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01/09/12 - 12:32
Palas de Rei - Puerto de Ancares
Vuelta a España • Stage14

Palas de Rei - Puerto de Ancares

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The top five looks like this now: 1. Rodriguez, 2. Contador +22, 3. Froome +1:41, 4. Valverde +1:41, 5. Moreno +4:16.


Daniel Moreno whizzed past Chris Froome on the final straight to take fourth place.


Rodriguez not only won the stage, he took five seconds off Contador, plus the bonus seconds. Valverde took third place, 12 seconds down.


Victory for Joaquim Rodriguez! His third of the Vuelta! And the red jersey will extend his lead today after a simply stunning final climb.


But Rodriguez is too strong! He passes his rival and sprints to the line...


Contador puts in a last-ditch attack...


This is magnificent by Rodriguez! The red jersey has caught Contador, who looks like a broken man.


Rodriguez drops Valverde as he rides in pursuit of Contador.


But it was a last throw of the dice for Froome! He is caught by Valverde and Rodriguez, and then passed by them both.


WOW: Chris Froome has caught and passed the Rodriguez group and rides solo in pursuit of Contador!


Moreno sets the pace, with Valverde and Rodriguez on his wheel. And Froome has returned onto the wheel of the chasing three, thanks to some pacing by Uran.


ATTACK: Contador throws down the hammer and distances every one around a tight hairpin!


Moreno has joined Contador, Valverde and Rodriguez. American Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) is there now too, although he looks spent. Meanwhile, Sky's Colombians are pacing Froome back up towards the front...


The Spanish trio have 17 seconds over Froome already. The Briton is really suffering. He has both Uran and Haneo with him, as well as ten Dam and Nicolas Roche.


Valverde and Contador ride off the front! Rodriguez drops back with Moreno and Losada, then steps on the pedals, drops his team-mates and returns to his rivals.


Valverde senses that this is an opportunity, with Sky looking to be on the ropes. Contador doesn't look comfortable either. Rodriguez has both Moreno and Losada, who has been caught.


Saxo Bank are teeing up Contador now - the Spaniard is launched off the front, and he's tracked by Valverde and Katusgha pair Rodriguez and Moreno. No reaction from Sky as yet.


Losada has 25 seconds with 4km to go. Laurens ten Dam is back in the main group for Rabobank.


Rodriguez still has Moreno, while Froome has both Uran and Henao. Valverde is isolated and Contador is nowhere near the front of this main pack, despite having a team-mate dictating the pace.


Another Saxo Bank rider peels back, his face a picture of pain. Contador has one more team-mate. Gesink is 25 seconds off the back, Mollema even further. Laurens ten Dam is now fighting back for Rabobank.


Besides the Big Four, the likes of Monfort, Moreno and Roche are still in this main group.


Losada passes under 6km-to-go. He looks to be suffering. The gap is now 45 seconds back to a main group of around 15 riders.


Garate has been caught by the main pack, and shakes his head when he can't see Rabobank team-mates Gesink, Mollema and ten Dam.


Saxo Bank may have three men on the front, but Alberto Contador is quite a few men back alongside Valverde and Rodriguez. Lone leader Losada has one minute to play with now - it will not be enough.


Robert Gesink of Rabobank, fifth on GC, is in toruble: the Dutchman has been dropped by the main pack.


Contador has three team-mates now as the gap comes down to 1:20. They are catching remnants of the chasing group - Javier Moreno of Movistar is the latest.


Losada has 1:47 over the main bunch as he approaches the 8km-to-go banner. The road surface is a very coarse hard-packed gravel-like substance.


Saxo are really going at it hammer and tong. Katusha and Sky place themselves right in their wheels. Very soon we will have fireworks.


Lone leader Alberto Losada is onto the final climb of the day, the Cat.1 Puerto de Ancares (9.5km at 8.1%).


Losada is onto another downhill stretch. He has one minute over the six-man chasing group and 1:40 over the Saxo Bank-led main pack.


Moncoutie is back with the main chasing group in pursuit of Losada. Dario Cataldo has been dropped. Clarke too has sat up. The gap from Losada to the peloton is 1:55 now. The Spaniard also has 47 seconds on his six chasers.


The second intermediate sprint at Murios is hardly a sprint - it comes on a uphill and Losada crosses the line to take the points, not that it matters.


Contador still has five Saxo team-mates with him as they approach the start of the final climb proper. We're still on a series of stop-and-start uphills preceding the main event. Losada has 1:48 over the peloton as Gastauer is caught by the peloton. The Luxembourger crashed on the last descent.


Moncoutie was dropped by the escapees and is riding with Gastauer a bit off the pace.


