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2021 team preview: Bora-Hansgrohe

The Bora-Hansgrohe squad at the 2020 Tour de France
Bora-Hansgrohe (Image credit: Getty Images)

The German team set up as a small Continental outfit back in 2010 has grown into one of the leading forces at the top level of the sport.

Propelled to the WorldTour on the back of the marquee signing of Peter Sagan in 2017, they have since gone about developing and building a squad that doesn’t rely on the three-time world champion, but can fire on multiple cylinders thanks to a talented core of German riders. 

Manager: Ralph Denk

Squad size: 29

Average age: 27.5

How did they fare in 2020?

Wins: 21

WorldTour ranking: 6th

The team were strong performers throughout the season, from Buchmann and Ackermann taking early wins in Spain, to Schachmann's Paris-Nice victory and later on, four Grand Tour stage wins courtesy of Sagan, Ackermann and Lennard Kämna.

All the team's main leaders came up big in one way or another, though Rafał Majka's 12th at the Giro d'Italia was a bit of a letdown after his Tirreno-Adriatico podium place.

For Kämna, there was his maiden Tour stage, plus one at the Dauphiné. Ackermann won eight races and added to his GT tally with two stages at the Vuelta. Buchmann won early on and then impressed at the Dauphiné before his crash and abandon derailed his Tour bid. For Schachmann, the curtailed Paris-Nice was his highpoint, leading from start to finish.

It was a moree complicated year for Sagan, however. He had to wait a long time for a win, racking up a series of near-misses as the season went on, including eight podium spots, before his fantastic solo win at the Giro. Elsewhere, there were victories for Martin Laas, Gregor Mühlberger and Felix Großschartner.

Key riders

Can Bora-Hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan take an eighth green jersey at this year’s Tour de France?

Peter Sagan, the German team's figurehead (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Peter Sagan: The importance of the three-time world champ to Bora-Hansgrohe may have diminished, with just one victory in 2020. However, that one victory indicated that any talk of a career decline was premature, as Sagan produced one of his finest displays to solo to victory on stage 10 of the Giro.

Quite apart from his stardom and the value that brings the sponsors, if he’s back to anywhere near his best then he’s a contender for the Classics, sprints, and another Tour de France green jersey. That said, this is the final year of Sagan’s contract and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he and Bora part ways, so he could be the biggest figure in next year’s transfer market. 

Maximilian Schachmann: Four-year contracts are almost unheard of in professional cycling, so when Bora tied Schachmann down to a bumper extension this summer it was an indication both of the team’s stability and how highly they rate the 26-year-old. Schachmann is becoming one of the peloton’s leading all-rounders, packing a fierce uphill sprint, a strong short time trial, and a more general climbing ability that landed him on the podium of Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year.

This year he won Paris-Nice, leading to talk of broadening his stage racing horizons and seeing if he could become a Grand Tour contender. On the other hand, he also made his Tour of Flanders debut this year, and the biggest challenge facing the rider and team will be where to focus his efforts as he enters his prime. Still, it’s some luxury of a challenge. 

Emanuel Buchmann: The German was one of the revelations of 2019, with a string of top stage race results culminating in fourth at the Tour de France. However, despite winning a stage of Challenge Mallorca in January, he was unable to build in 2020.

In his first race after the season hiatus, he crashed out of the Dauphiné and was well below his best at the Tour, eventually finishing 38th. A lost year, but the climber known in the team as ‘the silent child’ only recently turned 28 and has time to establish himself as a Grand Tour contender. 

LIDODICAMAIORE ITALY SEPTEMBER 07 Arrival Pascal Ackermann of Germany and Team BoraHansgrohe Celebration during the 55th TirrenoAdriatico 2020 Stage 1 a 133km stage from Lido di Camaiore to Lido di Camaiore TirrenAdriatico on September 07 2020 in Lido di Camaiore Italy Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images

Pascal Ackermann celebrates a win at Tirreno-Adriatico (Image credit: Getty Images)

Pascal Ackermann: The German is the team’s pure sprinter. In the back end of 2018 and throughout 2019, he seemingly established himself as among the very top tier of sprint stars, but had a slightly underwhelming 2020, especially when facing those other stars.

Still, he managed eight victories, so he’s key to the team’s win tally even when not quite at his best. At 26, there’s still room for improvement, and he has the speed to compete in the biggest sprints, although he is likely to have to wait for his Tour de France debut as the team is likely to revolve around Sagan and Buchmann again. 

Strengths

Leaving Sagan to one side, the team have built and developed a remarkable core of German talent. We’ve talked about Schachmann, Buchmann, and Ackermann, but there’s also Lennard Kamna, who won a stage of the Tour de France in a brilliant first campaign for the team, and new signing Nils Politt, who was runner-up at Paris-Roubaix in 2019 and could become the Classics leader in a possible post-Sagan world.

Quite apart from allowing the team to legitimately compete at the top level on almost all terrain, it has given them a strong collective identity that was somewhat lacking in their early WorldTour years. 

Stage winner Team Bora rider Germanys Lennard Kamna celebrates as he crosses the finish line of the 16th stage of the 107th edition of the Tour de France cycling race 164 km between La Tour du Pin and VillarddeLans on September 15 2020 Photo by Stuart Franklin POOL AFP Photo by STUART FRANKLINPOOLAFP via Getty Images

Youngster Kämna winning a stage at the Dauphiné (Image credit: Getty Images)

Weaknesses

It’s hard to pick out one real area of weakness in a team that has so many bases covered. You could argue the amount of options itself causes problems - Sagan’s presence at the Tour and Giro, for example, left Ackermann with just a hilly Vuelta, even after the departure of Sam Bennett had seemed to clear his path a little.

If we’re being equally harsh, the climbing contingent around Buchmann isn’t on par with the more prominent Grand Tour teams. Giro runner-up Wilco Kelderman arrives as secondary GC rider in a sort of like-for-like swap with Rafal Majka, but the team have invested mainly in youth this year, so it could take a few years for that investment to pay off. 

Verdict

In what could be Peter Sagan’s final year, Ralph Denk’s team have the wherewithal to compete on a number of fronts, with an exciting array of German talent. The team have come a long way in the past few years and, with a number of young signings in the bag, the future looks bright.

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.