ABBEVILLE, France (AFP) — John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) will be aiming to continue German hegemony at the Tour de France on Thursday.
After three German victories over the first five stages, including back-to-back wins the last couple of days for Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick-Step) and then Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Degenkolb will be looking to make it three in a row on the 191.5-kilometer sixth stage from Abbeville to Le Havre.
The finish in Le Havre includes a slight climb over the last 1.5km, including a relatively steep last 850m averaging at a 7 percent gradient.
It’s the kind of finish that will shed the likes of pure sprinters Greipel and Mark Cavendish (Etixx) but is ideally suited for Degenkolb, Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) or Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Katusha).
This stage 6, though, was one that Paris-Roubaix winner Degenkolb’s team singled out for its sprinter to potentially win.
“He gets over short climbs, he’s a sprinter with great classics qualities, in fact he’s becoming a classics specialist,” Giant coach Christian Guiberteau said.
“With him we have the chance to win a sprint in the classics style but also when there are climbs or even cobbles, obviously.”
Degenkolb won on the Paris-Roubaix cobbles this year having finished second in 2014, while he also won Milano-Sanremo in March and Gent-Wevelgem last year.
He’s been getting involved in the sprints during the Tour and was second on Tuesday’s fourth stage, winning the sprint behind solo victor Martin.
That was also on a slight incline and he will have taken confidence from beating Sagan on that occasion.
He’s been competing for the intermediate sprints as well but without being able to match Greipel.
Yet the 26-year-old says the green points jersey is not his main aim here.
“The green jersey is a dream for me and it would be nice to achieve that, but we will see. For this year the main goal is to win a stage,” Degenkolb said.
He won one stage at the 2013 Giro d’Italia, has had nine successes at the Vuelta a Espana, including taking the points jersey last year, but has yet to taste victory at the Tour.
Degenkolb will be glad to tackle an uphill sprint finish, having been well-beaten by his rivals on Wednesday’s flat finale, finishing sixth.
Thursday’s finish is ideal for Sagan but he has the disadvantage of needing to work for his Tinkoff team leader Alberto Contador during the day, only being let off the leash to fight for a stage victory at the last moment.
“We will see what happens (Thursday), it will depend on the conditions and if there is wind, because I want to help and protect Alberto but maybe I can do a good result in the finale,” said Sagan.
Bright sunshine but mild temperatures met the riders at the start in Abbeville.
That would have been a relief as although the stage should finish in a sprint, it is a lumpy parcours with three fourth category climbs along the way and, following a tough start to the Tour, there will likely be some tired legs struggling on the rolling terrain throughout the day.