RONDA, Spain (AP) German rider John Degenkolb timed his final sprint perfectly to win a sunny fifth stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old Team Giant-Shimano rider broke free from the pack with 600 meters to go and crossed the line in 4 hours, 41 minutes, 47 seconds, just ahead of Nacer Bouhanni and Moreno Hofland who were on the same time.
It was the second successive Vuelta stage win for Degenkolb, and seventh of his career.
"It was a hard sprint, I was completely exhausted, but it feels great to get another victory," Degenkolb said.
The main pack bunched up toward the end, with riders holding back their final sprints as late as possible in the hot conditions.
Michael Matthews of Australia retained the leader's red jersey and is 13 seconds ahead of race favorite Nairo Quintana of Colombia and 20 seconds in front of two-time Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde of Spain.
Matthews, who finished 11th on the same time as the leaders, said he doubted he could retain the race lead after Thursday's hill-climb stage featuring the 1,200-meter (3,900-foot) category-one Alto Cumbres Verdes peak.
"From the start it's going to be pretty difficult because I think a lot of guys will be wanting to go on a breakaway," Matthews said.
Team Sky's Chris Froome of England is 13th overall, 38 seconds behind, while Spanish five-time grand tour winner Alberto Contador, who continues to improve his race fitness after fracturing his right shin in a crash during the 10th stage of the Tour de France, is 32 seconds behind in ninth.
The sixth stage will be a 167-kilometer (104 miles) ride from Benalmadena to La Zubia.
The 21-stage race ends in Santiago de Compostela on Sept. 14.