“It was a great job from my team. We had the confidence and we took the responsibility.” That was John Degenkolb talking about his free-gift win in stage 5 of the Giro d”italia.
The German sprinter is absolutely correct as far as responsibility because it was his lead-out man Luca Mezgec who crashed, taking down several riders and holding up all but a few.
Sprinters Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma Quickstep) and Matthew Goss had already been eliminated during the climb to Montescaglioso with 35 kilometers to the finish. The Manxman was last seen zig-zagging all over the road as he dealt with the 9% grade.
Then Degenkolb’s teammate slid into the barrier and effectively killed the chances of the rest of the sprinters. All he had to do was track down poor Marco Canola of Bardiani Valvole. The Italian was all alone having gone through the deadly corner in first position.
You can imagine the crazy thoughts running through Canola’s agitated brain — “I’m gonna win a Giro stage, I’m gonna win a Giro stage!” He could almost taste the Astoria spumante and smell those luscious Italian podium girls.
Sadly with the last 800 meters pitched uphill into a headwind, his story quickly became “I’m not gonna make it.” Constantly looking back and losing speed, he could see the pre-stage favorite Degenkolb slowly but surely hunting him down.
Canola watched the greatest win of his career evaporate just 200 meters from the line. Exhausted, he couldn’t even manage to hold off what was left of the pack and finished outside the top ten. From nobody to hero to nobody in less than a kilometer.
“We knew that it was a stage that suited me today. But I was on the limit and it was so hard right up until the end,” said Degenkold. Yup, tough to win when you’ve only got to beat one guy who is fried already.
In the end, it was BMC DS Sciandri who put it best: “It’s always like that in the Giro, there’s always a little twist at the end.”
“We started the final very well, I had Luca Mezgec in from of me who did a fantastic job in bringing me into position. Unfortunately he crashed with 1km to go, leaving me alone and there was only one guy in front.