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01:14 PM: Good day and welcome
to VeloNews.com’s Live Cverage of the eighth stage of the 2008 Vuelta a Espana, a 151 race from Andorra to a mountain-tip finish at Pla de Beret.
Today’s stage is relatively short, which may invite early attacks. Unlike last week’s short and flat stages, though, the terrain may ensure success for a strong break-away effort and top contenders will have to be vigilant as the peloton crosses the Category 1 Coll de Cantó (km 41), the Cat. 2 Alto de Enveny (km 68.7) and then take on the double Cat. 1 hurdles of the Puerto de la Bonaigua (the highest point of this year’s Vuelta) and the Pla de Beret.
Riders took on a long 11.7-kilometer neutral zone today and are expected to reach the official start at 1:25 or so.
01:20 PM: The Vuelta is shrinking
there were several withdrawals from yesterday’s stage and the mountains have taken their expected early toll. Several riders either skipped the start or withdrew along the way to Andorra:
Carlos Barredo (Quick Step)
Nicolay Trusov (Tinkoff)
Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom)
Volodymyr Diudia (Milram)
01:22 PM: Drop us a line
If you have a question, comment or complaint, 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.
01:30 PM: On their way
the eighth stage of the Vuelta has started and, if the day unfolds like it has in the past, we may well see attacks soon.
01:34 PM: The day’s first climb
The Coll del Canto begins at an altitude of 650 meters at km 15.7 and takes the peloton to 1725 meters at the 41km mark. It’s a long haul, well deserving of its Category 1 designation.
01:36 PM: It’s a quick start
on the way to La Seu d’Urgell, the peloton is covering the first 15km at high speed, with a gradual downward slope, dropping 200 meters over the opening kilometers to the climb.
By the 8km mark, the speed has been high enough to prevent attacks from the gun. That will likely change once the peloton reaches the lower slopes of the Coll del Canto.
01:53 PM: On the climb
the peloton has reached the base fo the Coll de Canto. It’s a long 26.3km to the top.
The first two riders to try an attack are Walter Fernanado Pedraza (Tinkoff) and Xacobeo Galicia’s Eduard Vorganov. So we have a Russian riding for a Spanish team and a Colombian on a Russian team animating things early in the stage. Neither man poses much of a GC threat. Pedraza is 115th on GC (42:44 back) and Vorganov is 66th at 22:08.
02:13 PM: Today’s weather
There were early showers this morning, but the weather is considerably better than the heavy rain that marked yesterday’s stage. The temperatures are in the high 60s (f)/20 (c), and the weather will allow the planes and helicopters to fly, so we should be in a better position to get race radio reports than we were yesterday.
Meanwhile our two escapees have been reeled back in by Lampre’s Damiano Cunego (how cool is it to have a grand tour winner riding as your domestique?). There are new attacks, including a dig from David Moncoutie and Julien Loubet, but the gaps are small as the Lampre boys don’t seem eager or willing to let anyone get too far up the road.
02:24 PM: So much for our prognostication skills
We were predicting a lot of early attacks, but the peloton is being carefully managed by the Lampre team. The peloton is at the 30km mark and 11km from the summit.
02:34 PM: Attempts galore
There are numerous attempts to break away and we’ve seen several groups get 10, 20 and even 30 second gaps on the climb, but they are being reeled back in.
Our current leaders are Vasili Kiriyenka (Tinkoff), Hubert DuPont (Ag2r) Sebastian Joly (FDJ) and Christophe Kern (Credit Agricole)… but their margin remains quite small
Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff), one of the riders who triggered this last go-round, has been pulled back. It looks like Joly will be pulled back, too. Milram’s Andriy Grivko is working his way out of the peloton and has already passed the fading Joly.
Kern is dropping back, too, now.
02:44 PM: Reader Question
Reader Adam B. writes in to ask about last year’s winner Denis Menchov and why he’s not here this year.
Menchov, who won last year and in 2005, said earlier this year that he was going to focus solely on the Tour de France and skip the Vuelta, as a result. Because of his absence, last year’s runner-up, Carlos Sastre, is the rider wearing the No. 1 number plate in this edition of the Vuelta, by the way.
02:46 PM: Approaching the summit
The peloton is about 1km from the top of the climb. All attacks have been negated, with a combined effort from the Lampre and Astana teams. There have been several attacks over the past few kilometers, including one from Sylvain Chavanel, who is in third place on GC. That was too much for Astana to sit by and watch, so the team ramped up the pace and pulled back the hopeful escapees.
