Elite radsport time in the streets of Hamburg Sunday, as the 13th Vattenfall Cyclassics race goes off. I used to resist the notion that this was a real classic, on the grounds that they always put the word "classic" everywhere, a sign of no-confidence in our ability to call it one on our own. But too many Italians have won lately for me to deny the greatness of the race, including the truly classy Alessandro Ballan. So, it's a classic.
And it's not flat. Check out the profile, which shows about two dozen climbs of varying (mostly modest) difficulty. This is a hammerfest course, where nobody feels intimidated at all but everyone winds up pretty exhausted before kilometer 218 where the race is won. Finish is usually 10-20 guys charging for the line, but which ones, and who has anything left in the tank, is pretty much anyone's guess. About the only thing you can say is that the roll of honor -- Museew, Bettini, O'Grady, Pozzato, Freire and Ballan are the last six winners -- indicates that the race isn't for punters.
But most of the stars are in Spain, or more than usual, given that the race's annual calendar slot got stolen by the Olympics. Best place to start is the startlist... or more specifically, Team Columbia's startlist. Burghardt, Ciolek, Gerdemann, Grabsch, Klier, Lovkvist, Martin and Sieberg will probably own most of the race. But Milram and Gerolsteiner will have something to prove on home soil. Enjoy!