John Degenkolb survived two late categorised climbs to take a sprint victory from a shrunken peloton in Córdoba, narrowly pipping Vicente Reynes and the red jersey Michael Matthews to the post.
There are no easy stages in the Vuelta
The day’s main breakaway didn’t last long at all, and melted away under the burning Andalusian heat on the first of the day’s two categorised climbs. By the time the riders arrived at the second big ascent, there were already plenty who’d been dropped off the back of the peloton, including Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale), Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale). In the Vuelta, even the sprint stages can cause big problems for those not at their best.
However, a handful of riders fared rather better, and among them were four who made a break for freedom: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Romain Sicard (Europcar), Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Lampre-Merida’s optimistically-named Colombian Winner Anacona. It looked momentarily like the quartet could capitalise on the surprising lethargy of the riders behind, though Tinkoff-Saxo, Orica-GreenEDGE and Katusha had other ideas.
By the time the riders had hit the flat final 9km, everything was back together at the front. The shrunken peloton was only around 50 riders strong, though race leader Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) and fellow sprinter John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) were still among those present heading into the dying kilometres. Despite Adam Hansen‘s (Lotto-Belisol) brave attack shortly before the flamme rouge, it would come down to a straight sprint.
The proximity of the final climb meant that the final burst wasn’t organised into neat sprint trains, but rather riders were scrapping for position alone. It was every man for himself, and there was no doubting who was the strongest. Degenkolb picked his moment perfectly, powering home to win by a couple of bike lengths from Vicente Reynes (IAM) and Matthews, who retains the red jersey.
VeloVoices rider of the day
It’s a predictable choice, but there’s only one man who we could name rider of the day today. John Degenkolb not only reaffirmed his status as a very strong sprinter, but demonstrated that he’s part of the rare and valuable breed of fast finishers who are more than capable of dragging himself over the race’s short but testing climbs. On this form, we’ll surely see more Degenkolb wins to come over the next couple of weeks.
Stage 4 result
1. John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) 4:02:55
2. Vicente Reynes (IAM) same time
3. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
4. Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) s/t
5. Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) s/t
1. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) 13:30:44
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:08
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:15
4. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:19
5. Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) +0:21
6. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
7. George Bennett (Cannondale) +0:24
8. Haimar Zubeldia (Trek) s/t
9. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:27
10. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) s/t
Points leader: Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE).
King of the Mountains leader: Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural).
Combined jersey: Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida).
Team classification: Belkin.
Header: Degenkolb’s victory salute (image: Giant-Shimano)