John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) admitted making a vital mistake during Gent-Wevelgem but took heart from a strong performance and a solid fifth place, leading home the peloton just six seconds back on winner Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and only a few metres behind Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) and the world champion’s breakaway nemesis Nikki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors).
Degenkolb has just one victory to his name so far this season – a stage at the Dubai Tour – but he has been close to victory several times and feels he is nearing his best form, as the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix loom large on the horizon.
"This gives us a lot of confidence going into the next weeks. It was not a victory, but it was good. Also, the sprint at the end," the German said, analysing his race.
"I did one mistake and missed the last split. In the moment when Keukeleire went, I was taking my last bidon, and I lost a few metres and then I missed it. But I think overall we can be happy with our performance – much better than Friday!"
Degenkolb was referring to Trek-Segafredo’s poor performance at E3 Harelbeke. He described it as a ‘day to forget’ after Trek-Segafredo failed to get a rider in the decisive split with 70km to go. He pointed the finger at himself and his teammates despite going on to finish 11th and Fabio Felline 13th.
On Sunday, Degenkolb was perfectly placed on van Avermaet’s wheel when he accelerated on the Kemmelberg and then rode well to ensure he was part of the move. He undid that great work by missing the attack that went on to decide the race.
"We were very present in the race. Having John there after the Kemmel was good – two would have been better," directeur sportif Dirk Demol said in his usual blunt-but-precise manner.
"It was a strange move when the five went away – it was not really attacking. And when it went up to 15 seconds I knew that we still had four riders in the chasing group, so I said to the boys 'let's chase it down, and hope that we can catch some others and go full for the sprint for John.
"We brought the strongest team here we could, and after the big disappointment of the last two races it was good to turn it around today. Condition-wise we have been good, but we made mistakes by not being aggressive enough at the points when they had to be there; they missed that little bit of confidence, they had that one second of doubt.
"It was really nice to see they were racing. But I repeat: our condition is good, but our results are not good enough at this point: 7th at MSR and 5th today, so we are moving up. It gives some extra confidence to the boys which they need, and I am already looking forward to the Tour of Flanders."