A maximum of nine German riders will take part in the Tour de France. It was less than 20 years ago. Concern about the offspring is great, there is hardly any hope for a second Jan Ullrich.

The big names are retired, the new hopefuls are chasing stages. After the resignations of Tony Martin and André Greipel, Nils Politt, Lennard Kämna and Co. finally rose to become the protagonists in German cycling.

However, at the 109th Tour de France, which starts on Friday in Copenhagen, there are a maximum of nine German professional cyclists at the start, fewer than ever before in the past 20 years. Quality not quantity.

«We drive to the tour with our best eight racers. It doesn’t matter whether it’s one German or three. There are no specifications from the sponsors, »says Ralph Denk, boss of the best German team Bora-hansgrohe. In the German champions Politt, Kämna and Maximilian Schachmann, the Upper Bavarian has three professionals on board who can each win a stage.

And with only a single-digit number of drivers, Germany is not necessarily in bad company. A cycling nation like the Netherlands is on the same level, once booming countries like Great Britain and the USA are probably even lower. And Denk doesn’t necessarily want to infer the status quo in German cycling from the number of tour starters.

Denk cares about the future

But the manager worries massively about the future. “In terms of volume, German cycling is not blessed. When it comes to youngsters, we have very small starting fields in road races,” says the 48-year-old. Official requirements are making it increasingly difficult for clubs to organize races. “If we want high-performance sport and at some point want to have a Tour winner again, better regulations are needed. Belgium or Italy show how things can be done better,” emphasizes Denk. Bora himself is now scouting for young mountain bikers because there are more talents at the start there.

The public usually only notices such developments when it is too late. If one day, like in the 1980s, fewer than five Germans start the tour. In order to prevent this, forces must be pooled. Authorities and clubs have to create the framework conditions that ensure the current tour starters with successes the necessary enthusiasm among the youngsters. Then the system could function fundamentally.

Hope bearer Kämna

Kämna in particular is predestined to inspire with his driving style. As with the Giro, when he won the stage on Mount Etna in an outstanding manner, he should be given a lot of freedom on the tour. The sensitive North German has rediscovered the joy of cycling after his sabbatical year and delivers consistent and impressive results.

In normal times, this can also be attributed to Schachmann. But the Berliner is stuck with the Corona bad luck. He did not recover from an infection in winter for a long time. When the form was finally right again at the Tour de Suisse with tenth place in the overall ranking, the next positive test came. It is unclear how fit Schachmann is at the start.

A little further is John Degenkolb. The corona virus caught the former Roubaix winner a week earlier, so that he was back on the bike a good ten days before the start of the tour. “I recovered really well and was able to train hard again. I’m very happy to be part of the tour squad,” said the 33-year-old. For Degenkolb, the return to the big loop is of immense importance. Two years ago he dropped out after a fall after the first stage, last year his team did without him. Of course, he pays special attention to Wednesday’s cobblestone stage, especially as he took a stage win in 2018 on almost identical terrain.

Simon Geschke is reluctant to play big ideas. Especially because of the cobblestones. “It’s my tenth tour and I always say you have to get through the first week unscathed. Then you can make plans,” said the 36-year-old. Geschke is by no means amused that the tour organizers are chasing the peloton over the brutal cobblestone streets of northern France. For him, this is just an unnecessary spectacle. His time is coming up in the mountains and he’s hoping for another day with diamond legs like his 2015 stage win.