Stage 14: Nestlé/La Penilla - Lagos de Covadonga, 172.3 km
Welcome to live coverage of Stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana. Today the riders face a fierce uphill finish up the legendary Above Category climb of the Lagos de Covadonga. The route has 172.3 km all told, with three Cat 2 climbs and a Cat 3 climb before the monster at the end.
There is a break of 14 riders that has had over 7' on the field. Most notable in the group is Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier Duval-Prodir); the man in the King of the Mountains Jersey has taken maximum points over every climb so far to extend his lead in that competition.
In the break: Igor González de Galdeano (Liberty Seguros), Eladio Jiménez, Haussler (Gerolsteiner), De Groot, Charteau (Bouygues Telecom), Burghardt, Aketza Peña, Bart Dockx (Davitamon-Lotto), Elmiger, Joaquin Rodríguez, Jose Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Toni Tauler, Guido Trenti (Quick Step), David Cañada and Iñigo Cuesta (Saunier Duval, Zaballa, Txente and Bernabeu.
The break has 8'12" on the bunch which is led by CSC and Euskaltel.
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) didn't take the start today. He is going off to focus on the World Championship road race now.
So the last climb of the day can be viewed in detail here: http://www.salite.ch/covadong.htm.
As you can see, it's a mean one. Actually, Discovery Channel's Tom Danielson said he might try something on this climb today... it suits him, as it is relatively short and steep. It is over 10% at the start, then has a section over 12.5% for a kilometer in the middle, then ends with a 1 km stretch over 10%. That's just mean, that.
In Paris Brussel, 4 leaders (Longo, Berges, Pronk and Piatek) with 1.05 on the bunch. 20 km to go. Davitamon-Lotto and Q-Step are working in the peloton there.
1554 CEST - Back in Spain, 33 km to go.
So the riders have finishd all the climbs today except the Lagos de Covadonga. They'll have a flat section heading up to it, followed by 11 km of hell.
Maybe if Lance rides the Vuelta next year they will cover it on live TV in the states. He's made some remarks to that effect recently, that he might race the Giro or the Vuelta and ditch the Tour if he comes back. Personally, I'd like to see him make a serious run at the spring classics with Hincapie and then ride the Giro to win.
An update on CSC's Jakob Piil who crashed so hard the other day - he has a broken thumb but was released from the hospital yesterday, and his team says he might be back for the end of season...
1604 CEST - CSC is still leading the pace in the bunch. 24 km to go. The last 14,3 km will go uphill to Covadonga. CSC doesn't have anybody up the road, and they are working now for Sastre. He's been very strong in the mountains so far.
Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) has won on the Covadonga in the past... former winners include Laurent Jalabert (twice) as well.
De La Fuente, who crashed yesterday in a descent, didn't start today. He has broken his collarbone. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Liberty Seguros Wurth also working in front of the peloton.
Paris Brussels - last 5 km. All together there.
In Spain, the 14 leaders have 3'40" left on the peloton. It will be close... they might have enough for some of the better climbers to stay away.
In Brussels, last 2 km. Last km.
Back to Spain: Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (or IGG as we call him) is sitting on the back of the break marking things. He will likely just save himself until Heras bridges, when the peloton explodes on the climb.
The leaders are now on the climb to Covadonga. For you Voeckler fans, you'll be happy to know that the Bouygues Telecom hero of the 2004 Tour de France was on the attack earlier in the stage. His group wasn't able to keep away, unfortunately.
And in Brussels, McEwen wins the bunch sprint in front of Van Dijk and JP Nazon. The Little Emperor from Davitamon-Lotto gets another big win, showing his form heading into the Worlds.
Back to the Vuelta, Liberty setting the pace now. Menchov (Rabobank) looks comfortable with a couple of his men around him. Say goodbye to them, Denis, they probably won't be around much longer... the climb is starting soon.
The gap is 2'47". The peloton is really strung out now. The hammer is down. Sevilla (T-Mobile) is near the front in good position. Eladio Jimenez is leading the race now, followed by Unai Osa and a Saunier rider at a couple of seconds.