The seven riders chasing Losada are Pauwels, Moreno, Cataldo, Txurruka, Clarke, Bakelants and Garate. Losada has 20 seconds over the other escapees, who have 1:35 over the peloton, still being led by Saxo Bank.


We seem to be down to seven riders on the front now. Actually, they're chasing lone rider Alberto Losada of Katusha, who has broken clear on another one of these minor uphills ahead of the final climb.


Luxembourger Gastauer crashes on a tight bend - and is almost clattered into by the pursuing TV motor vehicle. He's back on his bike and on his way, in pursuit of the leading group.


After that tricky climb, the leading group has shrunk from 16 to 10: Pauwels, Txurruka, Bakelants, Losada, Cataldo, Garate, Clarke, J Moreno, Gastauer and Moncoutie.


The descent is punctuated with a series of mini rises, which will be rather leg-breaking for the riders. Clarke already is feeling the pinch and has been distanced by the bunch. Meanwhile, further back, Laurent Didier is about to be caught by the peloton. The gap is still 1:40.


Confirmation of the top three over the Cat.1 Alto de Folgueiras de Aigas: 1. Clarke (10pts), 2. Moncoutie (6pts), 3. Pauwels (4pts). Clarke is now on to 34 points in the KOM standings, to Valverde's 22.


There's a flurry of activity in the leading group as Simon Clarke jumps clear to take maximum points atop the summit of the climb ahead of David Moncoutie. The Australian is looking good for the polka dot jersey tonight - unless Valverde takes the stage and points at the finish, that is.


Red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez takes Contador's mechanical problem as a chance to slow and take a call of nature (ably supported by Dani Moreno) while riding along.


MECHANICAL FOR CONTADOR: The Spaniard needs to change his front wheel and that will disrupt things for Saxo Bank. He swaps with a team-mate but will have to fight back on. Meanwhile, Ballan and Molard have been caugh tby the peloton. The leaders are approaching the summit.


We're onto the steepest 9% section of the climb and still Saxo Bank drive a solid tempo on the front. Contador looks pretty serene as he marshals his troops. Rodriguez has Moreno leading him up, while Froome has his Colombian generals Uran and Henao. The leading nine riders (Didier has now been dropped too) have 1:50 over the pack.


Rudy Molard of Cofidis is losing touch with the leaders on this 7% section of the climb. Paterski and Palomares are faltering too.


Contador still has five team-mates with him on the front of the peloton. Rabobank's Dutch top ten trio - Mollema, Gesink and ten Dam - are near the front, as is Valverde (without Movistar team-mates). Both Rodriguez and Froome have three Katusha and Sky team-mates. With the leaders, Alessandro Ballan has just been dropped. The gap is down to 1:30.


Kadri is caught and passed by the Saxo Bank train, which is really motoring up this climb. The gap is down to 1:50 for the leaders now. Katusha and Sky are both riding in the wheels of Saxo Bank, waiting for the crunch.


A big grupetto is forming off the back of the peloton. Serial escapee Javier Aramendia is one of those to lose touch. Biel Kadri has lost a huge amount of ground to the leading group - the Frenchman totally hit the wall and will be caught and passed by the peloton soon.


Matteo Tosatto is one of the first Saxo Bank riders to peel off the front after some hefty pace-setting. His job for the day done, the Italian will work to limit his losses now. Sergio Paulinho takes up the baton. With the leaders, Biel Kadri is first to crack on the climb and is spat out the back.


The leaders are onto the penultimate climb of the day, the Cat.1 Alto de Folgueiras de Aigas (9.7km at 6.7%).


Saxo Bank have been ever present on the front of the peloton. They lead the chase on this downhill and have reduced the gap to 2:30.


The gap is still three minutes for this 16-man group. One of the most experienced riders of the break is Rabobank's Juan Manuel Garate - the veteran Spanish climber has stage wins in all three Grand Tours, although he has not taken a win in the Vuelta for more than a decade.


The roads are lined with pine trees as the riders head deeper into the valley on this long downhill drag. Biel Kadri was one of the riders to lose touch on that last uphill rise, but he fought back on. The Frenchman is still in search of his debut Grand Tour win.


The leading group has reformed on that rise and is now zipping down a descent towards the penultimate climb of the day. The views are pretty spectacular, with jagged peaks as far as the eye can see. The gap is 2:55.


Despite Saxo Bank's well-drilled pace-setting, the break increases its lead to 3:08. Riding on the back of the bunch is British national champion Ian Stannard of Team Sky.


The leading group has 2:45 over the peloton, which itself is beginning to thin out a little with numerous riders being dropped on this long uphill drag.


With the road now heading uphill again on an uncategorised climb, the three attackers are being reeled in by the main break, which is somewhat stretched out. A few of them have been blown off the back and will have to fight back on.


