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Vattenfall Cyclassics - ProT

Germany, July 30, 2006

Who will take the prize in Hamburg?

By Jeff Jones

Last year's finish saw Quick.Step go 1-2
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

The major one day classics resume after the mid-year tours with the German Vattenfall Cyclassics, the race formerly known as the HEW Cyclassics. The name change came about after Vattenfall bought out energy company HEW, but the venue and course in Hamburg remain essentially the same. The race starts with a big figure eight, taking the riders into the farmlands south of the big German industrial city, returning via the Köhlbrand-Hochbrücke, then in another loop west and back along the Elbe, hitting the start/finish line for the first time after 150 km. Then it's back out on the 42 km westward loop two more times, with the second lap containing an additional climb, before the finish on the Mönckebergstrasse after a total of 243 km. The main feature of the finishing circuit is the Waseberg climb, a 600m, 15% leg-snapper that usually creates gaps in the peloton after four ascents. Typically, a medium sized group forms after the climb and fights it out at the finish.

The defending champ in the Cyclassics is Filippo Pozzato (Quick.Step), who narrowly beat his teammate Luca Paolini to win last year's race. He wears the number one dossard this year, and has classics specialist and 2003 winner Paolo Bettini as a co-leader. Tour stage winner Matteo Tosatto, domestiques Bram Tankink, Kevin Hulsmans, Kevin Van Impe, sprinter Wouter Weylandt and stealth attacker Nick Nuyens complete the line-up.

Speaking of attacking riders, Alexandre Vinokourov is back in business with his new Astana team, which missed the Tour de France due to five of its riders being implicated in the Operacion Puerto affair. Some of those have been cleared by the courts, but are still considered "under investigation" by the UCI and are not racing in Hamburg. Vino can count on the support of compatriots Andrey Kashechkin, Assan Bazayev and Serguei Yakovlev, as well as four very fresh Spanish riders.

Stuart O`Grady (CSC) won this race in 2004, and will be back to lead the CSC team in Hamburg. Having survived the Tour with a broken vertebra, O'Grady is in good shape and will be one to watch at the finish on Mönckebergstrasse. T-Mobile will look to the in-form Matthias Kessler to pull off one of his late attacks, or Lorenzo Bernucci or Kim Kirchen to get in the breakaways.

The embattled Phonak team has Tour de la Region Wallonne winner Fabrizio Guidi as its likely captain, with Aurélien Clerc and Robert Hunter as alternate sprinters. Discovery Channel's hopes will rest with Vladimir Gusev (winner of the Sachsen-Tour International), with Max Van Heeswijk a chance in a bunch sprint. Rabobank can count on its classy sprinter Oscar Freire, who won two stages in the Tour de France, and Juan Antonio Flecha, who is a danger man in a breakaway.

Lampre-Fondital is stacked with sprinters and strong men: Alessandro Ballan, Daniele Bennati, Salvatore Commesso and Danilo Napolitano, while Davitamon-Lotto will look to Mario Aerts and Gert Steegmans, with Peter van Petegem also returning to the squad after his crash in spring.

German team Gerolsteiner has Davide Rebellin and Fabian Wegmann as very handy top men, and the Austrian connection René Haselbacher and Peter Wrolich for a bunch kick. Credit Agricole will likely aim for a bunch sprint with Thor Hushovd being supported by Julian Dean, Jaan Kirsipuu, and Mark Renshaw.

Runner up last year, Luca Paolini will lead his Liquigas team with Manuel Quinziato and Michael Albasini by his side. 2001 winner Erik Zabel will try again for Milram, and he has the team to do it with 1999 winner Mirko Celestino, Marco Velo, and Christian Knees as support.

Philippe Gilbert (FDJ), Igor Astarloa (Barloworld) and ex-German champion Gerald Ciolek (Wiesenhof) are other names to keep an eye for on Sunday.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be covering the Vattenfall Cyclassics live on Sunday, July 30, starting from 15:00 local time (CEST)/9:00 EDT (USA East)/6:00 PDT (USA West)/23:00 AEST (Aust East).