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Vuelta a España 2012: Stage 5


Welcome to live coverage of stage 5 of the Vuelta a España, which sees the peloton tackle eight laps of a 21 kilometre circuit around Logroño, on the banks of the Ebro river.

116km remaining from 168km

On the first two laps of the circuit.... precious little happened. As we pick up the action with 116 of the day's 168km still to race, lone escapee Javier Chacon (Andalucia) has a lead of 9:54 over a thus far disinterested peloton.

Chacon was the day's first and only attacker when he slipped away from the peloton inside the opening kilometre of racing. After two frenetic days of climbing and searing heat, his colleagues were understandably happy to leave him to it. Chacon had a maximum lead of 11:55 after 40km, but since then, Argos-Shimano have begun to match his pace at the front end of the bunch.

Temperatures today are perceptibly lower than they were during the Vuelta's sweltering start in Pamplona and subsequent transit through the Basque Country. That said, it's still a balmy 29 degrees celsius out on the road.

The 21km circuit, which loops south out of Logroño before doubling back into town is a flat one, and it would be a major surprise if the sprinters don't take the spoils today.

105km remaining from 168km

Chacon has completed the third of eight laps with a lead of 8:37 over a slowly stirring peloton.

Chacon began the day over 26 minutes down on general classification, hence the onus to lead the chase falls squarely on the shoulders of the sprinters' teams from the get go. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) should enjoy a pretty relaxed start to his tenure in the red jersey.

The overall standings coming into today's stage are as follows:

1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 13:18:45
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:01
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank 0:00:05
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:09
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
6 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:11
7 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:00:14
8 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:24
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:36
10 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:46
11 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:47
12 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:52
13 Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre - ISD 0:00:53
14 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team
15 Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team 0:00:55
16 Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:00:57
17 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank
18 Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Astana Pro Team 0:01:17
19 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin - Sharp 0:01:26
20 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:01:33

Even after the first summit finishes of the race on the Alto de Arrate and the Valdezcaray, it all remains tightly packed at the top of the overall standings, with pre-race favourites Joaquim Rodriguez, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador separated by just 5 seconds. Of course, the major drama yesterday came not on the last climb (though Contador's attack asked questions that only Froome and Nicolas Roche could answer immediately), but on the crosswind-buffetted run-in to the finale...

Sky put the hammer down with a shade under 30 kilometres to race, but almost instantaneously, race leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was one of 20 or so riders to hit the deck near the front of the peloton. Rather than wait for the stricken maillot rojo, however, Sky continued in their efforts, stoking the ire of Valverde and prompting the kind of furious debate that is the bedrock of scheduling on radio stations all over the Iberian Peninsula.

97km remaining from 168km

Valverde did well to limit his losses on the final climb but he still ended the day 55 seconds down on the main overall contenders and lost his red jersey. Immediately after the finish, a furious Valverde went to the Sky bus and vented his frustrations to Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran. The Colombian pair had the misfortune to be in the middle of their warmdowns rather than safely ensconced aboard the bus and they were charged with relaying Valverde's message to their teammates.

The irony of Valverde, recently returned from suspension for his links to blood doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, complaining about unsporting behaviour was not lost on some observers. Although in putting the boot in while the race leader lay prone on the ground, others felt that Sky may have stretched their marginal gains philosophy to an uncomfortable extreme. Nonetheless, a straw poll perhaps surprisingly revealed that some former Spanish professionals were reluctant to condemn Sky's approach.

93km remaining from 168km

No such drama out on the road so far today, of course. Javier Chacon is continuing to plough his lone furrow as the temperature nudges above the 30-degree mark. He has 7:38 in hand over the peloton with 93 kilometres of racing still to come.

The pace has begun to pick up over the last lap and a half. The average speed was just over 30kph for the first hour, but that has risen to 38.1kph after two hours of racing and we can expect it to continue to ratchet upwards as the kilometres count down.

