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NAPLES, Italy (VN) — After winning five stages at last year’s Vuelta a España, German John Degenkolb comes to his first Giro d’Italia with one objective in mind — winning stages.
After a 2012 season that included top-10 finishes at Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders, E3 Harelebeke, and the world road championship, the 24-year-old Argos-Shimano rider hasn’t yet won a race in 2013, though he finished a respectable ninth at Flanders and took fourth at the May 1 Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt.
Degenkolb didn’t factor in Saturday’s stage 1 sprint finale in Naples, derailed by a crash in the final 1500 meters that split the front of the race. Regardless, the short, flat circuit in Naples wasn’t ideal for the stocky German, who is less of a traditional field sprinter and more of a strongman capable of overpowering riders at the end of a difficult stage.
“There are a lot of other guys here who are the top field sprinters, but I think I can do some good things on the harder stages where not the whole field comes to the finish line,” Degenkolb said. “I hope there I can have some nice results. I’m really excited to race here in Italy. I’ve twice done the Vuelta, and I’m really happy to take part here.”
Degenkolb said he is eyeing stages 3, 5, 7 and 9; the closing 10km of stage 9 traces portions of the route of the world championship course the peloton will see in September.
Asked about his fitness coming into the Giro, Degenkolb said he was on his way back up, after taking a break following a demanding spring classics campaign.
“I think I am building up right now,” he said. “I had a short break after Paris-Roubaix, and restarted the training at home in Frankfurt, and raced in my home race [on May 1]. I hope that my shape is getting better and better from stage to stage.”
The overall winner of the 2012 UCI European Tour, Degenkolb hopes to race at the Tour de France as well — an ambitious race schedule for a 24-year-old to tackle the classics, the Giro and the Tour in one season.
“It’s a tough program, but I am excited for it,” he said. “We’re now at WorldTour level, and we want to compete at the highest level, of course.”
And should he falter, Degenkolb said he’s not the only card Argos-Shimano can play in Italy.
“I want to win a stage, that’s my personal goal as well as the team’s goal,” Degenkolb said. “Of course we also have other riders, like Luka Mezgec, or a really young guy, Tobias Ludvigsson, who can probably go in a group and try to fight for a stage there. We are quite confident.”