Category: John Degenkolb

Inside John Degenkolb’s Tour de France redemption


John Degenkolb had been there before, at the pointy end of a race rolling over the pavé approaching Roubaix, but this time was different.

Stage 9 of the 2018 Tour de France paid homage to Paris-Roubaix, the “Queen of the Classics,” with a route that traversed many of the legendary cobbled stretches of the spring monument. With just under 20 kilometers to go in the stage this past July, Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) was hovering near the front of the pack when Quick-Step’s Yves Lampaert hit the gas. Degenkolb and BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet upped the tempo to match his pace.

“At the beginning, I was just following and thinking that we’d make a good pace, and let’s see where we end up,” Degenkolb says. “Then there was a 90-degree corner, and then I looked back and I didn’t see anyone. I only saw dust behind us.”

Degenkolb, winner of Paris-Roubaix itself in 2015, found himself in a familiar spot. He was off the front on the cobblestones with the same duo he escaped that spring en route to capping off the best classics campaign of his life.

Three seasons removed from that career year, however, so much had changed. In January of 2016, Degenkolb was seriously injured when a car hit him and several of his Giant-Alpecin teammates during a training session in Spain. He nearly lost a finger in the incident.

Instead of defending his titles at Paris-Roubaix and Milano-Sanremo that year, he missed the entire classics campaign. None of his results since then rate as highly as the two monuments he won during that spring to remember. His 2018 classics campaign was yet another disappointment.

John Degenkolb
Degenkolb scored his second and most prestigious monument of the 2015 season by winning in Roubaix. Photo: Kristof Ramon | BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

It wouldn’t have surprised anyone to see the John Degenkolb of 2015 battling with Van Avermaet and Lampaert for a cobbled stage win at the Tour de France, but could the Degenkolb of 2018 deliver?

He did, outsprinting the pair at the line and throwing up both hands in a cathartic celebration. The victory was Degenkolb’s first at the WorldTour level since 2015 and his first career win at the Tour de France. It shot him back into the spotlight, garnering media attention for weeks.

He says he still gets goosebumps looking back on photos from the day. Looking forward, he knows now that he still has what it takes to battle the best in the biggest races.

Here is the inside story of John Degenkolb’s Tour de France stage win.

Low points

To say that Degenkolb’s spring campaign this season did not go according to plan would be an understatement. Although he started the year with back-to-back wins at January’s Trofeo Mallorca series, Degenkolb fell ill in March. He pulled out of Paris-Nice and then missed Milano-Sanremo for the second time since his 2015 victory.

Degenkolb made it to the start line for the rest of his major spring targets but did not finish in the top 10 in any of the cobbled one-days. Robbed of an ideal build-up, he was playing catchup the whole time.

“It was the worst classics season I’ve ever had in my whole career,” Degenkolb says, speaking to VeloNews by phone during the off-season.

A crash at Paris-Roubaix added insult to injury. He says he was starting to feel competitive again by the cobbled finale, but instead of turning things around like he’d hoped, he was left nursing an injured knee that kept him off the bike for weeks.

“That was a pretty low point, not only of the season but also my whole career,” he says.

It’s one thing to shake off a short rough patch. Staying optimistic after this many seasons of setbacks was harder.

He headed into June uncertain of whether he would even make the start at the Tour de France. After riding the Hammer Series event in the Netherlands, he made his return to WorldTour racing at the Tour de Suisse hoping to work his way into shape, and quickly.

John Degenkolb
John Degenkolb’s run at Tour de Suisse wasn’t entirely smooth, but it gave him a bit of hope for the Tour. Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The first few stages of racing in the Alps were not encouraging.

“I wasn’t feeling well at all,” he says. “I was suffering really bad on the climbs even though the power meter didn’t show that we were going really hard. And that’s always really bad, you see you’re only doing 300, 350 watts and you’re suffering already.”

Something clicked, however, in stage 7 — although you wouldn’t have known it from his result. Nairo Quintana won that tough mountain finale at Arosa. Degenkolb finished 71st on the day, over 25 minutes down.

“I was able to really push it until the end, until the last climb. Before I wasn’t capable of doing that. That day really gave me a lot of confidence for the final preparation,” he says.

