Vuelta a España • Stage12

Escaldes-Engordany - Lleida

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John Degenkolb sat up once Van Poppel surged past - the German ended up in fifth place and was slamming his handlebars with his fist in frustration as he crossed the line.


That was almost a slow-mo sprint such was the intensity and the weary legs. Daryl Impey took second place for GreenEdge and Tosh van der Sande third for Lotto-Soudal.


An amazing comeback from the Dutch youngster, who recovered from that puncture to take his first Grand Tour stage win for Trek Factory Racing.




They're caught! Sprint is on...


Just Venter and Bouet left now as the peloton closes in...


Bouet is riding back to Venter's wheel... this is very, very tense.


Jaco Venter has opened up a gap - just 10 seconds to play with now...


LottoNL-Jumbo have come to the front now alongside BMC. They have Lindeman in the break, but they need a plan B just in case.


Gougeard is the first of the escapees to launch an attack, foiled by Bouet as the others follow. They have about 20 seconds now...


Now BMC and GreenEdge finally come to the front to lend a hand. They have 28 seconds to recoup in 4km.


Trek have two riders on the front but still no sign of Van Poppel, while Giant have just the one rider digging deep. It's 35 seconds and so still touch and go.


There's no coordinated chase as the gap hovers around the 48-second mark.


You know what, these escapees may stay out after all. Trek are still in disarray after thast puncture for Van Poppel, while Giant-Alpecin have put in too much effort too early, and have riders being tailed off.


The break still has 55 seconds. Van Poppel has yet to rejoin the peloton.


Puncture for Danny Van Poppel - disaster for Trek Factory Racing for he is their man man for the sprint, and the reason why they're leading the chase. Trek take their foot off the gas and the break may see their lead grow again. It's now all Lampre and Giant on the front...


These are wide, open and exposed roads now as the riders head towards Lleida for today's expected bunch sprint finale. Just 1:15 for the five escapees now. A reminder of their names: Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep), Miguel Ángel Rubiano (Team Colombia), Jaco Venter (MTN-Qhubeka), Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale). They have been out since the ninth kilometre.


The gap is down to 1:30 now as Lampre now commit three riders to the front alongside Trek and Giant. The battle for the final sprint has begun...


It's now two men up there for Lampre as Tsgabu Grmay, the first Ethiopian to ride the Vuelta, comes to the fore. The peloton is strung out as a result but the gap is still 2:10.


The break has passed through the intermediate sprint at Gerb and it's Rubiano who takes the points and prize ahead of Bouet and Venter.


Lampre-Merida have sent a man to the front so perhaps Maximiliano Richeze fancies his chances in the final sprint. Thje gap is now down to 2:20 for the escapees.


Two more birthday boys today on top of Drucker: Ag2R-La Mondiale's Blel Kadri (29) and Cannondale-Garmin's Andre Cardoso (31).


This is quite some scenic road that runs along the River Segre and through the Sant Llorenc de Montgai national park - it's somewhere between a gorge and a canyon. Splendid.


The break has crossed that uncategorised peak and is now on a slight rise ahead of the run down to the intermediate sprint. The gap is 2:30 as two Giant riders set the tempo with Trek and Astana tucked in behind in formation.


Could it be a win for birthday Jean-Pierre Drucker? The BMC rider turns 29 today and has two fourth places so far in this year's race, before which he rode consistently in the Eneco Tour off the back of his victory in the Prudential RideLondon Surrey Classic.


The final jersey wearer is that man Dumoulin, who leads the combined competition ahead of Aru and Chaves.


A reminder that double stage winner Esteban Chaves is once again in the green jersey today. The Orica-GreenEdge rider has 79 points - five ahead of both Tom Dumoulin and Alejandro Valverde.


