Thursday 14 December 2017

'Spanish sun saw me miss the start of today's stage'

Philip Deignan's Vuelta a Espana diary

Giant Shimano's German rider John Degenkolb celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win stage five of the Vuelta a Espana. Photo: JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images
Giant Shimano's German rider John Degenkolb celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win stage five of the Vuelta a Espana. Photo: JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images

Philip Deignan

Wednesday, August 27, Stage 5: Priego de Cordoba to Ronda (180km)

With the temperature in the early 40s again this morning as we went to sign on for today's stage, the race organisers issued a yellow sun warning and we were told to make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and apply lots of sunscreen before the start.

It was so hot that my team-mates and I went back to the air-conditioned confines of our Sky team bus, where we tried to delay heading back out into the sun for as long as possible.

Eventually, most of the guys got up and made their way to the start but myself and Pete Kennaugh lost track of time and continued chatting on the bus. Suddenly, we heard in our earpieces that the race had already started.

We legged it down the stairs of the bus and hopped on our bikes to discover that all of the riders had gone, all of the team cars had gone and the spectators were walking out in the middle of the road, making their way home.

We were pretty worried for a while and, truth be told, were lucky there was a 10km neutralised section prior to the start of racing proper, as it took us 8km to regain contact with the peloton.

The opening 10km of the stage itself were pretty fast as Tony Martin of Omega Pharma Quickstep went up the road with Pim Ligthart of Lotto.

World time trial champion Martin is renowned for pulling off long solo rides so the bunch knew better than to give him too much rope and he gave up the ghost when he got a mechanical in the early kilometres, leaving Ligthart out front on his own.

After having riders crash directly in front of me on the last two stages, I had another very close call today, nearly hitting the deck when my back wheel blew out on a corner as I descended at 70kph in the middle of the peloton.

I don't know how, but I managed to hold the bike up, skidding speedway style around the corner with my front wheel facing sideways and my feet clipped into the pedals as I tried to slow down.


After a quick wheel change from the team car, it took me about 5km to get back on and as soon as I did, everyone who had seen the incident congratulated me on holding the bike up. They were probably delighted I didn't wipe them all out.

As we approached the second intermediate sprint of the day after 120km, Ligthart was just over a minute clear when my team leader Chris Froome came over the team radio: "Okay guys, we're coming up to a bonus sprint and there's only one guy up the road so there are two seconds available here."

The guys had been riding close to the front anyway so before the sprinters could get organised, my room-mate Christian Knees jumped off the front with Chris on his wheel and they pulled away, with Chris easily getting the two seconds time bonus.

It might not seem a lot now, but those seconds could prove important and by the end of the stage had moved Chris up two places to 13th overall.

As I'd been told to take it a bit easier today, I spent much of the stage sitting in the middle of the bunch and so got caught out as we came into the narrow village streets of Teba with about 45km to go.

I was sitting halfway down the bunch with Dan Martin when the Tinkoff Saxo team of Alberto Contador stuck the race in the gutter in a crosswind section and blew the bunch into three pieces.

We both found ourselves in a large group about 15 seconds back as Tinkoff Saxo and then Movistar drove the race towards the second category Puerto el Satillo with 30km to go.

Dan's Garmin Sharp team and a few others got a chase organised, though, and we made it back into the fold about half way up the climb with 25km to go, where I took my opportunity to move up to the rest of the guys nearer the front.

My Sky team set the tempo on the descent with myself, Vasil Kyryienka, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Pete Kennaugh riding on the front with Chris tucked in safely behind us for the last 20km.

Although three BMC riders and two guys from Belkin flew past with 2km to go, I tried to stay sixth wheel out in the wind slightly to give Chris a bit of shelter and keep him up there.

With 500m to go, I was third but had made such a big effort for the 600m beforehand that when Philippe Gilbert of BMC kicked out of the last corner I'd nothing left and went from third to 72nd in those last 500 metres to the line.

Tomorrow is the first mountain-top finish of this Vuelta and although it's quite short, at just 4km, there will be time gaps opened. I think you will see the first big showdown of this Vuelta.

Vuelta a Espana, Live, Eurosport 2, TG4, 3.00pm

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