After the Tour de Suisse, Degenkolb headed to Austria for a four-day training block with teammate Michael Gogl. Focusing on strength and endurance, his form continued to improve. Then he headed home to Germany for the national championship road race. A runner-up ride there behind Bora-Hansgrohe’s Pascal Ackermann was further proof that he was healthy and fit. His Tour start was secured.

Months prior, the Tour’s cobbled ninth stage had been a target for Degenkolb and his Trek squad. By July, he was just happy to make the start.

The race to Roubaix

The first stretch of racing at the Tour offered ample opportunities for the fast finishers. Degenkolb landed in the top 10 five times in the first week. Then, in stage 8, he took third in a close sprint with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo). With the Roubaix stage looming, Degenkolb was looking stronger than he had in months.

Trek rolled out from Arras for the 156.5-kilometer stage to Roubaix with two leaders: Degenkolb and Jasper Stuyven, who has finished top-five at Paris-Roubaix in the last two years. The main objective was to stay safe into the finale, where both riders would hopefully be in the mix.

The day unfolded as one might have expected of a cobbled stage in a grand tour, with crashes aplenty ruining the hopes of one GC contender after another. TV cameras bounced back and forth as riders like Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) desperately chased after mishaps, while several classics specialists and a lucky few yellow jersey hopefuls hung on in the dwindling pack.

The early breakaway held out well into the stage as the familiar favorites of Paris-Roubaix mostly eyed each other into the last several sections. The peloton made the catch, however, with around 20 kilometers to go as the race approached the Camphin-en-Pévèle, the day’s penultimate sector of cobbles. Degenkolb and Trek had done their job so far: He was safe and upright in the lead group heading into the final push.

With 17 kilometers to go, on the bumpy terrain of the Camphin-en-Pévèle, Lampaert made his move. Live to the danger posed by the Belgian road champion, Degenkolb followed, as did Van Avermaet.

Degenkolb
The lead group of Lampert, Van Avermaet, and Degenkolb used their cobblestone expertise to escape the peloton on the last sector before the finish of the Tour’s cobblestone stage. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | www.brakethroughmedia.com

The firepower in the move proved strong enough to force a split, which grew as the trio realized that there was a real chance of staying clear. Sagan tried to bridge, but couldn’t. Others, like Sep Vanmarkce (EF Education First-Drapac), were on team duty instead of fighting for the stage.

By the end of the final cobbled stretch, it was clear that the winner would come from the three-man group off the front. They took a full minute into the last few kilometers. As rough as his spring had been, Degenkolb had reason to believe that this might finally be his chance to turn things around.

“When I won Roubaix in ’15, it was the same group,” he says. “I beat them in the velodrome. So I was quite confident to beat them again because I felt very similar to how I felt in ’15.”

The Tour stage concluded not on the velodrome track but with a more traditional finishing straight. A sprint seemed likely nonetheless as none of the three made any decisive attempts to break clear.

Degenkolb found himself in the unenviable position of sitting at the front of the trio after unsuccessfully trying to get his companions to come around inside the last kilometer.

Forced to lead things out, he wound up to speed 250 meters from the line.

Van Avermaet was glued to his wheel, but he never came close to coming past. Degenkolb held out all the way to the finish to win his first Tour stage. He pointed to the sky as he crossed the finish in tribute to a family friend who had passed. It was a tribute he’d wanted to the make for months if only he could find the opportunity in a big race victory. Now, on the sport’s grandest stage, he had it.

The German was overcome with emotion at the finish.

“I was chasing this victory for so long. It’s really hard to describe,” he said, fighting back tears in a television interview.

Back in the spotlight

Degenkolb’s emotional Roubaix victory was enough to earn him plenty of media attention long after his tearful post-race interview.

“Especially in Germany, it means so much if you win a stage at the Tour. I think I got more attention winning a stage in the Tour than winning actual Paris-Roubaix in 2015,” he says.

It was nice to be getting positive coverage again. Crediting his family and the Trek squad for continuing to support him despite the tough stretches, Degenkolb says he was glad to have a chance to send his doubters a message this summer.

“They didn’t believe that I could do a good result,” he says. “It was nice to give them a lesson, that I’m still able to win bike races.”

Degenkolb proved that to himself as well this summer.

