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Vuelta a Espana

2008 Vuelta a España: Live Updates – Stage 18

12:28 PM: Good day and welcometo VeloNews.com's Live Coverage of thr 18th Stage of the 2008 Vuelta a Espana, a 167.4-kilometer ride from Valladolid to Las Rozas. This stage rolls south across the central plateau, starting in Valladolid and climbs over the Sierra de Guardarrama north of Madrid before ending in Las Rozas. The first 122km gradually takes the peloton from an altitude of 700 meters to the start of the day's only rated climb.

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  • 12:28 PM: Good day and welcome

    to VeloNews.com’s Live Coverage of thr 18th Stage of the 2008 Vuelta a Espana, a 167.4-kilometer ride from Valladolid to Las Rozas. This stage rolls south across the central plateau, starting in Valladolid and climbs over the Sierra de Guardarrama north of Madrid before ending in Las Rozas. The first 122km gradually takes the peloton from an altitude of 700 meters to the start of the day’s only rated climb. That begins at 1240 meters and summits at 1510 before dropping to the finish at 710 meters above sea level.

    The day’s main hurdle is the Cat. 3 Alto de los Leones (rated as a second category climb from the other side) at 128.5km. From there, it’s mostly downhill on wide-open roads toward the finish line in the outskirts of Madrid.

    That’s right, we’re nearing Madrid, with just this and three more stages until Sunday’s finale into the capital city of Spain.

    Today’s stage begins at 1:45 p.m. after a roll through an 8-kilometer neutral zone. Riders are signing in now, but it’s going to be an hour before the action gets underway.

  • 01:38 PM: Neutral zone

    No, we’re not talking Star Trek here, but the 8-kilometer stretch of road through the town of Valladolid. The riders are heading to the start and should reach kilometer-zero in about 10 minutes.

    We’re still looking to see who isn’t showing up today. Word is that both Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini are pulling out of the Vuelta in order to prep for worlds.

  • 01:45 PM: Gilbert and Boonen

    Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Philippe Gilbert (FdJ) are not in the peloton. Paolo Bettini, however, is there, resplendent in the world champion’s kit. While the talk was that he was going to pull out of the Vuelta, maybe he’s decided that he will enjoy what might be his final opportunity to ride in the rainbow jersey. We sure would like to see him make it all the way to Madrid this weekend.

  • 01:47 PM: At Km0

    the peloton has reached the official start.

    Let’s see if there are early attacks.

  • 01:49 PM: Drop us a line

    if you have a comment, question or even a complaint, feel free to hit the Contact our editors link below our Live Update Window.

    We promise to read them all, answer quite a few and even post a selection during today’s coverage.

  • 01:51 PM: The usual suspects

    Walter Fernando Pedraza (Tinkoff) was the day’s first attacker. He was pulled back and now we have Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff), Gabriel Rasch (Credit Agricole), Davide Vigano (Quick Step) and Andriy Grivko (Milram) trying a dig. They only have a few seconds on the peloton and the pace is brisk.

  • 01:54 PM: Today’s weather

    is quite nice out there – in the mid- to high-70s – and clear skies. There are predictions for brisk winds, however, and they are coming from a direction that will cause them to be headwinds for most of the day. Let’s see if that affects things out on the road today.

  • 01:54 PM: The escapees

    never got more than 12 seconds up the road and the peloton was unilling to let them go.

    At nine kilometers, the peloton is intact.

  • 01:56 PM: Birthday

    He’s been in the news again for these past few weeks, so it’s worthy of note that fella from Texas turns 37 years old today.

  • 01:58 PM: While the break has been absorbed

    the attacks continue, but no one is making any progress to speak of.

