John Degenkolb on today’s multi-discipline stars: ‘Let’s see how long they can last’

German veteran predicts fireworks in the elite men's cyclocross worlds: 'My prediction is Van Aert.'

Photo: Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty

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ALULA, Saudi Arabia (VN) — John Degenkolb will watch with interest Sunday as classics rivals Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel clash at the elite men’s world cyclocross championships.

Degenkolb, who is debuting his 2023 season at the Saudi Tour this week, says he’s in awe of how the peloton’s multi-discipline stars can race all winter and still be in the thick of things in the northern monuments.

“It’s fascinating how good they are in cyclocross and also how they can transform it on the road,” Degenkolb said Thursday. “It is a little bit frightening to see how deep they dig in the winter and then be so strong in the classics.

“It is like it is,” he said with a laugh. “They obviously have a really tough program. Let’s see how they can manage to maintain their shape.

“They are going in top shape into the championship this weekend and it will be nice to watch,” he said. “It is still a long way to the classics.”

‘Let’s see how long they can continue on that pace’

John Degenkolb debuted at the Saudi Tour in February. (Photo: Andrew Hood/VeloNews)

Degenkolb, who turned 34 last month, is using the Saudi Tour to bounce into the 2023 classics season.

Last year he punched into the top 20 in both Flanders and Roubaix, and he’s hoping to be a factor with a youth-loaded squad at Team DSM.

“As a team, we really want to race together as a group, and achieve things together,” he said. “It’s not one race or one thing we want to prove or want to achieve. Rather, it’s just ride together as a team and be present in some of the finals. That’s a realistic goal.”

With one more year remaining on his contract, Degenkolb said his racing future is in “let’s see” mode, and he will make a decision by the end of 2024.

Across his career, Degenkolb has stuck to the traditional buildup to the classics and wondered how long the likes of Van Aert and Van der Poel can keep racing so intensely across all disciplines.

“There are many ways to arrive in the top level to the three or four weeks of really important races,” he said.

“Over the last few years already they were doing constantly the whole season, with cyclocross, mountain bike, and road racing, and sometimes you have the feeling they never take the rest or even if they need the rest and they can perform at the highest level,” Degenkolb said. “It is quite incredible. In general, for cycling, it is very good.

“Let’s see how long they can continue on that pace.”

Prediction for Sunday: Wout van Aert will win

Degenkolb will be watching with interest on Sunday. His prediction? Van Aert for the win.

“It is really fascinating to watch them race against each other. You have the feeling the spectators really love it too, to see that rivalry and those big battles,” he said.

“I think it would be nice to have a close battle until the last lap and have a real showdown,” Degenkolb said. “My prediction is Van Aert.”

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