The golden era of German sprinting might appear to some to be fading fast with the likes of André Greipel, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb either contemplating retirement or fixing different goals. But rest assured that there is another rider to take over: Pascal Ackermann. And the 25-year-old is set to be a big star at the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg this weekend.
Last week in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany, the Indian teenagers Esow Alben, L Ronaldo Singh, Y Rojit Singh and Jemsh Singh made history for their country as they claimed the nation’s first ever gold medal at the UCI Junior Track World Championships, in the team sprint. They can build their future on the same platform as Pascal Ackermann did, as he won the same title along with Max Niederlag and Benjamin König back in 2011 in Moscow. In the same competition, Caleb Ewan won the Omnium for Australia. Ackermann was touted as the next big thing in the kilometre – but a knee injury hampered his progression on the track, and he switched to road racing with a lot of speed in his legs.
Ackermann took the silver medal in the Under-23 road race at the 2016 UCI Road World Championships in Doha, Qatar, behind Norway’s Kristoffer Halvorsen, now with Team Ineos, and in front of Italy’s Jakub Mareczko, now with CCC Team. Since joining UCI WorldTeam Bora-Hansgrohe in 2017, the German rider’s progression has been spectacular. In 2018, he won nine races including six in the UCI WorldTour, the German National Championships and the back-to-back Brussels Classic-GP Fourmies double over the same weekend – a feat that no one had managed since Robbie McEwen in 2005.
Ackermann’s coming of age meant he was ready to step up as Bora-Hansgrohe’s top sprinter in a Grand Tour this year. The Giro d’Italia was a natural goal to start with, which meant that the German team - that had logically lined up Peter Sagan in the Tour de France - had to make Sam Bennett wait for La Vuelta even though the Irishman had taken three stage wins in the 2018 Corsa Rosa. “Of course I felt the pressure but it was a positive pressure,” Ackermann said after he won the first bunch gallop in stage 2, beating the likes of Elia Viviani, Fernando Gaviria, Arnaud Démare and Ewan.
He emerged as the best sprinter of the Giro and ended up winning the points classification despite a serious setback due to a crash on stage 11: he climbed the Alps and the Dolomites swathed in bandages. Asked if he had considered pulling out, he answered: “Certainly not! Otherwise, I wouldn’t be Pascal Ackermann.” The man’s got pride and courage. It paid off when he came second in stage 19 and took the cyclamen jersey back even though Démare had looked like a solid leader.
“The Giro was a success for me, and it was my main goal of the year”, he reflected. “Everything else after that would be a bonus.” It wasn’t long before the bonus arrived. He continued his winning streak by winning stage 1 of the Tour of Slovenia and returned from his July break as effective as ever. He claimed two stages at the Tour de Pologne and the bronze medal at the European Championship in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, after going clear off the front group along with Viviani and Yves Lampaert.
Ackermann is a top sprinter but not only a sprinter. He also has a charismatic personality with a smile on his face almost all the time. “I started cycling at the age of seven and I feel extremely lucky that I’ve made my passion my job,” he said. He is still young but already has a street named after him: the Pascal Ackermann-Weg in the city of Minfeld where he hails from, near the French border. It was the council’s decision following his silver medal at the 2016 UCI Road World Championships.
A flashy sprinter, Ackerman has all it takes to lead the way for German sprinters after Kittel and Greipel. On Sunday 25 August, the crowd awaits him at the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg which often ends in a bunch sprint. It’s a great day of cycling, not just the main race created in 1996 for top professionals from the UCI WorldTour but also events for everyone who can ride a bike. The “Jedermannrennen” attracts more than 20,000 cyclists every year over a number of distance options: 55km, 100km or 155km.
German fans have loved watching Emanuel Buchmann, also from Bora-Hansgrohe, during the Tour de France which he concluded in fourth position overall. In contrast to recent previous years, they could cheer for a GC rider instead of stage hunters like Tony Martin and the sprinters. But they shouldn’t have to wait too long until Ackermann reaches his ultimate goals.