Vuelta a España • Stage18

Roa - Riaza

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No change on GC: three seconds separate Dumoulin and Aru, with Rodriguez still 1:15 down.


The group of main favourites crosses the line 38 seconds down on the winner, Roche. There are no gaps and so the top ten will be the same tonight because they were all there at the end.


Zubeldia is pipped for second while Jose Goncalves takes third for Caja Rural about 15 seconds down.




Roche is back on the front. On paper, this is his... but who knows?


Under the flamme rouge go the leading duo and Roche forces Zubeldia through.


The gap is down to 45 seconds for the two leaders, one of whom should win today. You'd fancy Roche in a two-up sprint - but Zubeldia has almost won a stage here in Spain last week and will be motivated to put that right. He also hasn't had to pick himself up from a nasty fall either...


Dumoulin is looking over his shoulder and he cannot see Aru... that's because the Italian has been dropped - but just momentarily. He's back now.


The two leaders are on a slight uphill ridge that breaks up this downhill. Zubeldia and Roche have one minute to play with over the battling favourites, who have now caught the other escapees it seems.


Aru looked to be struggling a little but he's back in there just ahead of Dumoulin now. It's stalemate on this downhill - at least in this battle for GC.


Quintana rides a bit ahead of the other main favourites on the descent. Zubeldia and Roche still lead - they have 57 seconds over the pack, with the remnants of the break somewhere in between.


Right, it's descent time... this could well be key - and it's quite a patchy surface so they'll have to be very attentive out there.


CORRECTION: The leading duo have 25 seconds over solo chaser Jose Goncalves, who himself has a few seconds over about eight remaining escapees. The main pack is actually one minute down as they crest the summit.


Yet another dig by Aru is nullified by Dumoulin. It reels in Nieve though. Just two riders out ahead of the big guns now: Roche and Zubeldia. They have 25 seconds.


Another dig by Valverde, who's joined by Majka. But the others will make the bridge. Nieve is still out ahead in pursuit of Roche and Zubeldia.


Roche has been joined by Zubeldia on the front. They have 30 seconds on the pack now, with another Sky rider, Nieve, in pursuit.


Yet another dig by Aru - but Dumoulin comfortably holds his wheel. The gradient really is not big enough to trouble the Dutchman. Gautier is now caught as Nieve finally rides clear...


Another attack by Nieve prompts a reply by Moreno and Chaves. They're picking off the escapees thick and fast - Vorganov of Katusha is the latest.


Roche has ridden clear of Gautier on the front of the race. Sky suddenly to the fore, with Nieve joining the chasers. It has come together again though, with the Chaves group back with the likes of Aru, Dumoulin and Rodriguez.


Now Chaves goes! Meintjes, who had returned to the main pack, tries to follow but can't. Valverde can - and they now have Nieve in pursuit. Pozzovivo is back with the favourites now, too.


On the front, Roche has joined Gautier. The leading duo have 30 seconds over the others, but the main pack is just 1:10 down.


Valverde surges clear but he's caught by the main pack. They're catching the remnants of the break.


Majka, Quintana and Chaves join Aru and Dumoulin. The Italian has another dig but he can't shake his rivals. Valverde, Rodriguez and Moreno now return. This is a very select group - practically the whole of the top ten are here apart from Nieve and Meintjes.


Aru ups the tempo! He's burnt all his team-mates now and he's blown the pack apart. Dumoulin is the only rider who can follow for now... with Quintana, Valverde, Chaves, Rodriguez, Moreno and Majka a bit further back.


Back with the pack, riders are going backwards willy nilly. Luis Leon Sanchez has popped for Astana - and Aru only has one team-mate left. That's much more than the red jersey Dumoulin, who has no more Giant-Alpecin support...


Atapuma is leading the chase for the other escapees, who still trail Gautier by 20 seconds. The Colombian is a terrible descender so he'll need a big lead over the top if he wants to win today.


We're onto the final climb of the day, the Cat.1 Alto de la Quesera - 10km at 5% with a maximum gradient of 7%.


Astana continue to catch the weaker or the escapees. Lemoine is the latest, then Reynes. Mikel Landa sets the tempo in the big ring. Gautier has 20 seconds on the chasers, who have reassembled around Atapuma. The pack is 2:15 down so it's nicely poised.


Gautier is on the descent now ahead of the climb. He has about 20 seconds over the other escapees. Nico Roche (Sky) is ina small chasing group behind Atapuma.


