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"I'm not in any competition with Marcel Kittel. He have won three times, I have also won three times. This is a funny fight, to know who wins the most races, but it's really friendly. We have a good relationship,...

Photo: Team Giant-Shimano

JOHN DEGENKOLB

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TEAM SUNWEB

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THIERRY HUPOND

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TOUR MEDITERRANEEN

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15.02.2014 @ 16:02 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) continued his unstoppable run of success when he won his third stage in a row in the Tour Mediteraneen this morning. Having repeated the feat of teammate Marcel Kittel in the Dubai Tour, the German refuses that there is any internal rivalry between the two sprinters.
 

John Degenkolb made it three stage wins from three this in this morning's stage of the Tour Méditerranéen, a short and fast 63km race from Lambesc to Saint Rémy de Provence. It marks the second hat-trick of the season after Marcel Kittel's triple at the Dubai Tour. 

 

Degenkolb again used his strong team to control the race before unleashing his incredible speed on the uphill finishing straight, holding off former world champion Thor Hushovd (BMC) and an in-form Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani).

 

This afternoon the focus will change as the riders tackle a rolling 18km individual time trial course, a stage that Degenkolb's teammate Tobias Ludvigsson has had his eye on after winning the equivalent at the Étoile de Bessèges last week.
 

 

"Once again I have to thank my teammates for today," Degenkolb said. "They have controlled the race for three days now and are still riding super strong.

 

"I spent three very nice days here, with three consecutive victories," he added to Directvelo. "Today, the stage was very short and nervous. Once again, the team did a great job. They protected me well, so that I was never in trouble. At the bottom of the last climb, my teammates were all around me. The team is really strong."

 

"To win three times obviously gives a lot of confidence for the next races. Of course, I'm still a little surprised to have won these three stages."

 

This afternoon the focus will change as the riders tackle a rolling 18km individual time trial course, a stage that Degenkolb's teammate Tobias Ludvigsson has had his eye on after winning the equivalent at the Étoile de Bessèges last week.

 

 

"This afternoon I will see how I get on in the time trial, but it is more of a stage for Tobias and he's riding really strong at the moment. 

 

"I think it will be very difficult to keep the yellow jersey in the time trial this afternoon. With our various specialists against the clock, the Giant-Shimano team will have great opportunities this afternoon."

 

Degenkolb got very close to his first win in last week's Etoile de Besseges but was narrowly edged out on several occasions. However, he praises the French stage races that have allowed him to hit peak condition.

 

"I feel that the Etoile de Bessèges has allowed me to find a good feeling," he said. "Honestly, I was not disappointed after the Etoile de Bessèges. Last year I did the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman. There, when there is no wind, the stages are not hard enough, there is not enough intensity. This 2014 season works much better with a more suitable racing program in France."

 

Last year Degenkolb ended his season by winning the Paris-Bourges and Paris-Tours and this year he has continued his success on French soil.

 

"It is true that I have won many races in France in recent years," he said. "I do not know how to explain it. It's just that I like to race here, especially in the south of France. This is an area that I love, especially when it's a pleasant temperature like now. This is very nice, and perfect for racing."

 

With the win, Degenkolb repeated the feat of his teammate Kittel who took three consecutive stage wins in Dubai. However, he refuses that there is any rivalry between the two fast finishers.

 

"I'm not in any competition with Marcel Kittel," he said. "He has won three times, I have also won three times. This is a funny fight, to know who wins the most races, but it's really friendly. We have a good relationship.
 

"Starting a season like this is a great way to thank everyone who supports us, the fans, sponsors, staff. Hopefully the wins will keep coming."

 

Hard-working teammate Thierry Hupond explained the reasons for the team's success.

 

"The success of the team this season can be explained by some very hard winter work, with a lot of training together," he told Directvelo. "We were very serious. Everyone is already in good shape. It all started well in the first race, with a very good team cohesion. We know that everyone is willing to sacrifice himself for the others in the team. There may also be an element of luck. 

 

"Personally, I did not come to the Tour Med with great shape but it is rewarding for to be a teammate of the stage winners. For the time trial, we hope that Tobias (Ludvigsson) will make perform well this afternoon, although it may be difficult for him in GC with Mont Faron coming up tomorrow. If it is too hard for him, there may also be Warren (Barguil) for the stage to Faron. "
 

As he has been after the previous stages as well, coach Marc Reef was full of praise for his team.

 

"Another hat-trick, what a way to start the season," he said. The guys are just sticking to the plan and it's working out perfectly.

 

"Tom Peterson, Thierry Hupond and Johannes Fröhlinger did another great job on the front to control the bunch and set the rest of the guys up in a good position before the final climb with 40km to go. We expected the stage to break up a bit with the wind but it was mostly behind us so it was a fast day.

 

"At the end the guys set John up in a good position and he did a great sprint to finish it off. This afternoon Tobias and Warren Barguil are looking to do a strong time trial and we will make a plan for tomorrow after that."

 

The race ends tomorrow with a stage that finishes on the feared Mont Faron climb in Toulon.

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