  • 02:06 PM: A note from a friend

    We mentioned our friend Major Jason Bryan, our old VeloNews correspondent from Iraq. If you haven’t read his diaries, go ahead and punch in the words “sustaining sanity” in our search engine to read his columns from a few years back. As we mentioned, he’s now back in the U.S. and serving as the Pentagon’s liaison to Congress. After we finished our coverage yesterday, we got a nice note from the Major, some of which he wanted to send out to his Live Update readers:

    All is well with Team Bryan.
    Thanks to VeloNews, the most exciting thing for me since my return from Iraq has been working with the Road 2 Recovery, a program that uses cycling to rehabilitate combat wounded Soldiers. Just yesterday, I visited a friend at Walter Reed who just had his second leg amputated. Because of his new passion for cycling, he can’t get wait to get out of the hospital and back on a bike. He’s even talking about competing in the Para-Olympics. Next week, I leave for California to join Road 2 Recovery for the California Challenge– a 450-mile ride down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to LA. We now live in the D.C. area, so if anyone wants to ride, look me up– maybe we’ll ride with some warriors on the Road 2 Recovery!
    Jason A. Bryan
    Major, U.S. Army
    Legislative Liaison Officer

  • 02:08 PM: At 20km

    the pace is quite high and that may be preventing any serious breaks from developing today.

  • 02:12 PM: Reader observation

    Doc’ Kyle writes to note:

    Do you think the Vuelta is the “easiest shot at glory”? Seems a higher number of riders pull out of this race than the Tour or Giro. Based on the start list and drop outs, if a mediocre sprinter makes it to Madrid, he has a decent shot at the sprinter’s jersey just through process of elimination.
    We have to agree that of the three grand tours, the Vuelta does have a high number of withdrawls, making the sprint in Madrid less of a contest than those in Milan and Paris. Still, there are some high quality sprinters in the mix, including Erik Zabel and Paolo Bettini. If they make it all the way to the finish, we should be in for some serious action on that last day.

  • 02:12 PM: All together

    The peloton is clicking along nicely, but no one is managing to get any distance.

  • 02:18 PM: At 28km

    the peloton is still intact.

  • 02:20 PM: A dig

    but no pay-off. Seven riders had five seconds, but before we could ID all of the players they were pulled back.

    We see another big group forming. Let’s see if they get a gap.

    The men off the front are:
    Luis Pasamontes (Caisse d’Epargne)
    Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas)
    Marc De Maaar (Rabobank)
    Alana Perez (Euskaltel)
    Greg van Avermet (Silence-Lotto)
    Mattieu Ladagnos (FdJ)
    Christophe Kern (Credit Agricole)
    Stephane Poulhies (Ag2r)

    Van Avermaet’s involvement in the break is understandable, since he’s hoping to solidify his tenuous grip on the points jersey:
    Overall Points
    1. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) Silence-Lotto 112 Points
    2. Alberto Contador (ESP) Astana 110 Points
    3. Tom Boonen (BEL) Quick Step 100 Points
    4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne 99 Points
    5. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 86 Points
    6. Larrea Koldo Fdez De (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi 74 Points
    7. Sébastien Hinault (FRA) Credit Agricole 60 Points
    8. Paolo Bettini (ITA) Quick Step 58 Points
    9. Joaquín Rodríguez Oliver (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne 56 Points
    10. Erik Zabel (GER) Milram 56 Points

  • 02:35 PM: Well, so much for that

    the break is back in the peloton.

    At 42km, the pace remains high. We are on track for a fast opening hour.

    Now we have a big group of 17 trying to bust loose, but they are driving straight into a headwind, so their chances are limited.

  • 02:48 PM: No luck

    they tried, but the 17 have been reeled in … thankfully, before we had to face the formidable task of typing in all of those names.

  • 02:56 PM: A note from yesterday

    At the end of our coverage yesterday we got a note from Sergei S. in Ontario challenging us to try something at which we have yet to succeed.

    Wouter Weylandt wins in Valladolid! Now try saying that 10 times fast
    We tried. So far, no success.

  • 02:59 PM: That opening hour

    covered nearly 50km.

    We still see attacks, but no one has managed to get a gap yet.

  • 03:02 PM: Is this the break?

    Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel), Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff), Karsten Kroon (CSC), Nicholas Roche (Credit Agricole) and Jose Ruiz Sanchez (Andalucia-Caja Sur) are ahead of the peloton. Will it stick? Stay tuned.

    Well, it’s beginning to look like it.

  • 03:05 PM: It’s now an 18-man break

    and they have nearly 2:00 on the field. Time to start typing names.

