John Degenkolb sprinted to fourth in the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California Sunday, profiting from a good lead by the team but wishing for a harder stage to help lessen the speed of his rivals.
"I think it was okay, we tried our best, but had to come from far back," said Degenkolb. "I did not have the best legs to compete against these fast guys on an easy day like today. Let's hope for some more harder stages next week."
After Markel Irizar and Kiel Reijnen had worked to keep Degenkolb in the top positions on the fast finishing circuits in downtown Sacramento, Koen de Kort placed him in prime wheels after the final corner. The positioning was perfect. But to beat the some of the world's fastest is not an easy feat.
"Markel brought us into really good position for the last lap," explained de Kort. "I was still there with John and Kiel, and the three of us tried to stay near the sprinters. Going into the last corner I was in good position with John still on my wheel, and I moved over to Quick-Step (Floors), and when they started the sprint, John could jump on Marcel's (Kittel') wheel.
"He was in a perfect position. I think the leadout went well. I am not entirely sure how the sprint went, but a fourth place in this quality of field is not bad. It's not what we came here for, but I think the way we worked together in the sprint we can be really happy."
I did not have the best legs to compete against these fast guys on an easy day like today. Let's hope for some more harder stages next week.
Missing in the leadout was the big engine of Marco Coledan who crashed heavily in training two days prior and was unable to take the start today. Coledan required a few stitches and will fly back to Italy tomorrow to recover. He is expected to be lining up again in the Tour of Belgium.
"Obviously, it's hard to be without Marco, he would have been really helpful for us here in this sprint," added de Kort. "But I have to say the guys picked it up really well without him, and Markel filled in for Marco and did super."
While the day was mostly uneventful, a crosswind section around mid-way did create moments of stress in the peloton. Trek-Segafredo, trying to make the race hard and create splits, worked the front with a few other teams, but in the end, the conditions were not enough to break the bunch explained de Kort.
"We knew that today was very open and very exposed in certain points. There was not a lot of wind in the forecast, but I think all the teams were still looking for an opportunity or at least making sure they would not miss echelons. I think we were in a very good position the whole time to make sure would not miss anything, and a couple of times we tried to force some action with a couple of other teams. In the end, it turned out there was not enough wind, and the peloton didn't break."
Marcel Kittel won the stage over Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Elia Viviani (Sky) and will wear the first leader's jersey into a hilly stage two tomorrow.