With Marcel Kittel moving to Etixx-QuickStep, John Degenkolb will be Giant-Alpecin’s main sprinter in 2016. Speaking in Japan ahead of Saturday’s Saitama Criterium, Degenkolb said that while the transfer may change some of the team's dynamics, it will not make any difference to him in the grand scheme of things.
“It changes the character of the team of course because we’re missing Marcel one of the best sprinters in the world. We will see how it happens,” Degenkolb said.
“For me personally it doesn’t change so much because I wasn’t doing so many races with Marcel.”
“In the other years you never saw Marcel do Classics, he was always preparing for Scheldeprijs but at all the other Classics he was not really the leader there. I think for the Classics season it won’t really change much.”
Degenkolb got a small taste of what next year could be like when Kittel missed out on selection for this year’s Tour de France. With the eight-time Tour stage winner out of the picture, Degenkolb became Giant-Alpecin’s main sprinter. Much to his frustration, he made seven top-10 finishes but was unable to translate them into a victory.
“The Tour de France was a disappointment,” he said. “I was going into the Tour with so much pressure on my shoulders. I was in the sprints alone and maybe it would have made a difference if Marcel was there but that was the situation and I had to handle it. I never gave up and in the end at the Vuelta I won a stage and also in the World Championships I tried to win a race but it was not a good end.”
Degenkolb finished his season at the Worlds, where he finished 29th. His season may have ended with a bit of a whimper but it began with a bang as claimed his first two monuments at Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix. He also increased his win tally at the Vuelta a Espana to 10, winning on the final stage into Madrid.
The 26-year-old has long been on the fringes in the major races but this season was a big breakthrough for him. “It was the most successful season of my career and I’m happy to have achieved this. It was a big step for me to get a victory in a monument and then to have two, it was something very special,” said Degenkolb.
“It changes a lot, it makes me proud of course but it also puts more pressure on my shoulders. I think it won’t influence me negatively because my growing process was really steady. It was every year a little bit. It wasn’t zero to 100 in a few seconds. I think it was really healthy the growing process.”
Degenkolb joined an elite club of three in winning both Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix in the same season. Degenkolb’s victories alongside with Alexander Kristoff’s dominance in the spring classics perhaps marked a new era in the classics.
“I think it can be something like a change. I think Alexander, me and also Peter [Sagan], we are similar. I think that Peter is maybe more complete as a rider than we both are, for the moment. We will see how we all develop during the season but I do think that it is a new generation.”