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Bennett takes his second win since turning professional by holding off Markus and Ciolek in the bunch sprint in the Rund um Köln

Photo: TNE/Roth

BARRY MARKUS

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BORA-HANSGROHE

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GERALD CIOLEK

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RUND UM KÖLN

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SAM BENNETT

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21.04.2014 @ 18:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sam Bennett (NetApp-Endura) has continued his excellent start to his professional career by winning today's big German one-day race Rund um Köln. The young Irishman emerged as the strongest in the final bunch sprint where he held off Barry Markus (Belkin) and Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) in the final dash to the line.

 

By winning a stage at last year's Tour of Britain, Sam Bennett had indicated that he could go on to become a great sprinter but his debut in the pro ranks has probably exceeded even his most lofty dreams. In early March, he won the Clasica Almeria in a sprint finish and today he added one of the biggest German one-day races to his palmares when he won the Rund um Köln.

 

Held for the last time on Easter Monday, the German race was an animated affair with several attacks and splits in the peloton but Belkin - the only ProTeam in the race - had set their sights on a bunch sprint. Hence, a 50-rider group arrived together in Köln to decide the race in a battle between the fastest finishers.

 

Belkin had lined up their entire sprint team but had lost lead sprinter Theo Bos in an earlier crash. Before the race, however, the team had said that they would give Moreno Hofland his chance but by the time the Belkin train got up to speed, it was clear that Barry Markus had taken over the role as lead sprinter and would be the man to beat.

 

However, NetApp-Endura had different plans with their sprinter Bennett and the team went head to head with Belkin by the time they passed the flamme rouge. MTN-Qhubeka were also up there, trying to set up the sprint for local hero Gerald Ciolek.

 

In the end, it came down to an exciting duel between Bennett, Markus, and Ciolek and it was the Irishman who emerged as the fastest. In a photo finish, he held off Markus while Ciolek had to settle for third.

 

The win continues his excellent start to the season that not only includes his two wins but also several topr results in sprints in races like Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of Oman and Scheldeprijs where he has been up against some of the fastest riders in the world. On the other hand, Ciolek was disappointed to miss out in one of the few remaining top races in his home country.

 

He will get another chance in a week's time when it is time for the traditional Rund um den Finanzplatz on May 1, the second biggest German one-day race.

 

An undulating course

The 98th edition of the Rund um Köln was the final one to be held on Easter Monday as the race will next year move to a calendar slot in June to have a better chance of good weather. The race took place on a 192.6km course from Huckeswagen to Köln and the riders had to tackle 9 categorized climbs. However, they were all of an easier nature and as the race was mostly flat and ended with 3 6.6km laps in Köln, the race was expected to be decided in a sprint finish.

 

The race took off under a rainy sky with no non-starters and the pace was fast right from the beginning. Teh race is the highlight for many of the German continental teams and so most of the peloton was keen to make it into the early break.

 

A fast start

Several attacks were launched in the opening part of the race but by the time they reached the first categorized climb, it was still together. Andreas Stauff (MTN-Qhubeka) was first at the top as he held off Giorgio Brambilla (Veranclassic) and Kai Kautz (Stuttgart) in the battle for the KOM points.

 

Shorthly after that point, Tim Schlichenmaier (MLP), Tim Gebauer (Stölting) and Mark McNally /An Post) took off but they were quickly brought back. The next to try were Michael Schweizer (Synergy Baku), Alexander Kamp (Christina Watches) and Gebauer but they had no luck either.

 

A crash splits the peloton

A big crash split the peloton into pieces, with a 40-rider front group being formed. The leaders didn't slow down after the incident and many riders were left chasing as they tried to get back in contention.

 

Over the top of the second climb, Sacha Weber (Veranclassic) led Linus Gerdemann (MTN-Qhubeka) and Gregor Mühlberger (Tirol) and the trio were joined by Andreas Schillinger (NetApp), Christoph Pfingsten (Germany) and Kamp to form a dangerous 6-rider group. The sextet managed to build up a 10-second gap but was soon brought back by the first peloton that still contained around 40 riders.

 

Buchmann takes off

The first group was now 20 seconds ahead of the second group as Emanuel Buchmann (rad-net Rose) beat Michael Scwarzmann (NetApp) and Hofland in the third KOM sprint. Buchmann tried to continue his attack but he was quickly brough back.

 

The front group had now split in two and so only 22 riders remained at the head of the race. They were followed by another 17 riders while the third group was made up of around 40 riders.

 

Zaballa gives it a go

The first two groups merged a little later while the attacking continued. The first group was now 40 seconds ahead of the second one while a third group was one minute behind.

 

Schwarzmann beat Jay Thomson (MTN) and Bjorn Thurau (Germany) in the fourth KOM sprint and a few moments later Constantino Zaballa (Christina Watches) took off. While the first two pelotons merged, the Spaniard stayed away for a little while but by the time Josip Rumax (Etixx) beat Stefan Schumacher (Christina Watches) and Buchmann on the fifth climb, he was back in the fold.

 

A break is formed

The peloton had again split and we were down to a front group of 40 riders that were now 2.10 ahead of the main peloton. Thomson took off and finally the peloton decided to take it a bit easier, allowing the gap to grow to 35 seconds.

 

Gebauer and Mühlberger took off in pursuit and at the 77km mark, they were 50 seconds behind the lone leader while a regrouping in the peloton had again taken place. After 85km of racing, the two front groups came together to form a lead trio.

 

The peloton starts to chase

Thomson made sure to win the next few KOM sprints to take the overall win in the mountains competition and he also secured the win in the sprints classification. Meanwhile, the gap started to grow and reached 1.51 when Sebastian Deckert (Brandenburg) took off in pursuit.

 

He managed to build a 30-second gap before being brought back as the peloton again upped the pace. The gap reached a maximum of 2.10 at the 106km mark but it now started to come down again.

 

Stimulak bridges across

As it was down to 1.30, Reinier Honig (Tirol) tried to bridge across but he had no success. Meanwhile, Gebauer was unable to keep up with his companions and he was back in the fold when the gap had dropped to 1.05.

 

The peloton was now riding very hard and so split into two bigger groups. As the gap had come down to 45 seconds, Klemen Stimulak (Adria) did an impressive job to bridge across and again make it a front trio.

 

Stimulak the lone leader

The added firepower allowed the gap to grow back up to 1.10 but by now Belkin and Germany were working hard in the peloton. The gap again started to come down which opened the door for Jan Barta (NetApp) and Matej Mugerli (Adria) to try to bridge across on the penultimate climb.

 

The duo was quickly brought back and the peloton was now also very close to the leaders. When the gap was down to 10 seconds, Stimulak took off on his own while his former companions were both caught.

 

Stimulak again on the attack

Nils Politt (Stuttgart) tried to join the leader but at the 157km mark, it was all back together. With more than 30km to go, the door was open for new attacks and the one to be successful was launched by Markus Eibegger (Synergy Baku), Mirco Saggiorato (Stölting) and again Stimulak.

 

The trio worked well together to build a 25-second gap while Belkin and Christina Watches chased behind. The gap was stable at that point by the time the escapees started the first lap on the finishing circuit.

 

Barta and Essers bridge across

The gap went up to 30 seconds but as they started the penultimate lap, the peloton started to gain ground. When the gap was down to less than 20 seconds, Barta and Julien Essers (Heizomat) joined the leasders and the quintet could start the final 6.6km lap with a 7-second advantage.

 

Belkin were now chasing hard and they made it back together in time for a big bunch sprint. It was now a battle between the Belkin, NetApp and MTN trains that went head-to-head as they passed the flamme rouge.

 

In the end, NetApp emerged as the strongest as they delivered Bennett to his second win while Markus had to settle for 2nd ahead of Ciolek.

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