Good afternoon and welcome to the Daily Peloton's coverage of Stage 14 of what is an increasingly interesting Tour of Spain. We join the race just after "El Nino" Oscar Sevilla has passed through his home town of Ossa de Montiel - hundreds of fans have lined the streets to pay tribute to their local rider.
5 men have a 2.50 advantage on the peloton, they are: Giovanni Lombardi (Domina Vacanze), Fabrizio Guidi (Bianchi), Cristian Moreni (Alessio), Carlos Garcia Quesada (Kelme), Benoit Joachim (USPS). Guidi has been very active throughout the race getting into breaks, and today will be hoping that he has chosen the right move.
It is a very hot day in the saddle for the riders and another active rider, Christian Moreni (Alessio), fell at around 67 kilometres; however he was treated quickly by the doctors and is now back with the leading 5 men.
With 80 kilometres to go it is once again ONCE at the head of affairs controlling the peloton, and news just through that the Terminaitor has abandoned!
Last year's winner, who rode a lacklustre time trial yesterday, has found the heat too hot to handle and climbs off - giving up his defence of the Golden jersey.
A great shame for the ill-fated Aitor, who has ridden bravely in each of the major Tours with little fortune or good luck. Fassa will now concentrate on stage victories and today could see their star sprinter Petacchi take yet another stage.
14.35. Meanwhile on the General Classification Nozal and the mighty ONCE are still very much in control. The Spanish Press have been singing the rider's praises after yesterday's epic time trial performance -
“AS.com” opens with the headline "Nozal sentences the race" and goes to mention the rider's emotional reaction yesterday: “The metamorphosis of a modest “gregario” into a team leader, of team rider into a future champion, has been too intense for Isidro Nozal, a 25 year-old from Cantabria whose life revolves around his family, his girlfriend Begoña and his love of trucks. Yesterday, the (now) ONCE-Eroski team leader unleashed the tension accumulated during his ten-day leadership and cried uncontrollably at the finish line”: The story closes with “Isidro grows up”.
“Marca” opens with “Isidro Nozal flies towards heaven in Albacete”. The Madrid publication states: “Just in case there was anyone left with doubts about Isidro Nozal's being the main favourite for overall victory in this year’s Vuelta, the Cantabrian rider ratified his leadership in yesterday’s Albacete time trial by beating specialist David Millar. Nozal thus won his second stage and increased his leadership over his main rivals”.
Meanwhile another rider to grow in stature from this race is Igor Galdeano - who has shown a sporting spirit that many of his peloton colleagues could take note of -
“AS” states, “Igor González de Galdeano was full of praise for the performance of the Golden Jersey in yesterday's time trial", whilst "Marca" mentions, “Igor González, sixth in the Albacete time trial, clearly accepted Isidro Nozal’s superiority and his role as ONCE-Eroski team leader”.
Meanwhile at the Ruidera Intermediate Sprint: after 95 kilometres the order is 38-Moreni, Cristian, 184-Guidi, Fabrizio, and 94-Garcia Quesada, Carlos.
Km 98 - the average speed is again high - 46.7 km/h for the second hour and the 5 leaders advantage is around 2.20 over the Once and Fassa-led peloton. The speed in the first hour was 51 km/h.
Meanwhile on the General Classification, the two strongest teams on paper - Once and US Postal - have proven to be the two strongest teams on the road. The advantage is very much with the ONCE at the present time, with Nozal being the race revelation. However, US Postal seem determined to make a battle of it all the way to Madrid and there may yet be surprises in store.
The efforts of ONCE and Fassa have their effect as the 5 escapees are swept up by the peloton - however as we have already seen throughout this race, when one breakaway is caught, another few riders will try their hand very quickly.
105 km - the "Ludo of Spain," though in actual fact a German, Nieto, of the battling Relax Fuenlabrada team has a little dig at the front. Like Fassa they had a disastrous start to their campaign when they crashed in the TTT on day one and their leader Santi Blanco has battled on with a bruised and battered left cheek.
