Like most professional pilots, Pascal Ackermann dreams of racing the Tour de France.
Unlike any other WorldTour sprinter, however, he is the only one to be teamed up with Peter Sagan.
The German speedster, who turns 27 this week, hopes to be able to race the Tour this summer for the first time. But will there be room on Bora-Hansgrohe’s crowded depth map? He hopes so.
“I hope I’ll be there this year and start my first Tour de France,” Ackermann said on Sunday. “I’m on the long list of the Tour, but it’s not decided yet. You never know the changes during the season. With Peter we have another good sprinter, and then after the first races we will decide what my program will be this year.
Since joining Bora-Hansgrohe in 2017, Sagan has been the gravitational center of the team and rightly commands much of the team’s resources. When Sagan starts a race, he’s there to win it and automatically enjoy leadership protection.
This dynamic helped Sam Bennett come out of the gate after 2019, in part because the Irish sprinter knew he would see less chance of sprinting for his own results if he stayed at Bora-Hansgrohe. Bennett landed at Deceuninck-Quick-Step, quickly won two stages and usurped Sagan’s green jersey in the 2020 Tour.
The rise of Ackermann, who has run two big tournaments so far with solid success in sprints, creates a similar dilemma. Ackermann won two stages and the points jersey on his Grand Tour debut at Giro d’Italia 2019, and won two stages in Vuelta a España 2020.
With Tour teams racing just eight starters, the question arises: is there enough room on Bora-Hansgrohe to bring Sagan, his growing fleet of GC contenders and mixed stage hunters, and a pure sprinter like Ackermann?
Team leader Ralph Denk is keeping his options open in 2021.
“We will keep the door wide open,” Denk said. “It could be an option with one of these guys, it could be open with both.
“There are eight sprints in the Tour de France this year and I think it’s necessary for us to go there with a sprinter,” said Denk. “We do not have a bank guarantee in our range. The sprint is important this year, and Peter and Pascal are both on the long list of the Tour. We will see how the first part of the season unfolds. ”
After missing out on the classics in 2020 to race the rescheduled Giro d’Italia for the first time, Sagan said he was putting a renewed emphasis on the northern classics. And with a Flanders World Championships course in the fall, plus the Olympics in the middle, Sagan suggested that a Tour start for him is not necessarily guaranteed.
“We’ll have to see what my schedule is,” Sagan said. “I have a program from now until the classics. After that, we’ll have to see what I’m going to do and we’ll see. We will decide. It’s a very important year with the Olympics and the World Championships, which could be a good thing.
Denk confirmed that Sagan and Ackermann were both on the Tour squad’s long list which includes 14 names, and stressed that the team is keeping their options open for the Tour.
With eight quick finishes expected, the sprinters will take center stage at the 2021 Tour. And it’s no secret that Ackermann is among the fastest men in the peloton. Sagan, who is not a pure sprinter, struggled in the 2020 Tour against fast men like Bennett and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), and left the Tour without a stage victory or green jersey for the first times of his career. of the Tours he has completed.
Ackermann will have a busy spring schedule – assuming there are no schedule disruptions caused by the coronavirus – and start his first Milano-Sanremo. He will also be tiptoeing into the Belgian classics for the first time, participating in a handful of races including Gent-Wevelgem, but not one of the landmarks.
“I’m happy with how my 2020 season went. Even with the schedule changes, I got eight wins,” Ackermann said. “At the moment I’m not too worried about the big laps I’m doing. I want to have a good start to the season and start winning races again.
Ackermann could control his own destiny. A hot start to 2021 could see him hitting his ticket to his Tour debut.
Calendar for early 2021 for Pascal Ackermann
- Visit to Valencia (SPA) – February 3-7
- Almeria Classic (SPA) – February 14
- Visit to UAE – February 21-27
- Paris-Nice (FRA) – March 7-14
- Milan-Sanremo (ITA) – March 20
- Belgian classics (will not run any monument)
- Grand tour schedule to be determined, depending on results and physical condition