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Vuelta a Espana

2008 Vuelta a España: Live Updates – Stage 12

05:59 AM: Tune in Thursday at 7:00 a.m. ETfor live coverage of stage 11 12:56 PM: Good day and welcometo VeloNews.com's Live Coverage of the 12th stage of the Vuelta a España, a 186.4-kilometer race from Burgos to Suances. Today's stage a potential leg-breaker ideal for head-bangers looking to finally hold off the sprinters.

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  • 05:59 AM: Tune in Thursday at 7:00 a.m. ET

    for live coverage of stage 11

  • 12:56 PM: Good day and welcome

    to VeloNews.com’s Live Coverage of the 12th stage of the Vuelta a España, a 186.4-kilometer race from Burgos to Suances.

    Today’s stage a potential leg-breaker ideal for head-bangers looking to finally hold off the sprinters.

    The 186.4km stage begins in Burgos and pushes north toward the wild Cantabrian mountains. The route tackles one third category and two second category climbs between 75km and 125km, giving attackers plenty of chances to break the spirit of the main pack.

    Freire lives in nearby Torrelavega, but the short climbing uphill finish into Suances might be better suited for a rider like Paolo Bettini, Alejandro Valverde or Stefan Schumacher if a breakaway doesn’t stay clear.

    Sign in has closed and riders are working their way through the 5.1 neutral zone through Burgos. The official start should come in about 10 or 11 minutes.

  • 01:02 PM: Today’s climbs

    The day features three climbs, beginning with Category 3 Alto de Bocos, which kicks in at an altitude of 570 meters at km74.7 and summits at 78km at 780 meters.

    Up next will be the Cat. 2 Portillo de la Lunada, which rises from 860 meters to 1350 meters between the 97.7 and 106.3km marks.

    After the descent to 440 meters, the Cat. 2 Alto del Caracol kicks in at 120.4 kilometers and rises to 820 meters at 125.5km. From there to the finish there will be a series of small unrated climbs, including a little kicker at the finish, which as we noted earlier, could keep the sprinters from dominating the charge to the line.

  • 01:05 PM: 158 remaining

    there are 158 riders still competing in the Vuelta, with no one pulling out overnight.

    Tomorrow’s rest day offers a little break before Saturday’s decisive stage which finishes atop the Alto de L’Angliru in Asturias. That last climb on Saturday is going to be a killer, folks. The 209.5-kilometer race from San Vicente finshes on the brutal climb, which has not been featured in the Vuelta since 2002. Remarkably the difficult climb has only been used three times – 1999, 2000 and 2002 – in the Vuelta and it has proved to be decisive each time. Most recently, Roberto Heras used the Angrilu to seal his overall victory in the 2002 Vuelta.

    Just looking at the numbers is enough to strike fear in the hearts of all but the most dedicated mountaingoat.The first five kilometers of the climb average a stiff, but manageable, 7.6 percent. There is a brief lull before the road tips up to a 13.1 percent average to the summit, including the brutally difficult Cueña les Cabres slope, which hits 23.6 percent, followed by sections of 18 and 21 percent grades.

  • 01:08 PM: Rollling

    The peloton has made it through the neutral zone and racing has begun in the 12th stage of the 2008 Vuelta. Early attacks? We expect so.

    And there he goes. Ag2r’s Stephane Poulheis has made an early attempt to scamper away from the field.

  • 01:10 PM: Today’s weather

    It’s cool and cloudy, but there is no rain at this point. If forecasts are correct, however, we may see some precip’ before the race reaches the finish.

    Meanwhile Poulheis has been pulled back.

  • 01:11 PM: Drop us a line

    Just a reminder that if you have a comment, a question or a complaint, feel free to hit the Contact our editors link below the Live Update window.

    We promise to read them all, answer as many as we can and even post a few of your comments along the way today.

  • 01:18 PM: Armstrong reaction

    While much of the media – VeloNews included – have been running around getting riders’, teams’ and promoters’ reactions to the return of Lance Armstrong, we also have asked the folks who really count, namely our readers. So far quite a few of you have weighed in on the question of whether or not the big news of the week is good for the sport. You guys seem pretty evenly divided:

    Good for the sport, I’m excited — 44% (2701 votes)
    Bad for the sport, I’m distressed — 43% (2637 votes)
    I have Lance Fatigue, I don’t care anymore — 11% (653 votes)
    I’m skeptical it will really happen — 3% (171 votes)
    Total votes: 6162

    Speaking of the Armstrong story, it appears the editors at Vanity Fair have scrapped plans to run the splashy Lance feature in their print magazine and put the whole thing up as a web-only report. It seems that some cycling website broke the news early. On that subject, the Live Update Guy has to give credit where credit is due. Cranky old SOB that he is, the LUG was firmly in the “we need confirmation!!!!” camp and was pushing hard to hold the story until we could get some on-the-record sources. Well, it turned out that the story was true and that was subsequently confirmed by Armstrong himself. Congratulations Neal Rogers.

