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John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano)
Giant-Shimano's sprinter recovered from injuries
Having endured the "hardest week" of his cycling career in the last week since crashing on stage 5, John Degenkolb bounced back in Oyonnax to win the bunch sprint just meters behind breakaway stage winner Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol).
Degenkolb twice crashed heavily during the cobbled stage 5, rupturing his gluteus maximus, but proved he is almost recovered from his injuries making it over the final three categorised climbs of the day in a select group that contained the GC candidates thanks the efforts of Giant-Shimano teammate Tom Dumoulin.
"I knew how strong Tony was when he was out front but I kept believing," Degenkolb said. "Tom did a great job for me in helping me get back to the front but in the end we came up just short.
"The good thing is that I am back feeling good again and the damaged muscle is getting better. I think I have endured the hardest week in my cycling career both mentally and physically but the morale is good now and today gives me a lot of confidence to move on and look for other opportunities."
Giant-Shimano's coach Aike Visbeek explained after the stage that the team had two separate plans to claim a fourth stage win of the race, adding to Marcel Kittel's three stage wins.
"We had two plans going into the stage, one to see how John was feeling and if he was good then to ride for him, and secondly if he was not great then to go with Dries [Devenyns] and Tom D in the moves at the end or in a big early break if this happened," Visbeek said.
"We were still a bit concerned about John and how he was this morning but early in the race he gave the signal that he was good and we decided to ride for him. The team positioned him for the climbs and then he had to dig deep on the final categorised climb to stick with the front group but he made it over the top together with Tom and was there at the end.
Despite seeing Degenkolb narrowly miss out on the chance to complete a grand tour hat-trick of stage wins, Visbeek was happy to see the 25-year-old getting back to his best.
"It was a shame to be so close to the win but it is great to know that John is feeling good again and back in action. The rest day did him good and it has been a remarkable comeback."