What do professional cyclists do when their season is over? When work is over after nine months of hunting all over Europe and beyond? When there are no more rock-hard races ahead over whispering asphalt, cobbled bumpy roads, high mountains, gentle hills or narrow cities? “We moved around the houses a bit,” says John Degenkolb with a smile. On foot, from bar to bar, in Paris.
Jonasrutsch was also part of the group willing to party, who loaded their bikes in France on Sunday afternoon and won’t be climbing again for a while. The one-day race Paris-Tours was the end of the season for both Degenkolb andrutsch. The man from Oberursel and the man from Odenwald train together more often – so their jobs allow them to be in Rhein-Main at the same time. And have now started the cycling holidays in parallel after a 2022 season, which satisfied some (Degenkolb) more than others (Rutsch). “When the last virtual team meetings are over this week, in which we work through and look ahead, I’ll pull the plug for at least two weeks and take a real vacation with the family,” says Degenkolb.
Two weeks vacation: “I can’t do any longer”
Rotuch, on the other hand, has already given his fiancé to understand that he can no longer see airports and planes for the time being. The 24-year-old now wants to keep his feet off the pedals for two weeks. “I can’t do any longer,” saysutsch. “I would love to pick up the phone right now and say to the team: Guys, what can I do better or differently? Let’s work out a plan.” But his employer, the American team EF Education-EasyPost, put the brakes on the energetic Hessian. Relaxation is announced.
Slip is struggling with the 2022 season. After the bang on his own account at the “Queen of Classics” Paris-Roubaix the year before, when only a puncture kept him from the storm in fifth place, and a strong debut in the Tour de France “2022 wasn’t what I trained for and ripped open my ass.” The at least one top result that he is capable of in terms of performance and that would put him in the front row of his guild did not materialize.
One after the other: After he got through the winter well and free of corona, the virus caught him right after the first race. At the wrong time. “Three weeks nothing worked, and then it stuck with me for a long time,” saysuzz. The spring, that is the classic time and thus the preferred racing terrain of him and Degenkolb, was almost gone. At least at the climax Paris-Roubaix back in shape, thenrutsch suffered one material damage after the other. “After that I was really hardly responsive for a few days,” he recalls.
After several weeks of high-altitude training camp with a view to the Tour de France,rutsch traveled to the Tour de Suisse in great shape. After a corona impact in the team, suddenly only he and two team members were left.
Exhausting program “will do me good in view of the season”
The Tour of France, which started in Denmark, had the next unpleasant surprise in store for him at the first opportunity. A rough contact with the Copenhagen asphalt: fall on the opening stage. “After that I just hung out in the field for a week and a half and hoped that the individual stages would be over as quickly as possible. I was a shadow of myself,” saysuzz. Things got better in the third week of the race, but he didn’t come close to the goal he had set himself of being among the front runners for a stage. After all, in the end on the Champs-Elysées great private luck beckoned: marriage proposal, answered with yes.
If spring and summer failed, there’s still the season finale. Slip had gotten back into shape after the tour exertion. But instead of competing for a top result, his team was involved in the first-ever battle to lose their WorldTour license. That meant: Tingelei through the cycling province, pedaling in the wind on some Belgian circuit. Made more than 60 days of racing in the legs and various experiences of frustration in the head.
Degenkolb did not have many sporting flights of fancy either, but spent many days in high-altitude training camps. With the Tour and the Vuelta a España, the 33-year-old has mastered two three-week national tours (over 7000 kilometers of race track alone). A draining program. “That will do me good for the new season,” says Degenkolb about the possible sporting effect.
The seasonal division also had an experimental character. For the first time in his long professional career, he toiled away three long weeks in altitude training camps in February (before the classics) and in May (before the tour). When in September he “felt”, as he says, “was at home for a whole week for the first time since May”, it seemed “too much” to him. Fewer training camps and more races, especially in the classic season, are what he has in mind for 2023.
The transformation of the professional Degenkolb, who drives to win in almost every race, to a leading figure in Team DSM, who leads the formation in competition and puts his own ambitions aside, is well advanced. “I really enjoy the role of road captain. And I get the feedback that I’m making the young team better,” says Degenkolb. Still, he feels his new role could be more firmly anchored.
That it will be even easier for him to rein himself in in the future, even if the opportunity for his own advance seems favorable. But also to the outside world, to those who see zero wins in the season and assume signs of aging in cycling. In any case, Degenkolb is looking forward to regular winter training at home after the holiday. He andrutsch had already arranged to go on training trips together. “In order then,” saysutsch, “to really let loose in the spring races.”