ALCAÑIZ, Spain (VN) — John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) won stage 7 of the Vuelta a España on Friday.
Degenkolb out-sprinted Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Allan Davis (Orica-GreenEdge) in the conclusion to the rolling 164.2km race from Huesca to Motorland Aragón in Alcañiz.
It was his third victory in this year’s Vuelta, and the big German was delighted.
“Today was a big fight,” said Degenkolb. “We showed confidence from the beginning, took the lead from the bunch. I feel so thankful for the boys. They did such a good job. They rode all day on the front.”
Four riders broke away early in the stage —Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural), Pablo Lechuga (Andalucia) Frantisek Rabon (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Bertjan Lindeman (Vacansoleil) joined forces at 3km and at one point had a lead of five minutes over the peloton.
With 29km to go Lechuga drifted out of the escape under pressure from repeated attacks by Rabon and Lindeman. The peloton retrieved the remaining trip with 15km left to race, setting up the bunch sprint on the speedway.
Team Sky had hoped to deliver Ben Swift to the stage victory, but a stiff headwind derailed its train, said overall runner-up Chris Froome.
“We were giving a lead out to Swifty but there was a strong head wind and it was difficult to keep the pace. I feel sorry because we left him too far to sprint,” said Froome. “There was a bit of a split behind us at some stage but I wasn’t trying anything else but helping for the stage win. In any case, we ride at the front and we take it from there.”
The overall standings remain largely unchanged, though a late crash took down Rigoberto Uran (Sky), who as a consequence slid from fourth on GC to 12th.
On Saturday, stage 8 will take the peloton along a mountainous route from Lieida to the the summit of Gallina in Andorra, and race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) can’t wait.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s stage,” he said. “I know La Gallina very well because I live in Andorra. It doesn’t matter if we start climbing in first position or a bit further as it isn’t hard at the bottom. The last four kilometers are difficult and very straight with ramps between 15 and 20 percent. It’ll be beautiful to watch!”
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from the 2012 Vuelta a España.