John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) handily won the Vuelta a España’s stage 17 sprint into A Coruña, despite a disorganized final kilometer of racing.
After a long-range breakaway, two riders — Elia Favilli (Lampre-Merida) and Rohan Dennis (BMC) remained out front in the stage’s finale.
They were brought back within the final kilometer of racing. From there, Degenkolb expertly surfed wheels and found the right opening to uncork his sprint with only a few hundred meters to go.
Though Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) challenged on the German’s right side, Degenkolb would not be denied his fourth stage win of the 2014 Vuelta.
“It looked easy, but it really wasn’t today,” said Degenkolb. “We had to work really hard for it, harder than the other days. We did everything for a sprint today and it turned out to be the right decision.
“It was a hard final, but we looked at the last ten kilometers yesterday, and today everything worked out as we had planned it on the rest day. There are not so many opportunities anymore for sprints but for sure I will help to defend the top-ten place of Warren. Friday may be an opportunity for me if I can survive the climbs and I will do my best to defend the green jersey.”
With a lumpy 190.7-kilometer stage ahead, a group of five made the breakaway move.
Lluis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural), Favilli, Daniel Teklehaymanot (MTN-Qhubeka), Dennis, and Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) were all in the mix.
The peloton gave the break a bit of leash, but never more than about four minutes.
With 10 kilometers to go, cooperation broke down in the break. Dennis, Favilli, and Jungels got away. At that point, the gap had fallen to under one minute.
With 8.9km to go, Guillaume Levarlet (Cofidis) and Johan Le Bon (FDJ.fr) made a move, escaping briefly from the peloton. However, their attempt to bridge amounted to nothing.
With five kilometers left, Sky was in control at the front of the bunch, with Peter Kennaugh driving the pace.
Dennis and Favilli’s desperation move
Entering the final kilometers, the three leaders were tantalizingly close to the field.
The break dangled off the front with 1.5km left.
Then, Dennis and Favilli went all in, making a final attack. Dennis put in a huge turn of speed, then Favilli pulled through.
However, the duo was caught in finale.
“We all did our turns until about 30 kilometers to go,” Dennis said. “Then Bob Jungels attacked and from then on, it was just pain. I could tell at a kilometer to go that we probably were not going to make it. It was close — maybe next time.”
Lampre-Merida led out a markedly disorganized sprint.
As the bunch fanned across the road in the last few hundred meters, Degenkolb emerged from the group, sprinting side-by-side with Matthews.
Degenkolb, the green jersey-wearer, would not be denied, and outsprinted the young Austrailian. Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) finished third, indicating his form ahead of world championships.
The overall standings remain unchanged after the day’s sprint stage.
Thursday, the Vuelta returns to the mountains with a 157km stage from A Estrada to Monte Castrove. Meis. The peloton will face two category 2 climbs in the final 30 kilometers, one of which offers a summit finish.