John Degenkolb remains determined to make Trek-Segafredo’s Tour de France team but even the German, at his optimistic best, knows that he is facing a battle to prove his form ahead of the biggest race in the world.
A crash at Paris-Roubaix in April left him nursing a knee injury and needing a total of three weeks off the bike. The former Roubaix and Milan-San Remo winner only returned to racing in May for the Hammer Series, before lining up the Tour de Suisse.
Flat sprint stages are a rare commodity at the week-long race and the hilly terrain has put Degenkolb on the back foot so far, but he believes that his condition is slowly improving.
"So far, so good. I’ve felt relaxed and I’ve felt like I’ve improved," he told Cyclingnews on the start line of stage 4.
"The TTT was super hard for me and I had to go really deep to be up there in the end because we lost a few guys in the beginning. On the second day there was a crash, and then a split and we were dropped. On stage 3 I felt okay but couldn’t survive the last climb."
Degenkolb has not made the front group on any of the opening stages in Suisse and, with just one sprint stage remaining, the chances of proving himself against his sprint rivals are limited. He can work as a teammate for overall contender Bauke Mollema, and analyse his power output to measure any incremental improvements, but time is a factor with the Tour just a few weeks away.
That break between April and May was certainly not ideal after an already difficult spring.
"It cost me a lot that I couldn’t re-start after the Classics. I had to take a break of three weeks in total and that wasn’t ideal for sure. My knee from Roubaix meant that I couldn’t ride for three weeks," he admitted.
According to Degenkolb, making the Tour selection “all depends on how the improvements go" in the rest of the Tour de Suisse.
"If I can do a good race here then it’s possible but if I’m not in a good shape then it makes no sense that the team send me to the Tour. If I’m not convinced that I’m in a good shape, then I don’t want to go either of course. Right now, I feel like I’m getting better and better, so let’s see how it goes.
"This week depends on the feelings and the power output. You can see if it’s improving from day to day. The plan is still the same, to be in the Tour."
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