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25/08/12 - 11:49
Finished
Lleida - Collada de la Galina
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Vuelta a España • Stage8
avant-match

Lleida - Collada de la Galina

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0km 

So, from being in the lead with 150m to go, Alberto Contador gets jumped by a disgruntled Alejandro Valverde and race leader Joaquin Rodriguez.

0km 

Chris Froome (Sky) loses 14 seconds on time, but will lose more because of time bonuses.

0km

Contador loses the win on the line as Valverde comes from nowhere with Rodriguez in his wheel. So top three today are Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Tinkoff).

1km 

Contador (Saxo Tinkoff) grits his teeth and pushes for the finish as the other three suffer behind him.

1km 

Froome sprints to try and gain an advantage but to no avail. Contador takes a flier and it seems that the other three may be in trouble.

1km 

Race leader Rodriguez has attacked and Contador goes with him. Froome lets them build a small gap and rides up at his own pace. Moreno is gone now and we are down to four.

2km 

Froome gives it another injection of pace, then eases off. Testing the legs of his rivals.

2km 

Froome slows up and asks Contador to do his bit. Contador not interested and now Rodriguez and team mate Moreno as well as Valverde catch up. Meyer is still hanging in at the back of this select bunch.

2km 

Froome attacks again and only Contrador can go with him. Valverde is in difficulty and Rodriguez tries to hold his position as the leaders eat up the gap on Meyer.

2km 

The race is down to five men now. Valverde leads from Froome, Contador Rodriguez and another Katusha rider.

2km 

Valverde is 54 seconds behind Rodriguez on GC, but now Froome and Contador are coming back at him.

3km 

The peloton is beginning to split wide open as Igor Anton (Euskaltel) suffers, while Valverde (Movistar) gives it a dig immediately latching on to Ramirez's wheel who gives him a short tow.

3km 

Meyer is focused on only one thing. He hasn't looked behind him, but if he did he might see a still Sky led peloton less than a minute behind him.

4km 

Cameron Meyer (Green Edge) is out on the front on his own. No time gaps, but he's giving it a go. Although it is torturous from here on out.

4km 

Contador sits on Froome's wheel as Uran continues to take control at the head of affairs. Bouffaz is losing ground at the front and now we are down to two riders.

5km 

There are ramps of between 15% and 21% on this climb and the four escapees are weaving all over the road trying to attack each other to stay away. Moinard (BMC) seems to have been dropped.

5km

The final 4km of which Rodriguez spoke earlier are nearly upon us. Is he planning an attack from far out?

5km 

The bunch has begun to reel in the breakaway as Aramendia (Caja Rural) is swept up.

5km 

Keizer (Vacansoleil) tries to drag the leaders up the climb but they only have 1'20" of a gap. Sky still have three riders on the front as Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank and Katusha mass behind them. No major presence from Movistar.

6km 

The peloton is driving up the climb with Sky still in the lead. Riders are falling off the back as the bunch is whittled down to the real climbers.

7km

Our leaders have hit the foot of the Collada de la Gallina. Moinard (BMC) has been reeled in by Buffaz, Meyer and Ramirez, but Sky are clawing them back in all of the time. The gap now is 2 minutes.

13km 

This final climb is 7.5km in length and is short by comparison with some ascents, but is more than long enough to hurt a lot of people. Sky seem to be setting it up for Chris Froome, but if the other teams are feeling strong they may launch a counter attack. Contador, Rodriguez and Froome have all shown their cards in this Vuelta and Valverde will also be looking to hit back at Team Sky.

15km

Moinard (BMC) has made a dig on the descent and has put daylight between himself and the other escapees.

15km 

As the leaders go over the top, Aramendia and Keizer are 20 seconds back but might be able to bridge that on the descent. The gap back to the bunch is 2' 34". Nicolas Roche (AG2R) has had a mechanical on the climb. Not a good time for it. Hopefully it won't take too much energy for him to catch the bunch on the descent.

15km

Sky are on the climb and this is a 3.8km long climb with an average gradient of 5.2%. The Category 2 climb will shake off anyone who is suffering today.

18km 

Our six are now down to four as Keizer (Vacansoleil) and Aramendia (Caja Rural) fall away. The Sky led bunch are under 3 minutes behind and the tail end of the peloton is being blown to bits.

20km 

Our six leaders have begun to climb the Alto de la Comella.

25km 

The Alto de la Comella is a tough climb but what may well test the riders is the tricky technical descent before they attack the ascent of the Collada de la Gallina. Sky are firing on all cylinders now and Chris Froome will be happy to see a time gap of only 3'56" to the leaders. Contador and Rodriquez will be enjoying the ride too.

28km 

Our leaders are just a few kilometres from the Category 2 climb of the Alto de la Cornella and they continue to work together, however, the bunch are working hard too and have reeled them in to 4'36".

30km

Andorra has a huge welcome for the Vuelta as crowds have lined the roads to welcome their heroes over the last 30km of Stage 8.

