On home territory for the German-registered BORA-hansgrohe team, Sam Bennett was looking to make his mark in Eschborn-Frankfurt ‘Rund um den Finanzplatz’, a race that he came so close to winning in last year’s edition. However, the Irish sprinter suffered cramps in the closing stages of the race, and missed out on the opportunity to sprint for the win.
The 55th edition of the race started in wet conditions that battered the peloton throughout the day, making racing miserable, but despite a brave attempt by a band of breakaway riders, the race ended in a bunch sprint, where Bennett was unlucky to be caught out of position, finishing just out of contention.
In its first year as a UCI World Tour race, this German semi-classic, taking place in the north of the country, was looking to make an impact on the professional cycling calendar. The parcours was tough, making its way from Eschborn to its finish in Frankfurt – the 215.7km route rising and falling throughout the day, with the 26% Mammolshain appearing no fewer than three times to put the hurt into the riders’ legs.
With several other tough climbs to be tackled, the day would be difficult enough already, but the weather conditions only served to make racing even harder – with heavy rain soaking and demoralising riders, and standing water on the roads making conditions treacherous. The final 20km of the day were almost totally flat, giving the sprinters a chance to contest the win – if they made it over the day’s challenging climbs unscathed.
A group of seven pushed ahead and forged a respectable advantage and the bunch left the escapees to their own devices, choosing to hold back in the knowledge they could work to reel them in later in the day. As the kilometres ticked away, the signs of the demoralising weather were showing as the breakaway began to slow and the peloton began to close the gap.
Keeping pace at the head of the chasing group, the BORA-hansgrohe riders had their eye on the finish – riding determinedly at a considerably faster speed than the escape, with no fewer than six riders on the front to eradicate the ever-slimming advantage. With 60km to go, the gap was sitting a little over two minutes and with just 40km remaining, the gap was edging ever closer to touching distance – 30 seconds separated the peloton from the front group.
In the final 10km, the terrain changed considerably as the race entered Frankfurt. The cityscape brought with it street furniture, slippery road markings, tight bends and an increasingly frenetic pace. With two off the front desperately trying to hold the peloton at bay, it seemed increasing likely the catch would soon be made as the sprint teams massed for the finish.
The catch made, the helmets in the distinctive green of team sponsor Hansgrohe were easily-spotted at the front as the push began to get Sam Bennett in position, passing the flamme rouge, but as the bunch sprint started, the Irish rider was too far back to make an impact as the weather conditions took their toll on his legs, crossing the line after Katusha’s Kristoff had taken the win.
From the finish, Directeur Sportif, Jens Zemke, summed up the race. “As the 18-man group went up the road, we pulled hard to close the gap. Everything went perfectly for us – in the finale we had Burgi, Schilli and Pascal to bring Sam in the best position. Sam rode in fourth position into the last corner, but he got cramps and wasn’t able to sprint with the others. We had poor weather conditions throughout the day, with temperatures around 5 degrees, but the boys did a stellar job. They showed excellent teamwork and each one rode a very good race. It’s a shame that Sam had cramps in the final metres, but nonetheless all of them worked perfectly together today.”