John Degenkolb
An emotional Degenkolb hugged teammate Jasper Stuyven at the finish in Roubaix. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The bona fide classics remain his top targets for 2019, and he knows he has work to do to get back to winning ways in the one-days. He came close to another stage win in the final day of the Tour, finishing second to Alexander Kristoff on the Champs-Elysees, and delivered a handful of other strong results in the remainder of his 2018 calendar, but he says that he’d hoped for more out of the second half of his season.

Nonetheless, a stage win in the sport’s biggest event was more than enough to send him into the offseason with a renewed feeling that he has what it takes to contend with the very best. Degenkolb is quick to acknowledge that a Tour stage on the Roubaix cobbles is not Paris-Roubaix — but it was a big win against big classics stars in cycling’s biggest event. That counts for something.

“It definitely refreshed all the confidence and the trust in myself to be up there to compete against all the really big guys, to be one of those who fight for the [Paris-Roubaix] cobblestone,” he says.

“I will be more motivated next year going to Sanremo and Roubaix again.”

Read the full article at Inside John Degenkolb’s Tour de France redemption on VeloNews.com.

Here’s why this year’s Tour de France has been so cruel to the sprinters

L’ALPE D’HUEZ, France (VN) — Cycling’s fastest men are dropping like flies at this year’s Tour de France.

Three Alpine stages have decimated the race’s lineup of heavy sprinters, with some of the peloton’s marquee fast men either abandoning or being eliminated by the time cut. The carnage began on stage 11 from Albertville to La Rosière, which saw Mark Cavendish, Mark Renshaw (both Dimension Data) and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) all finish well behind the stage’s time cut.

The dynamic continued during stage 12, a 175km stage to l’Alpe d’Huez. Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) was the first sprinter to abandon, and then Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Bellisol) called it quits. Also abandoning was Rick Zabel (Katusha), who was time cut on stage 11, but allowed to continue because he suffered a mechanical.

“I cannot remember ever seeing something like this.”

– Rolf Aldag

In total 12 riders left the race during the two stages.

“I cannot remember ever seeing something like this,” said Dimension Data manager Rolf Aldag, who raced the Tour 10 times during his 16-year pro career. “There were always sprinters in difficulty but in two days we have seen a challenge.”

Now, just three sprinters with bunch-kick Tour victories are left to contest the remaining flat stages: Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ). And second-tier fast men like Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), may seize an opportunity to win.

VeloNews spoke with riders and team sources to better understand why so many sprinters left the race, why some sprinters survived, and whether the Tour de France organizers need to adjust the rules.

Mark Cavendish finished stage 11 but was well outside the time cut. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Reasons for the exodus

This Tour’s three-day run through the Alps was unquestionably punishing, yet previous races have included similarly hard routes. So why did so many sprinters fail?

Riders and directors pointed to various reasons. The shrinking of teams from nine to eight riders has forced some teams to choose riders for the GC instead of the sprint, which has decreased the size of the grupetto that forms on sprint stages. Modern training methods and specialization have perhaps widened the gap between sprinters and climbers.

“There is a feeling that the pace is very fast this year,” said Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo). “It was clear from the first mountain day that the real sprinters were going to have to fight to get in the [cutoff] time.

All sources that VeloNews spoke with pointed at stage 11 as the primary culprit for the exodus. Just 108km long (67 miles), the stage included three successive and sizable climbs, with almost no flat road. It was yet another experimental route organized by ASO to inject excitement into the Tour. And it was sandwiched between two other punishing stages in the mountains.

“It was ridiculously hard,” said Heinrich Haussler (Bahrain-Merida). I’ve never done a stage like that in my life.”

The short, punishing route meant that the sprinter grupetto had to ride a stiff tempo just to avoid the time cut. For every stage, the Tour sets the time cut as a percentage of the winning time. Which percentage organizers choose is based on a convoluted system that factors in the overall difficulty and average speed of the winner. Sprinters often rely on flat roads to narrow the gap to the front group on climbing days. Without much flat, sprinters had to push themselves on the climbs harder than they may have done on a longer stage.

“It was ridiculously hard. I’ve never done a stage like that in my life.”

– Heinrich Haussler

The effort to simply survive was huge, and it had consequences for Thursday’s stage to l’Alpe d’Huez.

“If a sprinter had to go full-gas yesterday, then there was nothing left today,” Aldag said after Thursday’s stage. “There was no way to recover property overnight and get ready for a big stage like today.”