30km

With just 30km left in the stage our breakaway riders have come through the second intermediate sprint of the day. Buffaz (Cofidis) made it two from two but was pushed by Cameron Meyer who took second, with Ramirez taking third. Behind them Sky are motoring and have continued to eat into their advantage. It now stands at 5' 35".

30km

The average speed for the third hour of racing was 46.3km/h.

35km 

The lead is tumbling fast and is now down to 7 minutes for our six leaders as we near the second sprint point of the day at Andorra la Vella.

38km

The gap has been brought down by the best part of a minute and now stands at 7'28".

38km 

At the start of this morning's stage, leader Joaquin Rodriguez said, "Whether we begin to climb in the first position or a little behind, the initial part is not difficult. the last four km are harder, with ramps of between 15% and 20%."

40km 

We have just crossed the border into Andorra and it is here that we can expect the fireworks to happen.

45km 

The chase has begun for the bunch and they have cut the gap from 9'28" down to 8'50" over the space of a few kilometres. Sky and Katusha are doing most of the work on the front as they drive the pace to ensure they deliver Rodriguez and Froome to the head of affairs by the time we begin climbing.

50km

Through the first sprint and Buffaz (Cofidis) got the jump on the other five to take the points. Keizer (Vacansoleil) was second with the now ex-Lantern Rouge, Javier Aramendia (Andalucia) taking third.

53km

Sky and Katusha have begun to make their presence felt on the front of the bunch as the lead hangs at 9'28" for our six leaders. as they approach the first intermediate sprint point.

55km 

So to recap, our leaders are Ramirez (Andalucia), Moinard (BMC), Aramendia (Caja Rural), Buffaz (Cofidis), Meyer (Orica GreenEdge) and Keizer (Vacansoleil).

60km 

We're now 10k from the first of the days two sprints. Degenkolb won't be adding to his points tally today but neither will his close rivals, which will suit the young sprinter just fine. The gap for the six up front has stretched another bit and now stands at 9' 26".

65km 

The gap is now out to 9' 25".

70km 

Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) is the most successful of our six breakaway riders. The 24 year old has been double national time trial champion as well as winning numerous world track medals. In 2011 he won the Tour Down Under (the overall and a stage) and would be a good bet to win the two sprints up the road. However, don't count out Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil) who won the intermediate sprints classification in the Giro d'Italia ahead of Mark Cavendish.

73km

The second hour of racing had an average speed of 49km/h so after a hectic start things have settled. From here on in, the road will rise up towards Andorra and on into the Pryenees.

75km

It's feeding time for the leaders and they'll be glad of the sustainance. After a hectic start the break finally established itself at the 100km mark, and with the second half of this stage tougher than the first, there is plenty of hardship ahead.

75km

As the lead rises to 8' 02", the temperature has started to abate a little bit. The mercury is now down to 29 degrees.

78km 

Riding for Andalucia, Javier Ramirez has had a successful season so far. To date in 2012 he has been the overall winner of the Tour of Azerbijan (taking a stage victory on the way), won a stage in the Vuelta a Andalucia and a stage in the Tour of Chile. Not bad for the 34 year old.

80km 

Races such as the Vuelta are vital to the growth of Pro Continental teams as they are given the opportunity to get some television time for their sponsors, but also prove to race organisers that they are worthy of their spot and in some cases, a permanent spot in the Pro Tour ranks.

80km

Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) was awarded the red number for Fighting Spirit yesterday. Today is his third day in the break.

80km 

The six escapees have extended their advantage out to 7'14" and now there is definitely no doubt but that this is the break of the day. It would be surprising if any of these can hang on for a stage win but they will be able to enjoy their time in the sun for the meantime.

80km 

We will soon be approaching the feed station and at this stage the riders in the break may extend their lead even further as the panic in the peloton subsides and teams begin to regroup for the sprints and/or climbs ahead.

90km

Just as we say that, a time check comes in showing the break have built a lead of 3'42".

90km 

None of the riders in this group are a threat to the leader and may well be allowed to build on their lead if all the teams in the bunch decide they need a breather. Meanwhile, at the back of the race Aitor Alonso (Caja Rural) is getting attention from the doctor.

95km 

Meyer was part of one of the earlier breaks of the day and so he clearly wants to get away.

98km

Cameron Meyer (Green Edge), Javier Ramirez (Anadalucia), Amaël Moinard (BMC), Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis), Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) and Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil) have made a break and have a lead of 1 minute.

100km 

The action in Stage 8 is bookended towards the end. As we said earlier, the sprinters will get their chance with two sprints, one at 50km to go and the second 20km later. Then the climbers and GC contenders will begin to jostle for position as we hit the Category 2 Andorra la Vella (3.8km 5.2%) with 20km to race and finish on the Category 1 Collada de la Gallina (7.2km 8%).

105km 

Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank immediately got on the front of the bunch and chased down the attackers. So it's as we were at the start.

105km 

As we near the 100km to go mark, a group of 25 riders has formed off the front of the peloton. No names yet, but Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) is among them.

