Yeah, I know that it’s a World Tour race. But just slapping the WT label on a race doesn’t change its actual SSR character. You’ve got only ten WT teams showing up, and some of them look to be only showing up to pick up a case of Apfelwein or do some banking (Bah Meh and Trek). At least the other German nominally-world-tour-but-probably-SSR-race has a funny sponsor-portmanteau moniker- Euroeyes Cyclassics - and a list of impressive sprinter victories. This race is all German efficiency- it starts in Eschborn and finishes in Frankfurt with a clockwork Alexander Kristoff victory.
It didn’t always have such an efficient moniker. The race was originally named the Rund um den Henninger Turm for the Henninger Tower, which was tallest building in Frankfurt at the time- a 33-story tall grain silo, where the Henninger Brewery stored its barley. The tower was demolished in 2013, to make way for some corporate headquarters or luxury condos or some such nonsense, depriving Frankfurt of its phallic skyline.
In the race’s first 30 years of existence, there was a drought of German victories with only three, though the second edition was won by Hans Moleman’s cousin, Hans Junkermann. In fact, the race was a largely Belgian affair in its first few decades and counts Eddy Merckx and Freddy Maertens as two of the more famous Belgian winners. Erik Zabel did manage to sprint to three victories and is currently tied with Kristoff for most wins.
Kristoff has won this race three years in a row-- 2014, 2016, and 2017 (In 2015, everyone forgot about the race and the organizers had to cancel it when only Rick Zabel showed up- yeah I know it was actually concern about a terrorist attack, but that’s no fun to talk about). Before that, though, in 2013, the race was won by the Swiss-by-way-of-Slovenia Thighmaster, Simon Spilak. And the year before that, it was won by the incredible-disappearing-Moser, Moreno. So, despite the Kristoff-fest of recent years, this is a race that can be won from a long attack on the final ascent, just like how Spilak and Moser (barely) succeeded in accomplishing their victories.
The Scheiße Klein Course
This year’s course looks a little tougher than the course used in recent editions. In the interest of German precision, I’ll call the course 7.634% harder. Like usual, the race will depart from Eschborn, climb the Feldberg and then do four circuits which take the riders over the Mammolshain four times, with the last ascent coming about 40 kilometers from the finish. This year, on the first two passes of the Mammolshain, the riders will reach the summit and then keep on climbing for approximately 200 vertical meters and 2.6 horizontal kilometers up the Billtalhohe and then after a quick descent, climb up the Ruppertshain.
The riders will then do two more passes of the Mammolshain without the Billtalhohe and Ruppertshain and will have a little impediment of the Hainer Weg about 15 kilometers from the finish. The Hainer Weg is very short, maxing out at 6 percent. While the Hainer Weg makes for some good juvenile jokes about the heiner path, it does not make a great spot to attack. It may, however, disrupt the charging peloton enough to give any break that gets away on the steepish Mammolshain a little extra bit of chance to make it to the finish.
The Scheiße Klein Contenders
Kristoff has won this race the last three editions, but if this year has taught us anything, it is that you cannot bank on a repeat performance, with Kittel failing in the Schedleprijs and Valverde losing in the Ardennes. While it is still a very small sample size of a third of one season, perhaps that one less rider per race is having an effect. So, even though you still have to pick Kristoff as one of the favorites, he will have to buck the current trend to get a win. To add to Kristoff’s woes, UAE hasn’t exactly been setting the roads on fire this season. Kristoff’s team is one rider down, but also considerably weaker than the Katusha team that supported him during his three victories.
Quickstep have Fernando Gaviria, who does not seem to be in race shape yet after being eliminated on the time trial stage in Romandie. Fabio Jakobsen has victories in Scheldeprijs and Nokere Koerse and would likely want to get his first World Tour victory, even if it’s in a shit small world tour race. They don’t really have anyone to attack over the Mammolshain, even though Yves Lampaert could potentially stay away on the run in if he was in his spring form.
Nacer Bouhanni is here for Cofidis. I’m just not sure that Boubou is actually here for Cofidis.
Pascal Ackermann is fresh off of his first pro and first World Tour win after taking Stage 5 in the Tour de Romandie. He’s looked good all spring, picking up podium finishes in three of the lesser Belgian one day races. He could get another podium in this race, though I think it will be hard for him to win because if he makes it in a group to the finish, Kristoff should also be in that group. Sam Bennett is also here for BORA, but who knows about his form or his health after not racing for more than a month.
Sunweb have a number of options - Phil Bauhaus, Michael Matthews, Edward Theuns, and Max Walscheid. Damned if I know who they’ll be riding for. Sunweb also just signed an extension with their title sponsor for an indefinite amount of time. While I ain’t no fancy contract lawyer, I’m pretty sure that an indefinite contract just means that Sunweb will agree to continue to be a sponsor until they don’t. Pretty revolutionary. So perhaps one of the riders should get a victory to convince Sunweb not to drop them tomorrow.
Eddy Boss is also here, but he’s likely just warming up for his Norwegian victory tour in May.
Rick Zabel has been looking to make his papa proud in this race and had a second place finish last year. It would take an unlikely scenario for him to win this race.
Moreno Hofland and Rudy Barbier are ostensibly still sprinters, and Marko Kump, Grega Bole, Marco Canola, Eduard Grosu, Justin Jules, and Andrea Pasqualon can all sneak a top 10 finish.
If a break goes free over the Mammolshain, it could contain the likes of Tony Gallopin, Enrico Gasparotto, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Simon Spilak, Emanuel Buchmann, Gregor Muhlberger, Odd Christian Eiking, or any number of Roompots. Gasparotto and Spilak would be the form picks.
SSR Highly-Efficient Beer Pairing
This past weekend, I had to bring my three year old son to a neighbor’s birthday party that was held at this indoor trampoline playground. Afterwards, the birthday boy’s parents, who are German, gave me a Perlenbacher pilsner that they were able to pick up from a Lidl supermarket that had recently opened near my neighborhood (Now Lidl won’t just have me thinking about Niki Terpstra’s ass). Honestly, I don’t know whether the beer was objectively good. However, after spending 2 hours trying to supervise screaming three, four, and five year olds as they bashed against themselves on trampolines, it was one of the best beers I have ever tasted. I’m sure it will do after enduring Eschborn-Frankfurt tomorrow.
In the alternative, get a sixer of Henninger Brau, a bag of skittles, and enjoy the race and your beer the way it should be.