Together with EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg – previously known as Vattenfall Cyclassics then Cyclassics Hamburg – and the Deutschland Tour, the Eschborn-Frankfurt is one of the most important cycling races in Germany. The first edition in 1962 under the name of Rund um den Henninger Turm Frankfurt, saw the Belgian Armand Desmet celebrate victory. From then, for more than half a century, several important riders have followed him, representing an interestingly diverse range of cyclists, from sprinters to climbers.
Often also formerly referred to as the Frankfurt Grand Prix, the race is usually held on Germany’s Labour Day, which, like many other nations, is the 1st of May. As with several other important cycling events including the Amstel Gold Race, the race took its first name and the route to honour the original sponsor. The idea behind the race came from brothers Hermann and Erwin Moos to promote the Henninger brewery, and the first edition of Rund um den Henninger Turm Frankfurt started and finished in Frankfurt’s city centre.
The first editions under the iconic Henninger Tower
An icon of the Sachsenhausen-Süd district of Frankfurt, the concrete Henninger Tower stood 33 storeys and 120 metres high. It was not a simple skyscraper but the world’s tallest grain storage silo, storing up to 16,000 tons of barley for the production of beer. Its construction took three years, from 1959 to 1961, following the design by Karl Lieser who imagined its characteristic barrel-shaped top accommodating two revolving restaurants and a cityscape viewing platform. The race paid tribute to the tower from the first edition until the building was demolished. A new tower was built in 2017, with a similar design, but for residential use.
In the first edition of the Rund um den Henninger-Turm Frankfurt on 13th May 1962 it took seven hours and two minutes for Armand Desmet to complete the demanding 255km route around Frankfurt am Main. The champion of Flandria-Faema crossed the line solo, with 3’20” to the Dutchman Huub Zilverberg and 5’30” to his compatriot Rik Van Looy. The first enfant du pays to win was Hans Junkermann, the following year, winning in a sprint from the other strong German Rudi Altig – who went on to secure first place seven years later, in 1970.
Merckx, Maertens and the first double win
The 1967 edition became even more important when Paris-Brussels was removed from the calendar in April due to traffic problems; the Rund um den Henninger-Turm Frankfurt became the highest status cycling event in West Germany, attracting more and more big names. No wonder in 1971 the “Cannibal”, Eddy Merckx won solo, with 21 seconds to his compatriot and Molteni team-mate, Jos De Schoenmaecker, and a gap of almost a minute to the Frenchman Lucien Aimar.
Another legend won in 1976: Freddy Maertens was strongest in the sprint where nine Belgians – including Roger De Vlaeminck, third, and Merckx himself, seventh – took the first nine spots. But Rund um den Henninger-Turm Frankfurt was not a race only for sprinters, as demonstrated by the Italian Gianbattista Baronchelli’s 1980 victory, who finished 35 seconds ahead of his compatriot Francesco Moser and the Belgian Fons De Wolf.
Belgium’s Georges Pintens was the first rider to win two editions: 1969 and 1973. The one-day specialist from Antwerp, who also won Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields, the Tour de Suisse and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, arrived solo both times, with gaps of 10 seconds and 59 seconds respectively. Another Belgian, Ludo Peeters, won back-to-back in 1982-1983, immediately followed by the double (1984-1985) of Phil Anderson from Australia, the first and last non-European winner.
Zabel and Kristoff’s domination
The 1995 edition of Rund um den Henninger Turm Frankfurt, part of the UCI Road World Cup, was won by the Italian Francesco Frattini. The Erik Zabel era started soon after, with the German claiming three victories – 1999, 2002 and 2005 – all after bunch sprints. His record lasted for 12 years before being smashed by the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff.
Meanwhile, the race changed name in 2009 as the original sponsor, Henninger Brewery, withdrew after supporting the race for 46 years. The last edition called Rund um den Henninger Turm went to Dutchman Karsten Kroon. The organisation passed to the cities of Eschborn, which became the start location, and Frankfurt, host of the finish. The new name of Eschborn–Frankfurt City Loop was marked by victory for Fabian Wegmann from Germany. From the 2010 edition – also won by Wegmann – the race was officially Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt. In 2017, the ASO-organised race was included in the UCI WorldTour.
Alexander Kristoff won four successive editions: 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 (the race was not hed in 2015). His first victory was from the German John Degenkolb, the second in front of Maximiliano Richeze from Argentina, the third ahead of Germany’s Rick Zabel – son of triple winner Erik – and in his fourth victory he beat the Australian Michael Matthews. The Norwegian failed to grab a fifth victory in his last edition, finishing third behind the two Germans, Pascal Ackermann and John Degenkolb.
The current race route is 220km from Eschborn, passing through the climbs of the Taunus Hills, Feldberg, Ruppershain and Mammolshain, the latter being the toughest with a maximum gradient of 26%, climbed twice. Like the first editions, the race usually finishes with city laps: 4.5km in the centre of Frankfurt, no longer under the Henninger Tower, but in front of the Alte Oper (Old Opera) concert hall.