Another smaller Spanish team who are having a little more good fortune are Labarca 2-Café Baqué - their Colombian rider Felix "the Cat" Cardenas has been in superb form throughout the race and is now in command of the mountain Classification. His splendid moment of form is proving to be an obstacle for other riders, such as Aitor Osa (ibanesto.com) and Joan Horrach (Milaneza), also in the running for the mountain leader’s jersey.
Cardenas has a substantial lead that may well be enough for him to win the classification in Madrid. The most important climbs remaining are Sierra de La Pandera (special category, 15th stage), Alto de Sierra Nevada (special category, 16th stage), Alto de Navacerrada (first category, 19th stage) and Alto de Abantos (first category, penultimate stage hill climb).
Mountain Classification (up to 13th stage):
1 102 Cardenas, Felix COL L2C 132
2 86 Osa, Aitor SPA BAN 106
3 127 Horrach, Joan SPA MIL 97
So if the GC is a fight between Postal and ONCE, the sprints are very much between Telekom and Fassa and the two best and most active sprinters in the peloton, Zabel and Petacchi.
At the moment it is Petacchi 3, Zabel 2 in stage victories, however Zabel leads the points competition so it is very much even stevens between Italy and Germany.
50km to go and US Postal again try to split the peloton - however their efforts today are not sucessful (yet) and the peloton regroups and waits for the next attack to happen...
It has been a characteristic of this race that the attacks have been virtually constant from the gun - indeed compared to the Tour de France, for instance, we have seen a tremendous fighting spirit by the smaller teams, who are determined to make their mark on this race and the large Spanish audience who are following it.
The 2nd intermediate sprint at Carrizosa is won by Petacchi just ahead of Zabel - so the battle for the points continues.
Zabel and Petacchi are both out to prove not only who is the fastest, but also who is the most durable - Petacchi of course is another Fassa rider to have started all three major tours this year and is rapidly becoming the number one sprinter in the world - however, old hand "Ete" is a rider who relishes a battle and will fight tooth and nail to take the sprinters jersey and stages, and of course UCI points.
Immediately following the sprint, once again the peloton has no time to relax - since it is Relax again on the offensive with a Paternina rider too - the Spanish teams certainly do not believe in having a siesta at any time in this race.
Indeed with 124 kilometres covered it is Oscar Laguna Garcia and Pedro Diaz Lobato on the attack, who gain an immediate gap on the ONCE-led peloton.
Aitor Gonzalez has abandoned due to health problems - he has a sore throat and worse problems with eating and sleeping. Certainly a rider who cannot consume the right number of calories per day is going to get weaker as the race progresses, which is what we have seen with the luckless "Terminaitor" throughout this race.
Aitor Gonzalez has had a season of poor health and troubles, and we wish him bon chance for next season.
He is the third former winner to retire from the race - Alex Zulle retired first, followed by Angel Casero who did not start yestrday's time trial. He lost time in all of the mountain stages before his inflamed knee finally forced him to call it a day. The Bianchi rider ends his contract with the German team at the end of season.
So three former winners on their way home - and a new leader - hoping that his luck holds until the end of the race...
15.29. Km 130. Oscar Laguna (Relax Fuenlabrada) and Pedro Diaz Lobato (Paternina) still lead the race by around 50'' and ONCE still lead the peloton with about 35 kilometres before the finish - the sprinters teams will be happy to leave those two riders dangling in front of the peloton - it will discourage any further attacks and they know they will be able to haul them in when the moment is opportune.
The wind is coming in from the southwest and the ONCE will not want those echelon riders of the US Postal to start hammering at the front again - nor will the sprinters' teams, who will favour a mass sprint...
Tom Boonen continues to develop as a rider, as we have seen demonstarted throughout this race - he has come close on a couple of stages and will be wanting to try his luck again today against the biggest sprinters in the world.
His DS Peters said yesterday that in spite of Tom's efforts, "coming second does not count - being close does not count - we hope that Tom will finally get a victory that his dedication this season deserves."
