CyclingPub Interview: John Degenkolb ready for a new challenge
Dec 16 2016 11:54 am CET

CyclingPub Interview: John Degenkolb ready for a new challenge
CyclingPub Interview: John Degenkolb ready for a new challenge
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JOHN DEGENKOLB
TREK - SEGAFREDO

John Degenkolb, one of Germany's top cyclists and winner of Milan - San Remo and Paris - Roubaix, spoke to CyclingPub about the difficult past season, the move to Trek-Segafredo and his plans for the future.

It's been a long day for the 27-year-old when he meets us for the interview at the Trek-Segafredo training camp in Spain. Change is never easy but it appears to suit the rider as he speaks about his new team with enthusiasm and clear optimism.

How are you doing? What is the feeling right now?
It's a big change now and I'm really looking forward to do all the preparation now, more and more intensive. It's not so far either to the first races. It feels good, it's a great atmosphere.

How has the off-season been? Between two different teams the off-season must always be a bit different compared to when you already know what you'll be doing at the same team.
Yes, it's a bit different but with the changes you also gain a lot of motivation, the small things, refreshing your whole working process and what you normally do in your routine. So it has been a great time so far.

Text continues below the gallery.

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo training camp, Spain 2016)
Photos by Mary Cárdenas / CyclingPub.com
That gives you extra motivation as well then?
Of course, everything is new. It's kind of a challenge to get to know each other now and we are together with the whole team now, the whole staff and the whole group of riders. It's a great moment also to know each other and you have a lot of new faces and new names. You have to remember all names which is kind of a challenge but I really like it. There are a lot of things to do this week for me anyway; I have a lot of appointments. This morning I left my room at 8, I just had a quick shower and the rest of the day I was always training, on the run, had appointments, massage... So it's kind of busy right now.

Why this team? Why Trek-Segafredo?
For me it's a very special team which suits my type of rider. They have a lot of experience in the classics and they have great equipment. We're gonna ride with some really good bikes. That's basically it. I was talking to some other teams as well of course but in the end I chose Trek. I felt comfortable from the first moment.

In deciding to leave your previous team, was one of the factors that they began to focus a bit more on General Classifications in big races?
I think in general, all the teams are trying to focus on everything because it's important to get as many WorldTour points as possible and get a good result in the WorldTour ranking. That's what you get paid for in the end and what brings better sponsors into the team. This kind of situation you will have at every team. For me it was just time for a change and I'm happy that everything worked out well here at Trek.

"This situation was so special and so exceptional that you could actually say that this will probably never happen again."

The last year has been difficult, as you yourself have also said. First of all, what is it like to be back here in Spain after what happened last year?
Everybody knows why it was difficult so we don't really need to talk about that anymore. It feels kind of normal to be back here. This situation was so special and so exceptional that you could actually say that this will probably never happen again. So I'm feeling confident on the bike here. Of course, you always have to be defensive on the bike, especially when you are out training in traffic. I did that before and now as well. In the end, I'm not scared to be in Spain again.

Physically, you feel all healed? Your finger?
Yes, I'm pretty good. I have no problems, no pain.

At the beginning when you came back you had some difficulties handling the bike. That is better now?
Yes, in the beginning you have to learn how to handle your bike again but now I'm kind of adapted and used to handling the bike in a different kind of way. Now it's in my system.

Do you feel that after this year, the only way is up?
It will never go only in one direction, that's for sure, but we aim for really big goals. Not only me; everybody is really motivated and they are definitely really hungry for some success. Especially in the beginning of the year in the classics but also in the Tour. We have several goals throughout the whole season and we try our best. The atmosphere, the spirit of how we train now already, since a couple of days, is great and it makes me feel very confident that we are on a good way to be at a top level.

Of course you only just arrived here, but can you already say that there are clear differences between the two teams?
In the end, every team is different and has a different character and mentality. I feel very comfortable here, I have to say, and I also don't want to compare my old team and my new team with each other. It's just a different team. I'm happy that I have chosen Trek and made the decision. I have no regrets on that.

"I'm very happy that we can still look into each other's eyes and talk about what we've achieved together."

So you can say that you left Giant-Alpecin with good feelings and arrive here with good feelings.
Yes absolutely. I'm very thankful for what we could achieve in the last five years. It was a great time and I've won two monuments and ten stages in the Vuelta with them. So it was definitely a great period of my career and it helped me to become a better rider. In the end it was just the moment to leave the team and to go in a different direction. We still have a very good relationship with each other. That's why I'm also very happy that we can still look into each other's eyes and talk about what we've achieved together.

What does it mean to you that Koen de Kort joined you in this move to Trek-Segafredo?
For me that was very important, that we can stay together. He was luckily interested to stay with me from the beginning and he's a very good friend of mine. I'm just happy to have him here and it makes the restart a bit easier because at least you have a small piece of the environment from the past, in the future. So that's very important for me and mentally it feels right.

This is of course not only a change of teams but also of bicycles. You have been riding on Giant bikes for four years and now on Trek bikes. Are there differences, and how does it feel?
I think both brands are really super great bikes and they do make great equipment for a professional cyclist. From the beginning on Trek I was very satisfied with the setup, with the different kind of bikes that I can choose from. I like the combination between the Madone and the Domane and the TT bike is great as well. It's kind of similar to Giant because there I could also choose between the Defy, the Propel and the TCR so it's not such a big difference. It's definitely no step backwards.

What are your plans for the season? How do you plan to approach the coming spring season for example?
I think the official race schedule is not announced yet but we will definitely have the focus on spring classics, starting with San Remo and closing with Roubaix. This period it's gonna be very important to be on a top level. It's not totally fixed which program I will do. I will definitely go for the training camp in January again and start racing in the beginning of February.

"I know how it feels when you win in San Remo and I know how it feels when you win in Roubaix, and both of them are absolutely unique and so different from the other."

About these classics. Until now which has been your favorite?
For me there isn't one favorite. The races with the most attention are of course the monuments with San Remo, Flanders and Roubaix, three races that are oustanding. Each of them is completely different and has its own character. That's what I like the most. All three races feel completely different. I know how it feels when you win in San Remo and I know how it feels when you win in Roubaix, and both of them are absolutely unique and so different from the other. You could say that for me, these three races are the highlight.

So you could say that after already having won Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders becomes your big personal objective as well?
For me the period is important and I will not go for one race and say that it's one big objective. You have to be sharp enough to always be in the position to win the race. I start the race to win and in each race I start in during this classics period I want to be as successful as possible, of course.

A bit later in the year, but maybe you're already thinking about it a bit: The World Championships in Norway. Probably a hillier course in Bergen. How do you think it would suit you?
I haven't been there. I know some guys that raced there in the Tour des Fjords. I think it's a very good circuit for Kristoff and me and also Sagan of course, again. I will definitely have this on my agenda for the end of the season so it's going to be the last goal of the season for sure. The World Championship is always special, always something very nice because you're not on your professional team and you go with your national team. It's special to represent your country there and go with the German national team.

Speaking of Germany; the start of the Tour de France is in Dusseldorf this year. What do you think this means for cycling in Germany as a whole? Is this also a confirmation that cycling in Germany is completely healthy and healed?
Completely healthy I would not say but it's a very good sign and can be a great chance to promote cycling on the big stage again. There is no bigger stage than the Tour so it's a great honor to have the start of the Tour in Germany and it doesn't happen so often so I'm happy to have the opportunity now to be there. It's going to be a big goal of course to ride the Tour and be successful there.

By Jonathan Roorda
Photo of John Degenkolb by Mary Cárdenas / CyclingPub.com





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