Cyclist John Degenkolb is on cloud nine: In winning one of the spring classics in Roubaix, he is now the most successful German cyclist of all-time. Now his aim is the Tour de France.
"I am happy and so proud," said John Degenkolb with mud smeared on his face at the finish in Robauix. A few minutes earlier, he crossed the finish line, almost effortlessly, in first in the most famous one-day road races in the world across 253 kilometers from Paris to Roubaix.
This is without doubt the greatest moment in the 26-year-old's career.
In general, it's the spring of John Degenkolb. From the first classic at San Remo in March, he showed he had the ability, and he won that. "San Remo was very emotional, but this tops it. This is the race that I've always dreamt about winning. It's just incredible," said the native of Thuringa.
"Since 1986, no German has managed to win here. Today, we have done it. Two monuments of cycling won with the name of a German sponsor on the chest - that's a big step for our cycling."
The success on the track in Roubaix is no accident. Last year, he counted himself among the top favorites to beat Dutchman Niki Terpstra at Paris-Roubaix who then succeeded after a solo-ride and 20 seconds faster than the German.
But this time round Degenkolb showed that he has matured tactically; he held back with caution if restraint was needed and then attacked when it was time to attack.
After Belgian pair Greg Van Avermaet and Yves Lampaert attacked 12 kilometers from the finish line, Degenkolb clawed back from behind and closed down with six kilometers to go. "No-one wanted to work with me, so I went myself," explained the self-confident Degenkolb.
On the back straight of the concrete track in Roubaix, where the race has traditionally came to a finish for 119 years, he made the irresistible attack and left several bike lengths between himself and his competitors.
Still only missing is the Tour
For several years, Degekolb, the father of a five-day son who has been on Team Giant Alpecin since 2012, has been regarded as one of the best riders in the world. He is now on the list of winners of classics such as Hamburg, Paris Tours (both 2013) and last year at Gent-Wevelgem.
But now Degenkolb even succeeds in the big Tours: He's won nine stages at the Vuelta a Espana, the Tour of Spain, where he recorded best sprinter, and the Giro D'Italia. Degenkolb, a police offer on leave of absence, is undoubtedly the new face of German cycling.
Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel, Tony Martin and Degenkolb, who have already followed in the footsteps of damaged doping icons Erik Zabel and Jan Ulrich, stand for clean cycling. That, the media and the economy have already recognized. For the first time in years, ARD, one of Germany's public broadcasting platforms, will once again provide coverage of the Tour de France where Degenkolb's team will be represented.
Until then, the start of the loop through France on July 2, Degenkolb has announced a recovery phase, but he will be present at Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April. For the German still has still goals, despite finding his 'greatest love' at the Paris-Roubaix.
If he performs like that again, he may find himself winning his next big goal: the green jersey at the Tour de France.
to/ck/rd (sid, dpa)