Welcome to live coverage of Stage 17 of the Vuelta a España!
Stage 17: El Espinar - La Granja de San Ildefonso, 165.6 km
Well, today's mountainous course has seen some crazy attacking already. Most notably, Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) and Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) are in a break that now only has about 50" on the peloton. They are in a break of about fifteen men that includes Gilberto Simoni (Lampre) and Aitor Gonzalez (Euskaltel Euskadi).
And a little update on the Tour de Pologne:
Chmielewski (Intel-Action) and José Julia Cayetano (Illes B.) in the lead. They have about 3'00" on the bunch which is led by Quick Step, Lampre-Caffita and Saunier Duval. Davide Vigano (Quick Step), Franck Bouyer (Bouygues), Maurizio Carta (Miche) and Fabian Jeker (Saunier) didn't start.
In the GP Wallonne we have 4 leaders: Lars Bak (CSC), Matthew Hayman (Rabobank), Matthe Pronk (MrBookmaker) and Steven Kleynen (Chocolade Jacques) - they have 1'07" on Vladimir Efimkin (Barloworld) and 1'16" on the bunch which is led by Quick Step. 39 km to go there.
More riders in the Vuelta break: Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel Euskadi), mountains leader Joaquin Rodriguez (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Miguel Perdiguero (Phonak), Inigo Cuesta and Constantion Zaballa (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Eladio Jimenez and Javier Pascual and David Blanco (Comunidad Valenciana). Seems like half the Comunidad Valenciana team is there... in fact, half the team is there.
Petacchi has won 2 intermediate sprints so that's probably a sign he will complete the Vuelta. And a sign he is going for the final win in the points (fishy) competition.
There are a couple of other men in the break too. The peloton is being led by Liberty Seguros and CSC, and they are chasing Mancebo and Garcia Quesada, who are 4th and 5th on GC. The leaders have 1'07" on the peloton.
We're going to see how much we can confuse ourselves by giving live updates on three races here - it's an experiment.
The break is on the final climb of the day, the Cat 1 Navacerrada. Devolder has been tailed off the Mancebo group.
Actually, Carlos Garcia Quesada is riding in front with about 1'00" on gruppo Mancebo, which is split up now. The bunch with Heras/Sastre is riding at more than 4'00".
Santos Gonzalez (Phonak) and Inigo Cuesta are glued to Mancebo's wheel. He is really putting the hammer down, trying to bring back Garcia Quesada. Gonzalez is in 10th on GC, so this is really a good move for him.
This is the second time up the Navacerrada today - first time through they came from a different direction. Carlos Garcia Quesada with 1'07" on Mancebo and his company and 2'01" on the bunch. Sastre attacks now, from the peloton.
Really powerful riding by Garcia Quesada. Menchov and Heras are jumping into Sastre's wheels. Wow, this Vuelta just explodes every time there is a tough hill. This is great. Sevilla is now pulling.
1603 CEST - There are 22 km left after the top of this climb. It is downill, and then bumpy a bit. Not bad terrain for a break to stay clear. There are about 4 km left in this climb. Sevilla really attacking hard. He has dropped the Sastre/Heras/Menchov group.
Garcia Quesada's gap is up to 2' 05" over the Gold Jersey group. He could really move up today. Mancebo now drops Cuesta behind.
In Poland, still the 2 in the lead - Chmielewski (Intel-Action) and José Julia Cayetano (Illes B.) - with 1'55" on the bunch. Still Quick Step and Lampre in the lead.
In GP Wallonne still the 4 in the lead with 45 sec on the bunch which is led by Davitamon-Lotto. 25 km to go.
Recap of the Spain situation: Carlos Garcia Quesada alone off the front with about 1' 20" on a chasing Paco Mancebo and Santos Gonzalez. Sastre, Heras, and Menchov are in a group 2' 05" behind Garcia Quesada. There are also men mixed in between these riders. Sevilla (T-Mobile) just attacked the Heras group, while many others fell off the pace of that original break.
