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Vuelta a España - Villacastín - La Covatilla

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  1. 0km - Bauke Mollema of Rabobank is the new race leader: the Dutchman now leads Joaquim Rodriguez by a slender second in the GC, with Nibali just 9 seconds down.

  2. 0km - Rodriguez crosses the line 49 seconds down. We'll have to wait and see if he's still in red tonight.

  3. 0km - Cobo takes third, followed by Wiggins and Nibali and Froome.

  4. 0km - Martin attacks! Mollema takes his wheel, but it's not enough - the Irishman takes the win.

  5. 0.5km - Fantastic riding by Wiggins - he looks unbeatable.

  6. 1km - Polka dot jersey Moreno tries to pace back his leader, the red jersey Rodriguez. Froome is hanging on in. Cobo and Nibali are both still there, as is Mollema and Martin. But Wiggins is the danger man doing all the pace setting.

  7. 1.5km - Wiggins right on the front. He has Mollema in his wheel. And now Van den Broeck is dropping back. Further back, Rodriguez has cracked again! He's been caught by his team-mate Daniel Moreno now. They are 40 seconds down.

  8. 2km - Just 2km to go now. Ven den Broeck is there alongside Wiggins and Froome. Movistar's Cobo as well. They catch Nibali and Martin.

  9. 2.5km - Wiggins and Froome are putting in a massive effort. They're reeling in Martin and Nibali.

  10. 2.5km - Scarponi off the back! The Italian was second yesterday and looked in good form, but he's been trounced by the pace setting of Sky's Froome. Rodriguez and Nieve have also been dropped!

  11. 3km - The two leaders, Nibali and Martin, have just 13 seconds over the chasing group.

  12. 3km - Rodriguez is towards the back of the chasing group, in the wheel of Nieve. Wiggins is on the front with Froome. They have caught Pardilla and Seeldraeyers. Scarponi is now suffering at the back.

  13. 3.5km - Nibali has caught Martin, with Seeldraeyers and Pardilla in pursuit.

  14. 4km - Now Nibali throws down the hammer! The Italian blasts clear of the leading group.

  15. 4km - Roche cannot keep up with his cousin and Garmin's Martin, in his ungainly style, rides alone out in front.

  16. 4.5km - Irishmen and cousins Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche are on the front.

  17. 5km - Attack by Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step). And now Nibali decides to have a pop! The Italian takes Roche with him, and they reel in Seeldraeyers. It's back together. And then Dan Martin has a go!

  18. 5.5km - Michele Scarponi (Lampre) and Sergio Pardilla (Movistar) lead the chase and reel in Taaramae. Meanwhile, Igor Anton (Euskaltel) falls back. It's a leading group of just 30-odd riders now.

  19. 6km - Rabobank's Carlos Barredo has been dropped, and it looks like king of the mountains Daniel Moreno (Katusha) is off the back too.

  20. 6km - ATTACK: Estonian Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) puts in a huge dig and jumps clear of the peloton.

  21. 6.5km - Sebastian Lang has been caught. Game on for the GC battle!

  22. 7km - Sylvain Chavanel has been dropped. The former red jersey has cracked. This is a pretty steep segment of 11 percent. Lampre and Geox are near the front.

  23. 7km - Wiggins is keeping in Rodriguez's wheel, alongside Roche. Riders are falling like flies off the back.

  24. 8km - Lang is already starting to look behind him. He knows what's coming. He only has 55 seconds.

  25. 9km - Ligthart is caught as the peloton passes the 9km-to-go banner. Liquigas are now up on the front with Katusha. They want to set up their man Nibali, the defending champion.

  26. 9.5km - This is Lang's third Grand Tour this year - and the last of his career: the 31-year-old is retiring at the end of the season. He has 1:13 now on the bunch, so his carrots are pretty much cooked.

  27. 10km - That duo is swept up before they got a chance to get away. So it's still just Lang and Ligthart out in front - although the Dutchman is now being distanced by the German.

  28. 10km - Two riders are moving clear of the peloton. It's Rabobank's Tom Slagter and Quick Step's Dario Cataldo. But they only have a dozen bike lengths on the bunch.

  29. 11km - Katusha's Eduard Vorganov is now putting in a large shift on the front. He's a very strong rider. Sky have come to the front too, with Bradley Wiggins tucked in behind fellow Brit Chris Froome. The leaders are just 2:10 ahead now - and the steep part of this climb is yet to start.

  30. 12km - Both Lang and Ligthart have their shirts undone as they continue their seemingly futile attempt to stay out ahead.

  31. 13km - Most of the Skil Shimano men have sat up as Katusha continue their relentless pace setting. A complete shambles of the all-Russian shambles that went to the Tour last month.

  32. 14km - An Euskaltel man has come right to the front ahead of all the Katusha and Lampre bodies. It looks like Mikel Nieve. The gap is down to three minutes.

  33. 15km - Russian powerhouse Vladimir Karpets leads the peloton for Katusha. Already, an 'autobus' has formed off the back of the bunch, including Quick Step's Tom Boonen and, surprisingly, Movistar's Benat Intxausti.

