The sprinters will have their turn again, as the ProTour moves up to the flats of northern Germany and the Vattenfall Cyclassics in Hamburg on Sunday, August 16. The race usually ends in a mass sprint and will be expected to give the sprinters the chance they didn't have in the last one-day ProTour race in San Sebastián.
Being touted as favourite for the race is Andre Greipel of Columbia-HTC, who has had an astonishing 15 wins this season, despite missing three and a half months due to shoulder surgery. It is almost a home-town race for the German, who originally hails from nearby Rostock. Greipel came back from surgery to win every sprint he contested, until the recent Tour of Poland. There he didn't manage to win until the final stage, and said, “I have to make it up to my teammates.”
Last year's winner, Robbie McEwen, is tentatively scheduled to ride again, but don't expect him to repeat. He has only recently started racing again after recovery from serious injuries suffered in a crash in the Tour of Belgium the end of May. He will enter Vattenfall with only a few criteriums in his legs.
Graeme Brown (Rabobank), Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Gerald Ciolek (Milram) are also sprinters to keep an eye on. Milram will look to do well in its one 'home' ProTour race, and has another option with Fabian Wegmann. The latter traditionally does well in one-day races and although recent back problems have cast a cloud over his participation, if fit, he will be a contender. Silence-Lotto has several irons in the fire, with Philippe Gilbert, Greg van Avermaet and Jürgen Roelandts all expected at the startline.
The strongest team, however, has to be Saxo Bank. The Danish team will send a formidable line-up including Stuart O'Grady, Jakob Fuglsang (who won his second successive Tour of Denmark earlier this month), sprinter Matti Breschel and the always-dangerous Fabian Cancellara.
Twenty teams will be at the start, including all eighteen ProTour teams. The two wildcards invitations have been snapped up by Skil-Shimano and Vorarlberg-Corratec.
The 216.4 kilometre course will start and finish in Hamburg, and resembles a rough figure eight. After a 153 kilometre circuit south, the peloton returns to the Hanseatic city and then heads west. Turning south and then east again, along the banks of the Elbe River, they face the day's climb, which has been incorporated four times into this year's course.
The Waseberg is only some 700 metres long, but features an average gradient of over 10 percent, including more than 16 percent in the last 300 metres. It has featured in the race since 1997.
The peloton goes over the climb once on its way back into Hamburg to finish the second loop of the figure eight, before heading west again for three laps of a 12 kilometre circuit.
The riders will tackle the formidable slope on each of these three laps, but once over the top for the final time, will face a rapid 15 kilometre run into downtown Hamburg and the finish line.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for live coverage of the Vattenfall Cyclassics, starting at 13:00CET on August 16.