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07/09/15 - 11:23
Luarca - Ermita de Alba
Vuelta a España • Stage16

Luarca - Ermita de Alba

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Confirmed: Rodriguez now leads by one second, with Aru second, Majka third at 1:35 and Dumoulin fourth at 1:51. Wow - what a day.


Superb by Tom Dumoulin, who limits his losses to around 20 seconds - and he's still very much in the frame for this Vuelta what with the time trial on Wednesday looming.


There's a two second gap between Rodriguez and Aru over the line and so a one-second swing with Rodriguez moving into the red jersey.


Majka follows Aru but there's a big gap. Aru is closing in on Purito...


Now Aru attacks! The Italian is fighting back onto Rodriguez's wheel on this steep segment - but he may not have enough juice.


Now Rodriguez sances on the pedal to open up a gap. He will be in red tonight - Aru has no answer.


Dumoulin is still only a few bike lengths back - such an impressive ride from the big Dutchman.


Dani Moreno has been dropped by the main pack, and Dumoulin is now struggling to hold on. He's a few bike lengths behind Aru, who keeps on looking over his shoulder at his Dutch rival.


Mikel Landa is still setting the pace for Astana as the remnants of the break are passed. Nieve, Majka, Rodriguez, Dumoulin, Majka, Meintjes, Quintana and Aru are all still there.


Rodolfo Torres crosses the line for second place, 1:09 down on Schleck.


Chaves is struggling now... and Nieve is on the front with Majka and Purito.


Back with the favourites and Valverde has popped...


There's a smile from Schleck as the climb peaks out. He wags his finger, looks over his shoulder one last time then zips up his jersey. The necklace goes into his mouth and he pumps his fists in joy... Victory for Frank Schleck!


Schleck almost comes to a standstill on the 30% ramp - but he digs deep to get over it and he's going to do it.


Aru is there for the taking - he's the worst-placed of the main protagonists. Dumoulin is still in second place - what a ride.


Under the kite goes Schleck. He still has almost 10 minutes on the main pack.


Schleck has this one in his pocket - Torres is nowhere to be seen. He won the national championships last year but besides that his last victory was in the 2011 Criterium International.


Poljanski has been dropped after his pace-setting flurry for Majka. Dumoulin is right on the front of this group of favourites behind the two Astana tempo dictators.


Aru still quite far back - behind Dumoulin, Chaves, Valverde and Rodriguez, plus his Astana team-mates and Tinkoff duo Majka and Poljanski.


Schleck attacks! The Trek veteran drops Torres and rides clear ahead of the steepest section fo the climb...


Poljanski still dictates the tempo ahead of the pack, which is being led by Astana's Diego Rosa. Oddly, Aru is quite far back even though he has two team-mates on the front - Rosa and Landa.


As the pack hits the final climb it's Tinkoff-Saxo who come to the front through Pawel Poljanski. He's had a very impressive Vuelta.


Schleck looked to be really struggling as Torres put in a series of digs, but the Luxembourg veteran is now back on the front setting the tempo. To reiterate, the chasing pack of main favourites - which is now just about 20-strong - is still over 10 minutes in arrears. Aru, Rodriguez, Nieve, Dumoulin, Quintana, Valverde, Meintjes, Pozzovivo and Majka are all there.


Schleck and Torres are still working well together on this climb - although the Colombian looks to have taken the upper hand here as his colleague grits his teeth behind.


The leaders are onto the final climb of the Alto Ermita de Alba (6.8km at 11.1%) which peaks out at an almighty 30% near the top. It's a rough and narrow road - not much more than a goat track - which should provide some real fireworks once the peloton comes along.


The two leaders are onto this little final section ahead of the final climb. It's all about to get real.


Torres is back with Schleck and indeed setting the tempo on this descent now while Schleck scoffs an energy bar. They still have 11 minutes to play with.


Schleck senior looks more comfortable on this descent than Torres, who drops back a little. One of these two riders will win the stage today. But which one?


Nieve is back with the pack perhaps after his DS hurled abuse down the earpiece to him. An odd move, that.


Over the top of the climb goes the leading duo with Schleck taking 10pts ahead of second-place Torres. They will begin this 12km descent with over 10 minutes to play with.


Dumoulin is still holding his own back with the main pack, which trails the leading duo by 10:45. Sky's Mikel Nieve has just attacked, but it's a fairly half-hearted attack.


Verona and Bennett have now been dropped so we have Frank Schleck and Torres in the lead. Bizarre that Rolland tailed off so early - he's really had a rotten Vuelta.


