Giant-Shimano confirms German sprinter as team leader
Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara and Mark Cavendish are the much talked about favourites for Milan-San Remo but John Degenkolb is arguably the most dangerous underdog and perfectly suited to this year's traditional route.
The 25-year-old has the climbing ability to handle the Cipressa and Poggio and the finishing speed and sprinting skills to beat Sagan in a charge to the line. He also has the experience of finishing fifth in 2012 and 18th last year, and proved he is on form by winning a stage and the green points jersey at Paris-Nice.
"I couldn't hope to be in better form. That doesn’t mean I'll win but I'm hopeful," Degenkolb told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I live for days like this. I haven’t let all the talk about the course bother me, the race will be hard anyway, with the best riders emerging."
Degenkolb is often the sprinting bridesmaid at Giant-Shimano because Marcel Kittel is slightly faster in flat stage race sprints. However Degenkolb is far more complete as a rider. Kittel is always likely to struggle on the Cipressa and the Poggio. Degenkolb is more like fellow German Erik Zabel or Oscar Freire: the perfect rider for 'La Primavera'.
"These long races really suit me. I had a good week's preparation in Paris - Nice and am happy with my form. Winning a stage and taking the green jersey there was good for the confidence, and I am really looking forward to Sunday," Degenkolb said on the Giant-Shimano website.
The Giant-Shimano team will be at Degenkolb's total service, protecting him early in the race, helping to fight for the best position before the climbs and perhaps leading any chase in the final, before Degenkolb uses his sprinting speed on the San Remo seafront.
Roy Curvers could be a vital lead out man for a sprint finish, while Dries Devenyns, Tom Stamsnijder, Albert Timmer, Simon Geschke, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Koen de Kort will all work to protect Degenkolb.
"John will be the absolute leader for us and we have the guys to support him," team coach Marc Reef said.
"We have a really strong line-up for this race and the guys have shown in both Paris - Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico that they are riding well. The goal is to get the best possible result, and after a fifth place two years ago we have to try for more!"
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