The pace did not slow down on stage 11 to l’Alpe d’Huez, as an early breakaway attacked on the Col de la Madeleine, forcing Team Sky rode a hard tempo to keep the move in check. The aggression shed the sprinters within the opening kilometers of the stage. That tempo only increased throughout the day, as Sky’s domestiques poured on the pace.

The grupetto fell further and further behind. Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Groenewegen were first to be dropped, and eventually gave up after determining they could not make the time cut. Gaviria and Greipel were next.

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) said Sky’s intense pacing at this year’s Tour added to the challenge.

“The problem is Sky is so strong. They go their own pace and still they are with a full team at the front, so the distance to [sprinters] only grows,” Degenkolb said. “That pace is too high for me and a lot of guys to stay close.”

Thor Hushovd, twice a winner of the Tour’s points classification, believes another factor may have contributed to the loss: June races. In recent years the peloton’s fastest sprinters have chosen to race the Amgen Tour of California and Tour of Slovenia, rather than tackle traditional warm-up races Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse. By choosing this option, the sprinters miss out on long, punishing stages in the Alps.

Sagan and Démare both raced the Tour de Suisse.

“A lot of these guys didn’t do a stage race with bigger hills in it, and they are perhaps missing those efforts,” Hushovd said. “I always needed to do the Dauphiné to get used to the hills. That was an important part of the preparation for me.”

Marcel Kittel was also time-cut on stage 11. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

How some survived

Teams saw the potential for time cuts during stages 11 and 12 and prepared specific strategies to help their sprinters survive the Alps. Degenkolb focused on a pacing strategy to help him survive the Col de la Madeleine without falling too far back. Directors had teammate Michael Gogl stay behind with Degenkolb to pace him up the Col de la Croix de Fer and Alpe d’Huez. Degenkolb finished 32 minutes in arrears.

“It was important for me not to over-pace myself on the first climb,” Degenkolb said. “I knew that 1km into the first mountain I would never see the bunch again, so I had to simply let it go and then ride at a pace I was comfortable with to the finish.”

Other teams employed a completely different strategy. Bora-Hansgrohe predicted the time cut would be approximately 38 minutes for the stage. Directors had Peter Sagan ride near his limit to the top of the Col de la Madeleine in order to stay as close as possible to the front group. Sagan then chased on the descent before settling into a comfortable rhythm. He rode to the finish alongside his teammate, Daniel Oss.

“Peter’s finish line was the top of the Madeleine,” said Sagan’s coach Patxi Vila. “So then you have 38 minutes to lose over two climbs. Downhill you go the same speed as the front group. So that is 19 minutes to lose on each [climb]. That’s 1.5 minutes per each kilometer, and he can do that.”

John Degenkolb rode a planned pacing strategy alongside teammate Michael Gogl to survive Thursday’s stage 12 to l’Alpe d’Huez. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The fallout

The day after the abandons, calls to permanently widen the time cut echoed through the peloton.

“I think the time cut was too narrow,” said Brian Holm, director at Quick-Step. “When you see somebody like Greipel lose it — and he is quite good in the mountains — it leads you to believe it is too narrow.”

Aldag said the Tour should adjust the cut for shorter stages that feature mountains.

“When the length of racing is only three and a half hours in the mountains then there is simply no time to make it up,” Aldag said. “You only have up, down, up, down, there’s no flat to take it back.”

Indeed Tour officials did extend the cutoff time during Thursday’s stage to Alpe d’Huez, however, the decision was made midway through the stage, after Gaviria, Greipel, and Groenewegen all quit. That decision was puzzling to riders in the peloton, even those who survived the day.

“You only have up, down, up, down, there’s no flat to take it back.”

– Rolf Aldag

“You saw many sprinters abandon yesterday because we had a tight time cut. We started the day and we thought we had 30 minutes and we thought it would be hard,” Kristoff said. “They moved the cut during the stage which was a bit strange. We were fighting for half an hour and suddenly we have 40-minute time cut. It’s strange when they change the rules during a race.”

Whether or not Tour organizers extend the cut remains to be seen. What is known is that the Tour’s sprinters will face a similar dynamic in the Pyrenees, where climbs, a short 65km stage, and intense racing are all on tap.

