The first week of June (2nd) sees one of Germany’s major one-day races take place. It’s the second oldest continually running race in Germany, a couple years off for the wars aside. The 2008 edition was cancelled due to snow, at the time the race took place on Easter Monday but has moved to its current start of June date since 2015.
The amount of WorldTour teams racing the Rund um Köln has been steadily decreasing in recent years. In 2017 there were 4 teams, 2018 had 3 teams and 2019 has just 2 WorldTour teams. Predictably the teams are Bora and Katusha – the German teams.
The race is normally won by a sprinter, although in recent years the breakaway has been successful for Gregor Muhlberger in 2017, Sebastian Delfosse in 2013 and Jan Barta in 2012. I’ll write primarily about the more obvious sprinter favourites and the odd stab in the dark outsider for the breakaway.
Rund um Köln 2019 Profile
Rund um Köln 2019 Contenders
Sam Bennett is a double winner of the Rund um Köln, taking the victory in 2014 and 2018. He’s won 6-times in 2019 so far and is agitating for a move away from Bora for 2020. He’s been consistent across many different stage races in 2019, winning in Switzerland, Turkey, France, the UAE and Argentina. He’s by far and away the obvious favourite.
Mads Wurz Schmidt is Katusha’s leader for Rund um Köln. He’s got a good history with 2nd place at his own other participation in 2017. His 2019 form has been very scratchy though. His best result all year is the 9th he managed in the 1st stage of the Tour de l’Ain last week. With that in mind there’s some other chances for Katusha too.
Jens Debusschere has had a decent 2019, his best result of 4th coming way back during the Tour Down Under. He followed it up with 5th at the Cadel Evans Road Race before going on to have a reasonable Spring Classics season. A sprinter who does best when the race is hard, he should still be around at the finale after all the climbs. Rick Zabel deserves the briefest of mentions after winning a stage of the recent Tour de Yorkshire, but chances are he’ll be back to working for others in Köln.
Wouter Wippert used to race at WorldTour level for Cannondale-Drapac (now Team EF) but has been dropping down the levels in the last couple of years. His first season at Continental level since 2013 has seen him pick up 2 wins in Bosnia and 8 other top-10 results across the world. He’s not much of a climber but if he’s around at the end, he should finish in the top-10.
It’s tough to work out which Wallonie-Bruxelles rider has the best shot. I’m going with Emils Liepins though as he’s done a tough better recently. He finished 10th in the Circuit de Wallonie this week which had a tough finishing circuit with a stiff climb. He also finished 8th in Scheldeprijs this year to underline his sprinting credentials. Failing that, there’s his teammate Aksel Nommela who sprinted to 6th place in both a stage at the recent 4 Jours de Dunkerque and Ronde van Drenthe. The hills in the middle of this race might lessen his chances, especially as those best results were on near pan-flat parcours.
It feels like ages since Mihkel Raim beat Julian Alaphilippe in a sprint in Colombia at the start of the year. He has also just won the Overall at the Tour of Estonia, admittedly with a lower level field – although a win’s a win. He was also 2nd here last season. Israel Cycling Academy also have Zak Dempster, who is often a lead-out man but sprints well when he’s able to race for himself. The former Rutland-Melton winner continued his on-road, off-road racing prowess with 14th at Tro Bro Leon recently.
Dusan Rajovic is a young sprinter that’s been doing well at .2 level races, winning 2 races in Greece in 2019. He’s racing at Continental level for Adria Mobil so often takes part in races around the Balkans. He’s also the Serbian national champion, winning from a 2 man breakaway last year. Roompot’s Michael van Staeyen has been in good form recently, finishing 6th at the GP Marcel Kint, as well as 2 top-10s at the 4 Jours de Dunkerque. He’s someone else who will be hoping to sprint their way into the top 10 in Köln.
Gazprom-Rusvelo’s main threat will be Sergey Shilov. His best result in 2019 has been 4th which he managed at the Vuelta de Madrid and Giro di Scilia. Similar to Debusschere, although not as good, he’s a sprinter that does best when a race has a load of climbing between the start line and the sprint finish. Sport Vlaanderen’s best bet is Amaury Capiot who is another Classics sprinter. He’s been slightly off his best in 2019, although he’s been consistent in finishing just a smidge outside of the top-10. Since April his best results have been 11th (twice), 13th (twice) and 15th (at Scheldeprijs) – expect more of the same.
Rund um Köln 2019 Outsiders
Not a contender for the sprint, Katusha’s Nils Pollit would make a breakaway particularly strong and give it a chance to stay away until the finish. The hills won’t pose a problem to him but there’s some luck involved to get him over the finish line first.
Evgeny Shalunov is the climbing alternative teammate to Sergey Shilov. He’s just finished 2nd Overall at the Vuelta Aragon, finishing 3rd and 5th on the stages with climbs involved. Earlier on this season he finished 4th, just behind Mikel Landa at the Coppi e Bartali. He’s another who’ll have no problem on the climbs, but will have to break clear to win.
Lucas Carstensen announced himself towards the end of 2018. He sprinted to a stage win at the HC level Tour of Hainan and 8 other top-10 places at the same level – all from the end of July. So far in 2019 he’s won the Grand Prix Alanya in Turkey but other than that he’s just got a few top-10s at 2.2 level. He was 20th here last season but has the potential to sneak into the top-10.
You can almost guarantee that one of Jesper Asselman or Jan-Willem van Schip will get themselves into the breakaway for Roompot-Charles. Asselman won a stage of this year’s Tour de Yorkshire by just about hanging on as the chasing pack mopped up his breakaway companions. van Schip has had a quiet 2019 so far after a tremendous 2018 which saw him get several top-10 finishes (and a single win).
Finally, Roland Thalmann has been climbing well for Team Vorarlberg. He finished 9th Overall in the Tour of the Alps and 8th Overall at the Circuit des Ardennes International. His one-day racing has been good in 2019 too, finishing 11th in the Route Adelie de Vitre – a race the same level as Rund um Köln.
Rund um Köln 2019 Prediction
1 – Sam Bennett
2 – Jens Debusschere
3 – Emils Liepins