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John Degenkolb on the podium
German in yellow at Paris-Nice
After landing stage victory and the overall lead at Paris-Nice on Tuesday, John Degenkolb is confident that he will be ready to challenge for the win at Milan-San Remo, where he will lead the Giant-Shimano team.
"It's a very special race. I've prepared all winter to be on top form between Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix," Degenkolb said, according to L'Équipe. "I'm on the right track to be at my best for San Remo. It's a big objective for me. Although honestly, for me the most fascinating of the classics is Paris-Roubaix."
Degenkolb finished in 5th place – second in the bunch sprint behind the winning break – in his debut Milan-San Remo in 2012, and his ability to cope with hilly finales and long distances means that he will be Giant-Shimano's leader at La Classicissima rather than teammate Marcel Kittel.
The German readily admits that he does not possess the same natural speed as Kittel, Mark Cavendish or André Greipel, but at Paris-Nice on Tuesday, he showed that he is a redoubtable force in bunch sprints in the right circumstances.
"I'm not a pure sprinter like them. I'm not as quick or explosive but in races like this, with the team I have, it’s possible to win bunch sprints," he said. "Now I also have the experience to be less stressed in the finale. But I see myself more as a classics specialist than a sprinter."
Degenkolb's triumph at Magny-Cours was his second major victory on a motor racing circuit after a similar triumph at Motorland Aragon at the 2012 Vuelta a España. After successive second place finishes on the opening two stages in Paris-Nice, Degenkolb and his Giant-Shimano team made no mistake on Tuesday.
"It's fun to finish on a circuit like that because you have a lot of space. You can compare the work of the various teams and our team was undoubtedly the best," he said. "It's a big win for the team. It's the third time that we put everything into winning the stage and this time everything fell into place."
Degenkolb was circumspect, however, about his chances of retaining his yellow jersey after stage 4 to Belleville, which features the category 2 Côte de Mont Brouilly in the finale. He has an eight-second lead over fellow sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr), with Moreno Hofland (Belkin) a further four seconds back.
"The finale is like the profile of a classic: it's up and down non-stop. The last hill seems to be pretty steep. We'll see during the race. Right now, it's hard to talk about it."