There it is - Quintana back in red.
Andorra la Vella - Alto Els Cortals d'Encamp
Vuelta a España - 1 September 2019
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Lopez crossed the line with a bloody elbow so the Colombian must have crashed during that sodden phase when the cameras were down, perhaps even on the gravel...
We may never know what happened to Lopez in that sodden finale. When we lost images he was sailing away - but by the time they came back, he was a sinking ship.
Marc Soler took fifth place for Movistar and didn't look a happy camper as he came home 57 seconds down. Hermann Pernsteiner, Sergio Higuita, Wilco Kelderman, Miguel Angel Lopez and Tao Geoghegan Hart completed the top 10. Lopez was 1'01" down and so won't go back into red for a fourth time.
After all that, Quintana may be in red tonight - which will be a victory of sorts for Movistar. But Roglic didn't lose much time - and has that time trial on Tuesday, so will be in red regardless then.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) takes second place around 23 seconds down. Then it's Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) who out-sprints Valverde for third place at 48 seconds.
Victory - and an epic one - for Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates. The Slovenian celebrates wildly.
The rain seems to have stopped now...
Under the flamme rouge for Pogacar, the 20 year old Grand Tour debutant who is about to make a name for himself. He has 20 seconds on Quintana. Behind, Roglic leads Valverde another 20 seconds back, with Lopez with Higuita another 15 seconds back.
Soler swings off in disgust and shakes his head, lets Quintana go on his own. The Spaniard is now happy - and if the Colombian doesn't deliver, then the Movistar bus is going to be a chilly place in half an hour.
Movistar have really made a hash of this because Pogacar has a huge lead now over Soler, who was asked to stop, and Quintana. Behind, Roglic has dropped Lopez and is riding back onto Valverde's wheel.
Meanwhile, behind Valverde has attacked just as Roglic rejoined the Lopez group. Movistar could end with egg on their faces because Pogacar has now attacked and gone clear while Soler waits for Quintana...
Valverde is with Lopez and Pernsteiner, Higuita and Kelderman from the break. Oh no, poor Soler, he's shaking his head - he's clearly been told to wait on the radio for Quintana, and he's livid with that, gesticulating wildly and looking over his shoulders in anger.
Lopez and Pogacar is 25 seconds down. The Lopez group is 40 seconds down and Roglic, on his own, another 15 seconds back.
Soler is on the front but he's waiting for Quintana now, it seems. But now pressing on - so he's stuck in two worlds.
We rejoin the race on the Cat.1 Alto Els Cortals d'Encamp (5.7km at 8.3%) and Quintana is with Pogacar and they're ahead of Lopez and Valverde!
Pictures are back - and they're on the final climb. Roglic has been dropped.
Lopez and Fuglsang have been joined by Quintana and Valverde, apparently. In fact, the Dane has been dropped, so it's the three of them. No idea where Roglic is. Or how many kilometres are left...
But we also have no idea what's going on. Ben O'Conner was on his own - whether in the lead, we don't know. We think in the lead, ahead of Soler, Bouchard and Geoghegan Hart. Actually, no, he's behind that trio we're hearing. Those live images only lasted a few seconds.
We have pictures! They're on the gravel!
Who knows - they could neutralise this stage at this rate. We have no idea what's going on - and the most interesting point of this year's race (the 4km gravel section) may go ahead without the cameras rolling.
Hard to know but I imagine they're into the final 10km now.
It's raining gatos y perros out there, which is why all TV images has ceased. In fact, images from the finish show hail stones and a cascade running down the road.
We're almost onto that gravel section - here's what Juan Antonio Flecha made of it in his recon ride.
I forgot to mention that we're onto the Cat.2 Alto de Engolasters (4.8km at 8.1%). That's because it started almost immediately after Comella. But we have had a picture breakdown with this rain and so we have no idea what's going on out there...
It's started to rain! Geoghegan Hart has gone off on his own with O'Conner and Bouchard behind.
Valverde is reeled in before he rides clear with Roglic and Quintana. But Majka keeps his cool and rides back with Pogacar and Izagirre.
Attack from Valverde! Roglic leads teh chase ahead of Quintana, Majka, Ion Izagirre and Pogacar.
Geoghegan Hart has caught Bouchard! They will soon be joined by Ben O'Conner of Dimension Data. Behind, Lopez has linked up with the final Astana relay, Jakob Fuglsang, who will pace him to the summit.
Lopez has used Izagirre and now ridden clear. He's 1'40" behind Bouchard and riding like a man possessed. Meanwhile, it's Soler who drives the pace of the chasers. They're 2'10" down.
Lopez, meanwhile, has caught the other Izagirre, Gorka, who leads him down the twisting descent.
