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Inside Cycling with John Wilcockson: It’s gonna be a great opening week at the Tour!

2011 wins for UCI ProTeams

(in UCI .1 races and higher through June 19)

1. HTC-Highroad 30 (11 riders)
2. Garmin-Cervélo 18 (11 riders)
3. Rabobank 18 (eight riders)
4. Omega Pharma-Lotto 18 (four riders)
5. Team RadioShack 17 (10 riders)
6. Lampre-ISD 17 (seven riders)
7. Movistar 16 (eight riders)
8. Vacansoleil-DCM 15 (six riders)
9. Sky 14 (seven riders)
10. Saxo Bank-SunGard 14 (four riders)
11. Leopard-Trek 13 (five riders)
Liquigas-Cannondale 13 (five riders)
13. Katusha 7 (three riders)
14. Euskaltel-Euskadi 6 (four riders)
15. Astana 5 (four riders)
16. AG2R-La Mondiale 3 (three riders)
17. Quick Step 3 (two riders)
18. BMC Racing 3 (one rider)

Tour of Switzerland

The Swiss race featured four mountain stages, two time trials and only three potential finishes for the sprinters. Of these three stages, the first at Huttwil went to world champion Hushovd (his first victory of the year), who took a closely fought uphill sprint ahead of all-arounder Peter Sagan of Liquigas, after his Garmin teammates set a hard tempo to burn off the pure sprinters. The second “sprint” stage at Tobel-Tägerschen also had a hilly (and technical) finale that resulted in a surprise win for Vacansoleil’s Borut Bozic. More hills and a tricky finish at Schaffhausen saw Sagan (who’s not riding the Tour) overcome HTC’s Matt Goss.

Goss is getting back the form that earned him the Milan-San Remo win. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com

Goss finished strongly after getting himself boxed in on the tight left curve 400 meters from the line, but the 25-year-old Australian showed he’s close to the form that won him Milan-San Remo three months ago. Coincidentally (or maybe not), the men he beat to the line in San Remo, Cancellara and Gilbert, each won races over the weekend to emphasize their ambitions at the Tour starting on July 2.

Gilbert took his personal 2011 tally to a season-leading 11 wins at the Ster ZLM Toer with a trademark attack in the last uphill kilometer of Saturday’s rainy stage in the Belgian Ardennes — which also won him the overall title. It was almost a carbon copy of the wins he took this past April at the Flèche Brabançonne and Amstel Gold Race, which also featured uphill finishes, just like the opening stage of the upcoming Tour. And Gilbert’s victory in this year’s Flèche Wallonne classic on the infamously steep Mûr de Huy could presage a similar success on the 2011 Tour’s stage 4 on the almost-as-steep finishing climb at Mûr de Bretagne. And stage 6 into Lisieux has another sharp climb (leading to a flatter finishing straight) that should also suit Gilbert.

As for Cancellara, who won the Tour of Switzerland’s concluding 32.1km time trial on Sunday ahead of Team RadioShack’s Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer, he appears to be on the form that earned him two stage wins and the first week’s yellow jersey at the 2007 Tour. The first of those wins came in the spectacular prologue TT in central London; the other was earned with a last-kilometer attack over cobblestones before he held off the sprinters on the long straightaway to the finish in Compiègne.

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