SANXENXO, Spain (AFP) –
Germany’s John Degenkolb edged ahead of his rival in a mass sprint finish to win the Tour of Spain’s tenth stage on Tuesday, while Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez held on to the overall race lead.
It was the 23-year-old’s fourth stage victory at this year’s race after he won the second, fifth and seventh stages.
The Argos-Shimano rider completed the 190-kilometre (120-mile) ride from Ponteareas to the coastal town of Sanxenxo in northwestern Spain in four hours, 47 minutes and 24 seconds.
He faced a challenge from France’s Nacer Bouhanni in the final minutes of the stage but the FDJ-BigMat rider was not able to keep up the pressure and Degenkolb managed to pull ahead.
“The sprint was really hard and the final was really just fighting,” Degenkolb said after the race.
“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.”
Rodriguez of team Katusha held on to the overall race lead as well as his 53-second advantage of his nearest rival, Britain’s Chris Froome of Team Sky, who is in second place in the overall standings.
Spain’s Alberto Contador of Saxo-Bank, who is racing for the first time since a doping ban, is in third place in the overall standings, one minute behind the leader.
“I’m happy with how I am doing, each day I have better sensations,” he said.
“I am looking forward to tomorrow’s stage and we will see what we can do but I think there will be changes in the overall standings.”
Froome, Contador and Spain’s Alejandro Valverde, who is fourth in the overall standings, could benefit from Wednesday’s time trial to shave some seconds from Rodriguez’s lead or even take the overall lead away from him.
“It is a very difficult stage. For me, tomorrow will be very hard,” Rodriguez told reporters.
The time trial — the only one of this year’s race — involves a 39.4-kilometres course through mostly flat terrain between Cambadas and Pontevedra that includes one category three climb.
“Everything went really fast today, now I have to rest for tomorrow, it’s an important day and let’s see how my legs are,” said Valverde.
France’s John Gadret, who finished third overall in the Giro d’Italia last year, missed the tenth stage because he was suffering from “digestive problems”, his team said.
Riders enjoyed their first rest day of the Tour of Spain on Monday.
The Tour continues on Wednesday with the only time trial of the race this year, a 39.4-kilometres course through mostly flat terrain between Cambadas and Pontevedra.
The 21-stage race finishes on September 9 in Madrid. It is one of cycling’s three ‘major tours’ along with the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.