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Vattenfall Cyclassics - ProT

Germany, July 30, 2006

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Live report

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones

Live coverage starts: 15:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:30 CEST

The peloton
Photo ©: Ulrik Møberg
(Click for larger image)

14:53 CEST   
Welcome to Deutschland for our live coverage of the Vattenfall Cyclassics, the race formerly known as the HEW Cyclassics. Taking place in and around Hamburg, the race covers 243 km and is the first one day ProTour race in three months: Liege-Bastogne-Liege was the last one, back in April. The riders start with 150 km, taking in two big loops to the south and the west of Hamburg. That is followed by two laps of a 42 km circuit (yes I know that doesn't quite add up, but there's an extra little loop with another climb on the last lap) before the finish on Mönckerbergstrasse. The key point is the 600m, 15% Waseberg climb, which is ridden four times. The final summit is with 16 km to go, so there is often a regrouping after the top.

14:58 CEST   
The race began at 11:20 with a 4.8 km neutral section, before the flag went down at 11:30ish. A three man breakaway managed to escape after 40 km, containing Dario Andriotto (Liquigas), Corey Sweet (Wiesenhof) and Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole). The group gained as much as 13 minutes, but was brought back to 9 minutes by the halfway point. Unfortunately for Andriotto, he crashed into a camera moto at this point, and had to drop out of the break.

There have been more crashes in the main field: Bileka (Discovery), Ian McLeod (FDJ), Andy Flickinger (Bouygues), Bert Grabsch (Phonak), Tristan Valentin (Cofidis) and Andrea Moletta (Gerolsteiner) all went down.

15:04 CEST    149km/94km to go
On the first time up the Waseberg, it was Sweet leading Bodrogi over the top. In the peloton, last year's winner Filippo Pozzato showed himself at the front on the climb. The front was a good place to be, as the Liquigas car managed to snag two of its bikes on the roof in an advertising banner, sending the bikes flying into the air. Fortunately, no-one was injured.

Sweet and Bodrogi lead by just under 8 minutes as they approach the finish line for the first time.

15:05 CEST    151km/92km to go
Milram, Gerolsteiner and T-Mobile are driving the peloton now, working to reduce the advantage of the leaders in the final two laps.

15:10 CEST    154km/89km to go
T-Mobile, which has now confirmed that it is sacking team manager Olaf Ludwig at the end of October and replacing him with Bob Stapleton, is one of the teams driving the pace at the moment. The German squad has riders like Matthias Kessler, Lorenzo Bernucci, Kim Kirchen and perhaps Olaf Pollack if it comes to a bunch sprint.

15:16 CEST    158km/85km to go
The pace is really on in the peloton now, and Sweet and Bodrogi won't last too much longer out in front. The gap is down to around four minutes as the two leaders start to fade.

15:27 CEST    166km/77km to go
The peloton passes through the feedzone, and the chasing pace eases up for a bit, with the gap going up to 4'40 again. Meanwhile, the leaders are approaching the Waseberg for the second time.

15:38 CEST   
The biggest German one-day race is held in the aftermath of 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis' positive A probe for performance-enhancing hormone testosterone. Germany's public TV stations ARD and ZDF have since questioned their transmission of cycling races if the sports biggest problem is not solved, and the German cycling federation decided to make way for an anti-doping law just one day prior to the event.

To explain the positive doping test result after stage 17 of the Tour de France, which he won after an impressive solo ride in high mountains, Landis has argued that his relatively high level of testosterone was naturally produced by his own body. The analytical basis for the test being the ratio between testosterone and epitestosterone, normally averaging 1:1, a suspicion of doping is being assumed if this ratio is higher than 4:1.

In Landis' case, German media have rumoured the result to be 11:1. "In our medical files appear not only blood levels, but also our testosterone status," said professional cyclists' representative Jens Voigt before the race. "It shouldn't be hard to find out if Landis is telling the truth."

15:45 CEST    174km/69km to go
The two leaders, who've been out in front for nearly 150 km, hit the Waseberg for the second time.

The weather today is slightly overcast, but dry at the moment.

15:51 CEST    183km/60km to go
The two leaders are finally swallowed with 60 km to go as the big guns wind it up after the Waseberg. Well, nearly 150 km out in front for Corey Sweet and Laszlo Bodrogi.

15:52 CEST    186km/57km to go
With the break caught, the attacks continue now with Aart Vierhouten (Skil Shimano) getting a small gap as the peloton snakes into Hamburg.