Astana has a lot to gain – or lose – today, with Levi Leipheimer sitting in second place and team leader Alberto Contador in fourth.
A new group, including Kern, Joly, Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step), Nikita Eskov (Tinkoff) and David Moncoutie (Cofidis), has scooted ahead.
02:51 PM: Up and over
the peloton has crested the summit of the Coll del Cantó, the main field trailed the men in the break by 2:11.
Garate, Eskov, Kern, Joly and Moncoutie crossed in that order and do have enough of a margin to be considered the day’s first serious break.
The peloton came through, led by Marc De Maar (Rabobank), Grischa Niermann (Rabobank), Emanuele Bindi (Lampre) and Jose Luis Carrasco (Andalucia-Caja Sur), for the final points awarded on the Cat. 1.
03:05 PM: Our escapees
Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step), David Moncoutie (Cofidis), Sebastien Joly (FDJ), Christophe Kern (Credit Agricole) and Nikita Eskov (Tinkoff) have upped their advantage to 3:15 as the work their way down the back side of the Coll del Cantó.
03:10 PM: Contract news
With the imminent collapse of the Gerolsteiner team, Milram has signed three of its fellow German squad’s riders, including Fabian Wegmann, and the Fothen brothers Markus and Thomas. They are also negotiating with German champ Linus Gerdemann.
It really has been a mixed year for those in the sponsorship hunt, with Columbia, Garmin and Katusha lining up to sponsor new teams and the ending of established programs like Credit Agricole and Gerolsteiner.
03:13 PM: Our leaders
are at 60km and holding a three-minute lead. The are about to begin a trip up the Alto de Enviny, a Cat. 2 climb that summits at the 68.7 mark.
03:20 PM: Our leaders
Have had their advantage trimmed to 2:30. The Lampre and Astana teams are still doing the bulk of the work up front in the peloton.
03:31 PM: Reader comments
Ted C. writes in to observe:
It seems wrong that some of these sponsors abandon their teams because of a doping violation by one (or could be more?) of their riders. I would have more respect for the sponsors that hang in there, retain support for the team as a whole, and assist in determining who the doping violators really are.We agree to some point, but you do have to recall that sponsors support teams for publicity and, from a business perspective, the bad publicity of having a dope-addled team may not be what they’re looking for. For some, even the bad publicity pays off. As we recall, the sales of Festina watches actually increased after the 1998 scandal. That said, some sponsors make it clear from the gun that a doping scandal will constitute a breach of their contract, giving them ample reason to pull the plug. Frankly, it may take that sort of exodus from the sport to convince dopers that they risk way too much – more than their own embarrassment – to take a chance on cheating. Given that we thought the Festina scandal was enough to serve as a wake-up call and the ensuing 10 years showed that people weren’t listening, maybe hitting dopers where it counts may serve as enough incentive, Ted. While some sponsors have pulled out because of doping, others have come into the sport because of assurances that their teams are running clean programs. Columbia and Garmin are good examples of that.
03:32 PM: Up and over
our five leaders – Kern, Eskov, Joly, Garate and Moncoutie – have crested the summit and done so with a 3:05 margin.
03:52 PM: At 83km
our leaders have scooted down the side of the mountain a bit faster than the rest of the field. They now have a lead of 3:30.
03:55 PM: The weather
It’s cool and blustery up the summits, but it doesn’t appear as it’s going to rain. Partly cloudy but it looks like it’s going to hold off on rain – for now.
03:56 PM: Here at the finish
There are huge crowds on the final climb to Pla de Beret, biggest so far on this Vuelta. Should be good ambiance for the final hump.
04:03 PM: Talk about bad PR.
Well, the British press isn’t all that hesitant to make its opinions known when it comes to sports.
The Tour of Britain begins today and Richard Moore, the sports writer at The Scotsman isn’t shy about his opinion of the organizer’s decision to invite the Rock Racing team. Check out this headline:
Beware of the dope pedaller: An unreformed drug cheat has a chance to win the Tour of BritainWell, at least you know where he stands on the issue of inviting Oscar Sevilla, Santiago Botero and Tyler Hamilto to the British race.
04:04 PM: Leipheimer
Levi Leipheimer spoke with Andrew Hood this morning about yesterday’s first trip into the mountains.
