Sunday, January 29, 2017

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Tour de France: Cofidis, Fortuneo, Direct Energie and Wanty secure wild card invitations

ASO confirm the 22 teams for July

Nacer Bouhanni wins Stage 1 at Criterium du Daphine (Bettini Photo)

Tour de France organiser ASO has named the four wild card invitations to this year’s race, with French squads Cofidis, Fortuneo-Vital Concept and Belgium’s Wanty-Groupe Gobert securing the precious invitations to the biggest race of the season.

This year’s Tour de France starts in Dusseldorf, Germany on July 1 and ends in Paris on July 23. It follows an unconventional route that includes stages in all of France's mountain ranges but with only an opening 13km time trial in Dusseldorf and a final 23km time trial in Marseille on stage 20.

As with WorldTour rules, the 18 WorldTour teams are automatically invited, meaning there will again be 22 teams in action in the Tour de France.

The 18 WorldTour teams are: AG2R La Mondiale, Astana, Bahrain – Merida, BMC, Bora – Hansgrohe, Cannondale Drapac, FDJ, Lotto Soudal, Movistar, Orica – Scott, Quick-Step Floors, Dimension Data, Katusha – Alpecin, Lotto NL – Jumbo, Team Sky, Team Sunweb, Trek – Segafredo (USA) and UAE Abu Dhabi.

Chris Froome (Team Sky) will target a fourth victory in July, with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) confirming he will take on the Briton after also riding the Giro d’Italia. Other expected contenders are Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Richie Porte (BMC) and Romain Bardet (AG2r-La Mondiale).

The wild card invitation for Direct Energie means that Thomas Voeckler will be able to ride a final Tour de France before retiring and Bryan Coquard can contest the sprint finishes.

Nacer Bouhanni is also expected to fight in the sprints thanks to Cofidis’ wild card. The presence of Fortuneo-Vital Concept should see Britain’s Dan Mclay back in the Tour. He impressed by taking third on stage 6 behind Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish in 2016.

The presence of Wanty-Grope Gobert is arguably the biggest surprise. However the Belgian team has beefed up its roster for 2017 and the demise of several teams left ASO with little choice.

New Irish team Aqua Blue Sport could be disappointed at missing out but the Tour de France would have been a massive step for the team in its first year despite an experienced roster.

Wanty Groupe Gobert quickly celebrated their selection on social media. It is the first time the Belgian squad rides the Tour de France but has added Wesley Kreder, Yohann Offredo, Andrea Pasqualon and Guillaume van Keirsbulck to its roster.

Teams for Paris-Nice and Criterium di Dauphine

ASO also named the wild card teams for Paris-Nice and the Criterium du Dauphine, with Delko Marseille Provence getting one of the four wild cards along with Cofidis, Direct Energie and Fortuneo – Vital Concept.

Delko Marseille Provence will also ride the Criterium du Dauphine alongside Cofidis, Direct Energie and Wanty-Groupe Gobert, with Fortune missing out on a place in the June stage race.

Article Source: Cycling News 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

Bike Cross Series

Velo Wrench Rockville Bike cross series is being held at Solano Community College!

  • Every Sunday in January and February
  • Course opens at 0830 and race begins at 0900
  • Same day tickets as well as season passes are available 
  • No license necessary 

Please join us for the only local community based cross event in Solano county!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

January Coupon

Discounted Tune-Up Just $70!
limit 2 per person, while supplies last. No rain checks.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Megan Guarnier: The (not so) Natural

It was a damp day in 2004 when a collegiate peloton slowly ascended the slender road up Mt. Philo, a forested lump in the middle of Vermont. Future lawyers, doctors, and businesspeople inched their way up the steep slope that holds a thin film of slick moss and leaves almost year round. First came the Men’s A field, then the Men’s B, and the Women’s A.

Then the Women’s B field had their shot. They were new, many trying out cycling for the first or second time. A few got off and walked. One girl rode the entire way. At the top, Megan Guarnier of Middlebury College held an insurmountable gap. She didn’t dare raise both arms when she won. She couldn’t yet ride with her hands off the handlebars.

