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26/08/12 - 11:46
Andorra la Vella - Barcelona
Vuelta a España • Stage9

Andorra la Vella - Barcelona

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Joaquin Rodriguez holds on to the race lead and extends his lead by another 20 seconds over his closest rivals.


Phillipe Gilbert sprints past Rodriguez to take the win. Rodriguez is second and Tiralongo takes third.


Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) is leaving the chasers behind.


Gilbert driving for the line with Rodriguez in his wheel as the chasers bear down and it's very close.


The chase is on behind, but have they left it too late?


Gilbert on the front into the last 1km.


Rodriguez went with 4km to go and none of his rivals were anywhere to be seen. It looks like it will be Gilbert's stage with Rodriguez taking a few more seconds. Roche is chasing hard.


Gilbert (BMC) and Rodriguez discuss tactic as Roche (AG2R) chases.


Gilbert is with him and they are working together now.


Ballan chased down by Rodriguez, Roche and Gilbert. Rodriguez leads and loooks to have broken the bunch.


BMC attack - Allesandro Ballan is trying to get away.


Nobody has yet broken the elastic but as we start the climb proper Astana take to the front.


He's undertaken by Richie Porte of Sky and it's all back together.


Contador attacks.


Sky take over on the climb, but Rabobank are keeping a close eye.


Degenkolb is right up to the front as they hit the climb. Lotto and Sky are still there, but not in numbers.


Caja Rural send a man to the front but he has nobody with him. He's tracked by Argos Shimano and Green Edge.


FDJ have taken the lead with 7km to go.


We're not too far from the foot of the climb and if they keep going at this pace it will be nothing more than a bump in the road!


Into the last 10km and the lead is changing hands rapidly. Lotto Belisol are sitting in front of Rabobank, Lampre and Saxo Bank are there too.


Favourites for today's stage include Gianni Meersman (Lotto Belisol), John Degenkolb (Argos Shimano) and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ). For the moment though, it's all still together and they are travelling at 62km/h now so there is no chance of anyone taking a flier.


The suburban streets are lined with supporters on a sunny Sunday evening in the Catalan capital, as Sky and Movistar show on the front on either side of Katusha.


Katusha continue to keep the pace high on the front as the road furniture increases in the outskirts of Barcelona. Let's hope it doesn't take any prisoners in this late stage.


Jesus Rosendo needs a wheel change. He hit a kerb trying to skip over it and his wheel is completely bent out of shape.


The climb at Montjuic is short at only 1.1km, but the gradient is an average of 8% so this is sure to burn some of the legs. If a strong rider gets over it alone, then they will need to be able to time trial their way to the finish.


The riders almost come to a standstill at a narrow point in the road. All still upright but they have to start their build up all over again.


Rosendo has been caught. At 15km from the finish it will be imperative for the race leader Joaquin Roidriguez that his Katusha team keep the pace high to avoid anyone else trying a sneaky attack. If they can do this then it will be very man for himself on the climb.


Jesus Rosendo of Andalucia has launched a counter-attack and has a gap of about 10 seconds. At this stage the bunch seem happy to give him that much. Katusha are driving on the front.


Lindeman and Buffaz are driving on and trying to stay away. They are attacking each other but they won't stay away.


The average speed for the fourth hour of racing was pretty similar to that of the three before it at 39km/h. The breakaway are no only 14 seconds clear and their day is definitely done. If the peloton slacks off any bit now, watch out for counter attacks by opportunists.


The break only have 47 seconds of a lead now into the last 30km of racing. Interestingly Maaskant hasn't challenged for either the climb or the intermediate sprint points today. Is he saving himself to have another escape attempt before the quartet are reeled in?


With the gap down to 1'04" the four leaders have contested the intermediate sprint. Buffaz did indeed take it, from Lindeman and Chacon. We also hear that Damiano Cunego (Lampre) has picked up a puncture.


The leaders are just approaching the sprint at Martorell and shortly after this their day in the limelight will be done and dusted as the bunch is winding up for the final 30km.


The final intermediate sprint comes with just over 34km to race. Will Buffaz go for the win to make it four from four? The gap is tumbling and is now down to 1'50", but they won't be caught before Buffaz has one more chance for glory.


The lead is now tumbling fast and is down to just under two minutes with under 45km to race.


The lead for the men up front is down to 2'30". The bunch have decided to start to bring them back slowly. They need to be careful though, as if they bring them back too early they are opening the door for more attacks.


Aitor Alonso (Caja Rural) is back with the doctor again. And the doctor has been busy in the last few minutes as Andalucia's Sergio Garcia has also been along for some treatment.


The escapees have a lead now of 3'18" and again, the temperature creeps up a little bit more. It's now 33 degrees.