For now, however, Argos-Shimano and company will doubtless be satisfied that Chacon's advantage is imminently controllable. It's in their interests to let him stay out alone for as long as possible, and they may well temper the urgency of their pursuit for now. On the other hand, once live television coverage begins shortly, there could well be a platoon of riders looking to show their jerseys by going on the offensive.

80km remaining from 168km

Argos-Shimano are continuing to lead the peloton, and the Dutch squad are gradually slicing seconds from Chacon's advantage. 7:10 the gap after almost four and a half laps.

76km remaining from 168km

The debate over Valverde's crash and Sky's reaction continued at the start line in Logroño this morning, with Sky directeur sportif Nicolas Portal (a former teammate of Valverde at Caisse d'Epargne) outlining his team's stance.

"“We shouldn’t talk about this incident only but about the stage in its global perspective. Movistar let the breakaway take 13 minutes, so they obviously didn’t want to defend the red jersey. Their behavior made everyone else nervous. We launched the race again. There was a crash behind us. I’m sorry that Valverde is the victim because he’s a friend of mine. We’ve been reproached to have pulled after the crash but I haven’t heard any reproach to Katusha to have done as well, neither to Saxo Bank when Contador attacked in the climb to prevent Valverde from coming across to the group of the favourites.”


Contador, however, was careful not to commit any of his Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank teammates to contribute to Sky's pace-setting on the approach to the climb. Like Miguel Indurain before him, the Spaniard has the rather useful habit of making more allies than enemies over the course of a three-week stage race, which can be a marginal gain in itself.

Today, Contador will be happy simply to keep out of trouble in the main peloton. Speaking at the start, he ruled out the possibility of chasing any bonus seconds like he did on stage 2 on Sunday. "It’s hot and I love the atmosphere here in Logroño, but don’t expect to see me chasing time bonus in today’s sprints! It’s too fast," he said.

67km remaining from 168km

A phalanx of red Katusha jerseys is also beginning to assemble towards the front of the bunch. As yet, there is still no real urgency in the chase but Chacon's lead is beginning to unravel by itself. He currently has 5:20 in hand on the bunch.

63km remaining from 168km

Chacon crosses the start finish line for the fifth time to generous applause from the gathering crowds. The 27-year-old has now spent 105 kilometres alone at the head of the race.

Katusha hit the front of the bunch on the approach to the day's second intermediate sprint to ensure that Rodriguez defends his slender overall lead this evening. At the first sprint earlier on, Ben Swift (Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Argos-Shimano) swept up the bonus seconds behind Chacon.

With a clever move, Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) clips off the front and he should hoover up the four-second bonus.

Smukulis snatches those bonus seconds, while Chris Froome (Sky) has shown no inclination to chase the two seconds on offer for third place. The peloton comes across the start-finish line 3:45 down on Chacon. Smukulis's injection of pace has made further inroads into his advantage.

Incidentally, Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannonale) was the third man across the line, and the fast-finishing Italian will be in the mix for the stage win later this afternoon. "I was already going well in the first bunch sprint on Sunday but there was some confusion," Viviani said at the start. "Today you’ll see a more compact and united team Liquigas in the last five kilometres. Because it’s a circuit and we’re already here, we know the final straight. It’s a fast one. The streets aren’t very wide but with the bunch put in one line by Liquigas, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

57km remaining from 168km

After that brief frisson at the bonus sprint, the pace in the bunch relents and Chacon's lead yawns out slightly to four minutes.

David Moncoutie (Cofidis) is sitting in his traditional position on a day like this - at the very rear of the peloton. The Frenchman is chasing a fifth consecutive king of the mountains title at the Vuelta. Remarkably, he has also won a stage in each of the past four Vueltas, and he's aiming to repeat the feat in what may well be his final act as a professional. Regardless of what he achieves at this Vuelta, it's good to see Moncoutie back on the bike after a crash on the descent of the Col du Grand-Cucheron forced him to abandon his last Tour de France in July.

