Probable Leaders 2020: Peter Sagan, Pascal Ackermann, Manny Buchmann, Max Schachmann, Rafal Majka
KONM’s 2020 Watchlist: Peter Sagan, Manny Buchmann, Max Schachmann
Hotness Rating 2020: Tepid
KONM has to be honest: this is not a particularly interesting team to write about. For quite some time now, BORA-hansgrohe have been laser-focused on one man to such an extent that there’s no need to bother pointing out who that is.
Sure, last season brought about a diverting rigmarole involving Sam Bennett, whose career almost hit the stops as a consequence of BORA’s steadfast genuflection at the altar of Peter Sagan and the team’s awakened desire in 2019 to get Germans on podiums and in race jerseys. But that saga didn’t really distract from the reality that – even with a “Rockstar” (please stop calling him that) in their midst – BORA are, well, a bit meh.
Granted, this dismissive assertion does a disservice to talented riders like Pascal Ackermann, who was favoured ahead of Bennett at the Giro and justified this selection by winning two stages and taking the maglia ciclamino. Ackermann went on to win stages at tours in Slovenia, Poland and Germany, and at low-key events in France and Belgium. He had a great season and has every right to consider himself among the upper echelon of sprinters.
Also impressive in 2019 was Max Schachmann, the 25-year-old Berliner who won a stack of races in March and subsequently became German national road champion in June. He also caught the eye with powerful rides in the Ardennes in April, finishing 5th at Amstel Gold and La Flèche Wallonne before earning a 3rd at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He goes into 2020 as one of the most promising puncher-climbers in the peloton.
Manny Buchmann is a solid and improving GC candidate who flew under the radar a bit when claiming 4th at the Tour this year. He has threatened big things for a while and may deliver on his potential in 2020, yet as much as we like him – and KONM really likes him – he doesn’t seem to capture the wider imagination in the manner of other genuinely top-tier grand tour leaders.
Aside from Sagan and this German trio, there’s not much else about which to get excited. Rafal Majka disappointed in 2019 and may do the same in 2020, while Sagan will continue to Sagan and Bennett has left to join Deceuninck-Quick Step. With the Irishman’s departure goes the one truly interesting area of “narrative” surrounding BORA. As frustrating as it was for Hibernian observers such as KONM to see him marginalised, it was at least intriguing; a touch of drama to puncture the strangely becalmed, sterile atmosphere of this team.
Lennard Kämna has come in from Sunweb and is the only newcomer that sets the pulse racing. He impressed many with his performances at the Tour, where he claimed a 6th and a 4th place on stages 15 and 18, respectively. He’s gifted, but he’s also 23 and won’t get many chances in the near future.
So, KONM’s not saying it’s all doom and gloom. Ultimately, BORA are proven winners and will continue to win. But the only things we’re really looking forward to from this outfit are the latest team-bus vignettes from Daniel Oss, big Pete grinning totally sincerely and “enthusiastically” sizzling a steak on a sponsor’s grill, Shane Archbold‘s crypto-mullet and perhaps a What-The-Fuck-Are-You-Smoking-BORA update from the world of Ion Göttlich.
Cyclingnews’ Patrick Fletcher wrote last month that, “When Bora stepped up to the WorldTour with the signing of Peter Sagan in 2017, they were something of a one-man team, but not this year: the three-time world champion has contributed just four of the team’s 47 wins.”
In purely statistical terms, this is undeniable; Ackermann, Schachmann and Bennett all won more races than Sagan in 2019. But, well, you can prove anything with facts. Until the Slovak moves elsewhere, BORA-hansgrohe will be all about him. When he’s out of form, as was the case this year, people write about, talk about and wonder why he’s out of form. When he’s in form, it’s as if no-one else at the team exists.
Sagan is arguably the most famous current cyclist and he completely deserves his exalted status. It’s very important to KONM that you know how much we admire, respect and, whisper it, love him. But isn’t everyone – including the man himself – just a little tired of the circus in its present form?
Prediction: Ackermann to continue churning out the wins, while Schachmann gets marked out of contention by a peloton much more aware of his talent. Between them they earn around 10 wins.
Sagan to rediscover his form of previous years, win a big classic (and perhaps a monument) and take three Giro stages. Bloggers like KONM are forced to eat humble pie and admit that, yes, he is still a thoroughly engaging personality.
Manny Buchmann to finish in the top five of at least eight races but go winless in 2020.