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DOHA (VN) — John Degenkolb returned to Qatar on Friday to begin what he hopes is another spectacular season. The Argos-Shimano rider won five stages of the Vuelta a España last year and helped ensure his team’s first-division license.
The German wants to win more. Qatar is clearly first, but the classics, starting with Milan-San Remo, are on his mind. Last year, he placed fifth in San Remo and sixth in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke.
“The big classics are my big dream. My heart is really pulling to those and I’m passionate for those. I want to show I’m in the club of big names for these classics races,” Degenkolb told VeloNews.
“I wouldn’t say that I can win [San Remo], but I’ll try to fight for the podium for a good result. With the classics it’s always about good luck. It’s not easy.”
Degenkolb prepared his shoes for a training ride around Doha and the country’s east coast, just after Kirsten Wild of the Argos women’s squad won the Ladies Tour of Qatar, taking three of the four stages.
After watching the stages on YouTube, Degenkolb said those wins motivate him and his mates to do something similar.
“It’s going to be hard to have a balanced battle!” he said with a laugh. “We’d be happy with just one or two stages. The girls made a big step forward here in Qatar.”
Chatting and looking on as Degenkolb talked were teammates Nikias Arndt, Roy Curvers, Koen De Kort, Luka Mezgec, Ramon Sinkeldam, Tom Stamsnijder and Tom Veelers.
The mood was very light. They could afford to laugh. Degenkolb helped the team grab some of its 30 wins last year, taking five of them himself in the Vuelta. Later, the team was accepted to ride in the first division and with it, received guaranteed starts to all the WorldTour races.
“The whole season was a success,” Degenkolb said. “It was unbelievable, like a dream, I still can’t believe it. I’m really happy and proud of what we did in the Vuelta. On the other hand, we are looking to the future and keep on being successful.
“First Qatar. It’s always good to have a win because it takes the pressure off you. If it’s not, then it’s not, we have enough races until the classics to get into shape.”
Degenkolb finished his preparations and clicked in with his teammates.
Besides De Kort, who trained and raced the Tour Down Under, the Qatar team has been training this winter in Alicante, Spain, to be ready. They took off for the coast, a short ride ahead of Sunday’s first leg in a six-day tour, 145km to Dukhan Beach.
Degenkolb will be thinking about the Qatar stage and the season ahead, one full of promise.