52km remaining from 168km

Perhaps as much due to his fatigue as the intensity of the Argos-Shimano pursuit, Chacon's gap is now down to three minutes. The Spaniard wolfs down a banana and sticks steadfastly to his task.

50km remaining from 168km

Ji Cheng is the man setting the tempo at the head of the peloton for Argos-Shimano, as they look to deliver John Degenkolb to a second stage victory.

Another fast man who could be in the mix in the finale is Daniele Bennati, although his RadioShack-Nissan DS Jose Azevedo reckons he will have a better chance in Barcelona on Sunday: "Daniele Bennati is one of the potential winners today with Viviani, Davis, Swift, Bouhanni and Degenkolb, but it’s a very flat finish. It doesn’t really favour my rider. The most suitable finale for him will be in Barcelona. That’s why we won’t ride behind a breakaway if there is any.”

Bennati has been linked with a move to Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank in recent days, although his agent Mauro Battaglini told Tutto Bici that nothing has been signed yet. "For now, Daniel needs to stay focused on the Vuelta, there's no hurry," he said.

44km remaining from 168km

Chacon's lead continues to tumble gradually. With a shade over two laps to race, he has a gap of 2:30 over the peloton.

FDJ-BigMat are also beginning to move some bodies up towards the business end of affairs with Nacer Bouhanni in mind. The youthful French champion packs a rapid finish and a powerful punch - a boxer in his teenage years, the sweet science still forms part of his winter regimen.

40km remaining from 168km

Chacon is visibly tiring now and it's something of a slow bicycle race at the moment. FDJ-BigMat are on the front of the peloton but with a controlling rather than a chasing brief, at least for the next half lap or so. The gap currently stands at two minutes.

36km remaining from 168km

The Andalucia team car pulls up alongside Chacon and he takes a couple of bidons on board. The Spaniard is flagging in the Rioja heat and his lead is down to 1:30. The peloton is spread across the road now and has little desire to peg Chacon back just yet.

Chacon grabs a can of coke from the roadside as his advantage dwindles to 1:11.

33km remaining from 168km

Caja Rural is now beginning to contribute forcefully to the pursuit of Chacon and the lone escapee may well be caught before he crosses the finish line for the penultimate time. The gap is down to 36 seconds.

31km remaining from 168km

Chris Froome has enjoyed a quiet day in the middle of the peloton but his teammate Ben Swift will be hoping to explode into action in the event of a bunch finish. "I’ll give it a go," he said. "It’s going to be a flatter sprint finish than on Monday. It’s a very fast one. We should see the same protagonists as in stage 1, plus Bouhanni."

28km remaining from 168km

Chacon's sojourn comes to an end with 29 kilometres to race. Liquigas-Cannondale and Ag2r-La Mondiale have come to the front for Elia Viviani and Lloyd Mondory, respectively, over the past few kilometres and their efforts have cut away the last of Chacon's advantage.

26km remaining from 168km

Garmin-Sharp and Omega Pharma-QuickStep are beginning to commit men to controlling the peloton as the pace picks up slightly. It's interesting to see Alberto Contador take a ringside seat near the front, eager to keep out of trouble.

24km remaining from 168km

The pace is very noticeably beginning to ratchet upwards in the bunch as it nears the end of the penultimate lap. It will be difficult for any breaks to gain any traction from here on in, although no one team has yet been able to take matters in hand.

21km remaining from 168km

Sky lead the peloton as it takes the bell with 21 kilometres to race. Juan Antonio Flecha and Danny Pate are setting the pace with Ben Swift tucked in behind them.

Frantisek Rabon and Tony Martin have now taken over at the front in support of Omega Pharma-QuickStep's sprinter Gert Steegmans. In the absence of a dominant force like Mark Cavendish or Andre Greipel, there is a considerable layer of intrigue added to sprint finishes at this Vuelta.

