Hilly finale of stage four in Cordoba reduces bunch; Michael Matthews maintains overall race lead
John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) won stage four of the 2014 Vuelta a Espana on Tuesday in a sprint from a peloton reduced in size from a hilly day run out in sweltering temperatures.
Degenkolb got the better of Vicente Reynes (IAM Cycling) in the run-in to the line, with Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) in third to retain his overall lead in the race.
Matthews extends his general classification lead over second-placed Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to eight seconds.
An escape group of four riders formed very quickly after the start in Mairena del Alcor, comprising Sébastien Turgot (Ag2r), Francisco Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural), Gert Joeaar (Cofidis) and Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar).
Turbot was the first to get caught as he was dropped on the third category Alto de San Jeronimo climb. Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) attacked on the climb and crest the hill first. Txurruka and Engoulvent then spent a short while out front.
The peloton temporarily split up over the climb, and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was one of those in difficulty at the back. Tinkoff-Saxo, Movistar and Sky kept themselves near the front to prevent getting caught on the wrong wide of a split.
After the descent, the peloton largely reassembled ready for the final finishing circuit around Córdoba and the first category two climb of the race, Alto del Catorce por Ciento.
With Txurruka and Engoulvent caught, Sky took up the pace-setting on the climb with more riders suffering in the heat and dropping out of the peloton to reduce its size.
Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida) attacked over the top, followed by British Grand Tour debutant Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge). Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Romain Sicard (Europcar) bridged over to them for the descent but they were all caught with 9km to go to set up a bunch finish.
Vuelta a Espana 2014, stage four: Mairena del Alcor to Córdoba, 164.7km
1. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano in 4-02-55
2. Vicente Reynes (Spa) IAM Cycling
3. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp
6. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha
7. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r
8. Valerio Conti (Ita) Lampre-Merida
9. Bob Jungels (Ned) Trek Factory Racing
10. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana all same time
19. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at same time
24. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at same time
Overall classification after stage four
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge in 13-30-44
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 8 secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 15 secs
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 19 secs
5. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale at 21 secs
6. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge at 21 secs
7. George Bennett (NZl) Cannondale at 24 secs
8. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Trek Factory Racing at 24 secs
9. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 27 secs
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 27 secs
15. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 35 secs