La Vuelta | Stage 11
Uninterrupted Coverage, Villaviciosa - Alto de la Farrapona (170.2km)
No waiting for Gaudu
Here's the moment David Gaudu outfoxed Marc Soler for only the third win of his career...
Today's Stage 11 result
Dan Martin leading that select quartet over the line just over a minute back on the stage winner.
No change for the rivals for red
Storer came over the line for third place ahead of teammate Donovan, with Martin a bit behind and almost caught by Vlasov. Then it's the race favourites who sprint clear of the main pack with Dan Martin leading home Enric Mas (white), Richard Carapaz (green) and Primoz Roglic (red). Hugh Carthy must have been a bit further back there but shouldn't lose too much time.
Victory for David Gaudu!
In the end it was easy for Gaudu, who launches from the grimacing Soler's wheel and opens up a decent gap before crossing the line and roaring in celebration of the biggest win of his career.
750m to go: Gaudu forces Soler through
The Frenchman had had enough and slams on the breaks to force Soler through. The Spaniard doesn't like that and tensions are clearly rising between the leaders. The sun has come back out - or, more to the point, the riders have emerged from the shade to meet the setting sun casting its rays on this peak.
Behind, Aleksandr Vlasov of Astana has ridden clear of the main pack because, well, I'm not quite sure why...
It looked like Soler was starting the mind games - he refused to come through and pull on numerous occasions after Gaudu flicked the elbow - but the Spaniard is now back on the front (albeit briefly) as they go under the flamme rouge banner. The gap is down to 35 seconds as these two leaders start to play cat and mouse...
2km to go: Martin drops back again
Just as he was about to make the connection, the elastic snaps and he falls back again. Soler and Gaudu are collaborating well on these steep hairpins - it should be enough to ensure that one of them will win today. Meanwhile, Mitchelton-Scott's Mikel Nieve now takes it up on the front of the pack - the Spaniard looking to rise into the top 10. He's whittled down this group to around 12 riders now.
3km to go: Sunweb duo chasing
Martin looks to have called it a day but the two Sunweb riders - Storer and Donovan - have joined forced in pursuit of the two leaders, Soler and Gaudu. They have 40 seconds over the chasing duo - ah, make that a trio, because the Frenchman in polka dots has managed to battle back. The pack is 2'20" down.
3.5km to go: Jumbo in control
Total control from Jumbo who still have four riders, plus the man in red, on the front of this main pack. That said, they were this dominant in the Tour but ended up missing out on the yellow jersey... Carapaz, however, has no Ineos teammates with him; Ecuadorian isolation.
Lovely views from the top of today's climb - the Someida lakes from the Alto de la Farrapona.
5km to go: Soler attacks!
Marc Soler is the first of these escapees to make his move. He's joined by David Gaudu as they open a gap on the others. One of the Sunweb riders is trying to bridge over, but Martin and the second Sunweb rider seem to have popped.
7km to go: So, fireworks tomorrow?
This weekend was always going to be a double-header with most of the damage done in tomorrow's shorter, but more brutal stage. As it stands, it looks like today's going to be a bit of a stalemate - although it could change on the final 6km when the gradient ramps up. The five leaders still have 2'05" and so one of them could well win this stage. Armirail and Oliveira have been caught and passed by the pack now.
10km to go: Chaves dropped
Seventh this morning, Esteban Chaves has been dropped by this main pack, which has been whittled down to around 25 seconds. We're about to hit a slight downhill section of this climb before the final slog to the finish, which is where all the steep stuff comes. 2'20" for the break.
11km to go: Break down to five
Bruno Armirail and Nelson Oliveira have been dropped from this leading group so we have two Sunweb riders (Scotland's Mark Donovan and the Australian Michael Storer) with Frenchman David Gaudu and Guillaume Martin, and the Spaniard Marc Soler. Their gap is 2'35".
