Hamburg hosts yet another sprinters' showdown on Sunday, when Quick-Step Floor's Elia Viviani, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and UAE Team Emirates' Alexander Kristoff rub shoulders at the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg.
For last year's winner of Germany's WorldTour one-day Classic, Viviani, it will be one last hurrah – literally, he hopes – before he heads to Malaga for the start of the Vuelta a España on August 25. Ahead of Hamburg, Viviani's last race was the European Championships in Glasgow, where he could only finish 20th, on what was, to be fair, hillier terrain than he would have preferred.
In late July, the 29-year-old went somewhat better when he finished second at the RideLondon-Surrey Classic behind Bora-Hansgrohe's Pascal Ackermann, in what was Viviani's first race in his tricolore jersey since winning the Italian title in June. He then skipped the Tour de France, where Quick-Step instead rode for Fernando Gaviria, with the young Colombian nabbing two stage victories.
Viviani will want to warm up for the Vuelta by showing that he is currently the world's fastest sprinter, and while Ackermann got the better of him in London, Viviani will look to show the German's teammate, Sagan, a clean pair of heels at the 216.4km race.
Sagan was a non-finisher at the European Championships road race, still suffering the ill-effects of his crash at the Tour de France. Like Viviani, the Slovakian will be hoping to rediscover his form ahead of the Vuelta a España, and Hamburg might just be the place for him to do it.
Viviani will have a number of the teammates who will accompany him at the Vuelta with him in Hamburg, no doubt keen to hone their sprint train strategy, with Michael Mørkøv and Fabio Sabatini being particularly important to the Italian.
Groupama-FDJ's Démare is certain to be a danger man, and won this event a week shy of his 21st birthday back in 2012. The Frenchman finished second to Viviani in Hamburg in 2017, and will be intent on going one better against such a stellar line up of sprinters.
Many of them were absent on the final day of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées, where Kristoff took the stage win, and so the Norwegian will be hoping to prove that he was deserving of the 'unofficial sprinters' world championships' in Paris by improving upon his fourth place of last season at the Cyclassics Hamburg.
Kristoff is a previous winner in Hamburg, too, having got the better of Italy's Giacomo Nizzolo in 2014, and don't discount 2015 champion André Greipel, who would love to take the title again as he comes towards the end of his eight-year stint with Lotto Soudal before the 36-year-old German moves to Fortuneo-Samsic for 2019. LottoNL-Jumbo's Dylan Groenewegen took third place here last year, and would have surely been in the mix again, but the Dutchman is instead away on sprinting duty at the concurrent BinckBank Tour.
It remains to be seen whether or not Dimension Data's Mark Cavendish will line-up among the sprinters in Hamburg, too. The Briton has been named on a number of unofficial start lists, but is yet to be confirmed by either his team or the event organisers. Cavendish was set to start the European Championships for a Great Britain team, but withdrew on the advice of his medical team three days before the race as he continues to recover from a series of early-season injuries. He was subsequently named for the Tour of Norway (August 16-19), but was again withdrawn from the race, this time by his Dimension Data team.
While the aforementioned sprinters' names are likely to be in the mix in the grand finale in Hamburg on Sunday, the first couple of editions of the race were won solo.
The race began life as the HEW Cyclassics in 1996, when Italian Rossano Brasi of Polti won by 13 seconds from Telekom's Bert Dietz, with Nürnberger's Steffen Rein almost a minute back. The following year it was won by Jan Ullrich, just a month after the German had won the Tour de France. Mapei's Wilfried Peeters – these days a directeur sportif at Quick-Step – was seven seconds adrift, while Ullrich's Telekom teammate, Jens Heppner, was third.
Since then it has been almost all about the sprinters, and the 216.4km race takes place over a largely flat 160km loop, starting and finishing in central Hamburg, before a slightly tougher 18km circuit is covered three times, with the 700m-long climb of the Waseberg – with its average gradient of 10 per cent, and a 16 per cent stretch close to the top – providing a stiff, but doable, challenge three times for the fast-men before the almost inevitable, albeit sometimes reduced, bunch gallop.
A UCI WorldTour event since 2005, the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg attracts the great and the good of top-level sprinting, although it tends to throw up a new winner every year: only one rider has won twice in the event's history: the now-retired Tyler Farrar was victorious in both 2009 and 2010.
Can Viviani hold off Sagan to make it two wins in a row and equal the American?
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