John degenkolb took his racing machine and seemed to want to ram it into the ground. He was furious. "So often you don’t get the chance to become world champion or to get on the podium," said the 23-year-old from erfurt, who had just missed the bronze medal in the world championship race in valkenburg by a scant second. The newcomer from thuringia, who had recently stunned the experts with five vuelta stage victories, was five seconds behind the new road world champion philippe gilbert from belgium at the finish line after 269 kilometers on sunday. "As fourth, you are the first loser," degenkolb struggled with fate.
Four seconds behind gilbert, who only found his usual class late in the season, silver went to edvald boasson hagen of norway, ahead of alejandro valverde of spain. About three bike lengths separated degenkolb from the spanish rider at the end of the torture through limburg. "But by then i had no more strength," said the man from erfurt, who had "gladly rewarded" his sacrificially fighting team with a medal.
Solo winner gilbert initiated his coup on the final climb of the rutted cauberg and attacked from a group of 48 riders three kilometers from the finish line. No one could follow him. Already 400 meters before the finish line, the 30-year-old top favorite began to cheer.
But it didn’t take degenkolb long to regain his emotional composure and to strike a more conciliatory note: "we have proven that we can have a say in the race. We are not lousy. I look forward to the years ahead."For the time being, rudi altig will also remain in the 46. Year on the throne of the last german professional world champion. Andre greipel won bronze in the world championships in copenhagen last year.
On the 108-kilometer approach through limburg to the world championship circuit around the cauberg, an eleven-strong leading group had formed. In front of several hundred thousand spectators celebrating an anticipated cycling oktoberfest, she tackled the last ten laps with a lead of over five minutes. But that had no meaning for the outcome of the race yet.
The real action came with five laps to go, when a 29-rider breakaway group formed, led by vuelta winner alberto contador. Degenkolb rode behind in a chase formation and made the merge on the penultimate lap. The top riders rushed to the final attack on the cauberg, which is up to 14 percent steep.
"I can hardly realize it. We deserved to win because we did a great job as a team. I saw the gap on the cauberg and took advantage of it – that’s phenomenal," gilbert said happily. He won the amstel gold race in 2010 and 2011 on a similar course and prepared himself for his triumph on sunday with a silver medal in the world championship team time trial at the start of the world championships in valkenburg.
120 kilometers from the finish, defending champion mark cavendish with bib number one on his back was off the bike. Even before the start of the race, the briton had said that he did not like the course at all and did not think he had any chance of winning. He had only joined "out of respect for the rainbow jersey" and was doing helpers’ work. Three laps later he was followed by british tour stars bradley wiggins and christopher froome, who were unable to keep up.
The federation of german cyclists (BDR) drew a positive balance of the nine-day title fight. After the two gold medals in the time trial by judith arndt, who ended her career on saturday with eighth place in the road race, and tony martin, the sports director saw his expectations fulfilled. "Two gold medals in the time trial: that’s what we were hoping for. Now we have degenkolb to finish the race – we are very satisfied," said udo sprenger, who was also pleased with the bronze medal won by berlin junior time trialist maximilian schachmann.