Welcome to live coverage of Stage 19 of the Vuelta a España!
Stage 19: San Martín de Valdeiglesias - Alcobendas, 142.9 km
Today is 142 kilometers into Alcobendas, the last day for a breakaway rider to make his stand in this Vuelta.
Five men are about 10' ahead of the peloton as we start our coverage. They are Pablo Lastras (Illes Balears), Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana), Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval-Prodir), and Linus Gerdemann (CSC). There are several men chasing this lead group of five off the front of the peloton.
The five men in the break are now over the last categorized climb of the day. They are descending another bleak, scrubby mountain. The roads are good and wide, the pavement is excellent, the weather is good... this looks like a fun descent.
There is a group of about 15 men that is 2' behind the five leaders.
There are two men off the front of that big chase group who are trying to bridge up to the five leaders. They are Jose Galindo (Relax Fuenlabrada) and Geert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto). They are about 35" ahead of the chase group.
So here is the race situation: Laiseka, Lastras, Garcia Quesada, Zaballa, and Gerdemann are in a group off the front of the race. 1' 55" behind is the two-man chase of Steegmans and Galindo. At 2' 30" is the chase group of fifteen more men. The peloton is about 11' behind.
Sorry, the man with Steegmans is Jose Elias Galindo, and he goes by Elias. They have closed to 1' 08" on the five leaders. The Libertry Seguros led peloton is at 10' 30". Heras is comfortably in behind his boys, just two and a half stages from his fourth Vuelta victory. 61 km left.
So here are some names from that chasing group of fifteen riders. The first (and in many ways, most important name) is Bingen "F-Bomb" Fernandez (Cofidis).
Bingen is joined by Koos Moerenhout (Davitamon-Lotto), Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile), Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Jorge Garcia (Relax Fuenlabrada), Martin Elmiger (Phonak), Jose Vincente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Javier Pascual and David Latasa (Comunidad Valenciana), Leon Van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto), Fabio Baldato and Alberto Ongarato (Fassa Bortolo), Frederic Finot (FDJeux.com), Juan Fuentes (Lampre Caffeta) and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner). Whew!
So those men are still about 2' behind the five leaders. They have attacked each other a bit, but are still together.
During yesterday's stage, Miguel Martin Perdiguero, Christophe Kern, Matej Jurco and Aitor Gonzalez retired. So far today David Gracia Canada has retired, so I believe the count of remaining riders is 128. That's low.
The brutality of the uphill finishes and the new ProTour format are likely the big contributers to this attrition rate. The ProTour schedule has a lot more men riding more than one grand tour this year. Also, a lot of men have pulled out to prepare for the World Championships.
1621 CEST - 51 km left. The five leaders are still out there with a monstrous lead on the peloton... almost 12' at the last check. The peloton is mailing it in today.
The gap to Elias and Steegmans is now 40"... they've started to slip back. The group of fifteen is at 1' 35". Elmiger tried to get away, but was chased back. Baldato now pulls through. The peloton is about 9 km behind the leaders on the road. That's a lot of road.
Hmm... the five leaders are monkeying around a bit. They are on a descent... but Laiseka looked like he might just be sitting on.
All of the teams with sprinters left have good men up the road, so they won't help the peloton chase anything down. Baldato, in particular, is a strong rider, so Petacchi's boys won't try to bring him back. Guess the only bunch sprint we'll see now is in Madrid on the last day.
CSC has Peron and Sorensen doing a bit of work with Liberty Seguros to try to lift the pace of the peloton a bit.
1630 CEST - Now four men seem to have broken away from that group of fifteen chasers, led by Elmiger of Phonak in his Swiss Champion's Jersey.
Fuentes of Lampre is there with Elmiger, as is Haussler of Gerolsteiner and one of the Comunidad Valenciana boys... it's Latasa. Steegmans and Elias got pulled back by that large chasing group, and this is the new counter-attack.
Scratch that, Steemans and Elias were still out there, but they've just been caught by the four chasers. So now there are six men chasing the five off the front at about 1'.
1636 CEST - Now some attacks in the lead group. Lastras and Gerdemann have attacked, and Garcia Quesada is trying to join them. Zaballa and Laiseka are just looking at each other. They've been dropped.
Race situation: Gerdemann, Garcia Quesada, and Lastras are at the front of the race. Not far behind is a chase group of eight men including Elmiger, Laiseka, Zaballa, Steegmans, and Elias. They are at 28".
Then another chase group of about ten men that includes Bingen Fernandez. Then at 14' is the peloton, having a nice siesta before the big time trial tomorrow.
The leaders are now on a long descent, with some sketchy looking curves in it. They are flying along pretty good right now.
Yep, this is rolling terrain... they are now climbing a bit. Looks like it is up and down like this the rest of the way.
1645 CEST - On the side of the road, in the middle of what appears to be yet more Spanish desert, there are groups of people cheering the riders. Garcia Quesada attacks, and he gets a gap on the other two leaders.
Gerdemann did the work to chase down Garcia Quesada, and of course Lastras immediately attacked once they pulled him back. Garcias Quesada now attacks once Gerdemann does the work to chase. The Spaniards are teaming up on the poor German.
1648 CEST - 28 km left. Garcia Quesada has his gap. Gerdemann refused to continue chasing. Then Lastras attacked Gerdemann, but he pulled Lastras back.
Now Latasa and Gerdemann pull Garcia Quesada back again. This climb has seen attack after attack. Also back in the chase group as well. Hard to figure out what's going on, there are so many attacks...
Garcia Quesada now alone off the front again. He has a small gap on a group of chasers that is four men. So two of the chasers from behind have bridged up to Gerdemann and Lastras.
So it is Fuentes (Lampre), Lastras (Illes Balears), Gerdemann (CSC), and Latasa (Comunidad Valenciana) in pursuit of Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana).
Elmiger (Phonak) and Haussler (Gerolsteiner) have also bridged up to this chasing group that is 14" behind Garcia Quesada. CSC and Liberty Seguros lead the peloton at 15 minutes behind the leaders.
Looks like the Liberty Seguros riders have strung a hammock between their handlebars, and... yes, Heras is taking a nap.
But the boys in front are making up for it - they've got their own little Vuelta going.
1658 CEST - Garcia Quesada is now on a downhill section going 56 kph. He is chased by Elmiger, Latasa, Lastras, Haussler, Gerdemann, and Fuentes. They are 18" behind. There are a lot of other chasers further behind, but we're not getting time checks or camera shots of them. 19 km left.
Garcia Quesada has a long ways to go yet. But his teammate Latasa is getting an armchair ride in that chase group.
So yeah, the riders appear to be heading down one side of a large highway, three lanes in each direction separated by a guard rail. In the other direction, the cars are backed up something terrible... looks like Los Angeles on a holiday, that.
Oy, more attacks from the chase group. This time is it Gerdemann trying to get away. He has a go with Lastras, but they are brought back. Now Fuentes has a go.
Could be that they turned the other side of that highway into a parking lot for the day. As I live in LA, though, it is hard for me to tell the difference between a freeway being used for normal traffic and a freeway being used for a parking lot.
There are lots of fans screaming on each of the overpasses. Another little flurry of attacks in that chase group come to naught. Meanwhile, Garcia Quesada continues to hammer away. But wait... on an uphill section, they have Garcia Quesada in their sights.
And there's the peloton at the 120 km to go mark. (Only joking...) I think the peloton might have taken the wrong road today or something.
1706 CEST - Fuentes has another go on this slight uphill. He is marked closely. They are 16' 23" ahead of the completely bored and apathetic peloton.
The peloton is so far behind that they are now riding through a rainstorm... the roads are wet and dangerous looking. The leaders, on the other hand, are riding on dry roads with a bit of clouds overhead.
Whew, man, it is pouring down on the peloton. They are getting drenched.
1709 CEST - So Garcia Quesada has held his gap, and has stretched it back out to 30". Gerdemann has attacked and gotten a gap on the chase group. 12 km left.
CSC and Liberty Seguros are attentive at the front of the wet peloton, guiding their GC men on the dangerous roads.
So another flurry of attacks, counters, and bridges has reorganized the chase at the front. It looks like Zaballa and Laiseka are back in the mix now.
