John Degenkolb is looking to pick up where he left off at the Vuelta a España having won four stages and the points classification at the 2014 edition of the race. The Giant-Alpecin sprinter won five stages in the 2012 Spanish grand tour but has set his sights a little lower this season with teamwork equally important as celebrating victory.
"My main goal is to win at least one stage, and in doing so I hope to reach the best possible form for the world championships next month. Also, we want to develop as a team and improve further. As a leader of the team I will have an important role in that process," Degenkolb said.
For the second year running, Degenkolb starts the Vuelta having also ridden the Tour de France with no racing between the grand tours. It didn't take Degenkolb long last year to get back to winning ways with victory on stages 4 and 5 but the 26-year-old suggested that it might take him the better part of a week to find his racing legs again.
"I hope to regain racing rhythm quickly and get the right feeling on the bike again, since my last race was some time ago," he added.
Degenkolb has been Giant-Alpecin's main sprinter in 2015 as compatriot Marcel Kittel has struggled with illness since January. While Kittel won the opening Tour de Pologne stage earlier this month, the team decided to back Degenkolb at the race in which he has had his greatest grand tour successes with the team's aspiration for the race to take home a stage win.
Last year it was Nacer Bouhanni, Michael Matthews and Degenkolb going head-to-head in the first week sprints. Of the trio, only Matthews will be missing over the next three weeks leaving Degenkolb and Bouhanni to resume their rivalry but they won't be the only fast men to watch in the race. While the stage 4 finish suits the characteristics of Degenkolb with a tough bunch sprint finish the expected outcome, the Milan San Remo and Paris-Roubaix winner of the spring believes the Alcalá de Guadáira finish the next day is more favourable his finishing speed.
"We will look at our chances day by day, not only for me but also for my teammates. Stage 4 might be the first sprint chance, but the finale is uphill so we will have to wait and see how it develops. The next stage, stage 5, will be an ideal course for a bunch sprint," he said.
Sport director Christian Guiberteau added that the team will be aggressive over the 21 stages in its search for a stage win and its squad selection reflects such tactics.
We have shown at the Giro and the Tour that we are ready to take any opportunities that come, and on the transition stages we will look to profit from breakaway opportunities. In addition we have Tom D. here, who will look to target the TT along with the classics-style stages," Guiberteau said.
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