    Okay, the men in the break are:
    Nicolas Roche (Credit Agricole)
    Inigo Cuesta (CSC)
    Jose Ruiz Sanchez (Andalucia-Caja Sur)
    Alan Perez (Euskaltel)
    Karsten Kroon (CSC)
    Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel)
    Imanol Erviti (Caisse d’Epargne)
    Cyril Lemoine (Credit Agricole)
    Renaud Dion (Ag2r)
    Jose Vicente Acosta (Caisse d’Epargne)
    Paolo Bettini (Quick Step)
    Andrey Grivko (Milram)
    Vasili Kiriyenka (Tinkoff)
    David Herrero (Xacobeo Galicia)
    Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank)
    Greg van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto)
    Enrico Franzoi (Liquigas)
    Jelle Vanendert (FdJ)

  • 03:14 PM: Progess

    at the 69km mark, our leaders have 3:05 on the main field. Of the men in the break, the highest placed on GC is Roche – son of the Giro, Tour, Worlds winner – is the highest placed. He’s 17th at 19:31, so they may get some time.

  • 03:21 PM: There’s a jersey in there

    Greg van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto) is your points leader, of course.

  • 03:26 PM: Tick, tock

    With Stephen Roche’s kid the best-placed rider in the break (17th at 19:31), Astana has given the escapees its blessing. The margin is already over three minutes.

  • 03:34 PM: Welcome to Avila

    We have a sprint coming up, and then lunch.

  • 03:39 PM: The gap . . .

    . . . has topped four minutes.

  • 03:46 PM: While we wait for news from Spain . . .

    . . . it seems Cadel Evans is pleased at the word that Lance Armstrong plans a comeback. Hey, just one more guy to chase around France, right? Riiiiiight.

  • 03:52 PM: If news from the front seems in short supply . . .

    . . . it’s because we’re a tad myopic and having trouble seeing the semaphore flags.

  • 03:54 PM: That intermediate sprint . . .

    . . . went to Van Avermaet, with Roche second and Cuesta third.

  • 03:56 PM: And the gap . . .

    . . . is nearly five minutes now. Astana’s not even holding the leash, much less tugging on it.

  • 04:04 PM: 28 degrees, windy and overcast at the finish

    That’s 82 degrees Fahrenheit for you folks on the star-spangled side of the pond.

  • 04:08 PM: Three riders have called it quits

    Manuel Quinziato, Andrea Tonti and Matteo Tosatto bailed in the feed zone. Maybe they were just really, really hungry.

  • 04:10 PM: And the gap is out to seven minutes now

    The peloton looks like it’s out for a training ride, and a fat-burner at that.

  • 04:14 PM: The second sprint at Villacastin . . .

    . . . went to Van Avermaet, with Roche once again second and Flecha third.

  • 04:18 PM: The break is cooking along nicely

    Everybody’s hunkered down in the drops and trading pulls.

  • 04:23 PM: These guys slow down any more . . .

    . . . and they’ll stop altogether. The peloton is all bunched up, with Astana spread across the front, and the pace is most definitely piano.

  • 04:25 PM: For those of you keeping score at home . . .

    . . . only five teams have missed this break: Astana, Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Lampre and Gerolsteiner. The gap is hovering around seven minutes.

  • 04:27 PM: Make that eight minutes

    Meanwhile, Hubert Dupont (Ag2r) pays a call on the race doctor.

  • 04:31 PM: Next up

    The category-3 climb of Alto de los Leones at 128km.

  • 04:36 PM: Venga, venga, venga

    Cheering fans are lining the road through El Espinar.

  • 04:41 PM: 8:18

    The gap is 8:18; the peloton is strung out on a windy section.

  • 04:45 PM: 44.6 km

    The break is at about 44km to go, which puts them 5km from the top of the cat. 3 Alto de los Leonas. The latest gap is 7:40

  • 04:52 PM: Our men

    The situation on the road is this:

    There is a break of 18 up the the road. Nicolas Roche, in 18th at 19:31 behind race leader Alberto Contador, is the best placed.

    World champ Paulo Bettini also is in the break, and as they roll up the cat. 3 climb, Bettini is at the front hammering, followed by Roche, who is working hard to stay on him.

  • 04:52 PM: gaps opening

    In the break, a few riders are gapping off under the pressure of Bettini’s pace.

