Once upon a time, there were half a dozen top-level road cycling events in Germany. But there were some dark days in cycling and the media and sponsors reacted sharply and retreated. Nowadays, access to TV coverage for the grand tours, all the classics and many more races and women’s cycling is easier than ever before and sponsorship is strong… but only the Eschborn-Frankfurt one-day race survived and can still attracts top tier teams. Even with stiff competition from the Tour of Romandie, the local cycling enthusiasts can race in the morning and then watch the pros in the afternoon.
WorldTeams are usually a mix of riders from different nations, but BORA-hansgrohe is the German team and local favourite so attracts far more attention from the spectators and commentators than the others. Some of the top teams were absent (INEOS, Movistar, Astana and Bike Exchange) but with 19 teams the field was big and the course was expected make it a keenly challenged prize. For a nation so well known for its love of automobiles, the race organisers and the various cities and councils are bold enough to block roads and major autobahns for the yearly race.
Local cyclists orientate towards, the Feldberg which looms in the distance beyond the buildings of Frankfurt and beyond the historical towns and fields. The road meanders upwards through the ancient forests that was once the stomping grounds for legions of Roman soldiers. For the peloton it is steady-going, but against the Alps… some say that the Feldberg is just a hill.
Much of the spectator attention for this race is centered on a different top-spot. Not unlike the Kapelmuur in Belgium, Mammolshain is a steep kicker with the Frankfurt city skyline as a backdrop . A circuit within the race-route pushes the peloton up the climb four times. This is where you will find that crazy German, El Diablo aka Didi Senft. At the foot, the bunch has already crossed cobbles and races past fachwerk houses in the town below. The road creeps up and a sharp right quickly tips the gradient to 14% before easing a little and sending the bunch back into the forests to continue the ascent.
Showcasing the city of Frankfurt the finale draws the riders into a tight 5km circuit that crosses the Rhein river back and forth and inevitably brings the peloton close together for the last kilometers with an anticipated sprint finish. This year it was the ‘home team’ BORA-hansgrohe who were able to take the wind from Trek Segafredo and Fenix Alpecine and dominate the pack.
With the niggling injuries (and the niggling for his previous team) now behind him, Irish sprinter Sam Bennett was finally back on top a strong sprint victory. It was a race that ticked a lot of the boxes for the spectators and the sponsors. But one of the big winners of the day was Biniam Girmay, the Eritrean rider from Team Intermarché Wanty Gobert.
In a new chapter for cycling, the African rider attracted a huge crowd of fellow Eritreans chanting Bini, Bini, Bini. Hi is still enjoying tremendous attention and recognition after his win at Gent-Wevelgem 2022. Just ahead of the Eschborn-Frankfurt, the team announced that Girmay had signed for a multi-year contract.
Girmay was mobbed by the large contingent of Eritrean fans after the finished and they circled, danced and chanted around the team bus. Scores of extra security were called-in to try and keep order among the fans who called Bini to reappear time and time again at the delight of the crowd. The new superstar of cycling is a different type of superstar who is introducing cycling to a whole new generation of riders of tomorrow.