DOHA, Qatar (VN) — John Degenkolb lost his nerves late in Sunday’s world championship in what was a long, frustrating day in the saddle for Germany, a squad with three riders among the pre-race favorites. With the rainbow jersey all but lost for the Germans after they missed a crucial split in the bunch, an exasperated Degenkolb sprayed his water bottle into the face of a Belgian rival during a mid-race spat.
— CyclingHub (@CyclingHubTV) October 16, 2016
After what happened, who could blame him?
Things started off well enough. Degenkolb and teammate André Greipel were both initially in the front group when Belgium and Great Britain provoked echelons on the desert course. With the rainbow jersey on the line, things just as quickly unraveled. Greipel later admitted he didn’t have the legs to follow, and drifted out of the front of the peloton as the lead group was forming when the bunch began to split.
Degenkolb, who battled back from a horrible crash in January to be in shape for the worlds, then punctured out of the lead group, leaving Germany without any riders in the selection that would go on to contest the race. That would be enough to put anyone on edge.
Germany then tried in vain to try to close the gap to the leading group, keeping it close to one minute as the drag race unfolded across the desert. Once back on the finishing circuit, Degenkolb’s frustrations came pouring out.
With six of their teammates up the road, including Tom Boonen and Greg Van Avermaet, Belgian riders in the Degenkolb group were doing what they could to disrupt the chase. They’d pull through and then sit up, something that is simply good tactics when you have your leaders up the road.
Blasting hot temperatures didn’t help, and with the gap north of two minutes with about 60km to go, Degenkolb blew his top. He pointed his finger in frustration at Belgium’s Jens Debusschere, then yelled at him, and finally grabbed his water bottle and squirted water in Debusschere’s face.
Exasperated, frustrated and exhausted, Degenkolb later collapsed at the end of the race after pulling out early. It was neither his, nor German’s day. Greipel was Germany’s lone finisher in 42nd, with Marcel Kittel abandoning early in tears.