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La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 5: Logroño – Logroño 168.0 km



Argos’s John Degenkolb was ‘speechless’ about his second stage win in Logroño; but did manage to say that the last K was crazy fast and his team did a great job for him – that sounds about right.

I think his last lead out man was Koen De Kort – who delivered his German team mate perfectly.

It looked like just maybe The Shack’s Daniele Bennati might get it, but he went early and once Degenkolb locked on, it was unlikely the Italian could hold it.

The ‘new wave’ of sprinters were to the fore – as well as Degenkolb, Lotto-Belisol’s Gianni Meersman was third; FDJ’s French champion Nacer Bouhanni fourth and Liquigas flyer Elia Viviani fifth.

But Degenkolb has the biggest thighs and he does remind me of Super Mario as he uses his body weight to pump that 11 cog.

Ben Swift?

He was left out in the hot wind way too early and had no chance.

Those last kilometres are awful scrappy, these days – when you look back to Cav’s HTC ‘train,’ they were artists.

Nowadays there are teams – and individuals – everywhere and none of them have it quite right.

Cav’s men had the timing and positioning sense of the Red Arrows.

And we have to mention Super Mario’s boys, you didn’t infiltrate that train – or big Scirea took you into the barriers.

But respect to Degenkolb; there are no easy wins in Grand Tours.

Chris Froome gets lunch in.

There’s not much else to report; olive groves, heat, few spectators, David Moncoutie stone last in the peloton – a typical sprint stage at the Vuelta.

But we did get a chat with stage four winner Simon Clarke before today’s stage; here’s what he had to say:

A moment to savour, Simon?

“For sure, it’s not every day you win such a prestigious stage.

“It’s a huge result for me, not just because it’s my first professional win but also because it came in a Grand Tour.”

A moment to savour, for sure.

Why target that stage?

“It was the first real opportunity- I had to make sure I was ‘off’ the GC to be allowed to get in the break.

“I did that on Monday, I lost ten minutes and that got me off the classement.

“And I knew it was the first stage where the bunch would let a breakaway go and gain time.

“When we went, I knew it was a good opportunity and I had the confidence.”

It was a windy day for five guys to away.

“It was an unbelievable day, with the wind and the heat.

“We had to work hard from the start but choose an intensity that we could ride at for the full distance.”

You must have put away a lot of bottles – and is it not hard to eat in that heat?

“I was drinking all the time, and we were also placing ice stockings inside our jersey to keep us cool – that works well.

“You do rather have to force the food down – but you know you have to do it, that’s just part of the job.”

Did Tony Martin try to ‘burn you off?’

“I was expecting him to make the classic time trial rider’s attack at one kilometre to go – but it never really happened, he attacked around the red kite, but then he hesitated.

“I stayed behind him and bided my time for the sprint.”

Astana’s Bazayev wasn’t so far behind you, was he?

“Exactly – that was the reason I kept riding pretty hard on the climb.

“My DS was saying to me to make sure to save enough for the sprint; but I was more conscious of keeping Bazayev at bay – he’s fast at the finish.

“The gap at the end was 22 seconds and the information I was getting was that the gap was around 20 seconds, all the way up the climb.”

Simon has his feet on the ground, despite bagging the biggest win of his career so far.

Your season started later, this season – no Tour Down Under.

“I think that’s a minor detail, with a team like GreenEDGE with all those Aussies there’s going to be around ten guys who don’t go.

“The race becomes more of a sprinters’ race each year – and that’s not really my style of racing.

“Whilst the TDU was on, I was on a training camp in the mountains of Victoria.

“We did a lot of work – more than if I’d ridden the TDU, I’d say.”

You had good form early, with fifth in Haut Var.

“I came over to Europe in very good shape – and as I said, I think a lot of that was down to the training camp we did in Victoria.”

You rode the Ardennes Classics rather than the cobbled ones, this year – which do you prefer?

“Every race I’ve ridden this year has been a first – that makes it hard to think about winning them.

“I’ve learned a lot, this season, especially in the Ardennes races – if you look at the guys who win those races, they’ve ridden them about ten times.

“Last year, I know I was in the action in the Tour of Flanders; but that’s my style of riding.

“If I’m in the bike race then I want to be part of it – but the Ardennes suit my characteristics much better.”

Your form was good coming into the Vuelta, with two top thr