Vuelta a España • Stage7

Maceda - Puebla de Sanabria
Vuelta a España - 26 August 2016

Vuelta a España – Follow this cycling race live with Eurosport. The action starts at 12:49 on 26 August 2016. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.
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Darwin Atapuma stays in red but his lead was reduced a bit by those bonus seconds picked up by Valverde for third place...


But it's all smiles for IAM Cycing and Jonas Van Genechten, today's surprise winner.


Here's Contador after crossing the finish line...


So that's yet another Grand Tour stage win for IAM Cycling, who struck in both the Giro and the Tour. Daniele Benatti (Tinkoff) was second and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) third.


Replays show that that crash happened because Tinkoff were pushing it perhaps too hard round one of the final corners, which was narrower than they expected, causing Contador and others to go down near the front of the pack.


CRASH: There was a crash in the final kilometre which brought down numerous riders, including Alberto Contador if Tinkoff. He looks a bit bashed up but manages to ride over the finish all the same.


Sanchez and Clarke are caught with 100m to spare and Jonas Van Genecheten (IAM Cycling) powers through for an unexpected win.


Onto the climb they go and the two leaders are still ahead - but only just. Valverde and Rojas are primed...


Under the flamme rouge and the gap is just 7 seconds for Luis Leon Sanchez and Simon Clarke... they must not look back or it's carpets.


Now down to 12 seconds on this pristine, new section of tarmac. Touch and go as Adam Hansen comes to the front for Lotto Soudal ahead of the Tinkoff train.


It all depends on whether or not there are some riders in the pack who have conserved their energy and still have some juice left in the tank to attack on that ramp in the final kilometre, because at the moment these two leaders are going very, very well. Bora-Argon18 now leading the chase. 15 seconds still the gap.


Impressive stuff as Clarke and Sanchez manage to draw out their lead again. It's up to 18 seconds now... behind the GC men are leaning on the teams of the sprinters. This could play into the hands of the two leaders.


Just two men left now: Luis Leon Sanchez and Simon Clarke refuse to throw in the towel just yet but it's a matter of time before they're reeled in.


Now Sanchez is shaking his head as the pack returns to within 10 seconds of the leaders. Movistar, Orica, Trek, BMC, Lotto Soudal and Giant Alpecin all have men near the front - this one is really open.


Sanchez is looking over his shoulder a lot, which is never a good sign. It indeed looks like this break will be reeled in before the finish because the gap is down to just 18 seconds now.


It's a fast descent with a wide road - and Clarke edged ahead a bit before being reeled in by the Astana duo of Cataldo and Sanchez. The gap is 22 seconds and so it's still very much touch and go.


Over the top and into a tunnel go the five leaders - and I think it was Luis Angel Mate who make it three from three by taking the points. Confirmation coming up.


I say it's a flat run into the finish - but there's a sting in the tail in the shape of a 9% ramp in the final kilometre...


The gap for this five-man group is 30 seconds back to the main pack, which includes the red jersey Darwin Atapuma and the other race favourites. Once over the climb, there's a long descent and then a flat run in to the finish.


We're very much onto the Cat.3 Alto de Padornelo (7km at 3.2%) and it's all blown apart behind this five-man leading group of Luis Leon Sanchez and Dario Cataldo (both Astana), Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac). Behind the initial chase group was swept up but many riders have tried to have a pop as the pack thins out considerably with the gradient heading upwards.


Bad news coming in - the reason why Taaramae withdrew earlier today was that he was hit by the race director's car. That's the last thing this race needs after the controversial incident with the bollard two days ago, which ended Steven Kruijswijk's race...


So the five leaders are Cataldo, Luis Leon Sanchez, Gianluca Brambilla, Simon Clarke and Luis Angel Mate once again. They are being pursued by Jose Joaquin Rojas, Michael Gogl, Damien Howsen, Egor Silin, Mathias Frank and Gregor Muhlberger. The gaps are small, however.


