Stage 5: Logroño – Logroño 168km

Vuelta a España 5: Degenkolb sprints to second stage win

John Degenkolb took his second stage win in the Vuelta today (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

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John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) won stage 5 of the Vuelta a Epaña
with a blistering turn of speed in Logroño. The German picked up his
second grand tour stage of the week – and his career – with Daniele
Bennati (Radioshack-Nissan) second and Gianni Meersman (Lotto Belisol
Team) third.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) finished safely in the bunch to retain his one-second lead over Chris Froome (Team Sky).

Despite Degenklob’s unmatchable speed, Argos had a difficult time
controlling the peloton but they timed their lead-out to perfection. And
when Bennati launched an early sprint and looked to be heading for the
win, Degenkolb closed the gap himself before coming around the Italian’s
left-hand side.

The 168-kilometre stage was a deviation from the Vuelta’s recent
blueprint of hilltop finishes and provided a rare chance for the
sprinters to shine. Eight laps of a 21-kilometre circuit, it resembled a
downtown criterium at times, with only lone escapee Javier Chacon
(Andalucia) showing any sign of intent. His attack inside the first
kilometre saw the 27-year-old Spaniard build up a lead close to 12
minutes after just 40 kilometres of racing.

With Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank) and his rivals
taking a day off, the bunch cruised through the opening laps.
Argos-Shimano and Rodriguez’s Katusha team tapped through at a moderate
tempo before Chacon finally began to wilt in the Spanish heat.

FDJ-BigMat joined the stop-start pace setting but with 38 kilometres
remaining the gap had dwindled to two minutes. By now Chacon was
stuffing ice into his jersey but when he missed a bottle through the
feedzone his day was almost over. After losing 30 seconds in two
kilometres, he was finally reeled in with 29 kilometres remaining.

The capture saw a surge from teams consisting of GC contenders and
sprinters, all aware that the increased pace would leave them in a
weakened position at the back of the peloton. Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank,
Garmin-Sharp, Sky and Liquigas-Cannondale attempted to assert authority
but with over 20 kilometres to go there was a general reluctance to
control the entire peloton. This was a day off, after all.

With one lap remaining Quick Step, with Tony Martin marshalling their
troops, lit the touch paper for a possible Gert Steegmans sprint.
Argos, who had set tempo throughout the early stages of the race, were
still waiting in the wings and it was Euskaltel who, presumably hoping
to keep Anton out of trouble, gave QuickStep some assistance.

Liquigas and Rabobank were next, with Flecha beckoning his Sky
teammates to do the same. With 8 kilometre,s remaining Lotto and BMC had
stretched the field out but control for any squad proved short-lived.
GreenEdge and FDJ joined the scramble at the head of the field, the
relative easy profile of the stage providing the majority of the fast
men peloton with the confidence to compete for the win.

Steegmans had meanwhile latched onto Argos’s sprint train, while
Froome helped Ben Swift cut through the peloton. Argos’s patience
appeared to be threatened when RadioShack wound the pace up with 2
kilometres to go. However, despite Hayden Roulston’s efforts, Bennati
was alone and unprotected when Degenklob’s final leadout man hit the
front. Meersman was briefly blocked as Raymond Kreder and Elia Viviani
Liquigas-Cannondale fought for position. But despite the frantic run-in,
the sprint was relatively clear cut. Bennati’s early surge created a
visible gap and only Degenklob could latch himself onto the Italian’s
wheel before taking the win by half a wheel.