French road racing champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ Big Mat) has been showing well in sprints so far in the Vuelta, but has yet to get his tactics right. He says he's not sure about today, because "I had a horrible day yesterday. I don't know if I've recovered, but if I have enough strength to challenge, I'll tell William Bonnet to try it. It's the kind of finish I like."


Tomorrow marks the first rest day for the Vuelta and it will be welcomed by one and all. The race will make a 1,200km transfer tonight to the starting point of Stage 10 right over the opposite side of Northern Spain in Ponteareas, but once that ordeal is out of the way, they can take it easy tomorrow and regroup.


We have around 40km to go until the next action today. That will be the second and final intermediate sprint point at Martorell. The gap is back up to 3'23" again. The bunch not ready to reel them in just yet.


The chase seems to be on as Argos Shimano, Lotto Belisol and BMC take turns bossing things at the front of the main bunch. They have whittled the advantage of our leaders down to just 2'48".


The Tour de France visited Barcelona in 2009 and, also in heavy rain, Thor Husovd took the win following a long breakaway by David Millar, who was reeled in at the foot of the ascent through Montjuic Park.


The Veulta last finished in Barcelona in 1999, but today will be very different to that stage. The stage had been planned for a 135km lapped route around the Montjuic Park, however, heavy showers led to the roads resembling a skating rink and following a rider strike the stage was reduced to 94km. This stage was won by Fabio Roscioli.


The temperature has begun to rise. And as we hit towards the coast the riders can expect it to continue to do so. At present they are experiencing 30 degrees in clear blue skies and very little wind.


The leading quartet have still got a comfortable advantage of 3'48" with under 100km left to race. The race profile is very much descending from here on until we hit the Category 3 ascent of the Alto de Montjuic 3km from home.


The sprint point at Cardona has been contested by our four leaders. Mickael Buffaz has made it three from three after adding to his two intermediate sprint wins yesterday. He was followed over the line by Lindeman and Chacon. The leaders are now passing the feed zone.


Approaching the half-way mark of Stage 9, and it's as your were after 3km. Our four escapees made the early break and a clearly tired bunch took the opportunity to keep things civilised and allow the quartet to build an advantage of over five minutes at one stage. The gap now stands at 3'50". Mickael Buffaz (Cofidis), Bertjan Lindeman (Vacansoleil), Javier Chacon (Andalucia) and Martjin Maaskant (Garmin Sharp) are our four lead riders.


Saxo bank Tinkoff Bank director Bjarne Riis said he was ready to celebrate Alberto Contador's win yesterday before he was pipped at the post and ended up finishing in third place. Directeur Sportif Bredley McGee also said he was sure he had the stage in the bag, but said that it was a "positive day" for the team. "Alberto demonstrated great power and the distance he created to Froome on the final kilometre today was extremely encouraging," he said.


As the bunch come towards the top of the climb, they are led by BMC, Lotto Belisol and Argos Shimano and are 4'20" behind our leaders.


The next mark for the riders to aim for is the intermediate sprint point at Cardona. This is followed almost immediately by today's feeding station.


The leaders have crested the climb and it was Bertjan Lindeman who took the glory over the top followed by Mickael Buffaz and Javier Chacon. For the second hour of racing the average speed was down to 37.7km/h.


2km from the summit of the climb and the leaders have a gap of 4' 48". The peloton are just dawdling up the climb while the escapees take full advantage.


John Degenkolb's Argos Shimano manager said this morning that, "Today's stage is a 50-50 for the climbers and sprinters." Saying that, he continued to say that they would take contol of the race from the start and get Degenkolb in position for win number 4. No pressure John!


Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) suffered a mechanical on the ascent of the second last climb yesterday and as a result finished 12th, limiting his losses to 1'02" down on stage winner Valverde. The Irishman has been going well in the mountains and shown he can mix it with the leaders, however, yesterday's result saw him drop from 6th to 7th overall, 2'14" down on the overall leader.


Our leaders have started the climb of the Collada de la Clara with a lead of 3'42".


Aitor Alonso (Caja Rural) is the latest rider to take a trip to the race doctor for running repairs. The 32 year old Spaniard is given the all clear and sent on his way with a perscription for some rest tomorrow.


The leaders are now 8km from the Category 3 ascent of the Collada de la Clara. This climb is 6km long and has an average gradient of 5.4%. Not massively difficult and depending on the mood in the bunch, the escapees should be allowed to stay clear on this one. The chase may begin on the descent as there are two intermediate sprints to be contested on the way to our second climb just before the finish in Barcelona.


Approaching the first climb of the day and it remains four riders out front with the peloton content to let them stay there. The four are Martijn Maaskant (Garmin sharp), Mickael Buffaz (Cofidis), Bertjan Lindeman (Vacansoleil) and Javier Chacon (Andalucia). They now have a lead of 3' 03".