Trek Factory Racing have come to the front to lead the chase alongside two Giant-Alpecin riders. After their rider Jasper Stuyven pipped John Degenkolb in a sprint last week, they're hoping for a win for Danny Van Poppel today. DS Dirk de Mol told, "I'm convinced Danny van Poppel can win a stage. Yesterday he went over the Andorra stage pretty well and if we'll see at the top of today's climb that it's possible, we'll do our duty. As for Frank Schleck, he was not so bad yesterday, just not good enough to be with the very best but still good enough to feel like going in a break one day. The GC is no longer a goal for him."


The gap is three minutes now for the five leaders as the riders pass through an impressive gorge cut out by a meandering river.


The last rider in the break is the man making his first appearance in a Vuelta break this year - Jaco Venter of MTN-Qhubeka. This is the 28-year-old's second Vuelta - he finished 123rd last year - and he's still in search of a maiden career win. Venter's best result this season was fifth in stage 4 of the Tour de Luxembourg.


Eurosport spoke to John Degenkolb this morning. So far the Giant-Alpecin rider has had two second places and one third - but he's yet to pick up that elusive win that will see him move onto double figures in the Vuelta. "We try really hard to do a sprint stage," said the Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix winner. "We're having a good time here with Tom Dumoulin's win and red jersey earlier in the race. I hope everyone is ok after yesterday's hard stage. We will see what happens today. Right now I'm really happy with my shape and I'm in a good way ahead of the world championships. It's been a long season from the spring classics but the world championships are important for me - and the best preparation is to be fighting for victories on the Vuelta.


The gap has dropped below the four-minute mark for the five escapees.


Eurosport Vuelta Extra spoke to UCI President Brian Cookson this morning about the alarming increase in incidents involving race motorbikes and support cars. Yesterday Sergio Paulinho joined Tinkoff-Saxo team-mate Peter Sagan on the sidelines after being taken out by a motorbike. Here's what Cookson had to say: "Everybody has a responisbility - the riders too, but certainly the drivers of cars and motorbokes. We're seeing too many accidents. There are examples of human error and we have to make sure that we have better trained individuals who are licenced more effectively. We are going to do a study and look at the problem and then bring in some changes over the winter - that might include driving courses for officials."


This is the fourth break Bert-Jan Lindeman has been in so far in the race - the most successful being stage 7, where he outfoxed Ilia Koshevoy and Jerome Cousin to take the win atop the Alto de Capiliera. The Dutchman is riding his second Vuelta after finishing 143rd in his debut back in 2012. Prior to the Vuelta, the 26-year-old LottoNL-Jumbo rider had had a quiet season, his best results coming with second place in the Ronde van Drenth and third in stage four of the Tour of Romandie.


We spoke to Sir Dave Brailsford this morning about Chris Froome's withdrawal: "He was in a lot of pain so he went straight to hospital for an X-Ray last night. Nothing showed up but then an MRI scan this morning showed up a fracture. Once the adreneline starts to wear off you can see that he was in a load of trouble yesterday. It's a real shame but that's bike racing. Mikel Nieve and Ian Boswell did great rides and so there's a lot to aim for still."


The gap is down to 4:40 for the escapees as the road flattens out after the long descent off the back of that climb. What happens between now and the uncategorised climb coming up in 30km will be crucial. At the moment, it's up in the air - and you'd have to fancy the peloton overturning the deficit.


Miguel Angel Rubiano (Team Colombia) is a former Colombian national champion riding his first Vuelta after four appearances in the Giro. Amazingly, there was a six-year gap between his first Giro appearance (2006) and his second one (2012). He won a stage in that second Giro, soloing home in Porto Sant-Elpidio to finish 1:10 ahead of a four-man chasing group.


Alexis Gougeard is one of Ag2R-La Mondiale's new breed of exciting, attacking French riders. Thanks to his penchant to break clear, the 23-year-old has been described as the new Jacky Durand and this is his maiden Grand Tour. Gougeard has won the Classic Loire Atlantic twice in the past two years, plus stage 3 of the Four Days of Dunkirk back in May.


