"I did not have the best legs to compete against these fast guys on an easy day like today," Degenkolb said in Sacramento. "Let's hope for some more harder stages next week."
Degenkolb got his wish as the race headed toward Southern California. After racing up Mt. Hamilton during stage 2, which taxed the entire peloton, stage 3's finish in Morro Bay looked ideally suited for Degenkolb. The 192.5 km race winded its way through the windy foothills of California's Central Coast. The day's early breakaway was controlled primarily by Bora-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step Floors, who were looking to set up Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel.
Trek-Segafredo jumped in to help with 20km to go, sending US National Champion Gregory Daniel to the front to bring back the remainder of the break. The last remnants of the break were reabsorbed by the pack with less than 10km to go, leaving it up to the sprinters' teams to take charge. The final 3km, a winding, punchy route through residential and downtown streets, was compounded by stiff winds and a hilly finish.
"It was a really crazy run in," said Trek-Segafredo's Kiel Reijnen. "A lot more dangerous than it looked on paper."
The finish was both technical and deceptively hard, with three turns and a long climb to the finish. After Sunday's success, Trek-Segafredo had confidence their train was in good shape.
"We are pretty dialed with the leadout for sure," Reijnen said after the race. "You can't overthink sprints like that. There is just a lot of risk taking a lot of chance involved. With better position, we would have had the result."
Markel Irizar hit the front with 2km to go and took Koen De Kort, Reijnen, and Degenkolb to the 1km line. Reijnen was assigned to be the final leadout man for Degenkolb and sat safely behind De Kort in the final kilometre.
"Koen hit the front and managed to get to like 300 meters or so, and I was just a couple guys back," Reijnen said. "I gave a glance back, and John wasn't there.
"Was bummer for sure, but it wasn't for lack of trying. It was just a hectic run in. There was a lot of swinging, a lot of near-death experiences. That's part of bike racing. Today was a really good chance for us. I'm disappointed we didn't get it, but we'll give it another go."
Degenkolb finished 15th, well behind Sagan and Katusha-Alpecin's Rick Zabel.
Wednesday's stage from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita offers another opportunity for Degenkolb's crew. The 159.5km stage passes over four rated climbs in the first 100km of the race. The final 60km will give teams plenty of time to claw back the day's breakaway and set up a fast finish for anybody that is left.
"I think it will be a full-on field sprint but with more tired legs," Reijnen said about the finish in Santa Clarita. "John seems to thrive when that happens. I had this one earmarked as a really great opportunity for the team, but tomorrow is probably the second best bet."