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Strong sprint field for 2012 Rund um Köln

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Oscar Freire (Katusha) shares his thoughts before the start of Gent-Wevelgem.

Oscar Freire (Katusha) shares his thoughts before the start of Gent-Wevelgem.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Michael Matthews is now one of the favourites heading into tomorrows stages

Michael Matthews is now one of the favourites heading into tomorrows stages
(Image credit: Mark Gunter)
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JJ Haedo enjoyed his first Vuelta victory.

JJ Haedo enjoyed his first Vuelta victory.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) celebrates victory in the opening stage of Circuit Cycliste Sarthe.

Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) celebrates victory in the opening stage of Circuit Cycliste Sarthe.
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)

Rund um Köln frequently ends in a mass sprint alongside the Rhine River, and this year should be no exception. Four WorldTour teams and the German national team will all send top sprinters to the first major German one-day race of the year, traditionally held on Easter Monday.

Three-time world champion Oscar Freire will lead Team Katusha in the race, with young sprinter Denis Galimzyanov as a backup. Freire already has two wins this season, and the Russian took his first win of the year at the first stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe this week.

Defending champion Michael Matthews (Rabobank) is expected to ride as well, having recovered from injuries in a crash at Tirreno-Adriatico. The Australian hit the road near the end of the second stage, suffering various cuts and abrasions, including a wound on his arm which required eleven stitches. He is currently riding the Tour of the Basque Country.

Two-time winner Juan Jose Haedo will look to take his third win in the race, for Team Saxo Bank.

In addition, Germany will send a powerful squad, led by none other than three WorldTour riders: Gerald Ciolek, Danilo Hondo and Christian Knees, who won here in 2006.