Garcia Quesada's lead is growing on Mancebo to 1'40".
Menchov and Sastre take turns pulling through in their group. Heras is on their wheel with a teammate. Mauricio Ardilla (Davitamon-Lotto) is the last man in that Heras group of only five men. Garcia Quesada nears the top of this long, mean climb.
1613 CEST - Garcia Quesada could pull off the stage win here. He has crested this final climb. His gap over Mancebo and Santos Gonzalez is 1' 35".
The Polish stage today is flat, 212 kilometers long. 1'00" left for Chmielewski and Julia there.
Spain: The Heras group is at the top of the Navacerrada at 2'20".
In GP Wallonne, 18km to go with 15 seconds left for the 4 leaders. It's starting to rain there.
Spain: Well, it's cat-assed riders everywhere on this fast and steep descent. The roads look good and wide, but there are some nasty corners.
Garcia Quesada's lead to Mancebo and Gonzalez has dropped to 1' 30" on this descent. The Heras group is at 2' 15", but now Mancebo has dropped Santos Gonzalez in the descent.
1620 CEST - 15 km left. Santos Gonzalez back with Mancebo.
Garcia Quesada is flying. Only 12 km left now. His lead is still about 1' 20". Sevilla is in with Heras and Sastre, about 2' 10" behind.
That Heras/Sastre/Menchov group has about seven men now.
Mancebo and Gonzalez are working together. Both are looking to improve their GC position. Well, Mancebo is looking to fend off Garcia Quesada, actually. And Mancebo is also trying to gain some time back on Sastre. The gap between Sastre and Mancebo is almost 2'00" in the GC.
1624 CEST - 10 km left.
Mancebo only has about 45" on Sastre at this point... a brave move by Mancebo, but not enough. He'll close the gap a bit, and give himself a better chance to do something in the final time trial.
Serrano is back with the Heras group, setting the pace now.
1627 CEST - 7 km left. The gap is down to about 1' 57" for Garcia Quesada over the Heras/Sastre/Menchov group. Make that 1' 49".
Ardila has done a great job to hang with the Heras group over these climbs.
In GP Wallonne, 10 km to go and all together. Lots of attacks now from MrBookmaker and Rabo.
And in Poland, Chmielewski in front. Julia let him go. The bunch at about 30/40 seconds.
Spain: 5 km left. Sevilla has some problem with his shoe. He's off the back of that Heras group a bit.
Garcia Quesada is still riding strong. He looks good to win this stage now, barring mishap. 4 km to go.
Mancebo and Santos Gonzales are now 1' 08" behind Garcia Quesada. The Heras group loses some time - they are at 1'52".
In Poland; Chmielewski has 27 seconds on the peloton.
1633 CEST - Spain: 2 km left. Carlos Garcia Quesada is a full kilometer ahead of his nearest pursuers. He is sure to win, and what a great victory this will be. He attacked like crazy to drop some very good climbers.
The riders are still descending, but Garcia Quesada is now hitting that final little uphill shunt.
Poland: Chmielewski has 14 seconds lead. He just saw the flamme rouge but I don't know if there are any local laps. If not, it seems Piotr is going to win the 3rd stage. The peloton is coming there. Yes, one lap to go, so final lap.
Spain: The gap is down to 1'00" for Garcia Quesada over Mancebo and Santos Gonzalez, but now he is under the Flamme Rouge. Some tricky corners here, but nothing too bad...
Carlos Garcia Quesada approaches the line... the crowd yells its appreciation... he is out of the saddle and taking a huge victory. He's trying to get maximum time, but he takes time to punch the sky with his left hand.
Mancebo 2nd at 47 seconds. Santos Gonzalez 3rd at 48 seconds.
In Poland now all together.
The Heras/Sastre/Menchov group comes across. Sevilla leads them over. Ardila 4th, Ruben Plaza 5th, Sevilla 6th.
In GP Wallonne they are now on the final climb, the citadel of Namur. 1,6 km to go. Vasseur attacks.