15:53 CEST    188km/55km to go
Vierhouten is caught by a Gerolsteiner rider and a couple more, with the peloton strung out in pursuit. Now a T-Mobile and Milram rider hook on, and there are six in front.

15:55 CEST    190km/53km to go
The break tries hard to get clear, but the peloton is still in a line, and comes back to the six leaders. The pace is very much on.

15:57 CEST   
The peloton is flying towards the second passage of the finish line on the Mönckerbergstrasse. Is that Pozzato driving on the front? It looks like his style - perhaps he's working for Bettini today.

15:59 CEST   
No, it's Wouter Weylandt from Quick.Step. The young sprinter from Gentbrugge has a small gap over the peloton.

16:00 CEST    192km/51km to go
Weylandt powers up the finishing straight in front of a moderate sized crowd waving noisemakers. The peloton is right on the Belgian's wheel as he crosses the line about 10m in front of the bunch.

16:01 CEST    193km/50km to go
Weylandt falls back into the peloton, which continues to be strung out in a line.

The average speed is already over 43 km/h. It's a perfect day for a race: 28 degrees, very little wind.

16:03 CEST    194km/49km to go
Now it's a Barloworld rider having a go with an FDJ: Christophe Detilloux. But these two are also caught as Astana goes on the attack.

16:05 CEST    196km/47km to go
Riders are constantly trying to create a breakaway but nothing is sticking yet as the race passes through St Pauli.

Fabian Wegmann is at the back, getting bidons. He'll be looking to set up Rebellin today. Rebellin recently won the Brixia Tour, and is in good nick.

16:07 CEST   
Maarten Tjallingii (Skil-Shimano) gets into a three man move with Mauro Facci (Barloworld) and Serguei Yakovlev (Astana). They pass through the feed zone with a small gap to the peloton.

16:08 CEST   
The best placed rider on GC is Tjallingii. Oh wait, that was another race.

16:10 CEST    200km/43km to go
Tjallingii uses his considerable engine to drive the break. The former mountainbiker is having a great season on the road, winning the Tours of Belgium and Qinghai Lake.

Matthias Kessler is driving the peloton with Kim Kirchen on his wheel. So Kessler is probably not T-Mobile's designated man today. The break is caught.

16:11 CEST   
Kessler, Kirchen and Gilbert (FDJ) are the first three in the peloton, but there are more attacks. Kirchen and Gilbert keep the pace up.

16:12 CEST    201km/42km to go
The tall Johan Vansummeren (Davitamon) puts in a "behind a moto" attack and takes a few riders off the front, but the gap is quickly closed. Tankink is now on the front for Quick.Step.

16:14 CEST   
The bunch races along the Elbe, heading for the third climb of the Waseberg, which is due in about 10 km. There's one more after that. A Barloworld rider attacks and then sits up almost immediately.

16:16 CEST    204km/39km to go
De Maar (Rabobank) leads the bunch, looking around as the pace slows. Paolo Bettini is in last wheel - odd, but he can always move up.

16:17 CEST   
Now it's Lampre trying to control the peloton, which is riding through the dense trees in Elbchaussee.

Bettini looks very comfortable at the back.

16:18 CEST    207km/36km to go
The peloton seems content to let Lampre do the work. Commesso is in second wheel.

16:20 CEST    208km/35km to go
The bunch is still well over 100 riders strong, and there is a host of Lampres leading it. Loosli, Stangelj, Carrara, Corioni, Commesso are all there.

16:21 CEST   
Weylandt brings up Pozzato to near the front, just behind the Lampre train.

16:22 CEST    209km/34km to go
Now Bettini does a Houdini and appears at the front, with Kim Kirchen in tow. They take a sharp left hand turn off the big road and string out in a line again. The pace is up around the 50 km/h mark.

16:23 CEST    210km/33km to go
Bettini is now working on the front with Gerben Löwik (Rabobank) and Vansummeren in tow. Kim Kirchen is up there in his Luxembourg champion's jersey, as is Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step).

16:24 CEST    211km/32km to go
The battle for the front position is really on. CSC is the next team to try to take control. David Millar is easy to spot too - he's tall and clad in yellow.

Corey Sweet, who was in the early break, is at the back of the bunch.

16:25 CEST    213km/30km to go
The bunch winds through the trees and it's tricky to keep position. Gilbert attacks just before the Waseberg.

