Alexander Kristoff launched his sprint from afar, held on and cruised across the finish line in Hamburg at the Vattenfall Cyclassics to record his 14th win of the season, reasserting himself as 2014’s most successful rider.
The wet weather that greeted the glittering array of sprint stars as they took to the start quickly turned to sunshine as a trio of riders established the main break of the day. Bjorn Thurau (Europcar), Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) and birthday boy Ralf Matzka (NetApp-Endura) stretched their advantage to almost seven minutes before FDJ worked to reel them back. Matzka was the first to be dropped 36km from home while Thurau and Bonifazio rejoined the peloton a few kilometres later on the third ascent of the Waseberg.
This regrouping prompted others to chance their arm. There was a flurry of attacks from riders such as Julian Alaphilippe (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE), who were trying to whittle down the leading pack – and shed a few sprinters – for their team leaders. Alaphilippe persevered and was joined by teammate and Tour de France stage winner Matteo Trentin, Marco Marcato (Cannondale), Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Katusha were now leading the much diminished main group with assistance from Astana and Sky. The quintet was pulled back on the fourth and final climb of the Waseberg. It was clear the 19th edition of Germany’s only WorldTour race was going to be contested by all the leading contenders in a reduced bunch sprint.
The presence of so many contenders forced Kristoff, superbly piloted in the final kilometres by teammates Pavel Brutt and Marco Haller, to kick early. He was able to stay ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE). to record his 14th victory of a highly successful season. Post-race Kristoff confirmed:
I had Marco and Pavel to keep me safe in the closing kilometres. In the last kilometre we were a bit blocked but I managed to get to the front. With 300 metres to go I was really in the first position. I started my sprint a little bit slowly and gradually motored up so I was happy no one could come past me.
Hopes of another German victory were dashed when Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) lost out in the dash for the line. Greipel had crashed earlier in the race and then fell back on the final ascent of the Waseberg where Kittel also found himself in difficulty and subsequently lacked strength in the final sprint.
More wins than anyone else
The 27-year-old Norwegian has really come of age this year, with more victories to his name than any other rider in 2014. And they’re not just any old wins: Milan-San Remo, two victories at the Tour de France and stages and the overall in the Tour of Norway and Tour de Fjords.
He’s been clocking up victories all season long and is now sixth on the UCI WorldTour rankings, as is his team Katusha. Watch out for him in next weekend’s GP Ouest France-Plouay.
Race in numbers
2 – Most wins in this race, recorded by Garmin-Sharp’s Tyler Farrar (2010 and 2011).
6 – Italian victories in this race, the most successful nation in its 19 editions.
25 – Number of candles on birthday boy Ralf Matzka’s (NetApp-Endura) cake.
1. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) 5:55:25
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) same time
3. Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEDGE) s/t
4. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) s/t
5. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
6. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) s/t
7. Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) s/t
8. Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) s/t
9. Silvan Dillier (BMC) s/t
10. Raymond Kreder (Garmin-Sharp) s/t
Header photograph from Katusha Facebook page.