John Degenkolb has endured the toughest season of his life after a collision with a car while training in Spain almost cost him his career. However he came through the darkest days and after a lengthy recovery, the German sprinter and Classics winner came back strongly with an impressive second half of the season.
"That's such a crucial part of what it takes to be a professional bike rider. If you don't have your stuff together it's a real problem because you need to have that confidence and you need to have that focus. If you're not confident you're not going to win and you need to have that trust in both your team and your material."
"Mental strength is also about learning to deal with the pressure. In the end, if you're a good rider then there's always going to be pressure, no matter the situation but for me pressure is important if you want to preform at your best level. For me, if there's not much pressure then it doesn't really feel like it counts as much. Of course, all riders have pressure but for me I turn it into positive energy and I try and focus on my stuff. I don't let the outside factors influence me. Every year I try and improve in that aspect because it's not like you know how to react right from the beginning."
"I remember the first time I did the Tour de France and there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I felt weird trying to handle that situation and to be honest I didn't really know what to do. But now, from year to year, I've picked up that experience, and I've taught myself more about the routines that I need to go through."
Fears and superstitions
"It's not that I have no fears in life or sport but I don't think that there's one single thing that sticks out in particular or that I'm scared of. I'm superstitious though. I believe in a few things and that's also a mental thing because it's the sort of thing you can't prove but somehow it's in your mind. They can be really small things so for example I would never pass someone salt at the dinner table to their hand. I'd always pass it along the table. Maybe it's a small tick but I've been doing it since… actually I can't remember when I picked it up. Another thing I do is that I always put on my right shoe first. It's a small thing but I think it is just part of my routine."
"In cycling, if you're a team and you want to work together then you need honesty, just like you need strong legs. You need to make plans, you need to stick to them, and while you can be flexible and have a back up, that's the only way to be successful. If you don't give your all and you try and save something for another day then you're not being honest and then those percentages that you're saving, they could be the difference between winning and losing. If people lie or they're dishonest, that's something I find hard to accept."
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Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.