105km

After a quiet period, we've just had another quartet attempting to get up the road. Pieter Weenig (Orica Green Edge), Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma Quickstep), Angel Vicioso (Katusha) and Allesandro Balllan (BMC) all tried to get away but have been reeled in by Sky.

110km 

Nicolas Roche has done his season no harm by keeping himself up at the head of affairs during the first week of the race. The AG2R rider could be accused of working for Alberto Contador on Stage 4 and whether or not the soon to be teammates had words before the stage we may never know, but his current 6th place on GC is an impressive display among some very strong riders.

115km

Approaching the town of Ponts the riders are soaking up 32 degrees of blazng sunshine.

120km

The average speed for the first hour of racing is coming in at a leg burning 52.6km/h.

120km

The Vuelta wasn't the only reason cycling was in the news yesterday. For Blazin' Saddles take on the Lance Armstrong situation check out this link. http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/blazin-saddles/armstrong-seven-crime-tour-rider-104143262.html

128km 

Those break aways have been swallowed up again. With 47km raced we have yet to see a break stick for more than a few kilometres. This kind of racing will be very wearing on the riders and as the road begins to rise gradually, there are sure to be more than a few people struggling later on.

135km

Seven riders are making a big push to get clear of the bunch.

135km

The Vuelta last had a stage finish in Andorra in 2010 when Igor Anton (Eus) took the win at the Vallnord ski resort. On that day, he took over the leader's jersey from Joaquin Rodriguez, who wears the leader's jersey today. Unfortunately for Anton he crashed out of the race a few stages later. Anton hasn't been the force he was in 2010 so far this year, but maybe he will fancy his chances today.

140km 

More escapees are reeled in as the pace remains ferociously high. The peloton is strung out along the road and the break of the day has yet to establish itself.

145km 

Australian Simon Clarke (OGE) showed a clean pair of heels to the climbers on Stage 4 taking the mountain points jersey in the process. This should change hands today, unless Clarke is feeling really good and ready to challenge the GC men.

150km 

John Degenkolb took yesterday's stage with some ease at the novel finish area of Motorland Aragon - a motor racing track. Today, he will be asking his team to keep him up front until the two sprint points later in the day. Read the full race report here http://eurosport.yahoo.com/news/hat-trick-degenkolb-vuelta-stage-7-win-103426286.html

155km

The break has been reeled in and immediately Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) and Nico Sijmens (Cofidis) try to make a break. With the bunch travelling at 60km/h for the first 20km they will do well to stay away.

155km 

Following his impressive hat-trick of sprint wins German John Degenkolb (Argos Shimano) leads the points classification by some distance from Ella Viviani (Liquigas). There is nobody in this breakaway group who can challenge this as Zeits is again the closest on 11 points to Degenkolb's 74 points.

160km 

The best placed of the break away riders is Andrey Zeits who sits 36th overall at 7' 44" so there won't be any major panic back in the bunch. They have built up an advantage of 14 seconds, while behind Lotto, Cofidis and Argos-Shimano are driving the pace.

166km

Five riders are now clear of the peloton. They are Cameron Meyer (Orica GreenEdge), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel Euskadi), Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), Andrey Zeits (Astana) and Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil).

171km

There are attacks left, right and centre as a break tries to gain an advantage early on. Today would be a good day for someone looking to pick up sprint points to get in the break.

174km 

The profile for todays stage rises steadily into Andorra. At 50km to go the sprinters will get their first taste of the action in La Seu d'Urgell. Shortly after crossing into Andorra, the sprinters will get another chance to pick up points at Andorra la Vella. The final 20km will be for the mountain goats as the race hits the Category 2 Alto de la Cornella 20km from home and then finishes up the punishing Collada de la Gallina.

174km

As the peloton leaves the streets of Lleida and racing gets underway, the weather is looking good. Almost too good for some of the riders who I'd imagine would prefer a slightly cooler day in the saddle. It's 32 degrees C out there and with only a slight breeze it will be another day of focusing on taking fluids on board. The weather at the finish is 24 degrees at the moment, but at that point the riders will have more than the weather to be concerned about.

11.45

As the riders roll out through the neutral zone at the start of today's stage, Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) holds the leader's red jersey following calculating a performance in Thursday's Stage 6 to take the stage win and also increase a 1 second margin of Chris Froome (Sky) to a 10 second gap. Alberto Contador (Saxo Tinkoff) is lurking in third spot at 36 seconds but with time bonuses at the stage finishes, it's still all to play for at the end of the first week of racing.

11.35 

Cofidis will start a man down today as Yoann Bagot is forced to pull out with an elbow injury. He is only the third rider to withdraw from the Veulta the others being Enrico Gasparotto of Astana after Stage 1 and David Boucher of FDJ after Stage 4.

11.25 

Today will see the riders tackle the third mountain stage of the race as they cover 174 kilometres between the Spanish town of Lleida before finishing in neighbouring Andorra. The stage see a mountain top finish as the peloton will cross the line at the top of the category 1 Collada de la Gallina.

11.20 

Good morning and welcome to live updates of Stage 8 of the Vuelta a Espana.