John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) is just 23 but he became the German with the most victories in a single Vuelta a España on Sunday, clinching one more than André Greipel’s total of four in 2009, with an all-out surge for the line in Madrid.
Already victorious in stages two, five, seven and 10 of the Vuelta, the Argos-Shimano sprinter added a fifth win to his palmares by fending off Italians Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan).
“I’m really unbelievably happy with five victories,” Degenkolb said afterwards. “As the first German to take five stages of the Vuelta, it’s pretty good to be making history, too.”
Discussing the Madrid stage, he said “The final was pretty fast, but the last kilometre was simple after the U-turn [with 1.2 kilometres to go]. [Teammate Simon] Geschke and [Koen] De Kort were in the lead, we passed the Italians and then Geschke took me to 500 [metres] to go, De Kort until 200 to go and I was strong enough to make the last 200 metres without too many problems.”
“It’s been a very hard Vuelta, everybody is pretty tired, including me, and I’ve not had an easy time on the climbs in the last few days. But we were willing to suffer as a team and focus 100 percent on my sprint for one last time.”
Degenkolb’s immediate race programme will have as its highlights the GP d’Isbergues (September 16) followed by the world championships road race (September 23), Paris-Bourges (October 4) and as his last race, Paris-Tours (October 7).
Given that Peter Sagan’s impressive track record in the Vuelta 2011 - three stage wins - was followed up by an even more impressive Tour de France in 2012, it was almost obligatory to ask the German if he aimed to follow suit and ride La Grande Boucle next July.
“Of course I want to go there,” Degenkolb said. “I’ve got the momentum going now, and I want to use that and make the next step if I can. There are always things you can do better, and with the team supporting me 100 percent like they do, I’ll make the next step next year for sure.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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