The elite chase group is seven strong and being led by Roglic. Pedrero, Valverde and Quintana are there, as are Majka, Pogacar and Ion Izagirre. George Bennett was there but he's pulled back, while Powless has been caught and passed from the break.
Over the top goes Geoffrey Bouchard, pocketting another 5pts. He'll move up the KoM standings today. Behind it's Pernsteiner who takes second place alongside Higuita of EF Education First. Pedrero of Movistar is fourth over the top.
Bouchard is nearing the summit and he still has a minute over his chasers. Pernsteiner is still out with a small gap over the rest. Back with Lopez, he passes Marc Soler, who's clearly been told to ease up and wait for his Movistar teammates Valverde and Quintana.
As a few other riders start to bridge over - including Pogacar, Kuss and Majka - Valverde puts in a dig. But then Lopez uses this as a launch pad and flies clear. Could this be the stage winning - nay, race winning - move?
ATTACK: Miguel Angel Lopez goes early with a probing attack. The white jersey is chased down by the green jersey, Nairo Quintana. Primoz Roglic and Alejandro Valverde then close it down - so already the Big Four have come together.
It looks like Chaves has finally managed to rejoin the main pack - bravo, if so. Edet, meanwhile, rides with two Cofidis teammates 40 seconds in arrears - which is a good effort from the Frenchman, all things considered.
Some more info on this final trio of climbs, which works out to be the equivalent - more or less - of ascending Alpe d'Huez once.
We're onto the Cat.2 Alto de la Comella (4.2km at 8.6%).
Bouchard wins the intermediate sprint with Grossschartner zipping off the front of the chase group behind.
The chasers have taken their foot off the gas and are arguing among themselves as to who should do the pacing - and this has allowed Geoffrey Bouchard to extend his lead to one minute as he approaches the intermediate sprint. Pernsteiner has been caught by them but there are too many passengers in this move. Behind, Astana have three riders on the front - Lopez, Cataldo and one of the Izagirre brothers. They're 3'40" down on the lone leader with the Edet-Chaves-Madrazo red jersey group around 4'55" back.
So many twists and turns on this narrow descent - and it's hard to work out what's happening because, quite rightly, the motorcycles are giving the riders a wide berth.
CORRECTION: It seems that Teuns isn't even here in this break - I was certain that he was - so I've had a bit of a Weston Super, to coin a phrase often used by Rob Hatch.
The Bahrain Merida rider who took second place over the summit wasn't Dylan Teuns but Hermann Pernsteiner, we're hearing. He's still in between Bouchard and the other escapees on this highly technical descent, with live images very sketchy.
Cataldo leads Lopez, Izagirre and the rest of the elite pack over the summit 3'25" down on the lone leader Bouchard. Now a 16km descent ahead of the intermediate sprint and then those three climbs to the finish.
Bouchard goes over the top to pocket 15pts in the polka dot jersey standings. It's Teuns who is second with 10pts before the other remnants of the break cross, including Geoghegan Hart, who was caught before the top.
Chaves has caught the Edet-Madrazo group but they're still 50 seconds down.
Teuns isn't really making too much of an impact but he has caught Geoghegan Hart and they have Bouchard in their sights. Unfortunately for them, the other escapees have them in their sights, too. But this group has really reduced in numbers, with many shelled out, caught and passed by the elite group of favourites - including Thomas De Gendt.
Dylen Teuns is riding clear of the break now. Bouchard still leads with Geoghegan Hart unable to bridge over but not giving up. Back with the pack, Astana are setting a fast tempo through Cataldo. The red jersey, Edet, has been dropped and he's about to be caught by a rallying Madrazo, who was dropped ages ago but seems to be riding back towards the big guns.
Thanks to the official website of La Vuelta, we can bring you the composition of the red jersey group: Alejandro Valverde, Nelson Oliveira, Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team), Miguel Angel Lopez, Dario Cataldo, Ion Izagirre, Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana Pro Team), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), Rafal Majka, Pawel Poljanski (Bora-Hansgrohe), James Knox (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Kilian Frankiny (Groupama-FDJ), Primoz Roglic, George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo), Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH), Nicolas Edet, Jesper Hansen (Cofidis) and Oscar Rodriguez (Euskadi-Murias).
Geoghegan Hart is about to catch Bouchard on the front of the race. Chaves has three Mitchelton-Scott teammates who are doing their best to drag the Colombian back to the main pack after his puncture.
It's Astana who are driving the 'peloton' which has been whittled down to about 20 riders. Edet, the red jersey, is still there, but he's lost his Cofidis support.
Bouchard is 10 seconds clear of Geoghegan Hart, 25 seconds clear of the other escapees, 3'45" ahead of the pack and 4'30" ahead of the Chaves group.
