Degenkolb frustrated with Tour miss, but isn’t far from victory

German sprinter shows that he's closing in on a Tour de France win in his first crack at the race

Photo: Graham Watson

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ALBI, France (VN) — John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) let out his frustration after losing today’s seventh stage at the Tour de France to Peter Sagan (Cannondale). The German came up short in Albi, but it shouldn’t be long before the six-time grand tour stage winner raises his arms at the Tour.

When he arrived to the team bus, Degenkolb stepped on and roared out a curse word to let his anger be known to anyone in earshot.

Albi, in the south of France, is the gateway to Saturday’s high-mountain stage, and it was to be his town. Given the tough terrain, few sprinters would be left and Degenkolb would have his chance to match his grand tour stage wins in the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España.

“The Terminator” stopped him, however.

Sagan’s team blew the race apart nearing the intermediate sprint in Viane Pierre-Ségade, at kilometer 135. It led the way until the red triangle at 1km to go.

Argos hit the front, positioning Degenkolb. He surged on the left to place himself between Sagan and his leadout man, Fabio Sabatini. The German’s positioning was nearly perfect, but he let fly too earlier and Sagan burst around him in the final 100 meters.

Degenkolb had time to think about the Albi sprint and his past matchups, and simply gather his thoughts on the bus. He returned 10 minutes later and sat on his turbo trainer to warm down under the hot sun.

“There’s not a secret to beat Peter Sagan,” Degenkolb said. “I think he got beaten already so it’s not impossible.”

Despite the near miss, Degenkolb held his head high. The German debuted this year in the Tour, where today he scored his highest placing yet.

The result reminds fans of his thrilling sprint win out of a crashing peloton when the Giro d’Italia visited Matera in May. It builds on the potential that carried him to five stages last year in the Vuelta a España.

“It’s obvious, it’s disappointing when you lose a race, especially in the Tour,” he added. “Second place is definitely not bad, but it could definitely be better.”

Degenkolb is Argos’ “joker” card, as Marcel Kittel calls him, and is a sprinter who can survive the climbs better than most, making a day like Friday his for the taking. To achieve second place, Degenkolb survived a grueling ride though Tarn. Over the 13 Vents, Croix de Mounis, Quintaine, and Tillet climbs, he and teammates Tom Dumoulin and Simon Geschke continued when sprinters like Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) lost ground.

Geschke and Dumoulin perfectly led out Degenkolb, who squeezed through a narrow gap and placed best of the rest, just edging Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff).

“We did a good job, we kept calm. I trusted in my two teammates and they really put me in good position for the last 500 meters. At 250 meters to go, I passed Peter on the left,” Degenkolb continued as he spun on his bike. “He was pretty surprised I was coming through the inside and there was a gap.”

Degenkolb is not a surprise, however. Given his other grand tour stage victories, it is only a matter of time before he pips Sagan. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) did so in Calvi before the Tour left Corsica. Greipel did it again yesterday. It is easy to imagine the 24-year-old German having his turn soon.

“It’s not easy to beat Peter Sagan,” Degenkolb said, “but there will be a day.”

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