Race Design Thread

Page 304 - Get up to date with the latest news, scores & standings from the Cycling News Community.
Apr 10, 2019
545
3
1,085
@railxmig:
Your Valles stage is awesome, I really like those climbs around Brixen/Bressanone (I've climbed nearly all of them) and I've actually worked in the former bishops palace as a stagiaire. The side of the Rodenecker Alm that you're using as a descent is totally fine, I climbed it last summer when they had 38° C down in Brixen and they also used in the Tour of the Alpes.

About the Resia / Reschen am See stage, on paper it looks like a great stage, but the whole area i known for the strong northwind that is often blowing, the Vinschgerwind, so the risk of having a strong headwind on the final climb is really high.

Other than that really like your Giro route, great work
 
Stage 2: Viborg - Brande, 122km





No GPMs in this stage, but still plenty of challenge. Yes, it's pan flat, but while we've got a stage that looks like it should be a sprinters' stage, there's still plenty of chance that it won't be. Partly because there is always the possibility of the wind blowing across this part of the world, and partly because... this.



That's right: a lot of dirt, because we're in GP Herning territory here. Introduced in 1992, this is one of the several races around Europe that have attempted to piggy-back the whole Paris-Roubaix thing since the tarmacking of most of western Europe, by using dirt, gravel, mud and whatever they can lay their hands on to provide a spectacle. Of course, Tro Bro Léon is the most famous of these, and many of the others are restricted to the local national scenes, such as the Rutland-Melton Classic in the UK and the Slag om Norg in the Netherlands. Occasionally an existing pro race will try and reinvent itself in that fashion, such as Schaal Sels' infamous cornfield sectors, so by comparison GP Herning is a reasonable level race which has been fairly consistent in its running since the early 1990s. Winners include Bjarne Riis (three times), Frédéric Moncassin, Claus Michael Møller, Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Frank Høj, while in recent years the race has fallen in status to become more of a domestic concern and currently runs without UCI categorization, last being a UCI race in 2013. Still - with up to 16 dirt road sectors, it has the potential to be very selective.

So let's put the smaller sized teams and more aggressive racing style of the women's péloton on it.



Obviously, of course, we're not just doing GP Herning but with the women's péloton. In it's pro days it was around 200km long and even as a .NE event it is up above the 180km mark, which would be abnormally long in the women's péloton - that's the kind of length that, at the current time, would be reserved for a sort of women's San Remo equivalent. So we're not just doing that. It's also a pretty long transfer from Rebild. Instead, therefore, we're starting in Viborg, around 60km northeast of Herning, and the centre of Denmark's second largest municipality (amongst Denmark proper, so not counting Greenland). With 40.000 urban inhabitants (the municipality includes many outlying towns and villages so is more than double this) it's one of Denmark's oldest cities (the name comes from Old Norse, meaning "holy fort/castle") but has in recent years been restyling itself as a Danish centre for sporting excellence.

Although to the outside world Viborg is mainly known for its world class handball team, it did hold its own bike race briefly, at the 1.2 level, from 2015 to 2017, and has also hosted the Post Danmark Rundt a few times, most recently in 2018 when it was the departure point for the queen stage to Vejle. It last hosted a stage finish in 2006, with Aitor Galdos winning from a four-up sprint ahead of René Haselbacher, Stuey Mate O'Grady and Manuel Quinziato. As there's not a great deal of geographical interest in its immediate vicinity so far as cycling terrain goes, however, it tends to more commonly see action as a stage start than a stage finish, and so we stick to tradition today. On the way to Herning, we pass through a couple of small towns, most notably Kjellerup, home to Danish actor Søren Malling, best known as one of the stars of Danish cult hit Forbrydelsen (aka "The Killing"), which was one of the shows that really kickstarted the popularity of Scandinavian crime thrillers and noirs in recent years (Malling's character is second only to Sofie Gråbøl's central Hauptfigur).



The dirt roads pepper the second half of the stage and in fact start before even reaching Herning, with three sectors coming before the famous cycling city but after the neighbouring town of Ikast. It would have been easy to make the finish in Herning - after all, the city is more or less Denmark's home of cycling culture, with its eponymous Grand Prix and it being the home town of Bjarne Riis and all - but there's also more to that. When the Giro d'Italia started in Denmark in 2012, Herning was where they chose to put it; an ITT and then two consecutive sprint stages with nary a climb in sight, but the kind of roads that might be safe for a 120-strong domestic péloton in the Danish national tour but are not safe with a 66% uplift in rider numbers, with the organizers already somewhat sensitive following the tragic events of the previous year's race, the disastrous start to a disastrous race, with three stages where the only life breathed into them was crashes, put a dampener on the whole experience, and to this day the 2012 Giro in Denmark is the gold standard of bad overseas départs - though one could say that at least unlike Belfast a couple of years later or Israel in 2018, at least they weren't deliberately avoiding obstacles, they just didn't have many to work with. Still: that GT départ was more or less seen as Zomegnan's parting gift, with the popular maverick madman ensuring that his successor's tenure got off to a poorly-received start.

Herning also saw the European Championships in 2017, meaning several of the women will have already raced on these roads - highlights beginning here - having participated back then. The star of the show back then was local girl Pernille Mathiesen, winning both the U23 TT and RR, but at the same time the show was also somewhat stolen by her compatriot Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who won silver in the TT, who was already somewhat more established in the pro bunch (she of course won the U23 jersey in the WWT that year) - but if my memory serves me correctly this was where the "Cille + Microphone = Gold" truism first really came to pass, as she dropped several f-bombs in her unique style while recapping the race - though all I can now find is her trying her best to make Pernille corpse in the interview. And being pretty successful at that. A number of others from those races have gone on to the pro ranks now - Juliette Labous is now a teammate of Pernille's and Floortje Mackaij's at Sunweb, Nikola Nosková is now a teammate of Cille's at Bigla, Clara Koppenburg is now at WNT, Lisa Klein has some strong World Tour results with Canyon, Karlijn Swinkels is at Alé-Cipollini. Emma Norsgaard Jørgensen took a bronze medal in the Junior TT behind the Italian star duo of Pirrone and Paternoster, and a silver in the RR behind Lorena Wiebes. In the U23 race Mathiesen was able to survive a few seconds ahead of the bunch, with Susanne Andersen outsprinting Alice Barnes for the silver.

The elite races were pretty star-studded as you might expect, though. Having put their best riders in the U23 event, the Danes were fairly quiet in the TT and RR, with the former being a Dutch plaything, placing three riders in the top 4 - Ellen van Dijk winning overall, Anna van der Breggen taking bronze and Lucinda Brand 4th; only Ann-Sophie Duyck was able to interrupt their procession, taking silver - and that was almost a minute behind Ellen. Marianne Vos won the Road Race in a three-up sprint, beating two-time World Champion Giorgia Bronzini and relegating Olga Zabelinskaya to the same role she fulfilled at the 2012 Olympic Road Race, a few seconds ahead of the chasing pack.



The Herning European Championships courses didn't really use the dirt and gravel, however, relying on the weather to make the differences. I am not so generous, even though hard flat racing can often produce significant time gaps in women's cycling (just look at the recent Healthy Ageing Tour for an example). Instead, seeing as this is a country which is predominantly flat, I can't just make this puncheuse stage after puncheuse stage even if I might want to see Cille win this hypothetical race. So, this one's for the rouleuses.



This is the map of the 2015 GP Herning. We are arriving from the right of screen, taking on both of the long red gravel sections to the top right before heading into Herning, not clearly marked but obvious enough from that map. We then have an intermediate sprint in Herning itself - 57km from the line - before heading southwards to take on more gravel in the form of following the next three dirt sections southbound (these are therefore in the reverse direction from the GP Herning). At this point we deviate from their route, to take in a further southern section, before one more section in order before the finish in the small town of Brande, a railway town of 7.000 inhabitants, which is undergoing rapid development of a business and industrial complex intended to include some humongous skyscrapers, for reasons which are beyond me.



This means that we have the following gravel sectors in our race:
- Frølundvej (1480m) - 72km
- followed immediately by (same video) En Markvej (1960m)
- "En Grussti" Lund (620m) - 61km
- Høgilgårdvej (3760m) - 46km
- Gottenborgvej (2470m) - 38km
- Sandfeldvej (2900m) - 30km
- Lavlundvej-Julsgårdvej (2010m) - 18km

Should be some utter carnage, with 15,2km of dirt roads for the péloton to handle. Let's see if we can't give the climbers something to work back.
 
What, that's literally my training roads around Støvring and Rebild, 30 km south of Aalborg or so. When going on long ride, I pretty much always end up there and is always taking on this loop where theres like 3 climbs in 5 km after descending Rebild Bakken and then climbing it after the loop. There one climb that particularly hard which is called Kridtbakken which is very similar to a flemish climb, climb.dk has it at 750 metres at 6,7%, but it has some nice 10% stretches towards the top since the start of the climb is pretty easy. Its on smaller roads so I dont really know if its easy to use in a pro peloton. I personally like this climb a lot more than Rebild Bakken which is on a lot wider roads.

The area is very well known to most cyclists around here and it does also host a lot of bike racing. Road-racing wise, I have taken part in Rundt om Rold which is 110 km long, climbing Rebild Bakken twice and ending up top of the climb, just like your stage does. Last year I actually got the GPM (yes, they had such a contest) on the climb with one second since I sat in the big group behind the escapers which gassed themselves out on the course and won a jersey, glasses and another free race from their catalogue. I went to Djursland a couple of month later to take on Mols Bjerge Grand Prix which also is a mountainous race by Danish standards, climbing one of the longer climbs in Denmark, Agri at 3,4 km at 3,2% (Valgren as the KOM on Strava). Thats also some nice terrain for bike racing in Denmark. I wouldn't say Rebild Bakke it consistent though, the long first part of the climb is a drag at about 3-5% on straight roads, but then the road begins to change towards the top with some bends and lots of trees where the gradient picks up towards 7-10% for the last 300 metres or so. Thats the really hard part, but its still very much a punchy sort of climb obviously. I also do remember Matti winning from the stands in 2009 - me and my friends thought it was one for the climbers since we thought that climb was super tough. :D

Of other races they also hosted the Carlos Sastre-classic. Sastre won the Tour for Riis and CSC in 2008 so he is very well known in Denmark. The deal was you could get to ride with him and speak to him during and after the race, but unfortunately the year I signed up they had to cancel due lack of people signing up for the race. There's also some great MTB-tracks which are really, really hilly and hard, so there's a lot of racing going on there, probably most notably the 12-hour (or 18-hour, I dont remember) race which you race as a team of 4, taking shifts gaining laps/kms. There's also a pretty big tri environment since its very ideal to run, ride and also swim around there.

In your Aarhus writeup, I do miss one person though, the legendary Jørgen Leth, commentator of Tour de France for 30 years on Danish TV and producer of the Paris-Roubaix movie, A Sunday in Hell from 1976:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxBTVU9JDrA
 
I apologise for the oversight (PS is he any relation to Julie?), and hope I did a reasonable job of designing around your home roads then!

Stage 3a: Silkeborg - Silkeborg, 12,7km (ITT)





The third day is a split stage, beginning with this, a straightforward ITT of a middling kind of length for a women's race, in the east-central Jutland city of Silkeborg. With just over 40.000 inhabitants, the city is close to the geographic centre of Denmark, so we've retraced our steps somewhat from the day one stage. It grew out of a fortified small town after a paper mill was established in the town in the 19th Century, and like many such cities it grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution. This area is known as the Søhøjlandet, or the lake highlands, which is quite hilarious because "highlands" in Denmark are around 90m above sea level, although there are some hills around here - more on them later though. These enable the city to - no joke - house a ski resort, as it has natural snow, although its value as a 'real' ski resort to any experienced skier is limited owing to the restricted size of the resort thanks to the low altitude of the hills. The city has a slightly bizarre trip through history, some of which we will discuss as we go along.



Silkeborg is also connected to cycling; it has hosted the Post Danmark Rundt several times, most recently in 2013 when it was the grand départ. In 2012 it also hosted the race, as the departure point for the traditional Vejle stage. It does not tend to host stage finishes in the Danmark Rundt, but the same cannot be said of the women's side of the game, where Silkeborg hosts a round of the national cup tournament - originally part of the Pinse Cuppen stage race, this downgraded to a one-day race around Silkeborg in 2014. Julie Leth won the stage (and the eventual GC) in 2012, Christina Siggaard won the 2014 one-day race, Swedish star Sara Mustonen-Lichan won in 2015, ahead of a couple of now pro riders - a then-16-year-old Susanne Andersen and a 15-year-old Emma Norsgaard Jørgensen! Andersen won a future star-studded edition a year later ahead of Siggaard and Mathiesen, with Amalie Dideriksen - four months away from rainbows - taking 5th, while Pernille moved up to 1st in 2017. Last year's edition was a bit less exciting for the future, with most of the stars now in the pro ranks, and 42-year-old Louise Holm Houbak taking the win, five minutes ahead of the field which seemed mostly to consist of journeywomen, and the few pros there were - Siggaard, Møllebro and Norsgaard - seemed less than interested in chasing her down.

The city is also the home of Designa Køkken, a Danish Continental team which ran for ten years from 2005 to 2014 and who were the jumping-off point for a number of Danish pros to reach the professional ranks. Chris Anker Sørensen, Thomas Vedel Kvist, Rasmus Guldhammer, Alex Rasmussen, Martin Mortensen and Laurent Didier got their starts at Designa Køkken, while Sergey Firsanov, Mads Christensen and Aleksejs Saramotins passed through mid career too. Their most famous alumnus also scored their greatest success, which was when the 2008 Danmark Rundt was won by Designa Køkken rider and, to that point, mountainbike specialist, Jakob Fuglsang. Birdsong's victory was built around a 2nd place (behind Breschel) in the decisive Vejle stage and then a superior performance in the ITT in Kerteminde to take the lead; this performance earnt him a stagiare job at CSC, and the rest, as they say, is history.



My TT will also be potentially one of the decisive stages, but it comes before the most decisive hilly stages, Rebild HTF or no Rebild HTF. It starts on Vestergade and then heads east-south-eastward, toward the shores of the inland mini-lake Ørnsø. This is an interesting dual-history lake - the Arnakkekilden spring that feeds Ørnsø has been used by Carlsberg for springwater for many decades, but also at the opposite end of the lake from the road we take in the TT lies Silkeborg Bad, a former sanatorium which was re-appropriated during the Nazi occupation as the Danish headquarters of the Gestapo (no, really). Now restored, the baths are nevertheless not used for their original intended purpose, instead being converted into a museum of the remaining extant bunkers from WWII.



The next part of the TT is a long straightish section culminating in Funder Bakke, which is 1300m at a pretty much consistent 5,2%, so I wouldn't think that this is sufficient to really be a detriment to the time triallists - certainly nobody is going to be changing bike for this one. This is enough that the climbers might be able to limit their losses enough to stay interested in the hillier stages to come, but not so much that they won't still have some marked deficits to the better rouleuses. Well, obviously this doesn't mean the Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggens of this world. They're great at both climbing and TTing, but then that's why they're among the best. Denmark's hopes here will potentially be with TT specialist Pernille Mathiesen, though at the same time the three-time defending national champion in the discipline is Cille, who will also be their best hope in the climbing stages so, as long as she hasn't been caught out by the dirt roads which better suit Pernille and Amalie, she will likely be Denmark's best hope of a race leader at this stage.

After a right turn in Funder itself, there's a couple of corners on a slight downhill before a second uphill of 300m at 5,3% which is around a series of corners, the only technical challenge of the day. After this, it's a short downhill ride to the shores of Silkeborg Langsø, from which point it's a straight drag race of power on wide open roads, with only the one significant right turn at the top of the lake onto Borgergade, which then becomes Christian 8s Vej, before we turn right ahead of the town museum, to finish on the southern shores of the lake on Søvej.


Stage finish, heading left to right.

It's also only a fairly short stage because there's an afternoon semitappe too.
 
Stage 3b: Silkeborg - Ry, 86km





GPM:
Funder Bakken (1300m @ 5,2%)
Himmelbjerget (1400m @ 6,4%)
Bomholtvej x3 (720m @ 6,3%)
Knudhulebakken x3 (650m @ 5,8%)

We set off from Silkeborg, so there's zero distance to move after the ITT before the afternoon road stage. This is also the hometown of Jesper Skibby, one of Denmark's more famous pro cyclists, who was a star of the 80s and 90s and the only Dane to have won stages of all three Grand Tours. He comes from a pro cycling family, with father Willy racing the Olympic Road Race in the amateur days in 1976 and sister Karina, a year younger, also racing in the Olympics in the late 80s and early 90s. Jesper is the only one of the three to be born in Silkeborg, however.

Despite winning stages of all three Grand Tours, often with escapes in flat or rolling stages (his GT stages are spread from 1989 to 1995, and the last of these, in the 1995 Vuelta stage from Ávila to Palazuelos de Eresma (Destilerías DYC), was the only one you'd call a mountain stage of some description, including the Puerto de Navacerrada), and despite an epic escape on the final day in the Amstel Gold hills bringing him the victory in the Ronde van Nederland in 1994 (finishing a minute and a half up on the field), he will perhaps be best remembered for this incident, where the Ronde van Vlaanderen race directors' car ran over the bike of the race leading Skibby's bike, before taking out a marshal trying to help the stricken Dane, on the Koppenberg. The incident was responsible for an almost 20 year moratorium on the climb being used in the Ronde, until it was restored to the route in 2004. He also has five stage wins in his national tour and a national chmapionship in the ITT, although the veracity of these have been cast into doubt by his post-career confession of doping. By Skibby's own timeline, he was riding clean at the time of that Koppenberg incident (although he was break fodder only at that point) and would have won his sole Giro stage (in 1989) before starting to dope. However, his results from 1991 on are with the help of steroids, from 1992 he started using testosterone and HGH, and by 1993 it was full-blown EPO. A reminder, these are Skibby's own timelines. He has also appeared on a TV show discussing the long-term impact on his health of the several years of continued doping. And, in more light hearted business, he appeared on Denmark's version of Dancing With The Stars, although he was less than impressive in his rhythm, being second man eliminated. Best stick to two wheels, Jesper!



Anyway: onto the stage. Hill-climbing time is here again as we depart for the afternoon semitappe in the Silkeborg area. This is a somewhat hilly part of Denmark, as mentioned, although the first climb of the day is a repeat of Funder Bakken from the ITT so everybody should be familiar with it - and while it is at least a platform for attacking from, it's unlikely that it's going to ensure a strong BOTD type move in the same way that sustained and difficult climbing can. The first 30-35km of the stage are a loop around to the southwest of the city before the serious body of the stage begins.



Standing at a whopping 147m above sea level (don't laugh), Himmelbjerget is one of the highest points in Denmark, or at least Denmark proper (so not counting the Faroes and Greenland which are self-governing). It's actually not as high as a neighbouring peak, despite having been thought to be Denmark's highest point for decades - this is mainly due to a visual trick because of Himmelbjerget rising sharply out of the lake, therefore giving the impression of a steeper incline and a higher end point. The tower at the top is now the icon of the hill, and was built in the 19th Century to honour King Fredrik VII. With 1400m at 6,4% and a sizable car park at the summit due to its status as a tourist attraction it is perhaps Denmark's best option for a HTF, but I have elected not to do so, instead descending into Gammel Rye, the original version of today's host town, which was rendered obsolete by being inaccessible to the railways; the new town of Ry was built around the station for convenience, meaning a significant demographic shift away from the original town.

We don't actually pass the finishing line the first time into Ry, but we do go close - so we in effect have three full laps of a 13,9km circuit around the town, including two potential platforms for attacking. The first of these is Bomholtvej, which we're not doing the full version - the 2,4km @ 3,5% on that page - of, but rather the most important part, 720m @ 6,3%, and then a right hand turn onto Oksevejen, which is sort of uphill false flat, so there is not an instant release to the riders if they do push it on this climb - it's not long, enough to give it a thought and use as a platform, but you'd need a good selection and the right composition of the group to make it work. This is passed at 35,5, 21,6 and 7,7km from the line. After descending into Tulstrup (well, "descending" seeing as it's at 1-2%) and a short trip along Knudsø, we have the second climb of the circuit, a 650m climb which crests at 30km, 16,1km and 2,2km from the line, so this will be the key option for an escape, as it is close to the line. Knudhulebakken, as the climb is called, is only 650m at 6%, so not a climb you would say is decisive - however with it being close to the line, it will be interesting to find out whether it's a bunch at this stage, or a small group. And who is in it.

Now: among the bunch - can the pace be raised enough by the climber types to get rid of the sprinters, or can they hold on? The Lepistös and Riveras will likely be able to hold on, but can they get rid of the Hoskings and Wiebes' of this world? Bastianelli in this season's form will be comfortable, sure, but is she there in the group to begin with? Dideriksen? Lots of questions. Now, if it's a smaller group, because they've got a couple of representatives from Boels, Trek, Canyon and the other big teams up there and they're happy to let them go... who's there? Who wants to take it to a sprint and who wants to use the final climb as a platform to attack?
 
Oct 19, 2015
464
0
0
It's rather unfortunate timing to post this during the Eshnar's Giro analysis but i want to have this out of my way.

Volta ao Província do Rio de Janeiro (or whatever the name for it should be).
https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/tours/view/11632

A week-long race in the Rio de Janeiro province with a crucial parts inside the Sao Paulo province. I assume many of the roads and climbs are mostly known for you. The stages are quite long, mainly because the distances between the cities are large. Sorry for awful naming conventions but i know nothing about Portuguese. The KOM categorisation is cat. 2 for easier climbs, cat. 1 for harder and sort of a HC/Cima Coppi for the hardest climb of the race. Below you'll see the stage list with a short description for each one.



Arrial do Cabo prologue


The race kicks off in a seaside resort located on a very exposed peninsula east of Rio. there are some nice cobbled hills on said peninsula but they lead to nowhere and i don't want to be too ridiculous with this race. The start and finish are on Praia Grande beach and the prologue also goes in front of Praia dos Anjos beach on the other side of the town.



Cabo Frio - Campos dos Goytacazes


A flat stage near the coast finishing at the largest city of the northern parts of the province. Starting from Macaé the last 90km or so are quite exposed and if the wind is blowing east from the Atlantic Ocean then there may be a slight chance for echelons.



Campos dos Goytacazes - Nova Friburgo


Tried to include RJ-150 as it has cobbled parts but then it turns into a (i guess manageable) sterrato before changing into a rather broken tarmac. Question is... do i care about that? I guess this tour is not a realistic prospect so i guess i can fantasize a bit. There's also a small climb to Nova Suíça 7km before the finish. Almost the entire city is cobbled but it's also very hilly and i didn't wanted to have any cobbled descents. The finish line is on cobbled, slightly uphill Avenida Alberto Braune.





RJ-150.



Nova Friburgo - Petrópolis


Libertine once mentioned in passing this cobbled Velha da Estrela road, which is sort of a Brasilian Gotthardpass. The cobbles aren't difficult at all but i guess they may be slightly rougher than those on Gotthardpass. Accompanying it are very similar (but on tarmac) climbs to Teresópolis and a climb between Teresópolis and Petrópolis that i don't know the name of. I've named it after a nearby peak Pedra do Carneiro. All of today's climbs would be decent TdF cat. 1. To descent from Petrópolis to then climb back to the city via Velha da Estrela i've decided to borrow a bit of the Rio de Janeiro - Belo Horizonte highway.




Estrada Velha da Estrela.



Iguatai - Cunha


An inconspicuous town in the middle of nowhere that's nearby a gargantuous climb on the Paraty - Guaratinguetá road. I think this road was recently surfaced as before that it was just a small dirt path. I don't know if it's entirely surfaced or not. On the São Paulo side the road is wide and in good condition. This stage finishes in the São Paulo province, which is crossed on top of the day's sole climb. The climb (of unknown to me name) is roughly 16km at 9%. You may compare it with Finestre. The surface is unknown to me but most likely it's pavement-like (as per streetview, when the road works were being done). The top is roughly 26km from the finish line.


Profile of the Cunha climb.



Guaratinguetá - Volta Redonda


A transitional stage before the finale in Rio to bring back the peloton back to the Rio province. It may end up in either a sprint of a breakaway.



Rio de Janeiro ITT


A nightmare stage to design as the routing services seems to not now what to do inside this metropolis. I decided to not care and just ticked any landmark boxes there were, which also inclues the maracana stadium. I guess the final podium may be in the stadium's vincinity if there's no football going on. It seems the altimetrias in Rio are janky so don't pay any attention to the "toothing" on the profile. Worth noting are the Estrada das Paineiras leading to the entrance to that famous Jesus statue and roughly 600m at 10% cobbled Rua Santa Cristina.


Rua Santa Cristina.
 
Stage 4: Vejle - Vejle, 126km





GPM:
Munkebjerg x2 (1250m @ 7,1%)
Kiddevej x4 (450m @ 11,1%)
Julius Jepsens Vej x2 (610m @ 11,5%)
Kongebakken x4 (475m @ 13,7%)
Gl. Hornstrupvej x4 (760m @ 7,6%)

Well, here it is. I'm sorry to be predictable, but there's little getting around it. Every traceur and traceuse knows it, just as every race designer in reality knows it, every rider who's ever done time in the local péloton knows it, anybody who's ever watched the national race knows it: if you want a selective hilly stage in Denmark, you go to one place, and to one place only. And that place, of course, is Vejle.



Sitting at the mouth of the Vejlefjord, the city of the same name has been in existence since the 12th Century, and has a current population of around 55.000, with around double that in the entire metropolitan area once suburbs and outlying towns in the valleys around the city are taken into account. With the Vejle Fjord being the highest-sided in Denmark, the forested hills around the city make for some of the most interesting scenery that this generally flat country has to offer - and by far its best cycling terrain. It built its reputation as a city of industry in the 19th Century, when its strong focus on textile industries led to debatably favourable comparisons to Manchester in the UK, then a north European stronghold for the trade. It remained loyal to the industry long after it faded from prominence, until the final cotton mill closed its doors in the 1990s as the city looked to revive its fortunes as a service industry city - with this now coming to fruition with Vejle attracting a number of data and software companies.

It has a dual sporting prominence in Denmark - as the country's most memorable and well-supported cycling location, and also for Vejle Boldklub, a prominent and successful football team which has won the Danish title on several occasions. And although there are some famous people outside of the field to call the city home - current Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and composer Jakob Gade for example - for the most part, the city's favourite sons and daughters all come from the field of sport. For example, former Vejle, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Barcelona forward Allan Simonsen, the first and, to date, only Dane to ever win European Footballer of the Year. He's one of many - Johnny Hansen, former Bayern München fullback, Manchester United and Saint Etienne fullback John Sivebæk, for example - plus there are a few slightly odd curveballs such as Ole Mortensen, the most prominent of a rare breed of (non-Dutch) Continental Europeans to play professional cricket. More recently, former Everton and - strangely - Real Madrid hardman Thomas Gravesen, a maniac defensive midfielder who the aforementioned Sivebæk served as agent for - he once initiated a fight at a training session after using his physical attributes to take out then-teammate - and future rapist - Robinho, was sanctioned by his club for firing fireworks at Wayne Rooney, and since his career has made millions in Las Vegas gambling markets. But though he is not the most famous or most notorious sportsman to come out of Vejle, at least for this forum, at least the Danes can call him their own, which is not the case for the man this forum surely thinks of first.