Today, cycling fans know Guarnier by her growing list of international results, which last year included the Women’s WorldTour series overall, the Giro Rosa overall title, and the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic. Long before Guarnier became America’s best cyclist, she was just Meg from Middlebury, the girl who hitched rides to college races, the girl who won the “B” race up Mt. Philo.

Guarnier barely remembers her first victory on that soggy day in 2004. “I’m pretty sure I just tried to prove how strong I was all day,” she says. “And I remember it being rainy and cold that day, too. That gives you incentive to sit on the front, at least for me, personally. I think it was a small group into the base. And then you just go.”

A forgotten victory atop an unknown hill like Mt. Philo is how a great champion’s origin story always begins. Youthful exuberance and untapped talent combine into victory at the first opportunity. It’s a story that often repeats itself in women’s cycling, where supreme natural talent boosts a racer to the pinnacle of the sport after just a few years on the bike.

That’s where Guarnier’s story diverges. Nobody on the flanks of Mt. Philo that day could have predicted that, 13 years later, the B category winner would be the best American cyclist, male or female. And as years went by, and Guarnier progressed from collegiate racer to low-level professional, her career arc seemed destined for modest heights, not otherworldly success. While more talented female racers exploded onto the pro scene, Guarnier burned like an ember, gaining strength slowly, always grasping higher. Eventually she became a world-beater — but it took time.

Cycling fans are conditioned to believe that elite athletes are born, not made. Preternatural talents rise like shooting stars, making the impossible look easy. But that story is not Guarnier’s story. She was made into one of the world’s best cyclists, not born as one. And once she became a great cyclist, she avoided the limelight that comes with success, instead embracing her introverted personality. When you talk to those who know Guarnier best, they believe it’s her personality that makes her different, and so very good.

Megan Guarnier, racing for Middlebury College at the 2007 collegiate national championships. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

GUARNIER AGREES TO MEET at a coffee shop in her hometown of Glens Falls, New York, three hours north of New York City. It’s the day before Thanksgiving. She arrives with her husband Billy, a software salesman.

Guarnier describes herself as naturally shy. As the interview progresses, she reveals a charm and a full-body laugh that paints a different picture. The shyness, she explains, keeps her from pursuing media opportunities and the public spotlight. In fact, her motivation to race and win comes more from her personal desire rather than a need for adulation or outward gratification.

“I’m not doing this for the money, and I think if I was doing it for the money and the attention it would be a different story,” she says. “But I’ve been doing it for self-gratification, to keep being better. That’s what pushes me, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. If I had wanted big money and fame I might have tried to seek out a different sport, or a different career.”

The motivation and drive has followed Guarnier her entire life as an athlete. Long before Guarnier pedaled a bicycle, she was a competitive swimmer from ages eight to 18. Her coach, John Ogden, says Guarnier was the type of athlete who performed better in practice than in races. She knew how to suffer and was stubborn, but her motivation came more from the process than the result.

“We used to have Olympians come train with us and she could train with them,” he says. “Usually, when you have a kid like that, when they can learn the process and get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning and do double [workouts], you get that kind of athlete. When she found the cycling thing, I knew it was going to be good. She can fight through the hurt.”

A shoulder injury eventually torpedoed Guarnier’s swimming ambitions. That led Guarnier to triathlon, which led her to cycling. During the spring of 2004, Guarnier was training for triathlon when someone in her dorm hall convinced her to head an hour north for a bike race. The advice she received from her triathlon coach was astute. Stay hidden, he said. Save energy. Draft. Like a true triathlete, Guarnier instead rode the front. At the foot of Mt. Philo, she dropped everyone.

Had Guarnier been blessed with otherworldly talent, her career should have taken off immediately. Mara Abbott won the collegiate national title three years in a row before winning the elite Stars and Stripes jersey in her first year as a pro. Evelyn Stevens progressed so fast from newbie to national champion that her racing acumen lagged behind. (“Every time I did a race, it was overcoming that massive fear,” Stevens said. “Every race was fearful in a sense.”)

