Vuelta a España: John Degenkolb sprints to second victory in Logroño circuit race
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vuelta a España: John Degenkolb sprints to second victory in Logroño circuit race

by Ben Atkins at 12:14 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Race Reports and Results
 
German sprinter overcomes Daniele Bennati on the line after an easy day for the peloton

John DegenkolbJohn Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) staked further claim to the title of fastest sprinter at the 2012 Vuelta a España, as he took his second victory on the fifth stage circuit race in Logroño. The German sprinter was initially surprised by the early jump from Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan), but managed to come around the Italian in the closing metres and hit the line almost half a length clear.

Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol) finished third, ahead of French champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat) and Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale), at the end of the 168km stage.

“The preparation of the sprint was really good for us,” said Degenkolb. “Before the race at the team meeting, we said that we’d like a front group as small as possible. With only one guy at the front, it was perfect for our plan. Our team and Katusha controlled the race together.

“My teammates brought me up to the front with six or seven kilometres to go,” he explained. “Once again, Koen de Kort positioned me on the wheel of German rider Simon Geschke who is my lead out man. I’d really like to know how fast we crossed the finishing line! It was extremely fast…

“I didn’t expect to win so easily,” he added. “It wasn’t easy but it was a comfortable advantage that I took. Last year at the [Critérium du] Dauphiné I also won two stages. One was in a hill and the second one was on the flat where I beat a very fast finisher like Edvald Boasson Hagen.

“I knew that I had a possibility for winning today. I had the confidence as well.”

The only action in the first half of the stage - which consisted of eight laps of a 21km circuit around the Rioja wine country - came from Javier Chacon (Andalucía), who escaped in the first kilometre and was allowed to break away alone. The rider from Almeria - who’d been part of the breakaway on stage two - managed to pull out an advantage of almost 12 minutes in the first half of the stage, but he was steadily pulled back again and caught with 29km to go.

The final lap and a half saw a battle between the various sprinters’ teams, although the pace remained relatively low as none wanted to commit their forces too early. Argos-Shimano came to the head into the final kilometre though, with Geschke leading out Degenkolb.

Bennati jumped early however, and appeared to have got clear, but the German jumped on to his wheel and came past him on the line.

After a relatively easy day for the peloton, the general classification remained unchanged; with Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) holding on to the red jersey, one second ahead of Chris Froome (Team Sky, and five ahead of Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank).

An easy day as one rider decides to go alone

The 21km circuit, which the peloton was to complete eight times, featured very little in the way of genuine climbing, with its highest point - of 490 metres just before halfway - just 105 metres higher than the low point at the start/finish. Because of this, there were no mountains points to be awarded on the stage and, after a couple of hard days, it was a perfect opportunity for the peloton to take it easy.

Chacón was in no mood for an easy day however, and jumped away in the opening kilometre; he was the only one however, and nobody went with him. By the time he had completed the first lap, the Andalucía rider was 8’02” clear, which had grown to 11’55” by the time he was approaching the end of the second.

This was the point at which Argos-Shimano decided that enough was enough however, and began the long, steady task of pulling him back.

There was a brief flurry in the peloton towards the end of lap three, as Ben Swift (Team Sky) outsprinted Tom Dumoulin (Argos-Shimano) to take second place at the intermediate sprint, which came 400 metres before the finish line. The gap to Chacón was down to 8’37” at this point, and still gradually falling.

The second intermediate sprint came close to the end of lap five, with Chacón’s lead now down to just 4’30”. The Katusha team moved to the head of the peloton - moving ahead of Argos-Shimano, who had led until that point - to protect Rodríguez’ lead in the general classification. To this end Gatis Sumkulis jumped clear to take second place - and the four seconds bonus - with Viviani leading the peloton over behind him; job done, the Latvian drifted back into the fold, and Argos-Shimano took over once more.

With 50km to go Chacón’s advantage had been whittled down to just 2’45’ and, as FDJ-BigMat came forward to help the chase, he had just 2’15” with two laps to go. This disappeared quickly in the gently uphill first half of the penultimate lap, and he was finally caught with 29km to go; having been alone in the lead for some 139km.

The Lone Ranger is caught and the sprinters make ready

With the break over many of the sprinters’ teams moved to the front to prevent any counterattacks from being launched, with riders from Garmin-Sharp, Vacansoleil-DCM and AG2R La Mondiale all present. As the peloton approached the bell however, Omega Pharma-Quick Step came forward in force, with Lotto-Belisol and RadioShack-Nissan in close attendance.

Liquigas-Cannondale took over into the final 15km but nobody wanted to put too much into the pacesetting, and use up their riders too early. With ten kilometres to go Omega Pharma-Quick Step moved up once more, but Orica-GreenEdge, RadioShack-Nissan and Lotto-Belisol all wanted their say.

The final five kilometres saw a battle Argos-Shimano and Omega Pharma-Quick Step commence, as both teams sought to get their sprint trains going. The pace was still not particularly high however, and second place over all Chris Froome (Team Sky) moved alongside Argos-Shimano as he pulled Swift towards the front.

RadioShack-Nissan and Lotto-Belisol were at the head of affairs into the final kilometre, but Argos-Shimano was lined up behind them. Geschke then led Degenkolb up the middle of the road but, before the German was ready to launch his sprint, Bennati jumped.

Degenkolb jumped on his wheel however, and managed to come around him on the line to win by almost half a length.

Result stage 5
1. John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano
2. Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
3. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
4. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
5. Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
6. Raymond Kreder (Ned) Garmin-Sharp
7. Allan Davis (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
8. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
9. Loenardo Duque (Col) Cofidis
10. Pin Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM

Standings after stage 5
1. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha Team
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky @ 1s
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank @ 5s
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank @ 9s
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
6. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Team Sky @ 11s
7. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha Team @ 14s
8. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale @ 24s
9. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 36s
10. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank @ 46s

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