Born to a Swiss father and a Danish mother in Vejle, Tony Rominger is one of cycling's most famous - if not its most famous outright - late bloomer stories, a combination of late adoption to the sport of cycling, and of early adoption to the abuse of EPO, leading to his coming to great prominence in the early 90s in the Grand Tours, despite not having displayed much promise for stage racing early on - though he had shown capability as a climber, winning the Giro dell'Emilia and Giro di Lombardia in the late 80s. Nevertheless, his results improved through 1990, and though a 1991 season with Toshiba was a bit of a blip, upon moving to Spanish team Clas-Cajastur in 1992, a new star was born. A crash meant that Rominger lost three minutes in the first long ITT in the Vuelta, but ONCE's dedication to defending champion Melcior Mauri meant he was given a bit of an easy ride the following day, before in the Luz Ardiden stage Mauri bonked completely, leading that team to recalculate. By this time, Rominger was fully recovered and he dropped everybody on the final climb, losing only to Lale Cubino who had been in the early breakaway. After Lale was dropped at Covadonga and Delgado was unable to drop Rominger, the Swiss took the lead two days from the finish in the Fuenlabrada TT (then took the following day's stage after Óscar Vargas was disqualified for having too much coffee pre-race) and his first GT win. Suddenly, the doors were open, it was like a lightbulb had been switched on in his legs.

1993 was the real change year though. Tony lost the prologue and the Navacerrada MTT to younger compatriot Alex Zülle, but won the MTFs at Cerler and Cruz de la Demanda to take the lead, before a classic solo win on Monte Naranco where he foreshadowed Heras several years later by attacking a rainy descent where Zülle was unsteady, which enabled him to cover for his losses to the younger man in the final TT, Rominger completely flipping his modus operandi from the previous year, eventually winning all three major classifications and becoming the first rider since Merckx to do said Grand Slam, and the first to do so at La Vuelta. He ran roughshod over the Spanish calendar, also winning País Vasco, the Setmana Catalana and the Subida a Urkiola, and also took his new-found climbing nous to the Tour de France where, in the middle of Indurain's domination phase, he took three stage wins - two in high mountain stages, at Serre-Chevalier and Isola 2000, and one in, remarkably, an ITT, becoming the only rider to beat Indurain in a full length flat TT in his reign of terror at Le Tour (Thierry Marie's prologue performance was rather before Indurain's full strength became known, and Ugrumovs' win was a mountain TT) in the process. He took the polka dots, before, having matched one feat not achieved since Merckx in '93, he decided to start some new ones: moving to Mapei the following year, in the 1994 Vuelta Tony won the prologue before stretching his lead by two minutes on Sierra Nevada; nobody realistically challenged him from then on, making him the first rider to win three Vueltas back to back (a feat that to date has only been matched by Roberto Heras, and we all know that that 2005 result has been passed back and forth a couple of times which means it's difficult to know whether to count it, though officially at time of writing Heras is the winner of that race), and also the last man to have won a Grand Tour after leading start to finish. He then beat the hour record - twice - for good measure. Traditionally peaking his season in May, when the Vuelta moved to September a year later, he forwent the race, riding the Giro instead, where he fell just one stage short of repeating the feat, winning two of the first four stages - a TT and a mountain stage - then winning two more TTs for good measure to take the GC by over 4 minutes. This Rominger, despite being 34 years old, was arguably the most dominant, and was selected with the 13th overall pick of the Fantasy Doping Draft - which sparked a response from hrotha, "about time!" thanks to feeling that this was a grotesque underrating of his wattage and power at the time. The mid 90s were the wild west. Though he podiumed the Vuelta in 1996, his heyday was over, and after a fall in the 1997 Tour and a broken collarbone, he decided enough was enough, which enabled his partner in crime, Dr Michele Ferrari, who had been trackside for his hour record attempts, to move on to pastures new, while Tony focused on more mundane tasks like managing Cadel Evans.

And in case you thought "hey, that's too much talk about doping in the 90s, let's talk about the stage, I thought I'd add that Virtu team owner Bjarne Riis (who of course has absolutely nothing to do with doping in the 90s) has a house in the town.

Anyway!

The stage consists of two circuits, each of which is taken twice. The first is a long loop (42,6km in length), with five categorized climbs, and the second a shorter one (20,5km) with three. The first climb and third climb feature on the long circuit only.

Climb 1: Munkebjerg


Hosting, as you can see, a motor racing hillclimb event, Munkebjerg comes with 119 and 76km remaining. It starts off steep - the first 100m are at 10,7% - before settling in at around 6%, until a late tramo of 150m at 13%. This climb could ensure a decent strength breakaway, but it isn't going to be decisive bearing in mind it isn't on the final circuit.

Climb 2: Kiddevej


Video
Denmark's most famous climb, this 450m berg averages 11% and is kind of like the Scandinavian Steiler Wand, with walls of fans welcoming the Post Danmark Rundt every late July/early August. In the Men's race, the climb is usually the decisive one, with a short - less than 6km - circuit incorporating it and with the finish only a few hundred metres from the summit. Here, it retains a level of importance but with the finish moving back into the middle of the city, it is the third from last climb, so is not the be all and end all. Nevertheless as one of the steepest climbs of the day it is an excellent platform for attack - coming at 110, 67, 38 and 18km from home. In the often very aggressive women's péloton, with the attrition caused by the multitude of climbs, and the possibility of some strong moves with a number of teams represented, this could well be a strong platform for attack.

Climb 3: Julius Jepsens Vej
Video

While Kiddevej might be the Meerane of Denmark, Julius Jepsens Vej is more like a Kemmelberg, or possibly even the Molenberg, although the latter sees its rough cobbles often being its decisive characteristic. This is the narrowest climb of the day, and has a maximum gradient of 17%. It only features on the long loop so it won't be where decisive moves are made, but it may well tell us who won't feature at the business end. It comes with 103 and 61km remaining. Also, helpfully for its decisiveness, there is no descent afterwards either, so there's no recovery at the end of Julius Jepsens Vej - you'll have to keep riding hard if you couldn't meet the tempo. Sucks to be you.

Climb 4: Kongebakken


Even tougher than Kiddevej is this combination of Gl. Kongevej with the ridable part of Chr. Winthersvej (the first part of this road is not achievable in a race), 475m averaging nearly 14%. The almighty climbs.dk records its stats:
46m @ 13%
163m @ 16%
50m @ 17,5%
30m @ 3%
70m @ 16,6%
105m @ 11%

This is likely to be the most decisive climb of the day, featuring with 97, 54, 34 and 13km remaining. It does often feature in the Danmark Rundt Vejle stages, but because of the focus on the traditional Kiddevej circuit, it is often not in a position to be decisive. This is not only a shame, but a real disappointment given that there could easily be variety in which climbs got focal status in the race. At the same time, this could therefore be used as a point of differentiation for the women's Tour of Denmark should my race come to pass.

Climb 5: Gl. Hornstrupvej
Video

The last climb of the day is not the toughest but it is a great coda that naturally follows on from Kongebakken on the way back into town, serving as something of a Bosberg to Kongebakken's Muur, or a Luz Ardiden to Kongebakken's Tourmalet. Or a Pordoi to Kongebakken's Fedaia (Fedaia!). You get the picture. 760m at 7,6% are the overall stats, but the key part is in the middle, with 200m at 10% then 100m at 14%, before easing up to just 8% and then eventually to false flat. This is the last roll of the dice, coming with 91, 48, 28 and 8 km remaining. Eight kilometres which are predominantly flat and mostly quite straight, so it may be difficult to stay away from a faster moving group behind on your own - however with 16 categorized climbs on the day I don't think we're going to see any large groups any time soon. The descent back into the town is very late on - but with it being unlikely we see a full péloton at the decisive end of proceedings here, and with it being on the wide open Horsensvej, I don't see this being in any way a problem. For the record, though, it's 925m at 5,5%, then there's a left-hander onto the finishing straight which comes 800m from the end of the descent.



Thanks to Ulrik Møberg for that photo - we only really have one piece of evidence for what to expect of the women racing in Vejle, and that is an amateur Class A race in the town in 2012. As you can see, the podium went on to become pretty useful in the international scene; a six-woman group fought out the victory, several minutes up on the field, and the 29-year old domestic veteran Britt Lauenborg and 33-year-old Betina Cramer (along with another junior-age competitor, Louise Marie Olsen) were taught a swift lesson by a then 19-year-old Julie Leth, who narrowly took the victory ahead of a 16-year-old Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and a recently-turned-18 Christina Siggaard.

Great though that may be as a starting point, though, it's not really an adequate reference for today, due to a combination of the inexperience of the now-pro competitors and the lack of depth in the Danish national péloton at the time. Nor can we take into account the 2000 national championships that took place in Vejle, which were won by the long-retired Mette Fisher Andreasen. We need to look at some other races for an indication of what to expect from a race which is chocked full of small climbs - with their short lengths, races like Emakumeen Bira and La Flèche Wallonne are no good as a comparison, but at the same time Amstel Gold, the most obvious jumping off point, finishes shortly after the Cauberg which makes it harder to say is comparable - though the type of climbs are perhaps most similar.

Another option is the Sittard stage of the Boels Rentals Tour, which uses the smaller climbs, especially recently when using the Tom Dumoulin Bike Park.
- 2018, Chantal Blaak won solo ahead of a group of 40 or so
- 2017, Janneke Ensing dropped Lucinda Brand and Kasia Niewiadoma with the 35-40-strong bunch a minute back
- 2016, Niewiadoma won an uphill sprint from a group of 6, the remainder of a 15-strong breakaway splintered at various timegaps with the bunch several minutes down

Other potential races to use as a starting point could be the Garnich stage of the GP Elsy Jacobs, the GP Plouay, the GP Plumelec, and - once it happens - the 2019 World Championships.

Or, you know, we could just look at what the men's race has done when racing in Vejle. After all, that can show us some of the other climbs too. Yea, actually, let's just do that. Now take the fun of the latter stages there, stretch it out over more time because of the aggressive nature of women's racing in small teams, and add the bonus fun of having Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig in the race to talk to post-stage, and we have a recipe for fun.

Winners in Vejle over the years have included Kurt-Asle Arvesen (in 2002 and 2007), famous clean cyclist (singled out alongside Moncoutié for the accolade by Philippe Gaumont) Janek Tombak, ahead of Arvesen and the latter's teammate Jens Voigt in 2004, Ivan Basso (in 2005 in the midst of his bizarre domination of the race, winning flat stages in escapes, flat stages in sprints, the Vejle stage and the TT), Fabian Cancellara and three-time GC winner and home favourite Jakob Fuglsang (in 2009 and 2011). But the undisputed king of Vejle is Matti Breschel, who has won a glut of queen stages in the Danmark Rundt, winning here for the first time in 2008, outsprinting Jakob Fuglsang and Tom Stamsnijder; while Fuglsang may have relegated him to second with his solo win in 2009, Breschel once more went to the line with his compatriot and teammate a year later and was victorious; he won a five-up sprint in Vejle in 2013, was second behind the solo escape of teammate Boaro a year later, and returned to his rightful place with his fourth win in the town a year later. More recent winners include Michael Valgren and Wout van Aert, so it's clearly somewhere between a classics man and a puncheur - if we extend the climbiness for the women's péloton due to their tendency for shorter hills to be more selective than in the men's races, this moves things intriguingly between the Majerus types and the hilly specialists. It should be a really interesting one.
 
The problem with Marche and Abruzzo is that almost every town has some options! I always love that axis of towns east-west with Potenza Picena, Montelupone and Macerata, but part of that is because of my love of the Muro di Montelupone, and that Potenza Picena is Marina Romoli's hometown and I've had a lot to say about Onlus over the years. Macerata also hosted an excellent 2010 Tirreno-Adriatico finish. I actually preferred Tirreno better when it didn't have a 'proper' MTF and was all about those muros, it felt different then, but then at the time Paris-Nice had more 'proper' mountain stages too, then in the early 2010s they flipped with some TT-centric Paris-Nice routes or the execrable 2014 edition, whereas Tirreno became more of a climbers' race. They seem to be redressing the balance once more now, though I hate that Tirreno now always has a TTT.

Stage 5: Slagelse - Vejrhøj, 98km





GPM:
Ordrupvej x4 (2050m @ 3,7%)
Vejrhøjvej (1100m @ 6,1%)

After the first four days on Jutland, we bypass Funen and find ourselves on the island of Zealand for the last part of the race (much as I’d love to include Bornholm as I’ve designed a moderately interesting circuit on it, we must try not to be too taxing on the logistics, especially with the lesser money available in the women’s péloton), starting with this stage which heads northwards across the western edges of the island.



With a population of 30.000, Slagelse, our host town for the départ, is a very historic city which dates all the way back to Viking times, through shared history with the nearby Trelleborg fortress which dates to the 11th Century. There are also nearby ruins of Scandinavia’s most important monastery of the Knights Hospitaliers, Antvorskov, which was established in the 12th Century. Its main historical importance later on lies, however, in that its final Catholic prior imprisoned Hans Tausen for heresy, one of the rallying points of the Reformation in Denmark, which led to the country adopting Lutheranism; the Order began to be persecuted, however, after failing to prevent the accession of Christian III to the Danish throne, and the complex became a royal residence after the king extorted money from the monastery to cover the immense costs incurred in his battle to take the crown. However, it fell into disrepair and eventually the estate was sold off in the 18th Century, and the ancient buildings were in too bad a shape to be salvaged, so were torn down once and for all; now only a few ruins remain of what was once one of the proudest religious sites in all of Northern Europe.



The city has a number of residents over the years who have called it home - most notably Hans Christian Andersen, the folk tale and fairytale writer and compiler who is, despite the best efforts of modern crime writers, the realist Jens Peter Jacobsen and others, Denmark’s most globally renowned literary figure, although while the city may celebrate the fact Andersen lodged in the city during his childhood, Andersen himself in his autobiography was scathing of the town and the school he was attending. Slagelse also was the birthplace of the pioneering organic chemist William Christopher Zeise, who discovered several compounds and who gives his name to a type of salt, and Søren Peter Lauritz Sørensen, a chemist whose early 20th Century work saw him create the pH scale that enables us to grade acids and alkalis. It can therefore be said that Slagelse has a much better reputation in the sciences than in the arts, since otherwise its most famous daughter is the mid-90s Europop one-hit wonder Whigfield, whose execrable Saturday Night was a huge international hit in 1994 and can still be heard at cheesy nightclub retro nights to this day.

However, more importantly for the course of this race, Slagelse earns a place on this route as it is the hometown of Ole Ritter, one of Denmark’s pioneering racers. The Danes have always had this odd role within cycling of producing great amateurs and espoirs, and indeed they won four of the first eight Peace Races (Willy Emborg, Kaj Allen Olsen, Christian Pedersen and Eluf Dalgaard being the winners) but never managed to parlay that into success at the pro level. Bjarne Riis in 1996 was their first and to date only Grand Tour success (had Michael Rasmussen made it to Paris in 2007 we could have had that debate, of course), while the elite men have never taken a gold medal at the Road World Championships - though Leif Mortensen (1970), Bo Hamburger (1997) and Matti Breschel (2010) have come 2nd. At Ritter’s time the women’s races were limited, but nevertheless, their only medals are a bronze in the TT from Linda Villumsen in 2009, before she switched allegiance to New Zealand, and Amalie Dideriksen’s gold and bronze in 2016 and 2017. The amateur road race was another question though, with Willum Nielsen winning a silver at the very first one, in 1921, and Henry Hansen winning gold in 1931 to become the first of four gold medallists among countless silvers and bronzes. One of which (a silver) went to Ole Ritter in 1962. They also had a number of successes in the 100km Team Time Trial - and Ritter was also part of the Danish quartet that took silver in the same World Championships.



Ritter remained amateur for a number of years, enabling him to enter the Olympic Road Race in Tokyo 1964, and to have his sole attempt at the Peace Race in 1965, when the 23-year-old Ritter finished in 8th place, the second best western finisher, one place behind Roger Swerts. He was renowned primarily for his strength against the clock, and broke a record for the fastest solo 100km in Italy in 1965, before his repute in Italy led to a pro contract with Germanvox-Wega. He won a stage in his very first Grand Tour, the 1967 Giro d’Italia, winning the week 3 ITT, ahead of such names as Jacques Anquetil, Monsieur Chrono himself (although Anquetil was a GC relevance, taking the lead from volatile Spaniard José Pérez-Frances that day, while Ritter was far from contention), which was one of three stage wins he took in his career at the Corsa Rosa, also winning an ITT in 1971 and a transitional stage in 1969. His career was based, for the most part, entirely in Italy, entering the Giro on 9 occasions, but only doing the Tour de France once, and never entering the Vuelta; he made the top 10 twice, finishing 9th in 1970 and 7th in 1973, which remarkably remains the best GC result by a Dane at the race to this day. Almost all of his notable results on the road are in small Italian stage races, smaller one day races and semi-classics, though he does have a top 10 in the Ronde van Vlaanderen (in 1971) and a top 10 in the Tour de Romandie (in 1973) to his name.

But that isn’t why he’s remembered, nowadays, however. In winning that 1967 Giro time trial, Ritter covered the 45km route in well under an hour, and Anquetil commented that Ritter’s pace would have put him on track to beat the Hour Record. Ritter travelled with the Italian amateur team to the Olympic Games in Mexico City the following year, ostensibly to help them with acclimatisation and as he, from his time in Italy prior to turning pro, knew many of them already. However, the day before the Olympics started, Ritter was given some track time alone in a morning session before the main track riders took to their warmups, and he took full advantage of the empty track, the high altitude and the perfect storm of conditions, setting a brand new Hour Record mark with 48,653km, beating Ferdinand Bracke’s mark from the previous year by 560m. The record stood for over four years, until Eddy Merckx went back to Mexico City to take on the mark and broke the 49km barrier for the first time. Ritter made two attempts to win back his Hour Record in 1974, which were the subject of The Impossible Hour, the second documentary film about him (after Stars and Watercarriers, about his exploits in the 1973 Giro d’Italia); while he beat his personal record twice, his best was 48,879km, leaving him shy of the World Record. However, it did remain a national record, which stood all the way until the rule reset in 2014 - it was beaten by Martin Toft Madsen in January 2017, only for his attempt to be ruled out for doping, and then finally beaten outright - at sea level no less - by Mikkel Bjerg in October that year, 43 years on.

This is the shortest road stage of the race, well, that is a full stage anyway, rather than a semitappe. It is to acknowledge yesterday’s slugfest. There is basically a 45km flat introduction to the stage before we have four laps of a 13km circuit around the village of Ordrup. This is Ordrup I Odsherred, not to be confused with the Copenhagen suburb of the same name, a small coastal area overlooked by the Vejrhøj kurgan, a former burial mound now established as a local landmark hill.



The Odsherred area has been immortalised over many years by a succession of artists, known as the Odsherred Painters; while the appellation is intended to cover all of the painters who have settled in the area, including a number of 19th century landscape painters, the term typically applies to those members of the artists’ colony on the coast here in the mid-20th Century, much as many philosophers have come through the Frankfurt University over the years, but “the Frankfurt School” relates to a specific brand of socialism posited in the mid-20th century there.

The circuit has one notable climb on it, albeit more notable for its length than its severity, which, after yesterday’s odyssey around Vejle, will surely come as some relief for the riders. The overall stats of Ordrupvej are unthreatening - 2050m at 3,7%, with a steepest section of 230m at 8% - but it does offer the possibility to create a platform to attack from if the GC situation is right. I’m not expecting long distance moves or anything, but given it’s an uphill finish today, you aren’t as likely to see sprinters’ teams helping with the control of the péloton, so it could make things interesting. After descending into Ordrup itself, we turn left and spend a period heading first west and then south along the coast, an area sometimes jokingly called the “Danish riviera”, and which is exposed to the wind. The prevailing wind direction here is typically from the west, and so this would be a headwind at first then becoming a crosswind, so riders may need to be careful. There is also an amateur race in the area which is part of the Post Cup amateur series in Denmark; it was once back in 2008 a UCI-rated race, which was won by Allan Johansen. Saramotins there in 2nd is still riding, but apart from him it’s old-school reading; three riders from former Yugoslav states who kept riding into their late 30s then got suspended for doping, retired Danes and Swedes, and Martin Mortensen, who like Saramotins is still going strong.

After the women have handled that circuit four times, it’s time for them to take on the hilltop finish here, the second and last such finish, and of similar characteristics to Rebild Bakken. 1100m on a narrow road averaging just over 6%. Nothing too dangerous, but enough to be a punchy finish. Some of the sprint types can hang on here, obviously the all-round types who have a good kick to the line - Vos, van Dijk, Brand, Deignan - will have no trouble, but it should be enough to rid the group of the likes of Alexis Ryan, Lotta Lepistö and co - but after a comparatively easy circuit, they aren’t going to fade like they did at Amstel Gold in 2018. Amalie Dideriksen even could be here, she handled Salmon Hill just fine in Bergen in 2017, but whether she has the requisite punch to do it at the top here against a strong field is harder to tell. The hill itself is perhaps not hard enough to bring the elite puncheuses like van der Breggen, Niewiadoma and Moolman-Pasio into the reckoning, but we’ve also seen rolling circuits with small ramps be enough for van Vleuten in the past, so that’s not to say that, if it’s raced hard enough, it won’t be enough for them.



Vejrhøj is at least welcoming - carving a heart into the farmland that welcomes the riders to the hilltop finish; the burial mound itself sits atop the hill; we are only riding to the villas at the summit, from which a path runs to the kurgan - you can see part of the climb in this video from a downhill skateboarder. It’s the last chance for any hills to make any difference, so best give it a go!
 
Stage 6: København - København, 142km





GPM:
Hundeskoven (Geels Bakke)(575m @ 3,7%)

It has probably come to your attention that when I do race routes I like to pay a bit of tribute to the history of the sport - honouring hometowns of legendary riders or pioneering achievers, stopping off at velodromes and locations that have hosted historic races, and so on. You know, things like the Sachsenring stage of my tour of the former DDR, Nürburgring, the Montello circuit in my Giro Rosa, the stage starts and finishes in hometowns of legends, the TT stage in Pamplona in one of my Vueltas and in Yffiniac in one of my Tours, the stages in all the 1909 Giro host towns in my Race Design Challenge Giro, the Brno circuit in my Course de la Paix, and so on. Old championship courses and finish lines are perhaps third in my race design tropes, after rider hometowns and, of course, Nordic ski stations.

Here, there is no Nordic skiing to honour, but I’ve managed to combine the other two. And perhaps not in a way that might have been expected.



Now, obviously Copenhagen was going to find its way onto the route. It’s the capital city of Denmark, and its centre for culture, history and everything else. There’s far from enough room or time for me to elucidate all of its cultural sites or its famous sons and daughters. It is one of the jewels of the Nordic world and a worthy city break of its own (especially if, like me, you drink coffee like it’s going out of fashion). Closing the city centre of Copenhagen for an entire day would obviously be difficult, but not impossible; some one-day races have managed to get major cities to host, though typically appended to men’s races, such as the Champs Elysées version of La Course, or the insulting and pathetic RideLondon crit that the women get to do in lieu of a proper race, which is my biggest criticism of the British cycling revolution - the Tour of Yorkshire and the Women’s Tour have been great, promoting the women’s race and giving them TV time, but the organisers of the London legacy event have dropped the ball big time, palming the women off with an hour around a city park while Joe Public gets to do the proper course. Stage races have managed it on occasion though - the Women’s Tour had a London city centre crit in 2017, which in what can only be described as “not much of a shock” a bunch sprint ensued, and Christine Majerus and Hannah Barnes failed in their somewhat obviously doomed bid to take over a minute’s worth out of Kasia Niewiadoma’s advantage in the GC; the Giro Rosa, or Donne as it was back then, started with a Grand Départ in Rome in 2011, and had an ITT in the city in 2012; the Emakumeen Bira had a stage in Bilbao in 2007; the Giro della Campania - a .NE race! - had a stage finish in Naples, and the Giro Rosa had two stages in Ljubljana in 2015. But while this is technically a Copenhagen to Copenhagen stage, it isn’t quiet.

The first 40km of this stage, in fact, are an out and back around some of the Copenhagen suburbs, so leaving the centre only to return a bit later. We take in two suburbs in particular. Firstly, Kastrup, famous for the national aquarium and as the part of town which contains national - and international - transport hub Copenhagen Airport - though we don’t go too near the airport itself. And also we’ll be gone from there by the time any TV coverage (I beseech DR to broadcast this - when I visited Copenhagen in late 2016, I went into a bike shop near the Rundetaarn to find that Dideriksen’s victory in Doha was being broadcast on a loop there, and customers in the shop were still stopping to watch even weeks after the event) begins so it won’t matter. And secondly, Frederiksberg, a slightly unusual municipality in that it is independent of Copenhagen municipality, but has been swallowed by it while retaining its independence, so it’s an enclave within Copenhagen, rather like an urban municipality version of Lesotho. It nevertheless houses a number of Copenhagen’s attractions, such as the zoo, which has a yin-yang shaped panda enclosure but has sparked controversy in the past after publicly killing a healthy giraffe to limit inbreeding, then feeding its remains to the zoo’s lions. Frederiksberg was initially set up as a separate farming community which burnt down in the late 17th century, being rebuilt as a merchant community around a new palace built by Frederik IV, hence the name Frederiksberg.



The city rapidly expanded in the mid-19th century after a repeal of an old parliamentary restriction on constructions outside Copenhagen’s city walls, perhaps recognising that the city was no longer in the same level of danger that it had been in previous centuries. Frederiksberg was one of the main beneficiaries of this, especially as the city metro and public transport systems expanded, meaning it became an affluent middle class neighbourhood, although there are some other sectors of general high rise living - most notably Domus Vista, a 30-storey, 100m behemoth apartment block. It is also the traditional finish of the men’s Danmark Rundt, where a sprint finish usually ensues on Frederikesberg Alle - winners of which have included Jaan Kirsipuu (2000, 2001, 2003), former lanterns rouge Jimmy Casper (2004), André Greipel (2005), Mark Cavendish (2007, 2012, 2013), Theo Bos (2011) and Michael Mørkøv (2015). The only exception in recent years has been 2017, when the race started rather than finished in the city.

Children of Frederiksberg number many, for obvious reasons, and include children’s writer and translator Erik Christian Haugaard, responsible for bringing many of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales to a wider audience, Carl Theodor Dreyer, the legendary film director, Sofie Gråbøl, the actress whose career exploded beyond Scandinavia with the international success of Forbrydelsen (mentioned in an earlier stage thanks to Gråbøl’s co-star Søren Malling) leading to roles in shows such as Fortitude; footballers Finn (father) and Michael (son) Laudrup (but not Michael’s brother Brian, who was born in Vienna after Finn was transferred there in 1968) - with the younger Laudrups being essential to Denmark’s shock Euro 1992 victory, and Per Lyngemark, part of the 1968 gold medal winning Team Pursuit (which the aforementioned Ole Ritter could not participate in, as a professional, despite being on hand as he had just set his Hour Record).

But despite all of the history and tradition etc. etc., there is a much more simple reason why these two cities are on the route: their residents deserve the right to cheer their local heroes. Amalie Dideriksen is from Kastrup, and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is from Frederiksberg.



(Yes, that picture’s from Doha, so Julie is there too, but since we started in her hometown, and it’s not achievable within a single stage’s distance from Copenhagen, it’s ok, since her local fanbase will have already had the chance to cheer her on)

So, once we’ve done our loop around the suburbs we arrive back in the middle of Copenhagen. Is it a good time for the Scott Walker song? Of course it is! It’s always a good time for Scott Walker. What a legend, may he rest in peace. Anyway, we have a whistle-stop tour of the Danish capital’s sights, arriving back in town via the Central Train Station, and passing arguably Denmark’s most famous landmark of all, the Tivoli Gardens.



Of course, Legoland can claim the throne, so it’s a debatable one. And there is another, much less active, landmark which we pass later which is also a contender. We go past City Hall, the National Museum of Denmark, Christiansborg Slot - the seat of the Danish Parliament and the Danish Supreme Court, as well as being partially used by the Royal House - a dramatic synthesis of the executive, legislative and judicial branches seldom seen in the west. It was the main residence of the Danish kings and queens until the end of the 18th Century, then from the mid-19th as parliament. It has been burnt down and rebuilt twice, most recently in 1884. In addition to housing both government and royal family, it is also partially open to the public as well - not something security would permit in a lot of countries, I’d wager!!! Holmens Kirke is our next landmark, before an intermediate sprint at Kongens Nytorv, or “The King’s New Square”, a colossal transport interchange and central square that serves as a meeting place for old and new.