  34. 16km - The leaders are onto the start of the Cat.1 climb to the ski report of La Covatilla. They have 3:29 over the peloton.

  35. 17km - Intermediate sprint at Bejar: Lang takes the points ahead of Ligthart, but it's uncontested.

  36. 18km - The leading duo are onto a short downhill drag ahead of the second intermediate sprint of the day. After that, the road only heads upwards.

  37. 21km - The lead is down to below five minutes. The road is narrow and already getting slightly steep - and we're still a good 5km from the proper start of the climb. Keizer and Toribio have now been caught, so it's just Lang and Ligthart out in front now.

  38. 25km - Riders are being to get tailed off from the back of the bunch as Katusha throw down the hammer. The peloton still trails the leaders by 5:35.

  39. 28km - There are loads of names painted in white on the road as the leaders pass through the small town of Sanchotello amid the cheers of the locals.

  40. 29km - Katusha still drive the peloton. It's pretty much curtains for the two riders dropped by our two leaders. Keizer and Toribio are fading fast - 2:40 down on Lang and Ligthart at the last check. The peloton are still more than six minutes back.

  41. 35km - Lampre, Euskaltel and Movistar are all moving to the front to help out Katusha with the chase. Lang and Ligthart, the surprise Dutch national champion, are 1:30 ahead of the two chasers, Toribio and Keizer. The bunch is 6:40 back.

  42. 38km - Toribio and Keizer trail Lang and Ligthart by 35 seconds, with the peloton another 6:30 back. Lang wore the polka dot jersey in the 2008 Tour de France for three days, but he's no out-and-out climber so it will be tough on the final ascent.

  43. 41km - ATTACK: Lang and Lithgard pull clear of the other two escapees. They have a handful of seconds going over a slightly steep bridge.

  44. 45km - Intermediate sprint at Guijuelo: 1. Lang, 2. Ligthart, 3. Toribio.

  45. 48km - Katusha and Lampre have come to the front of the peloton in a bid to reel in these breakaway men. The gap is still around eight minutes. Race leader Joaquim Rodriguez is so tanned his arms are almost the same colour as his deep red jersey.

  46. 50km - The race is LIVE NOW on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin Media 521) and is also available on your PC via the Eurosport Player: click here to subscribe

  47. 55km - The average speed for the third hour of racing today is 40 km/h.

  48. 60km - Lampre's Michele Scarponi has targeted a win today at La Covatilla. Second yesterday, the Italian said: "I saw it on TV the last time the race came here, with the victory of Danilo Di Luca. I have seen much harder climbs in my day and I think that if I have the chance, I will go for the win today. All the action will happen on the last section of the climb."

  49. 65km - And now the lead dips below the eight-minute mark too. We have the day's two intermediate sprints before the final Covatilla climb up to the summit finish.

  50. 70km - The lead drops to under nine minutes. A reminder of the four escapees: Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Jose Vincente Toribio (Andalucia), Pim Ligthart and Martijn Keizer (both Vacansoleil).

  51. 75km - The lead is back up to around 9:40 for the four escapees.

  52. 80km - Igor Anton limited his losses to just 15 seconds yesterday after what had been a very difficult opening week for the Spaniard. This morning, the Euskaltel climber said he was looking to have a goof day to make up for the losses he incurred over the opening eight stages. "Today should be different. It's a hard climb with a good percentage in the last six kilometres. I like the look of the climb to Covatilla." Anton is currently 3:28 down in 31st place.

  53. 85km - The gap is now 9:05 for the four leaders. /// To get our readers' predictions up and running, here's an original and well thought out offering from "oblak_rok": "It is hard to say who is going to win today, but I­ think Janez Brajkovic will be in the red jersey­ after tomorow's time trial. He even might have a go­ today, because he was second five years ago on this­ climb an he is very good in time trialing." Keep them coming...

  54. 90km - At the start of today's stage, red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez said: "Today it's more likely that a break will reach the finish first because they guys need a rest. But if we see a chance of winning, we will go for it. Although I prefer climbs which are harder and shorter." We know that, Purito, we've seen you win two of those in the first week!

  55. 95km - The leaders pass throught he feeding zone with an advantage of just over nine minutes.

  56. 100km - Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali lost 32 seconds to Rodriguez yesterday, plus 20 bonus seconds, but the Italian remains upbeat. "It was a hard stage. In the finale I had to make a big effort and I also got a little bottled up," Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. "But that's ok, I had expected to lose something to Rodriguez on finishes like this. For the (Monday's) time trial I'm counting on being 100 percent again." The four leaders see their gap drop below 10 minutes.

  57. 105km - The average speed for the second hour of racing is 39.5km/h, which is surprising: that's slower than the first hour, which included that Cat.3 climb (but also, admittedly, the following fast descent).

  58. 110km - Who's your tip for glory today? Have your say below... And also, looking forward to tomorrow's 40km ITT in Salamanca, who is going to enter the first rest day in red?

  59. 115km - The four leaders have broken the 10-minute mark. They lead the bunch by 10:35.

