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Vattenfall Cyclassics 2009

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Herzlich Willkommen to Hamburg, Germany, and the next stop in the ProTour circuit. Today the sprinters are expected to have their chance in the Vattenfalls Cyclassics.

We're having some difficulty getting information from the course. The riders took off this morning at 11:25 for the neutralized start, with things really getting under away at 11:41. At that pont they already had ridden 7 km, but those don't seem to be counted in the total of 216.4km.

48km remaining from 213km

Just about all we know at this point is that Sergio De Lis (Euskaltel) and Yuriy Krivstov (Ag2r) got away at km 12 and the last we heard, had built up a lead of 6:30, down from a maximum of nine minutes.

Who has won here? Have a look at the winners:

1996 Rossano Brasi
1997 Jan Ullrich
1998 Leon van Bonn
1999 Mirco CelestinoI
2000 Gabriele Massaglia
2001 Erik Zabel
2002 Johan Museeuw
2003 Paolo Bettini
2004 Stuart O'Grady
2005 Fillipo Pozzato
2006 Oscar Freire
2007 Alessandro Ballan
2008 Robbie McEwen

Of those previous winners, only O'Grady (Saxo Bank) is here today.

Today's course is sort of a figure eight. Check out more details at our race preview here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/sprinters-to-seek-revenge-in-vattenfall-cyclassics

The peloton's best sprinter, Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) isn't here today, but the second-best sprinter, his teammate Andre Greipel, is here. He will face some stiff competition though, as much of the sprint elite has made the journey up to to northern German today. Do the names Allan Davis, Tom Boonen, Daniele Bennati, Tyler Farrar, Gerald Ciolek and Graeme Brown ring any bells?

What do you expect today? A successful escape or a mass sprint? You can talk all about it on our forums, at www.forum.cyclingnews.com/

Who are our two riders in the break? Krivstov is a 30-year-old Ukranian, who turned pro with Jean Delatour in 2002 and joined Ag2r in 2004. His biggest year seems to have been 2003, when he won stages in the Tour de Romandie, Circuit de la Sarthe and Tour de l'Avenir. He has already put in over 11,000 km this year, riding, among others, the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de Suisse and most recently the Tour of Poland.

De Lis is 23 years old and comes from San Sebastian, Spain. He only turned pro last year with Orbea and joined Euskaltel this season. His most recent race was the Tour of Poland.

Northern Germany is not really known for its mountains – quite the opposite, in fact. So how does this race happen to feature a total of four ranked climbs? Easy – they found one, and ride it four times.

That climb is the Waseberg. At only 77 metres, it is not really Alpe d'Huez or Mont Ventoux, but it is also not really as easy as you might think. Its average gradient is over 10 percent. The ascent is only about 700 metres, and the first 400 metres have a gradient of five percent. But then it gets worse, with the final 300 metres being over 16%, perhaps enough to put some hurt into the legs of those sprinters.

The peloton climbs the Waseberg all four times in the last 80 km of the race. From the last climb it is then a 28 km dash back into Hamburg for the finish.

It's the silly season in cycling, when everyone knows who is changing teams and who is not. Well, at least everyone thinks they know. Check out the Transfers Rumours & Reality thread in the CN forums and contribute your ideas as to who is going where or not and why or why not.

You can find it here: forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php

Columbia's Andre Greipel has been dominating things since he returned from shoulder surgery. He won 14 sprints in a row until he hit the Tour of Poland. Things didn't work out there, and he didn't win until the final stage. At the time he said that he had something to make up to his teammates for their hard work there. Another motivation for Greipel, if he needs one, is that the race is near his hometown of Rostock.

Greipel is being picked for the win today by the 2001 winner, none other than Erik Zabel. Zabel is now working as an advisor to the Columbia sprinters. "Andre is the fastest man in the field," he said.

Zabel doesn't work with the sprinters by training, but more with analysis. "My assignments are in the race preparations and the analysis after the race."  He also has been known to ride the course beforehand so that he can give the sprinters exact tips on what to expect when and where.

As you no doubt know by now, Astana has pointed out that they have a contract with Alberto Contador for the coming season and they expect that contract to be honoured. But of coure that doesn't stop any of us from voicing our opinion of the matter. Join in the discussion here: forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php

Last year's winner Robbie McEwen (Katusha) is not here today. He broke his leg earlier this season and is coming back more slowly than anticipated. He is planning to ride the Tour of Eneco starting this week, though.

Another rider who is not here today is Fabian Wegmann of Milram. His first season with his new team has not gone at all as planned. He won the Eschborn-Frankfurt City Loop (formerly Rund um den Henninger Turm), but was unable to defend the national road title that he had won the two previous years. The decisive moment for him came in the Mont Ventoux stage of the Dauphine Libere, when he crashed and injured his shoulder and back. He continued to ride, including the Tour de France, but has now checked into a clinic to have the physical problems checked out. More here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/wegmann-out-of-vattenfall-checks-into-clinic

There is only one German ProTour team these days, and also only one German ProTour race, so it is logical that Milram wants to win today. They are looking to youngster Gerald Ciolek. The 22-year-old has done well here in the past, finishing third in 2007.

Ciolek rode the Tour de France this year, and it didn't work out for any stage wins. He has only one win this year, at the Mallorca Challenge, but finished third overall for the Tour's green jersey and in his most recent race, the Sparkassen Giro Bochum, he was second behind Cavendish.

There were only two wildcard invitations given for the day's race, and they went to Vorarlberg-Corratec and Skil-Shimano, both Professional Continental teams. Rather surprising not to have Cervelo TestTeam here.

Vorarlberg-Corratec, of Austria, will look to speedy German Sebastian Siedler to take a sprint win here. He just won a stage at the Tour of Denmark. "I still feel very strong and hope to continue my good performance from Denmark," he said. He will be supported by Rene Haselbacher and Andreas Dietziker, strong sprinters themselves.

90km remaining from 213km

Hooray, we finally have news from the race! Our two escapees are getting ready to hit the Waseberg for the first time. They currently have a 4:30 lead over the field. There is apparently a very strong wind today, so things are going a bit slower than planned.

Team Quick Step is another one with two good candidates for a sprint win. Allan Davis has four wins so far this year, including the overall title in the Tour Down Under. He will be especially gunning against Greipel, who blocked him in one stage of the Tour of Poland. Greipel was relegated and apologized, but Davis was convinced he was robbed of the win.

There's another sprinter on the Belgian team, what's his name again...... oh yes, Tom Boonen. He has only five victories to his credit so far this year, including the prestigious Paris-Roubaix. Things haven't gone well for him lately though, what with his personal problems dominating the sporting aspects. He even went to court to force his way into the Tour de France, but it wasn't really worth it. He finished no higher than 12th before dropping out before the 12th stage.

One of the official partners of the race is the Warsteiner Brauerei – that's a beer company, for those of you who don't speak German. It is in fact the „official beer partner“ of the race. We can only say, "Prost!"

Now here's something interesting to think about: who are the best top ten pro cyclists of all time from your country? Jot down some names and see what everyone else has to say at forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php

Hamburg – or to give it its full name, „Die Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg“ – is not only a city but also a German Bundesland, or state. When last counted it had some 1.8 million inhabitants.

Today's race is the first for Grischa Niermann of Rabobank since the Tour, with the exception of a few criteriums. "I am looking forward as to how my legs will feel. In training they feel ok, but a race is something different," he wrote on his website.

70km remaining from 213km

We understand that the gap is now down to 2:15, and that the Waseberg has been crossed for the first time.

As we said earlier, the course today is sort of a figure-eight. After completing that, the riders cross the finish line for the first time and then head back west for three laps of an 8-km circuit which takes them up the Waseberg each time.

Who else but Milram and Columbia are leading the chase here. No surprise there!

The sun is shining in northern Germany today, with temps expected to be a comfortable 23° Celsius.

The weather is nice enough that a number of people are out on the beach along the river.

54km remaining from 213km

Still about two minutes for our two escapees.

163km remaining from 213km

The yellow-clad Columbia lads continue to lead the chase, hoping to set up a sprint win for Greipel.

De Lis and Krivstov are holding steady at 2:10.

Mario Aerts and a Silence-Lotto colleague have now moved to the head of the peloton, followed by a couple of Milram riders.

47km remaining from 213km

Rabobank is also up there near the front. We'll be hitting the Waseberg for the second time in about 10 km.

The other orange-and-blue-and-white team has joined in the lead work.  A pair of Garmins are at the front ahead of a sea of Columbia riders.

43km remaining from 213km

And the escape is over!  Those two put in a long good fight today, but it didn't pay off in the end.  Now to see how everyone comes over the Waseberg a couple more times.

Columbia had established itself at the front, when a Saxo Bank rider decided to jump.  He has a few metres lead and the pace has picked up a lot as they wind through a wooded section on a narrow lane.

The Saxo Bank rider has been caught and now Yoann Offreddo of FdJ goes for it as they make their way up the steep Waseberg.

But he is caught, too, and now Matti Breschel of Saxo Bank takes the jump. He quickly builds up a nice little lead.

Breschel looks back to see where the others are.  He has about 10 seconds on the field, which is led by Columbia's Marcel Sieberg and Thomas Lövkvist.

That was a good attempt by the young Dane, but it's over now.

Big Marcel Sieberg (198 cm) continues to lead the peloton.

Happy Birthday today to Piet Rooijakkers of Skil-Shimano. The 29-year-old isn't here today, but is still home recovering from injuries suffered in a crash during the fourth stage Tour de France team time trial. He broke his left forearm in several places and tore a tendon in his right hand. The good news is that he is back on a bike again. He has been on the home trainer for a while, and recently got out on the road on a non-racing bike. Rooijakkers hopes to be back on his racing back any day now, but doesn't expect to race any more this season.

The next attack -- we think it is Philippe Gilbert of Silence-Lotto..

And a crash near the middle of the field.  Some riders got too close to the curb, it looks like.  Everyone is up and going again.  The only names we caught were Kim Kirchen of Columbia and Garmin's David Millar.

32km remaining from 213km

Gilbert has been joined by a Rabo rider, and the look back for the chasing field.  They must have 20 or 30 seconds.

The Rabo rider is Nick Nuyens.

31km remaining from 213km

It's almost time for the Waseberg again!

 Three riders have jumped out to give chase, one each from Liquigas, Ag2r, and Saxo Bank.

The Saxo Bank rider is Dominik Klemme and the Liquigas rider is Brain Vandbourg. We still don't know who the Ag2r rider is, though.

Doesn't matter, as those three are caught anyway.  A third rider has moved up to Gilbert and Nuyens, though.  Let's see if we can't find out who that is.

Hm, now we are confused as we see there are six riders in the lead.

But once again, it doesn't matter.  Columbia has pulled the peloton along to catch everybody.  Who will be the next to go?

Fabian Cancellara, who else?  This could be a serious move!  He is being tailed by a Lampre rider.

Cancellara has gathered a number of friends, including Nicolas Roche and Daniele Bennati.

22km remaining from 213km

The peloton has finally fallen apart, and Columbia has lost control.  There are a number of groups of riders now underway.

A group has now caught the Cancellara group, making it about 20-30 riders?  They have a nice lead, and we may see our winner come out of this group.

Edvald Boasson Hagen and Bernhard Eisel of Columbia are in the lead group, as is Christian Knees of Milram.

193km remaining from 213km

More names:  Johannes Fröhlinger, Graeme Brown.

And the first attack out of this group.  Three riders take off.

They are caught again and a Quick Step rider goes.

Sylvain Chavanel is the one in the lead now.  The peloton is about 30 seconds back from the lead group.

 Chavanel is caught and a  Bbox rider goes.

18km remaining from 213km

It is Sebastien Turgot.  He wil soon hit the Waseberg for the last time.

Rabobank leads he chase of Turgot.

That group was just too dangerous and the peloton picked up its speed and gave chase.  They will be caught momentarily.

Whoops, Turgot got a bit careless on a curve and had to take his foot out of the pedal to balance.

197km remaining from 213km

It looks like the peloton has caught the lead group, and Turgot has only a few seconds lead now.

Gilbert grinds his way up the Waseberg for the last time.  Who made it up the climb and who didn't?

Gilbert just keeps on going and builds up a lead on the descent.  O'Grady also pulls away from the field slightly.

13km remaining from 213km

Roche rides up to O'Grady and passes him.  The two of them plus another one catch up Gilbert.

The group of five has a very very slight lead over the peloton now.

The small group is caught and another Saxo Bank rider and a Lampre rider give it a try.  They have a lead of maybe two metres.

Together again -- that is getting to be the favourite song today.

The field is now about 50 or 60 riders strong, and as far as we can tell all the favourites are in there.

Greipel is near the front of the chase group, as are Tom Boonen and Allan Davis.  Looks like an exciting sprint to come!

Again, two riders have jumped out but are quickly caught.  Lots of game playing going on now.

205km remaining from 213km

Gerald Ciolek is also in the group, and Christian Knees brings him up to the front.

7km remaining from 213km

A MIlram rider moves out of the lead work and turns it over to Quick Step.

All the sprinter teams are showing their stuff now, and holding the speed up high enough that no one will get the silly idea to try and break out.

5km remaining from 213km

There are traffic cones in the middle of the street, and some of the riders have to do some fancy moves to avoid them.

Cancellara moves to the lead, but Quick Step takes over again.

209km remaining from 213km

The peloton is in the city now, and things are starting to get serious.  Saxo Bank leads the way, with Columbia lurking behind them.

3km remaining from 213km

Liquigas moves into the leadwork, but gives it over again to Saxo Bank.

Ciolek realized he was a bit too far back and has moved up.

2km remaining from 213km

A Lotto rider tries to go for a break.  The road is fairly narrow.

Crash.  Four or five riders down, including Naplitano.

1km remaining from 213km

Cancellara opens the sprint and Ciolek goes for it. But Tyler Farrar of Garmin pulls it off and takes the win!

That is the first American win in this race's history.

A good win for Farrar, about a bike and a half length lead.

Second was Saxo Bank's Breschel, with Ciolek of Milram third.

* * * * *

SITUATION

Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) and Nick Nuyens (Rabobank)
Peloton at 0:15

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