Tosh van der Sande has hit the wall and Gautier rides clear. The Frenchman is being pursued by Darwin Atapuma of BMC. Together they will make a good combo for the final climb.


Songezo Jim is the first rider from the break to be caught by the pack on this punchy ridge ahead of the next climb. The pack is 2:30 down.


ATTACK: Tosh van der Sande (Cofidis) bounds out of the break. He's being chased down by Cyril Gautier (Europcar).


We're not actually yet on the Cat.1 climb but one of the numerous ridges ahead before the climb starts properly. Astana are back on the front after closing the door on Purito, and this main pack has been whittled down to just about 40 riders.


Rodriguez is in the green jersey today - he leads the points classification by 2pts over Dumoulin, with Valverde a further four points back - so it's very tight at the top.


ATTACK: Joaquim Rodriguez kicks clear of the pack! Vicioso's move was orchestrated - and the green jersey joins his fellow Spaniard quite quickly. A nice idea, but Astana close it down.


Astana's pace-setting has seen the gap come down to 3:20. They're really going for it, with Dumoulin doing what he promised and hugging the wheel of rival Aru. It's very lumpy and there could well be some weary legs by the time that climb comes along.


Angel Viciosio (Katusha) has had a little dig - perhaps preparing the terrain for Rodriguez ahead of the final climb.


The eloton is quite strung out because of this pace being set by Astana, with a few riders being tailed off. The gap comes under the four-minute mark.


Dominique Rollin was the Cofidis rider who took the intermediate sprint. The pack is 4:20 in arrears with Astana still setting the tempo.


The intermediate sprint is not really contested when the break passes through, with one of the two Cofidis riders taking the honours. They're straight onto a descent (that was really more of an uncategorised climb than a sprint) and will continue this rolling terrain to the foot of the deciding Cat.1 ascent at the business end of this stage.


Jose Goncalves is having another strop - this time with team-mate Madrazo, whose energy gel he refuses with a theatrical shrug while barking orders down the radio to the Caja Rural team car.


Astana have now come to the front alongside Movistar as the road heads upwards. The pace is right up which gives us an indication of how fiesty things might get on the Cat.1 climb. The gap is 4:45 for the 25 leaders. One of them will still probably win today, by my reckoning.


Lotto Soudal drive the pace on a descent off the back of an uncategorised climb. The intermediate sprint is coming up. MTN have two riders on the front of the peloton, followed by the entire Giant-Alpecin train.


Koen de Kort (Giant) was initially thought to be in the break, but he's not, which means there are four teams, not three, who are unrepresented: Giant, Orica, Colombia and Astana.


Jose Goncalves is uphappy with the contents of a bidon when he drops back to pick up some refreshments, promptly throwing it on the floor in disgust. The gap is 4:55 now for the group as MTN and Giant-Alpecin lead the chase on the front of the pack.


And here's an interesting take from Christian Guiberteau, Giant-Alpecin's sports director, who talks about Dumoulin, yesterday's celebrations and an unlikely ally in Astana over the next few days: "We drank two bottles of Cava to celebrate [Dumoulin's win]. Last night after the TT where he gave a lot mentally, Tom was totally empty. Now the strategy is simple. Fabio Aru won't leave his sight. Today the stage suits us, we will ride at the front on small roads. The fact the team are still complete while Astana are down to seven is a psychological advantage. The key stage is Saturday's. But against Movistar and Katusha, Astana, who will want to retain their second place, will be our ally."


Dumoulin has been a shepherd for a lot of this Vuelta but now the red jersey is ready to be a sheep - especially when it comes to following in the tyre tracks of the man who trails him by just three seconds with three and a half stages remaining. This morning, Dumoulin said: "As of now I'm not going to ride the Vuelta at my own pace but at that of Fabio Aru's. I will ride conservatively. It's true that he is explosive but I will not give him anything."


The terrain is pretty rolling as the break continues combining with a gap of 5:10 over the peloton.


De Clercq is 14th on GC but currently he's the virtual 11th position, climbing above Domenico Pozzovivo and putting pressure on MTN's Louis Meintjes, who is in 10th place. That puts his team in a bit of a quandry, what with Jim present in the break too.