Four men lead the race now: Schleck, Torres, Verona and Bennett. 28-year-old Team Colombia rider Rodolfo Torres is the danger man here - he's a great climber and surely fresher in the leg than Schleck. As for Verona and Bennett, you fear they will struggle to stay in touch for much longer.


Astana have come to the front of the peloton now as the pace settled a bit in the pack, 11 minutes down the road.


Schleck ups the tempo and Lemoine, Fraile and Warbasse - who fought back - struggle to keep up. Rolland, Moser and Grmay too.


The leaders are onto the sixth climb, the Alto de la Cobertoria (9.8 km at 8.7%), with the gap down to 12 minutes.


Verona won the intermediate sprint in the valley aheadof Moser and Rolland.


Back in the pack Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) and Leonardo Duque (Colombia) have crashed on the descent.


Larry Warbasse (IAM Cycling) has been dropped on the descent. This is the 25-year-old American's second Vuelta.


Over the top of the Alto del Cordal they go and Fraile takes his fifth mountain 'win' so far today. Impressive stuff from the 25-year-old Grand Tour debutant. He's now onto 76 points with his nearest rival, Ruben Plaza, way back on 27.


The pack has been completely blown apart by this spurt by Tinkoff-Saxo. It's going to be a long day for many of these riders from here on in. The gap is down to 14:20 for the leaders, who are approaching the summit of the climb. It's Omar Fraile on the front, ready to pounce for those blue polka dot jersey points.


Yes, Tinkoff-Saxo have really taken it up now. Their pace-setting has cut the deficit to 15:40 and blown numerous riders off the back of the peloton. The race needed that...


The leaders are edging through another gorge as they continue this picturesque ascent. The ga[p is 17:40 as the Tinkoff-Saxo team of Rafal Majka join in the pace-setting duties. Giant-Alpecin are also there around their man Tom Dumoulin, who is in the white combined jersey even though he's only third in that competition (behind Rodriguez and Aru).


Rodriguez looks as calm and serene as he claimed he was yesterday after winning in Sotres. Katusha are taking no break from pace-setting duties with six riders still patrolling the front of the pack ahead of the Astana train of Fabio Aru and the Movistar men of Quintana and Valverde.


A reminder of those 10 leaders: Omar Fraile (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Carlos Verona (Etixx-QuickStep), Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Frank Schleck (Trek Factory), Rodolfo Torres (Colombia), Moreno Moser (Cannondale-Garmin), Larry Warbasse (IAM Cycling), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida).


The 10 leaders are onto the Cat.2 Aldo del Cordal (8.5 km at 5.7%). They have 18:25 to play with as Katusha continue to set the tempo.


Stunning scenery here in the tree-covered Asturias mountains of northern Spain. The break have had some food and are approaching the fifth climb of the day with a gap of 18:50 over the pack.


Rodriguez missed out on the red jersey yesterday but he did move into the green jersey: the Spanish veteran leads the points standings on 99 points - that's just three ahead of Chaves and 15 clear of Valverde.


Neil Stephens spoke to this morning about the prospects of his rider, Esteban Chaves. "It's going to be potentially the hardest stage of the Vuelta," said the Orica-GreenEdge DS. "Even harder than the one in Andorra because it comes after two weeks of racing. Esteban is feeling good. Here it's similar to where he lives in Colombia. He's enjoying his position in the GC. A top 10 (in Madrid) would be fantastic and we've already got the added bonus of three stage wins and a few days in the lead."


Katusha are still controlling the pace on the front of the peloton - which is odd, because Rodriguez is not in red and really they should force Astana to take up the slack. They're only on that Cat.2 climb now, trailing the break as they do by 18:20.


Omar Fraile made it four-from-four over the summit, picking up another 5pts. Once again it was Rolland in second and Verona in third. Nothing like sticking to a hierarchy, eh? Fraile now has 71 points and is sitting even prettier in polka dots.


The leaders are on the Cat.2 Alto de Tenebredo - the fourth of seven climbs today (3.7 km at 8.9%). The gap is still around 19 minutes. This climb peaks out at 19%.


Juan Antonio Flecha rode the final climb of Ermita de Alba for Vuelta Extra, which has just run on Eurosport. "My first impressions of the first part of the climb is that it's quite a hard one - I can really feel it in my legs, wow. [...] Less than 3km from the top and this is the steepest and hardest part of the stage - I expect a bit attack here from the big names. [...] It is very steep - I cannot even breath and that 30% section was very hard. In my opinion that's the steepest and hardest climb of all three Grand Tours this year."