In the bunch Joseba Beloki is working hard. Heras is in the Combination Jersey looking like a court jester... his left knee is really wrapped up, covering those stitches. We'll see soon if that injury will affect his climbing.
It's Canada who is with Unai Osa.
So this final climb has broken the break into pieces, as expected. It will soon do the same to the peloton. Mancebo has some problems following the tempo. But he is trying to come back in his own, well known way.
1621 CEST - 10 km to go. Cuesta tries to come back with Eladio Jimenez. Sastre and Perdiguero in the contra-attack. Perdiguero drops now.
Gilberto Simoni is hanging there too in the Heras group. Sastre attacking from the peloton trying to move up in the GC and maybe win a stage. The peloton is evaporating quickly now.
Sastre has now 11 sec. on Heras/Menchov, etc. Sastre is now catching up some of the riders of the early breakaway.
Dockx and De Groot from the breakaway are now caught.
Mancebo is still missing from the Heras group. Maybe Paco is suffering from his injuries after a crash yesterday.
The Saunier Duval riders did a lot of the pace-setting in the break, with three men in there. Will it pay off? They will definitely have the climbing jersey with Rodriguez, but a stage win doesn't look likely right now.
Mancebo has had a tendency so far in this Vuelta to get dropped early on the final climbs, then fight his way back into contention. The steepness of the lower slopes of the Covadonga might have caught him out again, but he might not be done.
Sastre has now 30 seconds on the Heras group, and Scarponi has dropped out of the Heras group after a job well done. Ruben Plaza and Laiseka dropped too.
1631 CEST - 7 km to go for Eladio Jimenez. Yesterday's winner Sanchez dropped too. The race situation at present: Eladio Jimenez in front, then Inigo Cuesta at a couples of seconds, then some riders of the early breakaway, then Sastre, then more riders of the early breakaway and then the group Heras/Menchov. The race is blown across the whole mountain now, with small groups here and there. We have no time checks at the moment, except that Sastre is at 1'50" off Eladio Jimenez.
Igor Glez de Galdeano now working for Heras. Heras attacks now, Menchov in his wheel. Simoni too. The others are dropped.
IGG was in that break, and this was all according to plan: wait for the boss, then launch him at the hardest part of the climb.
Sastre is now catching up with the young Marcus Burghardt. Simoni is dropped, but he comes back. Jimenez will be hitting that part of the climb that gets up to 15% soon. Sastre and the chasing Heras will like their chances to do some damage on that steep section.
Sastre has 9 seconds left on the Heras/Menchov/Simoni trio.
Menchov is really doing well to hold onto Heras here, but will he be able to hold the "Spanish Fly's" wheel up that 15% section? That is where Heras really shines.
Eladio Jimenez has still 1.50 on Sastre. And it's going to rain now, I think. It rained a bit earlier, but nothing heavy.
This is a steep, narrow, and twisty little climb. Glad I'm watching on a screen instead of riding it on my bike.
Did I say little climb? I meant monster climb. Sorry.
Last Tuesday I said that Marco Pinotti (Saunier Duval) was in the final of the Individual Pursuit at the Italian Track Nationals. But in the final when he was 7 seconds in front of his opponent, he got a flat and crashed. After some minutes the race restarted but the 7 sec advantage was 4 sec behind in the end. Marco has now some stitches in his face and pain in his knee. It's going better a
couples of days later but he will skip Tour of Poland.
Instead of Poland he will do some training sessions on his new TT Bike for the Worlds TT in Madrid.
1640 CEST - 5 km to go in Spain. Jimenez trying to live up to the legacy of Kelme... trying to give Comunidad Valenciana a victory.
Sastre has now 14 seconds on Heras/Menchov/Simoni.
Simoni attacks - the others don't react.
So Danielson got dropped early with Mancebo, and he's not a factor for the stage win. He'll try to ride his own pace and hold onto his top ten spot in the GC.
Sastre looking very strong. He could really do some GC damage if he keeps this up. Simoni is going for the stage win, he could give a Cipo's bum about the GC at this point.
Unai Osa catches up to Heras and Menchov. 3 km to go. Eladio Jimenez on his way to the stage win, Sevilla is struggling further down the climb. He was dropped from the Heras group a while back. Sevilla tries to come back with 2 Phonak riders (Perdiguero and Santos Gonzalez, I would guess).
