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12:36 PM: Good day and welcome
to VeloNews.com’s Live Coverage of the 16th stage of the 2008 Vuelta a Espana, a 186.3km race from Ponferrada to Zamora.
Today’s stage is short, but has a brutal start. After 1.6 kilometers of flat ground, the course shoots up a 14 kilometer climb from 590 meters up to the 1525-meter summit of the Category 1 Alto del Acebo. After a little bump, though, the route drops quickly to 890 meters at 47.7km and then takes a gradual and generally flat ride to the finish at Zamora at 651 meters.
It may be a tough start for race leader Alberto Contador, who is feeling a little stiff from a tumble in yesterday’s stage, but it’s unlikely to make any significant change in the overall standings. This could be another stage for the headbangers in the peloton, assuming any escapees make a big gap on the opening climb, but there is plenty of time for the sprinters’ teams – there are still some sprinters here – to pull back an escape.
Five stages have finished in Zamora, a city perched along the Duero River known for its fabulous Romanesque churches. Sprints are common, with riders such as Eddy Planckaert (1985) and Nicola Minali (1995) taking wins there.
12:37 PM: Today’s start
is slated for 1:15.
Riders are done signing in and we’ll check to see if there are any absentees.
12:39 PM: Drop us a line
If you have a question or a comment, feel free to hit the Contact our editors link below the Live Update Window.
We’ll read them all, answer as many as we can and even post a few along the way, today.
12:57 PM: Contador’s job today
The peloton is rolling through the long, 9.8-kilometer, neutral zone. We should see the start in five minutes or so.
Contador reports that he’s doing well, despite a bad night of sleep, trying to avoid that left side and the road rash.
His job today is to monitor the other GC contenders. Other than that, he’s not too concerned about how today’s stage develops.
Overall, after Stage 15
1. Alberto Contador (ESP), Astana, 61:13:48
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Astana, at 1:17
3. Carlos Sastre (ESP), CSC, at 3:41
4. Ezequiel Mosquera (ESP), Xacobeo – Galicia, at 4:35
5. Robert Gesink (NED), Rabobank, at 5:49
6. Alejandro Valverde (ESP), Caisse d’Epargne, at 6:00
7. Joaquín Rodríguez Oliver (ESP), Caisse d’Epargne, at 6:11
8. Egoi Martínez (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 8:56
9. David Moncoutie (FRA), Cofidis, at 9:32
10. Oliver Zaugg (SUI), Gerolsteiner, at 10:01
01:01 PM: Today’s weather
It’s about 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) with highs expected to reach 28c (84f).
There is no wind to speak of and the sun is out… so are the crowds, lining the streets of Ponferrada as the peloton heads for the official start.
01:08 PM: No Cunego
Former Giro d’Italia winner Damiano Cunego has not started today. He’s focusing on preparing for the world championships and may just be leaving the Vuelta to rest up before the big race on the 28th.
01:10 PM: Moncoutie
Cofidis’s David Moncoutie is still quite secure in his lead in the KOM standings:
Overall KOM, after Stage 15
1. David Moncoutie (FRA), Cofidis 127 points
2. Alberto Contador (ESP), Astana 84 points
3. Christophe Kern (FRA), Credit Agricole 80 points
4. Juan Manuel Garate (ESP), Quick Step 77 points
5. Ezequiel Mosquera (ESP), Xacobeo – Galicia 51 points
6. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA), Cofidis 48 points
7. Iñigo Landaluze (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi 46 points
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Astana 45 points
9. Maarten Tjallingii (NED), Silence-Lotto 43 points
10. Joaquín Rodríguez Oliver (ESP), Caisse d’Epargne 40 points
01:13 PM: The peloton
is down to 144 riders.
01:16 PM: Here comes the start
The peloton is closing in on the official start at kilometer-zero.
We can expect serious action in that first stretch, given that the Alto del Acebo offers an ideal opportunity for any breakaway effort.