Charlottenborg Slot is located on this square, and then there is a long - cobbled - straight, which goes past Amalienborg Palace, Christian VIII’s residence, which also shows the Opera House in the background. The palace was, of course, previously just called “Royal Palace” before being renamed in honour of Amalie Dideriksen’s rainbow jersey victory. We then follow the coastal road encircling the old fortifications of Kastellet København, whereupon we meet Hans Christian Andersen’s most famous creation, Den Lille Havfrue, translated as The Little Mermaid. Andersen’s fairytale reached international renown and a statue of the Havfrue was commissioned in the early 20th Century, and despite an unimposing size and stature - being at ground level and just off the waterside on the Langelinie promenade and being just 125cm in height - it has grown to become the emblem of Copenhagen and of Denmark in general, in much the same way as the small and unimposing Manneken Pis is the enduring image of Brussels. Den Lille Havfrue has been defaced, damaged, repainted, vandalised and even decapitated, but remains iconic to the last.



The cultural part of the stage thusly dispensed with, we head north into the suburb of Hellerup, home of the Tuborg brewery, and Gentofte with its famous lake. After heading through Lyngby you probably guessed it: we’re headed to the 2011 World Championships circuit.



“Why would you do this, Libertine?” I hear you ask. “Those 2011 World Championships were absolutely horrible, and exhibit A in the case for the prosecution by those idiots still bringing the case that “women’s cycling is boring!” Why would you give them the ammunition?”

That is, in fact, a good question.

Copenhagen has hosted the World Championships a number of times, in fact, going all the way back to 1921 and the first ever UCI Road World Championships. Six times, the championships have been held in the city, but only once did the women get to contest a race there, as the previous five predated the inception of the women’s World Championships Road Race. Likewise, the city hosted the UCI Track World Championships on 9 occasions, but all before the women were allowed to compete; since they have been able to enter, Denmark has twice hosted the Worlds, but this has been after the national centre has moved to Ballerup, half an hour west of the city. So this is the only route we have any women’s event historical data to go off. And yes, that historical data is one race, which was horrible. So horrible as to, despite a sample size of 1, be statistically significant. I was greatly upset by this race; not because of anything that was realistically the fault of the athletes, but simply that after all was said and done, the one time the women got to show their faces on worldwide TV and, with it being the Worlds and all, people who wouldn’t go out of their way to watch women’s races were watching… the spectacle was absolutely awful. The course was un-selective, the weather didn’t play ball to create any wildcard element, and to say racing was tepid is to be kind, as for the first half of the race we didn’t even get any speculative moves; just a group ride.

Things did, eventually, get better (Clara Hughes did at least take up the completely thankless task of trying to hold off the péloton on a completely flat circuit, hoping to ‘do an Ottenbros’), but due to some pretty poor showings by the organisers (placing the feed zone on the most potentially selective climb of the course was the most egregious sin) there really was no outcome other than a sprint that was likely; Lucinda Brand was literally the only DNF from an established nation, and 95 people fought out a slightly uphill sprint which was won by defending champion Giorgia Bronzini, marking Marianne Vos’ incredible fifth straight silver medal at the Worlds. The slightly uphill nature of the sprint helped them out ahead of German veteran Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, who took bronze ahead of Nicole Cooke, whose words on this race have been very interesting in the long run - the women being left to their own devices, no training plan, no tactical advice, no nothing; only for either on the eve of the race or the morning of the race (I forget the details) an edict to come from on high that they were riding for Armitstead (who at that point was very much BC’s golden girl, as they’d had their fill of Cooke and to a lesser extent Pooley by that time), contrary to the plans they already had; an impromptu post-race meeting was then enforced upon the women by the coaches, in Nicole Cooke’s bedroom, where the former World - and reigning Olympic - champion was blamed in no uncertain terms for the fact no medals were had - despite, at that point in her career and on that particular course, it being unlikely that the still pretty inexperienced Armitstead would have done any better than Cooke eventually managed.

Now, however, eight years have passed. A lot of those riders are now retired, and those that aren’t, bar only a small number, are very different riders from the ones they were back then, whether significantly better for the years of experience (Amialiusik, Moolman-Pasio, Fahlin, Longo Borghini) or significantly worse for being past peak years (Zabelinskaya, Vysotska, Worrack, Neben). A few are still stars - Vos, van Vleuten, Deignan/Armitstead - but they are in the minority. Bronzini’s retired, recently, but several others there are long gone - Teutenberg, Martisova and Nøstvold retired in 2013, Cooke, Arndt, Iturriagaechevarria and Henrion in 2012, Whitelaw in 2011, Bubnenkova, de Vocht and Verbeke in 2014, Johansson, Stevens and Olds in 2016, and Pooley in both 2014 AND 2016.

Perhaps more interesting to look at, therefore, is the Junior Women’s Road Race. Not only was it a much less crappy race, thanks to a few counter attacks and, due to inexperience (and potentially tactical naïveté, always a possibility at this level) and/or being unused to trickier races, it broke up a bit more. Thalita de Jong was a solo break of the day, and people like Drexel and Confalonieri got into counter moves. You had people like Rossella Ratto trying to go away solo 60km from home on an almost pan-flat course (Rossella, I’m a big mark for you, but let’s be honest, that was never in a million years going to work), Mieke Kröger countering to join her, then them having trouble cooperating because Ratto is a good climber and Kröger goes uphill like water, but Kröger is a great time triallist and Ratto is not competitive against her as a flat engine. I’m not going to say it was a good race, but the catch was made late, and you had the problem that neither Kröger NOR Ratto really fancied a sprint, but the bunch didn’t have many expendable domestiques, meaning it was a bit more tense as to whether they’d be caught or not, before that final slight uphill killed their momentum and we saw a sprint which was won by Lucy Garner for the British team in a very authoritative sprint, ahead of Jessy Druyts, the 2nd of the Druyts siblings at Topsport (younger than Kelly, older than Demmy and Lenny), and home favourite Christina Siggaard.



This race is perhaps a better guide to what we can expect, as there are a number of riders who are in the modern péloton to act as frames of reference, seeing as, you know, 8 years on, these junior riders are the bulk of the current crowd. Garner is now with Hitec after a few years blighted with injury at Wiggle, so she would likely be here, the Norwegian team very likely to want to be a part of a Scandinavian stage race; Siggaard is with Virtu and almost a lock. Christina Perchtold in 5th was with Bigla for a year and is now racing in Belgium; the startlist also included Sheyla Gutiérrez, Rossella Ratto, Ingrid Drexel, Gabrielle Pilote-Fortin, Anouska Koster, Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Maria Giulia Confalonieri, Loudes Oyarbide, Thalita de Jong, Ksenia Dobrynina, Alexis Ryan, Mieke Kröger, Hannah Barnes, Elinor Barker, Dalia Muccioli, Thi That Nguyen and Georgia Williams.


Route of the circuit for the 2011 World Championships. We do 6 laps of this 14km loop

As well as the map there, we have this 3d video to display the course as it appears. Though of course, if you’re a glutton for punishment and you like watching relentless flat races you could try and watch the videos I’ve posted in full. The highlights of the women’s elite race are mercifully short, but the junior race shows an hour of racing, which tells you how much more entertaining a race it was. Now: was that the fault of the race organisers? Only partially. Let’s face it: Copenhagen is a pretty flat place. Denmark in general is a fairly flat place, and this course of mine is about as hilly a Danish race as you could make without being completely unbalanced (there are other hilly stages you could make around, say, Aabenraa, or on Bornholm, but I already have two HTFs and a Vejle stage, let’s be realistic about this, a Danish race should be predominantly flat to be a realistically representative Tour of Denmark), and it’s not like the parcours presented by the Copenhagen 2011 bid team was totally flat; this is the profile.

However, they didn’t help themselves. Placing the feed zone in the middle of one of those climbs was a colossal error that helped negate what few options there were for non-sprinters, as well as the fact that there were a group of minor obstacles bunched together at one end of the circuit - but then a long and mostly very straight run back to the final start/finish that was on wide open roads and made it easy for the chase negated the possibilities for an attack to stick; the final uphill was interesting enough to make it a challenging sprint, but not enough to tempt any puncheurs to give it a go. After all, Geels Bakke, the climb from the intersection of Skodsborgvej and Kongevejen to the finishing line, is just under 600m at 3,7% - nothing like long enough to make this one of those Vuelta/Volta a Portugal drag sprints into hilltop towns but not on a punchy climb (think the stage Matthews won in 2014 in Arcos de la Frontera), but not steep enough to create something that’s unclear between types of sprinter and puncher (think the Tour stage Sagan won in 2012 in Boulogne-sur-Mer). The below image makes it look pretty steep, but the camera angle rather exaggerates it, a bit like the slightly angled cam which made Monte Crostis look like riders would be cambered down vertical drops to oblivion in the wake of Wouter Weylandt’s fatal accident.



The other “real” climb on the circuit is Søllerød Slotsvej, which is 370m at 6,5%. Again, we are a long way from something that will be decisive - I’ve already said I think time gaps will be minimal on Rebild Bakke, and that is similar to this but three times as long - but it’s at least a platform from which to attack. I expect this stage will be a sprint, but it really will depend on what the GC looks like. Especially as we have a few factors to take into consideration that they did not have in 2011.

Firstly, this is not a one-day race; what matters is not simply to come first, but to complete the course in the fastest possible time. So you may have riders who do not have to win but need to win by a fixed amount of time. Therefore you will also have riders who do not care about losing, because they are irrelevant to the GC. They can take the form of either riders who simply want to get to the end so won’t contribute to chases, making attacks potentially more likely to be decisive than in a one-day race when everybody has something to gain and something to lose, but also, if their team has nothing from the race at this point, they could be potential wildcards or agitants - attacking for the stage, or doing deals with potential GC candidates to take stage wins in return for GC victory assistance, and so on.

Secondly, I am not putting the feed zone at the top of the climb. Well, I am, but the riders only see it once, with over 70km to go. Apart from that, it’s free for all. Mountain points will be given out on the fourth passage of the finishing line (so after three circuits of six); intermediate sprints - and importantly, the bonus seconds that they provide - will be given out at the third and fifth, so after two and four laps. If the race is as tight as I hope it is, this could be vital. I anticipate the single GPM points will not be decisive given there were 16 summits in the Vejle stage, but you never know.

Thirdly, the 142km distance is actually slightly longer than the World Championships road race in 2011. As the women’s péloton becomes increasingly professional, we are seeing ever more lengthy races, to the point where, as the men see a tendency toward shorter races, we may actually see parity at some point in the not too distant future (whether that be desirable, such as in athletics, or whether that not be the case because of length of competition being preferred as a factor rather than distance covered, like in XC skiing, is a decision for that future). At that point, the maximum distance average in a stage race was 100km; now it is 130km, which is much fairer as a comparison point to the 180km average for the men (and even then, it can sometimes be broken, the Tour of Yorkshire just consisted of two stages which were 132km each). Races like de Ronde are creeping up towards 160km now. However, 140km in a standalone race vs. 140km on the final day of a six day stage race is likely to be very different from a fatigue point of view.

Fourthly: as Óscar Freire once said, “in order to win, first you must be prepared to lose”. I’m sure he got it from somewhere. Sun Tzu or somebody like that. In the World Championships, more people are afraid to lose. In a smaller race, there is less to lose, so less fear of losing. Which will hopefully produce less conservative racing. The women tend to be more aggressive than their male counterparts anyway - helped immensely by the limited number of domestiques available with six-to-a-team being the standard modus operandi as opposed to eight, and the greater disparity between the best and worst rider in any given péloton meaning it’s harder to pull back elite talents when they attack - and when other elite talents attack, the elite talents left behind have to get involved in the chase much more readily. There really aren’t any Banesto / USPS / Sky GC trains in women’s cycling, and realistically there aren’t really many that you would consider viable Saeco / Fassa Bortolo / HTC sprint trains either. Even when Rabobank were going 1-2-3 in the Giro Rosa, or bogarting every jersey so that they had six different jerseys across six different riders in the Emakumeen Bira, they weren’t doing it with a train template (no, not even when they roadblocked Mara Abbott on Madonna del Ghisallo. Though, even you Mara apologists, please don’t kid yourself that Mara was going to overturn her two minute deficit to win the Giro that day. If there’s one thing that video showed us, it was that PFP was easily strong enough to answer the attacks; she was only behind Marianne on time bonuses and, should Mara have dropped Marianne, was having no problem answering the attacks, so even if Mara had won 1’54” back on Vos, she needed 1’39” on Pauline too to prevent Rabo still winning, and that looked like an impossible task on the last 6km of a climb - that includes nearly 2km of flat near the summit where Ferrand-Prévot is a stronger rider than Abbott. In retrospect, now she’s had injury upon injury and looks far from the rider she could once have become, I wonder if she regrets being a good footsoldier that day and not going out there and winning the Giro like a 2004 Cunego or something, because I’m willing to bet, especially if she could have put Pooley between her and Marianne so she only needed 10”, she could have dropped Vos and won the maglia rosa that day). Being a dominant team in women’s cycling manifests itself much more like the Quick Step template in the Classics, where you have multiple capable winners for the rivals to juggle who they want to contend with.

So, there we have it. A six-stage Danmark Rundt for Kvinder which isn’t a crit before the men’s race arrives like the 2016 proposal, but is a standalone, real race like the Women’s Tour or the Giro Rosa that ensures the women can be treated on their merits and not as a warm-up act for the men. It includes sterrato, short bergs, hilltop finishes, sprints, time trials, and a nod to cycling history. Now is the time to capitalise, Danish Cycling. You have a World Champion who has the prime of her career potentially still ahead of her. You have a gutsy, exciting and talented youngster who has charisma to burn and could potentially catalyse a lot of interest in the women’s game with her infectious charm and exciting style. You have at least one more of the most talented prospects in the younger game. You have somebody who can compete in the sprints, you have somebody who can compete on the hills, you have somebody who can compete in the TTs. You have a team which houses one of the standout talents of women’s cycling this season and the reigning U23 World Tour champion. There’s so much potential for a women’s Tour of Denmark to succeed that there’s almost no excuse not to do it.


2017 Danish national road race front group - you can see Dideriksen in the rainbows hidden in the centre, behind/alongside Cille in the Cervélo kit.
 
We’re now moving away from Ardennes season, but it’s brought me back to a race that I’ve had, off and on, some designs on for literally years. And seeing as the forum keeps killing me for an hour at a time to stop me from looking at it, I’ve at least got some time to write up a detailed post on my race design.

It’s always somewhat surprised me that, despite its prominence in the sport and its proximity to very strong and traditional cycling terrain, that there really isn’t a proper, high level one-day race in Luxembourg. It’s a country with a lot of cycling history, but perhaps true to its size and relative lack of prominence, it is apt that while Belgium’s biggest one-dayers are monuments, and the Netherlands’ biggest one-day race is the Amstel Gold Race, with its stellar winners’ list and place of prestige in the calendar starting Ardennes week, Luxembourg’s biggest one day race is probably the GP François Faber, which is generally contested by juniors and espoirs. And even then, until the mid-90s it was a stage race as, for some reason, despite the fact that Luxembourg can readily be lapped within a stage’s distance, it seems that stage racing continues to hold sway in the Grand Duchy; it had some pretty useful winners back in the day - Nicolas Frantz, Etienne de Wilde, Lucien Didier, Kai Hundertmarck, Dariusz Baranowski, Kim Kirchen - but more recently it has regressed back to being a locals’ plaything (though Bob Jungels, the 2011 winner, is doing OK for himself!).

There is also the GP OST Manufaktur, and its predecessors GP Ost Fenster and GP des Artisans de Manternach, a March one-day race at the .NE level which nonetheless attracts a fairly interesting international field. Its first winner, back in 1985, was Bjarne Riis, who also won it a month after winning the Tour de France, as the race at that point was at the peak of its relevance (that is to say, riders most people have heard of were on the podium - Kim Kirchen won in ’98 and ’99, and Cyril Dessel in 2000), while it was also one of the races that the Ostbloc riders would take over periodically, most notably the 1989 edition in which the DDR team did a 1-2 with Thomas Barth and Uwe Ampler. From 2001 to 2007 there was also the GP Demo-Cars, with the most famous winner being former Bouygues Télécom and Skil-Shimano domestiques Matthieu Sprick, but apart from that it’s all about stage races - from the junior GP Général Patton (stellar winner’s list including Émile Daems, Kim Kirchen, Mickaël Cherel, Simon Špilak, Sebastian Lander, Jan Hirt and Remco Evenepoel (as well as his father Patrick)), through the espoir/pro-am Flèche du Sud (winners including Charly Gaul, Johny Schleck, Acácio da Silva, Hartmut Bölts, Alex Zülle, Kim Kirchen, Bradley Wiggins, Andy Schleck, Geraint Thomas, Marcel Wyss, Bob Jungels, Michael Valgren and Mark Padun) through to, of course, the most famous race, the Tour of Luxembourg, which has run almost uninterrupted since the 1930s (only taking 1940 and 1944 out due to some large sociopolitical event in Europe at the time).



The Tour of Luxembourg has now more or less settled on its format, and its most famous and distinctive feature is its prologue, which includes the painful but short cobbled ascent of Montée du Grund. Aside from that, however, in recent years the race hasn’t been especially hilly, which has enabled non-climber types like Greg van Avermaet, Matti Breschel and Paul Martens to take the GC. Nevertheless, there have been hillier editions in the past, often when that suited the local riders (2009, when Fränk Schleck won, springs to mind), plus a great many legends of the sport have triumphed in the Grand Duchy’s race - Briek Schotte in 1946; Louison Bobet in 1955; Charly Gaul in 1956, 1959 and 1961; Jos Planckaert in 1962, Freddy Maertens in 1974, Bernard Hinault in 1982, Steven Rooks in 1986, Frank Vandenbroucke in 1997, and perhaps most noteworthy is the 1998 edition which was won by Lance Armstrong - El Texano had just returned from his cancer, and had tried to race the Ruta del Sol and Paris-Nice but been unable to; he returned to the States for a couple of months and came back on a rampage of victories, and the first stage - and subsequent GC - of the Tour of Luxembourg was the start of his reign of terror. It’s also one of the last results of his that still stands.

But I digress. There has never truly been a Luxembourgish one day race to rival the big races from the neighbouring regions, despite the fact that geographically-speaking Luxembourg would fit perfectly into Ardennes week. Luxembourg gave the world the first overseas rider to win a Grand Tour when François Faber won the 1909 Tour de France (although Faber was a Frenchman in all but licence). It punches well above its weight historically in the sport, having given the world four Grand Tour winners (François Faber, Nicolas Frantz, Charly Gaul and Andy Schleck) as well as one of the more celebrated historic women’s cycling pioneers in Elsy Jacobs. There’s even a small plaque commemorating the great cyclists of Luxembourg - and it’s full, so poor Andy is going to get omitted from that, after not even getting to celebrate his Tour win in Paris either.

It has featured on the Tour de France route a number of times - although nearby Longwy and Metz were staples of the pre-war Tour, it tended to stay within French boundaries, until after WWII. Luxembourg first appeared on the race route in 1947, in a stage won by the Italian Aldo Ronconi, and has since reappeared in 1953 (stage passed through without stopping, won by Fritz Schär in Liège), 1962 (likewise, Rudi Altig winning in Spa), 1967 (again - Roger Pingeon winning in Jambes), 1969 (Charly Grosskost winning in Esch-sur-Alzette), 1980 (passing through, Henk Lubberding winning in Liège), before hosting the Grand Départ in 1989 with multiple stages - a prologue won by Erik Breukink, a semitappe won by Acácio da Silva, a TTT won by Super-U, and then a flat stage into Belgium won by Raúl Alcalá. In 1992, however, came the most famous day of bike racing that the Grand Duchy has ever seen, as we truly saw something special that day - arguably the most dominant time trial victory in the history of cycling (and yes, I include Cancellara in Mendrisio in that) as Miguel Indurain outperformed all comers by a full 3 minutes. Delgado, in 10th, was almost 5 minutes down on Miguelón. And while Luxembourg hosted the Grand Départ again in 2002, with a road stage won by Rubens Bertogliati and a prologue won by Lance Armstrong, no matter how hard Lance may try, “Luxembourg Time Trial” just means Indurain ’92. It just does. Esch-sur-Alzette hosted a sprint in 2006, but since then has been dormant, with just the Mondorf-les-Bains stage start in 2017 to call on.



However, it’s a beautiful city and indeed country, which gives beaucoup opportunities for an entertaining race, so let’s showcase that in a way that the current Tour of Luxembourg sadly never seems to. And what Luxembourg really needs, from a cycling perspective, is a hilly classic. Not only is this the type of terrain in which the Grand Duchy truly excels, as it has an embarrassment of riches in the short-to-medium-and-steep climbs department, but it also sourced much of its greatest cycling glory in the field of the hilly classics. Other than Andy Schleck’s 2010 Tour win - which of course he couldn’t even celebrate when he was officially the defending champion - almost all of the recent glories of Luxembourg in pro cycling have come in these races, often just across the border in the Ardennes. Whether it be Kim Kirchen cresting the Mur de Huy in 2008, Fränk Schleck defying the commentators’ expectations to win Amstel Gold in 2006 (check out the comment at 23:35), or Andy’s epic solo to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2009, that generation of Luxembourgers made the hilly classics their own. There were other champions, of course - Marcel Ernzer won La Doyenne in 1954 - but for the most part that golden generation holds its own. Fränk also won the Giro dell’Emilia, another hilly Classic, while there are podiums and near misses all across the hilly season for all three - all of whom are part of that long-standing Lëtzebuergesch tradition of dynasties of cyclist - the Schlecks, Kirchen, and Laurent Didier are all third generation cyclists, while there are other sets of brothers and similar - most notably the Majerus brothers, Jean and Jacques, who are not to be confused with Jean Majérus (note acute), an earlier rider - and neither of whom are related to Christine Majerus, the current women’s national champion. Either way, it is perhaps under the inspiration of that three-strong golden Lëtzebuergesch generation that current Luxembourg cycling beau, Bob Jungels, moved despite his strong build suggesting a time trial + functional climbing base, toward the hilly classics, culminating in his crowning glory, the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory, the last man to win at the finish on the ramp in Ans.



With this in mind, I’ve designed a sort of out-and-back challenge of a hilly classic, which could be called Luxembourg-Clervaux-Luxembourg if patterned after La Doyenne, however I prefer to call it La Flèche Luxembourgeoise, or also in the local parlance, a Mosel-Franconian dialect which is in the process of breaking away from the German language, Lëtzebuerger Pfeil. One reason for this was that, it’s 2019 so I’ve also drawn a women’s race alongside it, and that doesn’t go as far as Clervaux in order to ensure we have room within the distance to include all the relevant obstacles, but the main reason was simply that La Flèche Luxembourgeoise just sounds better.

The men’s race is 233km in length (the profile says 240, but that was due to a couple of tracking errors in the initial rolling phase from Sandweiler to Vianden, which I have since corrected on the map version but couldn’t be bothered to rewrite all of the climbs in from the start again, since the actual meat and drink of the profile does not change at all), and takes in 14 classified climbs, while the women’s race is 148km and takes in 9. This makes it immediately one of the hardest races on the women’s calendar, but not quite so long as the World Championships or de Ronde van Vlaanderen; simultaneously it’s a long and very difficult men’s race - but not monument-length. I’m not sure where it should go in the calendar - possibly on the Wednesday after Liège-Bastogne-Liège to offer a final chance to make something of the calendar for those hilly specialists who’ve had a bad Ardennes campaign, looking to take advantage after those who’ve gone all out for Huy and Liège are resting; it would also be ideal for the women as it could survive well even without WWT status in that calendar spot as much of the péloton will already be there, and you could race it before travelling to the US for California, and/or train in the area and enter it between Liège and the GP Elsy Jacobs which takes place in Luxembourg a week or two after the Ardennes anyway.

La Flèche Luxembourgeoise / Lëtzebuerger Pfeil (Hommes: Sandweiler - Luxembourg-Ville, 233km)





La Flèche Luxembourgeoise / Lëtzebuerger Pfeil (Femmes: Sandweiler - Luxembourg-Ville, 148km)





Slightly frustrated that by auto-inserting the climbs it puts categorisation on them seeing as this is a one-day race, but it does at least give a bit of an idea of difficulty I guess. I put all the climbs in in the men’s race and drew them up for profiles, then it automatically assigned them categorisations when I tried to get cronoescalada to insert the same climbs into the profile for the women’s race, to save me inserting them all one by one again.

The départ is from the town of Sandweiler, which is the town hosting Luxembourg Airport, the international route into the country if you’re not coming from one of the three countries that border the micro state. The neutral zone sees us get to the other side of the airport, the aim being to minimise disruption - although the 1992 ITT that Indurain so comprehensively dominated did pass by the airport, dropping onto the lower plateau from Senningerberg. The town is also known for its German military cemetery.

The first part of the race is rolling, passing through Junglinster, home to Radio Luxembourg’s long wave transmitters, and Diekirch, one of Luxembourg’s most important towns, hosting the Lëtzebuergesch National Museum of Military History, focusing on the Battle of the Bulge, and the hometown of national statesman extraordinaire Paul Eyschen. We head toward the German border, via an uncategorised climb at Reisdorf, and then skirt along the German-Luxembourgish border along the River Our, until we reach the picture perfect town of Vianden, one of Luxembourg’s most scenic locations and one of its premier tourist attractions.



It is here that the men and women will split. The men turn uphill in Vianden for a long loop that brings them back around to Stolzembourg, while the women will continue in the Our valley directly to that village. From here, I’ll deal with each obstacle individually.

1: Niklosbierg (aka Mont-Saint-Nicolas) (distance remaining: 174km)


4,6km @ 6% is a nice warmup climb. It also has the best scenery of almost any of the climbs, what with being through Vianden and up onto the higher plateau from there. It also includes a stretch of cobbles in Vianden itself. As mentioned, the women don’t take this climb, but for the men it is the first climb of the day. It is followed by a period of rolling terrain on the highlands between the Mosel and Our valleys, taking us to the town of Clervaux, another chocolate box town.



2: Côte de Marnach (distance remaining: 143km)
Clervaux is the turn-around point for the race, after which we have this, the least imposing of all the climbs in the race, around 4km at 4%. From here we descend back into the Our valley, and head south to the point at which we reconvene between the men’s and women’s races, in the village of Stolzembourg.

3: Côte de Putscheid (distance remaining men: 120km / women: 86km)


This one’s a pretty brutal Ardennes ascent - 2,4km at 10,1% and a maximum 50m at 15,5% - the women will take this one on directly off a cold open, as it’s the first climb of the day, so it could produce some action just in the Boonenberg style, as a few may discover the legs really aren’t there. Lots of ramps of 14%, and then a tough up-and-down stretch around Putscheid and Hoscheid, before descending to the banks of the Sûre, for arguably Luxembourg’s most famous climb outside of the Montée du Grund.

4: Côte de Bourscheid (distance remaining men: 103km / women: 70km)


Max gradients approach 20% in this one, a classic of cycling in this part of the world, which you can see motorbike footage of here. There is an incredibly scenic castle on the shoulder of the hill, and this lends it an iconic look as well as its 3,3km at 7,4% including some severe ramps. The men will take on the climb twice, whereas the women climb it just once; the men will subsequently turn left in Bourscheid village to pass the castle, whereas the women will continue along the 348 to descend into Ettelbruck.



5: Côte de Lipperscheid (Leweck) (distance remaining: 95km)
2,6km @ 6,8%, this climb rises from a meandering in the river to finish at Sporthotel Leweck, with a short stretch of highway to Maarkebaach before descending back down to Goebelsmuhle to take on the second loop of the Côte de Bourscheid.

