Germany’s John Degenkolb won his second stage of the Tour of Spain in as many days in a controversial finish on Wednesday as Australian Michael Matthews extended his overall lead.
France’s Nacer Bouhanni, who won the second stage, claimed he was blocked out by Degenkolb as he tried to pass at the finish line of the 180km stage from Priego de Cordoba to Ronda.
“I don’t think I changed my line,” said Degenkolb.
“I stayed from the beginning on the right and if he wants to pass he has to go on the left side because there was enough space.”
Instead Bouhanni had to settle for second with Moreno Hofland of the Netherlands in third.
Matthews finished with the leading few on the stage and extended his gap over race favourite Nairo Quintana of Colombia to 13 seconds.
Quintana finished five seconds back on the stage along with Spanish duo Alejandro Valverde and Alberto Contador and 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome as a slight split in the peloton at the finish saw them all lose a handful of seconds.
However, Froome did manage to pick up two bonus seconds on the stage to move up to 13th in the general classification as he finished second in one of two intermediate sprints.
Despite his lead, sprint specialist Matthews knows his time in the leader’s red jersey is almost sure to come to an end on Thursday in the first mountain finish of the race on the 167.1km ride from Benalmadena to La Zubia.
“I’m going to try and enjoy it tomorrow as much as possible,” he said.
“I think from the start it is going to be pretty difficult because I think a lot of the guys are going to want to go in the breakaway because it is possible to stay away.
“Putting on the red jersey for the last day tomorrow is going to be pretty emotional. It has been a really good journey so far with the jersey the last couple of days and I have really enjoyed it.”
A flat finish into Ronda after a category three climb was always likely to favour a sprint finish, but two-time winner Contador led a breakaway from the peloton with 35km to go just before the final climb.
The efforts of he and his Tinkoff-Saxo teammates didn’t have the desired effect, though, as despite splitting the peloton in two he didn’t manage to break free of his rivals in the general classification as Sky and Movistar reacted to keep Froome, Quintana and Valverde in the lead group.
American Andrew Talansky, who won the Criterium du Dauphine in June, was one of those to lose out as he dropped 3min 51sec on the leading group.