Vuelta a España • Stage7

Huesca - Alcañiz

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Top five today: 1. Degenkolb, 2. Viviani, 3. David, 4. Bouhanni, 5. Bennati, 10. Swift.


Davis and Bouhanni almost collided at the finish as they rode over for third and fourth, just ahead of Bennati.


It just seems too easy for the green jersey Degenkolb. He's surrounded by team-mates over the line after a third win in one week. It was probably his hardest one today - but he still had enough in the tank.


John Degenkolb goes very early and Ben Swift pops early. Elia Viviani is right there ... but it's three for Degenkolb!


It's back together as they enter the final kilometre.


There's a split - Sky have edged ahead of the pack and taken just a few riders with them.


Still Sky control the pace, with Stannard on the front and Swift in tow behind another team-mate, Froome.


The riders are using a green segment of track as they approach a tight 90-degree corner.


Rigoberto Uran has been dropped by the peloton - and that was before the 3km mark and so the Colombian could lose some time today.


Now the circuit widens out and so the dangerous moment has passed. Sky are still on the front, with Froome, Flecha and Stannard all leading out Swift.


Juan Antonio Flecha pulling the pace on the front as they enter the Motorland Aragon circuit. It's pretty technical, with twisting turns and some up-and-downs.


The peloton is pretty small - the riders held up by that crash are yet to re-join. Sky are on the front, working for Ben Swift.


The road is very narrow at the moment - with everyone wanting to be near the front, this is getting pretty dangerous.


The peloton is approaching Motorland Aragon for the ding-dong sprint finish. The pace is very high.


That crash has caused a big split in the peloton, with about 50 riders being held up by the incident.


CRASH: Around 10 riders went down in the middle of the road, in the middle of the peloton. There are men from Rabobank (Stef Clement) and Caja Rural (David de la Fuente) there. It looked like a combination of two crashes. A couple of RadioShack riders are down too - Linus Gerdemann is one.


Ag2R-La Mondiale and Rabobank are nearing the front. Argos Shimano have formed their train, but they're keeping well back for the time being.


The peloton is really bunched up tightly now as Katusha do all the work. Behind them, Movistar and Lotto are forming.


Katusha clearly have no aspirations for the sprint, unless Angel Vicioso fancies his chances. They are merely trying to keep the red jersey out of trouble.


Aramendia is taken back by the peloton as they split to go over a small roundabout. The other two escapees are swallowed up moments later. Katusha and RadioShack are setting the pace. Some of the peloton rode right over that roundabout, bunny hopping up and down on either side.


The leaders finally call it a day and sit right up. They then start to compete again for the intermediate sprint, with Lindeman taking it ahead of Rabon and Aramendia. The gap back to the pack is 16 seconds. That will have no impact on the points classification - although today's finish certainly will.


The three leaders have just 25 seconds to play with now so it's simply a matter of getting some final TV time for the sponsors. The peloton is motoring along to the motor circuit finish. Lindeman has another totally futile dig on the front but is caught just as the trio pass a road sign towards 'Motorland'.


Rabon and Aramendia are back on with Lindeman while Lechuga has now been swept up by the peloton. RadioShack and Sky are driving the pace - they want a win for Messrs Bennati and Swift respectively.


Lindeman now has a pop off the front, while Rabon and Aramendia argue who should lead the chase. The Spaniard is clearly on his last legs but he agrees to have a dig. It's all a bit ridiculous because the peloton is only 1:05 back and so these are but minor skirmishes and dramas that are bring played out.


Aramendia won't give up. The Spaniard is almost back on with Rabon and Lindeman, but Lechuga is gone for good. Once back, Aramendia gesticulates wildly with the other two remaining escapees.


Rabon has had enough working for the group and puts in an attack. Lechuga is instantly dropped, while Aramendia and Lindeman bicker about who should lead the chase. Lindeman eventually jumpes clear, leaving the peloton's slowest rider on GC to try and fight back on alone.


