A win in the final stage of the Tour de France is highly coveted by sprinters, and John Degenkolb was poised and ready to contest the furious sprint on the Champs-Elysées when suddenly the dream was shattered with a punctured tire.
Not only did Degenkolb flat just as the sprint was about to kick into its highest gear, so did his chief leadout man Koen de Kort three kilometers from the end, right at a time when his services were most needed - implausible odds.
"I really don’t know what to say about this," said Degenkolb, flabbergasted. "It's of course very frustrating and very disappointing. We had a great opportunity again today and if you puncture with the two riders who are preparing the sprint…
"I was feeling very comfortable; I was super focused, concentrated, and ready to start my sprint when we came onto the last straight. I was in good position when the puncture happened and… Yeah, I don't know what to say, but we need to forget this. We need to keep on going, and I will win some races this year. I promise."
"Extremely frustrating," echoed de Kort. "I felt really, really good and I had a really good feeling about today, the way John was following me, the way we were moving [through the bunch] together, surfing… I don't think it has ever gone so well.
"My legs were really amazing. Then with around 3kms to go, in a corner, I heard pffffff, and I was going through the corner sideways. We were in good position, and I was hoping that John could still do something on his own, and then, unfortunately, he also flatted. I can't believe why we deserve this bad luck!"
Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) won the final sprint, and Chris Froome (Sky) officially sealed the overall victory as the 104th Tour de France drew to a close in the center of Paris
Alberto Contador finished safely to secure his 9th place overall; not the result that he or the team had pinned hopes on, but a top 10 at the Tour de France is still a notable score.
Koen de Kort, road captain: In general I am pretty happy. I feel happy about my own performance, how I felt, how it has gone, and my job of looking after Alberto, I am happy how that went. We had the stage win… It's definitely not bad, but I think more would have been possible with a little bit more luck. It seems to be the story of the season, and it seemed to have continued into the Tour. We are going to try and turn that around in the coming months.
Michael Gogl, Tour rookie: It was a long ways. I think since 10 days I had a hard time because after my crash with Alberto [stage ?] three days later we found out I had a fracture on my right sit bone, but I thought if I had a fracture for three days, then I can continue for another six days.
I think at the end I should have thought over that opinion one more time, but now I am in Paris, and it's done. I am happy to have done a good job for the team, of course some days I was suffering a lot, but that's normal in this sport – we are not football (soccer) players.
It's been an amazing experience, the team spirit was always good. We had our ups and downs, but we always stuck together and fought together all the way. It was a nice experience, but I am also happy that it's over.
Alberto Contador, team leader: It has been a very intense Tour indeed, a Tour that I prepared for meticulously and with so much dedication. I believe I sacrificed more than I ever did for this Tour, but sometimes things just do not turn out like you wanted or hoped for. We had quite some bad luck, and fortune decided otherwise. I tried to give the maximum until the last day and to try to make the best race possible.
Of course, we didn't get the result we hoped for and that we came for, but still I feel proud of what I achieved, and I would like to thank all the sponsors for the big support they gave me.
Physically I am really really good, but you know in sports in general, and specifically in cycling, a lot of things can happen that can have a major impact. So when that happens, you only can look ahead, rest, and set new goals. Now, it's time to rest and disconnect completely and after that set some future objectives.
Luca Guercilena, General Manager: Clearly when we started in Düsseldorf we were aiming to fight for the yellow jersey. It's true that the first week crashes affected us a lot, we had almost all the riders on the ground, and never for their fault so there is nothing you can really do about it, or complain.
Then we were able to refocus on new goals, and essentially we reached it with Bauke (Mollema) being in a great day and capturing a great victory. And Alberto showing that he is still in the game, and he tried to make the mountains stages harder and harder, and ending up in the top 10 - that is always a good result.
I think as a team we were always present; we almost never missed the good breakaway, and we were always competitive. I think at the end of the three weeks, we can be happy for what we have achieved.
Sometimes I am a bit hard with them, but this is part of my job to always keep them with a bit of pressure, but this team has shown incredible spirit these three weeks. This is also important in putting a team together that they fit well together, and I can say this goal we have reached.