As the general classification riders head to Spain, many of the world’s best sprinters turn their focus to Germany. Vattenfall Cyclassics is currently Germany’s only WorldTour race, so it is befitting that its parcours suits some of its best riders. The largely flat course usually ensures a bunch sprint, an area that the Germans have excelled in recent years.
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) and André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) are just two potential winners for the home nation. Unfortunately, converting this into race victory has proved elusive, and Germany has only had one winner since the race became the Vattenfall Cyclassics in 2006. John Degenkolb, who is due to ride the Vuelta a España this season, claimed victory there in 2013.
This season, Giant-Alpecin will be putting their power behind Kittel instead. Kittel only managed sixth in last year’s sprint and is still on the comeback trail after a long lay-off this season. He did manage to claim a stage win at the Tour de Pologne, but he is still unproven in an all-out bunch sprint.
In contrast, Greipel has been on flying form throughout the season. He recently notched a stage win at the Eneco Tour, as he helped teammate Tim Wellens to the overall win. He also scored a career-best four stage wins at the Tour de France in July. His best finish at this race is second in 2013, but with the form he has now, Greipel goes in as the man to beat.
Other contenders for the home nation are Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) and Rick Zabel (BMC). A long-range attack from Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) is a distinct possibility.
There’ll be some strong competition arriving in Hamburg this Sunday, however, not least from Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) and defending champion Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). Cavendish has limited his road racing since the Tour, as he’s focussed on the track. He will be racing again on the boards in Germany the following weekend. His time on the track could hamper his sprint, but the team have back-up from Tom Boonen, who is gearing up for the World Championships.
After a disappointing Tour de France, Kristoff has begun to turn things around. A recent trip to the Arctic Race of Norway brought his first win in nearly two months. The finish was much more challenging than at Vattenfall, so he’ll have a tougher fight from the pure sprinters.
Ben Swift and Elia Viviani (Team Sky), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge), Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R-La Mondiale), Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida), Arnaud Démare (FDJ) and Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) are all threats for the win.
Organisers have changed the parcours this year to celebrate the 20th edition of the race – including the original Hew Cyclassics, which began in 1996. In the past, the race has branched out from Hamburg with a circuit to the south and the west of the city. This year’s race will begin in Kiel, which is on the opposite coastline to Hamburg, and will pick its way southwest with a few twists and turns along the way. One such twist will take the riders along the Ploen Lake, where the Ploen Castle is visible.
The final approach into Hamburg will be the same, with the finish on the Mönckeberstrasse.