    So the LUG has to ask a favor from readers today. Can anyone recommend a good wine that serves well with a healthy dose of crow?

    (And yes, we do recognize that the Live Update Guy has an annoying habit of referring to himself in the third person or with the plural “we.” Regarding the latter, we took our cue from Lance Armstrong who announced “our” return to the sport.)

  • 01:19 PM: At 10km

    the peloton is riding as one. There have been a few digs here and there, but they aren’t shaping up into anything yet.

  • 01:27 PM: At 18km

    we have finally seen a break develop.

    We have three riders off the front after they attacked at 10km. They now have an advantage of 1:45.

    The men in the break are:
    Sandy Casar (FDJ), who began his day in 29th place, just 14:59 out of first.
    Sebastien Hinault (Credit Agricole), the winner of stage 10, who began the day in 72nd place, 42:11 out of first.
    Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), 114th, at 1:01:38.

  • 01:34 PM: At 22km

    the three escapees have managed to up their advantage to 3:10.

  • 01:47 PM: The leaders

    have reached the 31km mark with an advantage of 4:28. The Caisse d’Epargne team has moved a couple of riders to the front to help the Euskaltel team with the job of setting tempo in the field.

    We suspect that indicates Valverde is interested in winning a stage today and we can expect the gap to be held to within reasonable levels.

  • 01:56 PM: At 38km

    the gap is holding at the 4:30 level. We suspect the peloton will leave these three out front without letting them get too far up the road, matching the pace for the next 100km and the pulling them back as the finish approaches. At least that’s our guess.

  • 02:00 PM: Ahead

    the tiny and unranked Puerto de la Mazorra comes up at 51km, which is the prelude to a quick drop from 1000 meters to 610 in just 8km. Were riders taking the route in the opposite direction, it would probably rank as a Cat.2 climb.

  • 02:06 PM: Wine recommendation

    Reader Robert G. writes in to recommend

    … a nice Pinot Grigio with crow. A white wine is probably the best choice for fowl, and I’m not a fan of Chardonnays. I would also recommend preparing the crow in a slow-cooker – maybe one of those clay Romertopf baking containers from Germany – and overwhelming the less-than-appealing taste by garnishing it with truffles.
    Hey, not a bad idea. You make that seem almost palatable. I’m supposed to remove the feathers first, right?

  • 02:08 PM: Already being trimmed

    the three escapees are now at the 42.5km mark. Their advantage has been cut to 3:45, indicating the peloton is intent upon keeping the leash relatively short today.

  • 02:18 PM: On that big drop

    the three leaders are heading down the significant descent you can see on the pofile.

    They now have a lead of 3:20.

  • 02:22 PM: Wow

    We live in an amazing age folks. Adam (you might remember him as our resident lantern rouge expert during the Tour) sent us a website solely dedicated to the proper preparation of crow: www.crowbusters.com/recipes.htm

    We don’t care who invented the Internets, but we remain impressed.

  • 02:30 PM: Our leaders

    have an advantage of 3:15.

  • 02:35 PM: At 64km

    the three leaders continue to lose time. Their advantage has been trimmed to 3:10. We can’t imagine that, with this much effort being put in by the peloton, the break will succeed today.

  • 02:42 PM: At 72km

    the gap is down to 2:45.

  • 02:49 PM: The peloton

    passed through the village of Villarcayo, the home of Inigo Cuesta, the Caisse d’Epargne rider slated to join Carlos Sastre at Cervelo next year.

  • 02:50 PM: At 78km

    the gap is now 2:40. We may see a catch much sooner than we would have initially predicted.

  • 02:54 PM: The gap has bumped up

    by a bit, suggesting perhaps, that the peloton will let them stay off the front for a little longer.

  • 03:03 PM: At 81km

    the gap is now 3:50. Does one sense the influence of radios in how this gap is being monitored? The break has crested the Puerto de Bocos, a climb that appears not to have affected things in the break or in the peloton.

