Degenkolb Makes It Two in a Row
John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) has won his second consecutive stage of the Vuelta a Espana 2014. The German took a 13-up sprint to win the rolling, 180-km run from Priego de Cordoba to Ronda in 4:41:47. Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) took second, and Marco Hofland (Belkin) finished third. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) remains the red jersey.
As has been the case throughout the early stages of this Vuelta, heat was a factor. Fifteen km into the proceedings, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belisol) sallied off of the front. The peloton kept the duo on a short leash, with Orica-GreenEdge, Giant-Shimano, and FDJ.fr ensuring that the escapees’ advantage was never much more than two and half minutes.
With 70 km remaining, Martin suffered a mechanical, and the peloton reeled him in. Ligthart remained in the lead and led the field by 1:50 with 60 km left.
Twenty km later, Tinkoff-Saxo Bank took over at the front and led the peloton into a crosswind. The field split into three groups, and a number of contenders were caught flatfooted, including Garmin-Sharp’s Ryder Hesjedal and Andrew Talansky. Hesjedal lost three minutes and saw his GC hopes diminish. Cadel Evans (BMC) and Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) were in the second group, while Degenkolb, Matthews, and Bouhanni made it to the first group. Tinkoff, Katusha, and Sky did the heavy lifting in front, and the bunch reeled in Ligthart with 33 km left.
The second group split and the part of it that included Evans and Martin bridged up to the lead group. They reached it as the lead group began to ascend the Category 3 Puerto El Saltillo.
Tinkoff-Saxo Bank led the lead group up the climb. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked on the descent, but he was reeled in. Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) punctured but got back on.
Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo Bank led the field into the final km. With a kilometer and a half to go, BMC took over to set up Philippe Gilbert.
With 200 m left, Koen de Kort (Giant-Shimano) got separated from Degenkolb and started sprinting. Gilbert came around the Dutchman and looked like a winner until Degenkolb burst into the lead on the right. Bouhanni attempted to squeeze between Degenkolb and the barriers but was boxed in. The Frenchman protested that the Giant-Shimano man had diverted from his line, but to no avail.
Degenkolb pointed out that Giant-Shimano had to play two roles today. It had to move Warren Barguil into the lead group when the field split, and it had to lead out Degenkolb. “The guys worked hard today when it split to bring Warren back up to the front and also Tobias [Ludvigsson] pulled all day then was in the front split to keep us out of the wind until the climb,” Degenkolb said.
“At the end we made the best out of the situation with just three of us,” he continued. ”I had to improvise after nearly missing a corner. I lost the wheel and had to close the gap but luckily I was strong enough to still sprint.”
In the overall, Matthews leads Nairo Quintana (Movistar) by 0:13 and Valverde by 0:20. The race leadership will change after Stage 6, which has the Vuelta’s first mountaintop finish. The 167.1-km ride from Benalmadena to La Zubia will take the riders over a Category 3 ascent and a Category 2 climb before they take on a steep Category 1 ascent to the finish. And in 40-degree Celsius heat, no less! Matthews will lose his red jersey, and he knows it. To whom will he lose it? Quintana? Chris Froome (Sky)? Who will win the stage? Quintana? Froome? Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)? For the answers to these questions and others, check in at www.roadcycling.com!