15.35. 27 km to go. Another hectic day in the saddle; the average for the third hour of racing has been 45.1 kilometres an hour. Still the two escapees Oscar Laguna (Relax Fuenlabrada) and Pedro Diaz Lobato (Paternina) lead the peloton while Juan Fuentes of the Saeco team tries to bridge the gap.
There should be no change on the GC today - which will be good news to Isidro Nozal's group of supporters from his hometown of Guriezo (Cantabria) - they are following their hero around Spain and will have another day to celebrate, barring accidents or misfortune.
15.44. 20 km to go. - A crash in the peloton as it speeds towards the finish - a Bianchi rider down and also a Relax rider - always a dangerous and nervous time, the last few kilometres of a stage like today - and hopefully the peloton can speed to the finish without any more accidents or injuries.
And another crash - 20 riders - from Phonak, Cofidis, Euskaltel and Saeco have fallen down.
Oscar Laguna (Relax Fuenlabrada) and Pedro Diaz Lobato (Paternina) now have around 50'' on the peloton - surely not enough to stay clear, while Fuentes is in no man's land in the middle.
The Saeco team is another team that has suffered poor luck in this race; while Fuentes tries to bridge the gap, one of their riders is involved in the crash - and they only have three riders left in the race!
15.51. 18 km to go. The two escapees at least will share the intermediate sprint points - Pedro Diaz Lobato leads over the line followed by Oscar Laguna; Fuentes takes third but he realises he is chasing in vain and sits up for the ONCE-led peloton to sweep him up. The two riders' advantage drops to 27 seconds.
15km to go - As expected now, Fassa - the silver team - take over at the front of the peloton, wanting another stage victory for Petacchi - the days of the Telekom train for Erik Zabel seem to be over - nowadays he has to rely on his wits and skill to get a good position rather than the Rolls Royce lead out he was used to in prior years.
12km to go - Peloton compact - the escapees are swept up by the peloton which charges full steam ahead towards the finishing line - it is going to be a fast and exciting sprint finish!
Other riders in contention for the sprint, apart from Petacchi, Zabel and Boonen, are Fast Freddy Rodriguez and Angel Edo. Also Vicioso and Bertolini.
9 km to go - Once again the Spanish teams without a sprinter try their luck and it is the distinctive figure of Nieto (Relax) who leads the way.
8 km to go - The move is marked down by the peloton and now Telekom decide they should look after Zabel and move to the front.
Mutsaars, Nieto, Golbano and Cerezo were the riders who tried to escape - but this will be a day for the sprinters.
The peloton surges through Valdepeñas, the mass sprint inevitable now...
5km to go - The Silver team of Fassa starts to move up - they will be hoping to annul the disappointment of Aitor's abandon.
...As Iker Flores, the Euskatel rider, puts in a surprise attack!
2km to go - As expected Fassa and Telekom are in control - Zabel, Boonen, Petacchi vie for position. Under the Flamme Rouge - who will jump first?
The Silver Train of Fassa now move up another gear and start a very organised lead out for their man - PETACCHI!!!!!!!!!
6 in the Giro! 4 in the Tour! And now 4 in the Vuelta!!!!
The Italian fast man's incredible season continues!
He will be running out of fingers soon to celebrate his victories - an awesome display of strength and speed once again from the Italian speed merchant.
ITA Alessandro Petacchi FAS 3:43:16
'' Fred Rodriguez VIN mt.
'' Erik Zabel TEL mt.
'' Thomas Bruun CSC mt.
'' Tom Boonen QSD mt.
'' Angelo Furlan ALS mt.
Another good ride for Fast Freddy Rodriguez - but very few riders are fast enough these days to take on Petacchi - Zabel will lose points on the point competition to Petacchi, only coming in third.
While Bruun was an unexpected placing and Boonen was again well up, but lacking maybe that little bit of experience against the giants of the road - no matter, he has time on his side and increasingly is reminiscent of a young Johan Museeuw.
