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Giant-Shimano’s John Degenkolb won stage 12 of the Vuelta a España, again proving to be one of the best sprinters in Spain’s grand tour.
The German’s strong team made all the difference in the technical final kilometers of the day’s flat, eight-lap circuit race around Logroño.
At the end of the 166.4km race, it came down to a stifling leadout from Ramon Sinkeldam (Giant-Shimano), who strung out a small front group of 13, delivering Degenkolb to the line.
Though Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) challenged in the final meters, Degenkolb would not be denied victory, confirming again that he is a deserving wearer of the green points jersey. The general classification’s red jersey stays with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and the top-10 overall standings are unchanged.
“The final was really crazy,” said Degenkolb. “The key to our success was that we kept calm. It wasn’t perfect or how we planned it to go as we lost each other on the narrow roads and roundabouts.
“Finally it was Ramon [Sinkeldam] and I at the front and we rode perfectly. I kept shouting to stay calm and not to panic, and he was great and did a perfect job.
“He was disappointed not to have played a part in the last two wins so it was great for him to play such a big role today. It’s nice to see him develop in the team and I’m really happy to get another win like this.”
“Everybody knew that with 4km to go it was really tight, so both GC teams and sprinters teams wanted to be at the front,” said Sinkeldam. “It was a real fight and was really hectic. We all lost each other but I found John at the front and held him in around fifth wheel in the final kilometers.
“It worked out well as there was always someone to pull on the front so I could wait until 500m which was perfect. It feels great to actually be able to do my job perfectly. It is my role in the team here to do this and for it to go perfectly in a grand tour and for your sprinter to win is quite rare, so it feels great.”
Krizek’s long, lonely road
Matthias Krizek (Cannondale) took off 4km into the stage. He quickly opened a lead of a few minutes.
After 16km of racing, Krizek had a 5:08 lead over the peloton. From there, his advantage swelled to seven minutes at the end of the second 20.8km lap.
The leader’s gap reached 9:00 after about 55 kilometers, but that would not last for long.
When the peloton started the sixth lap, it was only 3:52 behind the leader.
Krizek made it to the final circuit with an advantage of 1:27. FDJ.fr rode tempo at the front of the peloton. The sprinters wanted to have their day before the Vuelta returns to the mountains.
The catch was made with 12 kilometers left.
Degenkolb again proves unbeatable
Heading into the finale, BMC and Tinkoff-Saxo kept the pace high, protecting their GC leaders.
With four kilometers to go, the race for the sprint was on, as the field tackled several sharp corners. Contador was impeccably positioned in the front, avoiding the dangerous fight for position behind.
With 2.4km left, BMC’s Manuel Quinziato started the hostilities, jumping off the front of the field.
His advantage was minimal at best. Tinkoff-Saxo soon brought him back.
Seeing the red kite at 1km to go, Lampre-Merida’s Roberto Ferrari wound up the pace, splitting the field through the final sharp corners. His efforts were aided by a crash behind that claimed several favorites, including Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge).
Yauheni Hutarovich followed Ferrari’s move, but he spent his matches too soon.
Sinkeldam came through with an impeccable leadout for Degenkolb. Boonen made a final push toward the line on the German’s right side, but it was not enough. Degenkolb cruised to his third victory at this year’s Vuelta.
Degenkolb struggled in Wednesday’s stage, but seemed back to form on Thursday, despite an infection. “Yesterday my leg was hurting and it was really difficult because I have a small infection,” he said. “It is nothing to worry about, though, and you just have to overcome it.
“I feel great, I was hoping to win but I wasn’t overconfident,” said Degenkolb. “I pushed for the sprint at the right time which was fundamental. The whole team did a great job.
“For the green jersey, we will take it day by day as there are a lot of tough stages coming up where it will be hard to score points.”
Boonen finished second, and Jacopo Guarnieri (Astana) was third. The GC remains unchanged after stage 12.
“I was in good position and even the power was good,” Boonen said. “But today to take the win, I had [to] 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.”
The Vuelta heads back to the mountains on Friday with a 188.7km stage from Belorado to Obregón. There will be three categorized climbs along the way, but a long, lumpy run-in to the finish.