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Kristoff gets a perfect lead-out from his Katusha teammates and narrowly holds off local hero Degenkolb in the small group sprint that decides this year's Rund um den Finanzplatz

Photo: RCS Sport

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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JEROME BAUGNIES

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JOHN DEGENKOLB

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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RUND UM DEN FINANZPLATZ ESCHBORN-FRANKFURT

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01.05.2014 @ 18:56 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) denied John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) a big win on home soil when the strong Norwegian held off the German in the sprint at the end of Germany's biggest one-day race, Rund um den Finanzplatz. Having been led perfectly out by his teammates, he got a small gap over his rival and even though Degenkolb came fast at the end, he ran out of metres while Jerome Baugnies (Wanty) completed the podium.

 

After crashing out of Paris-Roubaix, Alexander Kristoff has had a small break from competition but apparently he has eased off too much in his training. Today he returned to racing mode at Germany's biggest one-day race, Rund um den Finanzplatz, and he found straight back to his winning ways.

 

As usual, the German race was held on a tough course in the Taunus hills around the city of Frankfurt and the four passages of the 20% climb of the Mammolshain climb significantly whittled down the peloton. It also served as the perfect springboard for attacks and after the top of the final passage, a strong 12-rider group had formed.

 

Local hero John Degenkolb is a past winner of the race and his Giant-Shimano team had taken responsibility to chase another strong 9-rider break throughout the day, and this had left the big favourite with only Johannes Fröhlinger at his side. As the escapees were working well together, it seemed that the sprinters would again be denied in Frankfurt.

 

They built up a 30-second gap but as Fröhlinger got assistance from the MTN-Qhubeka team, the balance tipped. On the final 3km circuit in Frankfurt that would be covered thrice, the 12-rider group was brought back by a diminished peloton that readied itself for a sprint on the rainy day in Frankfurt.

 

Katusha still had plenty of riders left and they took control to set up Kristoff for the win. Degenkolb was well-positioned on his wheel but it all came to nothing for the local fans. When Kristoff launched his sprint, he got a slight gap and even though Degenkolb was clearly the fastest in the sprint, the line came too early for him to pass the Katusha rider who took his second big one-day win this year after his earlier victory at Milan-Sanremo.

 

The German cycling season now takes a shortbreak until it resumes at the end of this month with the big sprint race Garmin Velothon Berlin in the capital on May 18.

 

A hilly course

As usual, Germany's biggest one-day race Rund um den Finanzplatz took place on May 1 on a hilly course that zigzagged its way through the Taunus hills in the area northeast of Frankfurt. In the early part of the race, the riders would cover several climbs, including the big Feldberg, but the real excitement was saved for the second half where they would go up the Mammolshain four times. From the final passage, however, more than 30km remained and they mostly consisted of flat roads back to the finish in Frankfurt. The race ended with 3 laps of a flat 3km circuit in the big German city.

 

For many German continental teams, it is the biggest race of the year and so it was no surprise to see the race get off to a very animated start when the riders took off under a rainy sky. The attacks went straight from the gun but unfortunately the slick roads brought down the first attackers in one of the very first corners of the race.

 

Many attacks

The attacking continued for a long time but it was hard for anyone to get a big gap. Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) and Jan-Niklas Droste (Heizomat) were the first to get a significant advantage but while Gougeard's teammate Gediminas Bagdonas went down in a crash, the move was neutralized after more riders had rejoined from behind.

 

Franz Sciewer (LKT Brandenburg) was the next rider to make a promising move but he was quickly brought back. Even Degenkolb made it into a small group as the attacking continued in the hectic opening phase.

 

The break is formed

Gougeard and Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne) seemed to have made it but at the 37km mark, they were back in the fold. On a small climb a group with Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) took off but it was soon back together.

 

The peloton had now raced for more than an hour and entered the Taunus hills as they went up the day's biggest climb, Feldberg. Hier the elastic finally snapped when Wilco Kelderman (Belkin), Christoph Pfingsten (Germany), Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty), Clement Koretzky (Bretagne), Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Ben Gastauer (Ag2r), Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC) Paul Voss (NetApp) and Mirco Saggiorato (Stölting) took off.

 

Giant lead the chase

Giant-Shimano went straight to the front with Tom Peterson and Cheng Ji who combined forces to keep the gap to the big , strong group around the 1-minute mark. Up ahead, Koretzky fell off the pace, leaving just 9 riders to press on.

 

Giant-Shimano were left to do all the work and allowed the gap to grow to more than two minutes while riders started to fall off the back as the many climbs took their toll. After 90km of racing, they got some help from MTN-Qhubeka who had another local hero on their roster, with Gerald Ciolek being keen to take a home win.

 

Attacks on the Mammolshain

Giant-Shimano riders Ji, Brian Bulgac and Bert De Backer took some massive turns on the front as Giant-Shimano had to use most of their riders to control the situation. They reached the Mammohshain with a 2-minute deficit.

 

On the climb, Saggiorato and Kelderman briefly rode away from their companions but it came back together. Behind Emanuele Sella (Androni), Christian Mager (Stölting) and a Topsport rider took off but Giant-Shimano quickly brought them back as the peloton has now splintered to pieces.

 

The gap comes down

The gap was still two minutes at the second passage of the climb where Saggiorato and Kelderman again got a small gap before falling back to their companions. No riders attacked from the peloton but Degenkolb stayed very attentively near the front.

 

Giant-Shimano went back to work after the climb and by the time they hit the climb for the third time, the gap was down to just 50 seconds. At the third passage, Katusha and CCC increased the tempo and Degenjkolb had to give the moves himself.

 

The break splits up

Up ahead, the break had split as only Kelderman, Gastuaer, Voss and Rutkiewicz had survived while Silvio Herklotz (Stölting) had bridged across. However, they were only 20 seconds ahead of the peloton wheree Bretagne had now taken control with most of their team.

 

Gustav Erik Larsson (IAM) tried to bridge across but he was quickly brought back. Before the final passage of the climb, Brice Feillu (Bretagne) and Maciej Paterski (CCC) took off while the early break was finally caught.

 

A strong group is formed

Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and Cesare Benedetti (NetApp) attacked over the top and quickly bridged across to the two leaders. Fabian Wegmann (Germany), Eliot Lietaer (Topsport), Mateuz Taciak (CCC), Baugnies, Thomas Degand (Wanty), Herklotz and Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN) joined them to form a 12-rider group.

 

In the peloton, Degenkolb only had Fröhlinger at his side and as the gap had come up to 30 seconds, he found himself in a difficult situation. However, MTN had more confidence in Ciolek than in Van Rensburg and so they assisted the German in the chase.

 

MTN bring it back together

They gradually started to get closer to the escapees and when they hit the circuit, it was clear that it would come back together. Herklotz made a small attack but was quickly brough back and instead Lietaer gave it a go.

 

MTN brought all the chasers back and finally it was also over for Lietaer. Katusha now took control to set up Kristoff bu Lars Boom (Belkin) tried to deny the fast finishers when he took off just 2km from the line.

 

However, Katusha brought him back and from there they just continued their hard riding all the way to the finish. They delivered Kristoff perfectly to the line and he narrowly held off Degenkolb to take another big one-day victory.

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