On the eve of the UCI Road World Championships, Germany appeared to be one of the strongest teams in the race, despite only fielding six riders, with Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb forming an intimidating triumvirate. At the conclusion of the race, it was a different story with Greipel the only German finisher as he crossed the line in 42nd place over five minutes down on winner Peter Sagan.
The German team were one of the big losers when Belgium put the race in the gutter and split the peloton to pieces in what was dubbed 'Operation Desert Storm'. With the front group of 26-riders riding away with over one minute to the chasers on the first entry into the Pearl circuit, Germany with Kittel and Degenkolb were constantly seen on the front in an attempt to bridge the gap.
Belgium played the race to perfection and along with having six riders in the front group, the men in blue had Jens Debusschere and Iljo Keisse shutting the chase with great efficiency. For Degenkolb, who had made the initial cut only for disaster to strike with a mechanical taking him out of contention, the frustration boiled over on the circuits as he sprayed Debusschere with water from his bidon and reminded him that Greipel was trade teammate on Lotto Soudal. Degenkolb was then picked by the TV cameras, sitting in the shade of a team car looking exhausted from his efforts before answering questions from the press.
"That was a shit season this year. But I am still alive, life goes on. The mechanical decided everything for me. I do not know what would have been possible if that had not happened," Degenkolb told rad-net.de, referencing his season that started with a training ride crash in Calpe that almost saw the 27-year-old lost a finger along with suffering several injuries.
"What I thought of the Belgians? They wanted to disrupt our work, but they must continue to show respect. If we want to pursue them, they should not get in our way driving," he added according to Sporza. "I find it disrespectful what Iljo and Jens did, but what can I do. The bidon? Oh, Jens asked for refreshment and I granted his wish."
In his post-race comments, Greipel also expressed his disappointment with the outcome of a Worlds that was suited to his characteristics for the first time since the 2011 Worlds in Copenhagen when he won bronze. The 34-year-old added that with no other nations helping the chase, there was no nothing to be done despite the work of Degenkolb and Kittel.
"There is not much to be proud of at this World Championships. We can do a lot better, but today we showed character and team spirit. With John and Marcel, I had to riders at my side and they tried to close the gap. They brought it down to 1.30 but unfortunately no other nation helped us," Greipel told radsport-news.com.
While Germany missed out in the road race, it finishes the World Championships top of the medal tally with two golds, four silver, and one bronze.