John Degenkolb cantered to victory ahead of Australian Michael Matthews in the sprint finish to Stage 17, his fourth win at this year's Vuelta a Espana, and the ninth of his career.
Cycling Central

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:34 PM

Degenkolb's win came after a strong leadout from his Giant-Shimano team, which
pegged back a dangerous five-man break that held off the chase to the
final 500 metres.

In what was a thrilling finish to the stage, three riders, Elia Favilli (Lampre-Merida), Rohan Dennis (BMC) and Bob Jungels (Trek Factory), found themselves inside the final two kilometres still holding what appeared to be a winning lead.

Behind the trio, a reduced peloton, led by Giant-Shimano and Orica-GreenEDGE totally committed and shedding riders, was struggling to close the final few hundred metres.

As they came in line of sight it was touch and go whether they would be caught. Jungels was the first to crack under the pressure, surrendering as the peloton closed to within 50 metres of the break, the final kilometre looming. Dennis however did not relent, pushing through the pain once more, with Favilli in tow, to stretch their lead, if only briefly.

With the chase looking ragged, a response from Giant-Shimano gave the peloton a final surge as Dennis and Favilli's last gasp move ran out of steam, some 500 metres from the line.

Degenkolb broke on the right, with Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) fastened to his wheel. The Australian couldn't have dreamed of a better position to find himself with 200 metres to go, but swinging out from under the German's slipstream, Matthews could do little to counter Degenkolb's superior speed which confirmed his dominance among the sprinters at this year's Vuelta.

"It looked easy but it really wasn't today," said Degenkolb. "We had to work really hard for it, harder than the other days. We did everything for a sprint today and it turned out to be the right decision.

"It's the fourth victory from strong teamwork, and everybody can see that the spirit is very good in our team.

"It was a hard final, but we looked at the last 10km yesterday and today everything worked out as we had planned it on the rest day."

Fabian Cancellara was third, the Swiss trying his luck in the bunch sprint, with Trek Factory Racing team-mate Jasper Stuyven in fourth.

Matthews, who won Stage 3 earlier in the Vuelta, said there was not much more that could be done to alter the result.

"I played my cards on following Degenkolb. In the end it was the right move to follow him because he obviously won the race.

"In the final kilometre there was no real lead out trains anymore, just guys attacking from left to right.

"I was as close as I could have been so it's one of those situations coming off for second that is not so bad. There are still another two stages that suit me in this Vuelta so we will keep fighting for that second stage win."

The overall standings remained largely unchanged, but for a minor shake-up in the top-20 after the peloton split in the race finale, the top five saw no changes, ahead of Stage 18.

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) still holds the overall lead by more than a minute over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and Chris Froome (Team Sky).

The Vuelta did say goodbye to a few riders, as happens deep into a Grand Tour, the highest profile, Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). The Colombian has struggled throughout the second week, reportedly suffering bronchitis, and finally succumb, ahead of the stage.

He'll now hope to recover ahead of the UCI Road World Championships, but according to his team, that is in doubt

Haimar Zubeldia (Trek Factory Racing) also pulled the pin, as did Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano).

SBS will broadcast eight live stages of the Vuelta a Espana, in addition to daily highlights.

Stage 17: 190.7km, La Coruna
1 John Degenkolb (GER) Giant-Shimano 4hr 26min 07sec
2 Michael Matthews (AUS) Orica-GreenEDGE
3 Fabian Cancellara (SUI) Trek Factory Racing
4 Jasper Stuyven (BEL) Trek Factory Racing
5 Roberto Ferrari (ITA) Lampre-Merida
6 Koldo Fernandez (ESP) Garmin-Sharp
7 Geoffrey Soupe (FRA)
8 Danilo Wyss (SUI) BMC
9 Damiano Caruso (ITA) Cannondale
10 Vicente Reynes Mimo (ESP) IAM Cycling

General Classification
1 Alberto Contador (ESP) Tinkoff-Saxo 67hr 51min 07sec
2 Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar 0:01:36
3 Christopher Froome (GBR) Sky 0:01:39
4 Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP) Katusha 0:02:29
5 Fabio Aru (ITA) Astana 0:03:38
6 Daniel Martin (IRL) Garmin-Sharp 0:06:17
7 Robert Gesink (NED) Belkin 0:06:43
8 Samuel Sanchez (ESP) BMC 0:06:55
9 Warren Barguil (FRA) Giant-Shimano 0:08:37
10 Damiano Caruso (ITA) Cannondale 0:09:10