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One day race fans will be turning up in their thousands this weekend to watch the 6th round of the World Cup in Hamburg Germany. The HEW-Cyclassics has been part of the World Cup since 1998, when it took the place of the Rochester International Classic in Britain. The race has a deceptively simply parcours which Museeuw, current leader of the World Cup standings, considers "one of the most difficult to read."
The parcours usually start with a 170 kilometre, figure of 8 which features the famous bridge over the Elbe, the Köhlbrandbrücke. With no climb in the parcours over 90 metres the bridge is probably the highlight of the opening section.
The race then swings back into Hamburg for two laps of a 40 kilometre circuit, which includes the short but steep Grotiusweg and Waseberg climbs which are tackled three times. The two climbs, situated about 15 kilometres from the finish, are always a launching pad for the major attacks of those riders wishing to avoid a bunch sprint finish.
Due to the length (all World Cup events are over 250 kilometres) although the parcours favour the true sprinters it is unlikely that they will have many team mates in at the kill to help them out. To win the race a rider must be tactfully aware, have team mates prepared to chase down the inevitable attacks in the last 20 kilometres and then have the legs to out pace similar minded individuals.
We join the race with 70 kilomteres to go - and a big crash has brought down Jalabert, McEwen, Ludo Dierckxsens - McEwen is walking slowly to the team car, he looks as if retiring from the race - so the favourite has fallen.
He has suffered a cut to his left knee and his left shoulder - meanwhile, Martin Elmiger, Jose Luis Arrieta and Nicola Minali have around 50 seconds on the peloton.
Stefan Van Dijck was also injured in the crash but is trying to get back onto the peloton.
14.42 BST. We seem to have lost our race feed. Please stand by....
Now with 56 kilometres to go the riders tackle the Waseberg - and Thomas Liese has 15 seconds on the field.
14.54 BST. There appears to be a feed problem originating in Germany. Please bear with us.
There is one lap to go - 40 kilometres and everyone is back together. Huge crowds as the peloton streaks through the centre of Hamburg.
The peloton is one long coloured ribbon as Gianluca Bortolami takes the front of the peloton.
38 kilometres to go and the attacks are happening all the time - the peloton is nervous.
Ludo Dierckxsens puts in a massive piece of work at the front - he joins a select group of 12 at the front - they have a small 9 second lead on the peloton - the speed is incredibly high.
Guidi Trenti now leads an attack of four riders - which is also brought back.
33 kilometres to go - the peloton is not organised -Malte Urban for Team Coast tries an attack...
Lotto lead the peloton and the peloton is all back together.
30 kilometres - now Tacconi tries an attack - the speed is high and the attacks are never gaining more than a few metres.
Andrei Hauptman for Tacconi tries an attack - but he cannot make any headway - meanwhile Museeuw is looking quietly confident in the peloton.
Médéric Clain (Cofidis) and Geert van Bondt (CSC) have a small advantage, while a group of 12 escape - Freire "Mr. Poker Face" is at the front of the peloton - with Zabel - the speed is 51kph - the fastest world cup race so far this year.
27 kilometres to go - the 12 escapees have a gap of around 500 metres only while Van Bondt (CSC) still tries a solo effort. The peloton is too fast - and now everyone is back together.
Jalabert is looking comfortable in the peloton as they approach the climbs for the last time. It is Lotto at the front - though McEwen has retired. They will be riding for the in form Peter Van Petegem.
18 kilometres to go and they approach the Grotiusweg. Phonak Hearing team now at the front - Sven Teutenberg leads the peloton. Peter Van Petegem is in third position.
Now the climb - Zabel suffers a technical - Fagnini is trying to get him back in the peloton.
They have a lot of work to do to catch up and are streaming through the broken peloton. Meanwhile with 15 kilometres to go, what is left of the peloton is still together.
Domo, with Museeuw, lead the peloton as they approach the Waseberg.
An attack by the Saeco boys - Salvatore Commesso is looking very strong at the front - while Zabel just manages to rejoin the peloton.
Danilo Di Luca and Davide Rebellin attack and are clear.
A second group containing Hincapie, Museeuw, Moreni, Médéric Clain, Fabio Baldato, have joined them. The winner will be from this group. Erik Zabel is chasing like a man possessed.
Igor Astarloa Askasibar is also in the front group for Saeco - as Hincapie leads the select group who have 37 seconds. Zabel tries to bridge the gap - but it will take a superhuman effort to do so.
Cristian Moreni attacks the leading group - Bettini attacks too. They are brought back together. Vainsteins and Ferrigato are the other two men in the leading group.
These are all hard men - they are all capable of winning the race as Bettini attacks again. He gains a gap but is being chased down by Moreni. The two Italians have the advantage and are working together to keep the others at bay.
Museeuw and Vainsteins lead the chase down - Moreni tries in his own - but he is caught.
Just 2 kilometres to go as Saeco attacks.
Di Luca puts in a major effort - under the flamme rouge. Di Luca is caught - it will come to a sprint. Museeuw leads out, and incredibly it is Museeuw still in front. Still Museeuw... no one can take pass him. Musseuw wins!!!
An huge effort from distance which proved too strong for every one.
He simply was too strong for Bettini, Hincapie, Di Luca and Rebellin! An incredible show of strength, the Leeuw Van Vlaanderen has roared!
He extends his lead in the world cup standings...
The race result is:
1 Johan Museeuw (Bel)
2 Igor Astarloa Askasibar (Spa)
3 Davide Rebellin (Ita)
4 Paolo Bettini (Ita)
5 George Hincapie
6 Fabio Baldato
7 Cristian Moreni
8 Ferrigato @ 2''
Zabel never recovered from his mechanical, and finished 2'15'' down.
Now Museeuw, what and incredible performance - the Flemish flags flying - takes the kisses from the misses an the podium. He was in a very select group - and gave his rivals a demonstration of power and determination.
World Cup Standings:
1. Johan Museeuw (Bel) 270 pnt
2. Paolo Bettini (Ita) 174 "
3. George Hincapie (US) 124 "
4. Peter van Petegem (Bel) 121 "
5. Mario Cipollini (Ita) 120 "
6. Andrea Tafi (Ita) 109 "
7. Michele Bartoli (Ita) 100 "
8. Jo Planckaert (Bel) 83 "
9. Igor Astarloa (Spa) 82 " 10.
10. Fred Rodriguez (VS) 79 "
11. Oscar Freire (Spa) 77 "
12. Sergej Ivanov (Rus) 70 "
Thank you for joining us today, and don't forget the NY City Championships which begin shortly.