John Degenkolb returns to racing Sunday for the 56th edition of the Eschborn-Frankfurt race, the latest of the Giant – Alpecin riders to return to competition following a horrific training accident in January.
On January 23, the classics star was among six Giant teammates who were struck head-on by a car during a training ride in southern Spain. Injuries across the six ranged from broken bones to severe contusions, but Degenkolb was among the worse off, suffering deep cuts to his face, arm, and leg, and nearly losing his left index finger. After a long recovery with surgeries in Spain and Germany, Degenkolb will finally toe up to the line Sunday.
“I am really happy to pin my race number on again, and to be at the starting line,” Degenkolb said in a team release. “I am certainly not here to win. Let’s not forget what I have been through the last few months, and keep it all in perspective. For Sunday, I hope I can finish the race in a good way.”
Degenkolb is the latest to return to competition. Chad Haga fractured his eye socket, returned in March, and is scheduled to start the Giro d’Italia next week. Warren Barguil broke a scaphoid, and came back for the Volta a Catalunya in March. Max Walscheid is still recovering from a fractured hand and tibia, and has not raced so far in 2016.
“We could have all been killed,” Barguil said. Roman Sinkeldam and Fredrik Ludvigsson were also involved, but were not seriously injured, and have resumed racing.
Spanish authorities confirmed that the 73-year-old English woman involved in the accident will be charged with reckless driving after she crossed into on-coming traffic, and struck the pack of riders returning for a training ride.
The accident sidelined Degenkolb, the defending champion at Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix, and took the air out of Giant – Alpecin’s northern classics campaign. After some promising results in the Ardennes classics, the team is hoping to be hitting its stride going into the Giro and other major races this summer.
“It has been a challenging few months, but we saw in the Ardennes classics that the results started to get better and I hope we will continue in the same direction,” said sport director Mattias Reck. “It’s great to have John back in the team since the training accident. It’s been a long period of recovery and working hard on his comeback. For Sunday, it’s just about regaining the feeling of racing again with no immediate pressure on him for results.”
Degenkolb hasn’t revealed his upcoming racing schedule, but he’s hoping to be in top shape in time for the Tour de France in July.