No comments yet - Leave a comment
0km - So, from being in the lead with 150m to go, Alberto Contador gets jumped by a disgruntled Alejandro Valverde and race leader Joaquin Rodriguez.
0km - Chris Froome (Sky) loses 14 seconds on time, but will lose more because of time bonuses.
0km - Contador loses the win on the line as Valverde comes from nowhere with Rodriguez in his wheel. So top three today are Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Tinkoff).
1km - Contador (Saxo Tinkoff) grits his teeth and pushes for the finish as the other three suffer behind him.
1km - Froome sprints to try and gain an advantage but to no avail. Contador takes a flier and it seems that the other three may be in trouble.
1km - Race leader Rodriguez has attacked and Contador goes with him. Froome lets them build a small gap and rides up at his own pace. Moreno is gone now and we are down to four.
2km - Froome gives it another injection of pace, then eases off. Testing the legs of his rivals.
2km - Froome slows up and asks Contador to do his bit. Contador not interested and now Rodriguez and team mate Moreno as well as Valverde catch up. Meyer is still hanging in at the back of this select bunch.
2km - Froome attacks again and only Contrador can go with him. Valverde is in difficulty and Rodriguez tries to hold his position as the leaders eat up the gap on Meyer.
2km - The race is down to five men now. Valverde leads from Froome, Contador Rodriguez and another Katusha rider.
2km - Valverde is 54 seconds behind Rodriguez on GC, but now Froome and Contador are coming back at him.
3km - The peloton is beginning to split wide open as Igor Anton (Euskaltel) suffers, while Valverde (Movistar) gives it a dig immediately latching on to Ramirez's wheel who gives him a short tow.
3km - Meyer is focused on only one thing. He hasn't looked behind him, but if he did he might see a still Sky led peloton less than a minute behind him.
4km - Cameron Meyer (Green Edge) is out on the front on his own. No time gaps, but he's giving it a go. Although it is torturous from here on out.
4km - Contador sits on Froome's wheel as Uran continues to take control at the head of affairs. Bouffaz is losing ground at the front and now we are down to two riders.
5km - There are ramps of between 15% and 21% on this climb and the four escapees are weaving all over the road trying to attack each other to stay away. Moinard (BMC) seems to have been dropped.
5km - The final 4km of which Rodriguez spoke earlier are nearly upon us. Is he planning an attack from far out?
5km - The bunch has begun to reel in the breakaway as Aramendia (Caja Rural) is swept up.
5km - Keizer (Vacansoleil) tries to drag the leaders up the climb but they only have 1'20" of a gap. Sky still have three riders on the front as Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank and Katusha mass behind them. No major presence from Movistar.
6km - The peloton is driving up the climb with Sky still in the lead. Riders are falling off the back as the bunch is whittled down to the real climbers.
7km - Our leaders have hit the foot of the Collada de la Gallina. Moinard (BMC) has been reeled in by Buffaz, Meyer and Ramirez, but Sky are clawing them back in all of the time. The gap now is 2 minutes.
13km - This final climb is 7.5km in length and is short by comparison with some ascents, but is more than long enough to hurt a lot of people. Sky seem to be setting it up for Chris Froome, but if the other teams are feeling strong they may launch a counter attack. Contador, Rodriguez and Froome have all shown their cards in this Vuelta and Valverde will also be looking to hit back at Team Sky.
15km - Moinard (BMC) has made a dig on the descent and has put daylight between himself and the other escapees.
15km - As the leaders go over the top, Aramendia and Keizer are 20 seconds back but might be able to bridge that on the descent. The gap back to the bunch is 2' 34". Nicolas Roche (AG2R) has had a mechanical on the climb. Not a good time for it. Hopefully it won't take too much energy for him to catch the bunch on the descent.
15km - Sky are on the climb and this is a 3.8km long climb with an average gradient of 5.2%. The Category 2 climb will shake off anyone who is suffering today.
18km - Our six are now down to four as Keizer (Vacansoleil) and Aramendia (Caja Rural) fall away. The Sky led bunch are under 3 minutes behind and the tail end of the peloton is being blown to bits.
20km - Our six leaders have begun to climb the Alto de la Comella.
25km - The Alto de la Comella is a tough climb but what may well test the riders is the tricky technical descent before they attack the ascent of the Collada de la Gallina. Sky are firing on all cylinders now and Chris Froome will be happy to see a time gap of only 3'56" to the leaders. Contador and Rodriquez will be enjoying the ride too.
28km - Our leaders are just a few kilometres from the Category 2 climb of the Alto de la Cornella and they continue to work together, however, the bunch are working hard too and have reeled them in to 4'36".
30km - Andorra has a huge welcome for the Vuelta as crowds have lined the roads to welcome their heroes over the last 30km of Stage 8.
30km - With just 30km left in the stage our breakaway riders have come through the second intermediate sprint of the day. Buffaz (Cofidis) made it two from two but was pushed by Cameron Meyer who took second, with Ramirez taking third. Behind them Sky are motoring and have continued to eat into their advantage. It now stands at 5' 35".