We spoke to Alejandro Valverde this morning. "The team was always on the front yesterday us and we showed we're in good shape - but so is Purito. Until the last few kilometres we were really strong, but then Astana came through. Nairo and myself need to perform against the others now. Today's stage is the most important in the Vuelta - not just because of the 5,000 metres of climbing but because of eveything that's gone before." The gap is still 18:50 for the breakaway so it looks like we'll have two races today - for the stage and for GC.


Omar Fraile has been one of the stand-out riders in this Vuelta and his expected victory in the polka dot KOM competition is entirely deserved. He did it on the queen stage 11 in Andorra and today he's doing it again. Maximum points over all three climbs so far now, with the prospect of at least another two before things start to shake up in this break.


Joaquim Rodriguez's Katusha directeur sportif Jose Azevedo is under no illusions as to who the danger man is in this Vuelta. "There is no doubt that the strongest rider of this Vuelta is Tom Dumoulin," the Spaniard told "For Aru, Majka, Purito the only thing to do is regain time over him today. We missed the red jersey by one second yesterday but having it at this stage of the race is irrelevant. You must take your responsibilities. The key today will be Movistar, who are not content with their leaders' eighth and ninth places in the GC."


The big favourite for Wednesday's time trial at Burgos is that man Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin, the surprise package of this year's Vuelta. Some say that if the Dutchman is within three minutes of the GC summit ahead of the ITT he could well end up back in the red jersey such are his superior time trialling skills compared to the other more climbing-oriented race favourites. Dumoulin told that he's feeling good ahead of today's stage. "I'm still looking good for GC but today is the hardest of the three consecutive mountain stages, especially with the penultimate climb. This is where they will put up the pace. My goal is to lose as little time as possible. Today is more important than the TT in Burgos. I need to limit the losses. Quintana is looking better and better," said Dumoulin, currently 1:25 down on GC.


The lead of this 10-man Schleck-themed break has dropped below the 20-minute mark as the peloton re-find some of its self-respect.


It's that man Omar Fraile who makes it three from three ahead of - yet again - Rolland over the summit, with Verona taking third place. That's 3/2/1 points apiece respectively. And the Caja Rural rider is now onto 66 points at the top of the KOM standings.


The break is onto the third climb of the day, the Cat.3 Alto de la Cabruñana. They have a gap of 21:15.


Movistar's backfiring tactics yesterday will not stop Nairo Quintana having a pop today. The Colombian is three minutes down on Aru and was the first to attack on the final climb yesterday after his team-mates chased down the break all day. In the end, Quintana could only repay them with fourth place - but today's another day...


It's a big day for the GC favourites and Katusha are clearly feeling up for it following Joaquim Rodriguez's win yesterday. Can Purito finally win a Grand Tour? There wouldn't be a more popular winner in Madrid, that's for sure...


We now join the race LIVE with that break starting the zippy descent down to the foot of the third climb following a long plateau. The gap is up to a staggering 20 minutes now!


The man Fraile picked up another 5pts going over the summit of the climb in pole position, followed by Rolland and Verona. He's now up to 63 points so his lead is looking quite secure: Ruben Plaza is second in the KOM standings on 27 points and Mikel Landa third on 25 - but neither Spaniard is in this break.


The gap was up to 13 minutes as the leaders started the Cat.2 Alto de Piedratecha.


Frank Schleck is the best placed rider on GC in this break - but the Luxembourg veteran is a huge 40 minutes down on Aru and so there's no huge bother for Astana back in the peloton. Aru leads Rodriguez by one second with Poland's Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) in third at 1:24, one seconds ahead of Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin). Esteban Chaves (Orica) completes the top five at 1:34.


Grmay caught up with the leading group on the descent as the gap ballooned to over eight minutes for the escapees.


Spaniard Omar Fraile is on polka dot duty today and he picked up the maximum 3pts going over the top of the climb to extend his lead in the KOM competition.


Nine riders came together on the front with Ethiopian Grmay still chasing on ahead of the summit.


Moreno Moser (Cannondale-Garmin) darted out of the peloton in pursuit of the leaders and was soon joined by Larry Warbasse (IAM Cycling), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida) on the opening Cat.3 climb of the Alto Aristebano.


Five riders opened up a gap almost instantaneously: Omar Fraile (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Carlos Verona (Etixx-QuickStep), Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Frank Schleck (Trek Factory) and Rodolfo Torres (Colombia).


The remaining 167 riders rolled out of the start this morning with the first of seven climbs getting things off from the gun.


Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 16 of the Vuelta a Espana - a seven-climb mountain behemoth that runs 185km from Luarca to Ermita de Alba. The destiny of the red jersey could well be decided over the next five hours or so...