Thanks for joining us today and be sure to return tomorrow for the largely flat 164km stage seven from Huesca to Alcaniz which should give the sprinters another occasion to do battle.
Tarazona - Jaca
Vuelta a España - 23 August 2012
Vuelta a España – Follow this cycling race live with Eurosport. The action starts at 12:24 on 23 August 2012. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.
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The new top five in the GC: 1. Rodriguez, 2. Froome +10, 3. Contador +35, 4. Uran +43, 5. Gesink +53.
Top five at Jaca: 1. Rodruiguez, 2. Froome +5, 3. Valverde +10, 4. Contador +18, 5. Capecchi +18.
Contador lost about 15 seconds there... Full confirmation coming up.
Rodriguez takes the win! Froome is second, four seconds back.
Only Rodriguez can follow Froome...
Sky shed one of their Colombians - it's Henao who drops back as Uran continues the pace setting. Now Uran goes, leaving Froome to attack!
Defending champion Juan Jose Cobo is hanging on but looks to be struggling. Just one kilometre to go now and still Sky have three on the front. Cobo now drops back...
Red jersey Rodriguez looks comfortable in the wheels of Froome. He has Contador right behind him. Then Roche and Valverde. But no attacks as yet... Gesink has been dropped as well.
Both Colombians - Uran and Henao - are there for Froome on the front. No attacks as yet. Meanwhile, Bauke Mollema has been dropped... He'll drop out of the top five today.
Rigoberto Uran moves to the front for Froome. Off the back, Euskaltel's Igor Anton has been dropped.
They're onto the series of steep hairpin bends that wind up to the fortress above Jaca. Froome is riding in the wheel of Intxausti.
It's Benat Intxausti setting the pace for Movistar. Already riders are falling like flies. De Gendt has been caught and passed.
The Cat.1 final climb at Jaca is about to begin. Froome, Contador, Valverde, Roche, Rodriguez... they are all there.
De Gendt looks over his shoulder as he passes under the 4km-to-go banner. It won't be a sight to relish: his carrots are well and truly cooked.
It's Pablo Lastras setting the pace for Movistar now. De Gendt hits the old town of Jaca. These cobbles will be painful. The crowds along the narrow roads are huge. He takes the time bonus at the intermediate sprint. The rest are mopped up by Lastras and another Movistar rider, seven seconds back.
De Gendt hangs on under the 6km-to-go banner. 13 seconds now as Movistar move to the front.
De Gendt passes under the 7km-to-go banner with just 15 seconds. The road is heading slightly uphill. John Gadret has just been dropped as has Richie Porte.
Remember, there's still a bonus sprint ahead of the final climb - that may be lively. Vacansoleil's de Gendt has 22 seconds on the chasing pack.
Thomas de Gendt has 30 seconds on the pack so he might well get caught before the final climb. It's going to be very hard for him to compete with the best climbers given the effort he's put in already today.
Still Saxo Bank lead the peloton, 40 seconds behind de Gendt. It's all about delivering Alberto Contador to the foot of the final climb in the best possible position now.
This descent is quite tricky - not that technical, but the road surface isn't great: the camber creeps down on the corners while there are a few cracks in the surface.
De Gendt, riding solo, still have 50 seconds over the peloton. He took the points at the top of the Puerto de Oroel ahead of Weening and then one of the Saxo Bank riders driving the pace on the front of the pack.
Maaskant has been caught by the Saxo-led peloton. And Vandewalle is caught just ahead of the summit of the Cat.3 penultimate climb.
Vandewalle is the next to pop, so we have two leaders now in Weening and de Gendt. In fact, even Weening has been dropped now as de Gendt pulls clear on a brave solo effort.
Saxo are really going hammer and tongs on the front. The gap is down to 50 seconds so they will probably hold on until over the summit. Although four is now three: Maaskant has been dropped.
Belgian Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol) is hanging off the back of the peloton. His troubled Vuelta continues... Saxo Tinkoff have upped the pace once again.
De Gendt, Weening, Vandewalle and Maaskant are the leaders. They have 1:02 over the pack as they near the summit of the first of two Cat.3 climbs at the end of today's stage.
Saxo Tinkoff have four men on the front, including Alberto Contador. Sky now have Richie Porte ahead of Chris Froome on the front. It's like old times, except without Bradley and Mick. The leaders have less than a minute now - although Saxo did just encourage Sky to slow thinsg down back with the pack.