Geoghegan Hart has been caught and passed by Ag2R-La Mondiale's Geoffrey Bouchard, which sums up Ineos' Vuelta.
Puncture for Esteban Chaves, who is forced to change bikes with Damian Howson. Given that there's about a foot in height difference between them, the Colombian can barely ride - and certainly has to do so out of the saddle. He dances up the hill for about 30 seconds then swaps bikes with another Mitchelton-Scott teammate - one who isn't as tall as Howson.
Tao Geoghegan Hart, his Ineos jersey unzipped, rides clear of the break. He's decided to go early, but you expect this is because Ineos have matches to burn rather than the Briton realistically eyeing a win today.
Fabio Aru is starting to struggle off the back of the peloton, which doesn't bode well.
Well, that tweet didn't age very well...
Movistar have now sent some riders to the front of the pack to pace ahead of the climb. They have Pedrero and Soler in the move, which is 4'10" up the road. Kiryienka is the first rider to be dropped from the break at the start of the climb.
The break is onto the Cat HC Coll de la Gallina (12.2km at 8.3%). It's a highly irregular climb which has numerous double-digit gradients and a maximum ramp of 14%.
Remember - there's a narrow 4km flat gravel section after the Alto de Engolasters before the final climb, which could be rather fruity if the scheduled rain falls.
Ineos, who have five riders in this break, and Sunweb, who have four, have come to the front to set the tempo, stretching out the lead to 3'30". Behind, it's Cofidis who are going the red jersey justice with some own tempo'ing of themselves.
It's come back together after the rest of the break caught up with the seven leaders. They're on a flatter step before the final drop towards the foot of the next climb. The gap back to the pack is 2'10".
There's been a shake-up after the descent with the two leaders joined by five, so we have eight out ahead now: Sepp Kuss, Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma), Antonio Pedrero (Movistar Team), Omar Fraile, Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Patrick Bevin (CCC Team), Mikel Bizkarra (Euskadi-Murias).
Today's stage is one of my seven key stages of this year's Vuelta. Read all about it - and the others - below.
Some thoughts on today's stage from Tagej Pogacar, who is 9th on GC in his maiden Grand Tour and 2nd in the white jersey standings.
Confirmation that it was Bizkarra who took the 10pts ahead of Bevin (6pts), De Gendt (4pts), Kuss (2pts) and Gesink (1pt).
There are a few steps in this long descent but on the whole it goes on for 27km so it's a bit of a whopper. Expect there to be a bit of a shake up because some of these escapees descent much better than others - and as soon as they reach the bottom, they'll be heading back up on the Coll de la Gallina.
The best placed rider in the break is Hagen of Lotto Soudal, who is in seventh place 3'45" down on Edet. The Norwegian was in yesterday's break to rise up the standings and into the top 10; he was 22nd before the stage.
Three riders are trying to bridge over from the pack: Michael Storer (Team Sunweb), Vasil Kiryienka (Team Ineos), Oscar Cabedo (Burgos-BH). The two leaders are Patrick Bevin (CCC Team) and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskadi-Murias).
The large chase group are: Antonio Pedrero, Marc Soler (Movistar Team), Pierre Latour, Geofffrey Bouchard (AG2R La Mondiale), Jakob Fuglsang, Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain-Merida), Felix Grosschaurtner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Lawson Craddock, Sergio Higuita (EF Education First), Kilian Frankiny, Romain Seigle (Groupama-FDJ), Thomas De Gendt, Carl Hagen (Lotto Soudal), Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data), Wout Poels, David de la Cruz, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Sebastian Henao (Team Ineos), Robert Gesink, Sepp Kuss, Neilson Powless (Jumbo-Visma), Matteo Fabbro, Ruben Guerreiro (Katusha Alpecin), Wilco Kelderman, Robert Power, Martijn Tusveld (Team Sunweb), Nikias Eg (Trek-Segafredo), Jesus Herrada, Darwin Atapuma (Cofidis) and Sergio Samitier (Euskadi-Murias).
Our leaders are zipping down the descent with the peloton still going up. They have caught Groupama's Kilian Frankiny, who was in the move but who has either been dropped or sat up. And they go over the top 2'05" down.
It's Bizkarra who crests the summit in the lead ahead of Bevin so they'll pocket 10pts and 6pts respectively in the KoM standings. The chasers go over 45 seconds down although we didn't have a camera on the front so we don't know who it was who led them over.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) is now pushing on the pace on the front of the break as they approach the summit.
The two leaders have 45 seconds now on the break with the peloton a further minute back. We're about two km from the summit.