Read the full article at Here’s why this year’s Tour de France has been so cruel to the sprinters on VeloNews.com.

Emotional win confirms Degenkolb’s return

The emotion of victory defeated German stoicism on Sunday afternoon in Roubaix.

Tears in his eyes, John Degenkolb struggled to describe his feelings after winning Sunday’s 9th stage of the Tour de France, a wild and crash-filled journey over the cobblestones from Amiens to Roubaix. Degenkolb is one of the peloton’s brawniest riders, a winner of the 2015 edition of Paris-Roubaix. Known for his straight-faced interviews and no-nonsense attitude, the big German was simply overcome as he spoke to reporters after his victory.

His win was unbelievable, no, it was pure happiness. No, it was…

“Its fantastic can really find the right words to express how this feels,” Degenkolb said. “The end is pretty similar to what I experienced in 2015 when I was sitting right here. It’s amazing.”

Sunday’s victory marks Degenkolb’s first major victory since the 2015 season, when he was perhaps the best one-day racer on the planet. That year Degenkolb won Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, and even a stage of the Vuelta a España. The season made him one of the most sought-after riders on the planet. Since then, he has not had a single victory in cycling’s WorldTour.

“Really, I was chasing this victory for so long,” Degenkolb added. “It’s hard to describe.”

Whatever emotions coursed through Degenkolb’s mind were unquestionably informed by the bitterness of the last two seasons and the incident that sparked Degenkolb’s drought. VeloNews readers may remember that, in January of 2016, Degenkolb and his Giant-Alpecin teammates were on a training ride in Alicante, Spain when they were struck, head-on, by an elderly driver who was driving on the wrong side of the road. The crash injured six riders. American Chad Haga to the emergency room with fractures to his face; he received 45 stitches to his face and throat. Warren Barguil fractured his scaphoid. Max Walscheid broke his tibia. Two others received minor injuries.

Degenkolb received the worst damage. The crash broke his left forearm, and nearly ripped his left index finger off of his hand. One cannot steer a bicycle without the digit, let alone grasp a handlebar over pavé. Degenkolb underwent surgery to repair the hand. During his 2016 Classics campaign, Degenkolb told reporters he was healing, and that he would soon be back to 100 percent.

That full recovery never really occurred. Degenkolb’s 2016 classics campaign was a wash. At the end of the season, he signed a big, multi-year contract to lead Trek-Segafredo’s northern classics team for 2017 and 2018. Trek hired talented cobble crushers Jasper Stuyven, Fabio Felline, and Mads Petersen to aide Degenkolb’s efforts. In both years Degenkolb was a disappointment. In 2017 he was just off the pace of the winners. In 2018 he was father behind and said that he was working for Stuyven.

After his dismal 2018, cycling pundits began to wonder whether Degenkolb, at 29 years old, would ever reach cycling’s pinnacle again. When Degenkolb fought through a knee injury earlier this season, he began to doubt himself too.

“You start to doubt if you also can do it,” Degenkolb said. “That is the hardest part, to not lost the trust in yourself and the belief you can still be up there.”

Degenkolb’s return to the top step required both excellent luck and strong tactics from Trek-Segafredo. Despite a flat tire for GC leader Bauke Mollema—who finished in the main group alongside Chris Froome—the team suffered few, if any, setbacks. The team avoided the crashes that took down Mikel Landa (Movistar), Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky), and others.

Stuyven attacked into the fourth pavé sector with 24 km remaining, forcing the favorites to chase. The move placed Degenkolb in a preferable position. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) chased, as did Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), while Degenkolb rode near the front.

With 18km remaining Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) charged off the front on the Camphin-en-Pévèle sector, and was joined by Van Avermaet. Sensing the move might stick Degenkolb powered away from the group to make the duo a trio. Behind, there was no response from the peloton.

The three built a sizable gap over the group, and as they came into the final kilometer Degenkol rolled to the front. Usually, such a position can open a rider up to sneak attacks in the finale. As the strongest sprinter in the group, Degenkolb chose to lead the kick to the line. He opened his spring inside 200 meters, and held off Van Avermaet to take the win.

Degenkolb’s’ emotions at the finish line were heightened by a recent personal tragedy. The German told reporters that a family friend, described as a “my second father,” passed away over the winter. Degenkolb dedicated his victory to the memory of his deceased friend. After several questions, Degenkolb acknowledged the disappointments of the last three seasons.