Not Guarnier. Her results from 2006 through 2010 at the USA Cycling national championships, for example, are strong, but modest. She was runner-up at collegiate nationals behind Abbott. There were a few top-five finishes in the elite time trial and a 25th place in the elite road race. In 2007, three years into her racing, she was third at the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic in the Cat. 1/2 race. She also won two tiny races in New England. One had 12 women in it.

In 2008, USA Cycling invited Guarnier to a talent camp in Colorado Springs. She huffed it up Cheyenne Canyon in her Terry Precision amateur kit and sweated in a lab on a stationary bike. Her future coach, Corey Hart, said Guarnier overcame her unimpressive training metrics with her desire.

“I don’t think that USA Cycling looked at her values and said, ‘Oh, this is the one,’” Hart says. “She’s not the girl doing 5.5 watts per kilogram up Cheyenne Canyon, with great economy. Her personality, that willingness to learn, is what has allowed her to reach her capacity and go beyond what we even predicted at the time.”

Guarnier showed that she was dedicated to improvement, Hart says. That skill proved to be her secret. That’s not unheard of in women’s amateur cycling, where the fields often lack depth and the elite racers also hold down normal careers. Athletes who stick around tend to rise over time. Guarnier, however, had another tool in her disposal: her intellect.

Photo: Specialized | Gruber Images
IT’S COMMON TO MEET a female pro cyclist with a college degree. Guarnier, however, holds a neuroscience degree, and her professional resume includes the job title “Nuclear plant risk assessor.” Guarnier was her high school valedictorian. Even her preferred reading material is uncommonly academic.

“I really, really just love textbooks,” she says. “It sounds super weird.”

When asked if she’s simply too smart for cycling, Guarnier pauses, and struggles to find an answer. Instead, her husband chimes in. He equates cycling to a game of chess, and, in that game, it’s not always the strongest rider that prevails.

“Cycling can be viewed as unintellectual because you do have the ‘strong-like-bull, dumb-like-bull’ thing,” he says. “But at the same time, you see that more in the ‘shooting star’ type rider. I don’t mean to discount that, because there are people who have a lot of talent, but when you have somebody that is working from the ground up and they need to learn everything, there is a level of intellect there.”

Of course this theory applies specifically to Guarnier. She believes her approach to racing is more analytical when compared to her teammates and competitors. Her teammates tell her to relax, to chill out, in the middle of a race because she can get worked up.

At some point in her career, however, Guarnier learned to switch her brain off and allow her reflexes to take over. “Part of the progression is racing more on instinct,” she says. “At first you’re having a dialogue in your head. ‘Can I attack now?’ And now it’s just instinct.”

But you can’t think your way from acceptable lab scores in 2007 to being one of the best bike racers in the world in 2016. You can, however, learn your way up. In 2009, the year after she began working with Hart, Guarnier started racing full seasons in France. Her results improved almost overnight.

Hart advocates sending riders overseas as soon as possible for this very reason. European racing is harder, faster, tighter, and more nuanced. The fields are deeper and the courses are trickier. It’s bike-racing school, where the lessons are learned on narrow, winding roads. A good racer needs immersion. They need to live, train, and race in Europe.

“I think a lot of the talent identification process in the U.S. is based off time trials and climbers. Those are innate abilities — if they can go fast in a straight line or up a hill,” Hart says. “You can put them into races that have those elements and they will rise to the top. But with Megan, what we really focused on is developing her as a road racer.”

A VO2 max test cannot teach a racer how to stay hidden in a pack. A time trial up a lonely mountain road cannot help a rider understand how to disrupt a chase on a narrow farm road. No amount of physiological testing can demonstrate to a racer how to be patient when an early breakaway gains two minutes on the field. Cycling’s sporting culture presents challenges to even the most naturally gifted racers.

