Welcome to live coverage of Stage 16 of the Vuelta a España!
Stage 16: León - Valladolid, 162.5 km
Today is a fast, flat stage that takes the riders nearer their next couple
climbing appointments. Flatter than Paris Hilton's pancakes, this stage. Until
the finish, which has a little upturn. The big favorite for the stage,
Alessandro "Italian Stallion" Petacchi, doesn't like the looks of the finish at
all. The riders will have to contend with some wind as well.
This finish could see someone like Bettini (Quick Step) jump from the group and attack. It's his kind of finish, and he finished 3rd in a regular sprint earlier this race. His mates have already been working to chase down breaks today.
There was a crash in this stage a bit earlier with, among others, Egoi Martinez and Rik Verbrugghe.
The bunch is grouped all together. There was a break that never got more than a minute. At the halfway point of the stage, they were chased back. Liberty Seguros-Wurth took control to settle things down in the wind.
There is a lot of wind so maybe if the wind turns into an disadvantage (i.e. cross wind) they can start up some echelons.
I hope this will be the 5th stage win of Ale-plain, uh, I mean Jet, in this Vuelta.
Matteo Tossatto (Fassa Bortolo) was in that early break, which might indicate that Petacchi really doesn't fancy his chances for the win. Or the Fassas could have just been ducking responsibility for leading the peloton.
Liberty is leading the pace of the bunch now.
1555 CEST - 58 km left. This stage will likely not have nearly the drama of last stage, at least until the final kilometer.
Heras is near the front with his bandaged left knee and his familiar Gold Jersey.
Heras really put the wood to everybody last stage. That was an epic attack... it is rare to see a peloton blown to hell that early in a stage of a grand tour, but Heras and his mates did it. He's now just got to stay healthy and upright to win his fourth Vuelta.
CSC lingering near the front... they always love to try to do tricky things, like jump to the front and ride in the gutter on these flat stages with crosswinds.
Francisco Lara (T-Mobile) didn't start today. He has gastroenteritis. T-Mobile was the only team with all their riders... now everybody is light at least one man. Though most are light about four men...
The vampires visited this morning from the UCI. They hit up four teams. The teams with vampire bite marks are T-Mobile, Fassa Bortolo, Liberty Seguros, and CSC.
Some transfer news: Floyd Landis has announced he will remain with Phonak, however, despite the fact that next year will be their last year of sponsorship.
And Spanish rider Oscar Pereiro has signed a 2 year contract with Team Illes Balears –Caisse d’Epargne, after the agreement reached yesterday. Pereiro, 26 years old and winner of a last season Tour de France stage, joins Fran Pérez, Joaquín Rodríguez, Tino Zaballa, and the French riders Florent Brard, Nicolas Portal and Mathieu Perget as new team members for next season.
Together with Alejandro Valverde, Vladimir Karpets and Pablo Lastras, Oscar Pereiro will be one of the leaders of Team Illes Balears – Caisse d’Epargne.
The riders are noodling through... well, not much. Looks like some dirt fields, a little brown grass. I half expect some crazed punks with leather jockstraps to chase Mel Gibson onto the course in their apocalyptic cars.
The riders in the bunch seem to be relaxed and chatting a lot as they roll through this rather sparsely populated and desolate part of Spain. This is what the central valley of California looks like where they don't have irrigation. Not attractive.
Bart has had a report from Unai Yus (Bouygues Telecom), who fell afoul last week in the Vuelta. Yus says, "It´s been hard. I still can´t believe it. According to the inner rules of the team I couldn´t transport those medicines (They are not illegal with the WADA/UCI). Therefore they didn't let me to continuing the Vuelta. As I tell on my website I agree with this, but I can´t understand why they spoke with the press before talking with me. But everything is next to be finished.
"I hope I won´t have any problems finding a new team. Although I signed with them (Bouygues Telecom) already for 2 more years we have decided that finishing our relationship would be the best. Hope to tell you more about my future in the coming days/weeks."
His website is http://www.unai-yus.tk
1610 CEST - 50 km left. Liberty Seguros still on the point of the peloton, setting a mild pace. Nobody seems to care yet.
In Poland at the ProTour Tour de Pologne, still Bortolami and Zampieri are in front. I don't now the distance/time checks at the moment. But La FDJ, the team of raceleader Baden Cooke, is leading the peloton.
Ah, the scenic dirt fields of Spain. The dirtlands, a great vacation destination for those who love shades of brown. Wait, the riders appear to be getting near a town.. and a tree or two.
Interestingly, the situation with Yus is very similar to what happened with Beloki. Same team, same issue.
