Giant-Alpecin, the owner of top German sprinter John Degenkolb, has just announced he has been stolen.
Yes, right from under their nose by rival Trek-Segafredo, a team highly motivated to fill the hole that a retiring Fabian Cancellara will leave in their classics squad.
According to an “insider,” Degenkolb, the winner of last season’s Milan-San Remo and Paris Roubaix, has already signed an offer, calling it a “done deal.”
Police have been alerted and Giant-Alpecin hopes too immediately recover the highly valuable German asset, which was stolen away when they turned their back and dragged out negotiating a new contract while the German recovers from serious injuries sustained when he was hit by a car.
The robbery is actually the second time a star rider from Germany has been pilfered from Giant-Alpecin. Last year, Marcel Kittel disappeared from the team after a long season off illness and difficulty in rebuilding form.
He was swiped away by the clever thieves at Etixx-Quickstep and Kittel has now returned to his dominating self, winning at least nine stages including major triumphs at the Volta ao Algarve, Tour de Romandie, Three Days of De Panne and the Giro d’Italia.
Officials at Giant-Alpecin were at a loss to explain how two such high profile riders could be swiped from them in broad daylight. “Perhaps we need an alarm system or something. It looks like the thieves just walked out the door with them,” said general manager Iwan Spekenbrink.
Degenkolb may have been stolen last week while riding the Tour of California. Several observers spotted the German, pen in hand, heading to the hotel of the Trek squad after the finish of several stages.
Giant-Alpecin is not quite ready to panic as yet. “The police have assured us they know where the thieves have taken Degenkolb and are confident of a quick return,” said Spekenbrink.
However, at least one source claims that neither Degenkolb nor Kittel have any intention of returning. “No, forget it, those boys are gone for good. Not coming back. Giant-Alpecin needs to work harder to keep their riders,” said Mads Nikkeren, a mechanic and occasional burglar for Etixx-Quickstep. “What’s next? I’d keep a close eye on Dumoulin.”