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by Shane Stokes
September 5, 2014
Repeating the victory he took in Logroño two years ago, John Degenkolb again sped to a sprint win in the Spanish city at the end of stage 12 of this year’s Vuelta.
The German rider was part of a small group who fought it out for the victory, with a crash inside the final two kilometres bringing down rivals such as Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr), Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge) and Andrea Guardini (Astana) and splitting the peloton. It greatly reduced the list of those in the running, and once he came off the wheel of Giant-Shimano team-mate Ramon Sinkeldam, Degenkolb had little problem in taking his third victory of this year’s race.
Former world champion Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma Quick Step) was glued to his wheel but was unable to make any progress from there, going across the line in the same position he started his sprint.
Astana’s Jacopo Guarnieri salvaged something after Guardini’s crash with third, while Cannondale’s Peter Sagan and Lampre-Merida’s Maximiliano Richeze were fourth and fifth.
Earlier, Cannondale’s Matthias Krizek attacked and built a lead of over nine minutes, picking up the two intermediate sprints in the process. His move was never given enough rope to go all the way to the finish, though, and he was hauled back twelve kilometres from the end of the 166.4 kilometre Logroño circuit race.
Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff Saxo team did most of the work from there until the final kilometre, then Lampre-Merida took over to try to grab a victory.
As the crash happened well inside the final three kilometres of the stage, all of the riders directly involved in the crash or delayed as a result of it were given the same time as the winner.
As a result Contador remains in the red jersey of race leader, twenty seconds ahead of his closest rival Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Chris Froome (Sky) remain third and fourth overall, one minute eight seconds and one minute 20 seconds back, while Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing Team) stay fifth and sixth.
Speaking after the finish, Degenkolb said that he didn’t see the crash as it was behind him. “I had no time to look back,” he said. “I was there to do my own sprint. I focused on myself and on my lead out man. Ramon Sinkeldam did a great job today. It’s very nice to finish the job like this. At the end it’s perfect but before it was very hectic to sit in this position.”
He explained that he is relieved to clock up his third stage win, having incurred injuries earlier this week. “A couple of days ago I crashed pretty hard. I’m still suffering from that crash,” he said. “All the climbs also cost me a lot of energy. I hope that my legs will feel better in the next few days but my condition is still not perfect. It’s a really big injury with a lot of skin off and I miss a lot of power in my legs.”
This concerns him for the upcoming worlds, which are a big target for him. “The Vuelta is a great race and it’s also a good preparation for the worlds,” he said. “But in relation to setting goals for myself at the world championship, my legs have to be better than they are now.”
Runner-up Boonen stalled in launching his sprint and blamed this for his second place. “I was in good position and even the power was good,” he said. “But today to take the win I had launch first. The speed was really high and it was clear the guy who started first would have won the race.
“Degenkolb was watching me and technically he was perfect. He used the road perfectly, launched at the perfect time, and was super strong. If I would have started a little bit earlier I would have won I think, but that’s the way it goes in the sprint. It’s the first time I’ve sprinted this week and it’s nice to be there to contest a sprint again. But to be honest, I can’t be happy, because I was aiming to win.”
As for the third-placed finisher Guarnieri, he said that he wasn’t originally racing for the stage win, but rather was concentrating on lead–out duties until things unravelled. “I wasn’t racing to win the stage. I wasted a lot of energy to bring Guardini to the front but he lost my wheel with 1.5km to go. That’s where the crash happened, I guess,” he said.
“I’m third behind Degenkolb and Boonen. That’s flattering but through the years, I’ve lost the speed I had for sprinting myself. I do a better job as a lead out man. I’ve seen how Giant-Shimano worked today. They had a fantastic train. Boonen was perfectly positioned behind Degenkolb but he couldn’t pass him.”
Although the Vuelta a España already had a rest day in recent days, the race organisers gave the peloton what they said would be another break of sorts with the 166.4 kilometre twelfth stage. Starting and finishing in Logroño, the mainly flat leg was tailor made for a bunch sprint and was therefore expected to be run off at a steady pace prior to the speed ramping up at the end.
The profile was bereft of any categorised climbs. It featured intermediate sprints in Logroño at kilometre 41.6 and 124.8, with time bonuses on offer.
Early on Cannondale’s Matthias Krizek attacked and by the time he reached that first intermediate sprint, he had built a lead of over eight minutes. FDJ’s Nacer Bouhanni nabbed the points for second, while Michael Valgren Andersen (Tinkoff Saxo) was third.
Bouhanni had started the day 13 points behind the green jersey John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) and the two points he gained inched him closer.
Krizek continued to build an advantage and by kilometre 53 he had nine minutes and 18 seconds. This prompted the sprinters’ teams to knuckle down and FDJ.fr and Giant-Shimano combined to chase. Ten kilometres later they had cut the gap by a minute and by kilometre 75 it was hacked down to seven minutes.
Krizek knew his task was an extremely difficult one but plugged on. He had just three minutes 22 seconds at the 110 kilometre point. By the time he reached the second intermediate sprint at kilometre 124.8, he had increased that to three minutes 40 seconds.
Bouhanni was again second there, adding two more points to his total, while Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff Saxo) was third. Contador’s team-mates were going for the bonus seconds in order to prevent Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) from reducing his 20 second deficit.
Krizek pushed on but with the FDJ.fr team chasing hard, he had less than a minute and a half with one lap to go. He was finally reeled in with twelve kilometres remaining, bringing his long day out front to an end.
From that point a bunch sprint looked almost certain. However the teams of the general classification riders wanted to keep them out of trouble and consequently the BMC Racing Team and then Tinkoff Saxo did the pacesetting as the line drew closer.
With 2.5 kilometres left Manuel Quinziato (BMC Racing Team) jumped hard and tried to get a gap, but Tinkoff Saxo hauled him back after 700 metres.
Tinkoff was still at the front heading under the kite, then Lampre-Merida finally hit the front. Behind, a considerable number of riders hit the deck including Bouhanni, Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge), reducing the number of riders in contention for the win to a handful.
John Degenkolb still had a team-mate left and received a good leadout from Ramon Sinkeldam. Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma Quick Step) sat on his wheel, waiting for the right moment, but was unable to get any closer once the sprint started. The Giant-Shimano rider consequently blasted home first ahead of the Belgian and Jacopo Guarnieri (Astana).
The general classification riders came in almost a minute back, but once the race judges looked at the delay caused by the crash, they were all given the same time. It means that things are as they were heading into stage 13, a lumpy 188.7 kilomere race from Belorado to Obregon Parque de Cabárceno.