Rider of the week
He’s not the leader of the World Tour ranking, he’s not even the cyclist with the most wins in 2015, but without any doubt, John Degenkolb is the best rider of this Spring up until this point. After taking his first ever Monument victory in Milan-Sanremo, three weeks ago, he made one of the rarest doubles in cycling history, winning Paris-Roubaix, and thus becoming only the third cyclist to do that in one season, after Cyrille Van Hauwaert (1908) and Sean Kelly (1986).
As in Sanremo, the leader of Giant-Shimano played once again to perfection the role of the “invisible man”, staying all the time with the other contenders and following all the key moves, but without coming at the front, up until the point he decided time has come to make his own move. Finally, Degenkolb launched an attack with less than 15 kilometers to go, joined his teammate Bert De Backer, and then went on his own after Greg Van Avermaet and Yves Lampaert, who were leading the race. With the two Belgians reluctant to share the work and just clunging on to his wheel, the German pulled by himself, just as Alexander Kristoff did last week, at the Tour of Flanders.
Eventually, in the closing kilometers of the race, before the last cobbled sector, the three were caught by a four-man group that included another fast man, Zdenek Stybar. This worked out in Degenkolb’s favor, because Etixx-Quick Step’s Yves Lampaert came at the front to work for his teammate, while the German got to keep the remaining energy he had and look for the best position in the sprint.
On the André-Pétrieux velodrome, the Milan-Sanremo winner waited for the Czech champion to open his sprint with half a lap going, before accelerating and roaring across the line victorious to add his second Monument in less than a month, a success he scored because he was prepared to risk it all and even fail, as long as he was at peace with himself for giving it everything. To put it short, he was the strongest, the bravest and the smartest rider in a race during which he had a flawless performance.
Only the second German to win Paris-Roubaix, after Josef Fischer in 1896 (the inaugural edition of the Monument), John Degenkolb is one of the main reasons why cycling is on the rise again in his country (the effects of this progress will be soon seen). Just 26-year-old and in his fifth pro season, Degenkolb is already one of the top riders of the peloton and if things will go like this in the following years, he has every chance of becoming a legend. The first step has been made last Sunday, thanks to the win he got in Paris-Roubaix, a race of which the German said four years ago, right before making his debut, that is the one he loves the most, because heroes are born there.