The Deutschland Tour has returned to the cycling calendar for the first time in a decade. The 2018 version of the event is only half as long as it was in 2008, but it has attracted a number of the sport's biggest stars.
Germany's most prestigious multiple-stage cycling race has been pared down to four stages for 2018 compared with the eight stages it was comprised of 10 years ago. The 2018 edition of the race takes the riders from Koblenz to the former capital Bonn, then on to Trier, and Merzig. The riders are to then be driven to Lorsch, where the fourth and final stage will start, concluding in the southwestern metropolis of Stuttgart. A total of 22 teams of six are to take part in the event, which has been packaged as part of a cycling festival designed to attract supporters back to cycling a decade after it was suspended amid a series of doping cases.
The 737.5-kilometer (458.3 miles) course takes the cyclists through a variety of terrains, including everything but high mountain stages. The hills on the 157-kilometer stage from Koblenz to Bonn include opportunities for breakaway riders, but the flat finish should allow the sprinters to come to the fore. The 196-kilometer second stage, which takes the riders through the Eifel region before ending in Trier is reminiscent of the Ardennes classics and the climb on the final phase in Trier is bound to result in time intervals opening up.
This is also true for the third stage, from Trier to Merzig, which will take the riders to 2,900 meters (9,500 feet) above sea level. The climbs are not long but are steep – an opportunity for the classics specialists to shine. The final 207-kilometer stage takes the riders from Lorsch to Stuttgart and includes the Herdweg climb that featured in the 2007 World Championship.
The sometimes flat but often hilly course is designed to provide for an open race and should favor the riders who do well in the spring classics. These are cyclists capable of doing well on short, steep climbs but who are also strong sprinters. Unlike races with high mountain stages, the Deutschland Tour will be decided not by a matter of minutes by seconds between the riders – partly due to the fact that there is no time-trial stage.
Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas (UK), the man who finished second, Tom Dumoulin (the Netherlands) and Romain Bardet should do well, but aren't among the favorites to actually win the event. Based on his current form, Matej Mohiric of Slovenia, who won last weekend's Bink Bank Tour in the Netherlands is among the favorites for the Deutschland Tour, as is the versatile Maximilian Schachmann, who will be coming off a high-altitude training camp and a bronze medal in the time trial at last month's European Roal Cycling Championships.
The Deutschland Tour has had a spotty history to say the least, having first been held in 1911, but disappearing from the cycling calendar over and over for several years at a time.
Prior to this year, its last resurrection had come in 1999, when German teams Telekom, Gerolsteiner and later Milram attracted a lot of support. However, the Fuentes scandal, coupled with the doping cases involving the Gerolsteiner and T-Mobile teams cost the sport a lot of media interest and corporate support in Germany. The latest resurrection was helped along by the successful start of the 2017 Tour de France in Düsseldorf, as well as the ambitions of ASO, the company that organizes the Tour to tap into the lucrative German market.