John Degenkolb of Argos-Shimano has become the first rider to double up the two late season classics of the centre of France as he claimed the 107th edition of Paris-Tours just three days after winning Paris-Bourges. He out-sprinted Danish champion Michael Mørkøv (Saxo-Tinkoff) and young Frenchman Arnaud Démare (FDJ) after catching Belkin’s lone attacker Jetse Bol at the very end.
“I’m very satisfied to end the season that way,” Degenkolb said. “It’s always tricky to plan on a bunch sprint finish here. You can only count on it when you have a lot of guys to control the race. Every year it’s the same: the bunch gets split in the three hills prior to the finish. I was definitely strong enough to follow the move. I preferred to do so than complain about being too late like last year.
“The biggest problem was to catch that guy from Belkin. I used my last teammates for that, so I was on my own for the real sprint. In the last corner, two FDJ riders passed me. I tried to get on Arnaud’s wheel. He did a great sprint once again. He’s a great champion and a nice guy. I think we have a lot of years racing each other ahead of us.”
Now relegated to the Europe Tour calendar, Paris-Tours might not have the prestige it used to enjoy, but Degenkolb still rated this victory above the WorldTour race in Hamburg in August.
“The Cyclassics was my first step into the big classics,” he said. “This is the next step. I hope it’ll continue with Milan-San Remo. I like long races where you have to save energy at the beginning and be strong at the end. The period from Milan-San Remo to the Amstel Gold Race with the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in between will be the most important for me next year. Then I’ll work together with Marcel Kittel again.”
Argos-Shimano’s two German fast men have enjoyed fine 2013 seasons, and Degenkolb said that he was happy to continue in the same team as Kittel, pointing out that they are two very different kinds of sprinter.
“I have no problem leading him out as I get the same support from the team for the races that suit me better. I’m not fast enough to beat Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel but Marcel is,” Degenkolb said. “We have a great future together. We also both have the safety of another three-year contract with Argos-Shimano. That’s very appreciated considering the difficult times cycling goes through these days, especially in Germany but we do our best for things to get better.
“Right now, I can go on a honeymoon with my wife, enjoy the off-season and come back stronger next year.”
Bol disappointed to miss out
While Degenkolb finished his season on a high, Jetse Bol was left disappointed after his clever attack over the top of the final climb of the Côte de l'Épan was snuffed out in the finale. The Dutchman was cruelly caught on the finish straight, the Avenue de Grammont, and he was devastated at the finish.
“I saw the victory was so close,” Bol lamented. “I really thought they wouldn’t catch me. Next year I’ll be back to win.”
Bol’s disappointment was in total contrast with the smile of the runner up as he came down from the podium. “I’m really happy,” Vuelta a España stage winner Michael Mørkøv told Cyclingnews. “I came out of the Vuelta in very good shape. I finished fourth at the Eurometropole Tour but I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a better result at the world championships.
“Today I was able to follow the attacks in the last climb. Unfortunately we got caught but I knew I had another chance to deliver a result in the sprint. As there was absolutely no chance of passing Degenkolb, I can only be proud of coming second in this race.”