John Degenkolb has one clear goal at his first Giro d'Italia: to win at least one stage. The German sprinter is leading Team Argos-Shimano in its debut at the race, and he hopes to repeat his Grand Tour success from last year's Vuelta a Espana.
“If you look to results, then I think we have to name John,” said sport director Addy Engels in a team video. “He showed last year that he can win some stages in a Grand Tour and we have good guys to support him.”
Degenkolb, 24, won five stages at the 2013 Vuelta, his first Grand Tour, but is not putting pressure on himself at the Giro d'Italia.
“I think I will be really happy when we have achieved our goal to win a stage here and that's really one nice point which we can achieve. We have a team which can support me in a great way and they can totally help me to do a good result.”
Degenkolb has had a slow start to the season, with his best result so far being only a fourth place in the recent Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt, although he was also ninth in the Tour of Flanders.
“John hasn’t achieved the desired goals of the season yet, but with a top ten place in the Tour of Flanders we can’t complain,” Engels said. While Degenkolb is looking to the first stage and hoping to take the first maglia rosa, Engels is looking to later in the first week, “ with stages 3, 7 and 9. Maybe the 5th stage as well but that will be a very tough one and maybe one step too far.”
And if Degenkolb doesn't come through, the team has a back-up plan, with Slovenian Luka Mezgec. The 24-year-old is in his first ProTour year after three years at the Continental level. “If John isn’t able to sprint, he will take over the lead role and the team will work for him. Luka has made incredible progression this season. He comes from a small team and he develops quickly and fits perfectly into the team. With some top five results in Tour de Romandie – he is ready for his first Grand Tour," Engels said.
Both sprinters will be supported by Albert Timmer, Bert de Becker and Koen de Kort. “Albert is always of great value in the sprint train and has grand tour experience as he has already ridden the Tour and Vuelta,” according to Engels. He called de Kort a “key player” in Degenkolb's Vuelta succeses, and will be the lead-out man. De Becker “also has a clear role in the sprint train, but it is his first grand tour so we need to see how he reacts to this.”
The only remaining question is whether Degenkolb will stay in the race all the way to the finale in Brescia or whether he will abandon the race in light of his first Tour de France. “I think I'll be riding to the end, but we will see how it goes and how I feel,” he told radsport-news.com.