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11th Deutschland Tour - ProT
Germany, August 29-September 6, 2008
By Susan Westemeyer
The 2008 Deutschland Tour is wide open this year, with no one clear favourite and many possibilities, and a varied course that offers something for everyone. After a short prologue, the very first road stage is the Queen Stage, with a mountaintop finish, opening up the possibility of a strong climber claiming the overall victory from the beginning on.
The Tour features a strong line-up, actually stronger than might be expected since the Vuelta is running simultaneously, but some very big names are missing, and all can be found in Spain. Andreas Klöden of Astana, Stefan Schumacher of Gerolsteiner and Milram's Erik Zabel all gave preference to the Vuelta this year.
Jens Voigt of Team CSC could become the first rider to win the Deutschland Tour three times, and three times in a row, at that. The German doesn't necessarily see himself as favourite to win the eight stage, 1,408 kilometre race, and there are even a number of other Germans – and German speakers – who could challenge for the title. Voigt has had only two wins this season, but they were big ones. He took the overall title in the Criterium International and won stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia.
Linus Gerdemann will lead Team Columbia in the race. The 26 year-old has recovered from serious injuries suffered in Tirreno-Adriatico and has made a successful comeback, winning the Coppa Agostoni and the overall title in the Tour de l'Ain.
Team Milram will have Christian Knees, who won the Bayern Rundfahrt and led the team in the Tour de France. He will be supported by fellow German Björn Schröder, fresh off his overall victory in the Rothaus Regio Tour.
The other German ProTour team, Team Gerolsteiner, will have an Austrian captain, Bernhard Kohl. The climber will not just have his eye on the King of the Mountains jersey, though, but will look to the overall title. He, of course, most recently won the mountain jersey in the Tour de France, where he finished third overall. If he falters, his team-mate Markus Fothen will be there to try and take the win for the team which is still searching for a new sponsor for the coming year.
Other possibilities for the leader's yellow jersey are Silence-Lotto's Jurgen Van Den Broeck, who finished seventh in the Giro d'Italia. His climbing and his time trial abilities could net him a vicotry. Vladimir Karpets of Caisse d'Epargne also is a danger man for the general classification.
When it comes to the mountains, Kohl must be considered the top pick for the polka-dot jersey here. Last year's winner, Niki Terpstra of Milram, is still recovering from two broken elbows suffered in Beijing. Sylvester Szmyd (Lampre) is another possibility, and don't forget Austrian Gerrit Glomser of Volksbank, who will have the "home" advantage in the opening Queen Stage.
The sprinters will have four chances in the race, and the favourites have to be Columbia's Andre Greipel, fresh off a strong Eneco Tour, and Gerald Ciolek. The latter took back to back wins in the race last year, starting with stage six and his national rival Robert Förster of Gerolsteiner would like to repeat his stage victory from 2007. But they aren't the only sprinters in the field, and Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto), Graeme Brown (Rabobank), Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Olaf Pollack (Volksbank) would like to sprint for the glory, as well.
And since the course offers something for everyone, several stages will favour those who specialize in escapes, such as David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), Andreas Dietziker (Volksbank), Clement L'Hottelerie (Skil-Shimano) or Liquigas' Kjell Carlström. Not to forget the best escape artist in the race – Voigt himself.
The Deutschland Tour starts out this year not in Germany, but in the neighbouring country of Austria. It opens with a 3.6-kilometre prologue in the ski resort of Kitzbühel. Starting at the Schwarzsee, the technically demanding course winds its way through the city's Old Town.
The race then starts off with a bang, as stage one is also the Queen stage. It runs 178 kilometres through Austria, from Kitzbühel to Hochfügen, and features three ranked climbs. The peloton will have its first taste of the Alps at kilometre 76.4, with the 1278-metre high Pass Thurn, a category two climb. They later climb to the roof of the tour at kilometre 120.6, when they go up the 1621-metre category one Gerlospass. To top it all off, the stage finishes on the Hochfügen, a category one climb at 1463 metres.
With that done, the peloton will transfer north to Germany, and take off from the Bavarian capital of Munich for a 182.6 kilometres mostly flat stage north to Hesselberg. However, there is a catch at the end of the stage: the category three Hesselberg, with the end of the finish line atop the climb.
Things head west in stage three, 214.9 kilometres from Herrieden to Wiesloch. This is another rolling stage with a category three climb up the Lasssbacher Steige at kilometre 65.9. The kicker on this stage will be the Königstuhl near Heidelberg, a category two climb only 23 kilometres from the end. The climb may be enough to break things up – or it may be far enough away from the end to provide for the race's first mass sprint finish.
A bunch sprint is definitely expected in the fourth stage. On the 174 kilometres from Wiesloch to Mainz, the riders will have a number of bumps in the road, including two category three climbs in the first half of the stage. But it will be the sprinters' day as they roar into Mainz.
There are lots of ups and downs in stage five, the last chance for the climbers to show their stuff. It is also the longest stage, running north for 218.4 kilometres from Mainz to Winterberg. There are only three ranked climbs, but they all come late in the day. There is the category three Homberg at kilometres 160.4, and the category two Albrechtsplatz. The stage finishes atop the Winterberg, a category three climb which will crown the 2008 Deutschland Tour's "King of the Mountains".
The sixth stage starts out rolling, with two category two climbs along the way, but the last 30 kilometres are as flat as the can be. This stage takes the peloton west again, 188.8 kilometres from Schmallenberg to Neuss, where another mass sprint is expected.
Stage seven heads north, and again has some bumps along the way in the first part of the stage, 214.3 kilometres from Neuss to Georgsmarienhütte. Another mass sprint is expected, as is the decision as to who will win the sprinter's jersey for this year.
The race ends with a time trial in Bremen, after a lengthy transfer. The totally flat 34 kilometres course ends in downtown Bremen, and will decide the ultimate winner of the 2008 Deutschland Tour.