Degenkolb wins fifth Giro stage after chaotic finish
Wiggins remains sixth despite being held up by crash in the final three kilometres
NAPLES, ITALY - MAY 04: The peloton rides during stage one of the 2013 Giro d'Italia on May 4, 2013 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
In another nerve-rending stage finish at the Giro d’Italia Bradley Wiggins managed to avoid losing time after a pile-up just outside the final kilometre in the hill-top town of Matera, from which Germany’s John Degenkolb emerged the winner.
Given that 24 hours earlier Wiggins had lost 17 seconds in an incident in the stage finale, and an initial result had him finishing behind the leaders again before being overturned, he will count no change to his overall placing of sixth as a job well done.
He has to survive only two more days until his first objective, Saturday’s time trial.
The crash on the final bend was spectacular, and it came as Degenkolb’s leadout man Luka Mezgec jostled for position exiting the corner. Mezgec’s rear wheel slid on the tarmac, he hit the deck, and another eight or 10 joined him, skidding down after hitting the brakes.
That left the Italian Marco Canola in the clear, with Degenkolb several lengths behind after stalling to avoid the crash. For most of the final kilometre, victory beckoned for the 24-year-old from the lowly Valvole Bardiani-CSF Inox squad, whose Giro aims had been fulfilled a day earlier with Enrico Battaglin. But the uphill finish was always going to favour the rider in pursuit, and Degenkolb raced past in the final 200m.
“We said it was going to be our D-day so there was actually a lot of pressure on me,” he told reporters. “We chased down the breakaway riders, took our responsibilities.”
He added: “I like to be under pressure. It was pretty special today, I was very lucky in the end that I did not crash.”
The German is one of a group of up-and-coming sprinters on the heels of Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel. He opened his grand Tour account last year, with five stage wins in the Vuelta a Espana, and although he lacks the speed to match Cavendish, he makes up for it with a slightly better ability to get over the hills.
The Manxman had clung on with might and main on the steep, 2km ascent to Montescaglioso, 15km out, and crossed the summit close enough to the lead peloton to hope to regain contact with the help of three team-mates.
They dragged Cavendish’s group for the next 7km, getting just within reach of the leaders before their legs gave out.