Giant-Alpecin’s disappointment over losing the Vuelta a España received the best of consolation prizes on Sunday when John Degenkolb roared home to take the last stage win of the race - and 10th of his career - in impressive style.
For Degenkolb, this was his first win of the Vuelta 2015 after near misses in Castellon and Ronda, where he took second, and previously in Malaga, where he took third. It was also his first victory since the Paris-Roubaix and Milano-Sanremo winner took two stages of the Bayern Rundfahrt in May.
But beyond an immense satisfaction for Degenkolb and major boost to his morale just as the World Championships approach, the stage win allows Giant-Alpecin to end the Vuelta on a higher note following Dumoulin’s brutal defeat on Saturday.
“For me it means a lot, and for the whole team, too,” said Degenkolb. “We had a big, big disappointment yesterday.
“The whole world saw we were giving everything to defend that jersey, and in the end we failed. We lost the jersey and the podium too, and that was a huge disappointment for the team. We were all upset after the stage.”
Turning the tables round on the last stage after such a dramatic setback and above all rebuilding the Giant-Alpecin team spirit for one last-ditch effort in the finale at Madrid was something Degenkolb had to work hard to do, he said.
“I had to try very hard to get the guys mentally prepared for a sprint today. I love this parcours and circuit, though, and I had a great leadout. The emotions have gone from zero to 100 today, and now we can go home with positive feelings because this was still an awesome Vuelta, sixth place overall and three stage wins.”
Degenkolb had nothing but praise for Tom Dumoulin, who he said he was sure would one day “stand on the top of the podium here [in Madrid]. I am really happy with the progress on the team, and it will be great to celebrate tonight.”