandstod (CSC) go on the attack.
They get a gap of about 100m, but they have their work cut out for them.
7:11am PDT. 53km left. Sandstod and Martinez are now sitting up to wait for the peloton. US Postal is right there at the front of the peloton, watching things to make sure that a field split doesn't cost them more time.
Other news: "Big House" Casagrande has signed for Lampre for 2004. It was a bit of a special 33rd birthday present for him, which was a couple of days ago. The Tuscan has 52 wins in his pro career.
The peloton is now strung out. The pace is up, and it looks like US Postal is on the front driving it! They are trying to split up the field. They are hammering very hard.
They have seven men on the front driving it. All hands on deck for Postal. They are trying to see what kind of damage they can do in the crosswinds.
The field is splitting! Most of the field is being left behind!
There is a gap of about 50 meters, and there are about 40 men up in the front group. It's going to be a tough day for those caught behind.
Benoit Joachim in his Luxembourg Champion Jersey pulls off, making way for the Big Rig, George Hincapie. They are still hammering.
The gap is HUGE! This could be a major move!
Cofidis and Milaneza are driving the rear group. That means Perez and Moller must be caught behind! Postal is all over the front of the lead group. The hammer is down, and ONCE is massed behind them. The gap is 30".
Some ONCE men are now mixing it with the Posties... they must like this split as well.
The second group on the road is a long thin line.... they're in trouble. The wind has split that back group again!
The wind is coming from the left, so Postal has gone to the right hand side of the road so that there is little shelter for the men behind. They are still in their double-echelon team time trial formation. The back group is being blown to pieces. Small groups are now split all over the road! It is chaos!
7:25am PDT. Frigo is in the 3rd group off the back! This is a disaster for him!
Aitor Gonzalez is in that third group as well.
Meanwhile, Oscar Sevilla is in the front group, as are Zabel and Petacchi! The big Postal and ONCE men are all in the front group. They are really wanting to put time in on Frigo.
The gaps aren't opening, but they are all chasing hard, and nothing's happening for them.
The front group with Heras, Beltran, Nozal, and Gonzalez de Galdeano has just under 30" on the Frigo group.
7:31 am PDT. 30km left. The gap is opening... Domina Vacanze is helping drive the front group. Even the big names like Nozal, Heras, and Gonzalez de Galdeano are taking turns in the wind to set the pace! The pack is changing direction, and with that, the wind... Postal is on the front of the first group on the road and they are driving it!
The road is flat from here to the finish. With the two big sprinters and several big GC riders, as well as the team time trial experts Postal and ONCE in that front group, it looks very possible that this front group could take huge time by the end of the stage.
The second two groups on the road have come together, and they are mounting a solid chase; still, the time gap has opened up... Kelme and Frigo are driving that 2nd group of riders. The gap is growing.
Valverde (Kelme) is caught in that 2nd group. He's currently 7th on GC.
Frigo and Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) are on the front, driving that 2nd group. They're not getting much help from that group in the chase. They are getting help from Valverde and some Milaneza men. But that's it.
The gap is 40" between the two group.
7:40am PDT. 25 km to go. There's a lot of fight in that first group, and the second hasn't given up quite yet...There are a lot more men working in that 2nd group now. It looks like a couple of Alessio men are now lending a hand. The speed is 44kph.
Giovanni Lombardi (Domina Vacanze) and Fred Rodriguez (Vini Caldirola) are in that front group. There are a lot of good sprinters there.
20km left. The gap is now at 38". It is staying about the same.
There are about a dozen men taking turns in that 2nd group. Several of the top fifteen men on GC have missed the front group. But even more men are coming to help in the first group as well.
Mixed into all of the Posties are a few iBanesto riders (working for Mancebo, who is himself taking turns on the front), a Rabobank rider, a Domina Vacanze rider, and a few others. This is a vicious race today!
Mancebo can really benefit from this split if it holds. Beltran pulls through on the front, and now Hincapie, Santos Gonzalez, Mancebo... truly a lot of big names are putting the hammer down in that front group.
