PARIS, France (AFP) – While much of the cycling world focuses its attention on Italy this week, a few of the sport’s big names are instead looking ahead to July. Several Tour de France favorites including reigning champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) spent the week putting in recon miles on the upcoming Tour’s course.
Evans and Swiss teammate Steve Morabito rode the final ascent of stage 8 Wednesday, a 154km mountain stage that crosses into Switzerland midway and finishes in Porrentruy, on the French border. Their focus was primarily on the final climb, the famous Col de la Croix, which could be the decisive climb on the day.
“It will be a short stage, but [quite] intensive,” said Morabito. “There are beautiful landscapes, beautiful roads, without much flat.”
Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), who finished 5th in the 2010 Tour but crashed out of last year’s race, is also focusing on a podium finish this year in France. He rode the stage 8 route as well, in between two TT-specific training days focused around the town of Besançon. The Belgian also rode recon on the final climb of stage 7, twice climbing the final ascent to Vosges La Planche des Belles Filles.
“It is possible that the early break comes after [the Col de la Croix], as the racers who will contend the general classification gave everything for the previous day classification [on La Planche] and have the time trial the next day,” said Van den Broeck.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) — a two-time UCI ProTour champion and winner of the Vuelta a España — also rode the stage 8 climb to la Croix this week with his teammates Juan Jose Cobo and Rubin Plaza. Valverde has said he would make a run at the general classification at the Tour this July.
In this wire story, we mis-attributed two world championships to Alejandro Valverde. The Spaniard is a two-time UCI ProTour champion. —Ed.