Hart says Guarnier was a quick learner. As her physiology slowly improved, her skills and racing acumen made sizable leaps in Europe. And those skills put her on a level playing field with the best in the world, some of whom had more natural talent.

“She’s a brilliant, very intellectual person outside of the sport,” Hart says. “If you think about school, you don’t rapidly rise to a Ph.D. To be a student of sport you have to study, and each time you have to pass another level. She’s in the ‘post-doc’ career now.”

FOR MOST OF HER CAREER, Guarnier avoided setting goals. “Goal setting is scary and it’s hard,” she says. Falling short of a result leads to disappointment, so why set an arbitrary target? Instead, Guarnier found motivation through progression.

“What I’ve always wanted to get out of it is improvement,” she says. “That’s the competitive nature. It’s directed at myself. I’m competitive with myself. It’s always, ‘Could I have been better?’ Results are always a nice benchmark, but, really, I want to be better than last year. I think you see that in my career.”

Intrinsic motivation explains Guarnier’s ability to race for years without a major breakthrough, and her penchant for training faster than she raced in swimming. It explains why she never felt ready for an exam unless she knew the textbook end-to-end. The A+ was simply a byproduct of knowing the material.

“What kept me in the sport from 2008 to 2015 was that I could feel a progression,” she says. “I was always a little more of a factor. Was the progression fast enough for me? No. But I was progressing.”

In 2010 Guarnier finally forced herself to establish specific goals. She started working with sports psychologist Kristin Keim, who convinced her that those arbitrary measuring marks were indeed helpful. So in 2016 Guarnier set a big goal for herself: Win a gold medal in the Olympic road race.

The goal eluded her, and caused a mountain of disappointment.

Guarnier crossed the Olympic finish line on Copacabana Beach in 11th place. There was no expression on her face as she rode toward her “village,” as she calls her athletic support group, just past the finish line. Billy was there, as was Hart.

There weren’t many words. Guarnier spent all season finishing on the podium in every race she cared about in 2016. She won Philly, she won the Giro Rosa, and she won another national title. So how could she finish 11th in the race she really, really cared about?

“I was so confused at how it played out,” Guarnier says. “I crossed the line and I just started looking for Billy and my coach, somebody that could just center me and ground me. I just went out and raced and I gave it everything I had, and everything I had that day got me in 11th place.”

Guarnier attempts to put her disappointment into words, but struggles to finish her sentences. Why didn’t she greet the media after the race? She doesn’t really know. “To have that… It was honestly… I was sitting there, like, what do I say? What can I say?” she says. “I still don’t know what to say. In that moment it was… I don’t have anything to say because I don’t know what happened and I’m still trying to process it.”

Perhaps the most confusing part of Guarnier’s failure in Rio is that she felt strong on the bike. It was one of the first things she said after crossing the line. Hart, who has analyzed her power files from that day, agrees. “It wasn’t a bad day. It wasn’t her best day, but it wasn’t a bad day,” he says. His analysis suggests that the difference between 11th and fighting for a podium that day was perhaps 10 watts for five minutes. “It’s that minuscule,” he says.

Identifying where those missed watts went that day may take years. Perhaps the Vista Chinesa climb was simply too steep. Maybe the conditions were too hot. Perhaps the dynamics within USA Cycling’s women’s squad played a role. Tensions were high within the team before the Olympics. Some of the stress sprung from Guarnier and her relationship with Boels — Dolmans teammate Evelyn Stevens.

The two had an altercation at June’s Philadelphia International Classic. Boels came into that race working for Stevens, whose spot on the Olympic squad was precarious. Prior to Rio, both Amber Neben and Carmen Small unsuccessfully arbitrated against Stevens’s inclusion on the Olympic team. A win at Philly, a WorldTour race, would seal her trip to Rio. Guarnier already had her Olympic slot from her third place at the world championships in 2015. Her job was to get her teammate to Rio, too.

Guarnier led from the bottom of the steep Manayunk Wall, pulling what looked like a long leadout. But the leadout became a breakaway, and within seconds Guarnier dropped everyone. Stevens hadn’t made it through the chicane at the bottom of the climb on her wheel, and finished a distant fourth. Her Rio slot was still precarious.

