Result: AFTER SATURDAY’S OPENING time trial, the first full stage of the 2012 Vuelta á Espana produced its first real drama as Germany’s John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) claimed a nail-biting bunch sprint by the narrowest of margins.
Allan Davis (Orica-Greenedge) of Australia was second with Team Sky’s Ben Swift in third.
Overnight leader Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar) retains the general classification red jersey.
Here’s how it happened: A predominantly flat stage, Sunday’s 181-kilometre ride from Pamplona was largely uneventful until the final hectic dash to the line in Viana.
The withdrawal of Enrico Gasparotto left 197 riders in the peloton and three of them seized an early opportunity to attack. Mikhail Ignatyev (Katusha), Javier Chacon (Andalucia) and Javier Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural) hit the front after six kilometres, extending that lead to more than five minutes over the opening third of the route.
Spanish team Movistar, winners of yesterday’s team time trial, pushed the pace of the chasing pack and reeled them in with 12 kilometres still to travel.
But it was Degenkolb, winner of the Tour of Picardie, who edged the veteran Davis and Britain’s Swift at the head of the field to take podium honours.
How did Nico do? Roche was towards the top of the bunch sprint and crossed in 32nd place alongside future team-mate and race favourite Alberto Contador. He’s 37th overall, 34 seconds behind Castroviejo in the red jersey.
So what happens tomorrow then? La Vuelta heads up its first hills as the peloton travel the 153 kilometres from Oion to Eibar.