This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
John Degenkolb of Argos-Shimano continued his domination of the sprints in Spain as he dashed to his fourth victory in the mass sprint finish of the tenth stage of the Vuelta a España in Sanxenxo. He went into the wind early and was nearly caught by Nacer Bouhanni of FDJ-BigMat, but the French champion had to settle for second, with RadioShack-Nissan's Daniele Bennati third.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) easily retained his leader's jersey going into tomorrow's time trial.
Degenkolb launched his effort early in the finale, coming off Bennati's rear wheel. It looked as if he had gone too early and that Bouhanni, with a huge effort, would catch him. But the Frenchman couldn't maintain his pressure and Degenkolb eventually pulled away to celebrate his fourth sprint win.
"The sprint was really hard and the final was really just fighting," Degenkolb said afterwards, before paying tribute to his teammates. "The stage itself was not that hard because we controlled the race all day. The team did a really good job. I say it every time but it's true - I must thank the boys.”
The stage was an animated by a two-man break featuring Adrian Palomares (Andalucia) and Javier Aramendia (Caja RuraL). They built up a lead of nearly seven minutes at one point, but the sprinters' teams made sure they were caught again in time.
Along the coastline
One rider called it quits on the first rest day, John Gadret of AG2R, who had to give in to his gastro-intestinal problems. The remaining 193 riders took off on a day whose only obstacle came within the first 15 kilometers.
And no sooner did the same start than there came an attack from the two Spanish wildcard teams, as has become almost routine. Today's duo proved to be Adrian Palomares of Andalucia, who was named most aggressive rider of the 2011 Vuelta, and Javier Aramendia of Caja Rural, in his third breakaway of the race.
The two took off early and various riders attempted to catch them, but unsuccessfully. They took a 2:09 lead on the peloton over the top of the day's only climb, the category 3 Alto de San Cosme at km. 14.5. From there they rapidly built up the gap, topping out at 6:42.
They took the first intermediate sprint, but behind them in the field, John Degenkolb made a point of jumping to grab the remaining one point and one bonus second. The Argos-Shimano sprinter recently had to surrender the points jersey to race leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and was willing to fight for every point to gain it back. Degenkolb repeated his feat at the second sprint later on.
The race had changed switched from the east coast to the west during the rest day, a lengthy haul from Catalonia to Galicia, and much of the day the field trekked around the coastline, rarely far from the water. The temperatures were comfortable in the mid-20s, and the wind played little to no role.
As the gap went over the six and a half minute mark, Argos-Shimano started worrying about Degenkolb's shot at his fourth stage win, and went to work. The gap correspondingly started coming down.
Sky moved in to help with the chase and the gap came down to just over a minute with 75 km to go, but it was too soon to catch the pair. The field cut back its speed and let the gap go back up to around the three minute mark.
The field waited patiently and then brought the gap back down, so that it was under 50 seconds with 40km to go.
The pair crossed the finish line in Sanxenxo for the first time and set off on the 37km finishing circuit with only a minimal lead. The pair did their best but were soon caught, and Argos Shimano and Katusha then led the way around the closing loop.
RadioShack-Nissan led the way under the flamme rouge, but Degenkolb was right behind them. He grabbed Bennati's rear wheel and went early into the lead. Bouhanni made a huge effort and nearly caught the speedy German, but had to settle for second place.