John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) sprinted to his second consecutive stage win on stage six of the 2014 Vuelta a Espana.
The German outsprinted stage two winner Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) as the chief GC contenders – Chris Froome (Team Sky) among them – stayed safe in the crosswinds, all finishing in the same group at five seconds back after a late split.
Degenkolb, Bouhanni and red jersey Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) also stayed safe, but there was only to be one winner come the sprint, as the German ace continued his love affair with the Vuelta.
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belisol) formed the day’s break, with Giant-Shimano and FDJ.fr leading the peloton behind for their sprinters.
Their advantage, even with the two of them being no strangers to the breakaway, was kept in check – the sprinters perhaps wary of the strength of the two men up the road.
Ligthart went it alone with 70 kilometres remaining, but as the crosswinds began to batter the peloton, he too was brought back – though not before Chris Froome (Team Sky) had attacked to claw back two bonus seconds overall.
With Tinkoff-Saxo, who have proved their mastery of the crosswinds before, leading the way the peloton was split into three distinct groups – though Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr), Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) and stage four winner John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) all stayed safe in the front group.
Haimar Zubeldia (Trek Factory Racing) was among the GC men caught behind the first split, the Spaniard joined by team-mate Fabian Cancellara as he desperately chased back on.
Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) was another in the second group, but the group had rejoined the peloton as they ascended the sole category-three climb of the stage – Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) collecting the points on offer.
Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) was not so lucky, however, the Australian team’s GC man finding himself in what was originally the third group.
They were still some 90 seconds behind as the peloton hit the descent – Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) once again coming to the fore.
The first signs of tension between he and Nairo Quintana became obvious, however, as the Colombian responded to the Spaniard’s aggression by throwing his hands in frustration.
Having returned to the bunch, Movistar joined Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo on the front, keeping their GC men safe as the sprint trains started to mass on the front.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) suffered an ill-timed puncture, hampering his hopes of a stage win, but the Belgian was able to chase back on.
Compatriot Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol), the Belgian champion, meanwhile, moved onto the Tinkoff-Saxo train as the pace was ramped up on the front.
Belkin also came to the front, Paul Martens leading Moreno Hofland out as the peloton passed under the flamme rouge.
Unlike the previous two stages there was no late attack, as Giant-Shimano’s sprint train clicked into gear.
Bouhanni, by contrast, was boxed in against the barriers after picking the wrong line giving Degenkolb the edge as they launched into their sprints.
With Bouhanni hindered – despite his protestations post-stage, Degenkolb seized the initiative and took his second consecutive stage win – the seventh of his Vuelta a Espana career.
Vuelta a Espana 2014: stage five – result
1) John Degenkolb (GER) – Giant-Shimano – 4.04.21hrs
2) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ.fr – ST
3) Moreno Hofland (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling
4) Jasper Stuyven (BEL) – Trek Factory Racing
5) Paul Martens (GER) – Belkin Pro Cycling
6) Lloyd Mondory (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
7) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing
8) Vicente Reynes (ESP) – IAM Cycling
9) Kristian Sbaragli (ITA) – MTN-Qhubeka
10) Roberto Ferrari (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
1) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – 17.35.05hrs
2) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +13”
3) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +20”
4) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +24”
5) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – Cannondale +26”
6) Johan Estaban Chaves (COL) – Orica-GreenEDGE – ST
7) Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) – Trek Factory Racing +29”
8) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +32”
9) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo – ST
10) Robert Gesink (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling