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"50m before the line I definitely thought I would not be able to beat Alex [Kristoff] in the sprint because he started really fast. But I kept believing in myself. There was still a difference in power and speed."

Photo: Sirotti

JOHN DEGENKOLB

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MILANO - SANREMO

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ROY CURVERS

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TEAM SUNWEB

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22.03.2015 @ 20:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

With a huge sprint over the final 200m of the 293km Milan-Sanremo, John Degenkolb has raced to a huge victory at the end of the opening monument of the season in Italy.

 

The race came down to a small bunch sprint after the ascents of the Cipressa and the Poggio, and after being supported by Tom Dumoulin in the final stages, Degenkolb timed his move perfectly in the finishing straight to take the win in Sanremo.

 

 

The race got underway with the usual early breakaway, with 11 riders pulling clear in the early stages to spend the day out front. Their lead quickly grew to over ten minutes but the peloton wasn’t letting the lead get out of hand and they quickly brought it under control.

 

Team Giant-Alpecin headed into the race with a clear plan – to look after Degenkolb and keep him as fresh as possible until when the fireworks kicked off on the final two climbs of the 293km race. They did this perfectly and with the race back together ahead of the Cipressa Degenkolb was in a good position near the front of the bunch with support in numbers.

 

The front group continued to shrink over the Cipressa as the attacks came and the pace continued to rise. At the bottom of the descent two riders pulled clear and spent the following kilometres building a 30 second advantage. Up the Poggio their advantage started to fall and over the top the front of the race was back together once again.

 

Degenkolb had Tom Dumoulin for support ahead of the Poggio and down the other side on the run in to the finish. Once on the final flat run-in to the finish, the pace was raised by Katusha once again with last year’s winner Alexander Kristoff in second wheel, but Degenkolb was where he needed to be in fourth wheel waiting for his moment.

 

As Kristoff opened up the sprint Degenkolb followed and then made his move just when needed to pull through for a convincing win by 3/4 of a bike length.

 

 

“I still can’t believe it,” admitted Degenkolb after the race. “Today was amazing. It was really fast on the Poggio and I had to dig in and suffer there but my shape was good and the hard work over the past weeks and months paid off here.

 

“I managed to make it into a good position over the top of the Poggio and avoid the crashes and then in the final two kilometres it was just fighting for position and relying on instinct. Everything came together today.

 

“The whole team team were great today in keeping me out of the wind and making it as easy as possible. Then at the end Tom [Dumoulin] did a great job in getting me into position for the Poggio. I’m really proud of the result today.

 

“It was pure emotion. For a moment I couldn’t believe it. 50m before the line I definitely thought I would not be able to beat Alex [Kristoff] in the sprint because he started really fast. But I kept believing in myself. There was still a difference in power and speed, but just before the line he died and I came across first. It was pure emotion, and I thought about last year, when I had tears in my eyes because I had the biggest disappointment in cycling in my life [NDR: he finished 39th at 1’54” due to a mechanical]. This year I had tears in my eyes because I had won. It’s cool.”

“That’s the magic, I would say [to stay invisible]. This race is really special. You start in Milan and already in the neutral zone, so many guys are nervous. Then you have a lot of traffic islands and railways and cobblestones. The most important is to relax, stay calm, save your legs, save your legs, and save your legs until the Via Aurelia. You have to have a good position: not too far to the front, and not too from at the back. You have to find the balance. We did it really well today. The team really positioned me perfectly and I’m really proud of them.

“Experience is very important. It took me four years to gain the necessary experience. Of course you can talk to people and get their advice, but I believe you have to do it yourself, and also mature because of disappointments, like mine last year.

“Absolutely, I really believe that this [not being a favourite] was not a disadvantage for me. I prepared really well in the winter and I came into form according to plan. Even though last week was not as successful as a last year in Paris - Nice, we didn’t panic or go crazy just because we didn’t win a stage. It’s still cycling and racing and anything can happen. I felt my shape was good and I kept on preparing 100% for Milano - Sanremo. We arrived on Thursday and on Friday I did a long ride. I’ve done the same over the past three years, but this year I was able to finish it off.


“January 2 changed my whole life [John and his wife Laura became the proud parents of Leo Robert Degenkolb] and made my life complete, and it’s great to have a real family now at home. I just had my wife on the phone and my son was sleeping when we had the finishing sprint. Maybe that was also something good. We will see what comes next. I have really hard four weeks in front of me, but I’m mentally ready for it and my shape is good. We will do everything from race to race to get good results.”

 

After the race, team coach Marc Reef: “I’m really proud of the the whole team today, everybody had their role and we did a really good race. We pin-pointed a few moments in the race where we needed to be in position and the boys did an incredible job to get John in the right position at the right time.

 

“It’s an extra special feeling to get the team’s first ever monument victory. This was John’s first real goal of the season and his preparation for the race was really good, and disciplined. Hard work will always pay off.”

 

“Yesterday we laid out a good plan for the race, and everybody was behind this to fight for the best possible outcome,” explained road captain Roy Curvers. “All the guys kept their focus even when the weather was really bad and there were lots of crashes to avoid, but we stayed focused and everyone contributed.

 

“We wanted to keep John and Tom [Dumoulin] as fresh as possible until the Cipressa and from there Tom did a great job to look after John and guide him through the bunch before the end. Then at the finish it’s really awesome how he finished it off. It’s a classic that suits John and it’s great to take this opportunity.”

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