Argos-Shimano boasts a glittering array of young talent in its stable as the precocious John Degenkolb demonstrated by winning stage two of the 2012 Vuelta a España, the biggest victory of his career to date.
Though still only 23 years of age, the German had the patience and the confidence to bide his time in the sprint finish in Viana on Sunday. Degenkolb put himself in the perfect position inside the final kilometre, but he calmly sat in third position in the finishing straight as he waited for the right moment to strike.
Ben Swift (Sky) had jumped early but he faded on the slightly uphill finish. Allan Davis (Orica-GreenEdge) also tried his luck, but he, too, did not have the legs to win. Instead, it was Degenkolb who swept past to take the victory after he timed his effort to perfection.
In spite of his own heroics in the finale, the modest Degenkolb paid warm tribute to the efforts of his teammates in setting him up for the win. “My whole team did super work and brought me on to the rear wheels of Davis and Swift,” he said. “Thanks to their work, it became a three-man sprint. I was the strongest and I was the winner, but it is really a victory for the whole team.”
This Vuelta is just the second Grand Tour of Degenkolb’s young career, and he acknowledged that he is still learning his craft. Nonetheless, he was delighted to follow in the footsteps of his friend and teammate Marcel Kittel, who was a stage winner in last year’s Vuelta.
“Argos-Shimano is one of the best teams at preparing sprints, whether it is for Marcel Kittel or for me,” he said. “They protect the sprinter in the last kilometres but also in the first part of the stage, which is very important. We came here with the intention of winning a stage as soon as possible and we succeeded. It takes a lot of pressure off.”
As well as taking the first Grand Tour stage victory of his career, the Selle Italia rider now leads the points classification. As well as a rapid finish, Degenkolb boasts wonderful powers of endurance, and he could be a contender to wear the points jersey in Madrid in three weeks’ time. “I want to try to survive in the mountain stages to come then I can start to think again about more successes,” he said. “I want to win another stage.”