Sam Bennett on the winner's podium in Germany
In a gripping sprint finale on the streets of the inner city of Cologne, Sam Bennett was able to keep his rivals at bay to win the oldest German road race on the calendar.
As expected, it all ended in a bunch sprint, and after a long day in the saddle, the Irish rider emerged victorious.
Speaking at the end of the one-day event, Bennett said: “It was a tough almost 208km-long race, but the guys did an unbelievable job. They controlled the race the whole day. We planned to make the race as hard as possible for sprinters such as Marcel Kittel, and the guys executed our plan perfectly. In the finale, my leadout was seamless and the team brought me into an excellent position. I followed the wheel of Kittel and was able to then launch my sprint at the right time. Our whole team worked very well together and achieved an excellent result today.”
The one-day race Rund um Köln, which traversed through the metropolitan area on the river Rhine and its surroundings, was held today for the 102nd time, with its start and finish taking place in the Cologne Rheinauhafen. In contrast to last year’s race, this year’s course was somewhat shortened, with the riders also taking in the Cologne crane towers, the Sports and Olympic Museum and the historical swing bridge before the official start of the race got underway.
Although BORA – hansgrohe came to the race without the defending champion, Gregor Mühlberger, in its ranks, the team brought with it Sam Bennett, who was victorious in Cologne in 2014. The sprinter, who won three stages of the Giro d’Italia this year, is in good form and was counted among the favourites to take out the honours on the line. The plan was to protect Sam and to try to bring him to the finishing stretch in an optimal position from which to launch his sprint.
It was to be expected that the fast men of the peloton would have their day on the course in Cologne today. However, there was always the possibility that some teams would try to attempt to distance the sprinters and thwart a mass sprint finale. In light of this, the team also had to be vigilant while racing to ensure our riders were able to neutralise any potential attacks.
“The guys showed fantastic teamwork and they all worked the entire day for Sam. In the more undulating middle section of the course, we tried to increase the tempo to distance sprinters like Marcel Kittel. But after Sam’s great results at the Giro d’Italia, we were convinced of his form and his sprinting prowess. The team set up a good leadout for him and brought him in an ideal position from which to launch his sprint. Today the guys had to take on a rather difficult and long course, and it was great that Sam was able to finish it off with a win.” – Jens Zemke, Sport director