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Preview: Rund um Köln

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Rund_um_koln_logo_mediumDe Ronde is over. Time for der Rund. Tomorrow will see the 94th edition of the Rund um Köln, Germany's second-oldest cycling race still in existence (Rund um die Hainleite beats it by a year). It was first held back in 1908, a faraway time when cyclists were told they were absolutely forbidden to show their naked legs to the crowds. The organizers were hoping for trousers. The cyclists instead showed up sporting their mothers' silk stockings. Note: metrosexualism is apparently not a new trend in cycling.

From the 1930s through the 1980s, the Rund was mostly held as an amateur race, with pros invited back in 1990. Since then, winners have included Erik Dekker, Erik Zabel (twice), Frank Vandenbroucke, Jan Ullrich, Christian Knees, and JJ Haedo.

German riders consider this their home classic, and for that reason Milram is targeting it. Says DS Ralf Grabsch on the team website: "We look forward to our first race in Germany this year and want to show the German cycling fans how good we are. There are a lot of expectations of us as the only German ProTour team and we will do all we can to live up to them. And we also want to convey the fun of cycling to the many fans along the way and those watching on television."

More on the flip.

The course covers 200.6 hilly kilometers in and around the city of Köln, ending within sight of its famous cathedral:

  Rund_um_koln_parcours_medium 

While sprinters generally do well here, the Rund boasts 11 climbs including the cobbled Schloss Bensberg, whose gradient reaches 11% in parts. Profile looks nicely bumpy:

Rund_profile_smaller_medium 

Who's going to be there? Last year, upset over the then-most-recent doping scandals, the organizers decided to run the race with national teams instead of pros. This ensured that even if any doping scandal turned up at the race, there would be virtually no media coverage to report it. With a sadly reduced field, it also meant that exactly one PdC member scored VDS points.

Things are different this year--the 2010 edition sees a startlist populated by the likes of Andre Greipel, the Haedo brothers, Graeme Brown, and a newly-returned Mark Renshaw. Gerald Ciolek is also rumored to be back--but not, unfortunately, in the pros race. Still not fully recovered from his shoulder injury, he's said to be taking the start with some of Milram's staff in the amateur version.

When: Monday, April 5th. Race is scheduled to start at 10:45 CEST (4:45 am EDT, 1:45 am PDT, 6:45 pm AEST) with live coverage expected from 14:00 CEST (8 am EDT, 5 am PDT, 10 pm AEST). WDR is carrying it on TV, and both BVLS and MyP2P seem to think they'll be able to share it with us.

For more info, see the official site.