Following his strong win in the uphill finish at the Tour of Dubai, John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) is aiming to kick off his 2015 European stage racing season with a bang at the Vuelta a Andalucia, with his eye firmly fixed on today’s (Wednesday’s) stage and this morning’s short, flat first sector.
Degenkolb is one of the top favourites for the 118.3km opening sector of stage one from La Rábida to Hinojos in the flatlands of western Andalucia, together with Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka) and Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar). The latter is particularly motivated given Andalucia is his home race, with today’s stage finishing near his own region of Cadiz.
Degenkolb has good memories of Spain, with his points jersey victory last year in Vuelta a Espana and nine wins to date in the country’s flagship race. He has never raced Andalucia before, but argues that the tough course, not to mention the slight uphill finishes for all three ‘sprint’ stages, are all factors to his liking.
“My shape is not too bad and for personally, these hard races suit me to get the body rolling,” Degekolb told Cyclingnews. “Dubai was a good start, then last Saturday I also did Murcia, which was a hard race as well and unfortunately the team didn’t get an invitation for Almeria [on Sunday], so I’ve stayed here training in Spain. Now, in this race, I’ve got three possibilities.”
Degenkolb knows the difficult stage three final ascent of Hazallanas - almost certainly not one of those three possibilities - from his altitude training in the nearby Sierra Nevada ski station in previous summers prior to the Tour. “Unfortunately, I know it,” he said with a broad grin. “I’ve been up it. I think there’s still some snow there in that area, so we’ll see what it’s like on Friday.” After Andalucia, he will do a short training camp near Cambrils in NE Spain, where Giant were based for their winter training in Europe, and then go on to Paris-Nice.
As for his rivals, “I’ve been impressed by Juan Jose Lobato in the Tour Down Under. He was was very quick there and I’m looking forward to good sprints against him,” Degenkolb told reporters in the press conference. “It’ll be a nice fight this week.” One of Degenkolb’s own key support riders in Giant-Alpecin will be Holland’s Koen for Koert, who “was with me in the Vuelta and is always here when I come to Spain, so that’s good. I’m looking forward to this week. I just hope the weather” - clear dry and sunny on Wednesday morning in western Andalucia for the opening stage, although later in the week, further east some rain and perhaps snow is forecast - “plays a good game with us.”