6: Côte de Bourscheid (distance remaining: 84km)
Second climb of Bourscheid for the men, this time continuing on the 348 and descending into Ettelbruck, bringing the men’s and women’s races back onto the same course once more, with the feed zone then ensuing in the town, with a population of around 7500.

7: Côte de Karelshaff (distance remaining men: 70km women: 57km)


A relatively modest climb which serves as a transition between the larger climbs in central Luxembourg and the collection of smaller climbs that make up the run-in to the finish, the Côte de Karelshaff wears its steepest gradients - ramps of 12% - at the bottom, before easing up to around 2km at 7%, and then like so many of the climbs of the Low Countries, which Luxembourg gets included in for cultural/political reasons, because it really isn’t all that flat, it eases up toward the top.

After the descent from this, we have an uncategorised uphill roll into Colmar-Berg, which is home to the Grand Ducal Castle, the Grand Duke’s day-to-day residence, as well as a motor vehicle testing ground. We then roll toward Mersch, just as we reach its outer suburbs, however, we turn uphill once more.

8: Beringerberg (distance remaining men: 55km women: 41km)


This one’s really quite nasty. The road from Beringen to Beringerberg is difficult enough, but I’ve also, in the interest of trying to encourage some more aggressive racing and also to encourage the key riders to get to the front because placement will be important, incorporated a little sting in the tail, including the Rue Wenzel Stichstraße that takes a more direct route to the summit than the main road - a 400m ramp at 17% (!) within a first kilometre that averages 12%. It’s also very narrow, which has a bit of the northern Classics about it, as the riders will want to ensure they’re not caught out. It’s kind of a scaled-up Keutenberg, this one, with the last 2km being only around 3-4% but the fact that the toughest ramps then lead on to a lengthy false flat could catch a few people out. People won’t be hitting for home here, but still, it’ll possibly eliminate a few people from contention if they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, or they get it wrong and burn out.



After the Beringerberg, we double back on ourself through Angelsberg and into Mersch, which traditionally hosts the start of the final stage of the Tour de Luxembourg. We also have the last flat of the race, around 10km of flat that take us through Lorentzweiler and into Steinsel, where… se armó un zapatiesto.

9: Côte des Sources (distance remaining: 38km)
1,4km @ 10,5%, with a brutal ramp of 500m at 14%, this is the last of the climbs which is only taken on by the men, because the men have an extra small loop of around 13-14km around Lorentzweiler (hence the differences above) which includes this climb out of Heisdorf, whereas the women go straight to climb #10. Much as with Beringerberg, we could take the main 124 highway up to the hilltop, but instead we take a steeper alternative on the Rue des Sources. We then head via Asselscheuer and Rashaff to the descent back into Lorentzweiler, then on to the climb where, I believe, all hell will break loose and we will see the attempts to win the race begin in earnest.

10: Mur de Steinsel (Montée Haute) (distance remaining: 26km)




If you’ve never seen Montée Haute de Steinsel before, you’re in for a treat. The full climb is , basically a slightly tougher Mur de Huy, but it opens up with 300m at 17% - creating some entertainment courtesy of [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Peqv6b8BUVI]this approach from An American In Luxembourg.



Finishing with 26km remaining (so the steepest part is with 27km to go), this should be the moment that the race really takes off. It’s the biggest remaining climb - the ones that follow this are either less steep or shorter or both - and coming off the back of Beringerberg and Côte des Sources, both of which will have made placement important and so hopefully got rid of a few domestiques by ensuring the strongest riders have to be at the front to fend for themselves and we can’t get that pack racing that has plagued the Ardennes in recent years to the same extent, it should mean that anybody dropped here has nary a chance to catch back on, because I’ve taken good care to minimise any flat terrain from here on in. There’s 3km of downhill false flat at the end of the climb, then a proper descent, then another 3km of downhill false flat, but that’s the best the riders are going to get. The race should well and truly be on by now.

11: Côte de Biirgerkreiz (distance remaining: 16km)


1,5km at 8,7%, with the last 500m averaging over 10%, Biirgerkreiz is another option for attacking from - it’s the longest remaining climb and the last one over a kilometre in length. It is, however, almost completely ramrod straight, like a scaled down Cumbres Verdes, so getting out of sight of the chasing bunch will be hard. The road is also a fairly major one, so it’s not like you can compensate by making placement key like on Beringerberg. However, with just 16km remaining at the summit, the riders can almost taste Luxembourg-Ville by now, and there will surely be some action enticed here with the reduced groups at the head of the field.

12: Limpertsberg (distance remaining: 12km)
Also known as the Pabeierbierg, this is a classic of the Tour of Luxembourg, often being included in the final stages of the race. They enter that climb at 47:20 in this race coverage, so you can see it in full. 825m in length, averaging 9,1% and with a maximum of 14%, it often provides a focal point for a short closing circuit in the national Tour, sometimes even an HTF (as it does in the video provided) and should create a potential interesting battle if we have small groups at this stage. It isn’t the summit for us, although the characteristics of the race from there on in are similar - the Tour of Luxembourg passes it for the first time with 12km remaining and then heads around the suburbs of the city. We descend back down to the banks of the Mosel, to take on the penultimate ascent.

13: Rue du Trêves (distance remaining: 6km)


1,4km @ 5,3%, with a middle 600m at 8%, this climb is also, save for that one hairpin shown above, completely straight, once more enticing some moves earlier on as you’ll want enough breathing room to be able to be out of sight by now. It’s a bit of a Cauberg-alike, getting a bit steeper, then evening out toward the top. With 6km remaining at the summit, things are getting tough here. The Ardennes specialist types surely don’t want to leave it too late and really should have gone on Montée Haute or Biirgerkreiz. Surely a more cobbled type specialist like van Avermaet should have been dropped by now, but what of the likes of Gilbert and Kwiatkowski, who are equally adept over all terrains?

I mean, among the women it matters less, as often the Ronde selects people on the basis of their climbing in a different way to the Ardennes, but still resulting in similar names being up front - the likes of van Vleuten and van der Breggen are of course all-terrain vehicles, but more waifish climbers like Ludwig and Niewiadoma would appear to be more built for the Ardennes, but can compete in the Ronde with great effect. But still - if those riders wish to make this race theirs, they would be well advised to use this climb, because there’s only one remaining, and it’s the one that suits the northern classics men and women best.

14: Montée du Grund (distance remaining: 1km)



Of course we were going to this well, the most famous cycling climb in the Grand Duchy. According to Cronoescalada it’s 400m @ 14%, all of which is, of course, to anybody who has seen the classic Tour of Luxembourg prologue, great - a narrow cobbled ascent which will provide the final battlegrounds for any groups that may remain, if somebody hasn’t done any solo moves to this point at the head of the race. Here you can get a feel for it as undertaken by an amateur cyclist - the first part in a classic Murallas de Ávila style, but steeper, then through the narrow but high-sided gate and into the second sector, then the final part, hemmed in by buildings which will make the fans seem ever louder, with their voices echoing off the houses. Team cars might have to be restricted from this section, but since the summit of the climb is only 1100m from the finish, that shouldn’t be too much of a hardship - one suspects that we’ll have a fairly high attrition rate on this course anyway, and the moto support can follow for this short section leading into the finish, with the team cars instead continuing along the Boulevard de la Petrusses, while the cyclists and motos move on to the Rue de Prague and subsequently Montée du Grund.

The riders then pass through the city to return to major roads between Cathédral Nôtre-Dame and the Monument du Souvenir. Effectively, if you look at the map of the Tour de Luxembourg prologue, we arrive on the map on the lower right on Boulevard d’Avranches; we then turn right onto Rue de Prague, which is the road with the hairpin on it. We then follow the route of the prologue all the way until the final right-hander, where we stay straight on, turn right onto Rue Nôtre Dame, then ride through where the prologue begins and onto Boulevard Roosevelt. This means a technical-is sector from 1100m to 700m from the line, then 350m on Boulevard Roosevelt, before a final 90º right-hander opposite Pont Adolphe and a 350m straight sprint on Boulevard Royal.


Finishing straight

So the final stages of the race include a very technical opening to the final kilometre, after a short and sharp cobbled burst. It’s not quite as out there as it may seem, it seems to me not dissimilar to the finish of Strade Bianche, and also of the Giro di Lombardia when it finished in Bergamo in 2014, that fairly poorly-raced edition which was won by Dan Martin by sheer virtue of being the only man not to have staked all of his energy on an expected sprint, and who dared to make a move before the final 200m. Only the wide open final 700m should hopefully enable a very safe finish once we’ve got out of the inner city spread. It would have been nice to finish on Boulevard Roosevelt, but I felt it better for safety purposes to move the finish to Boulevard Royal so we didn’t have the risk of a 15-20 man sprint (if everything goes terribly wrong) after a technical and narrow section through the pedestrianised sections of the city centre; I know that Tirreno-Adriatico has got away with a few things like that, but never from an established, specific finish like you would have in a one-day race.

And there you have it - a worthy classic, I hope you’ll agree; 14 categorised climbs for men, 9 for women, a 230km distance which is sub-monument but surely sufficient for a classic, some beautiful scenery to take in, an out-and-back that covers the country’s natural beauty and popular and established cycling spots as well as introducing some new ones, and ending in the capital city with an iconic ascent; options to make the race from afar, or if not afar then at least decently far enough from the finish to give us at least an hour’s good racing, and also a race where the route and distance would enable you to put on both the men’s and women’s races on the same day, and televise both in depth,

This could be a one-day instant classic, in much the same way as Strade Bianche was an instant classic - a race which doesn’t have history but the route, how it’s been incorporated into the calendar and the kind of racing produced, has meant it has been taken to heart by fans and riders alike. With the classic Ardennes classics having attracted a lot of criticism for negative racing in recent years and leading to a number of route tweaks, some better (moving finish away from Cauberg in Amstel Gold), some worse (before that, the addition of the 2012 World Championships circuit moving all other decisive climbs further away from the finish in favour of the terrible Bemelerberg), the route here not incentivising leaving things to the last minute should hopefully result in better racing than the average Ardennes week race, at least for the men (AGR this year was a bit of an anomaly of course). And this could be a one day race that Luxembourg could truly be proud of.

 
Libertine Seguros said:
Unfortunately they're not going to make a race that long for the women, when the men is just five stages.
However, I think it's time you start working on the Scandinavian race!
 
Before I set off on my next stage race, one more bit of one-day work. I’ve realised that the average length of these write-ups has been tending upwards literally for years until reaching such a point as to affect the thread’s viability, but this is probably quite a good one to keep brief, since it isn’t a new race at all, but instead one of the original categories I suggested for the thread back when the search function on the site was less intuitive, but I was able to operate a working library for the thread. That category turned out, after a brief flurry of attention early in the thread’s existence, to be one of the least popular styles with race designers, probably because of the limited freedom offered for creativity. That idea was ‘fictional versions of existing one-day races’. Lombardia and the Ronde van Vlaanderen got a few designs, I had a go at Paris-Bruxelles, and a couple of people revisited La Flèche Wallonne, but little else, and since the forums’ upgrade I think this has been even more uncommon.

However, I have a race that I feel we can do something with, a race that I can improve with a bit of design work, and a race that is somewhat near and dear to me - Eschborn-Frankfurt, or the Frankfurt Maitagrennen.



The Rund um den Henninger Turm, as it was originally called, was incepted in the early 1960s, and has grown to become Germany’s most pre-eminent one day race, holding that role even while Cyclassics became a WT race in the late 2000s; Frankfurt was originally the German round of the World Cup in the 90s, but the role passed to Hamburg after a couple of years because of the fact that the organisers of the Frankfurt Maitagrennen refused to move it from 1. May, a national holiday in Germany, but of course meaning the race could happen on any day of the week rather than allowing for a more fixed calendar. The route took in a collection of the climbs in the Taunus range to the northwest of the city, with a closing circuit including the climb of Hainer Weg, a slight uphill - not a categorization-worthy climb but a slight uphill that could make it less than a straightforward sprinters’ finish, somewhat like the finish of the Tour de Vendée, and a finish outside the Henninger Turm, a famous landmark of south Frankfurt, an outsized grain silo that predated much of the skyscraper developments that give Frankfurt its current, slightly sarcastic, nickname of ‘Mainhattan’.



The list of winners of the race is pretty stellar, from Armand Desmet winning the first one it has generally been the preserve of good-but-not-legendary Classics specialists, with the occasional foray into outright legends - Stablinski in 1965, Altig in 1970, Merckx in 1971, Godefroot in 1974, Maertens in 1976, Knetemann in 1977 and Baronchelli in 1980 are archetypal of this era. Ludo Peeters and Phil Anderson both won the race back to back in the 80s, and in the early 90s people like Johan Bruyneel, Rolf Sorensen, Michele Bartoli and Olaf Ludwig won the race, before Erik Zabel took the first of his three wins. For a decade the race alternated between reduced sprints and small groups won by strong-climbing puncheurs - Rebellin, Garzelli and local boy Patrik Sinkewitz also won during this era - before Henninger withdrew its sponsorship and the race was restyled “Eschborn-Frankfurt City Loop”, for a year, and then “Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt”. In 2010 the finish was moved from the site of the old Henninger Turm, and placed outside the Alte Oper. Fabian Wegmann won a sprint of a group of 20 by sneaking into a chicane on the route 500m out with a cheeky move that meant a lot of the sprinters got boxed in and couldn’t get around him on the slightly leftward-curving finishing “straight”. In 2011, however, John Degenkolb won a sprint of 70 riders as HTC pledged not to repeat their tactical mistakes of the previous year.

This led to the organisers amending the route slightly, adding an extra ascent of the Mammolshainer Berg, the race’s signature ascent, a 2,7km ascent averaging 7% on its way into the suburban outlying town of Königstein im Taunus, known primarily for a short, steep cut-through called Mammolshainer Stich, which includes gradients verified at over 21%, and with some estimates suggesting a max of 26%. The fact you can see all the way from the Taunus hills into the Main/Rhein basin and pick out the skyscrapers of the city from distance just makes it a more iconic shot.



At first it worked - in 2012, Tony Martin attempted a long solo, and a chasing trio of Firsanov, Moser and Oss were able to get across to him before Moser won; 2013’s was an exciting finish as Moser tried unsuccessfully - but only just - to defend his crown as he was outsprinted by Simon Špilak, the last survivors of a group also including Domenico Pozzovivo which were caught literally on the line - with 200m to go you still didn’t know if Andre Greipel or Domenico Pozzovivo would finish first - remarkable. In 2014, the sprinters had worked it out, and Kristoff won a sprint of 40. 2015’s race was cancelled due to a terrorist threat, as the Polizei searched and arrested a couple living in Oberursel, at the base of the Großer Feldberg climb, seizing weapons including a pipe bomb and an automated rifle; they had been spotted exploring a forest along the race route, and had rumoured connections to al-Qaeda; while Oberursel is the terminus of the U3 U-Bahn route in Frankfurt and hiking from Hohemark into the mountains is a popular pastime for the urban population there, in the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing, the police took no risks, and the race was cancelled.

Since then, however, the sprinters have held sway. 56 riders contested the finish in 2016, and then ASO took over the race. Kristoff continued his dominance, taking his record fourth win in 2018, this time from a group of under 30 as it moves more toward the 2010 kind of time - however, nearly 80 riders contested the bunch kick in 2019 as Pascal Ackermann took the win, so it’s about time the race got another revamp to try to vary the finishes, as it has now been five sprint editions in a row. The organisers have periodically tried to toughen up the race, but the pan-flat finishes in Frankfurt itself rather than in the Sachsenhausen district south of the river, and the wide open roads in the run-in from Kronberg to the centre of Frankfurt, which favour the bunch, have meant that with several teams now interested in controlling it for their sprinters, and a number of riders no longer believing their breakaways will be successful, the style of the racing has become less varied. The old Henninger Turm, the icon of the race, was pulled down in 2013, and while a housing development built on its spot has attempted to ape its design, it’s just not quite the same, and if anything the race being an honourable but not quite right facsimile of what it used to be makes the history of 80 Hainer Weg just that little bit more apposite. This was once one of the most unpredictable races of the year - and it’s also the race that made me a cycling fan, as I used to live on the race route and it was following a chance experience of catching this race live that I caught the cycling bug. I started the thread for it several years running on the boards, but that flexible date has also made it a harder one to follow repeatedly. Anyway, you can see how the organisers have tried to vary things to keep the differences in the race:

2009 race - Großer Feldberg, Ruppertshain, Bittalhöhe, Mammolshain
2010 race - Großer Feldberg, Ruppertshain, Mammolshain, Bittalhöhe, Mammolshain
2013 race - Großer Feldberg, Ruppertshain, Mammolshain, Mammolshain, Mammolshain, Mammolshain
2018 race - Großer Feldberg, Ruppertshain, Mammolshain, Bittalhöhe, Ruppertshain, Mammolshain, Bittalhöhe, Ruppertshain, Mammolshain, Mammolshain

As you can see - the organisers are definitely trying to make this as selective as they can (though 2019’s edition removed one ascent each of Bittalhöhe and Ruppertshain from the previous year’s version). But those laps around the centre of Frankfurt at the end, and those wide roads from Kronberg through Eschborn to Rodelheim and Bockenheim just serve to make it hard for any break that isn’t large enough and cohesive enough to stand any chance of making it. But there are a couple of unexplored options. Here’s my take.





The start of the race - from Eschborn into Frankfurt and then heading northward via a small rise at University Campus Riedberg into Oberursel - is no different from the ‘classic’ version of the route. What I have done, however, is instead of going over Großer Feldberg once and then having the loop to the southwest of it - either Mammolshain, Bittalhöhe and Ruppertshain or just Mammolshain - is to extend the loop; the Bittalhöhe route is the road which runs from Königstein im Taunus to Glashütten, so in effect by heading east to Oberursel and then taking a second time up the Großer Feldberg, I am taking a climb ASO records as 2,3km @ 6,2%, and replacing it with a second time up to the mighty king of the Taunus.



According to La Flamme Rouge, Großer Feldberg is 13,8km @ 4,6% so while it’s not the most challenging climb in the world, given how sustained it is in length, getting over two ascents of it will be more of a challenge for the sprinters of the world, and mean that they earn their right to contest the win far more.



The second time up the Großer Feldberg comes at 88km to go - so we’re a long way out - but it’s enough that with the Ruppertshain and its steep slopes breaking up the descent, a lot of the sprinters should be quite poorly placed or not satisfactorily recovered by the time we get our second double ascent of the Mammolshain.



I know what you’re thinking: “this is an awful lot of hype for what amounts to just an extra loop of a climb we already know, Libertine. And if I’m looking at that profile of yours correctly, you’ve not just kept the run-in through Eschborn, Rodelheim and Bockenheim but if anything, it’s further from Mammolshain to the finishing line, so how is this going to improve racing?”

Glad you asked.

Firstly, I have moved the finish from Alte Oper to Hanauer Landstraße, in the east of the city. Although there are tramlines, these do not need to get in the way as a) we barely need to cross them, and b) there is only one line that runs down this way, the Straßenbahn #11 from Fechenheim to Höchst, and even then there’s only 6 stops that would be disrupted, max, because the rest of the stops can be shared with either Straßenbahn #12 from Fechenheim to Schwanheim (but looping north of Ostbahnhof, into Bornheim) or Straßenbahn #14 from Bornheim to Louisa, on the way to Neu-Isenburg. Where we do need to cross the tram tracks, this can be done by medium of a temporary covering, like the guttering in the Briançon Citadel, as the disruption will be minimal. Hanauer Landstraße has always got two lanes minimum of width either side of the Straßenbahn, and further down the Straßenbahn lines are segregated from the main body of the road anyway. At the point where I’ve put the finish, the road itself is three lanes wide on our side of the tracks.


Finishing straight on left - this is about 300m from home

The other innovation is a circuit to the east of the city which is about 18km in length. This was borne out of my attempt to make a World Championships circuit in Frankfurt, and to show how a “sprinter’s worlds” should be done. The Frankfurt circuit takes in the peripheral city district of Enkheim, the terminus of the U7 Underground train (when the riders first arrive in Frankfurt, they arrive in Rodelheim, meet the U6 at Hausen near where I used to live, then this meets the U7 at Industriehof, so we basically trace this U-Bahn line across the city as it goes through Bockenheim, Westend, the Alte Oper - where the current race finishes - and across almost to Ostbahnhof before heading up to Enkheim), and then up to Bergen-Enkheim, past the new location of Batschkapp, Frankfurt’s legendary rock club which for many years (and in all of my memories) was holed up in a former textile warehouse in the north of the city in Weißer Stein, but has had to move in recent years, and serves as the counterpoint to, on the other side of the Autobahn on the way to Fechenheim, home of moon13, formerly Cocoon (and before that, Omen), the home of Frankfurt’s techno scene and the local residence club of legendary techno DJ Sven Väth. The name of Bergen-Enkheim gives it away: this is a hill. And not an inconsiderable one either. I mean, in the grand scheme of things it’s a pretty small hill. But if we’ve got a group of 40 or so as we have had in recent years in the run-in in Frankfurt, it is nice to at least throw a bit of a curveball in there, so that the attackers have more of a chance to make something happen. There are a few roads that climb up from Enkheim into Bergen-Enkheim. I have chosen Röhrborngasse - 750m averaging 9,3%, with a maximum of 20%. It even has its own website. It has been used in the Hessen-Rundfahrt, but that race is long since departed, and the amateur championships of West Germany also included it in a circuit in 1975.



With only 11,5km remaining at the summit, however, this is a chance for the puncheur to make hay while the sun shines, and it’s something that the sprinters will need to think about - not toasting too many people pulling breaks back before it, as they have to think about leaving enough in their own tanks to get over these 800m - and tactical placing will be important, as will managing any attackers. Looking at the groups that have contested the sprint in the last three seasons, there are people like Jan Bakelants, Oliver Naesen, Edoardo Zardini, Enrico Battaglin, Dylan Teuns, Rein Taaramäe, Maciej Paterski, Silvan Dillier, Emanuel Buchmann and Simon Špilak who may see a climb like this as their chance - however being only 750m in length means it’s not a guaranteed difference-maker that suddenly turns this into an Ardennes race.

There’s then a second climb on the run-in, but this is not one that is likely to cause any great difficulty - after a gradual downhill on Vilbeler Landstraße and Wilhelmshöher Straße, a right turn followed by a technical left-right chicane takes us onto Hofhausstraße, in Stadtteil Seckbach. This is 1100m at 5,3%, but it’s wide open and only has a couple of corners and no real steep gradients, so sprinters needn’t be afraid of it; however, it is very liable to prove an obstacle to their getting back onto anybody who has attacked on Röhrborngasse. Luckily for them, then, at the end of this, we head onto the B521 dual carriageway, which takes us into Frankfurt-Nordend on a straight road, so they may be able to get a visual on the fugitives briefly. We then head along Dortelweiler Straße and Im Prüfling into Bornheim, where we cross over the tramlines and go left-right onto Berger Straße, famous for its market and its cafes. This is the last real chance for the break to escape, as it’s fairly narrow, but then they turn left at the bottom of the road, 2,2km from the line, and it’s onto the wide open Habsburger Allee.



From here, it’s just a couple of easy rights, and then a couple of sweeping lefts in short succession at Ostbahnhof itself (just in front of the Europäische Zentralbank, in fact) before returning to Hanauer Landstraße for the final 650m of run-in to the line. So yes, this could still be a sprint, but while the earlier climbs will tell us who will fight it out in the final 20km of the race, there is still the opening up of opportunities for riders of varying types. After all, you might be able to get rid of a few helpers for the sprinters by racing hard on Mammolshain, especially if some of those sprinters are suffering on Großer Feldberg; and if those sprinters that remain have very few helpers, it will be easier to get away from them on Röhrborngasse, and then they’ll have to do their own work in the run-in.

I think that that 18km circuit would make a good ‘sprinters’ worlds’ along similar lines to Geelong. There’s one climb which is steep enough to create separation but not long enough to be automatically decisive, and there’s another climb shortly after to try to prevent a chase getting organised too quickly - but then there’s a flat run-in with the final 2km being on wide open roads which will suit a chase. Doing repeated laps of this circuit, with the first few kilometres also being flat, will likely favour the bunch, but the bunch will become increasingly thinned out, which was why I thought of World Championship races like Geelong as a template. However, doing it just once at the end of a one-day race which has included varying types of climbing… this could be very interesting indeed.

 
OK, next project. I've had a couple of goes at the Deutschland Tour before, one was a three week race, but I think it's fair to say that given there are only a couple of selective areas for real HC and cat.1 mountains, repeated three week races would be too excessive as the key mountains would get too repetitive; sure, I know another country which hosts a three week race has its mountains concentrated into two specific geographic areas (i.e. France), but the range of mountains that they have in France in those two ranges is just more extensive even if the Tour itself doesn't always use them. We've seen a few three week Deutschland Tours on the forum - most recently by rghysens last autumn - but while Germany does have the Alps, but it only touches the edges of them in its southern borderlands, and most of the German climbs in the Alps are either low and gradual passes, or they are one-way goat tracks at the kind of percentages that Javier Guillén can only dream of. The Schwarzwald is similar to the Vosges, offering a number of good potential mountain stages, but the rest of the mountain ranges in Germany are mainly lower and medium levels, so while you can make some really great stages there, a cohesive three week GT is a bit harder. But since the real race is being brought back under ASO's auspices, albeit in a reduced format, and Germany is a large country with cycling history and no real national tour of its own (it has run inconsistently of course), I've always been drawn to it for its possibilities, many of which either haven't been explored or haven't been explored for a long time in real life (we have had quite a few attempts to rectify that on these boards of course!!!), and because of my own personal history there.



My second attempt at the Deutschlandtour was a two week race; I think this is more fair. The country is too large to reasonably provide a tour of the country with a one week race like the real Deutschlandtour was, at least in the iteration that I am most familiar with. I have decided therefore that I will settle on a two week race because I think this should be a usable format for races - at the .HC kind of level as a means to develop GT racers and also to offer possibilities for the kind of racer for whom their recovery is one of their greatest strengths - e.g. Steven Kruijswijk or Ryder Hesjedal - beyond the Grand Tours. And obviously this does not require a complete rewrite of history like my most recent Friedensfahrt; while I do use some East German terrain here, I am keenly aware that having done three Peace Races and a DDR-Rundfahrt, I have not wrung the former DDR dry but have already been through the Steiler Wand von Meerane, the Teufelstein, the Hallescher Katzenköpfe and Täve Schur sitting up for Bernhard Eckstein enough that they're kind of taken as read. On the other hand, there is still a lot left for me to explore in the former BRD. Like with my Vueltas, therefore, I have decided to lay some ground rules.

- Because Germany does have certain areas that are too tempting to use, I can only use a limited number of the following:
- Lüneburger Heide cobbles
- Hölle des Ostens cobbles
- Berchtesgadener Land
- Aue / Fichtelgebirge
- The race must start and finish in large cities; the previous attempt ran from Dresden to Heidelberg. This one will start in Berlin - it's difficult to have a traditional parade stage in Berlin, without having a large transfer, because Berlin is in the northern third of Germany which is on the same lowlands that make up the Netherlands, Flanders, Denmark and the majority of Poland, and therefore the only way to have a stage race that finished with stage 15 in Berlin and not have a large transfer would be to have a cobbled stage or an ITT, unless they wanted to go with a mountaintop finish on Brocken which is not particularly selective. I may well do an edition which finishes in Berlin at some point - I have a lot of ideas because despite having done two Deutschlandtours and with all those East German races under my belt, a) my ideas and knowledge have improved greatly since that first 21-stage race which included a king of the cobblestones jersey (and hunting out points to give for that also affected the race), and b) West Germany, apart from the Niedersachsen flatlands and that central area around eastern Baden-Württemberg and west-central Bavaria, is absolutely chocked full of potential, mostly of the Ardennes type or medium-mountain type ranges, not too much in the way of the super steep Basque type climbs but still enough that plenty of opportunities are there to be had for race design, and the fact that I have no fixed start/finish here means that the pacing can be moved around too.
- Only one stage host (well, two: one finish and a subsequent start) can be abroad. This would usually be in Austria, seeing as the real life Deutschlandtour used to go overseas for its queen stages in its latter years - 2005 and 2007 on the Rettenbachferner, 2006 in Seefeld, 2004 in Sankt Anton am Arlberg and 2008 at Hochfügen. However, it is also possible to find interesting potential stage hosts in France (Vosges mountains), Belgium and Luxembourg (Ardennes type stages, though Germany offers a multitude of possibilities for these anyway) and the Czech Republic (medium mountains somewhere like Krúpka or Dlouha Louká) are also possibilities which have been used by other users when designing German stage races. And my last Deutschlandtour featured one such overseas stage finish, a mountain stage in another Germanophone country, this being the Liechtensteiner ski resort of Malbun.