Rabon, with his lush main of thick black locks, sets the pace on the front of the four-man break. Their lot is not an enviable one: they have 1:30 over the pack and have no chance whatsoever of staying out in front despite all their efforts today.


One of the Saxo Bank riders sprays red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez with water from his bidon on the front of the peloton, amid many laughs and guffaws. It's one of those days in Spain. Meanwhile, Movistar's Imanol Erviti gets a sticky bidon or two when going on water duties for his team-mates.


It's 40 degrees now and there is no wind. These are open plains in Aragon - wind could have been an issue. As it is, today is a rather routine day in the saddle. There won't be any changes in the GC, baring something quite extraordinary. The gap is 1:50 now. Aramendia is back with the leaders after being dropped following the intermediate sprint.


At the intermediate sprint, Lechuga took the points ahead of Rabon and Aramendia - just moments before the latter was dropped.


At the intermediate sprint there's some movement in the break, with Rabon and Lechuga pulling clear of Lindeman and Aramendia. Lindeman eventually follows suit, leaving Aramendia struggling to fight back with his fellow escapees. The peloton is rolling along at 1:35.


Puncture for Danny Pate, who needs a wheel change from his Team Sky car. The gap is now just 1:25 so it's a matter of time. The road is pretty ropey here: narrow, bumpy and boasting adverse camber.


The gap has been slashed to 2:20 as RadioShack come to the front of the pack alongside Argos Shimano. They will hope their man Daniele Bennati can get the victory today. The Italian came close in stage five, taking second place behind Degenkolb.


Martina and Maaskant take quite a lot of time before returning on their way. That crash happened on an innocuous-looking stretch of road - no apparent reason, just a touch of wheels perhaps. Anyway, they are both eventually back on their bikes and on their way.


CRASH: Martijn Maaskant (Garmin) and Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) collide in the middle of the road and hit the tarmac.


We spoke to Koen de Kort at the start of the stage and asked him about his lead-out duties for Argos team-mate John Degenkolb: "To be honest I'm a little bit nervous. We've done it twice now and so we know we can do it but it's always a challenge. It would be amazing for John to get his third win - especially with the finish today being on a motor racing circuit."


It's normal for the advantage of breaks to swell a bit following the feeding zone and that is the case today: the four leaders are now 4:45 ahead.


Of course, the big news today is not that there's a four-man break on stage seven, but that Lance Armstrong has said he will not contest charges levelled against him by USASA. At teh start, Alberto Contador said: "Honestly, I don't really know much about this at the moment because I'm focusing on the race here. I don't know if this topic is finished or not so I won't say anything. [Lance] was always a great rider and a great fighter and I have always respected him for that."


Czech rider Frantisek Rabon is a former national time trial champion and has won a cluster of ITTs in his time, including during the 2009 Tour de Romandie. The 28-year-old also has stage wins from the Tour of Slovakia (twice) and the Tour of Ireland. The final rider in this break is Bertjan Lindeman of Vacansoleil. The 23-year-old Dutchman won the Ronde van Drenthe this year and is making his debut in the Vuelta.


We have two Spaniards in this break. As mentioned before, Javier Aramendia is the current 'lanterne rouge' of the race in that he is placed last on GC. The 25-year-old joined Caja Rural this season after four years at Euskaltel. This is his debut Vuelta but he did ride the Giro last year. Compatriot Pablo Lechuga turned 22 last week and is riding his debut Grand Tour. The Andalucia rider has no professional wins to his name.


Lunch time for the riders, who pass through the feeding zone on yet another sweltering day in the office. The temperature is now 36.5 degrees. The gap is 3:55.


Argos-Shimano are still driving the pace on the front of the peloton. Their man John Degenkolb is by far the fastest man in the race and so the safe money is on the German youngster securing a first-week hat-trick today. Jonathan Castroviejo, who wore the red jersey after Movistar's victory in the opening team time trial back in Pamplona, needs some mechanical assistance. The gap is now 3:55 for the leaders.