  • 04:55 PM: Bettini

    Bettini is still at the front, but seems to have eased off a bit as we approach the top. CSC Inigo Cuesta is taking a pull.

    Bettini, by the way is in 30th place on GC, 43 minutes back, to answer a reader question.

  • 04:58 PM: Over the top and on a speedy descent

    And Bettini is none too pleased with a TV camera moto who was slowing him down.

  • 05:03 PM: Gerolsteiner

    Gerolsteiner and Cofidis are leading the “chase.” Is that Stefan Schumacher on the front? Duque there too. the chase is going over the top of the climb at 7:09 behind the breakaway.

  • 05:04 PM: 28k to go

    For the breakaway, just 28k to go. They are down the hill and swarming along on a fast road with concrete barriers on both sides.

  • 05:09 PM: Attack from the break

    Two riders are off. Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Andriy Grivko (Milram) have taken a flyer.

  • 05:09 PM: caught

    those two caught and Euskaltel’s Perez counters.

  • 05:11 PM: Perez

    Rubén Perez Moreno is on the tops, on the rivet. He keeps looking back under his shoulder. He looks to have …. 5 seconds?

  • 05:13 PM: Perez has 11 seconds.

    The gap from the peloton is 7:05 with Gerolsteiner still leading the chase.

  • 05:13 PM: He’d like to be caught

    He’s blown

  • 05:18 PM: Perez

    He’s spending more time looking over his shoulder than looking ahead. Still, there is little organization in the break now, so he may dangle out there for a bit.

  • 05:19 PM: Cuesta

    The CSC rider bridges out of the break and zips right by Perez

  • 05:19 PM: Perez gets on

    Perez jumps on Cuesta’s wheel.

  • 05:23 PM: time gap?

    Trying to get one. With all these attacks in the break, we’re thinking they are risking being caught. Cuesta is back, there are attacks all over the place. Garcia Acosta is off right now. The Caisse d’Epargne rider has a small gap

  • 05:26 PM: Lemoine now

    The Credit Agricole rider has a decent gap, this looks the most serious of the recent attacks. He has teammate Roche in the break.

    Flecha is trying to go across

  • 05:27 PM: Three

    Flecha brought Acosta with him up to Lemoine. The three have a small gap. Bettini now trying to bridge …

  • 05:29 PM: 12 km to go

    12 k for the break. The Flecha group is back in the fold, now Grivko is taking off.

  • 05:30 PM: Lemoine again

    With Flecha again

  • 05:32 PM: Some words

    Flecha and Lemoine have a little chat and now are about to be caught … A Euskaltel-Euskadi rider is on the attack now, Perez.

    9k to go

  • 05:33 PM: Wow

    the attacks are relentless.

    Flecha now chasing down a Caisse Epargne rider

  • 05:35 PM: Gerolsteiner

    Gerolsteiner still pulling, thinking about their man Oliver Zaugg who is in tenth, about nine minutes ahead of Roche. The break – with Roche – is now about 8:30 ahead of the chase.

  • 05:38 PM: Kroon attacks

    Karsten Kroon takes off. he’s been waiting his turn, and now he’s putting in a big effort

  • 05:38 PM: Four chasing

    Four chasing Kroon. We see Everti

  • 05:41 PM: Imanol Erviti (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne at 1:55:18

    The Caisse d’Epargne rider wins out of the four men off the front.

    Roche is second, Herrero third, Kirienka 4th.

    Kroon came in fifth.

  • 05:45 PM: Lost our connection there

    Always seem to happen at the end of the stage, doesn’t it?

    Herero had attacked with 6k to go, and got to the 4k banner with a ten-second gap, chased by Kiryienka, Erviti and Lemoine.

    they caught him at about the 2k line and in the uphill sprint Erviti edged Roche by a half a wheel.

    We are still waiting for the main pack to come in.

  • 05:45 PM: Roche

    Roche will have moved up the GC significantly, maybe to about 12th?

  • 05:56 PM: ok then

    The pack comes in a 7:28 behind the winner. No changes to to the top of the GC, but Mr. Roche has moved up to … 12th we believe.

    Check back to VeloNews.com soon for a complete report, photos and results. And check us tomorrow for live coverage of stage 19.