“So many people said he’s done, he’s over, he will never come back. I am so happy to show all these guys who didn’t believe me that I am still there, I am still alive,” he said. “I think that’s also what I took out of this accident: that you have to be happy after such a horrible crash that you are still alive, you’re still there. I was fighting my way back, and I am so proud.”

Read the full article at Emotional win confirms Degenkolb’s return on VeloNews.com.

Trek-Segafredo backing Stuyven and Degenkolb for Roubaix

Trek-Segafredo rides Roubaix with two good options: former winner Degenkolb and Stuyven. Plus young Pedersen is peaking.

Read the full article at Trek-Segafredo backing Stuyven and Degenkolb for Roubaix on VeloNews.com.

Degenkolb and Nizzolo out of Milano-Sanremo

Trek-Segafredo’s John Degenkolb and Giacomo Nizzolo will miss Saturday’s Milano-Sanremo.

Read the full article at Degenkolb and Nizzolo out of Milano-Sanremo on VeloNews.com.

Degenkolb wins Trofeo Palma, the final day of Challenge Mallorca

John Degenkolb finished off the final day of the Challenge Mallorca with a win, outsprinting Erik Baška (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Coen Vermeltfoort (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) on Sunday at the Trofeo Palma.

“I am so happy—thanks to my team,” Degenkolb said. “I know that I am in good shape and I feel pretty good. It’s always nice to start the season like this. I think it’s the first time I have won the first two races in a season, that’s a premiere for me. To have this feeling, which I missed so much last year and now I have it already twice…It’s so nice to be on the winning line again.”

Trofeo Palma completed a solid four days of racing in the Challenge Mallorca for Trek-Segafredo, as the team took victories on three of the days. Degenkolb also captured the win on the opening day of Challenge Mallorca, Thursday, at the Trofeo Campos and Toms Skujins soloed to the victory on Saturday at the Trofeo Lloseta-Andratx.

“We showed again we were the strongest team in the race,” Degenkolb added. “It was fantastic teamwork; we took responsibility to control the race from the start and everyone on the team did the job he had to do. I had some bad luck just before the climb and I had to come back after a flat tire and it cost some energy, but it the end I was still able to follow in the big group.

“In the lead out, we picked the right moment to come to the front, and I only had to do the last 200 meters. So that was for me super nice and I am so happy. This victory is definitely a team victory for all of us. We took the responsibility and we got the reward for it.”

Six riders escaped early in the 160-kilometer race and gained a maximum advantage of around five minutes. Lotto Soudal and Trek-Segafredo did most of the pacemaking in the peloton to keep the gap relatively close. A category 3 climb with around 40 kilometers to go was the toughest obstacle standing between the sprinters and the finish.

Most of the sprinters were able to get over the climb and soon after the climb, the breakaway was caught. The final run-in to the finish was flat and fast, setting the stage for a bunch sprint. Degenkolb handily took the win over Baška and Vermeltfoort.

The majority of the riders that raced at the Challenge Mallorca also participate in the Classics. The four-day Challenge Mallorca is way for the Classics riders to get a few race kilometers in, but in a low-key and stree-free atmosphere. Most will now head to Europe or the Middle East to begin their seasons in earnest and to fully prepare themselves for the Classics season ahead. The Classics kickoff at the end of February with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Top 10

  • 1. John Degenkolb, (GER) TREK – SEGAFREDO, 03:47:29
  • 2. Erik Baska, (SVK) BORA – HANSGROHE, 03:47:29
  • 3. Coen Vermeltfoort, (NED) ROOMPOT – NEDERLANDSE LOTERIJ, 03:47:29
  • 4. Enrique Sanz Unzue, (ESP) EUSKADI BASQUE COUNTRY – MURIAS, 03:47:29
  • 5. Carlos Barbero, (ESP) MOVISTAR TEAM, 03:47:29
  • 6. Albert Torres Barcelo, (ESP) SPAIN, 03:47:29
  • 7. Jordi Warlop, (BEL) SPORT VLAANDEREN – BALOISE, 03:47:29
  • 8. José Rojas, (ESP) MOVISTAR TEAM, 03:47:29
  • 9. Leonardo Basso, (ITA) TEAM SKY, 03:47:29
  • 10. Xavier CaÑellas Sanchez, (ESP) SPAIN, 03:47:29

The post Degenkolb wins Trofeo Palma, the final day of Challenge Mallorca appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Degenkolb takes first day of Challenge Mallorca

John Degenkolb started his season on a high note, sprinting to victory in the Trofeo Campos, the first day of the Challenge Mallorca. Sondre Holst Enger (Isreal Cycling Academy) took second, and Jasper De Buyst (Lotto-Soudal) was third.