16:26 CEST    214km/29km to go
Gilbert still has a few km to go before the Waseberg, but he'll hope to reach it a) with a bit of an advantage and b) without emptying the tank.

16:26 CEST   
Gilbert puts the power down on the pedals as he hammers along on this false flat. This isn't easy, before the climb.

16:28 CEST    215km/28km to go
Gilbert has a good five seconds as he takes a sharp left very well, then onto a very narrow, steep descent. He sweeps to the left again and is almost at the Waseberg.

16:28 CEST   
Gilbert affords himself a glance back and there is one rider trying to get across at 5 seconds. the peloton is another 5 seconds back.

16:29 CEST   
The bunch is a solid block with everyone trying to be on the front row. Gilbert tackles the Waseberg and looks good at the bottom.

16:30 CEST    216km/27km to go
Gilbert changes down to the small ring and keeps his cadence up, then gets out of the saddle as the 16% section starts.

16:30 CEST   
Vinokourov is in the middle of the peloton. A T-Mobile is trying to get Gilbert, who is at the top.

16:31 CEST   
The T-Mobile was Pollack, but Wegmann leads the peloton past at 10 seconds. Millar is well placed in about 6th wheel.

16:32 CEST    217km/26km to go
The advantage is now with Gilbert, but he will have company soon. One by one, riders are trying to get across. The roads are twisty and narrow here at the top of the climb.

Wegmann is driving his way across the gap.

16:32 CEST   
Wegmann can see Gilbert just in front of him as the road continues to undulate at the top. Gilbert eats something and waits for the German.

16:33 CEST    218km/25km to go
Gilbert and Wegmann are now together as various riders try to chase. a Credit Agricole, Caisse d'Epargne and Wiesenhof fail miserably to cooperate and the peloton catches them.

16:35 CEST   
It looks like Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne) is trying to lead a counter attack with Vansummeren and a couple of others behind Wegmann and Gilbert. The latter is still eating. The two leaders have 29 seconds!

16:37 CEST    219km/24km to go
Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) is next to try to chase and he gets a Rabobank rider for company. It's pretty disorganised, but fast.

16:39 CEST    220km/23km to go
Der Maar, Velo, Bernucci, Renshaw and three more have a small gap over the bunch, which is now 50-60 riders strong. They will probably get caught. Yep. Commesso counters.

Still Wegmann and Gilbert lead the race as they approach the final climb of the Waseberg.

16:39 CEST   
The leaders are doing well, and now have 41 seconds. This is getting up to a dangerous gap to pull back in the last 20 km.

16:42 CEST    224km/19km to go
The gap is a minute now as Wegmann and Gilbert work well together. These two young riders are really making the race today, while the other teams work out what to do.

16:42 CEST    225km/18km to go
The pair have another two km to go before the Waseberg as the peloton has picked up the pace and knocked a lot off that time gap. Yes, it's now just 23 seconds.

16:43 CEST    226km/17km to go
23 seconds - they're going to need more than that to survive the Waseberg for the last time. The peloton is strung right out with Johansen (CSC) in last wheel.

16:45 CEST   
The leaders fly down the narrow, steep descent with Gilbert in front. They're back along the Elbe now, and are getting ready for the last time up the Waseberg. But the peloton pulls them back just before the foot, with Christian Knees (Milram) leading.

16:46 CEST    227km/16km to go
Knees drives the pace up as they turn left and then reach the foot of the climb. Celestino is in second wheel, with Dumoulin right there as well as Mori.

Ballan attacks... Pozzato is right there on his wheel, with Paolini.

16:47 CEST   
Ballan is first over the top, leading a group of 12 or so. Paolini is right up there, as is Pozzato.

16:47 CEST    228km/15km to go
The remnants of the bunch come over the top, and that's their race just about finished.

Rebellin now leads over the top with a teammate on his wheel.

16:49 CEST    229km/14km to go
Rebellin keeps the pace on and Pozzato drops back. Rebellin leads his teammate and three more off the front. But they sit up! What the? The Saunier rider up there counter attacks: it's Manuele Mori.

16:50 CEST    231km/12km to go
Ricco is chased down by the rest of that group, which has Celestino, Rebellin, Paolini, Figueras? and one other Gerolsteiner in it. Then the chasers about 10 seconds back, maybe 30 strong. The chasing peloton is not chasing too hard though.

16:51 CEST   
It looks like Moletta is the other Gerolsteiner rider in front.