Ah, the scenic dirt fields of Spain. The dirtlands, a great vacation destination for those who love shades of brown. Wait, the riders appear to be getting near a town... and a tree or two.
California looks almost exactly like Spain... all of the regions and landscapes they have, we also have. The Spaniards noticed the same thing when originally colonizing...
1619 CEST - 43 km to go in Spain. Liberty still cutting the wind for the bunch. It's all together. The peloton is rather compact too.
In the Tour de Pologne the 2 have 5'08" on the bunch.
In Spain, Laiseka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is riding near the back of the bunch chatting with the TV cameras. He's been happy since he got that stage win. And it's good to see him at it again after his mishap so long ago.
Discovery Channel is down to a mere 4 riders, and has been for a few days now. Two of their riders are rookies: Danielson and Devolder. Both are doing quite well for their first grand tour, which bodes well for Disco's future.
In the Tour of Pologne we see Liquigas-Bianchi with ProTour leader Di Luca in front of the peloton. They are riding just behind the team of Cooke. Di Luca is in Poland to gain more points for his ranking and to secure his eventual win of this classification.
In Spain, there is an attack! Finally! Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is having a go with Nacor Burgos (Relax). They have 9 seconds on the bunch.
It looks a bit windy. It's not exactly ideal conditions for an attack but who cares! At least somebody is doing something interesting. I mean, we had to resort to California Central Valley jokes here. 38 km to go.
Lead up to 18 seconds.
My pick for this stage is Erik Zabel (T-Mobile). He's been 2nd several times, so he's on good form in this Vuelta. He is also a good climber for a sprinter, and has a nearly complete team. Zabel won this stage in Valladolid.
T-Mobile starts to show themselves near the front of the peloton. Liberty is still setting the pace, but T-Mobile is keeping an eye on things.
In Poland, Bortolami and Zampieri have 4.00 left on the peloton - no distance check so far.
Spain: Gomez & Burgos have now a 35 second lead, making the most of the dirt farms, getting some tv time for their sponsors. The peloton still seems relatively unconcerned.
1638 CEST - There is now a bit of a crosswind from the left front, which seems to have spread the peloton across the road at a bit of an angle. Still no real reaction in the peloton to the break.
1640 CEST - 31 km left. The gap is up to about 50" for the two men off the front.
The finish slants up a bit today - to 770 meters. If DiLuca were in the race, I'd pick him. But he's in Poland right now. And Petacchi is not Quaranta. Not yet anyway. But he won't like the hill.
(Petacchi is not a Quaranta and never will be a Quaranta. So there's nothing in common between these 2 except the same nationality.)
Sastre relaxes next to Heras in the peloton. The CSC leader has to wear the jester's Blue and Yellow Jersey for the combination competition.
Petacchi moves up through the pack a bit. He's still relaxing in the middle though. Not yet his time to get to work. But soon.
In Spain, 25 km left.
In Poland still the two in front. They have 2'02" on the peloton. Two or 3 local laps of 6,7 km to go. Discovery, Francaise Des Jeux and some other teams in the lead of the bunch. For Cooke and Van Heeswijk, eh?
The gap is 1' 06" for Gomez and Burgos in Spain. Fassa Bortolo now seem to be moving some men towards the front, along with T-Mobile. Liberty Seguros still on point.
1651 CEST - 23 km to go in Spain.
Poland: Domina now in front too for their sprinter (a promising one a couple of years ago when he won 2 stages in La Vuelta), Angelo Furlan.
And in Spain, a flat tire for Paco Mancebo. Not a good time for this to happen, but it could be worse. The peloton is just getting organized for the final chase down, but it's not completely on yet.
Two teammates wait for him, but come around the wrong side of the car. Mancebo, moto-pacing behind his team car, flies right by them. Now his mates get it sorted out... four men to help him.
Mancebo is back and is moving up to the front. That was good damage control by Illes Balears.
Actually I thought they were going to attack with these 5 men - and were going to start a TTT. They went right to the front. Not a bad idea...
Phonak now has a line of riders on the front... Liberty Seguros has a line too, but the peloton is a bit spread out and Liberty isn't exactly on the front anymore. I expect T-Mobile and Quick Step to get up here soon and pick up the pace.
In Poland they are going into another local lap. The 2 have 1'13" on the bunch. Between 14 and 21 km to go there.
1658 CEST - 17 km left. Gomez and Burgos still driving along through the dirt farms. In the peloton, there is a lot of transition and positioning going on.
CSC has now hit the front and put the hammer down in the peloton. They are trying to split things up in the crosswind, it looks like. Their old trick, really.
Quick Step has some men come up now and take over the point.
