Degenkolb strikes for quick Vuelta stage double

Giant-Shimano’s John Degenkolb won his second straight stage of the Vuelta a Espana ahead of a frustrated Nacer Bouhanni in Rondo yesterday while some smart thinking saw Chris Froome pull back a couple of seconds in the general classification battle.

Degenkolb strikes for quick Vuelta stage double

Although there was a lumpy finish to the 180km stage from Priego de Cordoba, it flattened out in time for the sprint teams to move into position after Team Sky and Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo had led the peloton towards Rondo.

Degenkolb hit the front first as the line approached, and Bouhanni’s (FDJ) attempts to catch him appeared to be hampered by the crowd’s thunder sticks as he tried to ride along the barriers on the slight incline to the line.

The bunch finish saw Michael Matthews retain the leader’s red jersey, 13 seconds ahead of Movistar’s Nairo Quintana after picking up a little time thanks to a late split.

Froome is 38 seconds back overall, having picked up a couple off Quintana when some quick thinking saw him burst out of the pack to nab some bonus time on the day’s intermediate sprint.

With Matthews in red, Degenkolb had been nursing the points leaders’ green jersey on this stage but now holds it outright after Matthews failed to feature in the sprint.

The stage began with a two-man break featuring Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s time-trialling star Tony Martin and Lotto Belisol’s Pim Ligthart, and they built an advantage of more than three minutes in the early going.

With the peloton taking it steady on another sweltering day, Martin might have had the engine to keep the break clear, but when he suffered a mechanical problem and dropped back into the pack, Ligthart was left on a doomed mission.

The Dutchman would cross the intermediate sprint in Campillos first before Froome made his move behind to snare two seconds which could prove very useful down the line.

The teams in the general classification hunt took control for the category three Puerto el Saltillo, the only categorised climb of the day, and with the pace stepped up and crosswinds blowing, there was a split in the pack.

Garmin-Sharp were among those to get caught, costing GC hopeful Andrew Talansky almost four minutes and perhaps promoting Irishman Dan Martin to the role of team leader for the rest of this race as he managed to stay with the main pack.

Bouhanni, still upset at being squeezed, appealed the result to the race jury but was swiftly denied.

But while the Frenchman fumed, Froome and Team Sky could reflect on a job well done after covering the moves of their rivals and picking up a small piece of ground.

“The guys did a good job today,” sports director Dario Cioni said on the team’s website. “We wanted to be at the front all day as you never know what can happen.

“As it turned out it worked to our favour as most of the team were towards the front when Saxo made their move – so we had no trouble when it split apart.”

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