John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) won for the second day in a row at the Vuelta a Espana in another bunch sprint.
Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) finished second but was unhappy with the German’s sprinting line in the finale. Bouhanni found no room to pass his rival on the inside between the barriers, and gesticulated as he crossed the line, apparently accusing Degenkolb of blocking him off.
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But replays showed that Degenkolb deviated only very slightly from his sprinting line and that his real hindrance was the fans cheering from the barriers, and the Frenchman’s appeal was unsuccessful.
Degenkolb benefited from an excellent lead out by Koen de Kort (Giant-Shimano), who set a very past pace up the brief uphill rise in the finishing straight to ensure that his teammate could open up his sprint at the ideal time. BMC also did good work to put Philippe Gilbert in a winnable position, but his sprint proved too slow and he faded to seventh.
Earlier, the stage had been livened up when Tinkoff-Saxo took to the front to pressurise the peloton in some crosswinds. They were initially successful in splitting the peloton into three groups with only around 50-odd in the lead, but most of the riders of significance to the GC who missed out managed to make it back.
Among those who did miss out were Garmin duo Ryder Hesjedal and Andrew Talansky, who lost 3-19 and 3-51 respectively, in what looks like a severe setback to their GC ambitions. As a result, Dan Martin may be elected as outright Garmin-Sharp leader.
Sky ensured that Chris Froome stayed safely out of danger, and the Briton even slipped off the front of the bunch to claim two bonus seconds at the second intermediate sprint.
This opportunity was granted to him due to the fact that only two riders formed the day’s break – Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belisol) and Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). Perhaps remembering the last time Martin was in a Vuelta breakaway, the FDJ-led bunch never allowed them much of a gap, so that when Martin suffered a mechanical, he was promptly caught, leaving Ligthart out on his own.
Ligthart was caught once Tinkoff-Saxo upped the pace, a move which would have been met by despair by a peloton suffering in intense heat. The conditions had caused a relatively slow day’s racing prior to that, and the riders finished after the expected time of arrival.
Vuelta a Espana 2014, stage five: Priego de Cordoba to Ronda, 180km
1. John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano in 4-41-47
2. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ
3. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin
4. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing
5. Paul Martens (Ger) Belkin
6. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r
7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing
8. Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) IAM Cycling
9. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka
10. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida all same time
Overall classification after stage five
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge in 18-12-31
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 13 secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 20 secs
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 24 secs
5. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale at 26 secs
6. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge at 26 secs
7. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Trek Factory Racing at 29 secs
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 32 secs
9. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 32 secs
10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 32 secs
Images from stage four of the 2014 Vuelta a Espana, won by John Degenkolb
Hilly finale of stage four in Cordoba reduces bunch; Michael Matthews maintains overall race lead