1714 CEST - Elmiger, Fuentes, Haussler, and Latasa are now at the front of the race with 7 km left. Not sure when they caught and dropped Garcia Quesada, but they did. Behind, a group of six is chasing that includes Gerdemann, Laiseka, and Lastras.
That group is at about 30". Then there are quite a few other men chasing further back.
1717 CEST - 5 km left. Elmiger, Fuentes, Haussler, and Latasa are still driving it on the front. Zaballa (Saunier Duval) has attacked the chase group and is trying to bridge alone. Zaballa is 18" behind the four leaders.
1720 CEST - 4 km left. The four leaders are entering the city now. They still have 19" on Zaballa. It will be hard for Zaballa to bridge.
Zaballa is on a downhill section, laying across his handlebars in a position that looks precarious to me... his groin on his top tube, chest on this bars... one false move, and it's singing soprano.
2 km left. Fuentes, Elmiger, Haussler, and Latasa are still leading. They are looking at each other a bit. It's a downhill still, so not much chance to attack really... long straight roads.
Fuentes has a go, though, heading into the final kilometer.
They go under a tunnel, and the others have bridged Fuentes. Elmiger is leading the chase. They all sit up and start swerving all over, jockeying for position for the final sprint. Fuentes has to lead it out.
Latasa jumps, Elmiger and Haussler try to catch him... and it's Haussler! By just a little bit, the Gerolsteiner wins it over Elmiger and Latasa.
Elmiger went up the left barriers, and Latasa jumped on his right. Haussler stayed in Elmiger's wheel, and came around between Latasa and Elmiger to pass them both and take the stage. A brilliant sprint by Haussler, really.
The fans at the finish should take a nap, go to the bathroom, get another drink, and then come back to see the peloton finish. The peloton has finally emerged from the rainstorm that the men in the break managed to outride.
They are all strung out for some reason now. CSC is five strong at the front of the peloton putting the hammer down. They are followed by the Liberty Seguros train.
1. Haussler (Gerolsteiner)
2. Elmiger (Phonak) m.t.
3. Latasa (Comunidad Valenciana) m.t.
4. Fuentes (Lampre-Caffeta) @ 10"
5. Zaballa @ 30"
6. Lastras (Illes Balears) @ 43"
7. Jose Elias (Relax Fuenlabrada) @ 45"
8. Gerdemann (CSC) @ 50"
9. Laiseka (Euskaltel Euskadi) @ 54"
10. Baldato (Fassa Bortolo) @ 2' 16"
17. Bingen "F-Bomb" Fernandez (Cofidis) @ 2' 16"
Haussler gets his trophy on the podium while the peloton is still 8 km from the finish.
Michael Barry is guiding Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel) near the front of the peloton as they wind through the last few kilometers.
The twenty riders who were off the front in those attacks today have all finished now. We are just waiting for the peloton to get here. It's been 13 minutes.
Those guys in the break all finished over 10 minutes ago.
CSC rider Christian Vandevelde leads the pack into the final kilometer.
Now here comes Mancebo attacking again! In the final kilometer. Hmmm... he might have gotten a second or two, actually.
Back to their siestas and fiestas for the fans.
Okay, so Mancebo didn't get any time there... and Menchov actually came around him and beat him to the line. Casper, the sprinter from Cofidis, won the rush to the line by the peloton though... he actually got 2" on the peloton.
Tomorrow will be the all-important 38.9 km time trial. It is a little bumpy, but it doesn't have any climbs, so it should definitely favor a guy like Menchov. We'll see. Heras just has to put in a decent time and he'll keep the Gold Jersey. Really, he just needs to try to avoid crashing.
Tomorrow's time trial will be complicated by the forecast of rain, which the peloton got a preview of today. You can bet Heras will be playing it cautiously if the roads are slick.
Bingen Fernandez is now up into 36th on GC with his great performance in the breakaway today. He only has to make up 1h 12' 57" on Heras in tomorrow's time trial to take the Gold Jersey. We're pulling for you, Bingen! (I hope he doesn't read these and get pissed...)
Thanks very much for joining us today, and be sure to tune in for the Time Trial tomorrow! Adios!