23-08-2012
In His Own Words: Neil Stephens on Vuelta a España Stage 5

The fifth stage of the Vuelta a España provided the peloton relief from the hills and afforded the sprinters a chance to shine. The spectator-friendly stage consisted of eight laps around the 21 kilometer circuit. Only one rider tried his hand at the escape. Javier Chacon (Andalucia) built up a maximum lead of nearly 12 minutes before Argos-Shimano and Katusha gave chase.

Inside the penultimate lap, Chacon rejoined the bunch, and the scramble before the sprint began in earnest. John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) outkicked the fast finishers to take his second stage win in the Vuelta’s opening week. Allan Davis sprinted to seventh. As the sprinters came to fore, the general contenders took a day off in the bunch. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) easily retained his one second advantage over Chris Froome (Sky Procycling). Sports Director Neil Stephens takes you through the day.

After an exciting race for us yesterday with Simon Clarke’s win, it was a quieter day for the team. We thought a break would go up the road today and hoped things would stay a bit relaxed until the finish. Only one rider went away, and he suffered alone up front. A few teams got excited and pulled him back too quickly. That made the last lap of the race a bit harder than it needed to be.

My reception wasn’t great in the car today, so I couldn’t watch the race as it unfolded towards the end. I have since gone back through a bit of video footage to have a look at things, and I’ve discussed the day with the boys. All sprint finishes are not the same, and all our riders don’t feel the same from day to day. Today, the boys couldn’t quite get it together in the finale to give Allan the kind of support he needed. We didn’t have enough help in terms of numbers, and we weren’t in the right position when it mattered.

When we seem out of the hunt the way we did today, I ask if we can do better – and the answer is usually yes. We discussed what we could have done differently in our debriefing. It seems like we relied on Simon too much after his hard day yesterday. He couldn’t be up there, and that impacted our finish. Other riders were caught out. The desire to support Allan was there, and we still have more chances to come to get things right. 

Along with his stage win yesterday, Simon moved into the lead in both the points classification and the mountains classification, so he started wearing the points jersey. While Simon isn’t planning on keeping either jersey all the way to Madrid, they’re an honor to have even temporarily. He lost the points jersey today to Degenkolb but remains in the lead in the mountains classification. Look for him in polka dots tomorrow at the stage six start in Tarazona. 

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