CyclingPub Interview - John Degenkolb discusses past, present, future, Marcel Kittel and safety
Sep 10 2019 08:01 pm CET

CyclingPub Interview - John Degenkolb discusses past, present, future, Marcel Kittel and safety
CyclingPub Interview - John Degenkolb discusses past, present, future, Marcel Kittel and safety
Photo of John Degenkolb by Jonathan Roorda / had a talk with Trek-Segafredo's John Degenkolb during the Vuelta a España. The German rider talked about the changes in his preparation, his future at Lotto-Soudal, Marcel Kittel, his time at Trek-Segafredo and the safety during racing.

Degenkolb had a different approach to the season than in the last six years. He didn't ride the Tour de France and instead took a training period in Italy to prepare not only for the Vuelta a España but also for the World Championships of Yorkshire.

Do you think this change in your preparation will make a difference?

This preparation was for the Vuelta and the World Championships and it's pretty good to have more rest before and I will feel fresher coming out of the Vuelta but my biggest goal is to be at a high level after the Vuelta.

A lot of sprinters decide to skip the Vuelta due to the lack of opportunities for them, but this is your sixth time in the race. Why do you choose to ride it?

In the past there was always the discussions that the Vuelta didn't have many sprint stages. For me, this race was very good and I've had great success here and great memories when I look back. I have ten stage victories. If you look in the race book you'll find between five and seven opportunities, if you win one or two of them, that's enough to make it a successful Vuelta. I have a big respect and I honour the Vuelta. I don't come here to prepare for another race, I'm here to fight for victories and these weeks will be good for me for the World Championships.

How do you see your chances for the road race of the World Championships?

I think the parcours of this year is more in my favour than other years, particularly than last year because then it was only for climbers. In Yorkshire, it is more open so I definitely want to be as good as possible and I want to try to be on the podium at the end.

Tell us more about your move to Lotto-Soudal.

At the end in certain moments in your career, you have to make certain decisions and I think Lotto Soudal is a team that fits my character and my abilities particularly in the Classics but also in the sprint. I can be of important value to help also Caleb (Ewan) to win more stages in the Tour as I've also done this with Marcel (Kittel) in the past. In combination with Philippe (Gilbert) in the Classics, we have a very strong line-up to be ready if it comes to a sprint but also be ready if it's an offensive race because we will have one of the strongest riders in our team with Gilbert.

After so many years together, will it be difficult to ride in a team without Koen de Kort?

Not only because of him but also after three years you will also have to leave friends behind. That's also part of professional cycling. In the end, you never know what is going to happen in the future and the cycling world is small and normally you always see people often in life.

Your friend Marcel Kittel has announced a definitive retirement from professional cycling, has the thought of stopping ever crossed your mind?

Not for me, I'm still motivated and I'm still happy. I see it every day as a big honour and a big privilege to be a professional cyclist and I don't suffer from motivation problems. But I have also contacted Marcel in the last few weeks and I appreciate and respect the decision. He has a very strong character and he knows how to reflect on things and what happens in life. I have to say that I'm really proud of him that he is brave enough to take this decision because, in my opinion, it is the right decision at the right time.

Last year after winning the ninth stage of the Tour de France you mentioned that you felt like a big weight got lifted from your shoulders. Do you think that your feelings on your bike have changed since that stage win?

Since then I'm mentally on a different level because I know that I can still win really big races and it's been a really hard time until that moment. The season is not over this year and there are still many races to come, nice opportunities, the Vuelta, the World Championships, one race in Germany and some races in China and after that, the season is finished. I definitely want to have some more victories in this season also to have a good finish of my time in Trek.

Has your time at Trek-Segafredo fulfilled the expectations with which you arrived three seasons ago?

It depends on what you mean with fulfilled expectations. I think we both expected maybe a little bit more from both sides but that is also what can happen in life, there is nothing bad about it. I don't look back in anger on the last three years, I'm really thankful for everything, every moment we had together in Trek. It was a super nice time and it's not over yet.

Considering the accidents that still happen in the last years, do you think races do enough to keep you guys safe?

I think here and there there is some room for improvement and to do things better. In general, people are trying to make it as safe as possible but after every race, you have to think about what can be done better. That is what we do at the CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels Associés) and we analyse after every race, we try to find the good points and the bad points and it is always an ongoing process. In the end, there won't be a 100% safety, there are always things that can happen, we are not racing on a track like in MotoGP where you can protect every corner and be sure that you can't hit anything. We race on normal roads and it is really important that we keep this in mind, to always be better. The CPA does its best but there is always room for improvement.

By Mary Cárdenas