The first hour of racing has been clocked at an average speed of 40.2km/h. In comparison to yesterday's 52.6km/h, things are just rolling along quite sedately. The time gap between the four out front and the bunch now stands at 3'14".


The best placed man on GC in the break is Buffaz. At 17' 11" down he's not a threat to the chasers. The other three are all over 1 hour down on GC. The top of the GC was shaken up yesterday but the Joaquin Rodriguez remains in red.


Our escapees are now hanging out there at 4'12" as we pass through Oliana.


Lance Armstrong has come out and spoken about events in the last couple of days. Seeming relaxed and quite calm he urged supporters not to 'cry' for him.


Rabobank's Laurens Ten Dam has an appointment with the race doctor. Doesn't seem to be anything serious.


As we said earlier, Buffaz was in the break yesterday and in fact, the other three riders have also seen breakaway action during the 2012 Vuelta. Javier Chacon went on a long solo ride in Stage 5 and was also part of the break in Stage 2. Behind them, BMC have taken control of the pace and have cut the gap to 3' 48".


Today's break sees two Dutch men in Martjin Maaskant and Bertjan Lindeman. Maaskant, a sprinter will be looking to the intermediate sprints, however, possibly Lindeman has eyes on a stage win. The lumpy finish would suit his style of riding. He showed he's no slouch in the March, taking the win in the Ronde van Drenthe. He had initiated the breakaway on that day and outsprinted Guilaume Boivin (SpirderTech) for the win.


There is a headwind for the riders today and the temperature has begun to rise. We're now up to 27 degrees. The four breakaway riders are at 5'04" and they won't be joined by anyone else for the time being. To recap, they are Javier Chacon (Andalucia), Mickael Buffaz (Cofidis), Martijn Maaskant (Garmin sharp), and Bertjan Lindeman (Vacansoleil).


Chris Froome (Sky) suffered at the hands of Contador, Valverde and Rodriguez yesterday. He is still in second overall, but is now 33 seconds down on Joaquin Rodriguez. He was on Twitter shortly before the start today saying, "Today's stage finishes down in Barcelona. One of my favourite cities. It should be an easier day in the bunch. Wishful thinking." He'll be satisfied with the day so far.


The four escapees continue to add to their advantage and are now 4'47" ahead of the bunch.


Argos Shimano and Katusha have decided to take control of things at the front of the peloton. The gap is continuing to rise and now stands at 4'18" so they're not chasing, just ensuring things are done according to their plan for the day.


Heading down from the mountains towards the sea, tunnels will play a large role in Stage 9. Today the peloton will navigate its way through 12 tunnels. This will provide the riders with some welcome shade from the searing Spanish sun. Temperatures have been very high during the first week of the Vuelta and today, though at little cooler at 25 degrees at present, things will heat up as we descend into Barcelona later.


The Stage 8 mountain top finish yesterday saw huge fireworks involving the top GC contenders. Alberto Contador looked to have made a winning attack to claw back time on his rivals only to be passed on the line by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and race leader Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha).


The escapees have now built up an advantage of 2'12" and there is no organised chase behnd. After a tough day in the saddle yesterday, it looks like the bunch are willing to let a break stick early and ease the pressure on themselves.


Buffaz was involved in the break yesterday and collected points on both of the intermediate sprints before being reeled in on the final climb of the day. He hasn't made much of an impression on the overall points classification however. This is led by treble stage winner John Degenkolb (Argos Shimano) on 76 points, while Buffaz picked up 8 for his trouble yesterday.


As soon as the flag dropped for the start, Martijn MAASKANT (Garmin Sharp), Mickaël BUFFAZ (Cofidis), Javier CHACON (Andalucia) and Bertjan LINDEMAN (Vacansoleil) made a break for it. The quartet have built up an early lead of 47 seconds already.


And they're off and racing. There are now 194 riders remaining following the overnight abandonment of Tom Dumoulin (Argos Shimano). The Dutch rider was involved in a crash yesterday and went to hospital last night and received stitches for an abdominal wound.


Stage 9 includes two Category 3 climbs. The first, Collada de la Clara, comes just over 70km into racing, while the second, Alto de Montjuic could decide the winner of the stage, coming with only a handful of kilometres remaining. The final kilometre is also a slight uphill drag so may not suit the likes of John Degenkolb and the other out and out sprinters.


As the riders roll out through the neutralised zone they are faced with a 196km stage between Andorra and Barcelona. In contrast to Stage 8 yesterday, Stage 9 will run from the Pyrenees gradually downwards to just above sea level at the finish line.


Hello and welcome to our LIVE coverage of Stage 9 of the Vuelta a Espana.