“Everyone was riding cautious because of the rain and cold. It was a hard stage and I was happy to be able to finish with the front group. Our team rode great yesterday and we’re good position to retake the yellow jersey.”
That’s the buzz around the Astana bus this morning – retaking the leader’s jersey. Leipheimer is poised in second at just 1:00 back while Contador is fourth at 1:34.
Despite taking the jersey after his stage five TT win, Leipheimer is still insisting that he’s here to work for Contador.
04:10 PM: The leaders
have upped their advantage to 5:16.
They are working well together and enjoying a break from the crappy weather that marked yesterday’s stage.
04:13 PM: Bjarne Riis
Bjarne Riis showed up for a few days at the Vuelta: “Carlos can win the Vuelta. It’s been one of his goals all season long. He’s still fresh in the head and he’s strong. Contador has the pressure because he’s the favorite. We have a strong team – it’s not the Tour team, but a good, all-round team.”
04:20 PM: With two Category 1 climbs ahead
we can expect plenty of attacking on the way to the finish. Up next is the La Bonaigua, which takes riders to 2700 meters, the high point of this Vuelta and the climb that earns the race’s Alberto Fernández Summit designation. They do the same in the Giro with the Cima Coppi, as you might recall. Rather than naming the highest summit after one of the greats of the Golden Age of cycling, the Fernández summit is offered in honor of a top Spanish rider who was killed by a car in mid-80s. The designation at the Vuelta, however, varies year to year, named in honor of a different rider.
The final two climbs will make things interesting, says the Astana team leader:
“It should be a crazy stage today with a lot of attacks,” Alberto Contador told Andrew Hood this morning. “The team will have to work hard and I hope that everyone has recovered. I imagine it wil be a fast stage and there should be more important differences than (Saturday).”
04:22 PM: Valverde
said that yesterday’s stage really took its toll on him.
“This first stage in the Pyrenees has been very difficult not only because of the course and the kilometers but most of all for the cold weather and the rain,” he said. “I was well during the entire stage but at 10 km from the finish I had a big ‘fringale’ which means no forces at all. When it is so cold you spend much more calories than with the heat and I did not eat enough during the stage. But in spite of this I did not lose plenty of time and I am still in the hunt for GC.”
Out on the road, you can see that Valverde is taking extra attention to eat a lot during today’s stage. He doesn’t want to get the bonk again.
There’s a brisk tailwind pushing the riders up the valley toward the Cat. 1 Bonaigua climb. That should help the break.
04:25 PM: CSC’s Michael Blaudzun
We also talked to Michael Blaudzun today, who’s retiring at the end of the Vuelta.
“It would be great to win the Vuelta with Carlos in my last race,” Blaudzun said. “He’s one of the guys I will miss most in this sport. He’s a true gentleman in a sport where there are not many gentlemen. He’s stronger than people think in this Vuelta.”
04:27 PM: Bruyneel
Johan Bruyneel said this morning that this stage may not be as tactically significant as later stages:
“The leader’s jersey is there to take today,” he said. “The team is working hard, but it’s not absolutely necessary for us to take the jersey today. The final climb is hard, but not that hard. The hardest stages await in the final week in Asturias.”
04:28 PM: Meanwhile in Germany
Robbie “the Rocket” McEwen won today’s 213.7km Cyclassics ProTour event in Hamburg, finishing ahead of compatriots Mark Renshaw and Allan Davis.
04:29 PM: Astana at the front
It’s mostly the Astana team at the front of the peloton.
04:31 PM: The gap is below five minutes
our five escapees are losing time as both Lampre and Astana are now sharing the chase work.
The leaders are at 110 km. The climb up the Puerto de La Bonaigua begins at 113km.
04:35 PM: Crash
There has been a crash in the field. We see Matt Lloyd – the Australian champion – on the deck. There’s a Liquigas and a Cofidis also on the ground.
04:38 PM: Ouch
It looks like Lloyd hit the ground with both knees and has scraped those. He’s being attended to by his team director…. and there is quite of bit of blood coming down his legs. It looks like he’ll get back on his bike bt that has got to hurt.
Meanwhile, the rest of the peloton is now hitting the base of the climb. Rabobank is driving the pace now.
04:39 PM: Anton speaks
We also spoke to Basque climbing sensation Igor Anton before the stage: “I had good legs yesterday. In Basque Country, we’re a little more accustomed to racing in the rain, but that doesn’t mean I like it !”
“I finished next with your compatriot (Leipheimer). We speak a little to each other, mostly with me congratulating him on whatever new victory he has taken.”
The gap continues to drop. Our leaders are now 4:25 ahead of the field.
We just saw a weird crash, involving Liquigas’s Agnoli, who hit the deck for no apparent reason. He’s not happy. He’s up and chasing.
Meanwhile Astana is working its way to the front of the climb. This long climb hits 8 percent at points, but averages just around 6 percent.
04:45 PM: CSC
JJ Haedo, the ace CSC sprinter, has no plans of contesting the end of this stage. He’s been spit off the back and looking for the gruppetto.
04:47 PM: Strung out
The Astana team is pushing the pace at the front of the field and the gruppetto is growing at the back of the peloton.
04:48 PM: Landaluze
who was on the attack yesterday, has been spit off the back.
04:49 PM: Our five leaders
are still together, but they are losing time with Astana, Lampre and Cofidis pushing the pace up front in the peloton.
04:53 PM: Another crash
There has been another tumble in the peloton. It happened at the back of the field, as the course swept through a big turn. It looks like Davide Rebellin caused that one.
Meanwhile, up front Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step), David Moncoutie (Cofidis), Sebastien Joly (FDJ), Christophe Kern (Credit Agricole) and Nikita Eskov (Tinkoff) continue to ride ahead of the field by about 3:30.
The race leader Ballan, has been spit off the back of the main field. Andreas Kloden, Astana and the Cofidis team are driving the pace. Ballan has been spit off and it looks like his time in the jersey is coming to an end.
04:58 PM: The surface
The Bonaigua climb is half over narrow, old roads and about halfway up a new, wider, smoother highway that’s still under construction. Right now, the steady pace is grinding down the pack to about 50 or so riders.
Interestly, Levi Leipheimer is living up to his promise of being a support rider. He’s dropping back to get water bottles at the team car.
05:02 PM: Our leaders
are now 3:35 ahead of the Astana/Cofidis combo.
05:04 PM: At the halfway mark
the leaders are halfway up the climb. They continue to lose time.
The race leader is also trailing the peloton.
05:09 PM: Food prices
Dutch climber Robert Gesink was fined 20 seconds yesterday for an illegal feed in the final 3km, but the Rabobank team was fined 1,200 euros (!!) by the commissaires … that was an expensive energy bar!
05:11 PM: The leaders
are now 1:42 ahead of the peloton, with Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) leading the way for the peloton. They have 4km to go before reaching the summit.
05:14 PM: Astarloza
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) has eased up. He put in a big effort.
Meanwhile at the front of the race, Moncoutie is going for it.
Back in the field, Sylvain Chavanel has popped. It appears likely that Levi Leipheimer will be in a good position to move back into the leader’s jersey.
05:15 PM: Moncoutie
Moncutie is alone off the front. He won’t last long … but he might make it over the top and grab the bonus money for cresting the race’s highest spot.
05:17 PM: Moncoutie
Is looking pretty good up there. He looks fresh as he’s taking on the final kilometers. Joly, meanwhile, is giving chase.
05:18 PM: 1:47
from Moncoutie to the peloton. The “Ole Moncoot” has 3km to go before he reaches the summit.
05:19 PM: Paolo
And who’s getting in shape for the worlds? Paolo Bettini is still hanging with the Spanish mountain goats in the lead group up the cat. 1 climb.
05:19 PM: 20km to go
Moncoutie has just passed the 20km-to-go mark. He has 11 seconds on Joly.
05:24 PM: Joly
Joly is riding bravely today. He had a brush with testicular cancer and now he’s chasing a stage victory in the Vuelta, chapeau! The “Ole Moncoot” (that’s how Garmin DS Matt White refers to him) clear over the top of Bonaigua.
Back in the peloton (at 1:42) Amets Txurruka takes over for Euskaltel.
05:27 PM: Bruseghin
Lampre appears to have given up on Ballan. Bruseghin is up front, driving hard.
Moncoutie has a lead of 23 seconds over Joly and 1:42 over the elite chase group. We see some serious horsepower in that bunch, including Sastre, Contador, Leipheimer, Kloden…
05:27 PM: 15km to go
Moncoutie has hit the 15km to go mark.
05:28 PM: There are some tight turns
on the way off of this climb.
05:29 PM: The chase group
hits the 15km to go mark 1:35 behind Moncoutie.
05:30 PM: Ballan
has lost two minutes to the Leipheimer group, making the American the leader on the road.
