Over the past decade, Ralph Denk’s team has grown from a Continental outfit to one of the strongest in the WorldTour. The signing of Peter Sagan in 2017 marked the team’s arrival in the big time and Bora-Hansgrohe’s young German talent – most notably Emanuel Buchmann and Pascal Ackermann – have since stepped up several levels.
Manager: Ralph Denk
Squad size: 28
Average age: 28.9
How did they fare in 2019?
WorldTour ranking: 2
Along with Deceuninck-QuickStep and Jumbo-Visma, Bora-Hansgrohe were the outstanding collective in 2019, with 12 different riders notching up wins on a multitude of terrains. The departing Sam Bennett weighed in with 13 wins – 11 at WorldTour level – while Ackermann landed two stage wins and the points jersey at the Giro d’Italia.
Sagan picked up a record 7th green jersey at the Tour de France, Max Schachmann took a stunning hat-trick of stages in the Tour of the Basque Country and Davide Formolo placed second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The stand-out performance, at least as far as the team’s sponsors are concerned, came at the Tour, where Buchmann marked himself out as the coming man of German cycling with 4th place overall, the country’s highest GC finish since Andreas Klöden made the podium in 2006.
Peter Sagan: A bout of illness led to a relatively subdued spring for Sagan in 2019, but he almost matter-of-factly won a seventh green jersey at the Tour in July. He will take heart, too, from the strength he showed in soloing to 5th at the Yorkshire Worlds. Van der Poel and Van Aert are emerging, but, at 30 years of age, Sagan is not ready to cede the stage to them just yet.
Emanuel Buchmann: After placing fourth in 2019, Buchmann will look to go at least one better on the Tour de France in 2020.
Pascal Ackermann: Buchmann’s GC ambitions in July mean that Ackermann’s Tour debut must wait another year. Sam Bennett’s departure places greater responsibility on his shoulders. He will combine the Giro and Vuelta in 2020.
Max Schachmann: The German champion enjoyed a remarkable spring, claiming five wins in March and April before placing fifth at both Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, and third in Liège. Formolo’s departure ensures that he will be the outright leader in the Ardennes this time out.
Diversification is the byword for Bora-Hansgrohe. When the squad jumped to WorldTour level in 2017, it was very reliant on Peter Sagan, both as a race winner and a standard bearer, as well as on Sam Bennett’s sprinting. In 2019, the victories came from all quarters and on all across the calendar. Manager Ralph Denk, whose stated ambition is for Bora-Hansgrohe to become the best team in the world, will expect more of the same in 2020.
Sagan won ‘only’ four races in 2019, but the Slovakian was still a remarkably consistent performer and he showed distinct signs of life in his final races of the season after an illness-hindered opening. He remains the team’s totem and he will, as ever, be in the mix in the Monuments. His Giro debut may also yield dividends.
Buchmann faces into something akin to the difficult second album after coming close to a podium finish on the Tour. Denk believes the 2020 parcours is perfectly tailored to his GC leader, who will have a team dedicated to him in July. Buchmann should also shine, of course, in week-long stage races through the campaign.
Indeed, Bora-Hansgrohe are not lacking in that department, with Schachmann – also a threat in the Ardennes Classics – and Rafał Majka capable of stepping up where needed. A trio of Austrian riders – Patrick Konrad, Gregor Mühlberger and Felix Großschartner – all caught the eye with remarkable displays in 2019 and will be worth watching again this year.
In the bunch sprints, Ackermann has shown himself to be among the best fast men in the world, and he will enjoy more opportunities now that Bennett has left the team. Elsewhere, Maciej Bodnar, Daniel Oss and Cesare Benedetti are hugely reliable performers, while of the new arrivals, Lennard Kämna has a fine pedigree as a time triallist with ample margin for improvement.
Weakness is, of course, a relative term for a team in Bora-Hansgrohe’s position. Sam Bennett’s departure sees arguably the best sprinter in the WorldTour leave the team, and his haul of top-level victories will not be easily replaced. Between them, Ackermann and Sagan can pick up some of the slack, but in 2019, Bora-Hansgrohe were in the enviable position of having three riders capable of winning Grand Tour sprints on their roster, and they were able to divide the calendar accordingly.
Last spring, Formolo and Schachmann were a redoubtable double act in both Spain and the Ardennes, but the German champion will have to make do without his foil this time out. The onus will be on men like Patrick Konrad to make another step up this coming spring.
Although Sagan’s supporting cast in the Classics is robust and Daniel Oss helped to tee up his 2018 Paris-Roubaix victory, the team lacks the ingredient that makes Deceuninck-QuickStep the best team on the cobbles – namely a second (or third or fourth) option for victory.
One could perhaps argue something similar of Buchmann’s cohort at the Tour. Konrad, Schachmann, Rafał Majka, Gregor Mühlberger and Felix Großschartner are all well capable of supporting Buchmann, but can they match the collective might of Ineos and Jumbo-Visma and push him onto the podium or beyond?
After a sparkling 2019, Bora-Hansgrohe will hope for more of the same in 2020, but no obvious replacements for Bennett and Formolo were signed during the off-season, and that may impinge on their chances of bettering their tally of wins this time out.
On the other hand, they can reasonably expect more than four victories from Sagan in 2020, while Schachmann looks set to continue his rapid development. Buchmann has progressed consistently in recent years and should continue in that line in 2020, but the distance between placing fourth overall at the Tour to contending for the maillot jaune is considerable.
Pascal Ackermann (Ger), Erik Baska (Svk), Cesare Benedetti (Ita), Maciej Bodnar (Pol), Emanuel Buchmann (Ger), Marcus Burghardt (Ger), Jempy Drucker (Lux), Matteo Fabbro (Ita), Patrick Gamper (Aut), Oscar Gatto (Ita), Felix Großschartner (Aut), Lennard Kämna (Ger), Patrick Konrad (Aut), Martin Laas (Est), Rafał Majka (Pol), Jay McCarthy (NZl), Gregor Mühlberger (Aut), Daniel Oss (Ita), Pawel Poljański (Pol), Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut), Peter Sagan (Svk), Juraj Sagan (Svk), Maximilian Schachmann (Ger), Ide Schelling (Ned), Andreas Schillinger (Ger), Michael Schwarzmann (Ger), Rüdiger Selig (Ger)
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.