Degenkolb’s teammates supported him through the 178-kilometer race and gave him an opening to sprint to the finish for his first win since the Dubai Tour about year ago.

Degenkolb and team Trek-Segafredo have been in Mallorca over the past week training for the season. For Degenkolb, the win is meaningful since Mallorca was where he started his professional career.

“I felt really good; the team did a perfect job to make a good sprint for me. I have good memories of this race because for me this was my first professional race in 2011. Today was a great revival,” said Degenkolb.

The win marks the second this season for Trek-Segafredo. Ryan Mullen won the third stage of the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina just two days prior, lending confidence to the team.

Degenkolb hit a few rough patches over the past two years. In 2016, a British woman drove a car into a group of Giant-Alpecin riders, sending Degenkolb and others to the hospital. In 2017, Degenkolb was forced out of the Vuelta a España and Tour of Denmark and back into the hospital. He remains hopeful about this season, though.

“Everyone knows we have done our homework, what’s needed to win races, and I think we can be very optimistic for the next races. For me, it’s just very amazing to feel that, and to also to feel the whole support from the riders: The whole team for the whole winter was behind me and pushed me to come to this level again,” said Degenkolb.

The Challenge Mallorca runs from Thursday to Sunday as a series of one-day races.

Trek-Segafredo will start Bauke Mollema, Gianluca Brambilla, Tsgabu Grmay, Toms Skujins, Julien Bernard, Michael Gogl and Nicola Conci for Friday’s Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana and Saturday’s Trofeo Lloseta – Andratx.

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Recovered from pneumonia, Degenkolb back ‘in the rhythm again’

It’s been a long two years for John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo). The German enjoyed a brilliant 2015 classics campaign, but he has been waylaid by frustrating health issues ever since.

Degenkolb nearly lost a finger in a horrific training crash in early 2016, robbing him of the chance to defend his titles at Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix. With just one win the next year, 2017 did not go to plan either. Then, serious upper respiratory illness forced him to end his season early.

“It started with bronchitis in the Vuelta [a España]. I quit the Vuelta to get healthy again as quick as possible to still make a good last part of the season and be able to do the worlds,” Degenkolb told VeloNews last week in a phone interview.

“We are professional cyclists. Normally, you’d think we know how much rest we need to get healthy again,” he said. “But in this case, most of the time I was racing to be in good shape for the worlds again, and in the end, I started training again too early. I got sick again and it got even worse than before.

He ended up with a case of pneumonia. Ultimately Degenkolb was hospitalized so doctors could perform extensive tests to search for any underlying problems. That was the end of his season. Fortunately, doctors did not find anything.

Degenkolb attributes the illness to his never-ending quest to get back to 2015 form after the 2016 crash.

“I see it a little bit as a chain reaction from all that happened the last two years. I had the big accident and I was fighting so hard to come back as fast as possible,” he said.

Degenkolb noted that the pressure he was putting on himself to get back to his best felt like someone “standing with a pistol behind him,” telling him what to do. The stress, both physical and mental, put a serious drain on his health.

“I’m one of these guys, the most pressure I have is basically the pressure I put on myself. Sometimes that’s really good … but sometimes it’s not so good,” he admitted.

Ending his 2017 season early, however, may be a blessing in disguise. It gave Degenkolb more time to relax, and then more time to build for 2018. That meant an enjoyable break followed by a serious — but gratifying — training period.

“I really enjoyed the holiday with my family. We went to Morocco and had a good time there and as soon as I went back I got the okay from all the doctors and slowly started training again,” he said. “I like this kind of period where you can have a big variation of what you’re doing, a variation between riding your bike on the road, going on the mountain bike in the forest, going for a jog, going into the gym for some power training.