Four riders have joined Cataldo, including Simon Clarke (Cannondale) and another Astana rider. There are another six riders in pursuit. And this is just another warm-up climb ahead of the next Cat.3 test.


Riders are falling off the back like flies, including Jempy Drucker of BMC and Zdenek Stybar, which means Gianni Meersman will not have his lead-out man today...


Astana are still riding fast tempo on these rolling roads with four men on the front of the pack, which is all strung out. More and more riders are being blown off the back as they approach the climb... and then one Astana rider goes on the attack - it's Dario Cataldo, the Italian former Sky rider, who had edged ahead on a steep ramp.


Now Tinkoff and Sky have come to the front of the pack on a downhill sweep on this wide highway. That's because the road is about to narrow as they approach the next climb.


Katusha's Rein Taaramae, winner of the 2015 Arctic Race of Norway (while at Astana) and a stage winner in the Giro earlier this year, has withdrawn from the Vuelta.


Sammy Sanchez is back in the pack, but his BMC team-mate Tejay Van Garderen isn't. The American always said that GC was not an aim for him here in Spain but even so, he's been very unconvincing. Perhaps it's all a ploy so he can win a stage in the mountains - or perhaps it's further proof that Van Garderen isn't, and never will be, a Grand Tour rider.


It's all back together now with the remnants of that break reeled in and Astana still leading a strung-out peloton on one of these uncategorised climbs. Are they working for Scarponi on GC or Sanchez for the stage win? Who knows? Since their GC man Miguel Angel Lopez crashed and withdrew from the race, the Kazakh team have thrown out the rule book and are going very much off-piste. It was certainly an odd decision not to include defending champion Fabio Aru in their team, it has to be said.


BMC actually have a few riders - including Sammy Sanchez, sixth on GC - off the back, which may explain why Astana are riding hard. The Spaniard has two BMC team-mates in a group of a dozen or so riders about 30 seconds behind the peloton.


That's it - all over the for break. Just the small matter of the day's combativity prize, which sees the remnants cling on in a bid to be the last man standing... and that accolade goes to Campenaerts and Mate, who both have another dig on a uphill rise just as Astana make the connection.


The upshot of Astana's rise in tempo is that this six-man break will be reeled in much earlier than expected, paving the way - perhaps - for a counter-attack or two. After all, Astana can't keep up this pace all the way to the end, and there's another Cat.3 climb on the horizon, so this stage is very much far from over. Expect a very different final hour or so of racing than what we've seen so far before.


A number of riders - including two from Dimension Data, most notably Igor Anton - have been blown off the back of the peloton after Astana come and begin to set a ferocious tempo. The boys in baby blue have reduced the lead of the six-man break to just 35 seconds now as the peloton roars along at quite a pace.


The six leaders passed through the intermediate sprint without much ado with Laengen taking the points ahead of Armee and Mate. It's one of those days on the Vuelta - the action on the road mirroring the siesta time over the rest of the nation.


The gap comes down to 1:30 now as the riders shift onto a dual carriageway and the peloton stretches out accordingly. After two days of 2,000+ vertical metres in succession, there are some weary legs out there and that's reflected in the average speed today, which is around the 36kmph mark.


Well, it's will be all-in for Felline today because Trek-Segafredo's Niccolo Bonifazio has just withdrawn from the race.


BMC have several cards to play today too. The priority is to retain Atapuma's red jersey but they have both Gilbert and Jempy Drucker for the sprint. Drucker has two top ten finishes so far but has get to get in his stride, while Gilbert, despite a dig on the way to the walled city of Lugo, has been even more off the boil.


The gap is still two minutes for the break as the pack stretches out on this descent. It's Astana's Gatis Smukulis who is setting the pace, perhaps paving the way to Luis Leon Sanchez, who finished fourth in stage 5 and second in stage 6 yesterday, so is clearly going well.


