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Vuelta ’12 St.5: Rapido Degenkolb!

Race Report: This stage was the first day of less than top excitement, but these things happen in a three week stage race. After the long solo escape by Javier Chacon of the Andalucнa team was swept up the sprinters jockeyed for position for the last 30 kilometres. John Degenkolb proved again he was the fastest bunch finisher in this Vuelta a Espaсa.

Today’s stage 5 starts and finishes in Logroсo, the capital city of the famous wine producing Rioja region, the 168 kilometre course is a slightly undulating circuit passing through the finish line eight times, 21 kilometres a lap. The last kilometre and a half is straight and flat and made for the perfect sprint, pity that the top sprinters and their lead-out teams were not here to contests this one. Another sunny day with temperatures in the 30’s degrees centigrade and practically no wind.

A Solo Escape
Javier Chacon of Andalucнa attacked in the first kilometre and by 25 kilometres he had a lead of over 9 minutes of the peloton. Chacon was Spanish under 23 time trial champion and won a stage in the Tour of Azerbaijan this year, his team manager; Antonio Cabello said the break was not planned, “Today we told the riders to take the stage quietly to recover from their efforts.”

After 40 kilometres Chacon had 12 minutes, but the sprinters teams had started to move to the front, mainly the Argos-Shimano team for their fastman; John Degenkolb. At the end of the third lap he passed through Logroсo with a smaller lead of only 8:40 and with less than 90 kilometres to go the man from Vйlez Rubio in the province of Almeria had just over 7 minutes in hand.

Katusha started to lend a hand to Argos-Shimano as Chacon came through the finish line for the fifth time and his lead had dropped to 4 minutes. Gartis Smukulis of Katusha came out the front of the bunch to take the time bonus at the sprint to protect Joaquim Rodriguez’s lead.

50 Kilometres to Go
Javier Chacon wasn’t riding as fast as he had been and his lead had crept below 3 minutes and it was only a matter of time before he was caught as FDJ-BigMat had come to the front to join Argos-Shimano and Katusha. Chacon was getting hot and put a bag of ice down the back of his race jersey and through the feed he took bottles and a can of coke as his lead was getting closer to the 1 minute mark.

As the last 30 kilometres came into sight, the other small Spanish team Caja Rural began to work. A tired Javier Chacon was caught with 28.5 Kilometres to go; he had been out front on his own for 138.5 kilometres. The bunch suddenly started to look a bit more interested in the race, Saxo/Tinkoff, Vacansoleil-DCM, Cofidis, Sky, Ag2r-La Mondiale, Garmin-Sharp and Omega Pharma – Quick-Step all moved to the front. The expected lead-out from Argos-Shimano and Liquigas-Cannondale had not got into gear yet.

Last 21 Kilometre Lap
Past the bell and Omega Pharma – Quick-Step took control of the race for Gert Steegmans who is their best sprinter here, worryingly Euskaltel-Euskadi had also come forward, and maybe they don’t want blamed for any crashes on the run-in.

Liquigas-Cannondale started working for Elia Viviani as they came into the last 13 kilometres, this lasted until Omega/Quick-Step moved forward for another go, the speed wasn’t fast, but FDJ-BigMat’s Arnold Jeannesson was looking unhappy at the rear.

Through the twisty section at 10 kilometres out; Rabobank moved their men forward up behind Omega/Quick-Step. RadioShack-Nissan moves their sprinter; Daniele Bennati closer to the action, as did Lotto-Belisol for Gianni Meersman. Now all the sprinter team had shown their hand, but not one of them were the boss of the peloton.

Argos-Shimano, Orica-GreenEdge and Sky did eventually take control at 60 kph through the last bend before the long finish straight. RadioShack-Nissan wanted this one and Roulston put in a phenomenal pull on the front, next Koen de Kort opened it up early in the middle of the road with Bennati on his wheel and Degenkolb hidden behind him. Ben Swift (Sky) could see he was out gunned and sat up, as did Allan Davis of Orica-GreenEdge. Degenkolb shot forward at 200 metres out, passing Bennati for his second Vuelta stage win.

The overall stayed the same with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) in the red jersey, but John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) was now in the green points jersey.

Keep it PEZ for all the Vuelta action, tomorrow has a hard finish so it should be back to the recent excitement.

Vuelta a Espaсa Stage 5 Result:
1. John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano in 4:10:37
2. Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
3. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
4. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
5. Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
6. Raymond Kreder (Ned) Garmin – Sharp
7. Allan Davis (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
8. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
9. Leonardo Fabio Duque (Col) Cofidis
10. Pim Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM.

Vuelta a Espaсa Overall After Stage 5:
1. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha in 17:29:22
2. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 0:01
3. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank at 0:09
4. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
5. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky at 0:11
6. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha at 0:14
7. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 0:24
8. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar at 0:36
9. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank at 0:46
10. Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Movistar at 0:47.

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