How does John Degenkolb’s injury affect Giant-Alpecin’s season goals?

With John Degenkolb likely to be out of the who Classics campaign, how will Giant-Alpecin salvage their season?

The doctor who operated on John Degenkolb after his head-on collision with a car has told reporters the German is likely to face three months on the sidelines with his arm and finger injuries.

The implications for Giant-Alpecin’s racing goals in 2016 are huge, with Degenkolb their outright leader for Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix – the races which defined his season last year.

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Impact on the Classics squad

It’s unknown what Giant-Alpecin’s plans were in terms of selecting a squad for the cobbled Classics this spring, what with their move towards targeting stage races this season as well, but of the six riders injured in Saturday’s crash only Ramon Sinkeldam rode Roubaix last year.

Likewise, the only rider involved who rode San Remo with Degenkolb in 2015 was Chad Haga, who remains in hospital awaiting surgery on his eye socket.

Koen de Kort, who was part of both Classics wins last year, mentioned that a “decent chunk” of the Classics group had been taken out by the crash, but even if some of the riders involved weren’t scheduled to race the Classics, the loss of Degenkolb is a decent enough chunk on its own.

Tom Dumoulin was Giant’s next highest finisher in San Remo, and is set to ride again this year, but he’s not really the kind of rider who could win the race against sprinters like Alexander Kristoff or specialists like Fabian Cancellara.

Equally, Giant don’t have a ready-made stand-in for Degenkolb for the cobbled races either. Bert de Backer finished 12th in 2015 but he doesn’t strike us as someone who could challenge for the win.

Impact on team strategy

Degenkolb’s outstanding performances in San Remo and Roubaix somewhat changed the team’s outlook last season, and the performances of Warren Barguil and Dumoulin in the Grand Tours moved the strategy on even more.

Giant have moved away from solely targeting sprint stages, shown by the departure of Marcel Kittel last year, to trying their luck in stage races. In some ways, Dumoulin’s success took some pressure of Degenkolb to carry the team’s hopes in 2016, but now the pressure looks to be on Dumoulin’s shoulders.

The Classics will likely take on less importance in Giant-Alpecin’s season, meaning the performance of Dumoulin in the Giro d’Italia could be more under scrutiny. The Dutchman says he’s not targeting the GC at the Giro, with the Olympic time trial on his radar this year, but stage wins and a stint in the pink jersey could do the team the world of good.

The Tour de France

Degenkolb should be back in time to be strong at the Tour de France, where he struggled to make an impression on many of the sprints last year. His second place on the cobble stage was a long way off winner Tony Martin, and in five of his other six top 10 finishes he didn’t look that likely to win.

Perhaps this was the result of an exhausting spring campaign – should his recovery go to plan, Degenkolb will be able to hit the Tour fresh and maybe even take the first yellow jersey.

The season is by no means ruined for Giant-Alpecin, but their best chance of winning a big race has now been shattered. The pressure is now on to ensure this horrible accident doesn’t negatively affect the entire season.