01:19 PM: Slower than we thought
The peloton is still in the neutral zone…
01:24 PM: Reader question
Eric writes to hypothesize:
Hypothetical – during the upcoming time trial Contador knows he’s not having a good ride, but is still ahead of Sastre. However Levi is tearing up the course, and could actually take over the overall race lead? Does his team tell Levi to back off?That’s an interesting scenario. We doubt that it will shape up that way, but we think that he wouldn’t be told to back off. Astana’s big goal is to give Contador his third grand tour in the shortest period of time in history, but he still has to earn it. Leipheimer has been a stellar teammate, but he deserves a shot and we can’t imagine Astana denying him a shot … but we’ll see, eh?
Meanwhile, the peloton is nearing the start.
01:32 PM: Attacks
We’re seeing some action up front in this early part, but we still have to sort it out. The climb began at km 1.6 and things will be getting sorted out quickly.
01:34 PM: On the climb
We still have no clear picture of the action at the front, but we’re working on it. The pace appears to be brisk.
01:40 PM: The peloton
is still together and no one is making any distance in any of the attempts that have taken place over the first 3.5km.
01:44 PM: It’s calm
The pace has moderated on the climb and escape attempts have ended … for now.
01:48 PM: Reader comment
Lyle writes to observe:
Damiano Cunego. Will this guy ever figure into the podium of a Grand Tour again? From his one win at the Giro it has been a string of what is best described as disappointments in Grand Tours. I will be really curious to see what his schedule looks like for next year. I think it is time for him to refocus on the classics.We agree and despite Cunego’s participation in to grand tours this year, he did continue to focus on the Classics. Recall that he won Amstel Gold this year. Nonetheless, he’s still a heck of a stage racer. We’ll see how next year shapes up. We do agree that his career has not lived up to expectations. We really had predicted great things after he won the Giro in ’04.
02:02 PM: Paolo
One rider still in the crowd is world champion Paolo Bettini. He says he plans to pull out tomorrow, in preparation for the worlds road race on Sunday, the 28th.
He’s a tough competitor and has to be a favorite to win this year again. That would give him three rainbow jerseys in a row.
02:05 PM: The summit
is coming up at 15.6km. After that it’s a pretty mellow route to the finish.
02:10 PM: Reader question
David writes in to ask:
Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer seem ready to finish 1-2 in the Vuelta this year. Other than LeMond and Hinault in 1985-86, Has this ever happened before in a Grand Tour?
It does happen, albeit rarely. Remember that Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich did it in the ’96 Tour, for example.
02:11 PM: Peace in the peloton
Things have settled to a moderate pace on the climb. We may not be seeing attacks for a while. Riders are spread across the road and the peloton is riding up the hill as a single group. We were predicting a wild ride on the opening few km, but these guys have been riding for two-and-a-half weeks now, worlds are ahead and there are plenty of reasons to relax.
Of course, now that we’ve said that with a degree of confidence, we’ll probably get a flurry of attacks. We ain’t that good at predicting the future, a fact we’ve admitted ever since we picked George McGovern to win in ’72.
02:19 PM: Reader comment/question
Reader Charlie Mc writes to say
Hey, you mention Bjarne Riis’s win in 1996. Didn’t he get stripped of that title? He should have.Well, yes, he did admit doping … but too much time had elapsed to be formally stripped of his title. Besides, wouldn’t that mean giving it to Ullrich? Remember who was third that year: Richard Virenque – two years away from his own scandal, when the Festina team got popped.
02:31 PM: Up and over
Maybe we’ll see some action now … maybe not.
This looks like it’s gonna be a sleeper folks. We love bicycle racing more than most, but there are days when the action is … mmmmm…. downright boring at times. We can’t blame the riders, it’s just a combination of factors: route and exhaustion being on the top of the list.
02:34 PM: Reader observation
Andrea wrote in to remind us
Wow, Mc Govern in 1972. You just seriously aged yourself. Of course, I guess I just aged myself, too.sighhhhh… you’re right Andrea. The Live Update Guy was 14 in 1972 and the first election he worked on, volunteering in the local political office (we’ll let you decide which one). Of course 14 in 1972 means that LUG is now eligible for AARP membership.
Keep up the good work!
02:37 PM: Remember yesterday?
You know, when the opening hour covered a jaw-dropping 50k?
