By Agence France Presse
Tour de France hopeful Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) will finally launch the start of his season at the Tour de Romandie on Tuesday where a strong line-up awaits the German in the Swiss Alps.
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears), the recent winner of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Wallonne one-day classics, will be one of the headline acts in the race, which serves as a warm-up for the upcoming Giro d’Italia.
Although the 653km race starts and finishes with time trials through the streets of Geneva and Lausanne, the rest of the six-day event snakes through the hills and mountains of western Switzerland.
Ullrich will be backed up by a near-full-strength T-Mobile squad in Switzerland, including Giuseppe Guerini, Eddy Mazzoleni and Serhiy Honchar, plus last year’s early Romandie leader, Oscar Pereiro.
The German had canceled his planned first appearance at the Circuit de la Sarthe earlier this month because of a painful knee. The Tour of Romandie will therefore be Ullrich’s first big test of the season, and is one in which he may decide to challenge for honors or simply try to work on his fitness.
The Italian riders, including 2005 Giro winner Paolo Savoldelli, have traditionally fared well in the Swiss race, which finishes just a week before their home classic.