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by Shane Stokes
January 8, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
Heading into the new season as the defending Milan San Remo and Paris-Roubaix champion, John Degenkolb has made clear that he is vying to repeat in both those races.
“The season is not far off now and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said at Thursday’s team launch at the Italian Embassy in Berlin.
“With last season’s victories in my pocket I have a lot of motivation to once again show what I can do. I have a great team behind me supporting me in the classics and at the Tour de France, and these are again my main goals.
“I want to be in the best shape possible from San Remo to Roubaix and to get the maximum out of those races, and then to target the sprint stages at the Tour, a goal of mine for three seasons now.”
The German rider clocked up five wins in 2015. In addition to his Classics successes, he notched up victory on stages of the Dubai Tour and Bayern Rundfahrt, and also took the final stage of the Vuelta a España.
His bid to win a Tour de France stage came up short, with two second and three fourth places as close as he went. His Giant-Alpecin team had taken four stages in both 2013 and 2014 with Marcel Kittel, but the German has now left the team for Etixx – Quick-Step.
Degenkolb is a different type of rider, but will nevertheless hope to take at least one stage in the Tour.
Before then, though, hitting the line first in San Remo and Roubaix is a priority.
Team-mate Tom Dumoulin earlier said that he would not target the Tour de France in 2016, passing up the chance to focus on that race in order to chase time trial success in the Giro d’Italia and the Rio Olympics.
He could potentially ride for GC in the Giro, but said that this would be governed by how the race unfolds for him.
In his absence, Warren Barguil is the rider most likely to lead the team’s GC ambitions in the Tour.
“For 2016 I want to continue progressing as a GC rider as I have been in the past seasons, taking it step-by-step,” said the French climber, who won two stages in the 2013 Vuelta and eighth in 2014. He was 14th in last year’s Tour.
“It remains a goal of mine to finish in the top ten of a Grand Tour and I will continue to push for this goal this season.”
He’s now 24 years of age and would jump at the chance to put in a top performance in the Tour.
Giant-Alpecin team manager Iwan Spekenbrink embraces Roy Curvers after the latter helped John Degenkolb take his second Monument victory of the year.
Team CEO Iwan Spekenbrink laid out the team philosophy at the launch, explaining the approach taken to nurturing talent.
“Cycling is such a tough sport, not the kind of sport where you can just pick races to win each time, so from our perspective as a team we have to look at the season as a process,” he said.
“Key for us in this process is that the world’s best talents are always welcome to our team. From that pool we look for the riders with both the right skill set and also the right personality to fit into the group, fitting naturally with our way of working – our elite sports approach.
“Then with this strategy we keep on delivering new world stars, and keep growing organically.”
He noted that the team launch was a very visual reminder of how far the team has grown since it began as a Pro Continental squad.
“When I stand here in this crowded room I think back to 2008 when we started with a group of people on a journey, and very gradually we grew and grew,” he said.
“Now when I look around this room I’m proud of what we’ve achieved – the room is packed with media, partners, people we work with and a lot of fans are also following us. This gives us a lot of motivation, and still it feels as if we’ve only just begun.”