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German race serves up worlds teaser with top sprinters

On Sunday, the peloton's top sprinters will showcase their late-season form at a WorldTour event known for bunch sprints, Cyclassics Hamburg in Germany.

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HAMBURG (AFP) — The UCI Road World Championships are different in a couple crucial ways this year — the Doha races are held much later, October 9-16, and for the first time since 2011, the route will favor sprinters. On Sunday, the peloton’s top sprinters will showcase their late-season form at a WorldTour event known for bunch sprints, Cyclassics Hamburg in Germany.

Australia’s Caleb Ewan is part of a strong field of sprinters set to do battle in Hamburg, the only UCI WorldTour race still held in Germany. Hailing from the host country, John Degenkolb will lead his Giant – Alpecin team, and he’ll face Lotto – Soudal’s André Greipel, who won the one-day event in Hamburg last year. Britain’s Ben Swift (Sky) and Belgium veteran Tom Boonen (Etixx – Quick-Step) will also be racing over the 217km route that starts and finishes in central Hamburg.

Degenkolb, 27, missed the early part of the season to recover from his injuries after he was one of six Giant – Alpecin riders hit by a car during training in Spain at the start of the year.

The German bounced back to race in the Tour de France, finishing fourth in two stages, and claimed his first win of the 2016 season in the final stage of the Arctic Race of Norway earlier this month.

More of a pure sprinter than Degenkolb, Greipel won three stages of the Giro d’Italia earlier this season and also was victorious on the Champs-Élysées in the Tour’s finals stage.

Orica – BikeExchange’s Ewan, 22, will make his debut in the German road race and was last in action at July’s Tour of Poland, where he finished third on two stages. Otherwise, his 2016 season hasn’t been particularly successful, with his last win coming in February in stage 2 of the Herald Sun Tour.

Although the Vuelta a España starts Saturday, most top sprinters have opted out of the season’s final grand tour, which often serves as a tune-up for worlds, due to the fact that the route is particularly hilly, offering few chances for the fast men to win stages.