  • 03:04 PM: Up ahead

    the feedzone is coming up at 90km and then the Cat.2 Portillo de la Lunada comes up, summiting at 106.3km

  • 03:14 PM: Another one bites

    the dust. Gianni Meersman from FDJ has withdrawn from the Vuelta.

  • 03:15 PM: Lunch

    the break has passed through the feedzone at the 90km mark. The gap appears to be holding at 3:40-ish.

  • 03:24 PM: With lunch over

    the break and the peloton are now working their way to the day’s second climb, the Portillo de la Lunada.

  • 03:30 PM: Gap coming down

    The latest we hear is 2:40 seconds.

    By the way, the threesome rolled through the intermediate sprint with Hinault getting first, followed by Casar and Quinziato.

  • 03:34 PM: Climbs approaching

    The first cat. 2 climb, to Portillo de Lunada, tops out at about KM106, followed quickly by the Alto del Caracol at KM125.

    It has started to rain a bit as the pace in the pack ramps up a little. We can expect some action on these climbs and this little break may come apart.

  • 03:38 PM: After the climbs

    Well, after the two climbs there are a few bumps, but it’s mostly downhill and flat to the finish in Suances. With a rest day coming up, followed by b-b-b-ig mountains this weekend, these climbs could be an opportunity for attackers to put on a show.

    Of course, Egoi Martinez’s Euskaltel-Euskadi squad would like to keep him in the jersey for the rest day and will be looking to reel in anything dangerous.

  • 03:39 PM: Leaders on the climb

    The breakaway has reached the lower slopes of the Cat. 2 Portillo de Lunada climb

  • 03:43 PM: The gap at 98k – 3:03

    So the leaders have increased their lead slightly and are staying together so far. Euskaltel continues to lead the peloton.

  • 03:45 PM: Others

    Quick Step, Lampre and Caisse D´Epárgne are moving to the front, apparently to keep the pace manageable so their sprinters can make it to the line?

  • 03:52 PM: The leaders approaching the summit

    still together, the three, as is the peloton, ‘cepting a few danglers off the back (those are MY people).

  • 03:58 PM: Shady Poll

    Erin writes:

    The poll you use on the website is very shady. No limit on how many times you can vote! Are you kidding…the Hamilton one saw a huge negative swing in just a few hours. Does this kind of poll really make sense?!?!

    We totally agree, Erin. The poll is, as David Letterman likes to say, for entertainment purposes only. No wagering, please.

  • 04:02 PM: Schumacher to Quick Step

    Stefan Schumacher will head to Quick Step next year, adding some serious TT power to that squad. Meanwhile, Paulo Bettini is reportedly peeved that he hasn’t been offered more bucks by the Quick Steppers (the name of my new Texas Swing band, by the way) and The Cricket says he’s looking for another posse to hang with in ’09.

  • 04:03 PM: Just kidding

    About the swing band. The other stuff is true, though.

  • 04:04 PM: near the top

    The gap is still a bit over 3 minutes as the leaders top out. It’s rainy and foggy on the last couple kilometers of the climb.

  • 04:08 PM: An evil day to be on the bike

    It looks like summer in San Francisco out there – which, you Mark Twain fans may recall, can look an awful lot like winter.

  • 04:10 PM: Hinault out front on the descent

    He’s using every inch of the road.

  • 04:12 PM: This is the kind of weather Jan Ullrich always hated

    And speaking of the former Tour champ, he will not be following Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis back into the pro peloton. “At the moment, I am just enjoying time with my young son Max. In all honesty I have no urge to return,” he told the German magazine Bild. “I have other plans in life and I am not missing anything. I am happy with my life.”

  • 04:15 PM: The Schumacher deal . . .

    . . . apparently isn’t sitting well with world champ Paolo Bettini. In a chat with Gazzetta dello Sport the rainbow jersey says that if Quick Step honcho Patrick Lefévere can’t find the budget to keep him around, he’ll go elsewhere.

  • 04:16 PM: Meanwhile, back at the race . . .

    . . . the gap is 3:27. The leading trio are giving each other lots of room on this soggy, sinuous descent.

  • 04:17 PM: The road tilts upward

    And we’re suddenly headed up again. That must be something of a shock to the system after a chilly, damp descent.

  • 04:19 PM: The gap . . .

    . . . has dipped under three minutes as our leading trio start the climb to Alto del Caracol.

  • 04:20 PM: Or not . . .

    . . . we’re getting conflicting reports on the gap. It’s now reported as having gone up, to 3:40.

  • 04:21 PM: Speedometer check

    After three hours in the saddle, the average speed today is 38km/h. That’s 23.6 mph on this side of the big ditch.

