Degenkolb: Return to racing slated for May; focus is on Tour de France

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German John Degenkolb continues to recover from a devastating car accident, with a focus on the Tour de France.

At a Giant-Alpecin team press conference Tuesday in Oberursel, Germany, the 2015 Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix champion spoke with the press for the first time since the January 23 training accident that saw six riders injured when a British tourist hit the team head-on.

Degenkolb, Chad Haga, Warren Barguil, Max Walscheid, Fredrik Ludvigsson and Ramon Sinkeldam were the riders struck by the vehicle, which was driving on the wrong side of the road. Of the six, only Sinkeldam and Ludvigsson have raced since.

The incident completely derailed the team’s spring ambitions, forcing them to cancel their participation in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last month.

Degenkolb has undergone multiple operations on his left index finger, which was partially severed in the crash. At the press conference, Degenkolb acknowledged that he does not yet know if he will regain full use of the finger.

“The accident was a big shock and I will still need time to recover,” Degenkolb said. “At the moment, I am feeling okay and the rehabilitation is going really well. I am very motivated in racing again and I will start my training this week. I would like to thank my family and my team for their great support in these difficult times. As you all know, I am a very active person and I was happy that I could count on them in this situation.”

In terms of returning to racing Degenkolb said he hopes to be at the Tour de France on top form. Though he’s won a stage at the Giro d’Italia, and 10 stages of the Vuelta a España, Degenkolb, who is 27, has yet to win a stage at the Tour. On Tuesday, Degenkolb said he believes he can change that in July.

“We can’t promise anything at the moment, but if the training goes well, I will probably be able to race again in the next eight to 10 weeks,” he said. “I am eager to be back on my bike as quick as possible. From now, the Tour de France is still three and a half months away, and it will be my main target to win a stage there. I believe that I can reach the same level again I had before the accident.”

Asked about the 73-year-old British woman who hit the team, Degenkolb said he holds no resentment. “She made a huge mistake, but I’m not upset with her,” he said. “She put our lives in danger, but I also see her as someone who has suffered. It’s been very difficult for her. She is still in shock.”

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