A day after his historic Tour de France stage win, John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) admitted that he was still coming to terms with it. The German took a highly memorable win in Roubaix on Sunday, a victory that left him visibly emotional at the finish. The former Paris-Roubaix champion had struggled for wins in recent years after a training crash in January 2016 when a car ploughed into him and several of his former Sunweb teammates, but the touching images of his post-race celebrations on Sunday have gone viral, with cycling fans across the globe offering their congratulations to a rider who has come through a tough period.
On Monday's rest day near Annecy, Degenkolb was still beaming with happiness when he sat down with Cyclingnews.
"I wish I could answer every call and every message on my phone but it was impossible," he said.
"I would need two or three secretaries to manage all this but I still have about 150 unread messages. It's unbelievable. You try and call with your family and your friends and you enjoy the moment with them and of course we shared the moment as a team. It was great to see everyone so happy.
"It was a huge satisfaction to get this victory. Looking back at the images and the emotions that I had after the finish, it still brings everything up inside and it's a nice feeling. It's just amazing."
Degenkolb was not certain of his Tour de France spot on the eve of the race but came through a tough Tour de Suisse before making the Trek-Segafredo team. Although he has been close to a Tour stage win in the past, it had never quite worked out for the German until Sunday. Fast, but not fast enough against the pure sprinters, and having to race through the dominance of Peter Sagan, the former Milan-San Remo winner has come up short several times at the Tour.
Experience, good form, and a well-drilled team helped him on Sunday and, after five Tour starts and six second places, he could finally celebrate that elusive win. The most significant quality, however, may have been Degenkolb's unwavering self-belief.
"The first few times you get frustrated but over the years you get more experienced in terms of knowing how to handle these situations," he said.
"The more pressure you put on yourself the harder it is to remain calm in those situations. On paper, sure I was the fastest in that group, but many things can happen, and you have to stay calm, and have trust in yourself. I never lost the trust in myself and that's the most important. Even though people were talking behind my back and saying that maybe I would never be the same again since the accident."
The Tour clicks into gear on Tuesday with the first of three stages in the Alps. Degenkolb will turn to domestique duties as Trek look to support Bauke Mollema's GC bid and the German is hopeful that Sunday's win will help inspire the team for the remaining two weeks.
"The Tour goes on though and you have to put the switch on again because tomorrow we start again and we have another really hard two weeks. It's still very far away from Paris and we have to transform those positive emotions and team spirit and get the best out of it for more stages and GC."