At the back of the 2nd group are Landis (US Postal) and a few Telekom men, who are happy to see their team leaders well up the road.
It will be interesting to see what kind of effect all this hard riding has on the time trial tomorrow. Several of the big GC men are putting their noses into the wind today, and this could sap their legs for tomorrow. ONCE is no longer helping in that front group. Interesting.
7:55 am PDT. 13km left. It is mainly Postal still driving that front group, and the gap is 42" now. Postal has 7 riders in that break, and they are working HARD up there to create a gap for their leaders.
The crosswinds are now coming from the right, making things rough. The gap is at 45", at 12km to go.
George HIncapie is driving it at the front of the pack... Big George started the Vuelta a little bit on the wrong foot. He had good fitness before the race, but he tells the DP that he got a stomach bug the day before the TTT.
"It pretty much wiped me out" he says. "The first week, I did not feel good at all."
But there's good news, George fans... he's feeling better now, and in the past few days, we've seen him up in the action.
7:59 am PDT. 9km left. The gap is 46". This split is still looking good. It is mainly the domestiques who are doing all the work in the front group now.
With Petacchi, Zabel, Rodriguez, and Lombardi in this front group, the sprint should be spectacular.
8:02 am PDT. 7km left. Heras is sitting on, and his group has a 43" lead still. Heras will climb up the GC a bit if this holds.
Nozal and Gonzalez de Galdeano have been sitting on for a long time now. They will have fresh legs for the ITT tomorrow.
5km left. The gap is now 45". Postal still drives the front group, with the few men from other teams mixed in.
Under 4km left. This group will stay away. It's just a matter of how much time they take. The gap is growing! It is now 49".
3km left. Big Matt White is pounding the pedals for Postal on the front. Hincapie pulls through, and they are firing off like a well-oiled machine. Their gap is now grown to 54".
They are now in the final kilometer. Hincapie leads through the corner.
Now an Euskaltel rider attacks! But here come the sprinters! Rodriguez attacks! Here comes Petacchi! It is close! Zabel and Petacchi will go to the photo finish. Petacchi thinks he won.
Now here comes Aitor Gonzalez leading the 2nd group. They come in, down by 1' 08"! Amazing!
What a move by US Postal! They put the hurt on a lot of the GC threats, and put their two climbers in a much stronger position to take the podium with a dangerously long time trial tomorrow. Also, they forced many of their rivals to burn matches before the time trial.
ONCE came out the best today. They gained time with little work, Nozal and Gonzalez de Galdeano.
Petacchi wins it by a tire!
Petacchi came down the right-hand side, with Zabel trying to come around him on the left. Zabel's 2nd place will keep him in the Polka-Dot Points Jersey.
So Petacchi has three wins to Zabel's two wins. And there are still a few opportunities for a sprint finishes before Madrid. This is getting very interesting.
1. Petacchi, 2. Zabel, 3. Fred Rodriguez. Great to see Fred right there too.
Man, that was just like a tread-length victory by Petacchi, not even a tire. It was by the hair on his knuckles that he won.
Thanks for joining us today, and be here tomorrow for the time trial.
Stage 12 Results
1║ Petacchi, Alessandro Ita Fas 3:41:49
2║ Zabel, Erik Ger Tel ám.t.
3║ Rodriguez, Fred Usa Vin ám.t.
4║ Bertolini, Alessandro Ita Als ám.t.
5║ Schweda, Raphael Ger Tbi ám.t.
6║ Vicioso, Angel Esp One ám.t.
7║ Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ban ám.t.
8║ Barry ,Michael Can Usp ám.t.
9║ Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab ám.t.
10║ Sevilla, Oscar Esp Kel ám.t.
11║ Heras, Roberto Esp Usp ám.t.
12║ Nozal, Isidro Esp One ám.t.
13║ Lastras, Pablo Esp Ban ám.t.
14║ Lombardi, Giovanni Ita Dve ám.t.
15║ Arrieta, JosÚ Luis Esp Ban ám.t.
16║ Glez. Galdeano, Igor Esp One ám.t.
17║ Perez, Luis Esp Cof ám.t.