17km remaining from 168km

There are now six Omega Pharma-QuickStep riders stringing things out on the front of the peloton. Patrick Lefevere will doubtless be hoping Mark Cavendish catches the highlights of today's stage in his hotel in Denmark this evening...

Alberto Contador has drifted further back the peloton, happy to vacate the stage for the sprinters, but he is still surrounded by a gaggle of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff teammates.

The orange jerseys of Euskaltel-Euskadi are next to mass on the front. The team suffered a blow on Tuesday when Igor Anton was dropped from the group of favourites in the finale, but the Basque will hope that it was simply a jour sans.

14km remaining from 168km

Liquigas-Cannondale muscle their way into the driving seat. No one team has been able to dictate affairs here, but effect of the various sprinters' teams' combined efforts is the same and there hasn't been a single attack on this final lap - the pace is too high.

12km remaining from 168km

Rabobank are also beginning to arrive in numbers towards the head of affairs, but perhaps as much to protect Bauke Mollema and Robert Gesink as to lead out Matti Breschel.

10km remaining from 168km

Once the peloton is safely through the most technical section of the course, the Omega Pharma-QuickStep returns to the front.

9km remaining from 168km

RadioShack-Nissan are also trying to marshal Daniele Bennati towards the sharp end. There will be a ferocious battle for positions on the final run-in to the finish.

8km remaining from 168km

Next up are Lotto Belisol, for Gianni Meersman, and BMC , for Klaas Lodewyjk - a lot of sprinters believe this might be their day.

6km remaining from 168km

The pace is high at the front of the peloton, but the situation is very fluid. No team has taken a firm grip on controlling the finale.

4km remaining from 168km

Argos-Shimano are trying to get their lead-out organised over the final four kilometres. The men in white are lining up at the front, but they are still fighting off competing trains.

3km remaining from 168km

It could be a very chaotic bunch finish. Inside the final three kilometres, RadioShack-Nissan are trying to seize control from Argos-Shimano.

2km remaining from 168km

Hayden Roulston puts in a huge turn on the front for RadioShack.

1km remaining from 168km

Under the red kite and it's Lotto Belisol who take over on the front, but Degenkolb has plenty of Argos-Shimano jerseys around him and is well placed.

Daniele Bennati launches his sprint from distance and opens up a decent gap, but Degenkolb swoops to close him down...

John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) comes around Bennati to win the stage by a wheel, his second victory of this Vuelta.

It was a brave effort by Bennati, but Degenkolb held his nerve and timed his effort perfectly to claim the stage win. It looks as though Gianni Meersman (Lotto Belisol) was 3rd, followed by Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat) and Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale), but we're awaiting confirmation of the top 10.

Degenkolb barely has time to catch his breath before a microphone is thrust in his face: "It was unbelievable it was so fast," the smiling German said of the final kilometre. "My team delivered me perfectly and I just did the sprint in the final 200 metres."


Bennati jumped with 250 metres to go, but Degenkolb bided his time and edged past him in the final 50 metres. Meersman, Bouhanni and Viviani were never truly in contention once Bennati launched his sprint, although Bouhanni seemed to have to battle from a long, long way back to finish in 4th place.


1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano
2 Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
3 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
4 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
5 Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
6 Raymond Kreder (Ned) Garmin - Sharp
7 Allan Davis (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
8 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Leonardo Fabio Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
10 Pim Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) retains the red jersey, with a lead of one second over Chris Froome (Sky) and five over Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank).

General classification:

1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 17:29:22
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:01
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank 0:00:05
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:09
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:09
6 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:11
7 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:00:14
8 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:24
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:36
10 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:46

Thanks for joining our live coverage of today's stage of the Vuelta a España. A full report, results and pictures will follow here, along with all the news from Logroño. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews tomorrow for more live coverage from stage 6 of the Vuelta, which features a short but sharp uphill finish in Jaca.

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