Vuelta a España: John Degenkolb gets number five on final stage as Contador wins
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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Vuelta a España: John Degenkolb gets number five on final stage as Contador wins

by Ben Atkins at 11:50 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Race Reports and Results
 
German sprinter the class of the field once more after mostly ceremonial stage

john degenkolbJohn Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) took his fifth victory of the 2012 Vuelta a España, in the largely ceremonial final stage between Cercedilla and the Paseo de la Castellana boulevard, in the Spanish capital Madrid. The German sprinter was once again the class of the field as he was led into the final 200 metres by his team, and crossed the line a full length ahead of Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Leopard).

“I’m delighted,’ said Degenkolb immediately after the stage. “It’s unbelievable to win as much as five stages in only one Vuelta. For three weeks, my team and I have been very united. We’ve suffered a lot in the climbs but we kept in mind that final stage in Madrid. We’ve remained focused at 100% today. In the last half kilometre, I had two fresh guys in front of me. Koen de Kort took over from Simon Geschke at 450 metres before the line and he gave me the way with 200 metres to go.

“I went full gas,” he added. “I’m just satisfied really.”

Behind the sprinters though, was Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), who crossed the line celebrating his second career victory in his home Tour. As he finished the stage Contador held up seven fingers in the air; the number of Grand Tours that he would now have on his palmares, had he not been stripped of the 2010 Tour de France, and 2011 Giro d’Italia.

The largely ceremonial 115km stage began slowly, with the action starting only when the peloton arrived on the streets of Madrid. Grischa Niermann (Rabobank) and David Moncoutié (Cofidis) - who were both to retire immediately after the race - were allowed ahead of the pack, to cross the finish line first to start the ten 5.7km finishing circuits.

After the two veterans were back in the peloton however, a more dangerous move broke away, consisting of Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM), Kevin Seeldraeyers (Astana), Sergio Carrasco and Javier Chacon (both Andalucía), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural).

With Argos-Shimano, Movistar and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank controlling the peloton behind it, the group was never allowed to get far ahead but, with just two laps to go, the six riders led by 21 seconds.

Team Sky joined the chase and quickly closed the group down however; Lagutin stubbornly persisted, and took the bell alone, but he was quickly back in the fold before he could get far into the final lap. Liquigas-Cannondale led for much of the circuit, but Argos-Shimano took over into the final kilometres and led Degenkolb into the finish, where he finished it off in style for the fifth time in the race.

With no changes overall, Contador finished 1’16” ahead of second place Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and 1’37” ahead of Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha). By taking sixth on the stage though, Valverde took the points jersey from Rodriguez on the line, which meant he also took the combination classification from the Catalan. There were no climbs on the stage, and Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) had already wrapped up the mountains classification.

Nothing to play for but the kudos of a stage win… or is there?

The final stage of the 2012 Vuelta was to be the usual simple, ceremonial affair, with very little in the way of obstacles as the course gently descended into the Spanish capital. Once there, there would be ten laps of a 5.7km circuit on the Paseo de la Castellana, where the sprinters were expected to have their day.

Tradition dictated that there was to be no competition between the general classification riders - so Contador’s victory was assured, so long as he could finish the stage - while there were no climbs in the stage for anybody to be able to challenge Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) from taking the mountains jersey. Not all competitions were decided however, with plenty of points available in the stage.

Valverde had a possible chance of stealing the green jersey from Rodríguez on either of the two intermediate sprints - at the first and fourth crossing of the finish line - or at the stage finish. This would see the two riders tied on eight points in the combination classification, with the white jersey going to the one highest in the general classification, which would mean that Valverde would also take that from the Katusha rider.

There was very little action in the stage until the peloton arrived in Madrid, where Grischa Niermann and David Moncoutié were allowed off the front of the peloton. The two riders crossed the line for the first time - taking the major points and bonuses at the intermediate sprint - then shook hands before drifting back into the bunch.

Shortly afterwards though the group of Lagutin, Seeldraeyers, Carrasco, Chacon, Astarloza and Aramendia escaped.

Argos-Shimano was controlling the peloton, and quite happy to leave the six riders out front for a while. Movistar had other ideas though, with Valverde’s eye on the points jersey, and so the Spanish team began to drive the peloton on the approach to the second sprint at the end of lap three.

Movistar was unable to close the six riders down however, as they were all still working hard together, and Astarloza took the sprint from Carrasco and Seeldraeyers. Valverde’s team pulled away from the front, leaving the work to Skil-Shimano and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank once more.

The break never stood a chance as the sprinters line up for the finish

With two laps to go the sextet still had a lead of 21 seconds, until Team Sky joined the chase and quickly slashed this to just a handful of seconds as they turned at the top of the circuit. Lagutin was determined however, and persisted as the others were caught; the Uzbek champion was just a handful of seconds clear as he took the bell though, and was picked up shortly afterwards.

Liquigas-Cannondale then took over on behalf of Viviani; Valverde was lurking close to the front, but Rodríguez wasn’t far away. Argos-Shimano surged forward into the penultimate kilometre and came out of the final turn in full control of the peloton, leading Degenkolb under the flamme rouge and lining him up for the line.

With around 200 metres to go Degenkolb opened up his sprint with Bennati on his wheel; as they neared the line, Bennati came out from behind the German, with Viviani at his side, but couldn’t pull alongside him and had to be satisfied with third as the Liquigas-Cannondale rider came past him on the line.

“It looked like it would be an easy sprint but I have to say at age 32 I felt it today.  I came off the wheel of Degenkolb in a good position but he’s in such good form now.  To win in Madrid is a very special thing but I lacked some energy today and so I go home with one stage win.”

This was Degenkolb’s fifth stage of the race however, with the German proving to be by far the outstanding sprinter of the 2012 Vuelta. It was also Contador’s fifth Grand Tour victory; along with the 2008 Giro and Vuelta, and 2007 and 2009 Tours.

Result stage 21
1. John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
3. Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
4. Allan Davis (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
5. Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Garmin-Sharp
6. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
7. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
8. Zdeněk Štybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
9. Raymond Kreder (Ned) Garmin-Sharp
10. Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi

Final 2012 Vuelta a España standings
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 1’16”
3. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha Team @ 1’37”
4. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky @ 10’16”
5. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha Team @ 11’29”
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank @ 12’23”
7. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp @ 13’28”
8. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank @ 13’41”
9. Igor Antón (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 14’01”
10. Beñat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar Team @ 16’13”

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