What happened in the moments after is a sore subject for both athletes. Neither would comment on it. Stevens approached Guarnier at the finish line. A VeloNews photographer who was capturing the moment heard her tell Guarnier, “You f—king left me.” And when Guarnier spoke to the VeloNews reporter at the race a few minutes later, she seemed keen to deflect away from her own win, as if it was an accident. She said Stevens simply lost the wheel. Stevens disappeared without speaking to reporters.

“I know [Philadelphia] was a goal for Evie so she was probably disappointed,” Guarnier told VeloNews several weeks later. “I mean, it was another win for Boels – Dolmans.”

Guarnier and Stevens are very different racers and personalities. Stevens is the shooting star who went from Wall Street to Highroad in a single bound. Guarnier is the ember who methodically rose through the ranks until she reached the top. Stevens is outgoing, media-savvy, a darling of USA Cycling’s program. Guarnier is quiet. She disappeared to France for much of her early career, so her ties to American fans aren’t as strong. And she’s just not as good at self-promotion. “My little energy bucket is all into bike racing,” she says.

The career arc of the two riders met in Philly. Stevens, months from retirement, was perhaps not the same rider she had been the previous year when she won Philly. Guarnier was still rising. With Olympic slots and pride on the line, they clashed.

To those in Stevens’s camp, Guarnier had blown her assignment and jeopardized her teammate’s ability to qualify for Rio. To those in Guarnier’s camp, Stevens should have been stronger on the Manayunk Wall. The blame game, as always, is not particularly useful. The result is the same regardless: Two Boels teammates with a personal rift between them would line up on the same team in Rio.

And they lined up next to two unfamiliar faces. Guarnier had never raced with Kristin Armstrong and had only raced with Mara Abbott once. For an individual who relies on her “village” like a protective cocoon, the new setting was a detriment. “It can be a really hard environment to navigate,” Guarnier says.

“It’s such a dynamic and hard sport to figure out as it is.”

Hart was standing at the finish line on Copacabana with Billy. He said he saw doubt in Guarnier’s eyes after she crossed the line. “It didn’t look like the same person the other 364 days of the year,” he says. “You can read the body language, and you can see that this isn’t the same person. For me, you could just see this lack of willingness to fight. I think there are many reasons behind that. But, I don’t know.”

Photo: Casey B. Gibson |
 GUARNIER IS 31 NOW. It took her more than a decade to learn to be the bike racer she has become, to slim down those swimming shoulders, and to understand that she needs her village to succeed. She doesn’t have 10 more years in her, she says. She doesn’t want to be racing at age 40. She may not even make it to the Tokyo games in 2020. She has other things to do. Go back to school; get a medical degree or a Ph.D. or both. Start her next career. “I take each year as it comes,” she says. There are no guarantees in this sport.

Even if she’s closer to retirement than to her win on Mt. Philo, Guarnier now holds the torch for American women’s racing. Abbott, Armstrong, and Stevens all retired after Rio. Carmen Small is dipping a toe into directing. The next generation, women like Coryn Rivera and Chloé Dygert, are still on the rise.

That makes Guarnier America’s current cycling hero, albeit an introverted one. Guarnier believes her story can inspire female athletes, especially those who have a hard time relating to freakishly talented riders who shoot to the top. Perhaps her story will appeal to the rider who believes her talents lie in determination.

“When you look at my story, I hope it moves these other women to believe they can do it,” Guarnier says. “It’s really hard for women to get over to these European teams, but I hope my story shows it’s possible. It might not take one year. I might take 10 or more years. But I hope it inspires women to take those jumps and take those challenges and take the risks. I hope they go and do it.”