  • 04:22 PM: The chase is curb to curb . . .

    . . . as the bunch hits the climb.

  • 04:24 PM: The Alto del Caracol . . .

    . . . is a category-2 climb, but despite the additional effort we haven’t seen a lot of unzipped rain jackets. It must really be nippy out there.

  • 04:26 PM: 2km to the top . . .

    . . . and 60-something to the finish line and some dry kit.

  • 04:28 PM: The guy with the Rolex knockoff bought in an alley . . .

    . . . says the gap is about 3:30.

  • 04:30 PM: Weather report

    It’s said to be 7 degrees Celsius out there – that’s 44.6 Fahrenheit in the Land of the Free, folks.

  • 04:32 PM: Up and over

    Casar leads Quinziato and Hinault over the tip and down the other side.

  • 04:34 PM: Moncoutie

    . . . has popped out of the bunch to collect three more mountain points.

  • 04:36 PM: Easy does it, lads

    These narrow roads in northern Spain are treacherous, especially in this miserable weather. So far it looks like the peloton is taking it carefully down the descent.

  • 04:38 PM: Another calls it quits

    Danilo Napolitano (Lampre) has abandoned. A Gerolsteiner rider is said to have done likewise, but we don’t know who it is yet.

  • 04:43 PM: Lampre at the front

    Lampre still hammering at the front, hard to tell these guys apart in their rain jackets. There’s a Quick Stepper up there, too.

  • 04:45 PM: about 50k to go

    For the leaders. The gap is still about 3 minutes, though it’s been hard to get reports with this rain and the descent … The leaders are down and going through a small village.

  • 04:46 PM: The group

    The peloton is taking it very cautiously down this descent. So far, no crashes as the GC favorites are picking their way down these wet and slippery roads.

  • 04:47 PM: 48k to go

    for the leaders. the gap is 2:40. They look COLD.

  • 04:48 PM: The green coast

    Spain’s northern coast is called “La Costa Verde” – the green coast – for good reason. Unfortunately, it looks like more rain and fog for the climb up Angliru on Saturday.

  • 04:49 PM: The peloton

    The peloton is going to hit the base of the descent in several chunks, looks like. We’ll see how it comes back together now. The latest gap we have is 2:10, but don’t take that too seriously, it may settle in more once everyone is down.

  • 04:50 PM: Last day for Oscar

    Oscar Freire – winner of Wednesday’s stage – says he will quit the Vuelta after today’s finish. Freire lives within a half-hour of the finish line and he wants to train at home ahead of the worlds instead of suffering through the final week of the Vuelta. He my be wishing he stayed home today, with this nasty weather.

  • 04:51 PM: Where is Valverde?

    Valverde is NOT in the front group. We’re not sure how far back he is, but the entire Caisse d’Epargne team is pulling at the front of a chase group.

  • 04:53 PM: Trying to get a time

    The Valverde group is 53 seconds behind the main pack – the three leaders are 1:35 up the road.

  • 04:55 PM: who else is in there?

    Astana is at the front, so we think Contador and Leipheimer are in there. Martinez is in there. Valverde has some work ahead of him.

  • 04:55 PM: Still raining

    But Quinziato has taken off his jacket.

  • 04:56 PM: 1.19 gap to the leaders

    Valverde is now 51 seconds behind.

  • 04:58 PM: Valverde pitching in

    His team not doing the job, he’s pulling THEM now.

    Meanwhile, Euskaltel-Euskadi is now working at the front, to keep Martinez in the jersey and to move up Igor Anton on GC if Valverde can’t get back on

  • 05:01 PM: Reminder

    So we have our three men off the front in the day’s big break:

    The men in the break are:
    Sandy Casar (FDJ), who began his day in 29th place, just 14:59 out of first.
    Sebastien Hinault (Credit Agricole), the winner of stage 10, who began the day in 72nd place, 42:11 out of first.
    Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), 114th, at 1:01:38.

    Then we have the main pack, with most of the GC contenders, at 46 seconds, then another 44 seconds back, we have the Caisse d’Epargne team, trying desperatly to get their leader Valverde back in contact.

    It’s still quite wet and foggy and cool and we have 37k to go

  • 05:02 PM: Report from the finish

    is that it is not raining there.

  • 05:08 PM: Astana at the front again

    They’d like to put some time on Valverde. Interestingly, race radio has listed riders in the main group but did not mention race leader Martinez. We think it’s an oversight, but we haven’t spied the gold jersey in there, amongst the rain capes.