Well, today it was 15.
02:43 PM: How’s this for a denial?
There have been rumors out there that the Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez will be joining Carlos Sastre on the new Cervelo TestTeam next year. Well, we got an e-mail from the PR camp at Cervelo:
RE: Cervelo TestTeam ridersWell, you can’t blame folks. The big rumor of the season – the return of that guy named Lance – turned out to be true, so reporters are chasing almost every whisper they’ve heard during the contract season.
It is not our habit to react to rumors, but it seems some media have gone overboard perpetuating stories that have absolutely no basis in reality. We are noticing that most riders we are contacting are very professional about it and do not speak to the media about any impending contracts, while riders we have never spoken to are apparently close to signing with us. So let us state for the record:
– The team has have never spoken to Mr. Samuel Sanchez, we have no plans to hire him or to buy him out of any existing contract. Not to mention that we would not have the budget to do so anyway, we are a modest team able to attract great riders because they believe in our concept, not because we buy them out of existing contracts.
– We have never spoken to Mr. Bjorn Leukemans or Mr. Thomas Dekker either.
We wish these gentlemen all the success in their future careers. If there is something to report, you can rest assured we will let the media know.
Director of Public Relations
02:45 PM: An attack!!
Andalucia-Caja Sur’s Jesus Rosendo has moved ahead of the peloton … he’s got 30 seconds.
02:56 PM: Rosendo and Pedraza
are now together and working to build their lead. They have 3:00 at the 34km mark.
03:08 PM: Reader question
Chris F. writes
So who are the pure sprinters that are left in the field? Anyone who might be a favorite for today (barring a successful break) besides Boonen?
P.S. I was a McGovern supporter, too – of course, I was only 3 years old at the time.
Well, you’re right. Boonen is still in there. So is Philippe Gilbert (Francaise Des Jeux), who is no slouch when it comes to a sprint. Bettini may want to go for another win and he’s most certainly capable.
03:11 PM: 4:30
our two escapees are now 4:30 ahead of the main field and are at the 40km mark.
40k… and they’ve been riding for more than an hour-and-a-half. Fortunately things are picking up out there. We guess you could say that while the official route said there was a 9.7km neutral zone, the peloton added another 15.6km to that.
03:17 PM: Not much of a chase
our two leaders are at the 50km mark and have upped their lead to 6:40.
03:23 PM: Astana sure ain’t gonna chase
Jesus Rosendo started the day in 122nd place at 2:07:33 and Pedraza began in 88th at 1:30:00 out of first. No GC threats there folks.
03:30 PM: The lead continues
to build. Our two escapees have hit the 8:00 mark and there are still no signs of a serious chase developing.
03:32 PM: Quick Step
has moved a few riders up front to help Astana set tempo. They will certainly make a difference, since Astana has no reason to chase, but the Quick Step boys seem intent on delivering Boonen or Bettini to the line. We may see Milram move up there, too.
At the 60km mark, the two escapees are 8:20 ahead of the field, down slightly from a maximum of 8:40.
03:39 PM: Reader Question
Ben writes to ask:
I have a question about the World Championships. Has anyone ever won both W.C. events in one year and got to wear the rainbow jersey in road races as well as time trials?No that hasn’t happened yet. Do recall that the individual TT has only been a world championship event since 1994 – when they replaced the 100km team time trial with a solo ride against the clock – and none of the winners since then have won the world road title. The first winner, by the way, was Chris Boardman. The rider who has won most often is Michael Rogers who had a three-year run from 2003 – 2005.
03:40 PM: Trimmed
the Quick Step effort is paying off. The gap is now down to 7:10.
03:43 PM: That second hour
of racing was contested at a speed nearly twice that of the opening hour … but that still means a seriously slow 28.3kph.
03:48 PM: Snip, snip
The Quick Step team has woken up and the gap has dropped by 2:30 from its peak.
03:53 PM: And now
at 73km the gap is down to 4:45. Quick Step is doing the bulk of the work. So who are they working for? Boonen? Bettini?
03:57 PM: The pace
has picked up, but we’re still at 29kph for the first two-and-a-half hours of the day.