Isidro Nozal maintains his golden jersey, finishing safely in the bunch, as did all the other major contenders in the race for overall. Tomorrow, however, may well be a different story as the race once again starts to head uphill.
Thanks for reading today's coverage and more news later - don't touch that dial!
Stage 14 Results
1º Petacchi, Alessandro Ita Fas 3:43:16
2º Rodriguez, Fred Usa Vin m.t.
3º Zabel, Erik Ger Tel m.t.
4º Bruun, Thomas Den Csc m.t.
5º Boonen, Tom Bel Qsd m.t.
6º Furlan, Angelo Ita Als m.t.
7º De Jongh, Steven Ned Rab m.t.
8º Gonzalez, Gorka Esp Eus m.t.
9º Edo, Angel Esp Mil m.t.
10º Vinale, Alberto Ita Als m.t.
11º Isasi, Iñaki Esp Eus m.t.
12º Hincapie, George Usa Usp m.t.
13º Gutierrez, Francisco Esp L2c m.t.
14º Torrent, Carlos Esp Alm m.t.
15º Masciarelli, Simone Ita Vin m.t.
16º Usov, Alexandre Blr Pho m.t.
17º Martin Perdiguero, Miguel Esp Dve m.t.
18º Guidi, Fabrizio Ita Tbi m.t.
19º Del Olmo, Txema Esp Mil m.t.
20º Golbano, Carlos Esp Alm m.t.
21º Gonzalez, Santos Esp Dve m.t.
22º Sevilla, Oscar Esp Kel m.t.
23º Engels, Addy Ned Rab m.t.
24º Heras, Roberto Esp Usp m.t.
25º Gutierrez , José Esp Kel m.t.
26º Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab m.t.
27º Nozal, Isidro Esp One m.t.
28º De La Fuente, David Esp Vin m.t.
29º Glez. Galdeano, Igor Esp One m.t.
30º Moreni, Cristian Ita Als m.t.
31º Van Heeswijk, Max Ned Usp m.t.
32º Lastras, Pablo Esp Ban m.t.
33º Beltran, Manuel Esp Usp m.t.
34º Grabsch, Bert Ger Pho m.t.
35º Perez, Luis Esp Cof m.t.
36º Jufre, José Esp Crf m.t.
37º Calcagni, Patrick Sui Vin m.t.
38º Cañada, David Esp Qsd m.t.
39º Garate, Juan Manuel Esp Lam m.t.
40º Horrach, Joan Esp Mil m.t.
41º Rodriguez, Joaquin Esp One m.t.
42º Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel m.t.
43º Piccoli, Mariano Ita Lam m.t.
44º Lopeboselli, Angelo Ita Cof m.t.
45º Zaballa, Constantino Esp Kel m.t.
46º Osa, Unai Esp Ban m.t.
47º Etxebarria, David Esp Eus m.t.
48º Scarponi, Michele Ita Dve m.t.
49º Pereiro, Oscar Esp Pho m.t.
50º Vicioso, Angel Esp One m.t.
55º White, Matthew Aus Usp m.t.
62º Cardenas, Felix Col L2c m.t.
69º Noval, Benjamín Esp Crf m.t.
80º Barry, Michael Can Usp m.t.
81º Fernandez, Bingen Esp Cof m.t.
84º Frigo, Dario Ita Fas m.t.
94º Rubiera, José Luis Esp Usp m.t.