  60. 120km - The mid section of this stage is fairly routine, with just a short uncategorised climb, the Puerto de Villatoro, before the lunch break and then the long slog to the foot of today's big test, the Cat.1 climb of La Covatilla. The last time the Vuelta came to La Covatilla was in 2006 in a stage won by Italy's Danilo Di Luca. Controversial former Vuelta winner, Robert Heras, is from this neck of the Spanish woods.

  61. 125km - The four escapees combine well and see their lead creep up to 9:05. This is very promising.

  62. 130km - Now let's look at the Dutch pair from Vacansoleil who led the chase. Pim Ligthart is making his Vuelta debut in his first year at the team. The 23-year-old has two wins this season, including victory in the Dutch national road race. Martijn Keizer is also 23, riding his first Vuelta and in his first season at Vacansoleil after four years in the Rabobank youth set-up. He has one win to his name this year, in the minor Boucles de l'Aulne race back in May.

  63. 132km - The gap is 8:30 for these four leaders. The first to react to Lang's attack was Spain's Jose Vicente Toribio, 26, who is riding his second Vuelta. The Andalucia Caja Granada rider has already been involved in a break in this year's race, and picked up his maiden UCI win earlier this month at the Volta a Portugal.

  64. 135km - The two pairs of riders have now joined to make a quartet. Let's take a closer look. Germany's Sebastian Lang, who instigated the break, is riding only his second Vuelta at the age of 31 - and it will be his last, as the Omega Pharma Lotto man announced during the Tour de France that he will retire at the end of the season. The former national time trial champion doesn't have a UCI win to his name since 2006 and said he wishes to spend more time with his family.

  65. 140km - The average speed for the first hour of the stage is 41.3 km/h.

  66. 145km - The chasing Vacansoleil duo of Ligthart and Keizer are closing in on the two leaders. Lang and Toribio have just 48 seconds now, while the peloton is riding at 7:22. There's no concern in the bunch: Ligthart is the best placed rider of the four escapees in the GC - but he's a huge 53:55 down on red jersey Rodriguez.

  67. 150km - Today sees the race's first proper summit finish after a long, gradual climb - as opposed to the two short and sharp ramps (uphill cycling's equivalent to fast food) that have given victories for Joaquim Rodriguez. These Big Mac finishes are soon to be replaced with long, five-course gourmet dining experiences at the chef's table. Does Rodriguez have the right kind of palate for such two-wheeled gastronomy? That's the question our blogger Blazin' Saddles is asking... Blazin' Saddles: Transvision Ramp

  68. 155km - Toribio has caught Lang so we have two leaders out ahead riding two minutes ahead of the chasing Vacansoleil pair. The peloton is a further three minutes back. A reminder of the GC: after his second stage win yesterday, Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez leads team-mate Dani Moreno by 32 seconds, with Dane Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard Trek) in third, at 34 seconds. Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, who lost a bit of time yesterday, is fourth, 45 down, with compatriot Michele Scarponi (Lampre) fifth, at 51. Vuelta standings and results

  69. 160km - Lang continues out in front alone but he has Spain's Jose Vincente Toribio (Andalucia) in pursuit, just 20 seconds back. Two Dutchmen from Vacansoleil are riding at 2:30 - Pim Ligthart and Martijn Keizer. The peloton is riding at 4:20.

  70. 165km - One withdrawal to report this morning: Brazilian national champion Murilo Fischer (Garmin-Cervelo). He was involved in that pile-up the other day, which forced out team-mate Tyler Farrar and Vacansoleil's Michal Golas. Also to withdraw yesterday were Frenchman Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and former world champion Oscar Freire of Rabobank.

  71. 170km - Montaguti is reeled in easily after attacking shortly before the summit, and German Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma Lotto) seizes his chance to counter attack. He's built up more than a minute gap on the descent, with a few riders in pursuit.

  72. 175km - The break was reeled in easily by the Katusha-led peloton before the summit. Italy's Matteo Montaguti (Ag2R) crossed over in pole position ahead of Frenchmen Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and David Moncoutie (Cofidis). Montaguti, who picked up maximim points over all three climbs yesterday, now leads the king of the mountains competition - he's three points clear of current polka dot jersey Dani Moreno (Katusha).

  73. 180km - Today's stage starts right away with a climb, the Cat.3 Puerto de la Cruz de Hierro. Nine riders ping off the front at the start of the climb, and are joined by about 10 others.

  74. 183km - They're off! The remaining 185 riders have passed through the neutral zone and this tricky stage nine is under way.

  75. 12:00 - It's another sunny day in Spain, with temperatures in the high 20s at the start in Villacastin. Weather report

  76. 11:55 - Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez took his second win of the Vuelta a Espana with victory in stage eight to move into the leader's red jersey yesterday. The Katusha climber proved the strongest on the steep cobbled ramp at the end of the 183km mountainous stage from Talavera de la Reina to San Lorenzo de El Escorial to take a solid win ahead of Italy's Michele Scarponi (Lampre). Report: Red Rodriguez makes it two

  77. 11:50 - Welcome to live coverage of stage nine of the Vuelta a Espana, a 180km ride from Villacastin to Sierre de Bejar, which culminates with the Cat.1 summit finish atop the Covatilla climb.

 

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