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Like many in the peloton, it’s been a rough opening few months for the veteran German who’s back at Team DSM. An illness after Paris-Nice kept him on the sidelines at Milan-San Remo, so he knows he’s playing a game of catch-up heading into the major monuments.
For the 33-year-old Degenkolb — who won San Remo and Paris-Roubaix in his magical 2015 season — right now it’s about using the next few races to peak for the “Hell of the North.”
“I don’t feel too bad. It could have been better, after having to skip Milan-San Remo,” Degenkolb told VeloNews. “I got a little bit sick after Paris-Nice. That cost me for sure a little bit of condition, and I am trying to build it up through the race – direction Roubaix. There is still a little bit of time before that.”
The fact that Paris-Roubaix is slotted into the calendar a week later than normal might help Degenkolb. French presidential elections in mid-April that coincided with the traditional Roubaix date saw the race pushed back a week.
As a result, Amstel Gold Race is scheduled for April 10 — the traditional Roubaix date — and Roubaix is the following weekend on April 17.
John Degenkolb still working to get back to the top
Could that extra week pay off for Degenkolb, who returns to Team DSM on a three-year deal this spring? He’s hoping so.
“We also have some other important guys on the team, so the pressure is not only on myself, and that’s also what I enjoy quite a lot, to be honest. The focus isn’t only on me,” Degenkolb said. “DSM: it feels nice to be back in a familiar atmosphere and I am really enjoying being back on this team. It’s a big family for me.”
Degenkolb completed a block of racing, with E3 Saxo Bank Classic, Gent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen all stacked up. Though he wasn’t in the frame for victory, he at least finished all three, with 38th on Wednesday.
— John Degenkolb (@johndegenkolb) March 30, 2022
Team DSM also brings such riders as Søren Kragh Andersen, who’s been on a roll all spring, but will skip Flanders and Roubaix to focus on Amstel Gold Race and the Ardennes.
Illness continues to rattle across the elite peloton. Big-name riders are not immune, and Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) will miss Sunday’s Tour of Flanders as he recovers from illness. On Thursday, Jumbo-Visma hinted that pre-race favorite Wout van Aert missed an important training ride and might not race Sunday.
For Degenkolb, staying healthy and arriving at the start line in race-ready condition is now half the battle.
“Whoever has not been sick will be at advantage. It is the main focus to stay healthy and come through all these races in a good condition,” Degenkolb said. “It is like it is. Every team has to fight it and struggle with it.
“We will see what happens. I am always trying to be on a good level,” he said. “I am hoping for that still.”