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by Shane Stokes
September 11, 2014
He may have taken a quartet of stage wins and be poised to equal his five victories of two years ago, but John Degenkolb is insisting that he still has room to improve in terms of his condition.
The Giant-Shimano sprinter is aiming to win the world championships in Ponferrada later this month; if he is indeed correct, it means that his rivals could see him in even better shape lining out on the morning of September 28.
That’s something which could cause them a degree of concern, given how he has been performing in Spain.
“I’m still not at 100% of my power,” he claimed yesterday, referring to his condition and the effects on it of a leg injury he suffered earlier in the race.
“There’s a big goal coming up. It’s still a long way away but it’s come close, slowly but surely. I’m aiming for reaching my top shape at the road race world championship in Ponferrada where I’ll also take part in the team time trial.
“After the World’s, Paris-Bourges and Paris-Tours are on my race program. I’m just happy with my condition right now.”
While some are tipping that the elite road race will be suited to the climbers in the peloton, namely explosive riders such as Alejandro Valverde, his Spanish team-mate Joaquim Rodriguez, former champion Philippe Gilbert (Belgium), Australia’s Simon Gerrans and the Irishman Dan Martin, others have said that the course is not as difficult as they make out and a strong rider with a sprint could prevail.
If that’s the case, it means that riders such as Peter Sagan and Degenkolb have a chance. Certainly if both arrive to the finish in a small group, few would bet against them.
Degenkolb is not making big claims at this point but it is certain that each win ratchets up his confidence a little bit more.
In addition to his four stage victories, he’s also holding the lead in the points classification. Starting Thursday’s stage, he had amassed 149 points; his closest challengers Valverde and race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) are on 114 and 108 points respectively.
However with two more uphill finishes to come, including Thursday’s second category race to Monte Castrove en Meis, he said it’s as much a case of what the others do as what he achieves on Friday’s flatter finale.
“I have to be very realistic about the green jersey. It’s not in my hands,” he said. “Today I made another big step towards winning the points competition but it all depends on breakaways to make it till the end or not in the next three days and how many points the GC riders can catch.
“To win the green jersey, I’ll need a bit of luck. But I don’t stress about that. I’ll catch some more points if there are some possibilities but that’s all I can do after winning [on Thursday].”
Whatever about that points classification, his Vuelta has already been a success. And if his form is indeed still on the rise, he could well be fighting for an even more important jersey this month.