In Poland 45 sec left for the 2 in front.
Spain: The peloton is strung out now, but no splits yet. Phonak is also mixed in with CSC and Quick Step at the front. No real organization, just a lot of mini-trains mixing it up, trying to get control of the pack.
Burgos and Gomez caught - all together now. The Fassas in front now as well.
The peloton made short work of those two once they made up their mind to chase. 15 km left. Looks like Petacchi is going to give it a go today, though it's not exactly perfect for his talents at the finish.
Bortolami alone in the lead now in Poland. Zampieri let him go.
Rafael Casero attacks in Spain - the younger brother of Angel Casero.
The Saunier Duval-Prodir rider will have a hard time leaving the pack for long on such flat, straight roads.
1705 CEST - 12 km to go in Spain. Casero has only about 100 meters on the peloton, which is led by CSC and Quick Step and Fassa Bortolo. Still not a lot of organization to the front of the peloton, I must say.
In Poland they are going into the last lap. 6,7 km to go.
Poland: Bortolami caught. A Cofidis rider attacks. It's Sylvain Chavanel.
In Spain, Bettini moves up with some Quick Step boys and he's now in the thick of the action. 10 km to go.
The peloton is absolutely flying. Phonak and CSC have rival trains on the front of the pack, riding side-by-side.
The pack is moving at just about 78 kph now... that's moving. They must be on a bit of downhill.
In Poland all together with 3 km to go.
Spain: 1710 CEST - 7 km left. The kilometers are flying by. I think Casero was caught... no more shots of anyone off the front.
Attack by Ballan in Poland. Last km there. Ballan caught now.
5 km left in Spain. Fassa Bortolo now has come to the front of the pack. They are stringing it out, setting up Petacchi. Quick Step has a couple of men close by too.
Baldato pushes the Fassa train along at 67 kph. Who can attack now?
And Bennati wins the stage in Poland!
A hard right hander...just past the 4 km banner... but Fassa Bortolo in control and putting the hammer down. The pack is now really strung out.
Poland: 1 Bennati, 2 Paolini, 3 Chicchi, 4 Zarebski. I think Paolini will be the new leader but I'm not sure.
3 km left. Will Fassa be able to hold this in the final kilometer? That uphill shunt will disrupt their normal operation, most likely. Fassa is pushing up the speed
2 km. Fassa still has the pack strung out. Lots of jockeying around behind. Flamme Rouge.
Gerolsteiner attack - could be Haussler or Ziegler. A Lampre counter-attack. 500 mt to go. The Gerolsteiner man is clear for a moment, but gets swallowed up.
Bettini wins the stage ahead of Petacchi and Perdiguero! Joaquin Rodriguez 4th, Ardila 5th.
No, Sanchez 5th and Ardila 6th, Zabel 7th.
Petacchi got a great leadout up the right hand barriers, but Bettini went to the front and held if for about 300 meters. Petacchi tried to come around him on the left, but Bettini was just too strong on this uphill finish. Great sprint, that.
You know it was an uphill sprint when the man in the King of the Mountains Jersey makes a charge up the left-hand side of the road and almost catches men like Bettini and Petacchi. Great finish by Joaquin Rodriguez.
But Bettini really rode that perfectly... he got into position behind the final Fassa leadout man, and when that man pulled off Bettini was in the wind... but he held it. Petacchi couldn't come around.
The 2 chiefs of the Squadra Azzurra are 1 and 2 in today's stage and look ready for the big clash in two weeks in Madrid (for the Worlds).
No changes in the GC. (Maybe Petacchi can win another stage in the warm-up event this Sunday...the final Vuelta stage in Madrid covers the Worlds circuit).
Bettini won that by half a bike length. Petacchi was closing, but not fast enough... Bettini timed it all out to perfection.
Stage Results Tour de Pologne Stage 2:
5. van Heeswijk
Tomorrow is no fun for the sprinters: a Cat 3 climb, a Cat 2 climb, and two Cat 1 climbs are spread along the course. Also, the finish has another little uphill turn. Should be an interesting day of attacking riding, over only 165.6 km.
Bettini joins the GT club - having won a stage in each of the Grand Tours - the Giro (although he was disqualified...) and Vuelta this year, and in 2000 a Tour stage.
Zabriskie has also won a stage in three straight grand tours. But his string was broken by not riding this Vuelta.
This year's Giro was terrible for the sprinters...
So that wraps up another stage of the Vuelta! There are more interesting stages to come, so we hope you join us again tomorrow. Thanks for being with us today!
Commentary today by Bart Hazen of the great CyclingFX.nl, and Locutus.