  • 05:09 PM: Valverde – dropped his team

    Valverde is riding alone with only Gilbert and a Cofidis rider. There is 31k to go

  • 05:11 PM: Euskaltel

    Euskaltel is doing some work at the front of the group, so we gotta think Martinez is in there somewhere.

  • 05:13 PM: Quinziato

    has attacked his break, with a small lead. Casar has sat up and waited for the group.

  • 05:18 PM: Ah, there he is

    Riders are taking off their jackets and now we see Martinez. Valverde is falling farther behind. Two minutes by one report

  • 05:18 PM: Meanwhile

    The break is caught. Valverde is all alone, more than two minutes back.

  • 05:23 PM: 25k to go

    Valverde is back with his teammates again, but they are losing time to the front break – 2:12 back now

  • 05:24 PM: approaching the intermediate sprint

    The sprint is in Torrelavega, Oscr Freier’s home town, at 20k to go

  • 05:26 PM: drying out a bit

    the roads are (nearly) dry as the lead group sweeps around some fast downhill turns. The latest time check has the Valverde group at 2:16 – are his GC hopes over?

  • 05:28 PM: oop. rain again

    Betttini is near the front, so is Leipheimer. The gap to Valverde is 2:18.

  • 05:31 PM: The sprint

    Andreas Kloden got the first points at the KM20 sprint, followed by Benjamin Noval Gonzales and Jose Luis Rubiera.

  • 05:33 PM: Gap is 2:19

    With Astana and Euskaltel driving the pace, the gap is opening. We are still not sure how/why Valverde got dropped to begin with – perhaps he had an incident on the last descent. But he and his team have not been able to get him back in contact.

  • 05:33 PM: Sad day

    Many riders are wearing black ribbons on their sleeves in honor of Tino Moreno, organizer of the Vuelta a Burgos who died yesterday from cancer.

  • 05:37 PM: 2:35 now

    Valverde continues to lose time. Astana is relentless is hammering on the front, taking a potential GC threat out of the picture.

    9k to go to the finish in Suances.

  • 05:38 PM: Valverde gettting some help

    Caisse d’Epargne is getting some help from Silence-Lotto, but Valverde has lost 2:37 now

  • 05:40 PM: Interesting

    While Astana and Euskaltel put the hammer down to open the gap to Valverde, the sprinters – Bettini, Freire, Hinault … are getting a free ride. 7k to go for the leaders.

  • 05:43 PM: Cunego and Rebellin

    Are also among the favorites for this finish. The last 5k — which we just entered – is technical, with an uphill finish that would have been perfect for Valverde … who is now nearly 3 minutes back.

  • 05:43 PM: 4k to go

    Lampre at the front … Bettini up there, Astana has pulled off

  • 05:45 PM: 3k to go Quinziato took a flyer

    But Quick Step has shut it down

  • 05:45 PM: 2k

    Quick Step and Lampre at the front

  • 05:46 PM: Bettini

    Bettini is well positioned. Contador and Martinez are near the front …

  • 05:46 PM: Freire on Bettini’s wheel

    a split in the field …

  • 05:47 PM: Contador attacks!

    He’s putting the hammer down, rebellin on his wheel, Martinez on him

  • 05:47 PM: Sastre hanging on

    Carlos Sastre digging deep

  • 05:48 PM: Bettini nabs it

    Rebellin is second

  • 05:49 PM: Paulo Bettini

    in the news for his remarks this morning, he takes the stage this afternoon. Contador may have opened some time on Sastre and Leipheimer

  • 05:50 PM: Nice

    Boy that was a tough uphill finish, perfect for Bettini. The pack is drifting in in pieces, we see Zabel coming across. Valverde is still on the road.

  • 05:51 PM: Valverde finishes

    3:23 at the line …

  • 05:54 PM: other groups rolling in

    We did not expect the group to break up so much on this stage. Shows to go you can never predict.

    We are looking for a GC update. Valverde is likely out of the top ten. Contador might maybe have passed Leipheimer.

  • 05:58 PM: nope

    All the top riders were given same time.
    Stage finish (all same time):

    1st Paolo Bettini
    2 Davide Rebellin
    3 Damiano Cunego
    4 Alessandro Ballan
    5 Alberto Contador
    6 Egoi Martinez .
    7 Oliver Zaugg
    8 Carlos Sastre
    9 Levi Leipheimer
    10 Igor Anton
    11 Joaqui Rodriguez Oliver
    12 Marzio Bruseghin
    13 Robert Gesink