04:03 PM: Bettini
is back at the medical car. He’s been stung by a bee or a wasp. That won’t affect him too much … hopefully not as much as the famous ‘basketball head’ reaction that Jonathan Vaughters had one year at the Tour.
04:05 PM: Tinkoff’s Rovny
Ivan Rovny has pulled out of the race. The Tinkoff rider must be suffering from some problem, because surely it wasn’t the day’s brutal pace that left him gasping for air.
04:08 PM: Back in the fold
Bettini is back in the peloton. His absence didn’t slow down the chase and with the Silence-Lotto team also lending a hand, the gap has now been trimmed to 3:40.
04:17 PM: Through the feedzone
the peloton hit the lunchroom at 4:10 behind the leaders. It may be a sign that they are content to leave these fellas out there – at a reasonable distance – for a while. We’re pushing three hours in the saddle, but there are still 100km remaining.
04:19 PM: With 98km
remaining, the gap is at 4:00. The Milram team is moving up front.
04:22 PM: Reader suggestion
Antoine writes in to suggest:
Good afternoon LUGs,
I just had a little idea regarding slow stages like today’s. How about posting trivia questions to keep both the LUG’s and readers’ brains a little more stimulated? No need for prizes (unless you have things to give away, in which case I will forward you my mailing address), just a little shout out should be enough.
Good idea. No prizes, but a shout-out to the first one to give us the name of the first winner of a Vuelta stage on the Angliru.
04:26 PM: The combo
Up front in the peloton now includes Silence-Lotto, Milram, Lampre and Quick Step. The pace, however, is far from panicked.
04:30 PM: We have a winner!
Merten G. Pearson, D.V.M. correctly named José María Jiménez as the winner of the Vuelta’s first trip up the Angliru, which was on the 8th stage of the 1999 edition. Gilberto Simoni won in 2000, Roberto Heras won in 2002 and, of course, Alberto Contador won last Saturday.
04:32 PM: Pan flat
the peloton is stretched out in single file on some of the flattest roads we’ve seen in this Vuelta.
04:36 PM: The gap is 3:41
with 87km remaining.
04:42 PM: Points
No contest, but Rosendo took the first place points at the sprint at La Torre del Valle.
04:48 PM: 3:25
the gap is 3:25 to the pair.
back in the peloton, Flecha has grabbed the American flag from Freaky-runner With Antlers Guy.
04:49 PM: Antler Man
He doesn’t seem too upset. Flecha swept by him on the right and took the flag pole right out of his hands. This’ll give you an idea of the mood in the peloton today – quite mellow.
04:56 PM: CSC-Blaxo news
Bjarne Riis has signed Frank Hoj and Alex Rasmussen to contracts for 2009. Hoj, 35, rode one season with CSC and will help bolster the team’s classics program. Rasmussen, 24, was part of Denmark’s team pursuit team in Beijing.
04:59 PM: 73km to go for the pair
They are coming into a small town, twisting through some tight turns – Pedraza attacks! He gets a gap through the turns. Resondo gets right back on him, though.
05:02 PM: Sing along, now
The pack is rolling into Benavente, known for its refrain in Spanish: Benavente, buena via, mala gente … which loosely means, “Good roads, but bad people.” We can’t speak for the people, but the roads around here aren’t that great!
05:03 PM: Gap 3:36
The pair is working together again and their gap is holding steady for now.
05:06 PM: On the road
Andrew Hood figures we are at 500km to go – for the 2008 Vuelta. “At this rate, they’ll arrive in Madrid in mid-October,” Andrew says.
05:13 PM: The pair
They are really picking up the pace, pushing to the gap back up to about four minutes.
05:19 PM: At the front
CSC, Milram, Quick Step and Silence Lotto has riders up there, hoping to reel in the break in time for a sprint in Zamora.
The peloton just passed a large bull sculpture on the right, and now a rider on horseback is galloping along beside the field.
