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Degenkolb closes out tough 2016 optimistic about fresh start

John Degenkolb closes out a five-year run with Giant – Alpecin in Abu Dhabi excited for a fresh start with Trek – Segafredo

ABU DHABI, U.A.E. (VN) — John Degenkolb closes a five-year run with Giant – Alpecin Sunday in the Abu Dhabi Tour and faces a new chapter as Trek – Segafredo’s classics leader.

Given the horror-start of 2016, the German is ready to wipe the slate clean and head into the new season with a proper training block. A car drove head-on into him and five teammates, including American Chad Haga, while they trained in Spain this January.

“It was definitely nice to come back into good shape after this horrible accident,” Degenkolb said at the start of the fourth and final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour. “It wasn’t a nice time of my career, but I’m happy it’s now over and behind me.

“I’m looking forward to start my training again and have a regular training schedule again. I was always fighting to make up the disadvantage, and that’s how it was the whole year — I was a little late with everything.”

Sunday’s Abu Dhabi finale at the Yas Marina Formula One track marks the end of the season for the 27-year-old, and the end of the road for his contract with his German WorldTour team. The winner of the 2015 Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix winner will switch to Trek next year.

The American WorldTour squad beefed up its roster this transfer season, adding Degenkolb for the classics and Alberto Contador (from Tinkoff) for the Tour de France.

Degenkolb will have a new space to start fresh after the training incident put him on his back foot. Following the crash, doctors operated on him immediately to save his left index finger. He also suffered a cut to his leg and a fractured forearm.

“I had to try to catch up with the other guys. I’m back in the rhythm again, I showed that in the worlds,” he continued.

“It was great to see that if you get knocked out that badly, and never lose the focus, that it’s possible to come back. That also gives me more confidence to handle big setbacks in the future. I’m confident about having a good classics season and a new period with Trek.”

Degenkolb will be expected to fill Fabian Cancellara’s place in the classics from Milano-Sanremo to Paris-Roubaix. The Swiss star, who retired after he won the Olympic time trial in August, won Milano-Sanremo once, and the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix three times each.

“I don’t feel any pressure. I’m a completely different rider than Fabian Cancellara was and I’ll just do my thing. I’ll take the Degenkolb spot and not the Cancellara spot.

“The Trek guys have a lot of experience, and even Fabian will be there, I hope for a least a couple of days during the classics. It’s about sharing the experience and taking advantage of that. I know I can just be a more professional cyclist than I am now and just take more percentages out of my potential.”

After breaking through with HTC – Highroad, Degenkolb joined the former Skil – Shimano team in 2012. He saw it through its different phases, including Argos – Shimano and Giant – Shimano, en route to today’s Giant – Alpecin.

“It’s not easy to leave the staff and friends behind,” Degenkolb said. “But I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead.”