Degenkolb Bags Stage 17 of Vuelta a Espana
John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) has taken his fourth stage of this year’s Vuelta a Espana. The German took a bunch sprint to win the rolling, 190.7-km run from Ortigueira to A Coruna in 4:26:07. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek) finished second and third, respectively. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) remains the red jersey.
The day began with the news that bronchitis had forced Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) out of the race, as well as with a moment of silence for a Civil Guardsman who died in a motorcycle accident during Stage 16. A column of Civil Guardsmen rode alongside the peloton through the neutralized zone. When the racing started, Rohan Dennis (BMC), Bob Jungels (Trek), Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka), and Elia Favilli (Lampre-Merida) jumped clear. Because the stage was the last opportunity for a pure sprinter to win, the sprinters’ teams kept the quintet on a short leash, the escapees’ lead never going much beyond four minutes.
Dennis and Jungels were particularly active in the break, which led the field by two minutes with 25 km to go. Mas Bonet dropped back to the peloton, and Teklehaimanot was dropped with 10 km remaining. At this point, less than a minute separated the break from the bunch, which Giant-Shimano, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, and Orica-GreenEdge led.
Johan Le Bon (FDJ.fr) and Guillaume Levarlet (Cofidis) attempted to bridge up to the break, but the peloton reeled in the pair. With five km to go and the gap down to 0:39, Sky moved to the front to protect Chris Froome. With 1.5 km left, Dennis attacked and took Favilli with him. With 800 m remaining, the bunch reeled them in. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) made the first move and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida), who had Degenkolb on his wheel, countered. With 150 m to go, the Giant-Shimano man charged into the lead and just held off Matthews.
The sprint was chaotic, and Degenkolb said that teamwork and planning were the keys to the stage win. “It’s the fourth victory from strong teamwork,” he said, “and everybody can see that the spirit is very good in our team. It was a hard final, but we looked at the last 10 km yesterday, and today everything worked out as we had planned it on the rest day.”
In the overall, Contador leads Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) by 1:36 and Froome by 1:39. Stage 18 will be a medium mountain stage that should produce fireworks at the end. The 157-km ride from A Estrada to Monte Castrove, Meis will feature two Category 2 climbs in the last 30 km, including the ascent to the finish. The bonus seconds on offer at the finish will inspire the GC men to battle on the final climb. Who will win? Valverde? Contador? Froome? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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