In today’s Vattenfall Cyclassics, Milan-Sanremo winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) proved that he is in a class of his own when it comes to sprinting at the end of a long, hard race. Less than half a year after his victory in La Primavera, he launched a powerful sprint down the Mönckebergstrasse and easily held off Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) to take his second big classics win of the year.
Last year Alexander Kristoff won the sprint for the minor positions in Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix to prove that he is a master at sprinting at the end of the classics. This year he has turned those minor results into wins, most notably with his dominant victory in Milan-Sanremo.
Today he added another big classics victory to his palmares when he took a convincing victory in the Vattenfall Cyclassics. The Norwegian launched a long sprint when a pretty big field powered down the Mönckebergstrasse in Hamburg and easily beat Giacomo Nizzolo and Simon Gerrans to take his first win in the German race.
Already earlier in the race, Kristoff had shown his immense power. While André Greipel was dropped and Mark Cavendish, Arnaud Demare and Marcel Kittel were suffering, Kristoff was one of the 10 first riders to crest the summit of the race’s landmark climb, the Waseberg, for the fourth and final time. From there, he asked his teammates to take control and it was Katusha that brought things together for the final bunch sprint.
Cavendish and Kittel had both made it to the top with the best while more riders managed to rejoin the peloton inside the final 5km. However, Katusha never lost confidence in their sprinter and remained in control until Danilo Hondo (Trek) hit the front with less than 2km to go.
However, it was Mathew Hayman who led the peloton under the flamme rouge, bringing Gerrans into the perfect position. At this point, Kristoff was a bit far back but he hit the wind to move onto the wheel of the Australian champion.
Silvan Dillier (BMC) started his sprint but Kristoff made his effort just moments later. From there the outcome was never in doubt and the Norwegian held off his rivals easily.
Cavendish was in a good position for the sprint but had to settle for 5th while Kittel came fast from far back to take 6th. Greipel never made it back to the front and abandoned the race.
Kristoff will get another chance to add to his tally next Sunday when he lines up at the next major WorldTour one-day race. The GP Plouay is held on a hillier course that should suit the Norwegian even better.
A tradirional course
The 2014 edition of the Vattenfall Cyclassics was held on a courset hat was virtually identical to the one used for the past two editions. At 247.2km, it was a very long race that started with a flat circuit on the southern outskirts of Hamburg. Having done another circuit that included the first passage of the steep 15% Waseberg, the riders ended their stage by doing a few laps on a circuit with the famed ascent for a total of four passages. After the top, 15 flat kilometres back to the Mönckebergstrasse in Hamburg remained.
Bad weather had been forecasted for the race but when the riders took the start, the sun was actually shining. After the opening attacks, three riders managed to get clear as Ralf Matzka (NetApp), Björn Thurau (Europcar) and Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) gained an advantage.
A big gap
As it is often the case in such a long race, the escapees were allowed to build a massive gap that reached a maximum of 10.50 before Boris Vallee (Lotto), Albert Timmer (Giant) and Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) started to chase. The trio worked well together to gradually reduce the advantage of the escapees.
As the riders hit the Waseberg for the first time with 109km to go, the gap had been brought down to 6.30. However, the peloton took it pretty easy on the steep slopes, with Timmer setting a steady pace all the way to the top, and when the escapees crossed the finish line for the second time with 94km to go, they were still 6.20 ahead.
With 80km to go, the peloton started to get a bit more nervous and more teams moved to the front to be in a good position for the next passage of the Waseberg. At this point, Greipel hit the deck and even though he seemed to be unhurt, it took some time to rejoin the peloton.
When the riders hit the climb, the gap had come down to 3.45 and FDJ now decided that they wanted a harder race. Yoann Offredo accelerated on the slopes and as soon as they had crested the summit, David Boucher started to ride hard on the front.
Isaychev and Boucher lead the chase
The Frenchman got some assistance from Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha) and those two riders worked ahrd for a long time. At the next passage of the line, the gap was 3.25 but as the battle for position again started to intensify, it started to melt away.
With 39km to go, the gap was just 1.40 and this prompted Thurau to attack. Bonifazio responded immediately but Matzka fell back to the peloton.
The break is caught
Isaychev and Boucher had now blown up and instead it was a big fight for position with teams like Lampre, Belkin, Giant, OPQS and Tinkoff-Saxo riding next to each other on the front. OPQS briefly took control with Guillaume Van Keisbulck but when the riders turned onto the narrow roads for the Waseberg, it was Tinkoff-Saxo on the front.
Marcel Sieberg (Lotto) got an unintentional gap and he was a few metres ahead when the riders turned onto the Waseberg. He quickly sat up while Bonifazio dropped Thurau who fell back to the peloton.
A new break is formed
Julian Alaphilippe (OPQS) launched a strong attack with Simon Yates (Orica) as the peloton was now splitting to pieces. Greipel almost lost contact with the group and was clearly suffering.
Alaphilippe and Yates passed Bonifazio and were joined by a few riders, including Simon Geschke, Marco Marcato, Jens Keukeleire, Matteo Trentin and Pavel Brutt. Alaphilippe attacked again but Yates was quick to respond and join him.
Katusha take control
Marcato and Manuele Boaro were the next to make the junction before Trenting made it a front quintet. Katusha had now started to chase and they brought the chase group back.
For a long time, Pavel Brutt set the pace but he lost ground to the leaders who were now 20 seconds ahead. However, he finally got some assistance from Bernhard Eisel (Sky) and now the balance tipped in favour of the peloton.
Back together on the Waseberg
With 19km to go, Boaro made an attack and he started to gain time on his chasers. As he hit the Waseberg, he was the lone leader while Marcato and Trentin were dropped from the chase group.
While Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) attacked from the peloton, Alaphilippe bridged the gap to Boaro but at the top of the climb, they were all brought back by a 30-rider peloton that included Kristoff, Kittel and Cavendish but not Arnaud Demare and Greipel.
Boasson Hagen and Van Avermaet give it a go
The attacking continued with Van Avermaet, Paul Voss, Francesco Gavazzi, David Tanner, and Manuele Mori giving it a go and it was Mori, Keukeleire, Tanner, Gavazzi and Enrico Gasparotto who got a gap.
Edvald Boasson Hagen and Van Avermaet passed the quintet but as the latter refused to contribute to the pace-setting, they were passed by Jack Bauer (Garmin) who opened a small gap. Meanwhile, Giant-Shimano had started to chase, knowing that Kittel was still in a good position.
More riders bridge the gap
Andriy Grivko (Astana) bridged the gap while Orica-GreenEDGE started to work with the Giant riders. Yoann Offredo (FDJ) was the next rider to join the leaders.
Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff) launched a strong attack but he has Reinardt van Rensburg (Giant) on his wheel. With Marcato, Bryan Coquard and Paul Voss, they joined the front group but with 5km to go, Katusha had brought things back together.
Offredo, Roche and Van Avermaet all tried to get clear but Van Rensburg marked everything closely and with 3km to go, Pavel Brutt brought all escapees back. The Russian continued to ride hard until his teammate Marco Haller took over with 2km. Later Hondo hit the front to set the scene for an exciting sprint that was won by Kristoff.
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