Geschke: Losing Kittel will change Giant Alpecin but we are still strong

German targeting his first Olympic appearance in 2016

Simon Geschke believes that the loss of Marcel Kittel will have an impact on the dynamics of the Giant-Alpecin team in 2016. Geschke says that the departure of his fellow German, alongside the performances of Tom Dumoulin and Warren Barguil, will see the team’s focus shift from sprinting to general classification success in 2016.

“We saw that we can now ride for GC results in the Grand Tours. Warren was in the top 10 for a long time in the Tour de France and Tom had a chance to win the Vuelta a Espana this year. It is definitely going to get a bigger focus,” Geschke told Cyclingnews. “We will be less of a sprinter team that is for sure. Although, we still have quite a few guys who can win a sprint. Maybe we don’t have the best sprinter in the world but we will hopefully get some sprint victories with John [Degenkolb].”

Geschke is one of the longest serving members of the Giant-Alpecin team, after joining in 2009 when it was known as Skil-Shimano. Back then the team were fighting for places in the smaller races, and it was Dutch sprinter Kenny Van Hummel that secured five of their seven victories that year. Since then, Geschke has seen the team develop into a WorldTour outfit in 2013 and win two monuments this season.

“I came to the team in 2009, and we didn’t have a bus, we were just racing with a camper,” he explained. “We really just raced to get in breakaways and showed ourselves in races like Paris-Nice. We never really had a chance to win races. It was a steady progression, it was a long process, and now we are one of the biggest teams in the world.”

Kittel might have left, but the core of the team has remained the same and the pressure will be on to improve on what they achieved in 2015. “I think we had a wonderful year with John’s two monument wins, and it will be hard to top that for sure but we will try,” said Geschke. “Hopefully next year I won’t be watching Milan-San Remo on the couch and I will be there to support him. In the Ardennes Classics we have a really good line-up with Tom Dumoulin and Warren Barguil so I think, in those races, we can be favourites for the win.”

A moment to remember

While his team were making big strides forward this season Geschke was doing just the same. After a broken collarbone at the start of the year put him out of the Classics, he quickly turned things around and enjoyed a strong Giro d’Italia before taking a stage win at the Tour de France – his first ever Grand Tour victory. On stage 17 to Pra Loup, Geschke distanced his breakaway companions on the penultimate climb to seal the emotional win.

It was clear how much the win meant to both Geschke and his teammates; even months later at the Saitama Criterium when his victory came up on a big screen during a video highlights package, a huge cheer from the Giant-Alpecin riders filled the room.

“It was the biggest win this year and maybe the biggest win in my career so far. I know that it will stay with me forever,” Geschke smiled. “I think it will just make me more relaxed in the finals now, and I won’t put so much pressure on myself. When I started the stage, I didn’t think that I would be winning the stage. It just happened.”

Geschke will be testing his new, calmer self early in the year as Giant-Alpecin look to replicate their 2015 Classics campaign. He also has his sights on another first in his career – an appearance at the Olympic Games.

“The spring Classics are certainly the first target and then the next big thing for me is the Olympics, I want to be part of the German team. That would be one of my big dreams left in cycling,” he said. “It’s a really hard parcours so the German team will not be the favourites. I’m good at going in the right breakaway and maybe I’ll be lucky to get into the right breakaway and may the situation will get easier for me because there are really long climbs and I’m not a pure climber.”

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