LA ROBLA, Spain (VN) — John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) has already won four stages and confirmed himself as one of the revelations of this year’s Vuelta a España.
Rather than settling for what’s been a breakthrough ride for the young German, Degenkolb is still hungry for more.
What’s on his menu is at least one more stage win, arriving to Madrid and holding out for a shot to win the points jersey.
“The plan is to ride to Madrid. I think there could be three more sprints,” Degenkolb told VeloNews before the starts of Sunday’s 15th stage. “I’d like to try to win another stage and maybe the points jersey. We shall see what happens.”
Winning another stage is certainly realistic for Degenkolb, who has absolutely dominated the sprints so far through the Vuelta.
He’s won all four of the sprint finishes in what’s been a climb-heavy Vuelta, with six uphill finales and two time trials through 14 days of racing that have left relatively few opportunities for the fast-twitch sprinters.
Degenkolb and his Argos-Shimano team have more than taken advantage of the few chances the sprinters have had in this Vuelta.
Mark Cavendish (Sky), André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) are not here, but Degenkolb has stood head and shoulders above the sprinters who are racing this Vuelta.
“I have very good form right now and the team has done a great job for me,” he continued. “I came here with the idea of winning one stage, so to win four is just fantastic. I think we proved that we deserved the wild-card invitation to the Vuelta.”
Degenkolb’s insatiable thirst for success also includes the points jersey. He realizes with the GC battle still unsettled, his chances of winning are shrinking by the stage.
Race leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) leads with 144 points, with third-place GC man Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) second with 122 points. Degenkolb is third in the ranking with 112 and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) slots in with 106.
With 25 points going to the winner of each stage, Degenkolb says it will all come down to how the race plays out.
“We have to see how these mountain stages go. If a breakaway can win one or two of the remaining mountain stages, then maybe I have a chance,” he said. “I will sprint for the points every chance I get. Of course, the best way to gain points is to win.”
There could be up to three more sprint stages between here and Madrid, with stage 18 and 19 across the northern meseta ideal for sprinters as well as the circuit course in Madrid to end the Vuelta on September 9.
Two factors are critical to Degenkolb’s chances. First, Argos-Shimano must get some help from the likes of Orica-GreenEdge and another team or two to control breakaways. And second, Degenkolb must survive the three grueling mountain stages that stand between La Robla and Madrid.
“It’s not easy in the climbing stages,” said Degenkolb, who weighs in at a hefty 79kg. “I’ve been riding in the gruppetto so far, trying to save my energy and making sure to make the time cut. The gruppettos so far have been well-organized and everyone is working together.”
For Degenkolb, who confirmed he will race the world championships in Holland, this Vuelta has already been a success.
“Anything else will be a bonus. It’s been a great Vuelta,” he said. “I think we will have a big fiesta in Madrid.”