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After the peloton had split in the wet finale, Degenkolb beat Jans and Ackermann in the sprint at the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro; Kittel and Greipel were not in the top 10

Photo: Sirotti

JOHN DEGENKOLB

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MÜNSTERLAND GIRO

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PASCAL ACKERMANN

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03.10.2016 @ 16:49 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) sent an important signal to the German Cycling Federation ahead of the World Championships when he powered to victory in the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro where he was up against fellow sprinters André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) and Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep). After the peloton had split on the wet finishing circuit, he held Roy Jans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Pascal Ackermann (Rad-net Rose) off in a close finish while neither Greipel nor Kittel made it into the top 10.

 

Ever since it was announced that the 2016 Worlds will be held on a flat course in Qatar, it has been discussed whether André Greipel or Marcel Kittel will lead the team. Last week it was announced that Greipel has been given the nod and that Kittel will play a joker role.

 

The third big German sprinter, John Degenkolb, has flown under the radar and has apparently accepted that he will play a support role in the Qatari desert. However, the German is a specialist at the end of long, hard races and today he sent a clear signal to the German coaches that he is on form and ready to take his responsibility in the Middle East when he won the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro.

 

Münsterland Giro is one of the biggest German races and this year it attracted lots of attention as it had gathered the three German titans for a final battle less than two weeks before the race in Qatar. Everybody expected a sprint finish but wet conditions in the finale made the race much harder than expected. Degenkolb excelled in the tough conditions and when the bunch split in the finale, he was the only of the three top sprinters to have made it into the 20-rider front group and in the end he beat Roy Jans and Pascal Ackermann in the final dash to the line.

 

The 11th edition of Sparkassen Münsterland Giro was held over 215.8km between Gronau and Münster. After a flat opening section, the riders got an 82.8km circuit that they covered twice. It included the small climbs of Coesfelder Berg, Daruper Berg and Hotel Weissenburg which were all tackled twice. From there, the riders headed east to the finish in Münster, tackling the Schöppinger Berg climb along the way when 48.6km remained. After that ascent, the terrain was largely flat and the race ended with three laps of a flat 5.4km circuit in Münster.

 

After a cloudy morning, the sun had come out for the start and as soon as the flag was dropped, the attacking started. The first riders to get a small advantage were Silvio Herklotz (Bora-Argon 18), Aime de Gent (Topsport Vlaanderen), Pawel Bernas(Verva-ActiveJet), Roland Thalmann (Roth), Robert William Kessler (LKT-Team Brandenburg) and Sjoerd Kouwenhoven (Metec TKH) and they soon got a gap of 25 seconds. Carlo Soballa (LKT-Team Brandenburg) took off in pursuit but after 16km of fast racing, he was brought back.

 

The gap stayed around 25 seconds for a while but soon the escapees started to gain some group. When it had gone out to 40 seconds, Daniel Westmattelmann (Kuota-Lotto) and Joann Leinau (Sauerland-NRW) tried to bridge across but they were stuck at that distance. The peloton kept the gap at around a minute but then slowed down after catching the two chasers.

 

With the slower pace, the gap went out quickly and when the break hit the first climb after around 50km of acing, they were 6.50 ahead. Here De Gendt beat Thalmann and Kouwenhoven in the battle for the points and on the next two climbs he held off Kouwenhoven and Bernas.

 

After 95.6km, the peloton arrived at the first sprint with an advantage of 6.20 and it was Kessler who took maximum points ahead of Bernas and Herklotz. A little later, De Gendt beat Kouwenhowen and Herklotz in the fourth KOM sprint. The peloton arrived 4.10 later.

 

After the climb, Etixx-QuickStep, Lotto Soudal and Dimension Data upped the pace significantly and when De Gendt beat Kouwenhoven and Herklotz in the fifth KOM sprint after 145km of racing, the escapees were only two minutes ahead. Meanwhile, riders started to get dropped.

 

Suddenly, the windy conditions were taking their toll as the peloton split in four groups that were separated by 45 seconds when Kouwenhoven beat De Gendt and Kessler in the sixth KOM sprint. However, as the gap was down to a minute, the first group slowed down and while a regrouping took place, the gap went out to 2.15.

 

Kouwenhoven beat Herklotz and Kessler in the final KOM sprint and then headed towards the finish with an advantage of 1.20. Etixx-QuickStep and Lotto Soudal had again upped the pace and were closing in rapidly.

 

After Kessler had beaten Bernas and Herklotz in the second sprint, Herklotz made an attack but the sextet soon came back together. Meanwhile, rain started to fall, making the finale treacherous.

 

The leaders approached Münster with an advantage of just 25 seconds and it was down to just 15 seconds with 25km to go. Kenny Dehaes (Wanty) and Timothy Stevens (Crelan) tried to bridge the small gap but it was all back together when they reached Münster.

 

The attacking started again and surprisingly André Greipel was among the riders to give it a go. However, no one had managed to escape when they crossed the finish line for the first time.

 

Dimension Data took control and got some help from Etixx-QuickStep before Bora-Argon 18 lined out their troops when they crossed the line for the second time. The Belgian team again came to the fore and with a huge acceleration on the slippery roads, they made the group split and suddenly 20 riders had gone clear.

 

Bora-Argon 18 led the small group across the line to start the final lap before Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin) and Lennard Kämna (Stölting) attacked. The trio got a small advantage but as first Dimension Data and then Etixx-QuickStep gave chase, they never made it and it all came down to the expected sprint from the small front group. Here Degenkolb turned out to be the fastest as he narrowly held Roy Jans, Pascal Ackermann and Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) off in a very close finish.

 

With the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro done and dusted, the German season is over. The final European races will be held in France and Belgium where the season ends next Tuesday.

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