In a new feature, the Cyclingnews team pick their rider of the day from the Tour of California. John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) is the seventh rider to be chosen, and we will be selecting a rider after each stage.
Degenkolb's eighth-place finish in the sprint at the end of stage 7 of the Tour of California may not seem like a big result, but given the spring the German sprinter has had, and considering the difficulty of the 175.5km that preceded the sprint, it is really quite phenomenal.
This week's 2.HC race in America is Degenkolb's second competition of the year after being involved in a terrifying training crash with his team and nearly severing his index finger.
He's faced a long recovery, but at least one teammate believes he can be in top form for the Tour de France in July. Degenkolb's ability to finish with the leaders on a tough day that included six categorised climbs on narrow, rough mountain roads provided a confidence boost for his effort to not only participate, but to shine at this year's Tour.
"Yeah, of course," Degenkolb said when Cyclingnews asked him if he'd take a big morale boost from Saturday's effort. "This is what I can't train at home. So for me that's really good. I need this high intensity right now. But we will see what's going on in the Tour."
Pat Malach says:
"Seeing John Degenkolb come into Santa Rosa with the lead group today was just fantastic. The 2015 Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix winner is not only lucky to be racing his bike, he's lucky to be alive considering the circumstances of the training crash that he and five teammates went through. While Degenkolb's physical injuries are obviously on the mend, his competitiveness has remained intact; after the finish in Santa Rosa he good naturedly approached Trek-Segafredo's Jasper Stuyven - who finished sixth - and said, 'You should have listened to me.' Stuyven had apparently hesitated at a point in the sprint when Degenkolb had urged him to jump. I expect to see Degenkolb in France this July fighting for the sprint wins again."
Ted Burns says:
"Before the start of stage 3, Degenkolb explained to me how he was relearning to sprint post injury. He detailed the work he was doing to recapture the feel and finesse needed for a professional field sprint. It sounded gruesome. Degenkolb's ability to get over today's climbs, and then put together a sprint for eighth place, shows the German sprinter is recapturing the magic that won him multiple classics and Grand Tour stages."