The International Cycling Union (UCI) ProTour will make it's only stop in Germany on August 15 for the 15th edition of the Vattenfall Cyclassics. The 216.6km parcours starting and finishing in Hamburg traditionally favours the sprinters, although four trips up the Waseberg, a 700m long kick in the legs with its steepest gradient at 16 percent, in the event's endgame could provide an opportunity for attack-minded riders to rid themselves of the peloton's fast men.
The 2010 edition of the Vattenfall Cyclassics, however, is deep with sprinting talent, including five previous winners and the top five finishers from 2009, whose teams will put up a stiff challenge to those with thoughts of launching a race-winning breakaway.
All eighteen ProTour teams will be in attendance, plus three Pro Continental squads issued wild card entry: BMC Racing Team, Skil-Shimano and Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team.
Back to defend his breakthrough win from last year is Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Transitions. Farrar returned to action in the recently contested Tour of Denmark following a disappointing exit from the Tour de France due to a broken wrist. The 26-year-old American will be supported by his preferred lead-out contingent of Julian Dean and Murilo Fischer as he builds form for a late-season run at the Vuelta a España and the world championships.
The host nation hasn't won the Vattenfall Cyclassics since Erik Zabel's victory in 2001, but a pair of German sprinters would like to put an end to the extended drought. André Greipel (Team HTC-Columbia) has been sprinting well all season with 16 victories thus far this year, including two stages at the this month's previous ProTour event - the Tour of Poland. In the event Greipel is unable to contest for the win HTC-Columbia has other strong options as well, including sprinter Matt Goss, a stage winner at the Tour of Denmark, plus escape threats Michael Albasini and Peter Velits.
Another German sprinter is Gerald Ciolek of Team Milram and the 23-year-old has a good track record at the Vattenfall Cyclassics . Ciolek has finished third on two occasions, 2009 and 2007, to go along with a fifth place finish in 2006. Ciolek has won once on German soil this season, stage three of the Bayern Rundfahrt in May, and would relish the opportunity to repeat the feat on Sunday. Milram, too, has other options in the event of a race-deciding escape, particularly Germans Fabian Wegmann and Christian Knees.
Team Saxo Bank brings a deeply talented squad to Hamburg led by 2009 runner-up Matti Breschel. The 25-year-old Dane is on good form having won a stage of his home Tour of Denmark and donned the leader's jersey for two days. Saxo Bank also fields ace sprinter Juan José Haedo in addition to strongmen Fabian Cancellara, Jens Voigt and 2004 Vattenfall Cyclassics winner Stuart O'Grady.
Lampre-Farnese Vini fields a strong roster captained by 2010 Tour de France green jersey winner Alessandro Petacchi. The Italian sprinter is joined by German lead-out man Danilo Hondo while Slovenia's Grega Bole, second overall in the Tour of Poland, offers another potential winner in the event of an escape.
Team Katusha boasts two former Vattenfall Cyclassics winners in Robbie McEwen (2008) and Filippo Pozzato (2005) plus has another sprint option with Italy's Danilo Napolitano, winner of the Tour de Wallonie's opening stage on July 24.
Team Sky brings an intriguing mix of talent able to contest for victory from either a field sprint or breakaway. The ProTour squad's options include Edvald Boasson Hagen, Juan Antonio Flecha and Russell Downing, winner of late July's Tour de Wallonie.
Other riders to watch include 2007 winner Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team), Allan Davis (Astana), fourth in 2009 and third in 2008, Liquigas-Doimo's Francesco Chicchi and Peter Sagan, the ever-dangerous Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step) and Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil).
The peloton crosses the Elbe River on Hamburg's Köhlbrand Bridge Photo: AFP
The 216.6km course, resembling a rough figure eight, is identical to last year's parcours. After a 153km circuit south, the peloton returns to the Hamburg and then heads west. Turning south and then east again, along the banks of the Elbe River, they make their first ascent of the Waseberg climb, which features four times in the latter stages of the race.
The Waseberg is only 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 15.7 kilometre run into downtown Hamburg and the finish line.