18║ Beltran, Manuel Esp Usp ám.t.
19║ Etxebarria, Unai Ven Eus ám.t.
20║ Rund, Thorsten Ger Tbi ám.t.
21║ Joachim, Benoit Lux Usp ám.t.
22║ Gonzalez, Santos Esp Dve ám.t.
23║ Pradera, Mikel Esp One ám.t.
24║ Hayman, Mathew Aus Rab a 16
25║ Hincapie, George Usa Usp a 22
26║ Rubiera, JosÚ Luis Esp Usp a 41
27║ White, Matthew Aus Usp a 1:01
28║ Boonen, Tom Bel Qsd a 1:09
29║ Lopeboselli, Angelo Ita Cof a 1:09
30║ Ca˝ada, David Esp Qsd ám.t.
31║ Herrero, Ivan Esp L2c ám.t.
32║ Pepoli, Christian Ita Sae ám.t.
33║ Mondini, Gianpaolo Ita Dve ám.t.
34║ Del Olmo, Txema Esp Mil ám.t.
35║ Sanchez, Domingo Esp Alm ám.t.
36║ Burgos, Nacor Esp Crf ám.t.
37║ Laguna, Oscar Esp Crf ám.t.
38║ Amorim, Gonšalo Por Mil ám.t.
39║ Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel ám.t.
40║ Gonzalez, Aitor Esp Fas ám.t.
41║ Kroon, Karsten Ned Rab ám.t.
42║ Latasa, David Esp Kel ám.t.
43║ Furlan, Angelo Ita Als ám.t.
44║ Ferrio, Jorge Esp Alm ám.t.
45║ Frigo, Dario Ita Fas ám.t.
46║ Silva, Renato Por Mil ám.t.
47║ Jufre, JosÚ Esp Crf ám.t.
48║ Osa, Unai Esp Ban ám.t.
49║ Zaballa, Constantino Esp Kel ám.t.
50║ Osa, Aitor Esp Ban ám.t.
61║ Casagranda, Stefano Ita Als ám.t.
64║ Cardenas, Felix Col L2c ám.t.
79║ Mercado, Juan Miguel Esp Ban ám.t.
80║ Leipheimer, Levy Usa Rab ám.t.
82║ Landis, Floyd Usa Usp ám.t.
85║ Noval, BenjamÝn Esp Crf a 10:30
88║ Bayarri, Gonzalo Esp Pho ám.t.
93║ Fernandez, Bingen Esp Cof ám.t.
95║ Julich, Bobby Usa Tel ám.t.
96║ Millar, David Gbr Cof ám.t.
100║ Navas, David Esp Crf ám.t.
109║ Jaksche, J÷rg Ger One ám.t.
110║ Van Heeswijk, Max Ned Usp ám.t.
115║ Mutsaars, Ronald Ned Rab ám.t.
116║ Laiseka, Roberto Esp Eus ám.t.
126║ Van Goolen, Jurgen Bel Qsd ám.t.
131║ De Jongh, Steven Ned Rab ám.t.
137║ M÷ller, Klaus Den Mil ám.t.
143║ Piepoli, Leonardo Ita Ban ám.t.
147║ Sastre, Carlos Esp Csc ám.t.
151║ Etxebarria, David Esp Eus ám.t.
162║ Bertogliati, Rubens Sui Lam ám.t.
