• Stage 7 – September 1: Leуn – Alto de El Morredero (Ponferrada), 154 km
Here we are once again bringing you loyal Pez fans the most out-of-the-box Vuelta coverage you’ll find anywhere! Today’s 154 km jaunt will present the riders with a salty finish up the 18-kilometre Morredero climb. This is no easy uphill run, as sections of the ol’ boy bite over 10 points. Eesh. Hang onto your hats, sports fans, today is a day where the Vuelta could be turned upside down!
The majority of today’s stage is flat, so it certainly made sense when a large break jumped off the front to survive less than 15km before being reeled in. Then another group, this time much smaller consisting of Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole – highest placed on GC at 28’15 – no real threat!), David Loosli (Lampre-Fondital) and Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone) decided to go AWOL from the rest and jumped out. These three get the award for most tongue twisting last names in a breakaway, no doubt about it, and they also worked well together to stretch a lead out to over 12 minutes at one point. The lead hovered, wavered, shimmied and shook, and then the peloton put down their beers and began to chase in earnest. Euskatel. Liquigas. Saunier Duval and Caisse d’Epargne, all taking responsibility at the arrow head and the lead began to drip away like wax down a candle while the three up front burned as bright as they could.
With around 30km to go, the erstwhile trio still had just over seven minutes in their jersey pockets, but with the peloton streaking like lightning to catch them, it seemed as though they’re efforts would be in vain as the beastly end climb up the Morredero awaited. The lead was now six minutes. The gallows of escapism readied themselves for three more souls.
As the climb reared it’s ugly head, Loosli was the first to scram, and scram he did. The other two just hung there. Astana moved up in the group and drilled the chase. Up front, Scheirlinckx gave up the ghost and dropped anchor. Boy, can I empathize with that guy!
As the peloton reached the foot of the ascent, Luis Perez “lit the touch paper” and then everything went up for grabs. The group splintered at the rear, while the lead group had all the favorites on board; some looking good, some not. Lazlo Bodrogi was soon swept up after Sheirlinckx as the front group looked like this: Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), Luis Perez (Cofidis), Beltrбn (Discovery), Vinokourov (Astana), Kashechkin (Astana), Sastre (CSC), Mayo (Euskaltel), Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval), Szmyd (Lampre). The other Discovery boys Devolder and Brajkovic were lurking just behind and soon tagged on to the group, giving Disco a pretty good presence and a lot of weapons up front.
Up front, Loosli still powered away. He had a minute in hand at just over 5k to go. It was to be a close finish! Meanwhile Di Luca labored in the Golden Fleece, just under a minute behind the chasers.
Mayo attacked, but didn’t shake the earth as the others matched him. The group stabilized somewhat as they swept up the hapless Loosli, and then Vino jumped, dragging himself to a 7 second lead while behind Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), Luis Perez (Cofidis), Beltrбn, (Discovery), Devolder, Brajkovic (Discovery), Kashechkin (Astana), Sastre (CSC), Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval), Mayo (Euskaltel) all worked hard to drag themselves to the Kazakh on the steep finish. The group closed as Vino put his head down and gave it everything he had, but it was Valverde who showed once again he’s got flashes of being an all-arounder as he took a fine win on this incredible stage, working around Vino and touching the line first.
This morning’s camiche d’oro Danilo DiLuca had a tough day, finishing 22nd at 1:58, and dropping to 9th overall – some days you’re up, some days you’re down – that’s bike racing! But the stunner of the day is 22 year old Janez Brajkovic is the new leader of the 2006 Vuelta A Espana! What will the Disco boys do now, with so many names in the top ten!?!?! Stay tuned to Pez as we follow along and find out! This is going to be one hell of a race all the way to Madrid!
Vuelta 06 Results Stage 7
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears 4.01.05 (38.33 km/h)
2 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 0.04
3 Josй Ange Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.06
4 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.07
5 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
6 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Team 0.12
7 Luis Pйrez (Spa) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone 0.16
8 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team
9 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.23
10 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 0.29
Vuelta 06 GC After Stage 7
1 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 26.48.27
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears 0.05
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 0.10
4 Josй Ange Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.22
5 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Team 0.23
6 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.51
7 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 1.17
8 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) T-Mobile Team 1.37
9 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 1.47
10 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 2.27