14km to go: Froome dropped
His work for the day done, Chris Froome has peeled off and dropped back. The peloton is about 50-strong still with Jumbo setting the tempo. Carapaz, in green, still has two Ineos teammates with him, while Roglic, in red, has four.
16.5km to go: Alto de la Farrapona
It's time for the final climb - the Cat.1 Alto de la Farrapona, which is 16.5km at 6.2%. It's the last five kilometres where the damage will be done - it really ramps up towards the summit. Davide Formolo has come to the front of the pack to pave the way, perhaps, for his UAE Team Emirates leader David de la Cruz. It's a tactic which isn't to everyone's liking...
Mihai is a font when it comes to cycling knowledge - and he's also provided a good profile for this final climb. Can Roglic break the climbing record here today?
18km to go: Calm before the storm
The break are combining relaly well on this false flat of a valley road to the foot of the climb. They have extended their lead back up to the three-minute mark. Will we have two races - for the stage and for the red jersey - or will they both merge as one?
20km to go: No changes after protest
It looks like that protest this morning fell on deaf ears and that the organisers were within their rights to change the timing system of yesterday's stage.
25km to go: Soler pushing on descent
With his teammate on the front, Movistar's Oliveira has gone off the back on this descent. Martin, too, is struggling to keep up with the Spaniard, who opens up a small gap on his fellow escapees. Behind, Jumbo-Visma have three riders on the front ahead of the red jersey of Primoz Roglic, and two behind.
34km to go: Martin takes KOM points
Guillaume Martin leads the break over the top of the Puerto de San Lorenzo to pocket another 10 points and extend his lead in the polka dot jersey standings. It's Marc Soler who crosses just behind before coming to the fore to lead the break down this descent. Their gap is 2'25" on the pack so it remains to be seen if it's enough for the stage. If so, Gaudu is probably the danger man, with Martin paying for his earlier efforts and the Movistar pair there to help Valverde and Mas on the final climb. Let's see.
37km to go: Puncture for Chaves
Esteban Chaves needs a rear wheel change after an untimely mechanical. He has a Michelton-Scott teammate to help pace him back. Jumbo Visma are setting the tempo on the front of the pack, which trails the break by 2'45". They're all helping out in the break except Niklas Eg, who is yo-yoing off the back and grimacing in pain.
39km to go: Soler drives the pace
It's the Movistar man who joined the break last who is doing all the work on the front, riding with someone with intent. These eight leaders are starting to hit the tough part of this climb, which is probably the hardest of today's tests. The gap is down to 2'50".
44km to go: Puerto de San Lorenzo
We're onto the fourth climb of the day, the Cat.1 Puerto de San Lorenzo. Details differ but the Vuelta site lists this as a 10km climb at 8.6%. The gradient is hardest near the top where this climb hits a 14%.
45km to go: Soler 'wins' sprint
It's not really contested but it looks like Marc Soler has just gone through the intermediate sprint at Teverga ahead of one of the Sunweb riders, Storer. The next climb starts almost immediately. Their break is 3'10".
50km to go: Break back together
We have eight men together again after that trio were brought to heel. This move has two Groupama rides, two Sunwebs and two Movistars, plus a Trek and a Cofidis (the man in polka dots). They're onto an uphill rise towards the intermediate sprint at the foot of the penultimate climb, with their gap up to 3'15".
As things stand, Marc Soler has moved into the virtual top five at the expense of... his teammate Enric Mas. The Movistar trident is the gift that keeps on giving.
55km to go: Martin, Soler and Oliveira go clear
The polka dot jersey has ridden clear with the Movistar duo ahead of this next climb. They open up a 10-second gap on the other five escapees with the pack now three minutes back.
60km to go: Wellens caught
Belgian powerhouse and bike-packing aficionado Tim Wellens has been caught by the peloton. The stage 5 winner was the original attacker today, zipping clear on the first climb before being reeled in by the pack, then attacking again with Martin and Gaudu on the second climb to join the five leaders to make it nine.