General Classification after Stage 12
1║ Nozal, Isidro Esp One 40:54:29
2║ Glez. Galdeano, Igor Esp One a 1:48
3║ Beltran, Manuel Esp Usp a 3:03
4║ Heras, Roberto Esp Usp a 3:28
5║ Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ban a 3:40
6║ Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab a 4:04
7║ Frigo, Dario Ita Fas a 4:14
8║ Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel a 5:06
9║ Gonzalez, Aitor Esp Fas a 5:09
10║ Osa, Unai Esp Ban a 5:23
11║ Perez, Luis Esp Cof a 5:27
12║ Cardenas, Felix Col L2c a 7:30
13║ Scarponi, Michele Ita Dve a 8:03
14║ Gonzalez, Santos Esp Dve a 8:56
15║ Serrano, Marcos Esp One a 10:19
16║ Del Olmo, Txema Esp Mil a 10:27
17║ Sevilla, Oscar Esp Kel a 10:40
18║ Flores, Iker Esp Eus a 11:11
19║ Garcia Casas, FÚlix Esp Tbi a 11:29
20║ Pereiro, Oscar Esp Pho a 14:09
21║ Trentin, Guido Ita Cof a 15:31
22║ Jufre, JosÚ Esp Crf a 21:19
23║ Piepoli, Leonardo Ita Ban a 36:24
24║ Calvente, Manuel Esp Csc a 36:48
25║ Cuesta, I˝igo Esp Cof a 36:58
Points Classification after Stage 12
1║ Zabel, Erik Ger Tel 112
2║ Petacchi, Alessandro Ita Fas 101
3║ Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel 81
4║ Nozal, Isidro Esp One 66
5║ Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab 63
6║ Etxebarria, Unai Ven Eus 57
7║ Rodriguez, Joaquin Esp One 57
8║ Perez, Luis Esp Cof 55
9║ Edo, Angel Esp Mil 55
10║ Cardenas, Felix Col L2c 51
11║ Glez. Galdeano, Igor Esp One 49
12║ Boonen, Tom Bel Qsd 49
13║ Frigo, Dario Ita Fas 44
14║ Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ban 42
15║ Zaballa, Constantino Esp Kel 40
16║ Etxebarria, David Esp Eus 40
17║ Osa, Unai Esp Ban 37
18║ Beltran, Manuel Esp Usp 34
19║ Hruska, Jan Cze One 32
20║ Rodriguez, Fred Usa Vin 30
KOM after Stage 12
1║ Cardenas, Felix Col L2c 132
2║ Osa, Aitor Esp Ban 106
3║ Horrach, Joan Esp Mil 97
4║ Perez, Luis Esp Cof 62
5║ Jufre, JosÚ Esp Crf 55
6║ Rodriguez, Joaquin Esp One 49
7║ Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel 42
8║ Zaballa, Constantino Esp Kel 40
9║ Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab 37
10║ Osa, Unai Esp Ban 36
11║ Etxebarria, Unai Ven Eus 31
12║ Nozal, Isidro Esp One 31
13║ Jeker, Fabian Sui Mil 30
14║ Frigo, Dario Ita Fas 29
15║ Piepoli, Leonardo Ita Ban 27
16║ Etxebarria, David Esp Eus 23
17║ Jimenez, Eladio Esp Ban 22
18║ Heras, Roberto Esp Usp 21
19║ Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ban 18
20║ Lunghi, Denis Ita Als 17
21║ Scarponi, Michele Ita Dve 14
Teams Classification after Stage 12
1║ Once - Eroski ONE 122:47:22
2║ IBanesto.com BAN a 3:01
3║ Kelme - Costa Blanca KEL a 18:32
4║ Euskaltel - Euskadi EUS a 22:57
5║ Cofidis, le credit par telephone COF a 27:41
6║ Milaneza - MSS MIL a 37:45
7║ Fassa Bortolo FAS a 45:56
8║ Domina Vacanze-Elitron-RDZ DVE a 52:15
9║ US Postal Service Berry Floor USP a 1:01:57
10║ Quick Step - Davitamon QSD a 1:55:35
11║ Labarca-2 Cafe Baque L2C a 2:06:44
12║ Team CSC CSC a 2:08:17
13║ Paternina - Costa de Almeria ALM a 2:08:43
14║ Team Bianchi TBI a 2:16:10
15║ Colchon Relax - Fuenlabrada CRF a 2:17:37
16║ Rabobank RAB a 2:30:21
17║ Lampre LAM a 2:54:43
18║ Phonak Hearing Systems PHO a 3:04:56
19║ Team Telekom TEL a 3:06:15
20║ Alessio ALS a 4:02:55
21║ Saunier Duval - Vini Caldirola VIN a 5:00:45
22║ Saeco - Longoni Sport SAE a 5:29:13