Blazin' Saddles

  • The postman delivers

    Nice guy, David Moncoutie. That's what everyone says. But
    you wouldn't want him at a dinner party - he'd probably bring his own food and
    eat it in a separate room.

    Still, the Frenchman's love affair with the Vuelta
    continues: the veteran climber has now won a stage in every race since 2008,
    plus he's on course for a fourth successive King of the Mountains title too.

    It would be cause for celebration, but Moncoutie doesn't
    look like the kind of guy who does celebrations. A glass of apple juice and a
    vegan quiche instead, perhaps?

    It's not hard to see why Moncoutie targeted stage 11 - the

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  • Froome at the top

    So, the ITT in Salamanca went pretty much as expected, right? Tony Martin taking the win and Team Sky moving into the red jersey. Yawn.

    That's what the script said - although no one probably thought that the man in red would be Chris Froome and not Bradley Wiggins.

    Indeed, after 13km - and with Wiggo leading at the first check - such a notion would have been laughed down as much as the time when, in June 2008, some journeyman reporter said he had a hunch Carlos Sastre might do something special on the Tour de France...

    It started ominously for Team Sky. With rules stating that team-mates

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  • Transvision Ramp

    These punchy
    ramped finishes are proving something of a trademark for Joaquim Rodriguez, who
    now has two such victories in this year's Vuelta.

    Saturday's
    stage eight win at San Lorenzo de El Escorial
    was even more impressive that the
    last week's win in Valdepeñas de Jaén - for the simple fact that not only was
    it considerably steeper, it was also partially cobbled.

    Just as
    Philippe Gilbert is expected to win any uphill sprint, or Vincenzo Nibali to
    dominate any treacherous descent, it was almost a given that 'El Purito' would
    win Saturday's stage.

    Four men may
    have nipped off the front, and

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  • Marcel skittles the peloton

    24 hours after Peter Sagan
    won his maiden Grand Tour stage, Germany's Marcel Kittel announced his arrival
    as one of the peloton's fastest new sprinters with an emphatic win in Spain.

    Kittel, a 23-year-old German with
    thighs so thunderous even pop singer Beyonce would be jealous, was in a league
    of his own as he skittled through his rivals to take the biggest win of his
    career in Talavera de la Reina.

    Given that Friday's stage seven
    presented the peloton with the first chance of a flat finish in this year's
    Vuelta, that's quite a return for the Skil Shimano starlet: victory at the
    first

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  • Liquigas explosion

    The
    Vuelta's second TTT was won by Liquigas on Thursday after the team of Italian
    defending champion Vincenzo Nibali blew stage six apart in Cordoba.

    Led over
    the line by Slovakian sensation Peter Sagan, Liquigas clocked by far the best
    time of all their rival teams in southern Spain - although oddly enough, they
    seemed to have picked up Movistar veteran Pablo Lastras along the way.

    Instead of
    celebrating their barnstorming TTT win, however, Liquigas inexplicably turned
    on themselves, with horse-faced defending champion Vincenzo Nibali
    gesticulating and Sagan looking rather sheepish under

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  • Katusha have lift-off

    The
    Gazprom-funded Russian-based team Katusha looked to be running on empty during the Tour
    but now their engine is really hitting top gear.

    Back-to-back
    wins from Daniel Moreno and now Joaquim Rodriguez means Katusha are the
    Vuelta's in-form team, with both Spanish riders currently sitting comfortably
    in second and third in the GC, ready to pounce on the next Sylvain Chavanel
    slip.

    Named after a type of rocket artillery first built and fielded by the Soviet
    Union in World War Two, Katusha always had big ambitions. Yet in recent races,
    we've seen a Katusha team firing nothing but blanks - a

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  • Sylvain Cav in hell

    On a day
    that Sylvain Chavanel moved into the leader's jersey, a rather wooden Mark
    Cavendish drew a line under what has been a miserable Vuelta for the Manxman.

    You can't
    blame Cav for wanting to make an appearance in HTC-Highroad's last ever Grand
    Tour; nor can you criticise him for his hunger to become only the fourth rider
    in history to win stages in all three Grand Tours in the same year.

    But let's
    be honest here: Cavendish has really had a Spanish stinker - from day one in
    Benidorm, when he was dropped by his team-mates during the TTT, right through
    to the moment he decided to throw in

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  • Lustrous Lastras

    At some
    point during his final descent into Totana, Pablo Lastras must have had some
    serious thoughts about how he was going to celebrate his victory.

    Nine years
    after he first won two stages in his debut Tour, Lastras added a third - all at
    the not-so-tender age of 35.

    Using all
    his experience and nous, the Movistar veteran took his fellow escapees by
    surprise on the final climb of the day before soloing down the descent to take
    the win.

    With three
    riders - including the dangerous all-rounder Sylvain Chavanel - in pursuit, you'd
    have thought Lastras would have been far too busy simply

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  • Sky’s super Sunday

    On Saturday it was all doom and gloom, but Sky put things right with wins in both Spain and Germany 24 hours later.

    First, Norwegian cannonball Edvald Boasson Hagen blasted his way to victory in the Vattenfall Cyclassics in Hamburg; then, in temperatures as high as 42 degrees, the "Five-Million Man" Chris Sutton surprised the pack with a stylish win in stage two of the Vuelta - the first Grand Tour success of his second career after swapping football for cycling.

    Let's face it: Sky were an utter shambles on Saturday as they limped home in 20th place in the TTT. But you're only as good as your

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  • Sky caves in on Wiggins

    The
    sun was out in Spain but the sky still caved in for Brit abroad Bradley Wiggins
    on the beach in Benidorm.

    Team
    Sky, usually so disciplined as a unit, had a completely shambolic opening TTT -
    and at one moment had just four of nine riders together on the road until
    Xabier Zandio managed to rejoin Wiggins and his fellow pace-setters in time for
    the finish.

    Typically,
    this being the Vuelta, TV pictures were pretty shoddy and no one had any idea
    what actually happened on the 13.5-km course around the popular package holiday
    beach resort.

    It
    actually all seemed to start okay for Sky, who were

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