A feature of German cycling over the years has been length. Long stages, long TTs, and long, drawn-out climbs. The race has tried to get off the ground at various times in history; the 1920s-30s version, in Weimar Germany, was at its longest 16 stages long with all but one stage over 200km in length. In the late 1930s, the Nazis revived it, extending it to three weeks by 1939, but then of course WWII intervened. Although cycling was far more popular in the DDR than the BRD, it was the latter that first reintroduced a national tour, starting with a 6 stage race in 1947 to the DDR's 1949, and this swiftly grew to two weeks in duration, still averaging well over 200km a stage, and wavering between 12 and 17 stages.

At this stage, the Deutschland Tour could have been what the Vuelta is now; both races were growing and shrinking in the 1950s, and having periods of not running. The Deutschland Tour went on hiatus from 1953-4, returned in 1955, then disappeared for four seasons before returning as a one-week race in 1960, with interest spurred on by Rudi Altig. After a few editions it disappeared again with German cycling sitting in the doldrums (even in the east, the mid to late 1960s were a barren time, but in the 70s things looked up again in the DDR before they went through a golden generation in the 80s) until another German star, Dietrich Thurau, led to another attempt to resurrect the event in the late 1970s. With stars like Thurau, Gerrie Knetemann, Fedor van Hertog, Francesco Moser, Jan Raas, Marino Lejarreta, Giuseppe Saronni Faustino Rupérez and Fons de Wolf in tow, this was a high potential reboot, but swiftly the fields fell away and the race was mothballed again until the late 90s when the version most of us will be familiar with was established, again in the wake of the success of a particular German star, this time Jan Ullrich; this came after the reunification of Germany, meaning that the DDR love of cycling was able to enthuse the entire nation, which was revelling in positivity following the Wiedervereinigung, and stars born in the DDR such as Erik Zabel, Jan Ullrich, Jens Voigt and Andreas Klöden could be fêted across the whole nation, wowing the fans with their exploits across all of Europe, not just in the relative isolation of amateur-but-not-truly-amateur cycling in the Communist bloc.


1980 Deutschlandtour

That first edition of that particular reboot in 1999 also began, like I do here, in Berlin; it seemed a symbolic place to start, heading down to Leipzig in stage 1, before leaving the former DDR on stage 2 and spending the rest of the race distance in the former BRD. An odd choice, you may have thought, but you must also remember that at this point the Friedensfahrt was still running - and in 1999 it in fact saw its first ever excursion into the former West Germany, with a stage to Hof, a Bavarian former border town (and for those of you who've read The Race Against the Stasi, it was from here that Dieter Wiedemann's penfriend and later wife who set into motion his defection accessed the former East). 2000's edition also featured just one stage - the last - in the former East, with the Peace Race starting in Hanover and moving eastward from there. This format continued - 2001 featuring one day's racing in Thüringen (and most of a second), but in 2002, the former East Germany was frozen out entirely. By 2003, though, the Deutschlandtour was rising in stature, and the Peace Race was an empty shell of a race, so it didn't matter that it was travelling through Eastern terrain - the Deutschlandtour was the biggest game in town. Dresden held the depart in 2003, as it did in my first two week version, Erik Zabel winning a stage to Altenburg which included the famous Steiler Wand, and 2004 saw Leipzig take the finish, after a MTF at Fichtelberg on the penultimate day (little was to be had by way of time gaps). 2005 saw one stage out of 8, but the final three editions saw no racing in the former DDR at all - a sad indictment given all of the cycling history there. The race had been wavering for a few years after the impact of Operación Puerto robbing the nation of Jan Ullrich, followed swiftly by the T-Mobile team's withdrawal in the wake of the Freiburg scandal and the revelations of Patrik Sinkewitz, before the scandals rocking the Gerolsteiner team, the penultimate remaining German World Tour squad, at the 2008 Tour de France, with team leader Stefan Schumacher and GC surprise Bernhard Kohl both suspended, was the final straw, and we lost the race again for a decade.


Linus Gerdemann, the last winner of a classic style Deutschlandtour (after all, four stages can barely be described as a Tour OF a country the size of Germany). For many years touted as a great promise but in the end he and most of his generation were to serve only as placeholders until the next generation came along, as Germany reverted to the TTers and sprinters that it always had specialised in, especially in the East)

Now: I'm going to bring back the Deutschlandtour properly, over the two week duration that was envisaged for it all those moons ago in the days of Weimar, and utilizing enough of the terrain for it to be a proper Deutschland Tour - while still not using so much of it that there isn't the possibility for future editions that aren't repetitious. I have cannibalized a couple of my other ideas in this race, and left out a few of the most well-trodden paths. There are a number of long stages, but to counter them, I have decided to throw a bit of a sop to the way cycling actually is at time of writing with a shorter one or two too.

Stage 1: Berlin - Berlin, 10,2km (EZF)





I'm certainly not the first person to start a German race with a time trial in Berlin. Rghysens has two Deutschland Tours starting there - one 9-day and one 21-stage event; lemon cheese cake did a two week Deutschland Tour which started with a Berlin TT too; while Bavarianrider, in the first attempt in this thread to do a GT-length German race, in an audacious route which included a Nebelhorn MTT and several 50-60km tests against the clock, also premiered this option to us. So I'm hardly being original, shall we say.



The length of my ITT is almost exactly the same as rghysens' similar chrono, but with a different route. The start and finish will be on Paul-Löbe-Allee, between the Paul-Löbe-Haus, named after the Weimar era politician instrumental in regenerating the SPD in the post-war environment, and the Reichstag building. The riders will exit the start ramp and turn right, past the Bundeskanzleramt, and cross the Spree into Alt-Moabit - for once we're using the western side of Berlin in one of my races, so not restricting the finish to Alexanderplatz and Karl-Marx-Allee. After this they turn left onto Paulstraße, across Lutherbrücke and into Tiergarten, where they proceed tro circumnavigate the iconic Siegessäule, designed to commemorate Prussian victory over Denmark, but delayed in the building process until such time as it could also commemorate victories over Austria and France in the intervening period. Originally placed at Platz der Republik, it was relocated by the Nazis, along with access tunnels built by Albert Speer in line with their envisaged (grotesque) new city centre plans, which made it seem less relevant in the immediate aftermath of the war, but on the other hand did spare it from destruction.



After this, it's a straight run down Straße des 17. Junis, an unconventional naming practice for the former Charlottenburger Chaussee - it was named by the West Germans, provocatively in honour of those who lost their lives in the East German uprising of June 17th 1953; it links the Siegessäule with Germany's most iconic architectural structure, the Brandenburg Gate. We turn right in front of the famous Gate, and then left almost immediately, running alongside the Holocaust Memorial before turning left and right again to join the continuation of Straße des 17. Junis into the former East Berlin, along Unter den Linden, another wide open two-pronged thoroughfare which is one of the city's most iconic, if not its most iconic outright, street.



Featuring a number of major sights, such as the Russian (former Soviet) Embassy, an imposing building given pride of place on the most important road in Soviet-Occupied Berlin, the State Library, the Berliner Staatsoper, the Historisches Museum (formerly the arsenal, and the oldest extant building to have survived) and the Kronprinzenpalais, this is a real sightseeing excursion, with us riding onto the tip of Karl-Liebknecht-Straße, the continuation of Unter den Linden which runs as far as Alexanderplatz; we don't quite go that far, instead doing a loop which takes in the Museumsinsel - on the picture below, we arrive in the bottom left riding past the front of Berliner Dom, in the foreground, around the back of the Altes Museum and then left, then right back onto Unter den Linden which you can see in the upper left.



From there, we retrace our steps along Unter den Linden, riding back on the opposite side of the thoroughfare, turning right on Wilhelmstraße, left to the bottom corner of the Reichstagsgebäude, left past the comparatively low-key Sinti und Roma Denkmal and then right at the Brandenburg Gate once more to retrace our steps on Straße des 17. Junis; however after passing the Sowjetisches Ehrendenkmal Tiergarten (not to be confused with the larger, more dramatic Ehrendenkmal in Treptower Park, in former East Berlin) we turn right to return to Paul-Löbe-Allee. Slightly too long to be a prologue, this is nevertheless a flat and fast ITT that should give us some small time gaps. We aren't going for the usual "three week German Tour = first week of flat stages in the north" approach here (not least because we only have two weeks to fill, but it's a different shaped route to normal anyway), so it isn't going to be a disaster of a TT rider taking the Trikot and then sprinters failing to dethrone them for a few days; but I do need to create some kind of time gaps early on to give people something to fight for in the early stages.

A bit like the Giro, Berlin was not a focal point of early attempts at tours of Germany, which instead operated an east to west approach (starting in Breslau, present day Wrocław, Poland, and ending in Aachen on the western tip of the country) in 1911's first attempt, and was based around Cologne in the second attempt in 1922. 1927's Großer Opelpreis von Deutschland was the first time Berlin saw a national Tour (Rund um Berlin had of course been running since the 1890s and Berlin-Cottbus-Berlin since 1909) and the Opel sponsorship saw the focal point being Frankfurt am Main. In 1930, Berlin hosted start and finish, but a year later this was moved to Rüsselsheim, the Opel factory on the outskirts of Frankfurt. It was only with the Nazis' version of the race in the late 30s that Berlin came to be the traditional start and finish; however, for obvious reasons the city did not feature in the various Deutschlandrundfahrt/Deutschlandtour resurrections during the Cold War era; the issue of travelling to the city would mean significant - and troublesome - transfers mid-stage and it became a magnet for protesters - Wall City Rock! - notwithstanding that of course its Sonderstatus meant that it wasn't really a viable capital of West Germany either. In the post-Wende reincarnation of the Deutschland Tour, it served as a ceremonial départ for the first edition, which finished in Bonn, which of course had lost its role as the Bundesrepublik's capital when the position returned to Berlin; the route was reversed in 2000 and Erik Zabel won symbolically in the city for the T-Mobile team, linking East and West Germany in more ways than one. But since then, nada.


Watermarked, but the only photo I can find of the precise victory I mention

Of course, there is a parallel history, in that while the Deutschlandtour may have run sporadically, and in line with periods of BRD success, the DDR-Rundfahrt was a constant, with the East Germans having been huge fans of cycling. East Berlin featured regularly, all the way back to the Ostzonen-Rundfahrt in 1949. Every edition until 1959, when the finish was moved to Potsdam, finished on Karl-Marx-Allee (originally Stalin-Allee). In the mid-60s, the organizers moved away from finishing in Berlin - after all the Berliners already got the finish of Berlin-Cottbus-Berlin, Berlin-Angermünde-Berlin, the Rund um Berlin and at least one Friedensfahrt stage a year. Nevertheless winners in the city include Bernhard Eckstein and Michael Milde in the national stage race, and Lothar Meister I (there were two unrelated Lothar Meisters plying their trade in the 40s and 50s in DDR cycling), Egon Adler, Yuri Melikhov, Erich Hagen (including winning the race outright on the final day after teammate Egon Adler crashed and the Belgian team attacked to try to win the race off him), Jan Smolík, Alexey Petrov, Hans-Joachim Hartnick, Bernd Drogan, Olaf Ludwig, Piotr Ugrumov, Uwe Raab and Jan Svorada in the Peace Race.

The West Germans had better chance to show off in the dying embers of the Cold War though; in 1987, after Uwe Ampler won his first Friedensfahrt in the edition which featured that Harrachov ITT, the West Germans could boast that they had the biggest game in town in town - the Tour de France featured its Grand Départ in West Berlin, with Jelle Nijdam winning a prologue, before a short road stage won by Nico Verhoeven and then a TTT the same afternoon won by the Carrera Jeans team of eventual race winner Stephen Roche. The road stage was particularly notable as Lech Piasecki, second in the prologue, inherited the maillot jaune after getting into a late escape, and became the first Ostbloc rider to do so, having been traded to the west in exchange for new bicycles and tech by the Poles after his dominant 1985 season, and meaning he became the first - and only - man to ever wear the yellow jersey in both East and West Berlin.

 
Stage 2: Cottbus - Bastei, 212km





GPM:
Loschwitzer Berg (cat.3) 2,2km @ 7,2%
Borsberg (cat.3) 3,0km @ 7,3%
Pfaffenberg (cat.3) 2,3km @ 8,6%
Tiefer Grund (cat.3) 3,0km @ 4,8%
Hockstein (cat.3) 2,1km @ 5,4%

After a transfer southeastwards to the bottom corner of Brandenburg, we are on familiar cycling terrain here. Cottbus passed into legend as the turn-around point in the middle of the iconic Berlin-Cottbus-Berlin one day race, a sort of Eastern Milano-Sanremo which ran since the 1920s and featured among its winners the likes of Erich Schulz, Lothar Meister II, Rainer Marks, Andreas Petermann, Olaf Ludwig, Uwe Raab, and record victor Martin Götze, a one-day specialist who won the race on three occasions, including the final edition in 1989. It was also one of the races won by Wolfgang Lötzsch when he was allowed to return to competition in the mid 1980s; he had been formally barred from competition since 1979 and informally barred for several years prior to that, due to a combination of his reluctance to become a member of the SED and his apparent contacts with the west (he was a cousin of Dieter Wiedemann, who defected several years prior); with his ostracization being so complete that when he won the Olympic trials other riders were forbidden from standing on the podium with him. His blacklisting also included being thrown out of all of the state sports programs and even a prison sentence, but upon his return to competition in 1983 he - in front of a huge televised audience - broke away over 100km from home and soloed in to win the Rund um Berlin by over eight minutes, and then went on to several major victories. Support for Wolfgang Lötzsch was an informal way of voicing opposition, and he became a major cause célèbre in East German sport. A documentary was made about his fight, part of which is available here, and he remains even more of a "what if?" story in cycling history than the other legends of behind the curtain.


Sportfreunde Lötzsch

Cottbus is also the informal centre of Lower Sorbian culture, for it was the Sorbs who first settled this area back in the 10th Century. Its name among the remaining Sorbs is Chóśebuz, although it is worth noting that Lower Sorbian is very moribund and very few Sorbian-speakers remain in Cottbus itself, although there are around 7.000 speakers of the language remaining in the towns and villages surrounding it; neighbouring Upper Sorbian is more vibrant, with around 13.000 native-speakers and 60.000 overall speakers, and Bautzen is a much more proactive host of Sorbian culture despite being a much smaller city - or perhaps because of it. There is, however, bilingual signage in Cottbus and protected status for the local minority language, although it is seldom heard.

The city has had very little involvement in the Deutschland Tour; due to the lengthy stages of the pre-war era and its proximity to Berlin (notwithstanding that Germany spread further eastward in those days) it only featured once before the partition, that being a stage in 1939 won by the Dutch future track world champion Gerrit Schulte, and never in the rebirth of the race following reunification. It did feature commonly in the DDR-Rundfahrt, particularly in the early 1970s when it would host multiple stages in and around the city, and was introduced to the Friedensfahrt in 1955, with Czech legend Jan Vesely winning the stage. The last 'golden age' Peace Race, 1989's edition, featured a finish in the city, won by Uwe Raab, but by then perestroika was in full effect; Cottbus remained loyal, hosting the race a couple of times as it gasped for breath in its dying days - Steffen Wesemann winning a stage there in 1996, and an ITT in 1999, with Olaf Pollack also winning a road stage the same year. Cycling hasn't seen the city since 2009, however, when it hosted the German national championships, with a lot of local knowledge coming in handy when young Cottbusser Martin Reimer took the road race, Bert Grabsch - in the rainbow jersey - narrowly defeated a young local boy called Tony Martin in the ITT, and another local rider, Trixi Worrack, won the women's ITT too.

Yes, that's right - strangely despite its focal nature in one of the biggest bike races of the Ostbloc, Cottbus had a peripheral status as a base for cyclists in the DDR, and only towards the tail end of the Republic produced any significant talents - two-time world champion in the 1km TT Jens Glücklich is perhaps the most notable - but since then, it has emerged as a hotbed of talent. Eldest among the post-Wende cycling talents is Trixi Worrack, a former World Champion many times in the TTT and one of the most respected workers in the women's péloton, having bounced around top level teams for 15 years despite even having had to have a kidney removed following a particularly nasty accident. Then there's Daniel Musiol, winner of the KOM at the last Deutschlandtour until its ASO-led reboot; former points race world champion Stephanie Gaumnitz (née Pohl); surprise national champion and short-lived durable sprinter/classics prospect Martin Reimer; World and Olympic bronze medallist paracyclist Jana Majunke; super sprint prospect and splendidly-named talent Willi Willwohl, forced to retire before his career could ever get going through health problems; and Tour de l'Avenir and Olympia's Tour stage winner, Max Kanter, who has started a pro career with Sunweb this season.



The first part of the stage is a perfectly flat southwestward roll along the border between the Spreewald and the Lausitzer Seenland, a scenic area of artificial lakes created out of the former lignite quarries that powered the DDR and helped give it its unique, drab, grey-brown hue in our mind's eyes. We stop off in Senftenberg, which I dealt with in my Lausitz-Rundfahrt back in the early days of the thread (I should probably give that another go some time), and then Elsterwerda, home of surprise 1983 Peace Race winner Falk Boden. Boden was rather usurped in importance in DDR cycling throughout the rest of the 1980s by his more illustrious compatriots Olaf Ludwig, Uwe Ampler, Uwe Raab, and also slightly less celebrated names like Olaf Jentzsch and Jan Schur - however he turned pro with PDM like them, and in 1991 became the first national champion of a united Germany. I already dealt with Elsterwerda, and with Boden himself, in my Friedensfahrt recently, so I shan't go into further depth here.

At around the halfway point in the stage we turn back to the southeast, and this takes place in the city of Meißen. A modestly-sized city of just under 30.000 inhabitants, Meißen is famous for two things: firstly, porcelain; and secondly, the German language. Bear with me here: when Martin Luther was translating the bible into the vernacular, he needed a comparatively neutral dialect, as the varieties of the German language throughout the country were wildly differing. Luther himself being from Thüringen, he had a fairly central dialect which had higher mutual intelligibility with a larger number of dialects than had he spoken, say, broad Boarisch or Plattdüütsch. "Meißnisch" is the name of the particular dialect within the Thüringen-Obersachsen area, named after the city, and so in time, the dialect of Meißen became the basis of the modern German standard language. This even has a crazy reflection in "Missingsch", a bastardized version of the standard language with various Low German inflections, words and pronunciations which has displaced actual Low German in parts of Niedersachsen. There are some nice short climbs - some of which cobbled - in the city, but here it's just the feedzone, we're leaving that for the time being.



Instead, we head on to Dresden, for our second intermediate sprint (I have decided to incentivise moves by having no fewer than three bonus sprints with 3, 2 and 1 bonus seconds) in the picturesque rebuilt old city. Dresden is of course where I started my last Deutschlandtour, and apart from the FIS instituting a round of the XC Skiing World Cup since then (with an awful "sprint + team sprint" calendar) little has changed in the city. The sprint is on Altmarkt at the heart of the city. We then head to the course of the cross-country skiing and cross the Elbe at the Schillerdenkmal into Loschwitz, a village which has been swallowed by Neu-Dresden. And then, the climbing begins, and the classics specialists can come to the fore.



That's right, it's a 2,2km, 7,2% monstrosity which is mostly cobbled. The start is on Calberlastraße, which you can see there, which has mis-shapen, mis-aligned and otherwise just horrible cobbles. This gives way to better-aligned, more 'normal' cobbles on Robert-Diez-Straße, but that just means the gradient ramps up - this is the profile of the overall climb, but as you can see - 300m at 15%+ in the middle which is the end of the cobbles. This section is on streetview if you want to take a look. I used this back in my second Peace Race all the way back in 2014, as a penultimate climb of the day; here it is the first - and the first to give out points at all, which could be interesting. It is 70km from home, too, so the pace shouldn't be too brutal. After this we continue on the plateau a bit before descending back to the banks of the Elbe, before climbing the Borsberg, another cobbled killer, which consists of 1km at 12% on cobbles - including ramps of up to 17% - before 2km at 4,5% on tarmac, but woefully inconsistent and including ramps up to 21%. This climb famously hosted a "MTT" in the Peace Race which was won by Anatoly Starkov, just ahead of Ryzard Szurkowski who had won the morning flat TT, so Szurkowski was awarded the overall stage win for the day. I used it in the TT for stage 1 of my last Deutschland Tour. With 57km remaining it won't decide who wins but it might just get rid of a few also-rans. No easing in to MY race.



We are, however, headed directly out of Dresden now, and towards neighbouring Pirna, which serves as the capital of the Sächsisches Schweiz, or Saxon Switzerland, a scenic hilly area with many natural rock formations and valleys that make it an attractive getaway in the eastern Erzgebirge, popular as a retreat during DDR times. The city is the base of Sonnenstein Castle, which looks down into the urban area - converted first to a large mental asylum and then during WWII into a forced euthanasia clinic in which some 15.000 people met their fate before the camp was dismantled in 1942 and incriminating evidence destroyed, while the staff were packaged off to train others in the extermination camps in the east of the empire. We then head from Pirna over the hill to Festung Königstein, a beautiful hilltop fortress which serves as the gateway to the 'real' Sächsisches Schweiz. Regarded as 'the Saxon Bastille', it is one of Europe's largest sets of hilltop fortifications, and one of Saxony's greatest tourist attractions, with day trips from Dresden, Chemnitz and Leipzig. For many years it was used as a prison, but since 1955 it has been an open air museum of history, with the East German authorities building lifts, train access and similar to make it more accessible to the populace.



We actually pass the fortress at the end of a false flat and then descend through the road which was built to access it, to the riverside village of Königstein, named for the fortress. After that, we climb the other side onto a neighbouring hill, the two-stepped but severe climb of the Pfaffenberg. Consisting of two ascents of around 900m each with a short flat in the middle, this climb, cresting 25km from home, should see some action because you could definitely break somebody here. The first half of the climb, 900m at almost 11%, is also cobbled. The second part of the climb, to Kurort Gohrisch, is tarmacked, and slightly less severe - only around 9,5% - but this is still going to be potentially where the stage is won and lost.



The descent from here takes us down a two-stepped route back to the shores of the Elbe, as we cross back to its northeastern bank at Bad Schandau, crossing the last bridge before it crosses the border into the Czech Republic. The scenery here is spectacular and slightly imposing, as the riders will know that the stage finish is a good 200m above the riverbanks. No need to be too afraid, however, as the first thing they have to do is only ascend a much more gradual climb through the Tiefer Grund valley. It only averages around 5% so is nothing like the threat that the Pfaffenberg was, but crests just 15km from home. We then have the final coup de gras, descending through Hohnstein and ascending one final time, 2km at 5,4%, max of 11%, to the Hocksteinaussicht viewing platform.

This climb crests at a mere 6km from the line, all of which is flat and direct - so who knows what state the race will be in at this point, there's no descent to take care of. That's because the stage finish is at Bastei, a legendary rock formation that towers 200m over the Elbe, immortalized by the works of Caspar David Friedrich. The rock formation inspired artists and poets, and became a pilgrimage point in the 19th Century, at which point a wooden bridge was built to access the stunning views; this was later replaced by a more durable bridge made from local sandstone, at over 75m long and 40m high; as with Festung Königstein, the location became a popular place to visit during the DDR times, when travel abroad was a lot more difficult for citizens, and the natural beauty spots of their homeland became more important to them as getaways. The stage won't quite go all the way to the famous Aussichtspunkt, simply because it can't; the race caravan can go in the main parking area, a kilometre or two back down the road, the finish will be at the Parkplatzkiosk.

However, this is going to be an almighty scenic final 50km with some gorgeous helicam fodder, as the DeutschlandTour gets underway with some serious action. I've never done a proper route in Saxon Switzerland as it's always been bypassed in my Peace Races, crossing the border further down into the Fichtelgebirge, so this is a bit of a rectification of that. Because just look at it.







...now don't tell me that's not a better first Sunday stage than a straightforward sprinter's day.
 
Apr 10, 2019
545
3
1,085
Jesus Christ LS, is there a single cobbled road/climb in East Germany that you don't know?
Jokes aside, I haven't posted a race in a long time.
I have a few routes that I could post, another Giro del Trentino-Tirol, stage races in South America, one in Chile and one in Northern Argentina and stage races in various US states, Cali, Wyoming and Hawaii. The Tour of Hawaii is a bit over the top and has 12 stages with one rest day.
 
Mar 10, 2009
1,446
1
0
Looking forward to the rest of the course. From the research for my last Deutschland Rundfahrt I remember there are still countless hidden gems in the south of Germany (Baden-Württemberg), with the possibility of creating stages similar to this years T-A stage 5 (2km climb @ 12%, including a 1km long stretch averaging 16%)
 
Stage 3: Dresden - Plauen, 175km





GPM:
Badberg (cat.3) 1,8km @ 5,6%
Steiler Wand von Meerane (cat.3) 0,35km @ 12,0%
Pohlitzer Berg (cat.3) 2,1km @ 5,5%
Gorschnitz (cat.3) 2,0km @ 6,1%
Jocketa (cat.3) 0,8km @ 9,0%

We retrace our steps from yesterday a little to leave the Sächsisches Schweiz and head along the Saxon lowlands - no Fichtelgebirge this time. You know Teufelstein and Fichtelberg this time, and also I didn’t want to go for a medium mountain type stage at this point - more mileage to be had from the Classics, you see.



If you aren’t German, there’s a good chance that what you know best about Dresden is that it was absolutely lain waste by the Allies at the end of WWII in a brutal attack which left most of the city’s historic centre, regarded as one of the most beautiful in Germany, razed to the ground. Since then much of it has been rebuilt - the iconic Semperoper and the Frauenkirche being most notable. In the middle of it, a few of the Soviet era blockish monstrosities remain, but for the most part the city centre has been restored to its Classicist origins. Dresden has the longest Deutschlandtour history of any German city - it was the destination of the very first Deutschlandtour stage, as the finish of stage 1 of 1911’s Quer Dutch Deutschland race - the start city was Breslau, which of course is now no longer a German city, being as it is Wrocław in Poland. Hans Ludwig won the stage; he lost the lead the following day but regained it on the final day to become the first winner of the event, and the only one for 11 years. Dresden returned in 1930 and 1931, but it was subordinated as a stage host to Chemnitz during the Nazi years, and obviously post-war it was the wrong side of the Iron Curtain - though it did host stage 1 in the 2003 race, a race from Dresden to Altenburg which was won by Erik Zabel.

The popularity of Cottbus, Forst, Görlitz and Karl-Marx-Stadt as hosts meant a surprisingly low number of stages rocked up into Dresden in the DDR-Rundfahrt; it was first seen in a 67km micro-stage in 1952, won by Fritz Jährling, before returning the following year as Tävemania ran wild and Schur took his first GC win built around his win in the city. Smaller towns and cities hosted the race in the 70s and 80s, partly due to finance and partly to keep tough obstacles closer to the finish, so stages around the Thüringer Wald and Erzgebirge were common. The Friedensfahrt tended to prefer larger cities for the spectacle, however, and Dresden did appear not infrequently there - Joseph Verhelst of Belgium won the first Dresden stage in 1955, while other winners were Manfred Weißleder in 1960, Klaus Ampler (in an ITT) in 1963, Ladislav Heller in 1965, Dieter Gonschorek in 1969, Ryszard Szurkowski as part of the double ITT in 1971, Zbigniew Krzeszowiec in 1973, Siegbert Schmeißer in 1977, and Olaf Ludwig in 1988.


