Degenkolb shrugs off pressure, aims for Tour de France stage win

After winning Milan-San Remo and following that with an historic Paris-Roubaix victory, German John Degenkolb knows that his early season campaign will be a tough act to follow, but he hopes he can win a stage in the Tour de France after coming second in three different stages over the past two years. Speaking in an interview with Sport, the online publishing arm of former cycling sponsor Telekom, Degenkolb added that while he and fellow Germans Marcel Kittel and Tony Martin have signed onto an anti-doping pact, a completely clean sport is "an illusion".

"I don't want to condemn or point the finger at anyone, but I think that there is still potential to make the sport cleaner," Degenkolb said. "This is already the job of the [UCI], and a lot has been done already, but in my opinion decisions need to be taken quicker. With regard to Astana, for example, it went on too long. On one hand, it is important to get things done quickly, but on the other hand you don't expect cycling will ever be free of cheaters. It's the same with all other sports. 100 per cent doping-free sport is an illusion. The controls are more effective and better, and clean athletes have more opportunities. My two most recent wins show we are on a very good path."

Those victories, however, have been "a great burden to bear", Degenkolb said. "I'm very proud of the wins, they give great confidence, security and motivation on one hand... but this means that you've made a big step, and in the perception of the media and other riders in the big races you're important. But the positives outweigh it all."

Although his two Monument victories this year have already made it his best season yet, Degenkolb still has one empty spot in his palmares, and that is a Tour de France stage win. He's won one stage in the Giro d'Italia and a total of nine in the Vuelta a España, but hopes this year he can join the ranks of riders with victories in all three Grand Tours.

"I would like to win a stage. This is the clearly stated objective, because I'm going to put everything on it and the team also. I have tried for two years now in vain to win a stage, and have only been second. I hope that all good things come in threes."

Degenkolb says he doesn't care which stage he wins, but has already pre-ridden the stage 2, "It will be very hectic, with traffic islands and roundabouts", and the stage 4 course to Cambrai which traverses seven sections of cobbles. "But the closer we get to the Tour, the more information we will get. Then we prepare even more specifically."

Degenkolb has served as an example that German cycling is turning around. The sport in the country suffered heavily from the doping scandals, losing many major teams including the sponsorship of Telekom, and for several years broadcasters refused to show the Tour de France. That has now changed, and the sport is regaining much of its former popularity in Germany.

Degenkolb and his fellow Giant-Alpecin teammate Marcel Kittel and fellow German Tony Martin signed onto their national anti-doping agency's clean sport campaign with the motto "give everything, take nothing".

"We have a zero-tolerance policy that we represent and we show that one can be successful without doping," he said. Anyone who does not believe us can come training with us any time so they'll be convinced that we really mean it."

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