This tweet from Movistar will help you get your head around who's in and who's not in today's break. In short (for those on mobile devices): every team has a rider involved except Orica-GreenEdge, Astana and Team Colombia. Lotto Soudal has three riders, while IAM, Tinkoff-Saxo, Cofidis and Caja Rural have two apiece.


Songezo Jim is one of five South Africans in the MTN-Qhubeka team here at the Vuelta and this is his second break of the race. This is the 24-year-old's first Grand Tour and he's still looking for a maiden pro win. Perhaps today could be the day? This morning he spoke to "It's not over but I'm about to finish my first Grand Tour. It's a great experience, crucial for my future. It justifies the support I have from South Africa even in the media because I am on a TV show everyday. My best memory is when I was in the breakaway in stage 8 but it's not over."


It's encouraging to see Nico Roche in this lead group. The Irishman from Team Sky was third on GC until he crashed towards the end of the opening week - a couple of days before team-mate Chris Froome himself hit the deck and had to quit the race with a broken foot. "Mentally it's tough, I am struggling to finish the Vuelta," Roche told "Everything went bad the day I crashed on that roundabout at 40 kph. I won't be unhappy when it's over in Madrid. My season will end there."


Madrazo doubled up over the summit to take his second Cat.3 peak of the day and another 3pts. It's all material, of course, but it does protect his team-mate Omar Fraile's lead in the KOM standings. Courteille crosses in second place and Cardoso in third.


The best-placed rider in this break is Bart de Clercq of Lotto Soudal: the Belgian is 13:38 down on Tom Dumoulin and so there's no anxiety yet from Giant-Alpecin. Their worry will come later, on the final Cat.1 climb, where they can expect to be put under pressure from the likes of Astana, Katusha, Tinkoff-Saxo and Movistar. That said, De Clercq's presence here means the break won't be given too much leeway...


The break is onto the second climb of the day, the Cat.3 Alto del Campanario. They have 5:40 over the pack.


As for Etixx-QuickStep's Niki Terpstra, the Dutch national champion banged his knee on his handlebars apparently and has gone back to Belgium to rest up ahead of the world championships.


The reason Talansky's departure from the race is that the American has been suffering from a bad cough, according to his Cannondale-Garmin team. He's also been suffering from a severe lack of form, but that's clearly besides the point.


Angel Madrazo took maximum points over the top of the climb ahead of Haimar Zubeldia and Adam Hansen. Spaniard Madrazo is a team-mate of the polka dot jersey Omar Fraile, who looks certain to win the KOM competition come Madrid. The Caja Rural has 82 points with nearest rival Frank Schleck on just 30.


The lead of the riders on the Cat.3 Alto de Santibañez de Ayllon has come down to 5:35 approaching the summit. It was over six minutes before the climb.


The break was not formed until after 50-odd kilometres of racing today. The 25 riders are: Nicolas Roche (Sky), Sebastien Minard (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Darwin Atapuma (BMC), José Gonçalves and Ángel Madrazo (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Cyril Lemoine and Dominique Rollin (Cofidis), Pieter Serry (Etixx-QuickStep), Arnaud Courteille (FDJ), Simon Pellaud and Vicente Reynés (IAM Cycling), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida), Bart De Clercq, Adam Hansen and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal), José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar), Songezo Jim (MTN-Qhubeka), André Cardoso (Cannondale-Garmin), Jerome Cousin and Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Tim Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Daniele Bennati and Pawel Poljanski (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Haimar Zubeldia (Trek).


There were numerous early attempts to break clear by a raft of riders and the peloton even split on one occasion shortly after the start - only for the Giant-Alpecin team of race leader Dumoulin to bring it back together.


We join the race live as a group of 25 escapees tackles the first of three climbs on today's menu. They have a gap of just over five minutes on the peloton.


That left 162 riders in the pack as the stage got under way on a sunny day in Spain.


A flurry of withdrawals were announced ahead of today's start: Peter Velits (BMC), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Soudal), Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep), Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin).


Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) now leads Aru (Astana) by 3 seconds with Rodriguez (Katusha) in third at 1:15, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) fourth at 2:22 and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) fifth at 2:53.


Yesterday we saw the ownership of the red jersey change hands once again as Dutchman Tom Dumoulin - as expected - blitzed the time trial in Burgos to move three seconds clear of Fabio Aru and banish Joaquim Rodriguez to the third rung on the podium.


Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana - a 204km jaunt from Roa to Riaza in the province of Segovia, central Spain.