Vuelta a España: Stage 10 review

Stage 10: Ponteareas to Sanxenxo, 190.0km

In case anyone needed reminding, Argos-Shimano’s John Degenkolb helpfully held up four fingers as he crossed the finish line in celebration of his fourth sprint victory at this year’s Vuelta. The German started his charge more than 300 metres out, but sustained enough speed to hold off all challengers with ease.

Adrian Palomares (Andalucia) and Javier Armendia (Caja Rural) set off up the road immediately the starting flag was dropped and pulled out an advantage of 6½ minutes before the peloton, led first by Argos-Shimano and later supported by Orica-GreenEDGE, swallowed them up with 33km to go.

After the catch, GreenEDGE continued to drive the pace hard in an attempt to force a selection on the coastal roads, but the hoped-for crosswinds never materialised. RadioShack-Nissan took up the pace from Sky and Vacansoleil 1.5km out, looking to set up Daniele Bennati. But with the ever reliable Koen de Kort as his pilot fish, it was the green jersey-clad Degenkolb who launched a long sprint for home, with FDJ-BigMat’s Nacer Bouhanni locked on his wheel. But the French national champion did not have the power to come around and had to settle for second-best by a full bike length. Bennati was well beaten in third.

VeloVoices rider of the day

If the old saying that behind every great man is a great woman is true, then it is equally so in cycling that in front of every great sprinter is a great lead-out man – equally important, but equally unseen to many. Andre Greipel’s hatful of wins this year have owed a lot to the tireless efforts of Greg Henderson, while Mark Cavendish benefitted from Mark Renshaw’s eye for an opening for many years. For John Degenkolb here, read Koen de Kort.

Image courtesy of Argos-Shimano

The Dutchman is not a household name even in his own country. In eight years as a pro he has recorded just two wins, the last in 2009. This season he has only a pair of third places to show for countless thousands of kilometres. He turns 30 on the penultimate day of the Vuelta, and will spend his birthday dragging his weary body up the Bola del Mundo just so he can once again lead Degenkolb out the following afternoon in Madrid.

He may not have a glittering palmares, but Argos-Shimano and Degenkolb will recognise and appreciate de Kort’s value. Today, with RadioShack controlling the peloton in the final kilometre, he hauled his team leader up through the pack and deposited him on Bennati’s wheel – the perfect position from which to launch his winning sprint. The humble lead-out man is often forgotten in the glory of victory. Not today, Koen. Chapeau.


It’s always a shame to see a defending champion in distress, but I doubt anyone would have been shocked to see Movistar’s Juan Jose Cobo falling out of the back of the peloton today, unable to cope with the high pace of the closing kilometres. He finished 2:40 down to drop to 31st overall, 9:56 back. And unlike Cadel Evans at the Tour, he won’t even have the luxury of being able to throw in a few attacking flourishes, as he will be detailed to support Alejandro Valverde for the duration of the race. Cycling can be a cruel mistress.

Tactical analysis

A flat stage following a rest day and ahead of an individual time trial and a tough uphill finish was never going to be a recipe for excitement, and sure enough that was the case today, with no significant moves in the GC or any of the other jersey competitions.

It was always going to be a sprint, and the fact that the day’s breakaway only featured two men – both from ‘home’ wild-card teams – was testament to a lack of enthusiasm for burning up energy unnecessarily. An average speed of 38kph for the first four hours – a veritable crawl for a flat stage – illustrated the fact that the peloton were (comparatively speaking) enjoying a second rest day in all but name.

The one thing that could have livened things up near the finish would have been crosswinds blowing in off the coast in the latter stages. Credit to Orica-GreenEDGE for driving the pace up to 55kph in the final 20-30km, in an attempt to force echelons and put Degenkolb out of the picture. But the wind remained as resolutely calm as the majority of the stage, and their effort came to nothing.

Even though today’s one-length margin was the largest of his four wins, Degenkolb’s combination of power, timing and a well-drilled team is proving too much for his rivals. Sky’s Ben Swift, who was expected to be the German’s main sprint rival pre-race, looked laboured in finishing ninth and, without the full support of his team, appears lost and out of touch. And none of the other key sprinters – Bouhanni, Bennati, Allan Davis (GreenEDGE) and Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) – have managed more than a single second place each. But, despite his dominance, Degenkolb heads the points classification by just 18 points ahead of overall leader Joaquim Rodriguez, with a raft of mountain stages to come. He may have to win every possible sprint stage all the way to Madrid to secure the green jersey – and even that may not be enough. The points competition will most likely form a compelling subtext for the final week, and could well go down to the wire.

VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of as many stages as possible on Twitterreviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.

Link: Vuelta a España official website

Tweets of the Week: In praise of all things Jens, fabulous Phinney and reasons to love cycling

Well, what can I say? This has been quite a week on Twitter. Because I’ve already compiled a Special Tweets of the Week around the subject of Lance Armstrong this week, I’ve decided that this TotW is going to be light and frothy and in celebration of the good things in cycling. And what better way to start than with the mighty Jens Voigt.


TheJensie tore up the USAPro race last week – he won stage four in a solo breakaway, which he started 2km from the start. He rode the whole stage alone. And won! Marvellous! AND he signed for another year (albeit with RSNT but hey, we just want him riding!)

Even Elvis wants to be Jens Voigt!

@AntBeal and I have been toying with some new hashtags over the past few weeks. We’ve got “finding our #InnerVoigt” but considering what happened last week with LiveStrong, Ant has come up with the perfect antidote for LiveMalaise. It is:

Vive le Voeckler

There’s really nothing quite like a blistering attack by Thomas Voeckler – we love seeing him jump off the front on what is oftentimes a kamikaze mission. That said, sometimes that launch off the front reaps benefits. But win or lose, breakaway or caught, there’s one thing you can count on. A lot of tongue action. Here is a montage that, well, made me laugh long and hard this week.

That and the uncanny resemblance he has to a certain lead singer of an Irish rock band.

Fabulous Phinney

If Jens is the epitome of fierce joy in all he does, then Taylor Phinney is the sparkling optimistic voice of the future. He was so effusive and enthusiastic during the Giro this year and he was practically jumping for joy while racing on his home turf in Colorado during the USAPro Challenge. God, I love this guy.

My brother lives in Boulder. Why the hell wasn’t I there last week? Won’t be making that mistake next year!

Other beautiful tweets about cycling

Here’s a little random round-up of tweets that made me laugh and made me love cycling a lot last week.

Did I mention I had a thing about @UCI_Overlord? [Many many times … Ed]

This one is actually kind of disturbing but I love that Paige went to the trouble to mock this up.

And Wiggins is now immortalised in sign language. I’d have maybe used another gesture but I’m not supposed to say things like that, even in sign. Ooooooooooooooh, she’s in the catnip again! Behave, Kitty, behave!

‘Beautiful man cherub’ … what a fabulous turn of phrase! If you don’t know who won Plouay, it was Eddy Boss Hogg Haagen Dazs Higgs Boson.

Cycling is a hard sport, filled with hard men, who look hard done by at the end of a race.

Speaking of hard men, one of the hardest of them all is the mighty Stuart O’Grady, who now has a scar like Frankenstein.

If you haven’t noticed this Vuelta – well, all year – I love those Argonauts! They race with verve and heart, they punch above their weight and they land some knockouts!

I also love that Argonaut Tom Dumoulin chirpily tweeted that he didn’t have any internal bleeding after a nasty crash so he’ll be back on the bike soon! Tougher than a Tough Thing from Tough Town!

A word about Armstrong

Neil Armstrong. Come on, people, wink at the moon …

Vuelta a España: Stage 10 preview

Stag10: Ponteareas to Sanxenxo, 190.0km

Except for a cheeky wee Cat 3 climb near the beginning of the stage, this is as flat as it’s going to get for the sprinters. The boys roll along the coast for much of the stage so you know what that means: possible crosswinds. And you know what that means: possible echelons. Movistar … I’d pay attention if I were you! If the crosswinds do play a factor today, the stage winner could come from the breakaway. However, if the peloton is together by the end of this stage, it’s going to be another bunch sprints. And you know what that means: Argonaut time, as John Degenkolb looks to continue his domination of the quick men.

What can we say about the finish itself? It’s a bit up and down – the final 1.5km of it a gentle incline, hardly enough to cause any difficulties. And the approach to the line looks relatively uncomplicated aside from a little left-right flick in the final couple of hundred metres. With the wind likely to be coming off the sea to their right, look for everyone to be looking to hug the left side of the road to try to get shelter from any crosswind.

Link: Vuelta a Espana official website