John Degenkolb of Argos-Shimano won the final One-Day Classic cycling race of the season, the 235-km Paris-Tours. The 24-year-old German rider showed tremendous power, working hard in an unsuccessful breakaway in the closing kilometers, then recovering enough to beat the field in the final sprint by two bike lengths.
“It means really, really, really a lot for me—I had a great end of the season now and I showed that I a man for one-day classics,” Degenkolb told Europsport.com. “This is now the next step after the win in Hamburg (Vattenfall Cyclassics in August.) I am really happy and really thankful for my team that they supported me in such a great way, I am just satisfied now, very much.
“It was a really difficult race, the real final doesn’t start until the little short hills come, from that moment on it was really fast and really hectic. The situation was constantly changing,” Degenkolb explained.
Paris-Tours is one of the oldest cycling races in the world, having run continuously (barring war years) since 1896. Commonly called the “Sprinters’ Classic,” the race has nonetheless been won by breakaway riders more often in the 21st century. The course features 13 small climbs, each just enough to launch an attack but nothing a sprinter couldn’t power up easily.
A group of four—Sebastian Lander (BMC), Julien Duval (Roubaix Lille Metropole), Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM Cycling) and Yannick Martinez (La Pomme-Marseille)—got away after 70 km, opening a gap of ten minutes, but were reeled in by the peloton on the final kilometers.
The real action started with 30 km to go, on the climb of the Côte de Crochu. Omega Pharma-Quickstep started the action, as solo riders and small groups pinged off the front of the peloton and were caught.
The break started breaking up with 24 km left, and three km later Saramontis decided to attack alone. The IAM rider was caught just before the penultimate climb, the Côte de Beau Soleil, 10.5 km from the finish..
Degenkolb joined Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) and Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) in an attack on the climb. Four riders, including sprinters Michael Morkov (Saxo-Tinkoff) and FDJ’s Arnaud Demare, bridged across.
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) bridged across, thinking this might be the winning group, catching them seven km from the line, but the eight didn’t have enough power; they were caught 4.5 km out. The sprinters had to work hard and gained nothing—but Degenkolb played it smart, not taking pulls once the gap was established.
Belkin rider Jeltse Bol attacked from this group on the descent of the final climb the Côte d’Epan; the rest fo the break ignored him. Degenkolb’s Argos team mates worked hard chasing Bol, finally catching him 200 meters from the finish line.
With Bol caught Arnaud Demare immediately launched his sprint, with Degenkolb on his wheel. Demare ran out of energy; Michael Morkov went by on the right while Degenkolb passed on the left. The Argos ridwer had too much power; he crossed the line two lengths ahead of Morkov, while Demare had to settle for third.
“I think I did it pretty smart that I didn’t waste too much energy. I tried to go in the important groups also with my team mates so that we always had somebody to make the final in the end. Everything came together and one guy from Belkin was left, so it was up to us to chase the gap down and my team did. I think everybody saw that it was really strong, what the other guys did to bring them back.”
Argos-Shimano did excellent work in bringing back Bols, but it was Degenkolb’s tactics which made the difference. He was quick enough to see his chance when Marcato and Vanmarcke attacked on the Côte de Beau Soleil. The extra energy that Demare and Morkov spent chasing that break might have made the difference at the finish line.