Some interesting names in this break, including Movistar duo Antonio Pedrero and Marc Soler, Astana trio Omar Fraile, Jakob Fuglsang and Ion Izagirre, breakaway specialist Thomas De Gendt, Ineos trio Geoghegan Hart, Wout Poels and David de la Cruz, Jumbo Visma's George Bennett, Robert Gesink and Sepp Kuss, former stage winner Jesus Herrada, the Dutchman Wilco Kelderman, veteran Mikel Nieve, EF Education First's young Colombian duo Sergio Higuita and Dani Martinez, Frenchman Pierre Latour...
Patrick Bevin (CCC Team) and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskadi-Murias) have zipped clear of the break and have a 20-second gap, with the red jersey group about 45 seconds back. Early skirmishes here.
Geoghegan Hart has been joined by a large chase group of around 25 riders. The peloton has three Cofidis riders on the front, including the red jersey Edet. Meanwhile, a gruppetto is already forming and Angel Madrazo has been dropped. He's ridden a very good opening week but I don't expect to see the Spaniard in polka dots for much longer.
We're onto the Cat.1 Coll d'Ordino (8.9% at 5%). The steeper sections come early before it event out half way up. It's a Big Ring climb for these guys.
The British rider still has a small gap of around five seconds on a chase group of around 15 riders. The peloton is all strung out as the climb beckons...
That Madrazo move - which also had Robert Gesink and Omar Fraile - came to nothing. Now it's Tao Geoghegan Hart trying to make a move. The climb is already under way but it doesn't officially start for another couple of kilometres.
Burgos-BH rider Madrazo, the Stage 5 winner, leads the polka dot jersey standings on 29 points. His nearest challenger is Sergio Henao of UAE Team Emirates, who has 17pts, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) one point back. Today there are a maximum 45pts up for grabs so we could theoretically see a new figure in the blue spots for the first time in this race.
A dozen or so riders have tentatively gone clear, including the polka dot jersey Angel Madrazo.
A few riders did find themselves off the front but they had second thoughts and it comes back together inside a tunnel.
They're off! And there are attacks as soon as the opening roundabout is out of the way...
Who's your money on? I'd probably join the Lopez camp if my life depended on it... But in the interest of originality, I'll say Primoz Roglic. Although, deep down, Nairo Quintana is probably the man to watch.
The organisers have described this Andorran stage as "epic" while local retired rider Joaquim Rodriguez – who was behind bringing the Alto de Engolasters to the Vuelta – has described the sterrato section as "spectacular".
Two short but sharp climbs take the riders to the foot of the final ascent of Cortels d'Encamp, which is reached by a new 3.5km gravel track as the riders skirt the Engolasters lake and pass through a tunnel. The damage could well be done on the dirt road and the steep opening 2km of the final climb before the gradient eases near the finish.
The Coll de Ordino kicks things off, tackled from the opposite side as that used in the deciding stage of the Vuelta last year, won by Enric Mas. If it's a gentle 8.9km ascent at 5% then things get serious with the HC climb of the Coll de la Gallina (12.2km at 8.3%) which features regular double-digit ramps and twice peaks at 14%.
The road is already going uphill and the stage has not even officially started yet... a taste of things to come.
The riders are in the neutral zone now, soft-pedalling out of town ahead of the start. It's sunny for now but only 19 degrees and we have rain expected for the final climb, which will spice things up.
Here's the 31-year-old Frenchman warming up. Cofidis have enjoyed something of a renaissance of late, with Jesus Herrada wearing the red jersey last year and winning a stage this year, and now Edet in red. The team is also being overhauled ahead of 2020 with the likes of Elia Viviani, Nathan Haas, David de la Cruz, Guillaume Martin, Fabio Sabatini and Simone Consonni all joining.
The remaining 167 riders are waiting at the start in Andorra La Vella ahead of today's start. Edet, the man in the lead, has gone to town with a full red ensemble.
This is what's on the menu today in the 94.4km Stage 9: Over 3,000m of climbing is crammed into this short stage which boasts five climbs and very little of anything resembling a flat road.
Here's the new-look GC after Lopez lost the red jersey after a single day for the third time since the start of the race. Edet leads with former red jersey Teuns back in the frame ahead of the Big Four - Lopez, Roglic, Valverde and Quintana.
Here's how Arndt won in the rain...
Yesterday, Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez lost the overall lead of to Frenchman Nicolas Edet as Germany's Nikias Arndt claimed the stage win on another dramatic day in the tour of Spain. Dreadful conditions in Stage 8 of La Vuelta caused chaos in the race, with a downpour denying the peloton the option of catching up time on the final descent. This allowed the 21 riders from the breakaway a free run at the line, taking huge time advantages in the general classification.
Hola and welcome to live coverage of stage 9 of La Vuelta - a short and savagely sharp mountainous schlep through Andorra on the eve of the first rest day.