Team Focus 2019: Bora-Hansgrohe

Nationality: German

2018 WT Ranking: 3rd

2018 WT major wins: Gent-Wevelgem, Paris-RoubaixStage 2-5-13 TDF, Peter Sagan; Stage 7-12-21 Il Giro, Sam Bennett; RideLondon, Pascal Ackermann; Great Ocean Road Race, Jay McCarthy

Riders to watch in 2019: Peter Sagan obviously, Sam Bennett, Pascal Ackermann, Emmanuel Buchmann, Rafal Majka

Notable for: Sprinting in grand tours; Sagan almost-never wearing the actual team jersey

AT THIS STAGE, YOU’D HAVE TO WONDER if BORA-SAGANSGROHE WILL EVER PUT IN A GC PUSH IN A MAJOR STAGE RACE OR GRAND TOUR.

This is a team obsessed with sprints and flattish classics. Hardly surprising when you have in your ranks one of the world’s best sprinters, who’s also a dab hand at ploughing through – rather than over – pavé. It’s probably unfair to Sam Bennett (three Giro stage-wins in 2018), Pascal Ackermann, Rafal Majka and one or two others to say this team is all about Peter Sagan, but, well, it pretty much is.

Bennett’s exploits in Italy were remarkable, and he followed them up with a win at the Rund um Koln and another trio of stages at the Tour of Turkey. In many other pro teams, he’d be the number one sprinter. Ackermann, meanwhile, became German national road champ and won several minor(ish) classics plus stages at the Dauphiné and the Tours of Switzerland, Romandie and Poland. Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V: In many other pro teams, he’d be the number one sprinter.

But it all comes back to Sagan, the reluctant chilled-out-entertainer that a certain cohort of impossibly unhip cycling journos insists on calling a ‘rockstar’.* This is his team, and will remain that way until whenever he decides to move on or hang up his awful sunglasses and retire to California to churn out an album of country-and-western bangers.

*As much as we love cycling, there are no ‘rockstar’ cyclists. Peter Sagan advertises cooking appliances. This is not a sport for cool people. Embrace it.

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Majka and Emmanuel Buchmann are probably Bora-Hansgrohe’s premier GC candidates. The Pole loves the hills, while the German’s definitely got something about him. KONM, however, is just about ready to give up on Majka, mostly because he’s older than Sagan and is unlikely to get proper backing from the team while the Tourminator remains on the books. How often in grand tours have we seen poor Rafal ploughing a lone furrow in the mountains while the rest of the B-H pack, Buchmann included, drags Sagan through the stage?

Majka’s won the Tour of Poland, made the Vuelta podium, finished 5th in the Giro and taken two Tour étapes, all of which were achieved prior to his Bora days. Since rocking up with the German outfit, he hasn’t done an awful lot of note despite obvious promise. He’s well used to sharing team-mates with Sagan from their Tinkoff days, but it’s hard not to think that at Bora he’s been relegated to the status of afterthought.

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It would be nice to see Bora put some weight behind Majka in a grand tour in 2019, but it seems as if they’ve already started to think more about Buchmann*:

“[Buchmann’s] team role might be his biggest weakness,” noted Podium Cafe ahead of the Tour in 2017. “In the shadow of Sagan he will in the worst case be a slave under the Slovakian victory chariot and best case be left on his own to perform unassisted.”

Plus ça change, KONM thought before seeing Daniel Friebe’s above tweet.* There we were heading into 2019 with Buchmann’s still improving but, we believed, likely to remain “a slave under the Slovakian victory chariot.” But now, against KONM’s initial expectation, it looks as if he might get his chance.


*Full Disclosure – here’s the sentence KONM hastily “re-imagined” after Daniel’s revelation: “Plus ça change. Here we are heading into 2019 and Buchmann’s still improving but likely to remain ‘a slave under the Slovakian victory chariot.’ Unlike Majka, however, he’s got plenty of time to simply get better and develop. In the meantime, do your best to enjoy those long hours fetching bottles, Emmanuel!”

Featured photo: Ciclismo Italia/Flickr, edited by KONM

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Writer featured in/on FourFourTwo, Guardian, The Set Pieces, Sports Illustrated, R&K, TFT, Nightwatchman, World Soccer, Pickles, Cricketworld and more. Twitter: @HeavyFirstTouch

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