Alessandro Ballan (BMC) has attacked from the break. He's followed by Jan Bakelants (RadioShack) and Rudy Mollard (Cofidis). They open a small gap on the downhill.


Robert Gesink, fifth on GC, has punctured and needs a wheel change. He's being paced back to the peloton by a Rabobank team-mate.


Ben Gastauer of Ag2r-La Mondiale needs a mechanical stop with his team car on this long descent.


Simon Clarke jumps clear of the break in pursuit of those mountain points - the Australian takes 3 points over the top of the Alto de O Lago ahead of Pauwels and Moncoutie. Those points are enough to put Clarke back into the lead in the KOM standings. The peloton cross the summit 2:35 down on the break.


The Saxo Bank-Tinkoff jerseys, with their new sash of yellow, are quite a sight when seen en masse. Perhaps the best of the peloton. All nine riders, including Contador in white, front the peloton. The break are now approaching the summit of the climb.


Still Saxo Bank pull the peloton along, 2:06 behind the leading group of 16 riders. This third climb is not too demanding and the pack has reached a false flat towards the summit.


We're onto the Cat.3 Alto de O Lago (8.4km at 4.1%). The average speed for the second hour of racing today was 41.6 km/h.


Confirmation of the points over the Cat.1 Alto Vilaesteva: 1. Clarke (5pts), 2. Pauwels (3pts), 3. Moncoutie (1pt). Australian Clarke now moves into second place in the KOM standings, one point below Alejandro Valverde. The GreenEdge rider wore the blue polka dot jersey for a couple of days after his win in stage four in the opening week.


The whole Saxo Bank team sets the pace while Alberto Contador, wearing the white combined jersey, smiles and waves at the TV camera. Purito Rodriguez is the next rider to smile on cue in the red jersey. They'r eapproaching the third climb of the day, trailing the leading group by 1:45.


It's a long, twisting descent, a lot of which in the shadows of trees and cliffs. The roads are pretty narrow and the surface isn't the best, so they're taking it pretty gingerly. The gap is 1:25 for the 16 leaders.


The leading group have crossed the summit of the climb and are on the descent. We're waiting for confirmation of the order over the top.


Angel Vicioso (Katusha) picks up a puncture and needs a wheel change off the back of the peloton.


The gap is coming down quite quickly: 1:20 at the latest check. It doesn't help that there are no top drawer climbers in the break - there are some solid mountain men, but no one who is going to take the stage by the scruff of its neck. And Saxo Bank are leading a measured and controlled chase. Contador is still without a stage win on the race and he's hungry to get in on the act - and take the red jersey.


It's Saxo Bank-Tinkoff controlling the race on the front of the peloton, with Katusha and Team Sky sitting in their wheels. The gap is 1:48 so Alberto Contador's team are going a sterling job.


Sean Kelly commentating on today's stage on Eurosport: "Today we're going to have a better idea who's going to be the winner of this year's Vuelta and who's going to be on the top three steps in Madrid."


Four teams have two riders in this break: Omega Pharma-QuickStep, RadioShack-Nissan, Cofidis and Ag2R-La Mondiale. Quite a few teams have missed the break, including Astana, Sky, Saxo Bank and Caja Rural. The gap is 2:12 at the moment.


The leaders are now on the Cat.2 Alto de Vilaesteva (9.5km at 4.5%).


The lead is up to two minutes for the 16 escapees. Saxo Bank continue to control the tempo as the mercury rises to 26 degrees.


Frenchman Rudy Molard (Cofidis) also needs some mechanical assistance. The break now has a lead of 1:52 over the peloton ahead of the second climb of the day.


At the first intermediate sprint at Sarria, Alessandro Ballan takes maximum points and bonus seconds ahead of Biel Kadri and Serge Pauwels. That doesn't effect the green jersey standings one jot. Meanwhile, Javier Moreno of Movistar needs to drop back and see his team car with a mechanical issue.


The average speed for the first hour of racing today was 45.1 km/h. Of the 16 escapees, Simon Clarke and Adrian Palomares have both been in breaks before in this year's Vuelta. The Australian won stage four from a break and was also involved in yesterday's break. Palomares was involved in a break in the first week alongside the previous most attacking rider of the race, Javier Aramendia (who seems to be taking things a bit slower these days).


A reminder of the 16 breakaway riders: Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Biel Kadri, Ben Gastauer (both Ag2R), Laurent Didier, Jan Bakelants (both RadioShack), Javier Moreno (Movistar), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel), Dario Cataldo, Serge Pauwels (both OPQS), David Moncoutie, Rudy Molard (both Cofidis), Maciej Paterski (Liquigas), Simon Clarke (GreenEdge), Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) and Adrian Palomares (Andalucia). The gap is 1:45.