Neal Stephens greets Heras at the finish line. Strange sight, to see Stephens working as a staff guy with water and all.
Gilbert and some others are coming back.
In Poland it is Jens Voigt who is teasing the sprinters teams - he attacks.
Vasseur and Gilbert in front in GP Wallonne - 1 km to go. Vasseur goes ahead and Gilbert with problems.
Gilbert is coming back, he attacks. Vasseur doesn't react. The bunch isn't far. Gilbert caught.
Spain: Men keep straggling across the line in this surprising hard stage in the Vuelta.
Wallone: It becomes a sprint on the citadel and it's Nuyens or Leukemans who wins...In Poland Voigt still in the lead. Now Voigt caught - all together. 7 km till the finish.
Vuelta Stage Results:
1. Carlos Garcia Quesada
2. Mancebo @ 46"
3. Santos Gonzalez @ 48"
4. Ardilla @ 1' 37"
5. Ruben Plaza @ 1' 37"
6. Sevilla @ 1' 37"
7. Menchov @ 1' 40"
8. Sastre @ 1' 40"
9. Heras @ 1' 40"
10. Serrano @ 1' 42"
11. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 3' 27"
12. Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) @ 3' 27"
13. Inigo Cuesta (Saunier Duval) @ 3' 27"
Tom Danielson of Discovery Channel came across in 24th at 5' 04". That could hurt his GC top ten chances.
Top ten at GP Wallone:
7. Andy Schleck
1. Heras (Liberty Seguros)
2. Menchov (Rabobank) @ 4' 30"
3. Sastre (CSC) @ 4' 50"
4. Mancebo (Illes Balears) @ 5' 51"
5. Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) @ 6' 22"
6. Sevilla (T-Mobile) @ 11' 13"
7. Ruben Plaza (Comunidad Valenciana) @ 11' 36"
8. Santos Gonzalez (Phonak) @ 13' 28"
9. Mercado (Quick Step) @ 15' 19"
10. Danielson (Discovery Channel) @ 15' 39"
11. Ardilla (Davitamon-Lotto) @ 15' 53".
In Poland, Lampre, Quick Step and Intel-Action in the lead of the bunch. 3 km to go.
Serge Baguet attacked but is reeled in again. Di Luca in front too.
It becomes a new bunch sprint in Poland, 2 km to go.
Well, Garcia Quesada pulled himself within shouting distance of the podium, as did Mancebo. The final time trial will be very interesting. Sevilla continued to ride well, consolidating his 6th spot on GC. Santos Gonzalez moved up a couple of spots on GC and now looks good in that 8th spot. Danielson slipped to 10th just ahead of the charging Ardilla, who move up into 11th.
Poland: Discovery in lead of the peloton - Flamme Rouge. It's Kirsipuu who wins! For a 3rd time in a row Paolini comes in 2nd. But a nice stage win for the Estonian champion. It proves he can still win a bunch sprint. Van Heeswijk 3rd and Bennati 4th (provisional).
Paolini remains in the lead, of course, in Poland.
For you Bingen "F-Bomb" Fernandez fans, the Cofidis streak finished today's Vuelta stage in 54th at 10' 58". He's holding down 47th on GC at 1h 25' 48".
Tomorrow is another annoying day of some medium climbing in the Vuelta. The riders face 197.5 km to Avila. They have to cross a Cat 3 and a Cat 1 climb in the first half of the stage, and then there are three Cat 2 climbs in the last half. So expect another day like today, with the men in the top 15 GC positions going at it along with the climbing opportunists.
(That's "annoying" if you are a rider, but it's awesome if you're a fan... attacking all over the place, with surprising results.)
Maybe more Mancebo...it was great to see him attacking like that. He is making the final week of the Vuelta interesting, together with Carlos Garcia.
All right, that's it for us today. We hope to see you tomorrow as this Vuelta moves toward the final showdown. Thanks for joining us today!
Commentary today by Locutus and Bart Hazen of www.cyclingfx.nl.