Guarnier’s coffee cup is empty, and the low sun alerts her that it’s late afternoon and time to get on the road back home. It’s taken Guarnier a long time to wrap her head around her own success, maybe because it took so long to arrive. She’s the first American to have won a WorldTour or UCI series of any fashion. She’s the first American to be ranked No. 1 at the end of a season, male or female. She is America’s best bike racer, period. It just took her a lot longer to get there.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Top 7 New Year's Resolutions For Road Cyclists – 2017

Ride 100 miles? Increase your power output? Go and watch your favourite pro race? Here are just a few things that we think make great New Year's Resolutions for cyclists.

1. Go and watch a pro race
It could be the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of California or even just a race local to you. But, for us, nothing quite beats the experience of spectating at a professional bicycle race. Take Dan's advice and catch the Tour of Flanders.

2. Enter a charity ride
There are many fantastic charities who promote challenge rides. Find one that resonates and sign up!

3. Help a younger or less experienced cyclist
We were all there once. Like many other sports, road cycling often relies on the goodwill of volunteers. So, why not give back in 2017 and volunteer to help out yourself?

4. Increase your power
Whether you're aiming to increase your FTP (functional threshold power), sprint power or maximum minute power, training with a power meter gives you a quantitative and comparable means by which to judge your improvements in performance. A great way to become a better cyclist.

5. Start a group ride
Get your road cycling (and even mountain biking) friends together and start a group ride. Just don't take Matt's advice on naming it...

6. Set a distance challenge – why not ride 100 miles or 100km?
A century bike ride – riding for 100 miles is an incredible – yet achievable challenge. Try this one if you're aiming to take your cycling to the next level.

7. Write down your weaknesses
You can't progress if you're not aware of what you need to work on. For Matt, this could be: clipping in, unclipping, clipping in...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

105-Year-Old Frenchman Sets New Hour Record

At 22.547km, Robert Marchand is still the fastest centenarian in the world

Robert Marchand during his attempt to break the 105+ world cycling hour record. (Tim de Waele/

Professional riders in recent years have been stretching their careers into their 40s. Jens Voigt, who recently rode 27 hours for charity, retired before his 43rd birthday. Chris Horner was still racing last year at 44, Davide Rebellin is still racing at 45 and British rider Malcom Elliott raced through age 50. But none of those pros has anything on Robert Marchand when it comes to longevity.

On Wednesday, the 105-year-old Frenchman set a world record in the 105+ age category - created especially for him - by riding 22.547km during his latest attempt. Marchand thrilled a crowd at the velodrome in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines with his new record, but it's not Marchand's first; he also set the record for the 100+ age category when he covered 26.927km three years ago.
The former firefighter, who subsists on his pension in a small flat outside of of Paris, said he could have gone further than the 92 laps, but he missed a crucial timing board.
"I did not see the sign warning me I had 10 minutes left," Marchand told the Associated Press after his effort. "Otherwise I would have gone faster, I would have posted a better time. I'm now waiting for a rival."
Article Source:

Monday, January 2, 2017

Degenkolb: ‘The Big Goal is to Win on the Holy Ground’

2015 Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb is leaving Giant – Alpecin to join Trek – Segafredo for 2017. Photo: Tim De Waele |
Just to make it clear; John Degenkolb is sick and tired of talking about “the crash,” but ready to chat all night long about the classics.

When VeloNews sat down with the German classics superstar earlier this month during a break at Trek—Segafredo’s pre-season camp, Degenkolb let out a sigh of resignation when queried about the front-on collision between a car and six Giant—Alpecin riders training along Spain’s Mediterranean coast last January.

“It was not even a training accident, it was a traffic accident, that could happen anywhere, anytime,” Degenkolb said. “For me, the team and the new season starts, so it’s a great new challenge, with a lot of new vibes coming toward me. It is really motivating for me right now, and I enjoy this moment right now. It is special, and it a big step in my career. And I can leave 2016 behind me, and I don’t have to talk about it anymore.”

Wait, no lingering effects? The collision with a motorist who turned head-on into the group of cyclists created havoc among his teammates, leaving most with broken limbs and other injuries. Degenkolb almost lost a finger, but his focus is on the here and now.