65km to go: Gap grows on descent
We're over half way through this stage and have just the two remaining climbs. This eight-man break extends its lead to 2'40" on the descent despite those two riders coming a cropper on that early corner.
72km to go: Two overcook corner from break
Niklas Eg and, I think, Nelson Oliveira have overcooked a bend on the descent - but they chose the right one to do it: there's a big grassy verge and they're able to stay up on their bikes in the run-off before get going again. A slight scare for them both, but no Eg was broken so a close shave.
74km to go: Martin takes KOM points
Guillaume Martin leads the break over the top to pocket 10 more KOM points to add to the 2pts on the first climb. That puts him up to 39pts in the polka dot jersey standings. His nearest challengers are Kuss and Carapaz on 24pts with that man Wellens, who took 3pts on the first climb but was dropped on the third, in fourth on 22pts.
76km to go: Wellens dropped
The big Belgian is distanced on this climb while Eg is putting in a shift on the front. Good news for Martin in his polka dot jersey bid. The summit comes in two kilometres. The autumn colours make the Asturias look like Scotland or the Peak District.
79km to go: Soler joins the leaders
Marc Soler has managed to bridge over to the break, where he joins teammate Oliveira on the front. The gap is only 1'45" for these nine riders as the Aussie veteran Cameron Wurf continued setting a tempo for Ineos Grenadiers on the front of the pack.
Earlier I saw that Martin was the best placed rider in the move - but that's not the case, it's his compatriot Gaudu, who is 6'15" down on GC and in 14th place. My apologies.
81km to go: Soler power!
Swords have been drawn! Movistar draw first blood with an attack from one of the prongs of their trident as Marc Soler rides clear of the pack. He's 3'52" down in 10th place and already has a stage win to his name - so either this is a bid to return up the standings, or to pave the way for his teammates Valverde and Mas while keeping the pressure on Movistar's rivals.
No one responds to Soler's early attack and he opens up a 30-second gap before too long. At this rate he should be able to join teammate Oliveira in that breakaway before the summit.
83km to go: Alto de la Cobertoria
We're onto the third climb of the day, the Cat.1 Alto de la Cobertoria (9.8km at 9%). It has several sections with a double-digit gradient and so it's by far the hardest climb they've faced so far. The gap for the break is 2'15" for now.
85km to go: Feed zone
The gap has grown to 2'30" as the riders in the pack pick up musettes for a feed ahead of this next climb, which is coming right up. Ineos and Jumbo still combining on the front to help regulate the tempo and keep a lid on this break. The best placed rider in the move is Martin, who is 8'22" down on GC. A good result today would not only strengthen his grip on the polka dot jersey but could also see the Frenchman return to the top 10. That said, with the gap minimal, it is likely to comedown to a race between the favourites on the final climb.
88km to go: Dlamini withdraws
We're hearing that Nicolas Dlamini of NTT Pro Cycling has abandoned the race. That will put us down to 156 riders, I think. So we've lost 20 since the start of this race.
95km to go: Order restored
After all that early activity, we seem to have settled into the stage now with that eight-man move now holding a gap of 1'55" over a reformed peloton, which has Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers on the front - the two teams of the two riders who are tied at the top of the standings (Messrs Roglic and Carapaz, the men in red and green) - with Movistar tucked in behind. Movistar have three men in the top 10 - Enric Mas, Alejandro Valverde and Marc Soler - and one man in the break ahead, Nelson Oliveira.
105km to go: Eight clear
Martin has joined the leaders, as has his polka-dot jersey Tim Wellens and the Frenchman David Gaudu of Groupama-FDJ. They have quickly opened up a gap of over a minute on this descent. Could this finally be the day's break? With both KOM rivals in it, that looks likely.
Woods and Bennett on that peloton protest
Here was our interview with Michael Woods about that peloton protest at the start of today's stage...
Michael Woods - 'The UCI made a mistake, you can't change time gap rules on a whim'
And, for the interest of impartiality, we'll also here from George Bennett, the Jumbo-Visma teammate of Primoz Roglic, who moved into the red jersey because of that decision by the race jury to award him (and the top seven) a three-second gap yesterday.
George Bennett - 'Jumbo-Visma support the GC protest even if it means we lose the red jersey'
113km to go: Too late for Martin
Wellens puts in an attack from the pack, which is countered by Martin. He then bounds clear in pursuit of the five leaders - but runs out of road before the summit, so all those KOM points are taken away before the Frenchman gets the chance to add to his tally. So, it's a neutralised crossing of the summit in the polka-dot battle.
The five leaders are: Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ), Michael Storer and Mark Donovan (both Sunweb), and Niklas Eg (Trek-Segafredo). It was the Portuguese, Oliveira, who took the 10pts over the summit of the Alto de la Colladona. It's all downhill from here... until the next climb, that is.
114km to go: Five clear
Two Sunweb riders, one from Movistar, one from Trek and one from Groupama. Martin has not taken the bait and a gap has opened. Meanwhile, Carapaz - in green today - is totally isolated. It appears that all his Ineos teammates have been dropped from this main pack. That doesn't bode well. Actually, Andrey Amador is there - so the Ecuadorian has one teammate.
We're hearing that Marc Soler of Movistar has also been distanced, which isn't ideal for the Spanish stage two winner, who is currently 10th on GC.
115km to go: All over for Wellens
All that work for nothing. Well, he did take 3pts on that first climb, I suppose. Now, can Cofidis finish it off with Martin? There's still a bit of this climb to go and more attacks are coming in. By the same token, rafts of riders have been distanced - including Ineos duo Chris Froome and Ivan Sosa, the latter celebrating his 23rd birthday.
117km to go: Martin mops up breakaway
Only Wellens and Perichon are left out ahead thanks to the pace being set by Cofidis and Martin, the man in polka dots, who is doing his best to reel in the Belgian before the summit. With another 4km to go to the top, he's timed it pretty perfectly. He has less than 10 seconds to close now - and this pacing has also stretched the pack out and created many gaps. Martin may even be able to put himself in the next break off the front of the race accordingly.
120km to go: Alto de la Colladona
We're onto the first of those four Cat. climbs - the Alto de la Colladona, which is 7km long at 6.5%. Tim Wellens pushes on pretty much from the outset and takes Pierre-Luc Perichon with him. The Frenchman will do his best to beat the Belgian to the summit to protect teammate Guillaume Martin's lead in the KOM standings. The gap back to the pack now, though, is only 35 seconds now.
Welcome to Contador Weekend
Nothing separates the top two rivals for red as the race embarks on a decisive weekend in the Asturias mountains that pays homage to two of Alberto Contador's most treasured wins on the Vuelta. Can either Primoz Roglic or Richard Carapaz channel their inner Pistolero and pull the trigger on the Alto de la Farrapona and the mythical Angliru?
128km to go: 12 clear but gap stays small
Those two groups have merged but Cofidis have yet to give up the ghost and lead the pack which is still only 48 seconds down. The first of four Cat.1 climbs is coming up.
135km to go: Four chasers
Those four chasers are Ivo Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates), Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo), Tsgabu Grmay (Mitchelton-Scott) and Gino Mader (NTT Pro Cycling). They have almost made the connection while, behind, it's the Cofidis team of Guillaume Martin who are pulling hard. They don't want a strong break going clear and taking all the KOM points from their man Martin. But the gap is now 45 seconds.
140km to go: Bennett in trouble
Irishman Sam Bennett struggled yesterday and it's going to be another long day. He's already been distanced and is fighting back on with Deceuninck Quick-Step teammate Michael Morkov. Meanwhile, we have four riders who are trying to bridge over...
144km to go: 25 seconds now
The gap is growing, but slowly. Team Sunweb, in particular, were trying to send men (or puppies, according to Carlton Kirby in the commentary box) up the road to join the fun because they missed it. We then had a rider from UAE Team Emirates going clear of the Jumbo-led peloton. For now, the eight leaders have a gap of 25 seconds. With no Guillaume Martin here, if this finally gets some daylight it could be good news for Tim Wellens in his bid to take back the polka dot jersey.
