John Degenkolb appears fit for another shot at a maiden Tour de France stage victory today after enduring an injury that contributed to the “hardest week” of his burgeoning career to date.
Degenkolb led the charging peloton that was just unable to capture Tony Gallopin (Lotto Belisol) at the end of yesterday’s lumpy 11th stage and, whilst frustrated, took confidence from a second place that indicated a return to form.
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The Gent-Wevelgem champion sustained a gluteus maximus rupture in a crash on wet roads during the fifth stage of the race that Giant-Shimano team-mate Koen de Kort didn’t underestimate.
Speaking from the first race rest day, on Tuesday, de Kort was unsure if his room-mate, who, visibly tired, admitted the same day to not feeling perfect, would be fully recovered in time for the suitable undulating stages that present this week.
“The injury that he’s got I think probably only five per cent of the Tour de France riders would continue with that, and he’s been in a lot of pain,” de Kort said. “It’s already unbelievable for me that he’s in still in the race.”
Degenkolb, who, along with seven-time Tour stage winner Marcel Kittel, is a co-leader of the Dutch outfit competing in France, believes he has a “good chance” in today’s 185.5km run, which suits his strengths as a more versatile sprinter.
“My morale is much better and this gives me a lot of self confidence again after a week of a lot of pain,” the 25-year-old said. “I think it was really the hardest week of my cycling career – mentally and also from the pain.”
Stage 12 from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne today features four categorised climbs with high temperatures forecast. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is just one rival Degenkolb will have to overcome with the green jersey leader still looking for his first stage win of this race edition.
A victory for Degenkolb would mark a Grand Tour hat-trick. The German won five stages of the Vuelta a Espana in 2012 and one at the Giro d’Italia in 2013.