Nothing is impossible for John Degenkolb after he wins Stage 3 of Dubai Tour

The German beat Alejandro Valverde and Juan Jose Lobato – both of Movistar – to victory on a route which culminated with a steep ramp. The final stage is Saturday.

Cyclists ride during the third stage of Dubai Tour to Hatta Dam on February 6, 2015. Teams from more than seven countries are taking place in the 2015 cycling tour which will cover 660 kilometres in four days. Marwan Naamani / AFP
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Sometimes an international athlete competing in Dubai says something that fits the narrative and branding campaign of this burgeoning city so perfectly that even event organisers could not have possibly asked them to say it.

On Friday, John Degenkolb, winner of the Dubai Tour’s challenging thir d stage, was the man to appear ambassadorial.

The German rider with Team Giant-Alpecin expended every reserve of energy he had to collect his first win of the season in Hatta after finishing 205 kilometres of racing with a short, steep and testing climb.

On crossing the line, an exhausted Degenkolb collapsed on the asphalt struggling to breathe.

“I think if you had measured the lactate in my body, you would understand why I collapsed,” he said after the climb, which featured gradients of about 17 per cent.

“I was fighting for some oxygen. In a victory like this, there is no way to celebrate because you just need to recover as quickly as possible or risk proper damage to your brain.”

The new leader of the general classification was then asked whether he would be able to hold on to the blue jersey to the end of Saturday’s final stage.

“If you win you get confidence and the pressure of having not won anything goes away,” Degenkolb said.

“The win carries over to the next races, so we celebrate the victory today and tomorrow do everything to defend the jersey and try to bring it home.”

It was the last sentence of his response that could have been lifted direct from a Dubai Sports Council flyer.

“It won’t be easy, but we have a good chance and it’s not impossible. A little bit like in Dubai – nothing is impossible.”

Thank you, Mr Degenkolb, whatever happens in Stage 4, you will be welcome to return next year.

Degenkolb is clearly a fan of the emirate; he spoke of his desire to return, despite having yet to leave. It is easy to understand why given Friday’s route.

Again starting at Dubai International Marine Club next to Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, the 125-man field cut through the heart of the desert – past camel farms, cafeterias, gents salons and shops selling inflatable zebras – and into the south-eastern mountains of Hatta.

British sprinter Mark Cavendish had said that when he is riding all he sees is wheels and men’s rear-ends, but with craggy peaks looming over aqueous lakes, a side of Dubai not every tourist gets to experience proved as inescapable as the midday sun.

The finish line, which Degenkolb passed with a two-second advantage over Movistar pair Alejandro Valverde and Juan Jose Lobato, was situated at the top of the concrete wall that is Hatta Dam.

“It’s the first climb here and I’m very surprised,” Degenkolb said. “It’s a great race and I would definitely like to come back. After the finish line, I couldn’t see anything any more. It was probably as intensive a sprint as the Giro [d’Italia] two years ago. It was unbelievable.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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