Zielankunft in the Dresden stadium in 1988

The city was for many years the royal residence of the Kings of Saxony, but has lost its role as the capital of the region to Leipzig. While Leipzig is best renowned for music, however, Dresden is a centre for art in Germany, and many fine artists have passed through the city’s Academy over the years, most notably Otto Dix and Caspar David Friedrich, who I mentioned in the previous stage. Many were attracted by the landscapes of Saxon Switzerland, but even beyond that there’s some interest in the rolling hillside as the Erzgebirge give way to the plains, around the Elbe basin. And it is through these foothills that we begin the stage. The first part of the stage could well be considered for categorisable climbs if they went through it later on, however as it’s so early I’ve chosen not to categorise anything. It should however lead to a pretty strong breakaway, especially as there is an early intermediate sprint in Freiberg, an old mining town which is seeing a new lease of life as a centre for computer components and solar technology. After this, the next notable stopping point is Flöha, a small town of around 11.000 inhabitants but which has some notability from a cycling point of view as the hometown of Dieter Wiedemann, who made it all the way to the podium of the Peace Race in the early 1960s before defecting during Olympic trials in 1964 to marry a West German girl he had met years earlier; his defection is what set into motion the whole saga surrounding Wolfgang Lötzsch, who was a cousin of Wiedemann’s. His story is now immortalised in The Race Against the Stasi by Herbie Sykes, although the rather lofty title implies a more Hollywood-ready story than the true history of his disillusionment and eventual defection, which is fascinating but much less glitz and glamour than might be anticipated.


Dieter Wiedemann during his brief pro career in West German

Onward we continue into our second intermediate sprint - still very early in the day - in Chemnitz, which is a former hotbed of cycling in the DDR and hosted the Peace Race and the DDR-Rundfahrt with regularity. Renamed Karl-Marx-Stadt for the majority of the DDR era, even though there was no real connection between Marx and the city (it’s not like Lutherstadt Wittenberge, or Ulyanovsk), the city even hosted the UCI Road World Championships in 1960, although the Road Race was held on the nearby Sachsenring motor racing circuit (which hosts the German national championships in 2019, interestingly enough, although on a radically different course seeing as the old circuit has long been far too dangerous for modern motor racing). And it is in that direction that we are now headed, taking in our first categorised climb of the day on the Badberg, the feature climb of those 1960 World Championships, famous more for the amateur race than the professional race mainly as the East Germans were only really interested in the former, but also because this was the race where socialist pin-up Gustav-Adolf Schur ascended to the role of Demi-god, passing up the chance for an unprecedented third straight world championships by sitting up and allowing teammate Bernhard Eckstein to take the gold (Wiedemann downplayed this as being the politicos not really understanding cycling tactics as it had been more Schur and Eckstein playing the smart 1-2 card to perfection than any great act of selflessness).


Schur and Eckstein in 1961, with the national and world champion jerseys respectively

After this we move on to the feed zone in Glauchau, and then it’s the classic - I was always going to include it even though it’s going to be far from decisive here, being 68km from home. I’m not doing Teufelstein and I’m not in the mountains, I’ve got some cobbles to be the key today, so of course, I’ve got to go to at least some of the old wells. So we’re climbing the single most iconic climb in the Eastern bloc, the Steiler Wand.



You know the drill by now. 350m, 12%, basically it’s Paterberg but in a straight line. It used to be very decisive, nowadays it isn’t, because it’s a) hard to place either finishes or other significant obstacles that close to it, b) very short and being in a straight line means getting lasting separation is harder, and c) bicycle technology has greatly improved since the Peace Race first arrived in Meerane in 1952. The cobbles here used to be THE place to watch the Friedensfahrt, and people would be hanging out windows, perched on rooftops, you know the drill. Here's some archive coverage from 1960, from a stage won by the DDR’s Erich Hagen in Leipzig, featuring the ascent. Following the icon, we move on to Crimmitschau, home of multiple Olympic medallist speed skater Gabi Zange, and then head southwest towards the Elster basin. We have a quick climb into Pohlitz, an outlying hilltop village on the edges of this basin which has now been subsumed by the valley town of Greiz, before our final intermediate sprint which takes place in Greiz itself with 27km remaining.



This scenic town of 20.000 inhabitants was able to largely avoid destruction in WWII, and one of its survivors was Ulf Merbold, who moved to East Berlin and crossed the border shortly before the erection of the Berlin Wall; he later became the first West German to travel into space (Sigmund Jähn, who remained loyal to the DDR, became a cosmonaut five years earlier). Closer to home, it has been the home of a few cyclists, though mostly specialising on the boards. Firstly we have DDR-era specialist Detlef Macha, who won three World Championships in the Individual Pursuit and one in the Team Pursuit across the late 70s and early 80s, before moving into the road, where he won the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt along with several stages of the Thüringen Rundfahrt and the DDR-Rundfahrt. However, after retirement he moved to northern Bavaria where he ran a bicycle shop, before personal problems led to his suicide in 1994, at the age of just 35.

More recently, the city has been home to sprint/kilo specialist Robert Förstemann, whose fame has largely outweighed his results and been the product of his insane quads, with thigh muscles that border on the implausible. More recently still, teenage omnium/pursuit/road prospect Vanessa Wolfram calls Greiz home, and rides for German track/road hybrid squad Maxx Solar-Lindig. The city also frequently hosts stages of the Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen (clip from 2010), with winners in recent times in Greiz including Emma Pooley, Noemi Cantele, Fabiana Luperini, Emma Johansson and Marianne Vos.

The next stopping point is Elsterberg, a small town which was moved from Saxony to Thüringen during the municipal reforms of the DDR, but then returned to Saxony following a plebiscite in 1992. This serves as the base of the penultimate climb, which crests at 16km from home and amounts to 2km at just over 6%, with the steepest gradients at the bottom. We pass briefly through Thüringen at the summit as we go through a single Thuringian village before returning to Saxony before arriving at the western bank of the Weißer Elster, where we traverse the river under the watch of the scenic Elstertalbrücke, and take on our final climb of the day, which heads up the Bergstraße in Pöhl to Alt-Jocketa.



Cresting with a mere 11km remaining, the climb to Jocketa is a short one - 800m at 9%, although as you can see from the Quäl dich profile its steepest part is 400m at almost 13%. According to Quäl dich, it is also partially cobbled, though I unfortunately cannot find any pictorial evidence to confirm this. It seems like it may have been tracked as part of the Elsterradweg in recent years unfortunately, but either way it provides a useful little dig to break things up before the run-in into nearby Plauen.

Plauen is the main city of the Vogtlandkreis and the biggest city in the Saxon Vogtland, and is host to around 65.000 people. It had been above the 100.000 mark prior to World War I, even doubling its present capacity at one point in 1912; it was, however, heavily bombed during 1945 and a combination of this and the nationalisation of all of its industry saw the city lose a lot of its vibrancy, and with its being relatively close to the border, it has been slowly leaking population westwards.



This stage probably isn’t hard enough for the true puncheurs, but it might be too hard for the pure sprinters. Hopefully, we should get some proper Classics-type racing. After all, that’s what we should want from Saxony and former DDR terrain. Last time racing was seen in Plauen was the 2005 Deutschlandtour; Bram Tankink won solo, with a 48 second advantage over Juan José Cobo and 51” over Bernhard Eisel - so clearly we are not talking generic racing here. Before that, in 2001 the ailing Friedensfahrt came to town, featuring the finish of a semitappe ITT won by Thomas Liese, and the start of a subsequent road semitappe to Gera won by Bogdan Bondariev. I’m expecting either a reduced bunch finish here, or a small group contesting the win and including people like Greg van Avermaet, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Peter Sagan, Michael Valgren and Mathieu van der Poel. Maybe the likes of Trentin and Teuns will be there, or perhaps some sprinters who are durable like Bouhanni or Matthews make it. Either way, there’s potential there.
 
Stage 4: Schleiz - Großer Inselberg, 226km





GPM:
Barigauer Turm (cat.2) 5,3km @ 6,7%
Großer Beerberg (cat.2) 6,3km @ 6,0%
Ruppberg (cat.3) 4,7km @ 5,8%
Grenzadler (DKB Arena)(cat.3) 5,5km @ 4,5%
Inselbergpass (cat.2) 6,7km@ 5,8%
Wiebach (cat.3) 1,7km @ 6,1%
Heuberg (cat.3) 3,0km @ 6,0%
Großer Inselberg (cat.1) 8,3km @ 6,4%

Stage four sees us heading into the mountains for the first time as we take on the medium-sized ascents of the scenic Thüringer Wald region. A short transfer takes us from Plauen, yesterday’s stage host, to Schleiz, which is a cycling-supportive town in the southeastern corner of Thüringen.



Schleiz is known to most people for one reason, and that’s the Schleizer Dreieck (Triangle of Schleiz), a very scenic motor racing street circuit that was first operating races back in the 1920s on its 7,6km circuit which undulated through the countryside. It is Germany’s oldest street circuit, and, with two shortenings and a relocation of the pit straight, still remains in use today. It had a range of flowing corners and elevation gain and loss, was compared to the old Spa-Francorchamps layout, and was very popular with drivers back in the formative years, before becoming the pre-eminent racing circuit in the DDR, at least for cars as the motorbikes had the nearby Sachsenring too. Old Ostbloc formulae like Formula E1600 used the circuit as their blue riband round, and thousands of fans would pack to the roadside to watch the races as the drivers thundered through the scenery, including a section through the town itself until this section was cut out by a new chicane in the late 1980s as vehicles became too quick for the urban section of the route. In 2004 a revised version of the course that cut off the south sections and halved the original length came into being in order to preserve the possibility of racing there; a lot of the character has been lost but as the old racetrack was public roads, it remains there for anybody who wishes to ride or drive it.


The new track, with the new pit boxes at the bottom, and the old ones on the right hand side

But the Dreieck was not just known for motor racing. As was often the case in the 60s and 70s, motor racing circuits became a popular challenge for cycling, and the fact that you had a number of long circuits with elevation gains and difficult technical challenges in those days made it far more viable than now, when advances in technology have rendered these old style course far too unsafe for modern race cars, and modern autodromes are never long enough to host viable cycling circuits in road races without doing one of those courses which only uses the circuit in part and also uses the roads around it, like Goodwood in 1982 and Zolder in 2002. However, we have seen World Championships on the Sachsenring, the Nürburgring (three times), the Circuito de Lasarte-Oria, and an amateur World Championships on the Masaryk-Ring. Courses like Charade and old Spa-Francorchamps are popular with traceurs, and the Schottenring probably ought to be too. The Schleizer Dreieck is no stranger to cycling, and indeed has seen plenty of racing in its time.

Most notable is the Friendship Games Road Race in 1984. Conceived as the Eastern Bloc’s response to the American boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, they in turn boycotted the LA Olympics in 1984 and under pressure, the rest of the Warsaw Pact countries also withdrew, instead electing to participate in the Friendship Games, a Soviet conception that would see the best Eastern Bloc amateurs competing against the second-stringers of the West, those who hadn’t qualified for the Olympics, and battering them senseless. There were multiple venues, and the Cycling Road Race was held on the Schleizer Dreieck, because of its challenging elevation changes. A reduced sprint at the end of the race was won by the Soviet Union’s Aleksandr “Sasha” Zinoviev, who took gold ahead of the more renowned Uwe Raab of the DDR and Andrzej Mierzejewski of Poland. Zinoviev was a Ukrainian who had won World TTT gold with the USSR squad, and turned pro with the Alfa Lum team at the end of the decade, as did many of his compatriots, before retiring from the sport in 1992 at the age of 31. His hometown was paired with Cincinnati, Ohio as part of a city twinning scheme in the 90s, and he emigrated to Cincinnati following this; however a few years later, he died at the age of just 43.



The track also hosted the DDR-Rundfahrt on occasion, for example in 1983, when Falk Boden won from a small group ahead of Milan Jurčo (father of later pro Matej) and Lutz Lötzsch. Since 2010 the German national calendar has included an amateur race on the circuit alongside a Jedermannrennen - but Schleiz doesn’t restrict itself to racing on the Dreieck. Every year, the Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen includes a stage around the city - not usually on the Dreieck but sometimes incorporating it - and winners in the city include Judith Arndt, Linda Villumsen, local heroine Hanka Kupfernagel, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Annemiek van Vleuten, Katie Hall, Amanda Spratt and Marta Bastianelli. Tom Leezer also won a stage of the U23 Thüringen Rundfahrt in the city in 2005, the last time men’s racing rolled into town. The following stage from Schleiz to Sondershausen was won by Kai Reus, one of the great “what if?” Stories of our generation.

The first part of the stage is pretty undulating - there’s an uncategorised climb out of Ziegenrück as we first touch the shores of the Saale which is around 3km at 5% and would undoubtedly have merited categorisation later in the day - so we should get a strong breakaway in this stage. It eases up after the first 20km, however, with a slow rumble down to the low point of today’s stage, in the city of Saalfeld. Saalfeld has little cycling heritage and never hosted the Course de la Paix, though Evelyn Stevens did win a Thüringen Rundfahrt stage there in 2014; despite its position at the base of the Thüringer Wald, the city was instead a base for athletics during the DDR times. After passing through the city we take a left at Bad Blankenburg and ride through the Schwarza valley as far as Neu-Leibis, where the day’s ‘real’ climbing begins.



The Barigauer Turn overlooks the Schwarza valley and serves as a lookout point over much of the southern Thüringen/western Saxony area. It is the first significant climb of the day, with 5,3km averaging 6,7%, although it is an inconsistent climb, with the first 2,7km averaging 9,3% before a flat and slight downhill, then 700m at 9% once more, a second flattening out, then a final 600m at 5,5%. We’re a long way from home and this won’t serve as anything other than a kick in the teeth for the breakaway and a bit of a painful one for some domestiques, but it’s our first cat.2 climb of the race, and moves us back into the plateau of central Thüringen.

After this we have our first intermediate sprint of the day, in Ilmenau. Serving as the gateway to the Thüringer Wald, much as Pirna had done for the Sächsisches Schweiz, it has been popular with writers; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Theodor Fontane are among those who have spent a lot of time in Ilmenau and its surrounding area. As the gateway to Oberhof, the DDR’s biggest centre for wintersports and an iconic venue in some of these disciplines (especially biathlon) to this day, many of the city’s favourite sons and daughters are of course from these sports - mainly luge and bobsleigh, but I would draw particular attention to André Lange, who won four Olympic golds in bobsleigh, two as part of pairs and two in fours, and also to my favourite of Ilmenau’s daughters, Andrea Henkel.



A veteran star of biathlon who remained at the very forefront of the sport until her retirement after the Sochi games, Henkel (now Henkel-Burke, after finally marrying her long-time partner, the American biathlete Tim Burke, after her retirement) is a two-time Olympic gold medallist and eight-time World Champion across the various disciplines, as well as having won the overall World Cup in 2006-7. She won four gold medals in the Junior World Cup and made her World Cup debut in 1995, aged 17 - although she then took time out to study and only returned in 1998. Nevertheless, with so many of Germany’s stars retiring young, her dedication to competition well into her 30s was much appreciated by the team, as they saw the majority of the team retire en masse in 2010, and with the disasters that befell the team in the Olympic cycle from Vancouver to Sochi, one cannot underestimate the value of a steady hand who banked consistent results in helping the development of the likes of Laura Dahlmeier afterward. And she keeps her Olympic gold medals in a drawer in her food cupboard. How cool is that?

We are, indeed, headed towards Oberhof, but first, we’re going to do a bit of a detour. We could go direct to Oberhof from Gräfenroda, turning right at the Gehlberger Grund… but we don’t. Instead we head straight on to the Großer Beerberg, a much more difficult climb and our second categorised ascent of the day, at approximately the halfway point. The actual mountain itself is the highest in the Thüringer Wald, while the road is a medium-sized climb (I’m ignoring the long false flat) through scenic forest, and after the summit, we then have a barely considerable descent back toward Oberhof - however when the road forks, we take the left fork, into a descent to Zella-Mehlis, where we have our feed zone. SC Motor Zella-Mehlis was a pre-eminent sporting club in the DDR times, focusing on XC skiing, biathlon and NoCo, and it continues its successes to this day; as a result while few of its stars are from Zella itself, representatives of the club include Four Hills Tournament winner Rainer Schmidt, biathlon queen and darling of the German sports press Kati Wilhelm, a three-time Olympic and five-time World champion who converted from XC skiing and was immediately recognisable by her shock of bright red hair; cross-country skier Thomas Wick and NoCo star Tino Edelmann, who won a gold with the team to go with six silver medals from the Nordic World Championships.

Having crossed the Rennsteig, it’s now time to turn around and go the other way, over a well-trodden combo by traceurs - Ruppberg and Grenzadler. This has been used a few times in the thread:
- Lemon Cheese Cake’s Deutschland Tour
- My Deutschland Tour
- My 3-week Deutschland Tour
- Roundabout's Thüringen Rundfahrt

Here, they aren’t a focal climb combination like in my three-week Deutschland Tour or lemon cheese cake’s Deutschland Tour either; but instead a mid-stage leg-softener.


Second profile only climber from the 9,9km mark

Of course, this means we are naturally climbing past one of the most obvious stop-off points in a Libertine Seguros-designed race around Germany: a biathlon venue. Oberhof is the iconic venue par excellence; yes, the majority of Germany’s recent success has been Bavarian, and Ruhpolding packs the fans like no other venue. Germany is the only country which annually hosts not one but two rounds of the Biathlon World Cup, and with good reason: Germany is a sensible country, which adores ski-shooting. But while Ruhpolding may have the accessibility and the crowds, Oberhof is the one that the connoisseurs love most. Often in recent years with extremely variable conditions, sometimes with next to no snow leading to thin slivers of it which had turned muddy brown by the end of the weekend, sometimes with outright blizzards, Oberhof features one of the best combinations of skiing and shooting on the circuit - not easy skiing with a hard range run-in like Antholz; not brutal skiing with an easy range like Sochi, but a combination of a horrible run-in to the range with the never ending slight uphill, a couple of monster climbs like Birxsteig, and a range which is notorious for its changing conditions, swirling winds and unpredictable weather. A relay in Oberhof is a by-word for excitement as things change by the minute, and it is perhaps the most likely venue to provide shock results, especially in that format.

Oh, and when I said Ruhpolding packs in more fans? It’s a relative measure. Oberhof has a monster drawing power of its own.



I have placed an intermediate sprint in the town of Oberhof itself, which has hosted the Friedensfahrt as the finish of an ITT in the past, its only occasion on the route. That was a 45km chrono in the 1964 edition, which finished on this ascent, which is the one we are descending. Jan Smolík won, and this underpinned his overall victory that year. After this, we have a rolling section until hitting the town of Tabarz with 42km remaining, where we enter a circuit of sorts.

Tabarz is a spa town in the far western edge of Thüringen which serves as the gateway to the Großer Inselberg, one of the range’s highest peaks at 916,5m. While the Friedensfahrt never rocked up into town, the presence of the nearby mountain meant that the area did see some action in the DDR-Rundfahrt, with the town often providing the setting for start, finish or both of ‘Rund um den Inselberg’ stages. 1986 was particularly notable, with a mountain time trial from Tabarz to the Großer Inselberg on stage 4 followed by a stage around Tabarz the next day; Uwe Ampler won the 7km chrono in 18 minutes and 44 seconds, while Thomas Barth won the subsequent road stage. 1987 was the last of these, with the GC-irrelevant Hans Matern proving the victor from a solo breakaway in the final day’s racing, while the favourites marked one another. Here, we will climb in the style of one of a Rund um Tabarz/Rund um den Inselberg type of stage, before returning for the summit finish. This results in one of those loops we sometimes see, particularly in Spain, where there’s a double climb of a particular ascent but the first time we don’t go quite to the summit. A bit like the classic Lagunas de Neila stage in Burgos (going first to Pasil de Rozavientos, then to the summit), or, given there are climbs on the way back, perhaps more like a traditional Arrate stage in the Vuelta al País Vasco, going over Ixua then returning via San Miguel to climb the full ascent to Usartza.


Großer Inselberg. First time up, we only go as far as the junction for Brotterode.

The Inselbergpass comes at 35km from the line, so this is where the action starts to hot up as there isn’t any flat at all remaining; while it omits the toughest final 1,5km at almost 10%, there’s still some serious gradients to take on, and some may consider a secondary contender or wildcard rider making a move here - or somebody who is a reasonable climber but not really expected to be a GC threat overall, perhaps an abject time triallist or just somebody who is good on medium sized climbs but not really on the biggest stuff, might try to see if they can get a couple of days in the leader’s jersey. We only descend as far as Brotterode itself, so the descent is only 5km long before we’re climbing again, this time the small, cat.3 ascent to Wiebach. This deposits us directly into the run up to the Heuberghaus (from Kleinschmalkalden on that profile) before a 6km descent into Friedrichsroda. I’ve also placed the final intermediate sprint in Tabarz, just 8km from the line, at the bottom of that descent, with the intention of trying to entice some earlier action or at least pulling the breakaway back so it’s going to be a true head to head on the final climb.



As you’ll see above, the climb is 8,3km @ 6,4% and so it’s rather stretching things to consider it 1st category. In a lot of races, yes, this would undoubtedly be cat.1 - Tours of countries where medium mountain size is the toughest that are available, such as Poland, Great Britain or regional races like Algarve, Coppi e Bartali or possibly Alsace or Thüringen itself. However, the whole of Germany and its surrounding area offers some more extreme opportunities, so this is pushing it a bit. However, I’ve done this for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, to try to incentivise a bit of breakaway action as the extra points for this will make it harder to pick up the GPM from a break, unless they really go for it and/or there is a big enough break that they are able to hang on.

And secondly, because we gave cat.2 status to the climb as far as the pass, 1500m before the summit, and it’s indisputably tougher to climb to the top than just to the pass, bearing in mind that 1500m is at around 10%.

And cobbled.


cat.2 line mid shot, to continue straight ahead. Second time around, we continue up onto the cobbles to the summit.

Yup, we have cobbled hairpins and a great-looking summit. It’s a borderline cat.1, but I’ve decided to go there. The cobbles aren’t Koppenberg type, more like the Gotthardpass type, but nevertheless, it’s a bit less grippy than the nice paved asphalt, and even though it’s likely to be a sprint-of-the-elites type of MTF, there’s the possibility for that last 1500m at their steep gradients to be more decisive and give us a finish that splits the field by a few seconds; something akin to the 2012 País Vasco stage to Ibardin is perhaps most likely, where a steep final kilometre through the Ventas de Ibardin station was appended to an otherwise pretty ineffective 5% grinder of a climb to the Col d’Ibardin, and the 6-7km climb was comfortably managed in 15 mins, as eventually Joaquím Rodríguez proved victorious but riders like Nordhaug and Poels were key players. 32 riders finished within a minute, so it wasn’t mega decisive, but it did set up the GC for the final stage; I’d be optimistic of this final 1500m of cobbles having a similar effect, so this would in effect be, yes, a Montevergine di Mercogliano style “let’s see who will and won’t contend but without eliminating people entirely” stage - but one that may still give us some small but credible time gaps at the end thanks to the punchy finish.

And don’t lie: the below all bedecked with fans and banners would be pretty cool.

 
Stage 5: Fulda - Mainz, 158km





GPM:
Mammolshainer Berg (cat.3) 2,1km @ 8,1%
Langenhainer Berg (cat.3) 1,8km @ 8,2%

Following on from a couple of stages with cobbles and an intermediate mountain stage, the riders will be grateful for this, as we move to the former BRD, a shorter - under 160km - stage with just two cat.3 climbs and tarmac throughout the 158km duration. Firstly, we have a transfer from the former east to west, through Bad Salzungen and Hünfeld. This formulates the eastern part of the so-called Fulda Gap, often theorised as the main threat in the Cold War of a Soviet tank assault westwards, spreading from Eisenach towards Frankfurt am Main through one of two “corridors”, each passing around the Vogelsberg range, with the northern route passing through Alsfeld and Grünberg, and the southern tracing along the King river to avoid the hilly paths through the Vogelsberg. We, instead, will be heading along the spine of the low-lying range, albeit with no categorisation-worthy ascents in there until we reach the Taunus later. Sort of.



Fulda itself is a city of almost 70.000, which was built around a monastery in the Middle Ages. It is an important transport hub since the Wende as it serves as one of the gateway towns that link the former West- and East German rail networks. It also serves as the gateway to the Rhön mountains which used to feature frequently in the Hessen-Rundfahrt, with Wasserkuppe being the most famous of these. With the Hessen-Rundfahrt of course having gone the way of the dodo when the bottom fell out of German cycling in 2007-8, it is now a rarity of course, and the city last saw racing in 2005, when Piotr Wadecki beat a teenage Lars Boom on the city’s streets. It has seen the Deutschlandtour sparingly, first appearing in 1951 when Heinrich Schultejohann won a stage from Nürnberg to Fulda deep into week 2, but that is the only time the city has hosted a start or a finish in the national race.

It does, however, play a significant role in the demise of German cycling. That’s primarily because Fulda, for many cycling fans, has but one famous son: Patrik Sinkewitz. The winner of the 2004 race overall, Sinkewitz got his start as a one-day racer with Quick Step before his victory in Germany led to a move across to Team T-Mobile for 2006, where he was utilised as a one-week racer as well, specialising in hilly to medium-mountain races. He had his best season yet, finished fourth overall in País Vasco, and accumulated several top 5s across all three Ardennes classics. 2007 was a more modest season start, but winning the GP Frankfurt helped bring him into form ahead of the Tour, but a collision with a spectator sent him home early. It was an omen of a bad tale that was only just beginning. Firstly, by the time the Tour had ended, Sinkewitz’s blood had been found to contain synthetic testosterone. Rather than deny it and filibuster, he admitted and declined to have the B sample tested, for which he was fired. He talked - at length - about the doping practices within the T-Mobile team, about the Freiburg visit when the Tour started in Strasbourg and so on, and for this he got two prizes. Firstly, he got his ban cut to one year, and secondly, he got blackballed for life.

When he returned, he managed half a season with the PSK Whirlpool team from the Czech Republic, but a lack of invites meant that they couldn’t afford to keep on riders of his level, especially after he won the Sachsentour with a huge breakaway on stage 2, and then followed up by winning a stage of the Volta a Portugal in Gouveia, en route to finishing 10th overall (now 8th after the DQs of Nuno Ribeiro and Eladio Jiménez). Nobody wanted the guy for 2010, so he stayed in shape and rode the entire GP Frankfurt ahead of the bunch on his own for the local TV. His dedication impressed the ISD team, who signed him for the second half of the season, where he had a strong year, finishing 4th in the Volta a Portugal, 6th in the Tour of Britain, and top 10 in several of the Italian fall classics, including a win in the Giro della Romagna, where he beat Domenico Pozzovivo in a two-up sprint. In 2011 he was building up towards riding the Giro for the first time, but the second chapter in his saga began, with a positive test for HGH at the GP Lugano. The HGH test’s veracity was disputed at the time, and on appeal he was acquitted in June 2012. Understandably, nobody wanted a 32-year-old double offender at this point, and so he was limited to the third-tier teams such as the ever-attention-craving Meridiana Kamen team - famous for such stunts as offering Riccardo Riccò a Croat racing licence to evade sanction by CONI, and signing an overweight and long-retired Salvatore Commesso - who signed the German on a mercenary “have licence, will travel” basis. He won a stage of the Istrian Spring Trophy, two stages and the GC of the Settimana Lombarda, and made the podium of the Tour de Slovénie, but early in 2014, CAS upheld the suspension and he was duly suspended until 2020.