Saxo Bank's pace setting is enough to reel in lone chaser Piedra. The 16-man break has 1:18 over the peloton as the riders continue along a rolling plateau. There's a slight downhill and then 8km flat section ahead of the second climb of the day, so a chance for the break to get some more headway.


The gap is 43 seconds back to the peloton, so it has not yet grown that large. Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural) attacks from the pack in a bid to bridge the gap. The Pro Continental team missed the break and so want to get a piece of the action.


David Moncoutie (Cofidis) means business: the Frenchman crosses the summit of the Alto de Castro in first place ahead of Serge Pauwels (OPQS) and team-mate Rudy Molard (Cofidis). The veteran Frenchman has won the king of the mountains in the past four Vueltas - he's now started his campaign for a record-breaking fifth consecutive title.


The Saxo Bank team of Alberto Contador is setting the tempo in the peloton. The Spaniard is the big favourite for the win today - these longer climbs suit him better than the steep ramps on which red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez consistently shines.


We're onto the first climb of the day, the Cat.3 Alto de Castro (4.7km at an average gradient of 5.9%).


The 16 leaders have a lead of 45 seconds now over the bunch as the riders approach the first categorised climb of the day. The best placed rider in this break is Serge Pauwels of Omega Pharma-QuickStep, who is 12:15 down on Rodriguez on GC.


A group of 16 riders has formed off the front of the peloton. It includes: Alessandro Ballan, Biel Kadri, Ben Gastauer, Jan Bakelants, Javier Moreno, Alberto Losada, Amets Txurruka, Serge Pauwels, Dario Cataldo, Laurent Didier, David Moncoutie, Rudy Molard, Maciej Paterski, Simon Clarke, Juan Manuel Garate and Adrian Palomares.


Eight riders formed in pursuit of those leaders - but both the chasing group and the initial five-man break were reeled in on an uphill stretch. We're back together as one.


Another withdrawal: Rafael Valls Ferri (Vacansoleil-DCM) also pulls out before the first climb of the day.


Today's climbs: Cat.3 Alto de Castro (4.7km at 5.9% - starting after 30km), Cat.2 Alto de Vilaesteva (9.5km at 4.5% - after 61.5km), Cat.3 Alto de O Lago (8.4km at 4.1% - after 82km), Cat.1 Alto Folgueiras de Aigas (9.7km at 6.7% - after 116km), Cat.1 Puerto de Ancares (9.5km at 8.1% - after 140km).


The five leaders have just 15 seconds on the peloton as numerous teams - Cofidis, BMC and FDJ - combine to try and reel them in.


Another rider throws in the towel: Olivier Kaisen of Lotto Belisol. That's the third Lotto rider to withdraw today - the Belgian team clearly suffering from the after effects of the nasty virus that hit their camp a couple of days ago.


A reminder that John Degenkolb is wearing the green jersey although he trails red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez by seven points in the points classification. Alejandro Valverde is in the blue polka dots - he leads Rodriguez by two points in the mountains classification. And Alberto Contador is wearing the white combined classification jersey - although Rodriguez leads that competition as well.


BREAK: Five riders ping off the front after 4km. They are Johan van Summeren (Garmin-Sharp), Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan), Juan Jose Oroz (Euskaltel), Biel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Dario Cataldo (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).


They're off! After 5km of neutral zone riding, the stage gets under way with the sun out and a temperature of 21 degrees. We have two Cat.3 climbs, one Cat.2 and two Cat.1 climbs on the agenda - as well as three minor uncategorised climbs. It's a lot to cram into such a short parcours - so expect some fireworks...


The field has shrunk to 185 riders following the overnight withdrawals of Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Jurgen van den Broeck and Jens Debusschere (both Lotto Belisol). The peloton is rolling through the neutral zone ahead of the official start...


Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) retained his 13-second lead over Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) in the general classification. Chris Froome (Team Sky) is third, 51 seconds in arrears, while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) completes the 'Big Four', 1:20 behind his compatriot 'Purito'.


Yesterday, Britain's Steve Cummings took the biggest win of his career with a remarkable solo victory in stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana in Ferriol. BMC's Cummings attacked from a breakaway of seven riders with three kilometres remaining of the rolling 173km stage from Santiago de Compostela and, despite the best efforts of fellow escapees Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky), Cummings held on for the win.


Welcome to live coverage of stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana: the race hits the Asturias mountains with three back-to-back summit-top finishes starting with this short and sharp 149km hike from Palas de Rei to Puerto de Ancares. It features five categorised climbs and each one gets harder and harder...