The pair are racing together as teammates for the first time at the Tour of California this week, with Degenkolb finishing stage one in seventh place behind winner Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe).
The decorated German sprinter has competed at every edition of the Tour de France since 2013 and marked a career breakthrough last season, winning the iconic ninth stage from Arras to Roubaix that also ended Porte’s Tour with the now-defunct BMC team.
“It’s always a great race to be in but on the other hand I also could understand if the team decides to go different ways because we have Richie, we have a good possibility to be up there in the GC. But there’s no decision done yet,” Degenkolb said.
“It’s also not that after this race we have to make a decision. We still have time. I definitely would like to do the Vuelta but that doesn’t conflict.
“I hope that I get the chance to be there. It’s always the biggest race of the year and last year I won a stage.”
Degenkolb believes it would be difficult to hunt for Tour stage wins without a couple of men to shepherd him, which could arguably affect Porte’s arsenal and vice versa.
“We’ve tried it in the past to be alone in the sprints and it’s super hard. You even find teams they only focus on the sprints, they have one goal, and it’s so hard to compete against these guys. I would say you need at least one or two guys to help to put you in a good position,” Degenkolb said.
The former Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix champion arrived in California with one victory under his belt – a stage win at February’s Tour La Provence – as well as a quiet but consistent spring. Degenkolb was runner-up at Gent-Wevelgem and finished within the top 30 at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. He reset for Eschborn-Frankfurt in which he placed second to Giro d’Italia stage winner Pascal Ackermann (BORA-hansgrohe), before travelling to California.
“The very big result is still missing but it’s been a good time for me personally. The performance of the team, in general, is not as we were hoping for, but I have to say I’m on a stable level and that’s what I was struggling with the year before so that’s a good sign,” he said.
“The teamwork itself was working good but for many different reasons, we were all not performing on the level we were hoping for. That’s also why we had not so many big results but still, the season is long. It’s every year like this that you have to keep the concentration and focus high. There are big chances to come.
“I missed out in Frankfurt by just a little bit, that was quite close, and we have not so many chances here. But it’s going to be a good week of racing to go towards the summer and whatever the summer brings at the moment.”
The Tour of California presents some opportunities for Degenkolb but more for Porte, with this year’s route featuring some 20,000m of climbing. That starts with a 214.5km trek to South Lake Tahoe on Tuesday (AEST).
“This is going to be the first race with him, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve known him a long time and we’ve been maybe friends is too much, but we’ve been always chatting to each other in races. He’s a cool guy,” Degenkolb said.