While never the sharpest tool in the box, during his comeback with ISD-NERI I met Patrik and found him to be a nice guy who was genuinely thankful for having had the chance to come back and welcoming of those fans who wanted to talk to him. I’ve often brought this up on the forum, as this was the point at which I realised the way doping worked in cycling; dopers were not clandestine villains, but they were regular guys, some nice some nasty, and that the doping was something that, for them, came with the territory, rather than being some secretive cabal of cheats. Like Isidro Nozal and Tyler Hamilton, who other forumites had met and mentioned, Patrik was a likeable guy, who nevertheless tested positive, and, like Nozal and Hamilton, did so more than once. As a result, I was pretty saddened to learn that he was still at it, but I wasn’t surprised. After all, we are talking a guy dumb enough to go and participate in national calendar races in Italy during his suspension, either because he was under the impression that because they weren’t pro competitions he wasn’t banned from them or because he thought even if he was kicked out he would be allowed to keep the winnings, I don’t know. It’s up there with the Cobra in that Gran Fondo. However, the Sinkewitz saga, and his revelations about Germany’s beloved T-Mobile Team, really accelerated the demise of German cycling; while it was always going to suffer in the wake of the popular Jan Ullrich being exposed, they could have weathered the storm. T-Mobile being tainted accelerated the demise, however, and by 2009 German cycling had just one team at the top two levels, and that one, Milram, was shorn of the riders that had made it successful (Zabel and Petacchi), and was basically serving as a placeholder, with guys like Wegmann and Gerdemann stagnating while there and not living up to early promise.

This probably wouldn’t be a stage for Patrik. The run-in’s too easy and also the sprinters haven’t really had a proper chance yet (some of them would make the finish in Plauen, but this is a better run-in for them), whereas if this was a one-day race he might have more joy. The first part of the stage is rolling, as the péloton heads through the Vogelsberg group. There is a small and fairly steep ascent through between Blankenau and Schlechtenwegen early on, but it’s under a kilometre in length and I’ve elected not to categorise it. The toughest bit of climbing early on is to Hartmannshain, underneath the “Schöne Aussicht” lookout point, but that’s almost dead straight and averaging 3,7% for just under 4km so, again, as I’ve already given out the jersey, I don’t see a reason to consider this a significant enough ascent, especially at this point in the stage.

Instead we descend into the Nidder valley, which takes us to the fringes of where the old Roman Limes Germanicus lie. These former frontier walls now survive as little more than a long line of grass mounds, but at one point these were the frontiers of the Roman Empire in Germania. We pass south of these after passing through Altenstadt, as they did head up toward Friedberg, using the Taunus mountain range as a natural boundary, and indeed between Wehrheim and Bad Homburg, there is the rebuilt Römerkastell Saalburg which serves as a tourist attraction along the former fortifications.



Bad Homburg is the next stop-off for the riders, on the fringes of the Frankfurt metro network, but we’re avoiding going into Mainhattan itself. We do, however, have an intermediate sprint in the city, a spa town (hence Bad in its name) of 55.000 inhabitants. The city’s history is still being unearthed, as the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität Frankfurt-am-Main is conducting multiple archaeological excavations in the area, but the city rapidly expanded due to the combination of casinos and spas in the 19th Century. For most people, however, it will be known mainly for the Homburg hat, a form of headwear originally used for hunting but popularised as an alternative to the top hat by King Edward VII in the UK and, later, Dwight D Eisenhower in the US. We then continue into Oberursel, which serves as the base of the Großer Feldberg climb which serves as the first major obstacle in the GP Frankfurt. I could go into the history of that, but I did a version of it recently in the thread, so here's the link for that instead.

No Feldberg this time, though we do head on toward Königstein im Taunus, which means that, yes, we are using the famous Mammolshainer Berg.





This is a nasty climb, but its short length and the fact that it seems that the long flat run-in means that puncheurs don’t think they can win the Rund um Frankfurt anymore means it no longer deters sprint finishes nowadays; it’s 45km from the finish here, so while it may burn off a couple of sprinters, they ought to be able to get back on, and if they can’t, tough - enough sprinters can make it over. John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff and Pascal Ackermann have all won the GP Frankfurt in recent years and last time I checked, those guys were sprinters.

Normally in the Maitagrennen, riders turn right at the top of the Mammolshainer Berg; here we turn left and head towards Eppstein, passing underneath the Ruppertshainer Berg but also avoiding the small Eppsteiner Berg climb that is sometimes used in the Maitagrennen (it’s only around 400m long and requires a fairly unnecessary detour, so is less frequent now that the organisers are adding more loops of Mammolshain in an attempt to encourage more aggressive racing). We have a second climb through scenic Alt-Lorsbach up towards Langenhain which crests at 30km from home - it’s again under 2km in length at around 8%, but without the super steep ramps that characterise Mammolshain. You can see the route in this video, although that is in the reverse direction from the way the riders will handle it. You can see that Alt-Lorsbach is a pretty scenic part of town too.



As we’re only touching the foothills of the Taunus mountains here, we then have a flat run in to Wiesbaden, which is, perhaps surprisingly, the capital of Hesse, rather than Frankfurt. The city dates back all the way to the Roman times (under the name Aquae Mattiacorum) urban area is home to over half a million people, of whom 300.000 are in Wiesbaden itself. It is connected via S-Bahn to the Frankfurt network as part of the RMV (Rhein-Main-Verkehr) network, and is one of Europe’s oldest spa towns. Located close to the confluence of the Rhein and Main, the presence of numerous hot springs helped the city rapidly increase in prominence as a Kurort, and the proximity of the Taunus hills make it a popular getaway for those in the urban area too. Hohe Wurzel, the Hausberg of Wiesbaden, features a hunting lodge and is a popular day trip. It rapidly expanded after it was transferred from Nassau to Hessen in the wake of the Austro-Prussian War (Nassau had sided with the Habsburgs) and converted into an international spa town which was popular with nobility, especially from Russia, with Dostoyevsky among its visitors. It became a summer residence of Kaiser Wilhelm II and its attraction of millionaires led to its jokingly being nicknamed “the Nice of the North”. It has surprisingly little sporting heritage, though SV Wehen Wiesbaden are going through a strong period recently, and the city has taken over from the smaller Püttlingen as the host of the annual rollerski City-Biathlon events.



Of course, we also have an intermediate sprint here, and it is just 14km from the line, so it could be interesting if any GC guys are interested in the sprint on the basis that this might mean a break being pulled back sooner, offering counterattacking opportunities. It’s a city which is no stranger to cycling; the city used to alternate being either the start or the finish of the Hessen-Rundfahrt until 2006 when its successor, the 3-Länder-Tour, paid its last visit (Luke Roberts the winner). The proximity of the larger Frankfurt am Main meant that it was not a regular host of the Deutschland Tour, although it would often be passed through, especially in the days of the Großer Opelpreis, when Opel’s factory being in nearby Rüsselsheim, south of the Main between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, would be at least passed annually. It finally got to host the race in 1948, with Günther Pankoke winning a long stage into the city on stage 2, then Gerhard Stubbe winning a junior-length circuit stage around the city the next day. Harm Smits won when the city returned in 1952, and Valentin Petry in 1955. After a long lay-off, the city became a common stop-off in the reborn Deutschlandtour after reunification, hosting the start of the final stage (won by Jimmy Casper) in 1999, the finish of the first stage (won by Jens Heppner) and the start of the second (won by Erik Zabel) in 2000, the Grand Départ in a stage to Tauberbischofsheim in 2002 (won again by Zabel), and then the National Championships in 2007 on a hilly circuit; Fabian Wegmann narrowly defeated Patrik Sinkewitz (though the latter was later DQed as per above) to take the first of his three national titles and lead to one of the greatest German champion’s jerseys of all time, and the women’s race was won ahead of a 21-year-old Claudia Häusler by Luise Keller, who had one stunning year with HTC in 2008, where she won the Route de France Féminine, was 2nd in Graciá-Orlová and 3rd in Emakumeen Bira, but then seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth; she mixed her training alongside her studies, and eventually decided in favour of the latter, retiring at 26.



Instead, we head along the banks of the Rhein and cross it with around 7km to go for a short loop around the city of Mainz, which is the capital of Rheinland-Pfalz, and sits just across the river from Wiesbaden, so you have two Land capitals immediately backing onto one another. With a famously scenic centre, the city has its origins in Roman Mogontiacum, which was the capital of Germania Superior, and subsequently grew to be a very important city during the early days of the Holy Roman Empire. It was one of the most important cities of Ashkenaz I, the Jewish Ashkenazi settlements around the Rhine area - Mainz, Speyer, Trier, Worms, Heilbronn, Frankfurt and so on, which have reflections in various Jewish surnames to this day; Mainz, Speyer and Worms are collectively known as Shum, and are important for the history of study of the Talmud. However, they were expelled multiple times, especially after the outbreak of bubonic plague, which paved the way for the settlement of Ashkenaz II, the now archetypal Jewish settlements of Eastern Europe. It was briefly the centre of its own republic after the French Revolution, and annexed by France under Napoleon from 1797 to 1800, established as the capital of a “new” French Département of Mont-Tonnerre. It is perhaps more famous, however, for being the hometown of Johannes Gutenberg, without whom we wouldn’t be discussing this right now; Gutenberg invented one of the most important inventions of modern humankind, the printing press. The 31-Line Indulgence (granted by the then pope Nicholas V) and subsequent 42-line Gutenberg Bible are among the most important documents of our times.

Much of Mainz was lain waste in World War II, and, being in the French-controlled zone after the split of Germany into occupation zones, it was slow to recover; France had suffered more than Britain or America during the war in terms of damage to its own infrastructure, and also had grand plans for building it to a ‘model city’ plan - which was at odds with the necessity of restoring housing areas for the inhabitants.


Mainz in 1945

Aside from Gutenberg, Mainz also has importance in the field of linguistics, with Franz Bopp, who pioneered comparative studies of the Indo-European Languages, also calling the city home. Sport-wise, while Liverpool FC and former Borussia Dortmund manager Jürgen Klopp is perhaps best known at present, the city’s most prominent son actually represented Austria - this being war baby (German father, Austrian mother) Jochen Rindt, who was orphaned during the war, and taken to be raised by his grandparents in Austria. He retained his BRD citizenship, but drove under an Austrian licence. A troubled child, Rindt had initial problems obtaining a racing licence due to a string of misdemeanour offences as a teenager, but talent won out and he progressed swiftly through the ranks to arrive in Formula 1. A flamboyant driver, his 1965 Le Mans victory in a seemingly uncompetitive Ferrari 250LM was the product of he and co-driver Masten Gregory expecting the car to fail on them; Rindt started the race by somersaulting into the car, and by the time Gregory had to nurse it in for repairs, Rindt had already changed into his street clothes expecting retirement. Instead they decided to drive flat out for the rest of the event, having lost several places, with the anticipation that at least they’d go down swinging; the car survived. Other foibles included driving recklessly and like he was in F1 when in public; even flipping a Mini Cooper demonstrating advanced driving techniques, while his wife - pregnant at the time - was passenger Racing for Cooper and Brabham, he had moderate F1 success but, in Lotus, he was a major threat before a tumultuous 1970 season. He alternated between the Lotus 49 and the still-new-and-with-teething-problems Lotus 72, also tending to alternate podiums and DNFs. He contemplated retirement after friend Piers Courage was killed in a blaze after a crash in Zandvoort, but was convinced to continue on; however, at Monza, the new 72 proved unstable on the high speed circuit, and during a practice session Rindt crashed heavily at the Parabolica, A combination of poorly-installed crash barriers and incorrectly-worn safety harnesses resulted in Rindt dying on his way to the hospital; having won 5 out of 10 races that season, he still held enough total points to win the World Drivers’ Championship, and remains to this day - and hopefully will remain - the only driver to ever win the title posthumously.



Mainz also has some cycling history. It was first included in the national race in the Großer Opelpreis days, debuting when Rudolf Wolke won in the city in 1927. Its proximity to both Frankfurt AND Wiesbaden limited its inclusion in the Deutschlandtour, but it did feature on the route of the last ‘full’ Deutschlandtour to date, 2008’s edition; André Greipel won a flat stage from Wiesloch to Mainz, while the following day’s stage from Mainz to Winterberg - which could have been much more interesting than it was - was won by Gerald Ciolek. It also featured almost annually in the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt, the local race which was over a hilly parcours and was one of the high profile Open races in the Cold War era - as a result a large number of Ostbloc stars have won the race, including Mieczysław Nowicki, Krzysztof Sujka, Ladislav Ferebauer, Dan Radtke, Milan Jurco, Olaf Ludwig, Thomas Barth, Mario Kummer and Joachim Hałupczok. Since reunification it remained a favourite of the German riders, especially from the former DDR (with Gerd Audehm, Bert Dietz and Olaf Ludwig winning in the 1990s). Perhaps most notably, in 1998 it was won by Lance Armstrong, just a few weeks after his victory in the Tour of Luxembourg - it is therefore one of the last results which the controversial American has been able to retain.



More esoterically, Mainz is the hometown of Kathrin Schultheis (below) and Sandra Sprinkmeier (above), six-time World Champions in Artistic Cycling from 2007 to 2014 (in the two years they did not win they finished 2nd). They hold the record for the high score in the discipline under the new points system with 165,12 (under the old system they recorded a 318,9 but this isn’t a World Record). They have set numerous national records, improved the world record several times as well as winning the UCI World Ranking 5 times from 2004 to 2009, before retiring at the end of the 2014 season. With their sixth title they became the most successful pairs athletes at the championships in history, surpassing the five titles taken from 2002 to 2006 consecutively by their compatriots Carolin Ingelfinger and Katja Knaack (it is perhaps no surprise - Germany dominates the discipline, and the last time a non-German pair won even a silver in the women’s pairs at the Indoor Cycling World Championships was ironically enough in Germany, when Ivone and Carmen Carvalho won gold in 2000). They also matched the record for titles held in pairs by men, shared by the pairs of Simon Altvater & Nico Kunert, and Stefan Raaf & Michael Roth.

We’re not quite going for artistic cycling, but, you know, that’s the place where Peter Sagan showy s*** can go. Instead we circle around the old town before a left with 600m to go and a straight sprint run-in on Rheinstraße, which provides a safe, wide open drag race to the line. It’s the first ‘real’ chance for the sprinters, so let’s see what they’ve got. Rheinland-Pfalz does not have much involvement in this design, and one native of the region is Pascal Ackermann, so he will probably be keen to make his mark here, after all, this is the nearest thing to a home stage for him…

 
Stage 6: Mannheim - Altensteig, 217km





GPM:
Freiolsheim (cat.2) 6,2km @ 6,1%
Nachtigallpass (cat.3) 3,8km @ 5,6%
Unterstmatt (cat.1) 13,3 km @ 5,9%
Schwarzmiss (cat.1) 11,4km @ 6,6%
Simmersfelder Kreuz (cat.2) 3,0km @ 8,5%

Stage 6 of the Deutschland Tour is the first real mountain stage. Yes, stage 4 finished on the Großer Inselsberg, but the climbs in stage 6 are the next step up as the riders head into the northern end of the Schwarzwald. The MTF in stage 4 may have been arguably over-categorised because of its being a summit finish, but here we have some genuine cat.1 ascents over a long stage which takes us southwards.

Having finished in the Rhein-Main metropolitan region yesterday, we now move southward into the Rhein-Neckar metropolitan region, consisting of a group of near-neighbour cities with a total population of two and a half million, where the Länder of Rheinland-Pfalz, Hessen and Baden-Württemberg meet. Cities included within the region include Speyer, Worms, Frankenthal and Ludwigshafen in the former, Bensheim and Lorsch in the middle, and Heidelberg, Weinheim and Mannheim in the latter. It is Mannheim from which the riders will depart; this historic city effectively is split by the Rhein in much the same way as Wiesbaden and Mainz were in yesterday’s stage; Ludwigshafen accounts for the urban area on the West Bank of the river, and Mannheim the east bank.



As you can see, Mannheim is somewhat unusual among Western European cities, being laid out on an American-style grid pattern. You can see Ludwigshafen in the background. The central area of the city is known as “Quadratestadt”, or “the city of squares”, and it has a rather counterintuitive co-ordinates based method for navigation; Bono wrote “Where the Streets Have No Name” as a figurative notion of divided cities and people being judged based on where in the city they reside, but had U2 been from Mannheim, that would have had a much, much more literal meaning, for in central Mannheim the streets genuinely do have no name; go on, zoom in on your mapping software. You will find that the streets have a one letter one number designation and change frequently; two parallel roads are called C7; coming into the city from the Mannheim Handelshafen, you will enter on the northern of the two C7 roads, which then becomes C6, but then C6 goes to the right and the road becomes D4 and D3, then C2, then before long it’s O2, O3, O4 and so on. Baffling to those who aren’t familiar - you would think that a convenient grid system would make streets easy to navigate, and you would think the famously efficient and logical Germans would create an intuitive means by which to navigate. But you would be wrong.

Although its history pales in comparison to neighbouring Heidelberg, Mannheim does have plenty of its own history and prestige, and is a UNESCO-designated City of Music thanks to the achievements of the Mannheim School and its associated orchestra; none of its associated composers have gone on to global currency, but they were direct influences on the likes of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; many of the innovations of the Mannheim School underpinned the transition from Baroque to Classical. Historically part of the Palatinate, it was passed to Baden in the early 19th Century and survived on until being razed almost completely to the ground in World War II - it suffered particularly heavily because of its proximity to Heidelberg; a supposed agreement was reached between Britain and Germany that Heidelberg would be left alone in exchange for Cambridge and Oxford also being spared, in order to preserve these historic seats of peaceful learning. With difficult flying inland to Pforzheim and Stuttgart over the Schwarzwald, this meant Mannheim was an obvious target, to break up transport of supplies, troops and machinery along the Neckar. It was for similar strategic reasons one of the Americans’ major bases in West Germany, a presence which remained until the barracks were shut down from 2007 to 2013. However, Mannheim has particular importance that makes it a worthwhile stop-off point for a bicycle race: it was in Mannheim that Karl Freiherr von Drais constructed his Laufmaschine, a “dandy horse” carriage on two wheels, which was propelled by the feet and steered via the front wheel; the French translation of its name when he introduced the creation to Paris in 1818 was “vélocipède”, and it became the precursor to today’s bicycle.


Karl Drais’ two-wheeled draisine

That wasn’t the end of Mannheim’s connection to transport invention of course; it was on the streets of Mannheim that Karl Benz first tested his motor-powered horseless carriage in 1886, and two years later his wife Bertha undertook the first road trip by automobile from Mannheim to Pforzheim. Mercedes-Benz have long since relocated, but the Daimler corporation, which is the silent company behind the behemoth, remains in the city, though its main headquarters are in Stuttgart. But following on from the bicycle precursor, let’s get back to cycling: Mannheim is here because it is the hometown of Rudi Altig.



Of course, Mannheim is also home to a number of notable people, especially within the sporting field. I’m not going to write a eulogy, for example, to Albert Speer, but there’s plenty more positive that can be said about former German international footballer Christian Wörns, or superstar tennis queen Steffi Graf. But we’re here to talk about cycling. Mannheim is a city with a strong heritage of track cycling in West Germany, and this was how local boy Rudi Altig came to the sport, following his brother Willi as a Madison pairing and then becoming an all-purpose track rider; he won two national championships in the match sprint, then an individual pursuit in 1959, following that up with the amateur World Championships before turning professional in 1960. He won two further professional World Championships at the discipline and became a star of the Six-Day races through the early 60s. He was convinced by Raphaël Géminiani to turn to the road, ostensibly to further his contacts and draw more money to the track, because road was the better paid discipline. He was sent to the Vuelta a España in 1962 as part of the support team for Jacques Anquetil, who the organisers had lured with a very soft and TT-heavy route. Altig took a sprint victory and the leader’s jersey in Tortosa after his team dropped the majority of the péloton with a brutal pace, before the St Raphaël team traded the jersey between themselves for a week, Altig inheriting it again thanks to the stage win bonus when he won the stage in Almería. Anquetil grew distrustful of Altig and criticised him publicly; Géminiani had told him that he was too inexperienced for the Tour de France and Altig felt he had a point to prove. When he was dropped and Anquetil ordered the team to ride to distance him, he formed alliances with Belgian and Spanish teams to bring himself back into contention, before sneaking out to change his gearing for the upcoming 82km ITT, where he put himself back into the lead ahead of Anquetil. Revenge was sweet.

Now a winner of a three week stage race, Altig got to ride the Tour, and wore the maillot jaunt too, as well as taking the points competition at the end of the race. He later specialised more in one-day racing, winning the Ronde van Vlaanderen in an epic solo in 1964, and Milan-San Remo in 1968. He narrowly missed out on the World Championships on the San Sebastián course in 1965, after losing out to Tom Simpson in a two-up drag race over 1km at the end (a pre-arranged deal once their break had succeeded), but rectified this on home roads at the Nürburgring the following day - thanks largely to assistance from trade teammate Gianni Motta. Overall, he won 22 Six Days, 16 Grand Tour stages, and wore the maillot jaunt in four Tours de France. He retired in the early 1970s and became first a DS and then a television commentator, before dying of cancer in 2016 at the age of 79.

It was partly because of his successes that the Deutschlandtour was brought back in the early 1960s, but Mannheim had featured on the route many a time before. In fact, it was a stage host in the six-day Quer durch Deutschland stage race in 1911, with Erich Aberger triumphant in the city’s streets. It returned in 1922’s second edition, won by Adolf Huschke, and has since been seen in 1949 (won by Karl Weimer) and 2001 (won by Óscar Freire). It also featured in the 3-Länder Tour when the Hessen-Rundfahrt extended its borders, with Karsten Kroon winning a stage from Mannheim to Frankfurt in 2005. The first part of the stage reflects those types of stage, with a long flat stretch through the Rhine basin, although by the end of it that will be long forgotten.

One of the first towns we pass through is Hockenheim, famous for its eponymous racing circuit, the Hockenheimring. Having its origins in the 1930s, the long and extremely fast course with very few corners was mainly used for motorbikes and lower formulae, with the German Grand Prix being the preserve of the much more challenging Nürburgring, even after the building of the spectator-friendly “Motordrom” section in 1965. After an accident killed Jim Clark, two-time F1 World Champion and regarded by many as up there with the absolute greatest driving talents that ever lived, in a meaningless F2 race, chicanes were added, and the venue hosted its first F1 Grand Prix when the drivers protested safety at the Nürburgring in 1970. After Niki Lauda’s tragic accident in 1976, the famous Eifel mountain circuit was forever verboten to formula cars, and the GP moved permanently to Hockenheim, where it remained until the reprofiling of the Nürburgring Südschleife in the 1990s. A further chicane was added at the legendary Ostkurve after Patrick Depailler was killed in 1980. In the early 2000s, problems began to mount for the circuit - security was breached by a member of the public out in the forest section, crowds grew angry that the length of the circuit and the best overtaking zones being in the forest meant they saw little of the action, and a number of high speed accidents - and it was acknowledged that the circuit was no longer suitable for modern F1. Sadly, they gave the green light to design the reprofiling to Hermann Tilke, the same guy who has mutilated circuits the world over and basically gets to be the only person who designs circuits nowadays, meaning that F1’s calendar has become a parade of sterile, dull circuits with the same characteristics. The old Hockenheim had become untenable, yes, but the new circuit has none of the charm, none of the uniqueness. Reprofilings like Spa-Francorchamps show that it can be done. Just not like this.


Hockenheim today. You can see the shape of the former circuit, which has been torn up and the forest is reclaiming. The Jim Clark Memorial has been relocated from the spot where he crashed to the edge of the modern turn 2, to prevent fans getting lost in the forest hunting it out.

After passing through a few more Rhine basin towns like Bruchsal, we have our first intermediate sprint, in the city of Karlsruhe. A city of 310.000 inhabitants, it is the latest city in historic Baden region, though only half the size of Stuttgart, the largest city in the modern Land. It was the historic seat of the Kings of Baden, having been built at the behest of Markgraf Karl III Wilhelm, with the city being constructed around his commissioned palace. Both inventors mentioned above, Karl Drais and Karl Benz, were born in Karlsruhe, and more recently the city has also been the birthplace of Euro ’96 winners Oliver Kahn and Oliver Bierhoff. This will probably be of interest to sprinters hunting the points classification, as stage wins have largely been kept away from them, so they need to maximise their chances here.



After Karlsruhe and Ettlingen, the climbing begins. We turn left to head eastwards into the northern edge of the Schwarzwald mountains, where the low lying hills that lead to Pforzheim and Stuttgart start to give way to the more sizeable mountains that characterise further south, around places like Freiburg. We’re not headed that far south here, but we do have some serious climbing to do. First up, though, we have a couple of warm-up climbs. The first of these is the ascent from Malsch to the village of Freiolsheim, which is a reasonable cat.2 ascent of 6km at just over 6% - but that masks that the middle of the climb is pretty significant, with multiple ramps of 12% and just under 3km averaging 9%. We’ll probably already be well over 90 minutes into the stage here, so the legs should be warmed up ready for some climbing; but if they’re not, there’s not much respite after the descent before the second climb, an easier and more consistent one to Nachtigallpass, which leads us to our second intermediate sprint in the city of Baden-Baden.

Famously named twice, being a spa town (hence Baden = “baths” in archaic German (the modern plural is Bäder)) in the Grand Duchy of Baden, this city of 55.000 inhabitants sits in a valley that serves as the gateway to the Schwarzwald, and has been settled back to Roman times. It is believed that these were used as a therapeutic retreat for the garrison stationed at Argentoratum, which reflects modern Strasbourg. Its location in the mountains meaning it survived largely intact through the World Wars, but it never recovered the celebrity attraction it had held in its heyday - much like I mentioned about Wiesbaden, Baden-Baden had its own popularity with royalty across Europe, and prominent actors, writers and composers. It’s easy to see why.



After the sprint, but before the feed zone, there’s another uncategorised but notable climb, to the edges of the Fremersberg, the Hausberg of Baden-Baden. This takes us out into the Rhine basin once more where we ride on for 10km or so to the town of Ottersweier, where we take on the first undisputed cat.1 climb of the race.



There are multiple different routes by which to get to the small ski station of Unterstmatt, which lies on the Schwarzwalder Hochstraße. Here I have elected to go by the Ottersweier route because the alternative would be either to do the same route from Neusatzeck but with an easier start, had I gone from Bühl, or added enough mileage to the race to be pushing the limit if I wanted to take the tougher Obersasbach side of the climb - and with enough 200km+ stages already in the race I thought that to be pushing it somewhat, especially for a climb 70km from home. The alternative would have been the lower summit of Sand but that has around 100m less vertical and because the hard part of the climb is only six and a half kilometres long, it’s borderline cat.1/cat.2, so I went for the more certain cat.1 with Unterstmatt.

As mentioned, the summit is 70km from the line, so we don’t have too much action expected here, though this should turn the breakaway into a small survival-of-the-fittest band of climbers, before the long, long, long descent which is mostly at 3-4% on the Hochstraße, as you can see from this profile which covers the section between Raumünzach and Sand.


Schwarzenbachtalsperre, one of the sights we pass on the descent (we take the road to the left of the reservoir)

After reaching Schwarzenbachtalsperre, there is a steeper section but upon reaching Raumünzach, we continue to descend gradually until we reach Weisenbach. This almost entails going all the way back to the base of the Nachtigallpass climb, but instead we don’t quite reach where we travelled earlier, turning right one village earlier to take on the key-note climb of the stage, the cat.1 climb to Schwarzmiss, also known as Kaltenbronn.



11,4km at 6,5% is worthy of cat.1, and this is also an inconsistent climb which wears its steepest gradients in the middle, with 3km averaging 9,6% in the middle of it. The summit of the climb comes at 29km from the line, so it’s definitely possible that some riders may be tempted to give this one a go from here, at least to get rid of some helpers, with a view to the coming days.