A reminder of the race situation: we have four riders - Spaniards Pablo Lechuga (Andalucia) and Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural), Czech Frantisek Rabon (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Dutchman Bertjan Lindeman (Vacansoleil-DCM) - ahead of the peloton. They have a lead which has stabilised just about the four-minute mark, with the peloton content to hold them there within striking distance. This one has 'bunch sprint' written all over it.


Only one of the four breakaway riders - Frantisek Rabon - has ridden before in the Vuelta. The Czech Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider made his debut appearance back in 2009. This stage is going entirely to script so far: the break is being kept out ahead and will no doubt be reeled in ahead of a bunch sprint at Alcaniz. The gap is 4:22.


Defending champion Juan Jose Cobo needs some mechanical assistance from his Movistar team car. The Spaniard has had a very quiet race so far but he's still in the top ten on GC, 1:34 down on Joaquim Rodriguez. Although the big mountains are yet to start, it does seem that his team-mate Alejandro Valverde has better form than Cobo, mind.


The average speed for the first hour of racing was 43.5 km/h. The temperature is up to 35 degrees Celsius. The gap is down to 4:25 for the five escapees.


Javier Aramendia is one of the most agressive riders in this year's Vuelta - but he is also the slowest. The Spaniard was in the break in stage two and tried in vain to bridge the gap to the break in stage four. The 25 year old former Euskaltel rider is 196th in the GC for his troubles, one hour one minute and 20 seconds behind Joaquim Rodriguez. The gap for the four leaders is 4:45.


Australia's Simon Clarke, the winner of stage three from Orica-GreenEdge, is still in the blue polka dot jersey. Clarke leads Alejandro Valverde by five points in the mountains standings. Meanwhile, the gap has dropped a touch to 4:55.


The advantage of the escapees is up to five minutes as they cross Los Monegros, a region of Aragon between Zaragoza and Huesca renowned for its semi-arid climate.


The Argos Shimano team of John Degenkolb have come to the front of the peloton to control the pace. They won't want this break to get too far up the road because today's finish is tailor-made for their man to take his third stage win in the opening week of the Vuelta. Degenkolb is the green jersey of the race, leading Joaquim Rodriguez in the points classification by 51 points to 45.


The four leaders are making some good headway - they now have 3:55 over the peloton. None of the riders are a threat on GC, with the best placed being Pablo Lechuga, more than 25 minutes behind red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez.


The four leaders now have 1:15 over the peloton.


CRASH: Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Arnaud Courteille (FDJ-BigMat) are involved in an early spill.


BREAK: Four riders attack following an initial failed dig by a Cofidis rider. They are Pablo Lechuga (Andalucia), Frantisek Rabon (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Bertjan Lindeman (Vacansoleil-DCM) and the lanterne rouge of the race, Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural).


They're off! It's already a very hot day in northern Spain with the thermometre showing 32 degrees Celsius.


The remaining 196 riders are pedalling through the neutral zone ahead of today's stage. Still only two withdrawals so far in this year's race - Enrico Gasparotto (Astana - stage one) and David Boucher (FDJ - stage four).


With the win and bonus seconds, Rodriguez increased his lead to 10 seconds over Froome in the overall standings. Contador is third, 36 seconds down, and Rigoberto Uran rises to fourth at 42 seconds. Robert Gesink stays fifth, 54 seconds behind the leader and level with Valverde.


Yesterday, Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez won stage six of the Vuelta ahead of Briton Chris Froome to consolidate his leader's red jersey. Katusha's Rodriguez beat his Team Sky rival by five seconds after counter-attacking Froome's initial dig on the second of two Cat.3 climbs at the end of the 175km stage. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished 10 seconds back to take third place while Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) could only manage fourth place, 18 seconds back, after suffering with cramps.


Welcome to live coverage of stage seven of the Vuelta a Espana, a largely flat 164km ride through the province of Aragon that culminates on the motor racing circuit of Alcaniz.