Team Sky's Chris Froome remains one second off the lead after Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez finished safely in the bunch on the fifth stage of the Vuelta a Espana yesterday.
Up-and-coming German sprinter John Degenkolb claimed his second stage when he outpowered Italian Daniele Bennati and Belgium's Gianni Meersman in a mass charge for the line. Seemingly oblivious to the heatwave that has not let up since the Vuelta started on Saturday, the Argos-Shimano rider made a late surge in Logrono city centre for a convincing victory on stage five to reinforce his lead in the points classification.
With a noisy demonstration by some 200 anti-austerity cuts protesters in the background, Degenkolb said the stage had unfolded perfectly.
"We wanted a really small group to get in the early break, and only one guy got away, and then after he was caught late on we [Argos-Shimano] and Katusha moved to the front to control the final lap of the race.
"Just like when I won on Sunday [Dutch team-mate] Koen De Kort dropped me off in exactly the right place for my last sprint.
"That last sprint for the line was really fast, I'd be curious to see how quick it was, but I didn't expect to win by such a big margin over Bennati."
Asked if the points jersey could be an objective, Degenkolb, who had dismissed the suggestion after his first stage win, now said he was not ruling it out. "Of course it's a big dream to win a Grand Tour jersey, but we're still on the fifth day," Degenkolb said.
"Last year the overall classification riders were fighting for it, but I'll certainly battle for every point that's on offer."
When asked if he could win today's uphill finish at Fuerte de Rapitan, Degenkolb laughed, pointed at race leader Rodriguez and said: "I think it's more a finish for him."
Rodriguez predicted fireworks on the third summit finish of the race. "I'm definitely going to go for the stage win, getting time there could be important," said Rodriguez, winner of the Flèche Wallone Classic which has a similarly steep finale.
"My team-mate Angel Vicioso went to see Fuerte de Rapitan and it's a good finish for me. It's not very long, but I think there can be some important time differences there," the Catalan rider added.
Stage 5: Results and standings
Stage Five (Logrono, 168km) 1. J Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano 4hr 10min 37sec; at same time: 2. D Bennati (It) Radioshack-Nissan, 3. G Meersman (Bel) Lotto Belisol, 4. N Bouhanni (Fr) FDJ-Big Mat, 5. E Viviani (It) Liquigas-Cannondale, 6. R Kreder (Neth) Garmin-Sharp, 7. A Davis (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, 8. L Mondory (Fr) AG2R La Mondiale, 9. L Fabio Duque (Col) Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne, 10. P Ligthart (Neth) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling.
Selected 21. B Swift (GB) Sky Procycling, 35. C Froome (GB) Sky Procycling, 47. I Stannard (GB) Sky Procycling, 173. S Cummings (GB) BMC Racing at 0.32sec.
General classification 1. J Rodriguez (Sp) Katusha 17hr 29min 22sec, 2. C Froome (GB) Sky Procycling at 0.01sec, 3. A Contador (Sp) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank at 0.05, 4. B Mollema (Neth) Rabobank Cycling at 0.09, 5. R Gesink (Neth) Rabobank Cycling at same time, 6. R Uran (Col) Sky Procycling at 0.11, 7. D Moreno Fernandez (Sp) Katusha at 0.14, 8. N Roche (Rep Ire) AG2R La Mondiale at 0.24, 9. A Valverde (Sp) Movistar at 0.36, 10. L Ten Dam (Neth) Rabobank Cycling at 0.46.
Selected 147. S Cummings (GB) BMC Racing 17hr 54min 01sec, 158. I Stannard (GB) Sky Procycling at 26min 11sec, 181. B Swift (GB) Sky Procycling at 33.18.