“It’s never boring, every day it’s something different and most of the days, when you’ve already built up a proper base, I always do two training sessions a day. I have a mate who is a mountain bike professional and I train a lot with him. He also lives in Frankfurt. We train together — I join him in the forest and we go mountain biking, and he joins me on the road.”

The long offseason has Degenkolb feeling fully recovered for the first time in years.

“Finally, I have the feeling that I’m totally in the rhythm again, without any pressure,” he said.

“I feel now already so much better than last year.”

Degenkolb is eager for the European season to get underway, with the classics again his main objectives. A former winner of both Roubaix and Sanremo, Degenkolb says he would love to add a Flanders title to his palmares, but certainly wouldn’t turn down either of the other big springtime races he’s already won. He’s confident in himself and his Trek-Segafredo squad, especially with Jasper Stuyven in the mix.

“He’s [Stuven] able to compete against the strongest, especially when it comes to the pure power to break away or to attack. I think if we play it smart, we both can benefit from each other,” Degenkolb said of his Belgian teammate.

“If he’s in front, he can make a good finish. The other times, I can ride more defensively and benefit from him, and I don’t need to chase. These kinds of strategies are pretty effective in the classics. On the other hand, you can also turn it around and nobody will know who has the more defensive role, who has the more offensive role.”

Degenkolb will put his offseason prep and the team’s tactics to the test soon enough. He plans to get his season underway at the Mallorca Challenge before heading to the Dubai Tour, where he took his lone stage victory of the season last year. From there, it’s on to Paris-Nice and then the classics proper. He says he may even look to add the Amstel Gold Race onto the end of his spring campaign, depending on how he feels after Paris-Roubaix.

Whatever the specifics of his calendar, Degenkolb believes he’s finally back to his best this year after taking a back seat to the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) during the past two difficult seasons.

“I’m confident to compete on the same level,” he said. “The big classics, it’s never coming from nothing. You have to be really good, you have to have done your homework. There’s never a ‘lucky’ winner of these big races. Every year is different. Every year starts from zero. You have to compare yourself again with the big names. I’ve done good work and I’m really confident to be on top again.”

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Degenkolb to start training following breathing problem

PARIS (AFP) — John Degenkolb will resume training in two weeks following breathing problems that left him in the hospital, his Trek-Segafredo team said on Monday.

The German was taken to the hospital with respiratory issues just under three weeks ago and missed the world championships in Bergen, Norway, where he would have been one of the favorites.

The 2015 Paris-Roubaix winner left hospital “after a few days,” his team said after he “quickly started to feel better.”

“In two weeks, I will start training again and I am really looking forward to that. 2017 didn’t exactly go like I wanted and expected, so I am ready for 2018. Bring it on!” said Degenkolb, 28, in a Trek statement.

Over the last six weeks, his respiratory problems had seen him forced out of the Vuelta a España after just four stages and then also following the opening stage of the Tour of Denmark.

Degenkolb also won Milano-Sanremo in the spring of 2015. His reign in the classics was curtailed by a training crash in January 2016. He and several of his teammates, then on Giant-Alpecin, were hit by a car driver. Since the incident, he has won only three minor races.

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Degenkolb hospitalized due to ‘breathing problems’

BERGEN, Norway (AFP) — German one-day classics specialist John Degenkolb has been hospitalized with a breathing problem, Trek-Segafredo revealed on Friday. The 2015 Paris-Roubaix winner was forced out of last week’s Tour of Denmark and following tests was admitted to hospital.

In a statement, Trek team doctor Jens Hinder said: “In the last races he did, John suffered from breathing problems and a serious lack of power that prevented him to perform at his level.

“His condition was not improving enough over the last week, so we decided he had to undergo more profound examinations of his heart and lungs. John is feeling relatively well but has been hospitalized pending the results of these examinations. We will publish an update on his condition as soon as we have more information.”

Degenkolb’s career has stalled somewhat since a stunning 2015 when he won two of the five prestigious ‘Monument’ one-day races, adding Milan-San Remo to his Paris-Roubaix success. This stall is partially due to the horrific training crash he was involved in prior to the 2016 season when he was on Team Giant-Alpecin.

The 28-year-old was due to be Germany’s team leader at the world championship road race in Bergen, Norway on Sunday but pulled out last week due to his breathing problems. This problem had already him forced out of the recent Vuelta a Espana after just four stages.

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