The cycling year in 2020
In a year that differed to all others in every respect, even cycling wasn’t spared the many changes induced by coronavirus. The good news, though, is that the cancellations and postponements were far less severe than in other sports. Nevertheless, this peculiar year will still go down in history as the usual cycling calendar was completely disrupted. The Tour de France took place in September as the first Grand Tour of the year. Instead of before it, the Giro was held straight after it in September/October and overlapped with the Vuelta a España, which finished in November.
But let’s start by returning to the beginning of the season. As usual, things kicked off Down Under and in Europe with the Mallorca Challenge and other races on mainland Spain. Emanuel Buchmann and Pascal Ackermann each recorded a motivational win. The latter also took victory in the first stage of the UAE Tour at the end of February. However, the final two stages of this seven-day tour were cancelled after coronavirus cases were recorded in several teams. Who would have thought this was only the beginning? The ‘Race to the Sun’, the prestigious Paris – Nice stage race, still largely went ahead, but mostly without public spectators. Despite the peculiar circumstances, it was extremely successful for BORA – hansgrohe: Max Schachmann not only won the initial stage but also took overall victory, plus the team also celebrated four other podium positions.
And then the season ground to a halt. For the 27 cyclists from nine countries, this meant revising training plans, putting goals on hold and simply waiting. In some countries, it was still possible to train outside; in others, restrictions were stricter. Whereas Emanuel Buchmann and Pascal Ackermann were able to head out and enjoy the good weather (albeit on their own), Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss, for example, had to make do with turbo trainers indoors. Then, when the hard work of officials, race organisers, teams and numerous other parties paid off and it became clear that a scaled back and condensed racing calendar was going to be possible with highly complex coronavirus safety measures, the goals for the season had to be revised and rescheduled as certain races were now to take place in parallel.
Following a training camp in the Ötztal valley in Austria, the team restarted the season with the Sibiu Cycling Tour in Romania. BORA – hansgrohe completely dominated the race with Gregor Mühlberger ultimately taking victory in the overall classification as well as claiming both the climber’s and points jerseys thanks to outstanding teamwork. The cycling world pays particular attention to the Critérium du Dauphiné as it is traditionally the most important preparatory race for the Tour de France. Emanuel Buchmann and Gregor Mühlberger both showed great promise – until they were involved in a crash in the penultimate stage through no fault of their own, shaking the Tour de France planning. Max Schachmann’s Tour preparations were similarly unlucky. He was in a promising position at Il Lombardia when suddenly taken out by a private vehicle that had strayed onto the race course. His collarbone was broken but it was a miracle that it was nothing worse. The great hopes that the team had for good reason after the extraordinary Tour de France in 2019 seemed to have been dashed.
But at BORA, as with BORA – hansgrohe, everyone knows: teamwork makes the dream work. The highly condensed race calendar meant that there were few possibilities to change the line-up anyway and so the team headed to the start with the eight planned cyclists but had to set its sights on stage wins instead of the overall classification. To offer the team support and security in this unusual year, BORA and its co-sponsor hansgrohe decided to announce the extension of their sponsorship commitment to 2024 at the start of the Tour de France in Nice. A welcome motivational boost for the team. Not all successes end on the podium, but the impressive teamwork and fighting spirit were rewarded with two combativity awards (for the most combative rider), three podium places and a very strong win by Lennard Kämna in the 16th stage. Peter Sagan gave his all right to the end but was unfortunately denied his eighth green jersey. The overall win seemed certain to go to the Jumbo Visma team and Primoz Roglič until his fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogačar, aged just 22, made the impossible possible in the individual time trial in the penultimate stage. A perfectly written thriller took them up to La Planche des Belles Filles, culminating in a happy ending and the yellow jersey for Pogačar on the Champs-Elysées in Paris.
Just two weeks later, the second Grand Tour of the season began in Sicily, the Giro d’Italia. A difficult course that turned out to be similarly exciting. A new generation seemed to be taking over in the world of cycling. The pink jersey was fiercely contested with many young riders getting the opportunity to don the coveted garment. In the end, Brit Tao Geoghegan Hart took victory in the final time trial in Milan to win the Giro without having spent a single day in the pink jersey. Austrian Patrick Konrad came eighth overall in BORA – hansgrohe colours. Peter Sagan once again caused a sensation from the team’s perspective when he took the 10th stage with an impressive solo effort.
Even before the Giro finished, the third Grand Tour started in Spain. The Vuelta a España is known for steep and difficult climbs but due to injuries captain Felix Großschartner was unable to have a team of pure mountain specialists on hand to support him. However, that didn’t prevent him from a strong performance throughout, rewarded with 9th place in the final general classification standings in Madrid at the end of the almost three-week race. As the cherry on the cake, Pascal Ackermann won the final stage to Madrid.
Even though the year didn’t go as intended for BORA – hansgrohe, with unfortunate crashes disrupting plans on several occasions, the team still celebrated 21 victories and 42 podium places – thanks to the special team spirit of the Band of Brothers. And this give us great hope for the coming year!
Six riders will leave Bora – hansgrohe at the end of the season and we want to thank them for everything they have done for the team and for us as sponsors. Jempy Drucker, Oscar Gatto, Rafał Majka, Jay McCarthy, Gregor Mühlberger and Paweł Poljanski – we wish you all the very best for the future and hope to see you at races again soon!
At the same time, several new riders are joining the team. So, a warm welcome to Giovanni Aleotti, Wilco Kelderman, Jordi Meeus, Anton Palzer, Nils Politt, Matthew Walls, Frederik Wandahl and Ben Zwiehoff!