148km to go: Eight out ahead
Wellens has now been joined by seven riders: the aforementioned duo, plus Wellens' Lotto Soudal teammate Tosh van der Sande, Ion Izagirre (Astana), Magnus Cort (EF Pro Cycling), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Cofidis) and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar). But the gap is very, very small - and many riders are trying to force themselves off the front to bridge over.
155km to go: Two in pursuit
Wellens is still digging deep to get away but his advantage is very slim. He now has Frenchman Clement Champoussin (Ag2R-La Mondiale) and Spain's Gonzalo Serrano (Caja Rural) in pursuit. They're about 10 seconds back with the pack another 10 seconds adrift.
160km to go: Wellens takes KOM points
It's the Belgian, the former polka dot jersey, who takes maximum three points over the top of this first climb to close the gap a little on the pursuing Martin, who now fronts the strung-out peloton. The gap is pretty small.
162km to go: Wellens goes clear
Three riders went clear including Michael Storer of Sunweb but that has come to nothing. Now it's Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) who is on the attack with the polka dot jersey Guillaume Martin of Cofidis in pursuit.
168km to go: Alto de la Campa
We're onto the Alto de la Campa (8.3km at a gentle 4%). Seven riders have gone clear with a small gap.
More information about that protest is filtering through. Apparently many teams protested - including the Jumbo-Visma team of Primoz Roglic, who perhaps didn't bank on being back in red for this key stage.
You'd think that Ineos would be happy not to have the extra stress of defending the red jersey today - and we're only talking a few seconds in a race that clearly won't be won by a few seconds. I appreciate that it's more the principal, but there are more worthy hills to die on. Just now we had an interview with Michael Woods who said that EF Pro Cycling would have ridden the finish differently had they known their man Carthy could have lost time as he did - which seems a bit rich.
170km to go: They're off!
When Guillen finally waves the red flag to get things under way, it looks like the protest is going to continue. There's no reaction from the peloton, who roll along at a snail's pace. But this go-slow doesn't last long. There's a rider from Lotto Soudal who's pushing – and that has coaxed a reaction from a handful of others. It's pretty much uphill from the outset with that first Cat.3 climb starting straight away.
Riders finally on the move
After that small protest at the start, the peloton has finally got going. Chris Frooms is particularly animated – the Ineos teammate of Carapaz making his thoughts known to Javier Guillen, the race director. "You can't start the stage with one rule and then end with another," Froome says, or words to that affect. It appears that the jury seemed to tweak the rules – or interpret them differently – and that caught out the GC favourites.
Today's Stage 11 profile
After an initial Cat.3 climb there are four Cat.1 climbs of increasing severity and height. It's by far the hardest stage of this race so far - and it could be a key day in the battle for red, not to mention polka dots too.
Protest before the start!
There's been a slight delay at the start because of a rider protest regarding yesterday's ruling that gave Primoz Roglic the red jersey. Initially, the pack was given the same time as the Slovenian stage winner, but then the race jury awarded him and the first raft of eight riders a gap of three seconds over the next group, which included Richard Carapaz, and then 10 seconds over the next group, which contained Hugh Carthy. That, in short, have the Jumbo-Visma rider the race lead again after he and Carapaz were tied for time at the top.
Stage 10 recap: Roglic in red
Miss Primoz Roglic going into red? Catch up with the highlights!
La Vuelta Stage 10 highlights - 'One of those great days that comes along unexpectedly'
HOW TO WATCH LA VUELTA LIVE – TV & LIVE STREAMING
The Vuelta a Espana is live on Eurosport, eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport App.
Each day Eurosport.co.uk will stream uninterrupted coverage of each stage. We will also have rolling coverage online on the website and our social channels.
And don't forget, we are bringing you daily podcasts from the Bradley Wiggins Show - check in with your each evening.