View of the valley climb - from this town up to the summit in the distance

It’s a lopsided climb, too - only 7,5km descending and then a short ride in the valley before our final climb, which is a Mende-alike short but severe ascent to Simmersfelder Kreuz, just above the village of the same name, which crests with 14km remaining, so this will definitely see at least some action - anybody dropped on Schwarzmiss should have had to go hard to get back on and with the descent being comparatively short, recovery time will have been low. The steepest bits are also at the bottom of the climb which should separate the contenders from the pretenders early; there’s then a second ramp up to 12% 600m from the summit in case people haven’t made their moves yet.


Simmersfeld im Schwarzwald, just beyond the summit of our final climb of the day

Almost all of the remaining 14km of the stage is descent, though like the descent from Unterstmatt earlier, it is a general sauntering downwards at first, followed by a more concerted descent for the last 3-4km of it. This ends a couple of kilometres from the line, whereby we turn back uphill once more into the finishing town of Altensteig. The last 1800m are uphill at 5,6%, no serious maximum but enough that it could cause trouble or make some small gaps among groups coming to the line together as we head up toward the finish on Zumweiler Straße at the upper edge of the town.

Built into a hillside, Altensteig is a town of 10.500 inhabitants which is perhaps best known for three time European truck racing champion Jochen Hahn. It is believed that the Nagoldtal, the valley from which Altensteig spreads upwards (hence the name, with -steig meaning “climb”) has been settled since the Stone Age although the modern town has its origins in the 11th-12th Centuries. It is twinned with Bourg-Saint-Maurice, the famous city to cycling that lies at the base of the Col de l’Iseran, the Col du Petit Saint-Bernard and the Cormet de Roseland. The ascent through the city is mainly on Dorfer Straße and is fairly consistent, so it shouldn’t be too decisive on its own, meaning riders will have to make more use of the earlier climbs of Schwarzmiss and Simmersfelder Kreuz.



If riders don’t make some worthwhile time gaps on this stage, we may as well cancel the rest of the race, for the Giro 2012 péloton disease’s has infected them.
 
Stage 7: Reutlingen - Landsberg am Lech, 168km





GPM:
Traifelberg (cat.3), 2,2km @ 6,3%

The reason for the hope that riders will make a big show of the last couple of climbs in stage 6 becomes clear, as we are in fact not going for a big Schwarzwald odyssey on Friday, but instead a transitional flat stage as we move from Baden-Württemberg to Bavaria, and so there’s a good chance we will see the GC guys hold a truce and let the sprinters’ teams have their fun.



The stage start is in Reutlingen, a city of 115.000 inhabitants whose main claim to fame is the Guinness World Record-holding narrowest street in the world, Spreuerhofstraße, measuring just 31cm wide at its narrowest. How it’s considered a ‘street’ is beyond me, but there you go. It was constructed as part of the rebuilding of the old medieval town after it was destroyed during a fire in 1726. The city forms the centre of the Neckar-Alb region and styles itself as the Gateway to the Swabian Jura, a lowish-lying mountain range that rises to a high plateau running along a northeast/southwest axis, running from Aalen and Heidenheim at one extreme, and connecting to the bottom end of the Schwarzwald chain between Tuttlingen and Villingen-Schwenningen. It’s a relatively untapped area for course design and I have a few ideas, but they will need to wait for another day. The city has limited cycling background; it has never hosted the Deutschlandtour or any variant thereof, and the only cyclist of decent prominence to call the city home is former Gerolsteiner and Milram domestique Matthias Russ, who never managed a pro victory and moved into marathon mountain biking after the demise of the Milram team at the end of the 2010 season. Having mentioned the automotive history of Mannheim and Karlsruhe in my stage 6 summary, it would be very remiss of me not to mention that Wilhelm Maybach, automotive pioneer whose lightweight internal combustion engines helped power the world’s first motorcycles and motorboats, lived for many years in Reutlingen and it was here that he first met long-time collaborator Gottlieb Daimler. Maybach was a technical director of Daimler’s Motor company, but left to form his own company which specialised initially in engines for zeppelins, before building luxury vehicles.



The stage starts by traversing the Swabian Jura; as a result the stage’s only categorised climb comes right at the beginning, just 12km in. It’s far from a particularly challenging one, mind - just 2km at 6,3% to a summit at Traifelberg, just beneath the fairytale castle of Schloss Lichtenstein (as above). After that, we roll along the high plateau for a while, traversing the range with only one more dig which has the potential to be categorisation-worthy, a kilometre averaging 8,2% between the villages of Hundersingen and Bremelau, before we descend down towards the basin of the Danube, which we meet just after our first intermediate sprint in the city of Ehingen. A former Habsburg possession, this city of 25.000 was home to 1991 World and 1992 Olympic Team Pursuit gold medallist Michael Glöckner.



Our second intermediate sprint follows in short order, in the town of Laupheim. A home of the German Air Force, I also travelled through here because an outlying village of Laupheim was the first place in Germany I ever stayed, as a school trip destination. It is also - or was - home to Margarethe “Gretel” Bergmann, a standout athlete of Germany in the pre-war era, who was barred from competing in the 1930s due to her Jewish background. She was expelled from the club she was champion at, and won the British nationals before being coaxed back under threat of reprisals for her family, in order to prepare for the Berlin Olympics. Of course, it was but a ruse, and despite matching the German national record, she was removed from the team “for underperformance” - although she wasn’t replaced, and saw her records stricken from the books by the national authorities. She vowed never to return to Germany, and emigrated to the USA, winning national titles until the entry of the US into WWII led to the suspension of athletic competitions and the end of her sporting career. She was entered into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and a sports complex in Berlin was named for her honour; however she remained true to her embargo on setting foot in Germany, although broke this when the same honour was bestowed upon the stadium in Laupheim - though, having not spoken the language in over 60 years, she had to be provided with a translator for the language of her youth; she eventually passed away in New York at the impressive age of 103. The intermediate sprint is outside the stadium that now bears her name.



As things stand in the stage, the difficulties are done, as we pass from Baden-Württemberg into Bavaria, albeit remaining in the Swabian area of influence as we head into the Unterallgäu region. The final intermediate sprint comes 40km from home, so I anticipate the breakaway will take all three - the sprinters’ teams will be keen to take the points on the line, but you never know, depending on who has designs on the points jersey. We’re staying north of the larger cities like Memmingen and Kaufbeuren, and south of Ulm, so it’s all through scenic Swabian architecture and the rolling terrain of the triangle bounded by the Danube, the Lech and the southern border of Germany bounded by the Bodensee and the Bavarian Alps. The race comes to an end in the city of Landsberg am Lech, a pretty riverside town of 30.000 located on the Romantic Road and at the historic cultural/regional border between Swabia and Bavaria - though in the modern Länder it lies well within the boundaries of Bavaria, as the historic region of Swabia broke up with the collapse of the Herzogtum Schwaben in the 13th Century, resulting in some 88 different micro states within the Schwäbischer Reichskreis during the Holy Roman Empire, with the Duchy of Württemberg being the most important, and has subsequently been disunited at times of political upheaval and is now split between Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.

The city developed around a bridge over the Lech river, which passes through a weir system in the town, and it is where Johnny Cash was stationed during his military service with the Air Force during the Wirtschaftswunder period. But most people will know the name of Landsberg am Lech because of Landsberg Prison - as this was where Adolf Hitler was incarcerated after the failure of the Bierhall Putsch, and thereby where the infamous Mein Kampf was composed. As a result, his cell became integral to the cult of personality around history’s most notorious murderer, and it became popular with visitors during the Nazi period; the largest concentration camp in Germany was also located here in Landsberg, mainly limited to political prisoners, of whom nearly 15.000 died during their imprisonment. It then became the location of a large Displaced Person camp, and nearly 300 of those convicted as War Criminals in the aftermath of history’s largest conflict were executed, mainly by hanging, across a five year period following the Nürnberg Trials (110 prisoners convicted at said trials were incarcerated at Landsberg am Lech themselves, which could be argued to be slightly ironic given that this was of course where the central tenets of Nazi ideology were first drawn up - or at least firmed up, as you could argue that Anton Drexler’s original party charter included many of the ideologies that later characterised Nazism, but that was clearly a rough draft that was later turned into a coherent, if abhorrent, ideology later). It also became the site of a controversial battle in the 1950s after Nazi sympathisers clashed with Jewish protestors after the BRD abolished the death penalty, with one side demanding pardons for those on death row, and the other demanding war criminals be condemned to the sentence they had been given, i.e. death, since they were sentenced before the abolition. The city has eventually managed to shed much of the taboo of its past, and is instead focusing on marketing itself with its connections to the Romantic Road. The city deserves a bit of commemoration other than notoriety, so let’s start with a positive celebration of a bicycle race. After all, it worked for the DDR, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

The actual finish is almost certain to be a sprint finish on the Katharinenstraße, finishing after a left-hand sweeper with 300m to go and with the line on Hauptplatz. Ackermann, Greipel, Kittel (if recovered), Degenkolb et al will be looking forward to this one, as they’ve had to wait most of a week for a pure drag race without too many obstacles in their way.

 
Stage 8: Geretsried-Wolfratshausen - Steinplatte, 159km





GPM:
Sudelfeldpass (cat.2) 4,3km @ 7,7%
Wildbichlpass (cat.3) 6,0km @3,8%
Masererpass (cat.3) 8,0km@ 3,1%
Steinplatte (HC) 7,2km @ 12,3%

As we move into the second weekend of the race, we have our second mountaintop finish, and our mandated one excursion overseas, as we spend much of the stage snaking along the German-Austrian border. As ever, the German race has seen fit to step across the border to its neighbour and brother state to the south, because Austria has such a ridiculous glut of mountains that it could never hope to do a comprehensive tour of its own mountains even if it didn’t have such a hard-on for using the same climb every single year. There are dozens of single-way goat tracks of middling length but insane gradients all over Austria, and so the chances of running out of options for a mountaintop finish down there are very slim indeed. The real Deutschlandtour used Arlbergpass, the Rettenbachferner and Hochfügen in its incarnation from 1999 to 2008, so there’s plenty of precedent for this.



Before we get to that point, however, we are starting a little way south of Munich in the city of Geretsried. It’s a slightly interesting background, this one, with the city being located within the district of Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen, named for two cities which share the dominance of the locale. Geretsried was a small village located between the two, which belonged to Wolfratshausen. As a city, it only came to being in the mid-20th Century, following the construction of two munitions factories during the Nazi era; at first, employees were bussed in from Wolfratshausen, but then toward the end of the war, slave labour was employed, using foreign labourers and prisoners from the Föhrenwald camp, a sub-camp of Dachau, located between the main town and the Geretsried munitions factories. The factories were destroyed by the USAF at the end of the war, but the extensive network of buildings and bunkers were a convenient means by which to house the hundreds of thousands of displaced Germans who had been ejected from former German areas in central-eastern Europe; eventually entire settlements were established, and Geretsried came into existence, first as a suburb of Wolfratshausen and then in its own right; now, with 25.000 inhabitants, it is actually larger than either its former owner or Bad Tölz, both of which have a population of around 18.000.

Wolfratshausen split Geretsried off from its subdivisions in 1970, but before that a former resident was Hans Stuck, a racing driver of the formative years who specialised in hill-climbing, and set the template for the modern “gentleman driver”, a vehicle/team owner who races as an expensive hobby and often hires ringers to co-drive (especially in GT and sportscar classes). Stuck was a legend of the 1930s, racing with Auto Union in the era of the Silberpfeile, as the Germans stripped the white paint (white was the national racing colour of Germany) from their cars to save weight, leaving pure unpainted metal. He owed a lot of his favour with works teams in this era to a chance meeting with Hitler on a hunting trip in the 1920s from which an occasional personal relationship developed; this same relationship saved him from being ostracised after marrying a famous Czech-German tennis player of partly Jewish origins. Stuck obtained Austrian citizenship after the war and continued to race, winning his final European hillclimb championship at the age of 1960 before retiring to coach drivers in mastering the Nürburgring; his son Hans-Joachim, born when Hans was a sprightly young 50, went on to race in Formula 1 for most of the 1970s. But closer to home, there is another famous child of Geretsried/Wolfratshausen that I wanted to honour.



Those of you who follow the Women’s Racing Threads over the last few years will be well aware that Claudia Lichtenberg, née Häusler, is one of my absolute favourites, or at least was prior to her absurdly premature (for my liking) retirement last year. Born in Munich, the young Claudia Häusler grew up in Geretsried, and swiftly emerged as a highly promising cyclist; riding for the amateur Team Stuttgart, she moved onto Austrian-based ELK Haus team in order to get to start some pro races, and finished 12th in the Thüringen Rundfahrt and 6th in the Giro della Toscana in 2005 at the age of just 19. This brought her a contract with Germany’s best team at the time, Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung, where she would have the chance to learn from Regina Schleicher, Trixi Worrack and Oenone Wood. She swiftly showed that her strength lay in climbing mountains, as she managed an impressive top 10 in the Tour de l’Aude, considering she was just 20 (the Tour de l’Aude was a 10 day race, much as the Giro Rosa is now, and was at the time in effect the second Grand Tour of the women’s calendar) and the Giro del Trentino, before an impressive victory in the national championships over a hilly course in Klingenthal, the Nordic centre in southwestern Saxony. While wearing the national colours, she also picked up another national title, this time in the mountain race at Berchtesgaden (so some serious climbing!). She was 20th at the Tour de l’Aude, finishing just under 17 minutes down - though considering 16 of these were lost after she crashed early in the TTT and had to ride in on her own, that’s not too shabby. She finished 15th in her first Giro, with a top 10 in the Monte Serra MTT, before moving forward with top 10s at the Tour de l’Aude and Emakumeen Bira in 2008, before the 2008 Giro saw her hit her stride for real; placing 3rd in the warm-up race, the Giro del Trentino, she finished 4th on Monte Serra, before making the selective move on Passo del Cuvignone and outsprinting (now this is a real rarity!) Amber Neben and Nicole Brändli to take her first stage win, en route to 3rd overall.

These performances brought her to the attention of the new Cervélo team, who thought, not unreasonably, that pairing her up with a slightly older but no less promising young climber who had won the Trofeo Binda and a stage of the Tour de l’Ardèche, called Emma Pooley. The combination of Pooley and Häusler, how they rode, their never say die style, climbing strength and unpredictability, was one of the things that really drew me in to women’s cycling, and I can say without too much exaggeration that between the two of them, they are largely responsible for my becoming a women’s cycling fan.

2009 was the best year for Claudia Häusler; now 23, the German had a quiet start to the year, not entering too many classics or being too busy in them. But at the Tour de l’Aude, she was magnificent; first getting into a four woman break on stage 4 with Vos, Cooke and teammate Regina Bruins, then, along with another teammate, Kristin Armstrong, the two and former teammate Trixi Worrack rode six minutes into the field on stage 6 before Claudia again took off in pursuit of Vos and Worrack in stage 7 to further cement her advantage. From that point on she need only control, and took her first - and only - Tour de l’Aude. She then went to the Emakumeen Bira and finished 2nd, only losing out due to Arndt collecting more bonus seconds and then outsprinting her (quelle surprise!) on the final day. The Giro Donne was Claudia back to her best though; she was beaten on Monte Serra, losing 30 seconds to a new climbing sensation, Mara Abbott, though teammate Pooley duelled with the American to the line and Claudia still put nearly a minute into everybody else. She and Pooley controlled the Cerro al Volturno stage and gained time on the likes of Abbott, Guderzo and Luperini, before race leader Pooley lost her grip on the race on stage 6, suffering from an abject lack of descending ability which would plague her until late on in her career. Häusler pressed on despite being outnumbered by Arndt and Abbott on the HTC team, and assumed the lead of the race. She then rammed her superiority home by taking a victory in the Castel del Monte stage on the final chance the opposition had to drop her in the hills, becoming only the third rider (after Catherine Marsal in 1990 and Fabiana Luperini in 1998) to win both l’Aude and the Giro in the same year.

In 2010, Mara Abbott was only racing part-time in Europe, owing to the first of her many problems with having to race in Europe; in addition to her well-documented problems with eating disorders, Mara also suffered from homesickness and was renowned for not being a particularly good teammate, only dropping in to do races she would be the leader at, and it is no coincidence that the two times she won the Giro were times she represented a US national team rather than doing a full calendar with a trade team, enabling her to race within her comfort zone for much of the year and only target select goals overseas rather than being forced to take on too many hectic one-day races and the chaos of Dutch road furniture. At the Tour de l’Aude, Mara was there in peak climbing form, and only Pooley was able to go with her, so Claudia subordinated her goals to her British teammate after the two - along with newcomer Evelyn Stevens - broke away on stage 4 and Pooley inherited the race lead. She recovered from the disappointment by comprehensively winning the Emakumeen Bira, before returning to her earlier role in Trentino, after Emma Pooley won the first stage by three minutes; Claudia then somehow managed to outsprint Bronzini in a hilly finish (but was predictably no match for Teutenberg) and also be part of a three-woman break won by lost super talent Eleonora Patuzzo on the final day. While she was strong in the Giro, she cracked in the Stelvio stage and had to concede leadership to Pooley once more, finishing 4th in the overall GC which is in fairness a perfectly reasonable defence of her crown.

Then, Cervélo pulled out of the team, which merged with Garmin. As we well know, Vaughters really didn’t have much interest in the women’s team and pulled the plug after a year to concentrate on what really matters, like signing Thomas Dekker and outing his own riders as dopers on message boards. Claudia was tempted away to the Diadora-Pasta Zara team, a side project to the men’s Geox team, but being an American-based team and having signed Mara Abbott, they subordinated Claudia’s preparation to Mara’s despite both being former Giro winners; Mara struggled mightily as this was the point her eating disorders were at their worst, and the team just in general was not a fun place to be; Mara took a year out at the end of it, the team pulled their sponsorship, Patuzzo retired to complete her studies, and Häusler decided to restart her career with the nascent Orica team alongside veterans Arndt and Gunnewijk. It didn’t quite revitalise the Bavarian, but she did return back to the right area of the results sheet, finishing in the lower end of the top 10 in the Emakumeen Bira and 8th in the Giro, before a move to TIBCO proved more fruitful; she was the clear team leader, and she beat up on the American domestic scene like she was Katie Hall or something, only losing out when Mara Abbott made her return at the Tour of the Gila; at the Giro she was revitalised, finishing 6th on Monte Beigua and second to San Domenico di Varzo en route to making the GC podium for the first time since her 2009 victory. She won the GC of the Giro Toscana/Memorial Michela Fanini, prompting a return to Europe with Giant-Shimano.

Later-career Häusler - or rather Lichtenberg since it was during this first year with Giant/Liv that she got married - starts to follow this kind of template of being in the middle of the top 10 of the hilly to mountainous races, while picking up the odd win in those races with slightly weaker fields. She won the Route de France overall but in the Giro, while she was strong in every mountain stage, she never rose above 6th; the following year the same calendar led to similar results, made slightly weaker by never quite recovering from missing a key split in stage 2. There was a brief flurry of excitement in 2016, when she finished 2nd in the Giro del Trentino behind Niewiadoma, and then she and Pooley were reunited for the Giro with Lotto - Claudia finished 5th in the Mortirolo stage and 4th in the epic Madonna della Guardia stage, to finish 4th overall - her final top Giro result. She finished 9th in 2017 in her final year with Wiggle-High 5, but the spark was gone; little remained of what little explosivity she had had. From a pure sporting point of view, it was probably the right time for her to leave the sport behind, but from a purely selfish point of view, it was incredibly premature because this was me saying goodbye to the last active rider of those who had made me a fan when I first started paying attention. I miss Claudia.


2009 Giro podium

Now, where was I? Oh yes. This is meant to be a Race Design Thread post, not a eulogy. After all, Lichtenberg’s retired, not died! Anyway: the stage starts south of Munich and heads through Bad Tölz, a spa town which was mainly built around the salt trade until the 18th Century and was the last town passed through by the Holocaust Death March from Sachsenhausen to the Austrian border before it was liberated by the US Army. We then pass along the foothills of the Alps, moving along the side of two major lakes of the Bavarian Alps, Tegernsee and Schliersee.


Tegernsee scenery

This takes us to the scenic valley town of Bayrischzell, a small town connected to the Sudelfeld ski area. The climb of the nearby Sudelfeldpass is our first obstacle of the day, a short but steep second category climb. This is very much one of those stages where the only decisive climb is the last, but this is a chance for the break to accumulate some points. The idea for this route actually came from my lengthy paean to Claudia Lichtenberg above - I had the idea for a short stage race in her honour, with a short TT around Geretsried, a mountain stage going up Sudelfeldpass, descending the northeastern side, looping round to climb the three-stepped Oberaudorf side (the one we descend here), then finishing with the steep 3km climb of Spitzingsattel,before a final stage on a hilly circuit around Wolfratshausen. Instead, the idea is pre-empted here. Here's some video of the climb. At the base of the descent we cross over into Austria, but almost immediately we’re climbing again, a 4km at just under 6% kind of climb followed by some false flat, at which point we re-enter Germany.


Wildbichlpass

Wildbichlpass is like a lower, smaller equivalent to those climbs like Malojapass and the Puerto de Pajáres, incredibly lopsided; the German side of the climb isn’t really a climb at all, but a lengthy slightly downward-facing plateau, 15km into which comes our second intermediate sprint, in Aschau Im Chiemgau. To get there we pass through the border town of Sachrang, which once hosted the European Cup in Biathlon, but whose facility is long since downgraded and now is restricted to regional competitions, being at best the 4th facility in Bavaria after Ruhpolding, Kaltenbrunn and Arbersee. We loop around the Chiemsee to Marquartstein, famous as the former residence of the composer Richard Strauss, best known for his tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra, named for Nietzsche’s philosophical work and one of the most recognisable pieces of classical music ever composed; everybody knows it, whether it be for its prominent use at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey, or for heralding the arrival of Ric Flair to the wrestling ring.

It also heralds the beginning of our penultimate climb of the day, Masererpass, which is a low gradient grinder that takes us over a few kilometres with only a handful of ramps to the town of Reit im Winkl, a skiing town buried in the Chiemgau.



Falling just 32km from home and hosting the last intermediate sprint of the day, Reit im Winkl is an outdoor living paradise, which is a Luftkurort (a place with healing clean air), and a ski resort which includes alpine skiing at Winklmoosalm (which hosted a MTF in the Bayern Rundfahrt back in 2014, won by Mathias Frank) but is better known for its facilities for cross-country skiing, for which it received Germany’s first Premium certification. The alpine resort is connected across the border with Austria with the gondola cableway from Seegatterl to Steinplatte. The area is also popular in summer for mountain biking and hiking along the network of trails, with alpine lakes and marked paths. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that most of its famous sons and daughters are sportsmen and sportswomen; the most famous is probably Rosi Mittermaier, nicknamed Gold-Rosi in the German fashion after her superb performances in Innsbruck at the 1976 Winter Olympics, which garnered her two gold medals and one silver - and the fact that the two gold medals were in the downhill - the purest of the speed disciplines - and slalom - the purest of the technical disciplines - only served to highlight her great talent. She also won the World Cup overall along with discipline titles for slalom and combined. She also was part of that great tradition of German winter sports women, of being great success stories who retire young; she, like biathletes Magdalena Neuner and Laura Dahlmeier after her, retired at 25 following her 1975-76 successes, essentially saying “mission accomplished”.

She is also part of an Alpine skiing dynasty - her younger sister Evi was also an alpine skier who won two World Cup races - one of which during the season her sister dominated - and specialised in the Downhill discipline. Rosi married fellow alpine skier Christian Neureuther, who had 6 wins and 20 World Cup podiums but no World or Olympic championships to his name, and specialised in the slalom discipline. The pair had a son, who they named Felix, and who has gone on to become one of Germany’s most successful skiers of recent years and their most successful World Cup skier among males, although he has struggled to convert this to the Olympics; nevertheless he has multiple medals from the World Championships in his preferred slalom discipline, taking after his father. Felix broke from the family by marrying biathlete Miriam Gössner, the two met while rehabilitating serious injuries simultaneously.



More recently, Reit im Winkl has also been the hometown to the Nordic skier Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, a popular cross-country skier of Germany’s golden age in the discipline, who has won five Olympic and six World Championships medals, seven of which (two gold, four silver, one bronze) in the relay and two further (one gold, one silver) in the team sprint. The only individual medals she has are an Olympic silver in the sprint at Salt Lake City in 2002, and a silver in the 2x5km pursuit at Val di Fiemme in 2003. She does, however, have three individual victories and 9 other individual podiums at the World Cup across a decade-long career. Sachenbacher-Stehle switched to biathlon in 2012, in what was widely seen as stunt casting; with superstar Magdalena Neuner retiring and at that point it not being clear who the next star would be (it turned out to be Gössner, briefly, before her aforementioned injury cut her down and paved the way for Dahlmeier to assume that role), the then 32-year-old cross-country skier was persuaded to pick up the rifle, ostensibly to take advantage of her popularity with fans at a point where German XC skiing was fading from interest but biathlon was strong. It didn’t really work; the amount of effort expended on converting her alienated other prospective talents, while her ski speed was decent but not set-the-world-alight exciting, even a year later when she was peaking. It also ended badly; in the midst of a terrible Sochi Olympic cycle for the team, with their prospective star at home nursing a broken back, their only reliable hand sick, and the team reliant on results from a teenager whose former training partner had just committed suicide back at home, Sachenbacher-Stehle tested positive for methylhexanamine before the relay. She received a two year ban, but protested that this had been inadvertently consumed via a herbal tea that she had been given; her ban was cut to six months, but she had two problems: 1) nobody really believed her, considering she was pulled from the 2006 Olympics for several days for testing above the haemoglobin threshold; 2) being well into her 30s and having a doping history, the team didn’t really see any need to persist with her; she therefore quietly retired and started a family before resurfacing to win celebrity cooking competition Der Großte Promibacker.



Reit im Winkl is also a border town, and so we return to Austria now, to head through the Hagertal to Erpfendorf. From here it’s a short trip to Waidring, and then… se armó un zapatiesto.



Yes, it’s only 7km long, but Steinplatte is a BRUTE. It’s up there with Kitzbüheler Horn - in fact it’s steeper. This is one that is like a sort of mini-Zoncolan. There are lots of these one-way climbs of stupendous gradients in Austria of course - roads like Idalpe, Loferer Alm, Herrenhäusern, Hochsteinhütte, Dolomitenhütte and so on. Here we’re very close to the German border and as mentioned connected to Reit im Winkl by the cable car system, so this is going to be fairly easily accessible. The Steinplatte is an outcrop, with a near vertical southern face with a summit at 1869m. Around 200m below this is a ski station with a viewing platform that showcases stunning views of the Alpine systems beneath and hovers 70m above exposed land below. There is a prehistoric theme park and a small resort, and the road is an absolute monster.





7,2km @ 12,3% - this has 4km averaging 14,5%; the first 2km average 15%! Apart from a brief respite at Stallenalm, near the initial Parkplatz, it’s all severe, and drafting won’t help you here. This is tougher than those Spanish walls like Monte Oiz and Los Machucos in gradient; it’s like Xorret del Catí but twice in a row. This is a survival climb. It’s never been raced before the pro level. This should be very, very entertaining and riders should be coming in in ones and twos. The usual Kitzbüheler Horn stages in the Österreichrundfahrt are probably our best guides to what to expect here, but even then it’s not sure as this is coming after a whole week’s racing. If I put it too late in the race, riders would ride conservatively in fear of it. Therefore placing it here - on a Saturday - in the middle of the race means that gaps should be ensured by the steepness of the climb regardless of whether riders want to save energy or not; and there’s plenty of time to try to recover that time, however they anticipate doing it.

Let battle commence.
 
Reactions: geisterhome

ASK THE COMMUNITY

TRENDING THREADS