What makes John Degenkolb tick?

Inside the mind of the German sprinter

John Degenkolb has endured the toughest season of his life after a collision with a car while training in Spain almost cost him his career. However he came through the darkest days and after a lengthy recovery, the German sprinter and Classics winner came back strongly with an impressive second half of the season.

Signed as one of Trek-Segafredo's marquee riders for 2017, Cyclingnews sat down with the Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix winner to find out what makes him tick.

My motivations

"As a rider, of course winning races motivates me. That's why I'm doing this and making all the sacrifices that are needed. It's why I'm going out on my bike every day and why I'm giving everything to becoming a better rider. Personally, the most important thing in my life is my family and that's the rock that's always there for me. No matter what, I know they are there for me. They support me through the hard times and I'm so thankful that they're always there for me, even when I'm the one making the sacrifice of not always being at home." 

Coming through the difficult times

"This season was definitely one of the hardest seasons of my life but on the other hand it was also one of the most important years of my life. I saw it as a real learning process for me as a rider and as a person. On a sporting level it showed me how important it was to give 100 per cent in training and every other side of my work. That was a real lesson from this year. I came to see that as a positive thing in the end. When I look back at the last year, I guess you always have to find the positives, even when times are hard." 

Getting my head right

"That's such a crucial part of what it takes to be a professional bike rider. If you don't have your stuff together it's a real problem because you need to have that confidence and you need to have that focus. If you're not confident you're not going to win and you need to have that trust in both your team and your material."

John Degenkolb celebrates after winning Sparkassen Münsterland Giro

Dealing with pressure

"Mental strength is also about learning to deal with the pressure. In the end, if you're a good rider then there's always going to be pressure, no matter the situation but for me pressure is important if you want to preform at your best level. For me, if there's not much pressure then it doesn't really feel like it counts as much. Of course, all riders have pressure but for me I turn it into positive energy and I try and focus on my stuff. I don't let the outside factors influence me. Every year I try and improve in that aspect because it's not like you know how to react right from the beginning."

"I remember the first time I did the Tour de France and there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I felt weird trying to handle that situation and to be honest I didn't really know what to do. But now, from year to year, I've picked up that experience, and I've taught myself more about the routines that I need to go through." 

Fears and superstitions

"It's not that I have no fears in life or sport but I don't think that there's one single thing that sticks out in particular or that I'm scared of. I'm superstitious though. I believe in a few things and that's also a mental thing because it's the sort of thing you can't prove but somehow it's in your mind. They can be really small things so for example I would never pass someone salt at the dinner table to their hand. I'd always pass it along the table. Maybe it's a small tick but I've been doing it since… actually I can't remember when I picked it up. Another thing I do is that I always put on my right shoe first. It's a small thing but I think it is just part of my routine." 

John Degenkolb is looking forward to the 2017 season with Trek-Segafredo

My biggest wish

"For me it would be winning the World Championships. That would be something special and just an incredible moment in my career. The way my career is going I can happy but if I can have more chances of going for Monuments, Tour de France stages and then achieve those goals, then I think that's more than enough."

The importance of honesty

"Honesty and loyalty are two really important qualities and I'm not just talking about cycling but life in general. If you follow that path then each problem that you face is going to be solved. You just need to stay loyal and be honest with yourself and those around you."

"In cycling, if you're a team and you want to work together then you need honesty, just like you need strong legs. You need to make plans, you need to stick to them, and while you can be flexible and have a back up, that's the only way to be successful. If you don't give your all and you try and save something for another day then you're not being honest and then those percentages that you're saving, they could be the difference between winning and losing. If people lie or they're dishonest, that's something I find hard to accept."

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