30km - The average speed for the third hour of racing was 46.3km/h.
35km - The lead is tumbling fast and is now down to 7 minutes for our six leaders as we near the second sprint point of the day at Andorra la Vella.
38km - The gap has been brought down by the best part of a minute and now stands at 7'28".
38km - At the start of this morning's stage, leader Joaquin Rodriguez said, "Whether we begin to climb in the first position or a little behind, the initial part is not difficult. the last four km are harder, with ramps of between 15% and 20%."
40km - We have just crossed the border into Andorra and it is here that we can expect the fireworks to happen.
45km - The chase has begun for the bunch and they have cut the gap from 9'28" down to 8'50" over the space of a few kilometres. Sky and Katusha are doing most of the work on the front as they drive the pace to ensure they deliver Rodriguez and Froome to the head of affairs by the time we begin climbing.
50km - Through the first sprint and Buffaz (Cofidis) got the jump on the other five to take the points. Keizer (Vacansoleil) was second with the now ex-Lantern Rouge, Javier Aramendia (Andalucia) taking third.
53km - Sky and Katusha have begun to make their presence felt on the front of the bunch as the lead hangs at 9'28" for our six leaders. as they approach the first intermediate sprint point.
55km - So to recap, our leaders are Ramirez (Andalucia), Moinard (BMC), Aramendia (Caja Rural), Buffaz (Cofidis), Meyer (Orica GreenEdge) and Keizer (Vacansoleil).
60km - We're now 10k from the first of the days two sprints. Degenkolb won't be adding to his points tally today but neither will his close rivals, which will suit the young sprinter just fine. The gap for the six up front has stretched another bit and now stands at 9' 26".
65km - The gap is now out to 9' 25".
70km - Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) is the most successful of our six breakaway riders. The 24 year old has been double national time trial champion as well as winning numerous world track medals. In 2011 he won the Tour Down Under (the overall and a stage) and would be a good bet to win the two sprints up the road. However, don't count out Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil) who won the intermediate sprints classification in the Giro d'Italia ahead of Mark Cavendish.
73km - The second hour of racing had an average speed of 49km/h so after a hectic start things have settled. From here on in, the road will rise up towards Andorra and on into the Pryenees.
75km - It's feeding time for the leaders and they'll be glad of the sustainance. After a hectic start the break finally established itself at the 100km mark, and with the second half of this stage tougher than the first, there is plenty of hardship ahead.
75km - As the lead rises to 8' 02", the temperature has started to abate a little bit. The mercury is now down to 29 degrees.
78km - Riding for Andalucia, Javier Ramirez has had a successful season so far. To date in 2012 he has been the overall winner of the Tour of Azerbijan (taking a stage victory on the way), won a stage in the Vuelta a Andalucia and a stage in the Tour of Chile. Not bad for the 34 year old.
80km - Races such as the Vuelta are vital to the growth of Pro Continental teams as they are given the opportunity to get some television time for their sponsors, but also prove to race organisers that they are worthy of their spot and in some cases, a permanent spot in the Pro Tour ranks.
80km - Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) was awarded the red number for Fighting Spirit yesterday. Today is his third day in the break.
80km - The six escapees have extended their advantage out to 7'14" and now there is definitely no doubt but that this is the break of the day. It would be surprising if any of these can hang on for a stage win but they will be able to enjoy their time in the sun for the meantime.
80km - We will soon be approaching the feed station and at this stage the riders in the break may extend their lead even further as the panic in the peloton subsides and teams begin to regroup for the sprints and/or climbs ahead.
90km - Just as we say that, a time check comes in showing the break have built a lead of 3'42".
90km - None of the riders in this group are a threat to the leader and may well be allowed to build on their lead if all the teams in the bunch decide they need a breather. Meanwhile, at the back of the race Aitor Alonso (Caja Rural) is getting attention from the doctor.
95km - Meyer was part of one of the earlier breaks of the day and so he clearly wants to get away.
98km - Cameron Meyer (Green Edge), Javier Ramirez (Anadalucia), Amaël Moinard (BMC), Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis), Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) and Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil) have made a break and have a lead of 1 minute.
100km - The action in Stage 8 is bookended towards the end. As we said earlier, the sprinters will get their chance with two sprints, one at 50km to go and the second 20km later. Then the climbers and GC contenders will begin to jostle for position as we hit the Category 2 Andorra la Vella (3.8km 5.2%) with 20km to race and finish on the Category 1 Collada de la Gallina (7.2km 8%).
105km - Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank immediately got on the front of the bunch and chased down the attackers. So it's as we were at the start.
105km - As we near the 100km to go mark, a group of 25 riders has formed off the front of the peloton. No names yet, but Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) is among them.
105km - After a quiet period, we've just had another quartet attempting to get up the road. Pieter Weenig (Orica Green Edge), Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma Quickstep), Angel Vicioso (Katusha) and Allesandro Balllan (BMC) all tried to get away but have been reeled in by Sky.
110km - Nicolas Roche has done his season no harm by keeping himself up at the head of affairs during the first week of the race. The AG2R rider could be accused of working for Alberto Contador on Stage 4 and whether or not the soon to be teammates had words before the stage we may never know, but his current 6th place on GC is an impressive display among some very strong riders.
115km - Approaching the town of Ponts the riders are soaking up 32 degrees of blazng sunshine.
120km - The average speed for the first hour of racing is coming in at a leg burning 52.6km/h.
120km - The Vuelta wasn't the only reason cycling was in the news yesterday. For Blazin' Saddles take on the Lance Armstrong situation check out this link. http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/blazin-saddles/armstrong-seven-crime-tour-rider-104143262.html
128km - Those break aways have been swallowed up again. With 47km raced we have yet to see a break stick for more than a few kilometres. This kind of racing will be very wearing on the riders and as the road begins to rise gradually, there are sure to be more than a few people struggling later on.
135km - Seven riders are making a big push to get clear of the bunch.
135km - The Vuelta last had a stage finish in Andorra in 2010 when Igor Anton (Eus) took the win at the Vallnord ski resort. On that day, he took over the leader's jersey from Joaquin Rodriguez, who wears the leader's jersey today. Unfortunately for Anton he crashed out of the race a few stages later. Anton hasn't been the force he was in 2010 so far this year, but maybe he will fancy his chances today.
140km - More escapees are reeled in as the pace remains ferociously high. The peloton is strung out along the road and the break of the day has yet to establish itself.
145km - Australian Simon Clarke (OGE) showed a clean pair of heels to the climbers on Stage 4 taking the mountain points jersey in the process. This should change hands today, unless Clarke is feeling really good and ready to challenge the GC men.
150km - John Degenkolb took yesterday's stage with some ease at the novel finish area of Motorland Aragon - a motor racing track. Today, he will be asking his team to keep him up front until the two sprint points later in the day. Read the full race report here http://eurosport.yahoo.com/news/hat-trick-degenkolb-vuelta-stage-7-win-103426286.html
155km - The break has been reeled in and immediately Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) and Nico Sijmens (Cofidis) try to make a break. With the bunch travelling at 60km/h for the first 20km they will do well to stay away.
155km - Following his impressive hat-trick of sprint wins German John Degenkolb (Argos Shimano) leads the points classification by some distance from Ella Viviani (Liquigas). There is nobody in this breakaway group who can challenge this as Zeits is again the closest on 11 points to Degenkolb's 74 points.
160km - The best placed of the break away riders is Andrey Zeits who sits 36th overall at 7' 44" so there won't be any major panic back in the bunch. They have built up an advantage of 14 seconds, while behind Lotto, Cofidis and Argos-Shimano are driving the pace.
166km - Five riders are now clear of the peloton. They are Cameron Meyer (Orica GreenEdge), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel Euskadi), Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), Andrey Zeits (Astana) and Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil).
171km - There are attacks left, right and centre as a break tries to gain an advantage early on. Today would be a good day for someone looking to pick up sprint points to get in the break.
174km - The profile for todays stage rises steadily into Andorra. At 50km to go the sprinters will get their first taste of the action in La Seu d'Urgell. Shortly after crossing into Andorra, the sprinters will get another chance to pick up points at Andorra la Vella. The final 20km will be for the mountain goats as the race hits the Category 2 Alto de la Cornella 20km from home and then finishes up the punishing Collada de la Gallina.
174km - As the peloton leaves the streets of Lleida and racing gets underway, the weather is looking good. Almost too good for some of the riders who I'd imagine would prefer a slightly cooler day in the saddle. It's 32 degrees C out there and with only a slight breeze it will be another day of focusing on taking fluids on board. The weather at the finish is 24 degrees at the moment, but at that point the riders will have more than the weather to be concerned about.
11.45 - As the riders roll out through the neutral zone at the start of today's stage, Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) holds the leader's red jersey following calculating a performance in Thursday's Stage 6 to take the stage win and also increase a 1 second margin of Chris Froome (Sky) to a 10 second gap. Alberto Contador (Saxo Tinkoff) is lurking in third spot at 36 seconds but with time bonuses at the stage finishes, it's still all to play for at the end of the first week of racing.
11.35 - Cofidis will start a man down today as Yoann Bagot is forced to pull out with an elbow injury. He is only the third rider to withdraw from the Veulta the others being Enrico Gasparotto of Astana after Stage 1 and David Boucher of FDJ after Stage 4.
11.25 - Today will see the riders tackle the third mountain stage of the race as they cover 174 kilometres between the Spanish town of Lleida before finishing in neighbouring Andorra. The stage see a mountain top finish as the peloton will cross the line at the top of the category 1 Collada de la Gallina.
11.20 - Good morning and welcome to live updates of Stage 8 of the Vuelta a Espana.