114º Julich, Bobby Usa Tel a 26
124º Möller, Klaus Den Mil a 42
136º Mercado, Juan Miguel Esp Ban a 42
149º Bayarri, Gonzalo Esp Pho a 42
153º Laiseka, Roberto Esp Eus a 42
156º Leipheimer, Levy Usa Rab a 42
157º Landis, Floyd Usa Usp a 42
General Classification after Stage 14
1º Nozal, Isidro Esp One 45:39:48
2º Glez. Galdeano, Igor Esp One a 3:03
3º Heras, Roberto Esp Usp a 5:13
4º Beltran, Manuel Esp Usp a 5:39
5º Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ban a 7:12
6º Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel a 7:50
7º Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab a 8:44
8º Perez, Luis Esp Cof a 8:49
9º Frigo, Dario Ita Fas a 8:50
10º Osa, Unai Esp Ban a 10:10
11º Gonzalez, Santos Esp Dve a 10:59
12º Scarponi, Michele Ita Dve a 11:48
13º Cardenas, Felix Col L2c a 12:36
14º Serrano, Marcos Esp One a 13:28
15º Sevilla, Oscar Esp Kel a 14:48
16º Garcia Casas, Félix Esp Tbi a 15:20
17º Flores, Iker Esp Eus a 16:09
18º Del Olmo, Txema Esp Mil a 16:32
19º Pereiro, Oscar Esp Pho a 17:32
20º Trentin, Guido Ita Cof a 20:53
21º Jufre, José Esp Crf a 28:24
22º Cuesta, Iñigo Esp Cof a 40:40
23º Amorim, Gonçalo Por Mil a 45:46
24º Calvente, Manuel Esp Csc a 45:57
25º Rodriguez, Joaquin Esp One a 46:38
Points Classification after Stage 14
1º Petacchi, Alessandro Ita Fas 130
2º Zabel, Erik Ger Tel 130
3º Nozal, Isidro Esp One 91
4º Valverde, Alejandro Esp Kel 84
5º Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab 63
6º Edo, Angel Esp Mil 62
7º Boonen, Tom Bel Qsd 61
8º Glez. Galdeano, Igor Esp One 59
9º Etxebarria, Unai Ven Eus 57
10º Rodriguez, Joaquin Esp One 57
11º Perez, Luis Esp Cof 55
12º Cardenas, Felix Col L2c 51
13º Rodriguez, Fred Usa Vin 51
14º Frigo, Dario Ita Fas 44
15º Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ban 42
16º Zaballa, Constantino Esp Kel 40
17º Etxebarria, David Esp Eus 40
18º Millar, David Gbr Cof 40
19º Beltran, Manuel Esp Usp 39
20º Osa, Unai Esp Ban 37
Mountains Classification after Stage 14
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 Zaballa, Constantino Esp Kel 40
9º Rasmussen, Michael Den Rab 37
10º Osa, Unai Esp Ban 36
11º Etxebarria, Unai Ven Eus 31
12º Nozal, Isidro Esp One 31
13º 8 Jeker, Fabian Sui Mil 30
14º Frigo, Dario Ita Fas 29
15º Piepoli, Leonardo Ita Ban 27
16º Etxebarria, David Esp Eus 23
17º Jimenez, Eladio Esp Ban 22
18º Heras, Roberto Esp Usp 21
19º Mancebo, Francisco Esp Ban 18
20º Lunghi, Denis Ita Als 17
Teams Classification after Stage 14
1º Once - Eroski ONE 137:07:43
2º IBanesto.com BAN a 10:29
3º Kelme - Costa Blanca KEL a 22:28
4º Cofidis, le credit par telephone COF a 30:34
5º Euskaltel - Euskadi EUS a 31:50
6º Milaneza - MSS MIL a 42:51
7º Fassa Bortolo FAS a 51:29
8º Domina Vacanze-Elitron-RDZ DVE a 59:21
9º US Postal Service Berry Floor USP a 1:04:31
10º Quick Step - Davitamon QSD a 2:04:02
11º Paternina - Costa de Almeria ALM a 2:18:52
12º Labarca-2 Cafe Baque L2C a 2:20:46
13º Team CSC CSC a 2:21:10
14º Colchon Relax - Fuenlabrada CRF a 2:28:30
15º Team Bianchi TBI a 2:30:37
16º Rabobank RAB a 2:36:38
17º Lampre LAM a 3:07:58
18º Phonak Hearing Systems PHO a 3:11:09
19º Team Telekom TEL a 3:15:31
20º Alessio ALS a 4:15:53
21º Saunier Duval - Vini Caldirola VIN a 5:16:01
22º Saeco - Longoni Sport SAE a 5:49:31