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Having initially been dropped from the peloton, Kristoff made it back to the 50-group that decided tHErace before launching an impressive sprint to win the Rund um den Finanzplatz; Richeze and Bennett joined him on the podium

Photo: Sirotti

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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MAXIMILIANO RICHEZE

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RUND UM DEN FINANZPLATZ ESCHBORN-FRANKFURT

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SAM BENNETT

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01.05.2016 @ 18:51 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) proved that he is already back in form after the classics when he took a dominant victory in the reduced bunch sprint that decided the Rund um den Finanzplatz. After being dropped the final two times up the steep Mammolshainer Berg, he rejoined the group in time for the reduced bunch sprint and turned out to be in a class of his own as he easily held off Maximilano Richeze (Etixx-QuickStep) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) to make it two in a row in the German classic.

 

The classics season never went as Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) had hoped after illness set him back at the most important time and now he has set his sights on revenge at the Tour de France in the summer. Today he build-up for the French race started in the best way possible as he returned to his winning ways right in his first race after his post-classics break.

 

Kristoff has made the German classic Rund um den Finanzplatz his preferred comeback race and two years ago it was victory on Frankfurt that set him up for a great Tour de France as he went on to claim two stage victories in the biggest race in the world. If that can be used as an indication, the Norwegian is ready for a great edition of La Grande Boucle as he took his second consecutive win in Germany after last year’s edition had been cancelled due to the threat of a terrorist attack.

 

The race is characterized by four late passage of the brutally steep Mammolshainer Berg but as the final passage comes with 33km to go and the race ends with three laps of a flat 9km circuit in Frankfurt, it has traditionally been a race for the strongest sprinters. That was again the case in 2016 as Kristoff dug deep to make it back to the peloton after having been dropped twice and finally emerge as the strongest in the sprint.

 

Bora-Argon 18 and Giant-Alpecin had been working hard with Cesare Benedetti and John Degenkolb who made his comeback in this race, to bring a 7-rider break back and the race was back together as they approached the climb for the third time. Degenkolb swung off as the fight for position for the climb started and it was Etienne van Empel (Roompot) who led the group onto the slopes.

 

Axel Domont (Ag2r) accelerated and led Dominik Nerz (Bora-Argon 18) over the top but it was Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) who surged clear on the descent. Daniel Martinez (Southeast) quickly joined him but the tiny climber had a hard time keeping up with the German as they opened a 30-second advantage.

 

The gap went out to 45 seconds and this really forced Bora-Argon 18 to chase hard with Emanuel Buchmann. He did a great job to reduce the gap to 15 seconds as they hit the Mammolshainer for the final time.

 

Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini) accelerated hard on the ascent while the peloton split to pieces but it was David de la Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) who went clear over the top. The Spaniard sprinted past the front duo and quickly opened a 25-second advantage while the peloton took time to regroup.

 

Iuri Filosi (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Lukasz Owsian (CCC) and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport) escaped from a chase group of climbers that was 25 seconds behind the lone leader while the peloton with most of the sprinters were 45 seconds behind. The two groups merged and started to close the gap and so de la Cruz only had gaps of 12 and 25 seconds respectively when he entered the final 20km.

 

The chasers got to within 8 seconds but they would never get to the front and were brought back as Bora-Argon 18 were again chasing hard. De la Cruz finally had to surrender with 14km to go and it was a big 50-rider group that gathered in front.

 

An Ag2r rider tried to attack but it was Dominik Nerz who controlled things for Bora-Argon 18 as he led the peloton across the line for the first time and set the pace for most of the first lap until a Delko rider took over. He was first across the finish line for the second time before Martin made the attack that most expected. However, the peloton reacted quickly with Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) and Viahceslav Kuznetsov (Katusha) and so Martin changed strategy by riding hard on the front.

 

Martin set the pace for almost the entire lap before Kuznetsov took over after they had crossed the line. The Russian maintained a fast pace while his Katusha teammates gathered around Kristoff further back. They passed the Etixx-QuickStep train and slotted onto Kuznetsov’s wheel just before they passed the flamme rouge.

 

Alexey Tsatevich hit the front with Kristoff on his wheel, with the Etixx-QuickStep pair of Yves Lampaert and Maximilano Richeze and Sam Bennett sitting behind the Norwegian. Kristoff was given the perfect lead-out and could start his sprint from the front. Richeze and Bennett could not even try to pass and had to settle for second and third behind the dominant Norwegian.

 

As the Bayern Rundfahrt has been cancelled, May is not the usual busy month for German cycling. The next major event in the country is the Velothon Berlin on June 5.

 

A hilly course

The 2016 edition of the Rund um den Finanzplatz was held on a 206.8km course around the big city of Frankfurt. After a flat start, the riders headed into the Taunus mountains where they tackled four climbs in the first half of the race. Then they headed two to different circuits whose key challenge was the short, steep Mammalhainer Berg that featured four times on the course, the final time with 33.5km to go. From there it was a short descent and flat run back to Frankfurt where the race ended with three laps of a flat 3km circuit.

 

It was great sunshine when the riders gathered for one of the biggest German one-day races. As it is always the case in the classic, it was a fast start with numerous attacks and it was a trio with Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) and Benjamin Giraud (Delko) that first gained some ground. However, they had no luck and the aggression continued for a long time.

 

Six riders get clear

Sven Reutter (Stölting) was part of a small group that got clear and looked like it had a chance to stay away but they were brought back too. Instead, six riders managed to escape as Antonio Nibali (Nippo), Björn Thurau (Wanty), Matvey Mamykin (Katusha), Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r), Reinier Honig (Roompot) and Christian Rodriguez (Southeast) surged clear and after they had worked hard to maintain a small advantage, the peloton finally slowed down.

 

The gap had gone out to 2.11 when Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) took off in lone pursuit and he proved that he is already back in form by bridging the gap. However, that move a dangerous one and so the peloton upped the pace, reducing the gap to just 1.35 when the junction was made.

 

The break splits up

The front group was not working well together and there were a few attacks before they hit the steep Schulberg with an advantage of 1.40. The situation stabilized a bit as the escapees again started to cooperate and the peloton kept the gap at around 2 minutes.

 

As they went up the Mammolshein for the first time, Mamykin, Thurau and Nibali rode away, with Rodriguez and Jauregio forming a chasing group. In the peloton, John Degenkolb and Kristoff were clearly suffering and rode near the back of the field.

 

Thurau and Terpstra form a duo

While the front group came back together, Bora-Argon 18 and Giant-Alpecin set the pace and started to bring the break back as they headed towards the second passage of the climb. Here Thurau, Nibali and Maykin again proved to be the strongest and the Italian even also lost contact as they approached the top. Jauregui, Honig and Rodriguez were far behind as they crested the top.

 

Thurau and Mamykin pushed their advantage out to 25 seconds while the peloton was now only 1.15 behind. Moments later, the German took off in a solo move while Terpstra bridged the gap to Mamykin. The Dutchman even dropped the Russian before he rejoined the lone Thurau.

 

The break is caught

The peloton caught everybody else, leaving just Thurau and Terpstra to press on with a 25-second advantage. However, Giant-Alpecin and Bora-Argon 18 were chasing hard with Degenkolb and Csare Benedetti and they brought the front duo back as they approached the Mammolshainer Berg again.

 

Kuznetsov launched an immediate attack but Degenkolb and Benedetti were attentive and they responded again the Russian tried a second move. Moments later they hit the climb again and from there the real action started.

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