Well, MTN have been left off the hook because of the presence of Venter in the break. But even so, that may not have made much difference. Responding to Guiberteau's comments, MTN-Qhubeka's DS Jean-Pierre Heynderickx told, "Giant-Alpecin say we never pull? Well we're going to prove them right. After yesterday's stage, it will depend of the legs. We'll see at the top of the climb with Sbaragli and even [Youcef] Reguigui, who never rode more than seven days of racing before, who had never done a World Tour race and shows great qualities. My favourite today would be Niki Terpstra. I think he's going to attack."


Giant-Alpecin are motivated but realistic today. They're directeur sportif Christian Guiberteau also thinks his team will not get much help in the chase from the team of stage 10 winner, Kristian Sbaragli: "It's a hard stage to control, a bit like the one before the rest day when we found ourselves with three riders pulling behind 40 guys. Is it worth it? Of course John Degenkolb will ask us to do it but without Bouhanni and Sagan and with a team like MTN-Qhubeka who never pull… We'll see at the top of the climb."


Maxim Bouet is the best placed rider in this break, 20:44 down on Aru. The French 28-year-old is without a win since the opening stage of the 2013 Giro del Trentino and was either bluffing or telling fibs this morning when he spoke to reporters at the start. "I have good legs and my goal like everyone else in the team is to win a stage," the Etixx-QuickStep rider said. "Today I don't believe in a break. I think there will be a bunch sprint and Nikolas Maes can be in the top 5 or 10. It's a hard stage to decipher because yesterday everybody was struggling."


Some interesting transfer news: South African youngster Louis Meintjes will leave MTN-Qhubeka and join Lampre-Merida on a two-year contract at the end of the season. That was unexpected... Meintjes is currently 10th on GC, 4:15 down on Aru.


The Giant-Alpecin team-mates of John Degenkolb are leading the chase for their German sprinter, who is yet to win a stage in this year's Vuelta. Today could be the perfect opportunity for him to take a 10th career win in Spain - especially with the likes of Sagan, Bouhanni and Ewan all out of the race.


The peloton crests the summit of the climb 5:15 down on the five leaders. There are some weary legs after yesterday's epic in Andorra.


Bouet takes the maximum 5pts over the top of the Coll de Bóixols followed by Lindeman (3pts) and Rubiano (1pt). This will not trouble current polka dot jersey Omar Fraile, who gathered loads of points yesterday from the break to move onto 55 points, some 30 points clear of nearest rival Mikel Landa of Astana.


A reminder that Fabio Aru (Astana) leads the race by 27 seconds over Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). Former red jersey Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) is three seconds further back while Poland's Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) is fourth at 1:28 and Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) fifth at 1:29. Movistar's Alejandro Valverde is now 1:52 down in sixth and Nairo Quintana is ninth at 3:07.


The gap is 3:30 for these five escapees, all of whom - bar MTN's Jaco Venter - are no strangers to breakaways on this year's Vuelta. Indeed, Dutchman Bert-Jan Lindeman even won a stage after being part of stage seven's successful break to Alto de Capileira.


We join the race with the riders approaching the summit of the major test of the day, the Cat.2 Coll de Bóixols (15km at 5%).


The gap increased to 2:30 after 22km as the peloton seems happy to let this one go - for now.


A break of five riders managed to extricate themselves from the peloton after 7-odd kilometres: Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep), Miguel Ángel Rubiano (Team Colombia), Jaco Venter (MTN-Qhubeka), Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale)


There were 174 riders who took to the start today following that withdrawal by Froome, plus five DNFs from yesterday: Jussi Veikkanen (FDJ), Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff-Saxo), Romain Hardy (Cofidis), Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha) and Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural).


And the big news today is that Chris Froome has withdrawn from the race because of his injuries yesterday. Tests in hospital revealed that the Team Sky Tour de France winner had fractured a bone in his foot and his dreams of a rare Tour-Vuelta double are over.


Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana - a 173km ride from Escaldes-Engordany Andorra to Lleida, which features one Cat.2 climb and another sharp uncategorised ascent ahead of a fast, flat finish that should revive the sprinters' flagging morale after yesterday's mountain sufferfest.