Stage 19 – September 15: Jaйn – Ciudad Real, 205.3 km
Astana had a day to refresh and bask in some golden glory – until tomorrow’s TT at least.
Even in the most epic of battles, there is, at times, calm. I have heard of two warring sides calling truces on Christmas in WWI. I have heard of the German and British sides coming together for a game of soccer in between the trenches in the same war. Forgetting the pains of the mountains behind them, today was a day of ‘piano’ for the big hitters and the majority of the peloton, but there was a skirmish up front for individual stage glory. For the rest, it was just that – rest – as the next two days’ march towards Madrid would reveal all. All but the punctuation is written on the wall, but stranger things could happen. But for today…..
Early thoughts of Valverde’s squad keeping it together in the hopes of stealing a few bonus seconds at the line were dispelled as the race took shape at just about 50km, with the group of Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel), David Loosli (Lampre-Fondital ), Josй Luis Arrieta (AG2R Prevoyance), Aketza Peсa (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Josй Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d’Epargne) being joined by Lars Bak (Team CSC), Dmitriy Fofonov (Credit Agricole),) and Pieter Mertens (Davitamon-Lotto).
Some days the break just works – 16 legs pulling together did the trick
The day was by no means “sprinters’ territory”, as a rash of hills were spread out over the course. Two Cat. 3’s and a Cat. 2 climb were propped up for the riders to enjoy. There were two hot spot sprint points on today’s course as well. Fun for everyone, if you dare try! The climbing jersey became clinched as the breakaway was formed, and an early congrats to Egoi Martinez for taking the orange jersey for the 2006 Vuelta, but congrats as well to Caucchioli and Martinez for making it a fight. That was well earned by the young Basque.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Astana team rode tempo with their money men Vinokourov and Kashechkin tucked into their train. The speeds weren’t so crazy back there, as the group lay spread out over the road. Today was for the breakaway, as they managed to forge a lead of over 11 minutes.
Another day of classic Spanish countryside.
The break worked as one until inside of 15km to go, when Garcia Acosta decided to upset the apple cart with a wicked attack to which Mertens attached himself. This first go wouldn’t break the elastic and they came together to jockey a bit more. Fofonov went, then Bak. Then Arrieta and Gusev tried a tandem move, but the group caught on to that one as well and launched Bak again as a result. It was all pins and needles up front, that was for certain. After some indecision in the chase, Bak mounted a small lead. This was his all-or-nothing bid for victory as he noticed the gap. The chase was taken up by only three willing souls: Arrieta, Fofonov and Loosli. Behind those three, Gusev was doing the lion’s share of the work for the rest of the chasers. The three caught the valiant Bak, who immediately hoisted a sail and went backwards. That was indeed an all-or-nothing, and having failed, the young Dane went quietly.
Arrieta dumped the rest with a kick on the outside, and sprinted to a fine victory! Thirty seconds later the rest of the chasers came rolling in lead by Gusev. The peloton saw fit to arrive 11 minutes later. Most fashionably late, wouldn’t you say?
After an attack-filled final – Arrieta came out smiling.
So it’s onward still to Madrid, just two more stages for these tired legs to tackle, and the grand roll into the capitol!
Results Stage 19
1 Josй Luis Arrieta (Spa) AG2R Prevoyance 5.30.14 (37.3 km/h)
2 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Credit Agricole
3 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Fondital 0.02
4 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team CSC 0.09
5 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.30
6 Pieter Mertens (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
7 Josй Vicent Garcia Acosta (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears
8 Aketza Peсa (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
9 Aurйlien Clerc (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 11.16
10 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
Vuelta 06 GC after stage 19
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Team 77.08.38
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears 0.53
3 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team 2.06
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 2.51
5 Josй Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 5.06
6 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 7.05
7 Samuel Sбnchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 8.23
8 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 8.28
9 Luis Pйrez (Spa) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone 10.04
10 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears 10.06