It's almost been four hours in the saddle for the riders today - and the temperature is 37.5 degrees Celsius. Thomas de Gendt is setting the pace on the front of the leading quartet - but their advantage is down to 1:05.
Quintana has BMC's Ballan in his wheel and then virtually the whole Saxo Bank team, followed by a spatter of Sky riders. A bus has formed off the back, including the green jersey John Degenkolb.
Riders are being spat out the back of the peloton - including Aramendia, the lanterne rouge.
The front of the bunch is strung out in single file now as they start the climb. Joost van Leijen has been caught by the peloton. It's Nairo Quintana of Movistar who is setting the pace, but BMC are on the front too. The four leaders have just 1:40 now.
The leaders are onto the Cat.3 Puerto de Oroel - a 12km climb with an average gradient of 2.8%. It has a technical descent which is where the fireworks are likely to come.
Joost van Leijen is really suffering now. The Dutchman is beginning to lose touch with the other four escapees as the peloton cut the deficit to 2:20. Yes, it's official, we're down to four now: de Gendt, Maaskant, Weening and Vandewalle.
Now Saco Bank are driving the pace back in the peloton. The gap is down to 2:45. Back with the leaders, Pieter Weening asks his team car for an ice pack to combat the heat.
It's still the calm before the storm. De Gendt looks to have pulled clear of the escapees, but he's reeled in by the other four. Van Leijen is suffering the most - the Lotto rider has been on the back for quite some time now.
The road is soon going to start to head upwards ahead of the first climb of the day. The five leaders - three Dutchmen and two Belgians - have 3:30 over the peloton.
This road is like a melting patchwork quilt - it could be carnage if it's like this on the descent of the Cat.3 Puerto de Oreol climb. With the temperature up to 38 degrees, this could be reminiscent of that infamous descent into Pau years back when Joseba Beloki crashed...
The temperature is up to 37.5 degrees. This really is a beautiful neck of the woods - cycling here on holiday (and not in a race) must be sheer bliss. Provided you have enough water.
Imanol Erviti, with his left arm heavily bandaged, is driving the pace on the front of the peloton. The Movistar rider went down hard in that crash in stage four which held up his team-mate Alejandro Valverde. The gap is 3:35 for the escapees.
Katusha and Movistar combine on the front with the Saxo Bank team of Alberto Contador sitting just behind. The leaders are onto a very narrow road and a slight uphill drag. At the first intermediate sprint, de Gendt took four points and six bonus seconds in first place, Vandewalle was second and Weening third. It has no significant effect on GC or the green jersey standings, mind.
The intermediate sprint is coming right up and the gap has increased to 4:10 for the leaders. Some spectacular scenary as the riders run out of Rioja and into Aragon. Gorges, cliffs, jagged hills and rolling roads.
Dutchman Joost van Leijen - one of the five riders in the break - is actually second to last in the GC. The Lotto Belisol rider is 40:41 down in 195th position - only Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) is worst placed, 42:23 down on red jersey Rodriguez.
Movistar and Katusha are on the front. They don't want to set too fast a pace because it's not in their interest for the break to be reeled in too early. Valverde and Rodriguez will fancy their chances today.
Alejandro Valverde is wearing the white combined jersey today. At the moment he's chatting to his friend Joaquim Rodriguez, who is in the red jersey.
None of the five leaders is in a position to take the red jersey today. The best placed rider of the five is Thomas de Gendt, who is 7:22 down on the race summit. The gap is 3:10.
The road surface is not amazing in this part of Spain. Looks like this stretch of road has not seen a fresh layer of bitumen for well over a decade. The gap is still pretty steady - 3:25. The next test is the intermediate sprint in about 18km.
The five leaders pass through the feeding zone with a gap of 3:20 over the peloton. The lead has never risen above 3:48 so you get the impression that the peloton has this one totally under control - letting the escapees dangle out ahead but not giving them too much headway.
Daniel Teklehaymanot, riding his debut Grand Tour, is not having a day to savour: he's just picked up a puncture moments after he returned into the peloton following that crash.
Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) is wearing the polka dot jersey as king of the mountains. The Australian moved to the top of the KOM standings after his stage four victory, but wore the green jersey yesterday instead. With John Degenkolb taking a raft of points yesterday, Clarke dropped in the points classification and today took the blue polka dots from Dutchman Pim Ligthart, whom he leads by five points.
Spain's Landa and Eritrea national champion Teklehaymanot are back in the bunch after that crash. Incidentally, Landa's Euskaltel team-mate Amets Txurruka has put a bet on either Joaquim Rodriguez or his Katusha team-mate Dani Moreno winning today's stage.
The five leaders - Dutch trio Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge), Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Sharp), and Joost van Leijen (Lotto Belisol) and Belgian duo Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Kristof Vandewalle (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) - have 2:55 over the peloton, which is being driven by the Katusha team of red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez.
Last year's runner-up, the runner-up of last month's Tour de France and the current runner-up on GC, Chris Froome believes that there will be "two sprints" in today's stage: "one jostling for positions on the front of the peloton ahead of the final climb and another fighting to take the win". The temperature is 35 degrees - it's going to be a hot battle for victory today at Jaca.
CRASH: Mikel Landa (Euskaltel) and Daniel Teklehaymanot (Orica-GreenEdge) hit the deck.
Before today's start at Tarazona, Thomas de Gendt said: "I would like to win stage but I'm not sure which stage will see my wish come true. I also want to keep something back for the time trial." Third in May's Giro, de Gendt skipped the Tour de France because of his wedding. But the 25-year-old rouleur has still not been away on his honeymoon - that will come on 15 October.
Although the Vuelta has never climbed up to the Rapitan Fort before, the race has visited Jaca on numerous occasions. The last winner here was Italy's Gianni Bugno in 1998 while Britain's Sean Yates - now DS at Team Sky - won in Jaca a decade earlier in 1988.
There are some crosswinds blowing in from the right, which may make things a little fiesty back in the peloton. Pieter Weening needs a mechanical check and drops back to his GreenEdge team car. The gap is 3:28.
The gap is up to 3:48 for the five leaders. The temperature is also up to around 34 degrees Celsius.
The two intermediate sprints come in the second half of today's stage - with 55km and 5km to go. The current green jersey is German youngster John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), the double stage winner, who leads Australian Allan Davis (Orica-GreenEdge) by 50 points to 29 points.
The gap has just dropped below three minutes for the five leaders. The average speed for the first hour of racing today was 43.5km/h.
The final rider in this break is Dutchman Joost van Leijen of Lotto Belisol. The 28 year old joined the Belgian team last year after two seasons at Vacansoleil-DCM. He has no wins to his name this season but in 2011 he won a stage in the Tour de Wallonie and in 2007 he won the overall and a stage in the Tour of Slovakia. This is van Leijen's debut in the Vuelta.
There are two more Dutchmen in this group. Martijn Maaskant joined Garmin from Rabobank back in 2008 after a break-through season that saw him notch five UCI wins. The 29 year old has not enjoyed any wins since then - although he finished 4th in Paris-Roubaix in 2008 and 4th in the Tour of Flanders a year later. This is Maaskant's second appearance in the Vuelta.
Belgian Kristof Vandewalle is riding his second Vuelta a Espana and is still on the hunt for his first stage win in a Grand Tour. the 27-year-old Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider is the current Belgian time trial champion.
Dutchman Pieter Weening is racing his fourth Vuelta but his first since 2009. The Spanish three-week race is the only Grand Tour in which the 31-year-old Orica-GreenEdge rider has not picked up a win: while at Rabobank, Weening won stages on the Tour (2005) and the Giro (2011). Weening wore the pink jersey for four days in last year's Giro and this year he finished 10th in the Tour of California. He has yet to notch a win since joining GreenEdge in the close season.
The best known of the five escapees is Thomas De Gendt of Vacansoleil-DCM. The 25-year-old Belgian had a breakthrough year in 2011 when he won stages on Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse. This year he took another victory in Paris-Nice and then underlined his Grand Tour credentials with an expert solo win atop the Stelvio in the Giro - a move which secured him the third spot on the podium in Milan. De Gendt has lost time in both of the summit finishes in this Vuelta and is 7:22 down on GC.
Katusha are controlling the pace on the front of the pack and not giving this break too much headway. None of the five riders are a treat on GC, but Katusha also want the stage win today for their leader Joaquim Rodriguez or, failing that, Dani Moreno. 3:22 is the latest check. Time to look at the five leading riders a bit more closely...
The lead is 3:16 for the escapees. Jan Ulrich, who famously waited for Lance Armstrong when he crashed on the Tourmalet, has chipped in with his two cents regarding the Valverde-Sky incident a few days ago. "Personally, I would have slowed, since it was a situation which wouldn't really have helped me - I want to measure myself against my opponents and not profit from their bad luck. I understand Valverde's anger - Sky should not have kept going," he told Eurosport.
The riders are crossing the barran Bardenas Reales, a natural semi-desert that stretches south-east of Navarre. The gap is still just over the three-minute mark for the five escapees. This morning Alberto Contador said: "Today's stage will not have a big impact on the general classification." The race could be lost today, however, should one of the main favourites have a bad ride and lose time.
With three Dutchmen and two Flemish-speaking Belgians, there certainly won't be any communication issues in today's five-man break.
The gap is up to three minutes for the leading quintet. "Today's stage will be agreeable but demanding," said Alejandro Valverde at the start. "I hope to repeat my performance at Arrate," he added, referring to his stage three victory a few days ago.
Red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez is one of the big favourites for the stage win today. "I have made a mark in my race manual against today's stage because I intend to win it," the Katusha rider said this morning at the start.
The five leaders - Dutchmen Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge), Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Sharp), and Joost van Leijen (Lotto Belisol) and Belgians Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Kristof Vandewalle (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) - now have 2:08 over the peloton and are combining well. The temperature is up to 33 degrees Celsius.
The gap for the five leaders is now well over a minute so it looks like this is the day's break. The dangerman is clearly Thomas De Gendt, who won magnificently atop the Stelvio from a break in the Giro. Given the time he's lost so far in the Vuelta (the Belgian is a huge 7:22 in arrears) he would need a similar kind of ride if he wants to have any say on the top ten in Spain.
The five leaders are joined by another rider, Belgian Kristof Vandewalle of Omega Pharma-QuickStep. In fact, no sooner as he arrives, Zeits drops back to the peloton. The gap is pretty small at the moment.
Five riders have managed to break clear: a trio of Dutchmen - Pieter Weening (GreenEdge), Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Sharp), Joost van Leijen (Lotto Belisol) - as well as Belgian Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Kazakh Andrey Zeits (Astana).
While the final climb to the fort is only 3.8km long with an average gradient of 5.4% there are some very steep ramps in the final series of 13 hairpin bends - we're talking leg-sapping gradients up to 14%. All in all, it's the kind of finish that red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez loves - and after the Spaniard lost out to Alejandro Valverde in stage three at Arrate he'll certainly be keen to take the win today.
Five riders try to break clear of the peloton but they are swiftly reeled in. All the drama in today's stage comes near the finish, where we have the Cat.1 Puerto de Oroel followed by the Cat.1 Fuerte del Rapitan climb above the town of Jaca for the finale. It's basically a steep and winding track that runs up to the Rapitan Fort above Jaca and it's never been used before in the Vuelta. It's an irregular gradient with some steep sections, some flat parts and 13 hairpin bends in the final 3km.
They're off! It's a hot day in northern Spain with the temperature currently just under 30 degrees Celsius.
There are no overnight withdrawals to report so we have 196 riders making their way through the neutral zone at the start of today's stage. So far just two riders have pulled out: Enrico Gasparotto (Astana - stage one) and David Boucher (FDJ - stage four).
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) retained his red leader's jersey after a quiet day on Wednesday. the Spaniard leads Britain's Chris Froome (Team Sky) by one second and countryman Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) by five seconds on GC. Dutch pair Robert Gesink and Bauke Mollema (both Rabobank) complete the top five, nine seconds down on the summit.
Yesterday, German youngster John Degenkolb took his second win in the Vuelta a Espana with a bunch sprint victory in stage five at Logrono. The 23-year-old Argos-Shimano sprinter proved that he is the fastest man in this year's race with a commanding win ahead of Italy's Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan) and Gianni Meersman (Lotto Belisol) of Belgium.
Welcome to live coverage of stage six of the Vuelta a Espana, a rolling 175.5km ride which is concluded with two Cat.3 climbs including the punchy uphill finish at Jaca in the foothills of the Pyrenees.