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John Degenkolb: I'm not too old to compete at the highest level

John Degenkolb Paris-Roubaix
Degenkolb after winning Paris-Roubaix in 2015 during his previous stint with Team DSM (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

After five years away, John Degenkolb has returned to Team DSM, and the 32-year-old German still believes that he can compete for major honours in the Spring Classics and Grand Tours.

The former Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo winner spent the last two years at Lotto Soudal, and the three years before that at Trek Segafredo. 

He returns to Team DSM – the squad where he enjoyed the majority of his success between 2012 and 2016 – a more experienced rider, and while it has been six years since his incredible 2015 season, the German is determined to show that he can still be a force in the peloton.

"My main ambition is to find the right combination of being a road captain, and being a rider who can share his experience, and help the young riders. But I also have the ambition for myself," he told Cyclingnews.

"I’m the sort of rider who can gain motivation from the younger riders if I know I’m helping them. I’m still ambitious to win races. I’m 32 now and I’m about to turn 33 but I’m not too old to compete at the highest level or in the biggest races."

Degenkolb had acknowledged that his career can be split into two periods. The first was before an incident in 2016, when a driver hit Degenkolb and several teammates at a training camp in Spain, while the second phase came afterwards, with the German needing time to heal and regain anything like his best level.

"After all these years I’m still the same person but with more and more experience. I’ve developed as a person but if you point the finger at the accident that I had in 2016, then for sure there is a part of my career before the accident and part of it that came after. That’s not a bad thing because I learned a lot from that time," he said.

Degenkolb famously capped his return to the top by winning the Paris-Roubaix stage of the 2018 Tour de France but his time at Lotto-Soudal was stunted by the pandemic and injuries. 

He crashed out on stage 1 of the 2020 Tour de France and, despite returning later in the year with a string of top-10s in the Spring Classics, was unable to reach his top form. Despite a string of top-10s in 2021, he was left out of Lotto-Soudal’s Tour de France team but his focus is now firmly on next year, with the Spring Classics part of his early-season programme.

"For sure the Classics will be the first main goal. From that moment on, we’ll make a nice plan for the year, but the Classics are the first main focus. The team also wants me in Grand Tours but we’ve not decided on that approach yet," he said. 

"I’m just excited to work with completely new people, from my new trainer in Germany, with whom I’ve found a great connection, to all the riders. I’ve got a lot of motivation and passion going into 2022."

Team DSM’s roster for the Tour de France is still up in the air but, with the race returning to the cobbles of Arenberg once again, Degenkolb is instantly drawn to the idea of trying to win another stage on the cobbles.

"I made my career there, you can say, and I’d be stupid to miss a stage like that again. It’s definitely a big goal for me personally but it all depends on what the team wants. I’m just happy to be part of the team and to have new challenges and new goals for the next part of my career," he said.

"To be honest, I’m just looking at next year. I don’t feel so old that I can say this will be my last contract. I think I can go beyond 35. I’m not feeling old and I see being a professional rider as a huge privilege. It’s a really nice feeling being back at Team DSM. It’s exciting and from the first moment that I returned to the team, it definitely felt like home again. At our first team meetings, I realised that I’d made the right decision in coming back."

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Daniel Benson

 Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.