Bora-Hansgrohe: We believe we will have the strongest lead-out in the world
German teams pivots to target sprints with Bennett and future Grand Tours
The Bora-Hansgrohe team are looking to start a new chapter in 2022. After diplomatically showing Peter Sagan the door and signing 11 new riders, including sprinter Sam Bennett, they are convinced that they have created a powerful lead-out that can deliver the Irishman to victory in the most important and prestigious sprint finishes.
Alexandre Vlasov, Jai Hindley, Sergio Higuita and talented young Belgian Cian Uijtdebroeks have all pulled on the new green colours and are part of pivot and a new strategy of targeting the Grand Tours.
Team manager Ralph Denk and senior directeur sportif Rolf Aldag revealed that Bora-Hansgrohe will target the 2022 Giro d’Italia with Hindley, Wilco Kelderman and Emanuel Buchmann. Vlasov will test his Tour limits after finishing fourth overall at the 2021 Giro d’Italia, with Bennett expected to shine in the sprints, while Maximilian Schachmann and 2021 stage winner Patrick Konrad will also ride the Tour.
Nils Politt, British sprinter Matt Walls, Schachmann veteran Marco Haller form the backbone of the Classics squad.
Denk appeared keen for Bennett to win soon and often. The Irishman will begin his second spell at the team at the Saudi Tour in early February and then ride the UAE Tour and Paris-Nice.
Bora-Hansgrohe have built a new lead-out for Bennett, bringing his compatriot Ryan Mullen for a final kilometre role and Danny van Poppel as his new lead-out man. Aldag is confident they give them the muscle to immediately fight for sprint wins.
“With Sam Bennett in the team and all the construction of the team, it makes us believe that we will have the strongest lead out in the world,” the experienced German directeur sportif said during a video call from Bora-Hangrohe’s training camp in Spain.
“Look at our guys and their physical presence, Ryan Mullen is not a guy you bounce out of a line, he’s super big. We're pretty sure we can march every other team.”
Denk took a brave decision not to stick with Sagan but with the Slovakian ageing and perhaps slowing, the Bora-Hansgrohe team manager was thinking long term.
“We’re thankful to Peter for what he did in the last five years. We moved up together to the highest level in cycling, to the WorldTour. But that chapter has come to an end and we’re looking forward. We have new partners, a new look and feel. We also have new riders as well,” Denk pointed out.
“We have a clear strategy. We hope to start the season successfully because we have so many new riders. Later on and in the middle term we hope to build up our GC team. We’ve got really good talents as new arrivals.”
Three podium contenders for the Giro d'Italia, Vlasov to target the Tour de France
The Giro d’Italia will be the first Grand Tour test for Bora-Hansgrohe. They will hit the Corsa Rosa with three podium contenders. It will be an opportunity for everyone in the team to learn how to target a Grand Tour victory.
Bennett will instead focus on sprint wins at the Tour, with Vlasov also in the team.
“The mid-term scenario is that we want to develop as a Grand Tour team. “We want to focus on the classification for the Giro this year. We won’t take a sprinter, for us it’s a learning process and that’s our main target,” Aldag explained in detail.
“We’ll go with a high quality team and that will include Jai (Hindley) who has been second in the Giro and with Wilco (Kelderman) who has been third in the Giro and Emanuel Buchmann too. We can ride aggressively, and match every situation in the mountains.
“For the Tour it will be more of a mix. There’s space for Sam Bennett early on but we’ll still have Vlasov there, targeting the Tour and he will have support too, with Felix Großschartner and Max Schachmann and Konrad stage winner. Sergiuo Higuita will be our main man for the Vuelta, with a focus on the GC.
Targeting the overall classification is costly, intense and largely reserved for the big budget super teams like Ineos Grenadiers Jumbo-Visma and now UAE Team Emirates. Bora-Hansgrohe are hoping to emulate them in the years ahead.
“I’ve never worked for them but when you look from the outside, they definitely really sell it all really well,” Aldag said with a hint of envy and ambition.
“Cycling can be like an old marriage, things can become a habit without any freshness. With new people, staff and technical partners, I think we have a really nice combination. None of us are mentally tired from trying to win the Tour de France.
“They’ve had a lot of success already and so perhaps there’s not a lot more growth to have because they achieved it all. If things don’t go perfectly, it’s a bad season; so I think psychology is on our side. Of course they do good things, Ineos, Jumbo-Vima and UAE, all have good set-ups. We’re fully aware that we have to pull out something really special to beat them.”
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.