Too bad there's been sub-optimal coverage (and I've been on the go all week); this would have been race to follow. Nevertheless, Saturday the DeutschlandTour comes to its conclusion in what's gonna be a razor-thin margin among any number of riders itching to win a pro tour event.
It vaguely resembles, oh, the Shenandoah mountains, with a couple formidable if short climbs. Then you see the elevations: the course peaks out at nine meters. Here's another way to describe it: board flat. Nothing new, the D-Tour tends to start in the south and head north, where there aren't so many hills. Last year's final chrono was pretty similar, and a good marker. On that basis alone, Linus Gerdemann is a solid favorite to seal the win. Next, the top 10 on GC:
1 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Columbia 32.44.12
2 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia 0.17
3 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana 0.20
4 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Crédit Ag 0.58
5 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank 1.16
6 José Rujano (Ven) Caisse d'Epargne 1.20
7 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Astana 1.27
8 Andrea Noè (Ita) Liquigas 1.31
9 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Scott - Am Beef 1.57
10 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel 2.40
The chances of anyone outside this group making a run at the overall is nil, given the course and its minimal time gaps. A less generous assessment is that it's no more than a three-man race. Because Gerdemann can ride a time trial.
Last year, Gerdemann finished fifth in the D-Tour ITT, surrounded by chrono aces like Leipheimer, McCartney, Bodrogi, and ahead of names like Pinotto, Larsson, Julich... strong tonic. Historically he's usually been good for a top-20 in the chrono, and even took 8th in the Tirreno-Adriatico ITT where he sustained the injuries that cost him half of this season. HTFU, indeed.
So do the others have a chance? Sure, the first two margins are practically nothing, and the rest can certainly hope Der Linus is off his game. Lovkvist has been killing the time trials all year, after some forgettable moments against the watch last year. He was 11th in both Tour de France ITTs; third in Tirreno; third in the Swedish Nats; 8th in the Tour de Suisse (uphill). This could get pretty interesting, at least within Team Columbia.
Brajkovic has a pretty thin -- though not completely empty -- time trial resume. If he pulls it off, it'll be a bit of a shock. Caucchioli will at least double his deficit. Mollema is pretty new and 1.16 is too much, though he could make the podium. Rujano is tragicomic, and the rest are truly undistinguished.
So, a tight, two-man race, from the same team. Just as the race organizers told us it would be, coming down to the last 10km of the final stage. Literally. Should be exciting.