05:31 PM: Joly
Has caught Moncoutie… uhhh … well, he’s been passed by the FDJ rider.
Moncoutie is fighting back, on the straightaway, but he will probably lose time on the turns. He tends to descend like a married guy.
05:32 PM: Beautiful weather
in stark contrast to yesterday, the sun is out and the roads are dry.
05:34 PM: There are about 30
riders in the Leipheimer/Contador/Sastre group., including Popovych, and Bettini.
Moncoutie, meanwhile, has fought back and is now on the final climb. He’s 8km from the finish.
05:38 PM: Reader question
Bob Y writes in to ask
What do you mean “descends like a married guy?” I’m married and descend like a wildman.It’s an old joke about guys who tend to worry about what effect a crash will have on the people in their lives … descending like a married guy means you have something to live for and tend to think about it diving into a sharp turn. Descending like a dad is even slower, eh?
Astana, meanwhile, has hit the gas and they’ve put 25 seconds into Carlos Sastre. Moncoutie remains about 1:19 ahead of the Leipheimer group.
05:39 PM: Moncoutie
is 6km from the finish. He’s holding his own and climbing well. We still need a time check on Joly, who seemed to fade fast when the climb began.
05:41 PM: Leipheimer setting tempo
at the front of the group. It’s being whittled down. Sastre is now 15 seconds behind. He’s not panicking and slowly fighting his way back on.
05:42 PM: Sastre rejoins
the Leipheimer/Contador/Valverde group.
05:43 PM: With five km to go
the Cofidis man has a lead of 1:11 over the Leipeher group.
David Arroyo attacks out of the elite group, Leipheimer follows.
05:44 PM: Contador attacks
He has Valverde on his wheel and they pass a fast-fading Joly.
Sastre has been gapped again.
05:45 PM: Anton
joins Valverde and Contador and just as he joins up, Contador punches it and Valverde goes with him. 4km to go, with Moncoutie 42 seconds ahead.
05:47 PM: Sastre remains calm
he’s losing time, but maintaining a steady pace.
Anton fights back on to Valverde and Contador.
Moncoutie is now threekm from the finish. Remember the summit comes before a brief downhill to the line.
05:47 PM: Moncoutie has 38 seconds
at the 3km mark.
05:48 PM: Moncoutie
is fighting his way to the top. He has 2km of downhill to go to the finish.
The Contador/Valverde/Anton group is being pulled back….. and Contador attacks again.
05:49 PM: Sastre connects!
with the Contador group.
Moncoutie looks like he is on his way to a stage win.
05:50 PM: Moncoutie
is on his way to the finish. He has won!
Contador, Valverde and Anton are closing in fast.
05:50 PM: Sastre
is chasing. He was gapped.
05:51 PM: Valverde
is grabbing second place. Contador gets third at 34 seconds. Sastre and Leipheimer finish in a group at 39 seconds.
05:52 PM: Remeber there is
bonus time on the line: 20, 12 and 8. So Contador takes 13 seconds out of Sastre. It looks like Leipheimer will take the jersey again.
05:58 PM: Stage results
1. David Moncoutie (FRA) Cofidis
2. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:34
3. Alberto Contador (ESP) Astana
4. Igor Anton (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne at 39
6. Daniel Moreno (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne.
7. Oliver Zaugg (SUI) Gerolsteiner
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
9. David Arroyo (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne
10. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC
11. Ezequiel Mosquera (ESP)
12. Robert Gesink (HOL) Rabobank
13. John Gadret (FRA) Ag2r La Mondiale at 1:22
14. Sebastien Joly (FRA) Francaise des Jeux
15. Vasili Kiryienka (BLR) Tinkoff
16. Jurgen Van Goolen(BEL) CSC.
16. Marzio Bruseghin (ITA) Lampre
05:59 PM: Top five on GC
1. Levi Leipheimer, (USA) Astana
2. Alberto Contador, (ESP) Astana, at 0:21
3. Alejandro Valverde, (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne at 0:49
4. Carlos Sastre, (ESP) CSC at 1:27
5. Ezequiel Mosquera, (ESP) at 1:59
06:03 PM: Well, that’s a wrap
thanks for joining us today. We’ll be back with Live Coverage of tomorrow’s stage at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time in the U.S.
Meanwhile, enjoy your day and check back soon for photos, results and a complete stage report from Andrew Hood.