Simoni is catching up with Sastre.
If these two can work together, they might make up some time on Jimenez... but they are quickly running out of mountain.
In the Tour de L'Avenir, Sebastien Minard (RAGT) won the last stage. Lars Bak is the final winner.
On the Covadonga, 2 km to go.
For Eladio Jimenez, this would be his 3rd stage win in his Vuelta career. A very well deserved one this would be too, after staying away in the break for so long.
1647 CEST - Flamme Rouge. This last kilometer averages 10%... it's a toughy.
These guys are going up this climb so fast it's, well, depressing and inspiring at the same time.
Eladio Jimenez wins the stage on the Covadonga! Now the GC struggle is on...
Cuesta is 2nd at 1'21". Simoni 3rd at 1'32",
Sastre 4th, Menchov 5th at 1'43", Heras 6th at 1'43".
So Menchov has neutralized yet another climb, and takes another very important step towards winning this Vuelta.
Perdiguero 7th at 2'10", Sevilla 8th, same time, Santos Gonzalez 9th at 2'12", Mancebo 10th at 2'35". Unai Osa 11th
and Samuel Sanchez 12th at 3'00".
Laiseka 13th, Ruben Plaza 14th, Burghardt 15th, Danielson 16th,
Pereiro 17th, Carlos Garcia Quesada 18th.
Not bad for Danielson, really... the kid is sticking it out, riding well in uncharted territory. I mean, I'd like to finish next to Pereiro on a climb like this.
Tomorrow's monster mountain stage will be his final real test, where the climbers will have to take some time if they want to have a cushion before that final time trial.
Mancebo lost about 1'00" on Sastre and 50 seconds on Heras and Menchov. Maybe we will see Mancebo tomorrow in a breakaway, trying to gain some time back.
Danielson finished at 3'46", giving up about 2'10" to Sastre and 2'00" to Heras and Menchov, but he's not pretending to chase those guys. He's trying to stay close to guys like Plaza and Carlos Garcia Quesada.
You know, Sevilla actually had a good day... he's climbed into 6th on GC now!
2. Heras @ 47"
3. Sastre @ 1' 50"
4. Mancebo @ 2' 45"
5. Carlos Garcia Quesada @ 5' 37"
6. Sevilla @ 7' 18"
7. Gonzalez @ 7' 19"
8. Plaza @ 7' 44"
9. Danielson @ 7' 49"
10. Mercado @ 9' 02".
Interesting that places 6-9 are separated by only about 31". That will be a big battle tomorrow and in the final time trial. Danielson is doing good to be in the company of guys like that.
Talking about Sevilla, it looks like the Oscar from a couples of years ago, when he was 2nd in the Vuelta, is coming back.
Heras did well considering his injury... clearly, it hasn't bothered him that much. And Simoni showed that he's gotten his climbing legs back. Look out for the G-Man tomorrow!
DP Favourite Bingen Fernandez rolls in now - that must be at 12/13 minutes.
Beloki, Rodriguez, Litu Gomez, Piepoli, Veneberg and a Relax rider at the finish now at 12'30". Bingen Fernandez was in at about 11 minutes.
Geez, what about Piepoli? Is this not his sort of climb?
Yeah. Don't know the reason about Piepoli's bad performance. In the beginning there was that injury from that crash in the stage which Hushovd won. But it's now one week later...
That's Mercado, not Perdi, in 10th on GC.
Mercado finished 20th on the stage at 4' 27", giving up some important time. He's still clinging to the top ten on GC though.
Tomorrow the riders face 191 km with two Cat 3 climbs, two Cat 1 climbs, and the finish up the Above Category Puerto de Pajares. That's the planned route. Rabobank might find a way to break down a truck on one of the climbs to make it easier, but we'll see.
Jimenez gets one of those black shark-fin type hats as he takes his trophy and flowers. He looks like one of the shark men from those old 1930s Flash Gordon serials.
So that will do it for us today - thanks very much for being with us!
Commentary today by Locutus and Bart Hazen of Cyclingfx.nl.