A sea of bicycle helmets glistens in the morning sun.
Several thousand hobby riders are getting ready to open the jubilee edition of the classic Eschborn – Frankfurt bike with the Everyman's Race - or officially with the “Škoda Velotour”.
Later that day, the professional teams will roll into the parking lot in front of the XXXLutz furniture store in Eschborn.
At 9:55 am, however, the first starting shot is fired, the drivers start pedaling and the moderator shouts: “It's party time!” The applause that follows is sparse.
Because of the pandemic, only a few fans came to the start.
Verena Bohn is one of them.
Together with her two children, she stands behind the barrier to cheer on her husband.
They carry signs, one of which reads: "Torment yourself, you can do it".
They actually live near the Moselle, they came to Frankfurt especially for the race.
"Most of the other races were canceled," says Bohn.
“You just have to see what's possible at the moment.” She thinks it's a shame that there are almost no spectators next to the track.
Spectators should stay at home
The Eschborn – Frankfurt cycle race was already considered a classic before it was officially called that. It took place for the first time in 1961, back then as an advertising campaign for the Henninger brewery. For a long time it was called "Around the Henninger Tower", after 60 years it is often just the "classic bike". In addition to the professional teams, hobby drivers also take part in separate public races every year. In recent years it has attracted numerous onlookers. After the race in 2020 was canceled, this time it will take place under certain conditions: the spectators were encouraged by the organizer not to watch the race live, but only on television.
Most of them stuck to it.
Especially relatives of the drivers came to the start.
The mood isn't necessarily bad because of that - one reason is Dora Sari.
The twelve-year-old girl counts the countdown to the next start through the microphone and cheers the drivers.
“I was a little excited, but I got over it.” She hopes that her father will come next time too - and that she will then be able to count in the race for him again.
"The atmosphere is already missing"
One of the hobby drivers is Volker Koch.
He thinks the lack of fans affects the drivers too.
“It's not the atmosphere that you normally have. It's missing.” Nevertheless, he is happy that the race is taking place at all.
A little further away from the starting point, on a bridge over the route, is Christl Fischer. The 74-year-old woman would like to see her son, who is also going with her. She has been following the race for 40 years. Her husband, who recently died, was an avid cyclist himself. “The last few laps were always exciting,” she says. Especially on the Mammolshainer Berg, the steepest part of the race. "Otherwise the drivers will always pass immediately, but there you can see them one by one, making an effort."
When it gets close to 1:20 p.m. and the start of the professional teams is announced, the first autograph hunters are also out and about in Eschborn. For example Heiko Schwalb, who came with his eight-year-old son and already has pictures with him on which the drivers can sign. They want to see the stars like local hero John Degenkolb or last year's winner Pascal Ackermann. “Maybe we'll dust off a drinking bottle, too,” says Schwalb. In the end, however, they keep their fingers crossed for the Bora-hansgrohe team. “Events like this keep the little ones on the line,” he says. His son has already put on a cycling jersey. When the pros are on the track, sometimes numerous fans gather at the edge of the track. They cheer the drivers, who sometimes whiz past quickly and sometimes slowly fight their way up the heights.Some have also gathered again at Mammolshainer Berg to motivate the drivers to tap the last of their energy reserves.
Race has probably not lost to fans
The finish line is at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, which would normally be the main attraction.
There are some stands where bike companies advertise their products, but a large number of people did not come.
Axel Rebenich is sitting at the fountain, he drove with us once twelve years ago.
He lacks the liveliness that he otherwise enjoyed at the Alte Oper: “It has already lost its mood.
In the past, you couldn't get through here, this folk festival character is missing. "
The race has probably not lost any fans. How many people watched the event - as recommended - on television, market research will show. Those who have come to the start, the route and the finish are longing for the atmosphere around it. Everyone is happy about the race in its 60th year, but the anticipation for the classic bike in its 61st year is even greater.Keywords: