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German emerges as the strongest in fast sprint in Hamburg to win his biggest home race, the Vattenfall Cyclassics, while Greipel has to settle for 2nd for the second consecutive year

Photo: Sirotti

ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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BEMER CYCLASSICS

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JOHN DEGENKOLB

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TEAM SUNWEB

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25.08.2013 @ 17:16 Posted by Jesper Kamp Kruse

It was a big celebration of German cycling in Hamburg today when John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) took his first big classics win in Germany's biggest bike race, Vattenfall Cyclassics. In a high-speed sprint in the centre of the German city, the five-time Vuelta stage winner held off compatriot Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and so made it a 1-2 for the home nation.

 

No German has won Germany's biggest bike race, Vattenfall Cyclassics, since Erik Zabel's 2001 triumph. In what has been a jubilant year for German cycling, John Degenkolb finally brought the drought to an end in today's 2013 edition of the race.

 

The Argos-Shimano rider was part of what was an unusually large field that powered down the Mönckebergstrasse in the centre of Hamburg and he kept his calm in the hectic finale. In the jostle for position, he stayed out of trouble while teammate Roy Curvers strung out the peloton inside the final kilometre.

 

Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff) tried to give teammate Matti Breschel a perfect lead-out and hit the front inside the final 500m of the race. Next in line was former Spanish champion Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) who was trying to set up teammate Jose Joaquin Rojas for a win.

 

That was when Degenkolb produced his devastating kick, powering down the left-hand side of the road. Big favourite Andre Greipel had a clear run down the middle and everybody expected the German champion to finally take the win in his home race.

 

However, Degenkolb refused to give up. The German produced an immense sprint and so Greipel's progress stalled as he got closer to the line. Degenkolb narrowly held off his compatriot to take the first big one-day win of his career while Greipel had to settle for 2nd for the second year in a row. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took 3rd while Rojas finished fast to take 4th ahead of Elia Viviani (Cannondale).

 

Degenkolb's win is just another confirmation of his talent and comes in a year when Germany has already won six stages of the Tour de France. Degenkolb will get his next chance when WorldTour one-day racing continues next Sunday with the hillier GP Plouay in Bretagne.

 

A four-rider break

The 246km German classic was held on its usual almost entirely flat course. The 16% Waseberg-climb was, however, to be tackled 4 times in the final part of the race - the final passing coming with just 15km to go - and was expected to play its usual role as a launch pad for attacks.

 

Early in the race, Garikoitz Bravo (Euskaltel), Jonas Aaen Jørgensen (Saxo-Tinkoff), Michael Schwarzmann (NetApp) and Julian Kern (Ag2r) escaped. Those four rider were allowed to build up a big gap which reached more than 6 minutes at one point. In the peloton, the sprint teams gradually started to ramp up the pace and when they passed the Waseberg for the first time with a little more than 100km to go, the advantage was only 3.30.

 

The break splits up

As the rider started to battle for position for the second passage of the climb, the gap came even further down. When the break hit the feared slopes, they were less than a minute ahead and so Schwarzmann decided to attack.

 

Bravo fell off the pace while Kern and Aaen managed to rejoin the leader. Aaen countered the move and so the Dane was not the lone leader of the race with a little more than 60km remaining.

 

A big group is formed

Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge) attacked on the Waseberg and he was joined by 11 riders. Yoann Offredo (FDJ), Matthew Hayman (Sky), Simone Ponzi (Astana), Manuele Boaro (Saxo-Tinkoff), Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS), Michal Golas (OPQS), Michel Koch (Cannondale), Elia Fvailli (Lampre), Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge), Koen De Kort (Argos-Shimano) and Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) joined forces with Keukeleire and they quickly picked up the early escapees to form a 16-rider group.

 

The sprint teams sensed the danger and so BMC, Lotto-Belisol and Garmin-Sharp joined forces to set up a chase. A fierce battle ensued with the peloton ultimately coming out on top, neutralizing the move.

 

Boaro on the attack

Boaro made a counterattack and the Italian was allowed to go clear while the peloton slowed significantly down. Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) initiated some new attacks but nothing stuck until Rick Flens (Belkin) got clear.

 

The Dutchman joined Boaro to form a strong duo of time triallists and those two riders started to build up a gap which reached almost a minute. The peloton was content with the situation and significantly slowed down.

 

The break is caught

As the riders approached the Waseberg for the penultimate time, the battle for position intensified and that automatically led to an increase in speed. When Bernhard Eisel (Sky) led the peloton onto the climb, the front duo was caught and everything was back together.

 

Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) accelerated furiously on the climb and over the top he was joined by Ian Stannard (Sky), Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Wouter Mol (Vacansoleil) and Manuel Quinziato (BMC) to form a very strong quintet of classics specialists. Behind, Ion Izagirre (Euskaltel), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tim Wellens (Lotto) were in pusuit and they were later joined by Cesare Benedetti (NetApp) and Daniele Pietropolli (Lampre).

 

Quinziato is asked to drop back

BMC had plans for a sprint win with Thor Hushovd and so they asked Quinziato to drop back to the peloton. The American team took control of the chase as the main group was now 30 seconds behind the leaders.

 

The chasers bridged across to the front quartet and so a 9-rider group had now formed. In the peloton, BMC had now got assistance from Katusha and Radioshack who had Kristoff and Giacomo Nizzolo for the sprint.

 

Terpstra alone in the lead

When the front group hit the Waseberg for the final time, Izagirre attacked but it was the countermove by Terpstra that was successful. The Dutchman escaped on his own while Wellens, Benedetti and Vanmarcke were caught by the peloton.

 

Surprisingly, there was no attacks from the main group on the climb and instead BMC was allowed to assume its position on the front of what was a surprisingly large group. They did the bulk of the early work and were later assisted by Katusha and Argos-Shimano.

 

Battle for position

They caught the chase group and when Radioshack also put their effort into the chase, Terpstra was reeled in with 7km to go. From there, it was a jostle for position as the peloton sped towards the centre of Hamburg with Radioshack doing most of the work.

 

With 4km to go, Saxo-Tinkoff tried to set up their train but they were overtaken by Vacansoleil and later Garmin-Sharp. FDJ tried to bring defending champion Arnaud Demare into position but the French train didn't have the power to stay on the front., leaving it to Katusha to lead the peloton.

 

As they passed the flamme rouge, Curvers hit the front and took a huge turn to set up Degenkolb for the win. His teammate didn't disappoint and finally brought the German drought in their home race to an end.

 

Result:

1. John Degenkolb 5.45.15

2. Andre Greipel

3. Alexander Kristoff

4. Jose Joaquin Rojas

5. Elia Viviani

6. Boy Van Poppel

7. Nikolas Maes

8. Thor Hushovd

9. Matti Breschel

10. Arnaud Demare

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