John Degenkolb celebrated his first win of the season on the fourth and final stage of the Arctic Tour of Norway, getting the better of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ). After mechanical issues scuppered his chances for stage 1 victory, the Giant-Alpecin rider and 2015 Milan-San Remo champion got the better of the 2014 and 2016 La Primavera victors in Bodo.
"It's a great relief to get the victory, and it took a lot of energy, almost as much as winning a monument," Degenkolb said of his first win since stage 21 of the 2015 Vuelta a Espana which also saw him claim the points classification.
"I'm super happy to not be alone here as the team did an awesome job, incredibly good," added Degenkolb who was second on stages 1 and 2. "They timed the lead-out perfectly and I could finish it off with good legs in the end. I was twice really close to the win this week and it didn't work out perfectly yet, but today it went very fine and we did a great job."
Degenkolb was one of six Giant-Alpecin riders involved in an early-season training ride crash after a car veered onto the wrong side of the road. The 27-year-old suffered injuries to his wrist, forearm, thigh, lip and almost lost his index finger. He made his first racing appearance of 2016 at the Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt, and earned selection for the Tour de France with his best results coming on stage 14 and 16 when he finished fourth.
For coach Dirk Reuling, the result was a long time coming and praised the efforts of his riders to deliver Degenkolb into prime position for the victory.
"It's his first win of the season and after his comeback so it's a special win, he really deserved that," said Reuling. "There was a really hard fight in the beginning, before the first climb. Then on the climb it looked controlled but BMC made it really hard and the peloton split. John was in the second split and so we had to race hard for a long time to bring it back. The team worked really well there and everything came back together.
"When the six riders were away, we put Max [Kanter] in the chase – we saw he was really strong earlier in the week, and gave him the roll of helping bring the gap down, which worked out. Then at the end the guys did a great lead-out and John finished it off."
Degenkolb is likely to make just two more appearances in Giant-Alpecin colours at the Vattenfall Cyclassics and GP Ouest France - Plouay having confirmed his move to Trek-Segafredo at the end of the season, and will close out the year with the World Championships in Doha.
Arctic Race of Norway stage 4 highlights - Video