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La Vuelta Stage 9: Action In Andorra

To day’s 175 kilometer stage from Vella to Port d’Envalira (Andorra), was billed as one of the stages that could settle this years Vuelta a Espaсa. The first climb, the Port de la Bonaigua (1st. cat), came after only 22 kilometers, the second, the Port del Cantу (1st. cat) at 95 kilometers. The finish is up the special category climb of Port d’ Envalira in the Principality of Andorra, a brute of a climb to 2,410 meters.

Apart from the battle for overall leadership, there is one hell of a tussle going on over the mountains jersey, Joan Horrach of Millaneza has it and Fйlix Cбrdenas of Labarca 2 wants it. Over the first climb it was Cбrdenas first and Horrach could only manage fourth. Before that Casero (Bianchi) and Sevilla (Kelme) had been to the doctor’s car, also Zuelle (Phonak) was having problems.

With 50 kilometers covered, Noval (Relax), Gonzбlez (Euskaltel) and Ferrio (Paternina) had 58 seconds on a large group of 17 riders and over 4 minutes on the main peloton, including the overall leader Nozal (ONCE). Gonzбlez took the sprint in Rialp, 2 minutes in front of the chase group and now only 3 minutes 14 seconds ahead of the more interested main pack. The next obstacle, the Port del Cantу, starts after 80 kilometers and reaches the top after 20 kilometers of climbing, reaching a height of 1,730 meters. The average speed for the first two hours was 39 k.p.h.

At the start of the second climb of the day, the three had 46 seconds on Jeker (Milaneza), Osa (ibanesto.com) and Cбrdenas (Labarca 2), 1 minute 10 seconds in front of 15 men and the bunch at 3 minutes 15 seconds. Looks like more points for Cбrdenas and none for Horrach, but Jeker is along to police things for Milaneza. On the climb of the mountain the two front groups had merged, and were joined by Rodriguez (ONCE), Belli (Lampre) and Garcia Acosta (ibanesto.com) and then David Etxebarria (Euskaltel). First over the top was Cбrdenas from Etxebarria and third Jeker.

Into the Principality of Andorra there were seven riders away being chased by the Labarca 2 team on the front of the bunch, at, or off the back Alex Zuelle (Phonak) had retired from the race. The seven were Jeker, Gonzбlez, Navas, Noval, Belli, Garcia Acosta and Ferrio the main group at just under 2 minutes back. Through the town of Andorra La Vella, as the road starts to rise, Gorka Gonzбlez (Euskaltel) goes up the road on his own. The six others were pulled back by the fast moving bunch with still Labarca 2 the engine of the chase, none of the stars had been seen doing any work and it looked like there would be some action.

Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) did a lot of work to catch back Gonzбlez with about 20 kilometers to the top, the next to show on the front was U.S. Postal’s Benoit Joachim as Hincapie went out the back after a lot of domestique work. There was now only about 20 to 30 riders in contention, Van Goolen (Quick Step) and Piepoli (ibanesto.com) jumped off the front, Montgomery (Fassa Bortolo) and Cuesta (Cofidis) tried and failed to cross to them, next Aitor Gonzбlez (Fassa Bortolo) moved of the front but was soon joined by all the top men. Fйlix Cбrdenas (Labarca 2) with Unai Osa (ibanesto.com) set off after Van Goleen and Piepoli with 15 kilometers to go, behind them Laiseka (Euskaltel) and the Kelme pair of Valverde and Guttierez getting across, Guittierez couldn’t hang on as the other four got together, 36 seconds behind Van Goolen and Piepoli, all the leaders at 1 minute 7 seconds. At 9 kilometers from the top the two leaders had 40 seconds on Cardenas, Osa and Valverde, Laiseka was dropped. The main bunch was now down to eight, with Heras, Rasmussen and the overall leader Nozal.

Only 5 hard kilometers of 7% climbing and we had a group of four, Cardenas, Piepoli, Valverde and Osa, with 20 seconds on the stars, they could see them on the next higher bend, Aitor Gonzalez, last years winner looked good for the first time this year as Rasmussen flashed across to the front which made the others kick hard to close to make a group of 12 with, just off the pace, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONCE) in trouble with Triki Beltran (U.S.Postal) on his wheel. 500 meters to go and Frigo attacked but Alejandro Valverde (Kelme) came past him for the stage win, Nozal gained some time on Heras, Beltran and teammate Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano.

An exciting day, didn’t really sort any thing out overall wise, tomorrow a flat stage to Sabadell will be a bit of a easy one before the day off on Tuesday.

Stage 9 Result:

1єVALVERDE, Alejandro ESP KEL 4:48:36
2єFRIGO, Dario ITA FAS at 1
3єOSA, Unai ESP BAN at 3
4єPIEPOLI, Leonardo ITA BAN at 3
5єMANCEBO, Francisco ESP BAN at 3
6єCARDENAS, Felix COL L2C at 3
7єNOZAL, Isidro ESP ONE at 3
8єSCARPONI, Michele ITA DVE at 3
9єGONZALEZ, Aitor ESP FAS at 3
10єRASMUSSEN, Michael DEN RAB at 3

Overall After Stage 9:

1єNOZAL, Isidro ESP ONE 29:46:47
2єGLEZ. GALDEANO, Igor ESP ONE at 1:48
3єBELTRAN, Manuel ESP USP at 2:01
4єFRIGO, Dario ITA FAS at 3:05
5єHERAS, Roberto ESP USP at 3:28
6єMANCEBO, Francisco ESP BAN at 3:40
7єGONZALEZ, Aitor ESP FAS at 4:00
8єVALVERDE, Alejandro ESP KEL at 4:00
9єRASMUSSEN, Michael DEN RAB at 4:04
10єOSA, Unai ESP BAN at 4:14

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