16:52 CEST   
The peloton is getting organised, with Quick.Step and Rabobank leading the chase. They have no-one in front.

16:53 CEST    233km/10km to go
The leaders: Rebellin, Moletta (Gerolsteiner), Paolini (Liquigas), Celestino (Milram), Figueras (Lampre), Mori (Saunier). There's one nation that's rather well represented up here.

16:54 CEST    234km/9km to go
Paolini does another turn and looks back. The chasers are still at 10 seconds. There is a lot of looking around in this front group. Paolini was second last year, can he go one better this year?

16:55 CEST   
Moletta powers through for a big turn, trying to keep Rebellin's chances alive. But it looks like the peloton is coming back, although a couple of riders are trying to bridge across alone.

16:56 CEST    235km/8km to go
Paolini looks serious as he rolls through. Celestino is doing a bit now and again, and now it's his turn. They are working pretty well, but the peloton is 4 seconds behind, led by Quick.Step.

16:57 CEST    236km/7km to go
Break over. Quick.Step powers the chase, with Tosatto working. But who have they got to lead out Bettini / Pozzato?

16:58 CEST    237km/6km to go
Martin Elmiger (Phonak) shows himself briefly at the front as Kashechkin (Astana) launches a counter move. But Oscar Freire is there, marking it. He is a favourite for a bunch sprint, for sure!

Tankink gets on the front. then Gerben Löwik, keeping it together for Freire.

16:59 CEST    237.5km/5.5km to go
A Milram rider tries to attack next, but doesn't get far. Kashechkin marks him, with the peloton on his wheel.

16:59 CEST    238km/5km to go
O'Grady has made the cut, as has Millar, Pozzato, Ballan, Freire, Zabel...Can't be much more than 35 riders.

17:00 CEST    239km/4km to go
There's a lot of Quick.Step jerseys in front, but Paolo Bettini is in last wheel. Looking extremely relaxed. Maybe he doesn't have the legs today, or maybe he's waiting.

17:01 CEST    239.5km/3.5km to go
Tankink does a strong turn and gets a gap, but the peloton won't let him go easily. No dice.

17:01 CEST    240km/3km to go
Now another Milram has a go, with one of the Astanas reacting. It's Kashechkin again. Nuyens hovers in fourth wheel.

17:02 CEST   
The Milram rider pulls off and Kashechkin keeps the tempo up. Nuyens in second wheel, then Mori and O'Grady.

17:03 CEST    241km/2km to go
The thinned down peloton is heading for a likely bunch sprint as Nuyens and Mori set the tempo. Rabobank still has Freire as its main option, while Quick.Step has Pozzato and Bettini.

17:03 CEST   
2 km to go in the bike race and Rabobank's Löwik takes over the tempo making, with a couple of Lampres on his wheel: Figueras and Ballan. Then it's Quick.Step with Tosatto. Paolini is also up there.

17:04 CEST    242km/1km to go
The bunch motors into the final kilometre and an Astana rider tries to get a gap. But he doesn't. Lampre has him pegged.

17:04 CEST   
Ballan leads in the final kilometre with Figueras right behind him. Pozzato is in fifth, behind Tosatto. Freire is in 9th with Paolini.

17:05 CEST    243km/0km to go
Tosatto leads out the sprint with Pozzato on his wheel. There's an incident with Freire and Rebellin(?) and it's Zabel, Freire and Pozzato powering to the line. Freire gets it by about a millimetre, and Zabel congratulates him, Pozzato third. That was extremely close!

17:12 CEST   
Well, Freire is the winner, but it was not by much. That was a huge sprint by Zabel and he nearly got there. Not sure what happened between the Gerolsteiner rider - Wegmann - and Freire with 200m to go, but Freire definitely grabbed Wegmann and had the favour returned. Then Wegmann bounced off a few more riders, but kept it upright. We'll see if that earns Freire a DQ, but he certainly did well to come back from that and win!

17:16 CEST   
It looks like Oscarito is the winner of the Vattenfall Cyclassics, as he is interviewed post-race. Zabel almost pulled off a great win, while Pozzato defended his 2005 triumph with honour.

And that's all from us here in the blimp above the Elbe. There's still one tank of hot air left, and we'll be back in a couple of weeks with the Clasica San Sebastian!

Results

Provisional
1 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank            5.30.02
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
3 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick.Step
4 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick.Step
5 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Wiesenhof Akud
6 Grégory Rast (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems
7 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance
8 Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
9 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital