Degenkolb Dusts Field in Stage 4 of Vuelta a Espana
John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) has won Stage 4 of the Vuelta a Espana 2014. Degenkolb dusted the field on a hot day in Cordoba to take the hilly, 164.7-km ride from Mairena del Alcor to Cordoba in 4:02:55. Vicente Reynes (IAM Cycling) and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) finished second and third, respectively, and Matthews remains the red jersey.
Throughout the Vuelta, heat has been a problem, and today was no exception. The temperature peaked at 40 degrees Celsius. Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Francisco Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Sebastien Turgot (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and Gert Joeaar (Cofidis) were not intimidated, however. The quartet sallied off of the front in the early km and led the field by nearly five minutes at 20 km. Orica-GreenEdge went to the front on behalf of race leader Matthews and pegged the lead at about two and a half minutes.
On the approach to the day’s first climb, the Category 3 Alto de San Jeronimo, the gap between bunch and break narrowed to 1:50. Ahead, Turgot dropped off of the pace. Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) bridged up to the three leaders. He dropped Engoulvent and set off on their own.
Sky and Movistar led the peloton. The pace, the hills, and the heat dropped the sprinters in the field, and Thibaut Pinot, FDJ.fr’s GC man, was struggling because he had crashed. On the first descent into Cordoba, a regrouping occurred in the peloton. When the two leaders crossed the finish line for the first time, they led the pursuit by 0:36.
The bunch reeled in the break on the day’s final climb, the second category Alto del Catorce por Ciento. At the summit, Winner Ancona (Lampre-Merida) and Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) attacked, and Romain Sicard (Europcar) joined them. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) countered and bridged up to the move. With 20 km left, the quartet led a chase group containing Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) by 0:26. Cadel Evans (BMC) punctured and chased to get back on.
With 15 km to go, the escapees led the field by as many seconds. Yates stopped working with his captain in the pursuit. Sicard punctured, and Valverde did not make a solo attempt. The break fell apart at the seams, and the pursuit captured the fugitives.
During the final km, Orica-GreenEdge led the field. With 1.5 km remaining, Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) attacked. Giant-Shimano reeled in the Australian. Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp-POC) and Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) attacked, but Degenkolb, who had Matthews on his wheel, overtook them with 100 m to go and powered away from them to win by three bike lengths.
During Stage 3, Degenkolb struggled because of the heat, but the German rediscovered his strength today. The fact that he had not won since Gent-Wevelgem in March added to his motivation. “It’s been a long time now since my last victory,” Degenkolb said. “It was Gent-Wevelgem in March! Since then, I’ve tried to win stages here and there since, at the Tour of California, at the Tour de Suisse, at the Tour de France… I’ve come second many times [at Paris-Roubaix, GP Frankfurt, two stages of the Tour of California, German national championship, two stages of the Tour de France, Stage 2 of the Vuelta a Espana]. It didn’t make me unhappy, but it gave me the motivation to train hard and come back in good shape at races. After all these disappointments, it’s such a big relief to cross the line as a winner.”
In the overall, Matthews leads Nairo Quintana (Movistar) by 0:08 and Valverde by 0:15. Stage 5 will be another stage with a late climb in it. The 180-km run from Priego de Cordoba to Ronda will feature a Category 3 ascent that will summit 16 km from the finish. Who will win? Degenkolb again? Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr)? Matthews? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!