05:29 PM: Update
To bring you back to the race,
Our two breakaway men and their GC positions:
88. Walter Fernando Pedraza (COL), Tinkoff, at 1:30:00
122. Jesús Rosendo Prado (ESP), Andalucia-Cajasur, at 2:07:33
05:30 PM: 2:17
2:17 is the latest gap, with 53k to go
05:32 PM: Chicken Man on the move.
Diario Vasco is reporting that Michael Rasmussen might be heading to Xacobeo-Galicia in 2009; Director Sportif Alvaro Pino confirmed it: “There’s an offer but we have to study the numbers. Right now we’re in the Vuelta and we’ve just heard that the team is continuing next year.”
05:34 PM: 50k to go
Milram, Lampre and Quick Step at the front. Gap is about 2:15
05:37 PM: 1:55
We might have misheard that 2:15 check. It’s under two minutes now.
Contador told Spanish TV this morning that despite his crash yesterday he slept well. “I slept fine last night. I didn’t have any problems as a consequence of the fall.”
05:43 PM: 1:49
gap coming down as the sprinters fuel up. 44km to go for the leaders
05:54 PM: Contador sitting pretty
just noticed he has a yellow glove on the left hand and an Astana-colored glove on the right. He’s moving up toward the front, now.
Gap is 2:19 at about 42km. Silence Lotto, Quick Step and Milram continue to lead the chase.
05:56 PM: Up in Poland
At the Tour of Poland, Italian Angelo Furlan (Credit Agricole) won today’s stage and Allan Davis (Quick Step) took the leader’s jersey.
06:12 PM: 30k to go
The peloton is letting our pair just dangle out there
gap at 1:37 with 28km to go
06:13 PM: Who are our sprinters?
Zabel, Boonen, Bettini, Van Avermaet, Haussler and Koldo Fernandez are the sprinters still in the race. Would we like to see Bettini win another? We’d rather see Zabel, but that’s just personal preference for us old guys.
06:17 PM: 25 km
25km to go, and the two are still out there. The peloton is CRUEL.
06:20 PM: gap up
Can these guys make it? We don’t think so. But its back to 2:11 with 23km to go
06:27 PM: 20k to go
And the gap is 1:51
Quick Step, Milram continue to lead. Silence Lotto, Cofidis and Lampre near the front.
06:30 PM: AG2R
After the field moved past the 20k to go line, things began to pick up a bit. Ag2r moved some riders to the front. We expect that margin to come down quickly now.
06:31 PM: The finish
There’s a 10km finishing circuit. The finale is a straightaway. At about 2300m, there’s a sharp 270-degree right-hander through a traffic circle as the course double-backs on itself, but otherwise it should be a straight shot.
06:31 PM: Swoop
And the gap tumbles to 1:10
06:33 PM: 15k to go
And our pair is still out front with 54 seconds on the field
06:36 PM: 56kmh
The pack is flying now. We got a race. The gap is near 30 seconds.
06:37 PM: AG2R
AG2R is really digging in. Quick Step and Milram still throwing in, too.
06:41 PM: Break is caught
With 7km to go, the break as been caught
Quick Step is hammering, Euskaltel is trying to get Koldo Fernandez in position
06:43 PM: Flecha attacks
The Spanish strong man takes a dig …
06:43 PM: Liquigas
Liquigas is at the front
06:45 PM: 5k to go
Flecha has a small gap, a Liquigas rider is bridging
06:46 PM: 4k to go
a handful of riders have missed a turn and are on a frontage road
06:46 PM: all together
Quick Step still driving, the errant riders are back
06:47 PM: Van Arvedan
Was one of the riders who was off on the side road. Everyone is back in now. Zabel is back
06:48 PM: 2k to go
Bettini at the front hammering for Boonen
06:48 PM: Boonen sitting pretty
Pozzato is on them. We are in the last k
06:49 PM: Bettin pulls off
Boonen in thrd position.
06:49 PM: Pozzato on Boonen
06:50 PM: Boonen!
Number two for Tom. Pozzato tried to come around in the last meters but couldn’t make it. Haussler is third.
06:54 PM: Everyone accounted for
All the top men are in and there are no changes to the top of the GC here in Zamora.
Zabel never recovered from his little off-course adventure with 3k to go, and he only got 11th.