It's Luis Angel Mate once again who picks up another 3pts over the summit of the second categorised climb of the day, so the Spaniard doubles his tally to six points now meaning he's tied with Omar Fraile in third place in the KOM standings. Mate leads Armee and Campenaerts over the summit.


As for Trek-Segafredo, they have two cards to play in Italian duo Fabio Felline and Niccolo Bonifazio. The former finished second behind Meersman in stage four while the latter finished seventh when the Belgian won stage two. Felline was also third yesterday so he seems to be in better nick than his compatriot.


We're onto the second Cat.3 climb, the Alto de Fumaces (11.2km at 4.3%). The gap is 2:22 for our six leaders, who are sharing out pacing duties in this fierce heat, but look to be on a hiding to nothing.


There are three Colombians in the top five (Atapuma, Quintana, Chaves) and three Brits in the top ten (Froome, Kennaugh, Yates) after six days. BMC's Atapuma sits atop the standings in red with a 28-second gap over Spain's Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Sky's Chris Froome is third at 32 before Movistar's Quintana and Orica-BikeExchange's Chaves complete the top five.


Giant-Alpecin's man for the sprint today is Nikias Arndt, who was held up by crashes when Meersman got his two previous wins. The German finished in fourth place behind Meersman in that stage that finished in Sanabria three years ago, so he has what it takes and could well be in the mix. Giant-Alpecin took a blow earlier this week when their man for GC, Warren Barguil, was forced out with sinus problems.


The gap is coming down now that Etixx-QuickStep have also sent a man on the front. The gap is now 2:30 for the six leaders.


Belgian national champion Philippe Gilbert, who needed a few stitches after a crash yesterday, is on water bottle duty for BMC today - but that doesn't stop him from engaging in some horseplay with the soigneur of his future team, Etixx-QuickStep...


We mentioned Meersman earlier - well, the double stage winner is in green and leads the points competition quite considerably with 51 points to Fabio Felline's 36. Trek-Segafredo's Felline finished behind Meersman in stage 4, if you remember. 30-year-old Meersman, incidentally, finished third behind Michael Matthews and Maximiliano Richeze in Sanabria when the Vuelta rode an almost identical stage as this back in 2013. On paper that makes him the favourite today - something backed up with his form, which is clearly pretty good.


It was Luis Angel Mate who took the maximum 3pts over the top of the Cat.3 Puerto de Allariz (6.8km at 4.4%) ahead of Laengen and Armee earlier in the stage. A reminder that Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) still leads the polka dot jersey competition on 10 points ahead of Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) on eight and Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) on six.


Trek-Segafredo and Giant-Alpecin are leading the chase in the peloton - they're keen to bring it back before the finish because both teams have yet to win here in Spain despite being in the mix in the few sprints we have witnessed so far. We can expect the Etixx-QuickStep team of double stage winner Gianni Meersman to lend a hand at some point - their Belgian could make it a hat-trick on today's slightly uphill fast finish. The gap is still around 3:40.


One withdrawal today: Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski, who wore the red jersey for a day after stage 2, abandoned shortly after the start today. The Team Sky rider has been suffering with back issues in this race.


The six leaders are: Victor Campenaerts (Lotto NL-Jumbo), Johan Le Bon (FDJ), Sander Armée (Lotto Soudal), Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac), Vegard Laengen (IAM Cycling) and Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis). These leader managed to break clear after around 10km of racing today.


We pick up the race live with 120 kilometres remaining and there's a group of six riders out ahead with a lead of 3:45 over the peloton.


Hola and welcome to live coverage of stage 7 of the Vuelta a Espana - yet another rolling ride in northwest Spain, this time a short but sharp 158.5km schlep from Maceda to Puebla de Sanabria, which includes three Cat.3 climbs and numerous other hills. It's also a near carbon copy of a stage used in the 2013 race... won by the absent Australian, Michael Matthews of Orica-BikeExchange.