“I am fully recovered from the crash. I am in a very good way to feel on 100 percent recovered,” he said. “I am in very good hands, with doctors and physical therapists, both within the team and at home. That was one of the positive side-effects of the accident, because you pay even more attention to smaller details compared to what you would have done before.”

One final question on the crash: any doubts that you’ll be back on top for the classics?

“No, from the beginning, I never had doubts about having the possibility to be a professional bike racer again,” he said, ready to move on to a new theme. “I realized very quickly at least the classic season wouldn’t be happening, and that was not nice. How many classics seasons do you have in your career? I missed one … and now the big goal is come back on the holy ground in Belgium, and that’s the main focus right now.”

Ah, the classics. Degenkolb’s eyes light up. He wants to talk about his move to Trek, his big goals for the upcoming season (classics, Tour de France and worlds), and winning monuments again.

You can’t blame him for wanting to forget 2016. He returned to competition in May, and still put 59 racing days into legs, taking two late-season wins in what he called “hugely important” victories. Degenkolb enjoyed his best season ever in 2015, winning Milano-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, becoming the first rider since Sean Kelly in 1986 to do that, but missed last year’s entire spring classics campaign due to that crash. 
Rather than starting as defending champion, he was at home, nursing his wounds, and watching every race on TV.

“It was not a nice feeling to sit at home and watch the classics,” he said. “Normally, I would have been wearing the No. 1 as defending champion, and you miss this opportunity, it doesn’t feel nice. I am aiming for, that I can put myself back into this situation, win a big monument, and start with No. 1 the year after.”

His switch from Giant—Alpecin (now Sunweb) to Trek—Segafredo was one of the biggest moves of the 2016-2017 transfer season. Among the top classics riders of his generation, Degenkolb garnered interest from all the major teams, but he settled on Trek in a three-year deal. Why? It’s about the team’s deep roots and commitment to the spring classics.

“For me, this is the team with the most experience, along with QuickStep,” he said. “I always liked this team even before I came to the team. You feel welcome from the first moment … I want to be successful from February to October, and this was the best team for me to get high performance. I really feel like home here.”

Of course, the next inevitable question, one that he’s been asked in every interview, and will continue to be asked for at least the next few months: does he feel any pressure to fill Fabian Cancellara’s shoes? Again, Degenkolb takes a deep breath, and dives in.

“That is one of the most famous questions, but from my side, I have always had pressure,” he said. “And I absolutely respect what Fabian has done in the past, and it’s a big motivation to try to be as successful as he was. On the hand, I am proud of what I have achieved in the past. I have already won two monuments, so I do not have to hide behind anything. I want to do my job.”

Degenkolb will be 28 in January, a year older than the famous “class of 1990” that includes his arch-rival Peter Sagan. The pair has been squaring off against each other since they were juniors, and they will be at the center of a new rivalry as Tom Boonen (QuickStep) is soon to follow Cancellara into retirement.

“When you look at the past years, Peter is the outstanding rider right now. Beatable? In both monuments I won — it’s not five or 10 years ago, it was two years ago — he was there and I beat him. Everyone is beatable. No one is unbeatable. Cycling is up and down, and the sun is not always shining. You have to keep fighting.”

Degenkolb still has some unfinished business with the Tour de France, where he’s never won a stage. He’s won stages at both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, but he’s been second in five stages at the Tour. With Alberto Contador coming on as GC leader, Degenkolb demurred when asked about any possible conflict, saying “the Tour is a long way away,” but quickly added he wants to race in July.

“The Tour is still a big goal, with the start in Germany, I want to be there,” he said. “It’s still far to the Tour. The only thing is that I want to be there and be in top shape. That is going to be the second goal of the year, and then the worlds in Norway.”

Degenkolb is just where he wants to be, at the center of a classics-centric team, at the top of his game, keen to chase more classics, and leave 2016 in the rear-view mirror for good.

“It’s a great feeling and a big honor to be under those names. It’s also a big dream to play that role in the game, because that is what I was working for,” he concluded. “The ultimate goal is to be the best classics rider of my generation.”