Some of the sport’s best sprinters are gunning for victory in Sunday’s Vattenfall Cyclassics. The biggest one-day race in Germany encompasses a 216-kilometre route around Hamburg.
The race’s main difficulty is the short, steep Waseberg, tackled three times in the closing 80 kilometres. However, the course has not proven selective enough to shake off the sprinters in recent years, as victors McEwen, Freire and Pozzato can testify.
The odds are firmly stacked in favour of the fast men; it is often a depleted bunch of 30 to 50 riders which contest the finish in central Hamburg.
André Greipel, Tyler Farrar, Gerald Ciolek and Oscar Freire are among the big-name sprinters expected to challenge for victory here.
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Defending champion Robbie McEwen is conspicuous by his absence, still suffering the effects of a crash at the Tour of Belgium crash in May, where he broke his tibia.
Star Classics riders Alessandro Ballan and Philippe Gilbert could be among the men trying to whittle down the race on the Waseberg, or making last-gasp attacks to foil the fast men.
WHO’S GOING TO WIN?
Greipel is the man to beat in Hamburg
André Greipel (Germany, Team Columbia-HTC)
If he makes it over the Waseberg and is put in the right position, it’s difficult to see anyone beating the powerful German sprinter. However, he looked a ropey in Poland. Will the home-race pressure tell?
Alessandro Ballan (Italy, Lampre-N.G.C.)
Super-confident and clearly in good nick after his Tour of Poland win. Has a decent sprint on him, but will surely have to repeat his 2007 race-winning late attack to stand a chance.
Gerald Ciolek (Germany, Team Milram)
Faltered slightly in the Tour, but both he and employers Milram would dearly love a win in Germany’s biggest one-day event.
Oscar Freire (Spain, Rabobank)
The 2006 winner has gone off the boil a bit recently, but he could be back to winning ways in Hamburg.
Tyler Farrar (USA, Garmin-Slipstream)
Confirmed that he can challenge the world’s best at the Tour de France, and should be a contender here.
Filippo Pozzato (Italy, Katusha)
Dangerous on the attack or in a sprint. The ’05 winner looked lively at the Clasica San Sebastian.
Mark Renshaw (Australia, Team Columbia-HTC)
Second last year, and freed from Cavendish lead-out duties. Greipel may have the wins to his name, but is team-mate Renshaw faster?
Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spain, Caisse d’Epargne)
Fifth last year and has showed good sprint form in recent months.
Philippe Gilbert (Belgium, Silence-Lotto)
Been a tad, er, Silent in big races recently, but don’t be surprised if the Belgian tries a late flyer to hold off the bunch sprinters.
Allan Davis (Australia, Quick Step)
More consistent Aussie could pull rank on out-of-sorts Boonen.
Tom Boonen (Belgium, Quick Step)
After six weeks away from the races following his torrid Tour, is Tornado Tom going to whip up a storm on his comeback?
Matti Breschel (Denmark, Saxo Bank)
Danish champion is continuing to impress in the bunch sprints. On the cusp of something big.
Daniele Bennati (Italy, Liquigas)
Cavendish’s big rival last year looked a shadow of his former self at the Tour de France, following injury problems. Needs a result here.
Greg van Avermaet (Belgium, Silence-Lotto)
Handy sprinter, needs to rediscover last year’s sparkling Vuelta form.
Graeme Brown (Australia, Rabobank)
Consistent high finisher in Poland, but climbing is a bit suspect.
BRITISH AND IRISH RIDERS
Ben Swift (Katusha)
David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream)
ON THE TELLY
Eurosport GB and Eurosport HD, 2.45pm BST
2008 TOP 10
1. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence-Lotto 4-36-46
2. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Crédit Agricole
3. Allan Davis (Aus) Quick Step
4. Murilo Fischer (Bra) Liquigas
5. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
6. Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner
7. William Bonnet (Fra) Crédit Agricole
8. Mirco Lorenzetto (Lampre)
9. Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis)
10. Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) all same time
2008 Robbie McEwen
2007 Alessandro Ballan
2006 Oscar Freire
2005 Filippo Pozzato
2004 Stuart O’Grady
2003 Paolo Bettini
2002 Johan Museeuw
2001 Erik Zabel