With the Tour over, no need to worry about the (simultaneous) Vuelta, and plenty of time for preparation for those targeting the world championships, most of the riders seemed relaxed and genuinely happy to be racing in Germany. The locals in particular were on excellent form, with Andre Greipel of Lotto Soudal, Marcel Kittel of Team Katusha Alpecin and BORA – hansgrohe’s Pascal Ackermann all gleefully signing dozens of autographs. German greats including Jens Voigt and Erik Zabel moved through the throng, chatting easily with riders and press alike. Even Didi the Devil was there, in his usual high spirits.
There were one or two exceptions. After their recent exertions, Tour de France stars Geraint Thomas, Romain Bardet and Tom Dumoulin looked tired. James Knox of Great Britain looked pensive in the colours of Quick Step Floors. And Austria’s Patrick Konrad looked downright grumpy. But nothing could spoil the mood of his fellow countryman Bernie Eisel, who gave the biggest smiles of the day, obviously happy to be riding at all after his terrible brain injury.
Today the riders race from Koblenz to Bonn, former capital of the Federal Republic. A flat run-in and the presence of several German fast men means a bunch sprint is likely. Given recent form Conquista’s money is on Pascal Ackermann to nick it for BORA – hansgrohe. Bis nachher . . .