By Andrew Hood
The Giro d’Italia and Tour de France may be a long way off for some – but the conclusion of the spring classics season on Sunday has brought the pink and yellow jerseys that much closer.
The Tour of Romandie begins Tuesday with six of days of mostly climbing in the Swiss mountains signaling the steady run in to the first two Grand Tours of the season.
The three-week Giro begins on May 12, and the tour of Romandie gives the race’s pink jersey aspirants a chance to test their legs over some tough climbing terrain.
Cadel Evans of the Predictor-Lotto team is the reigning champion, but race director Richard Chassot feels the “difficult” layout will test the legs of even Australia’s best mountain climber.
“It’s really quite a difficult course this year, although well-balanced,” he said. “All in all, it’s 667 km in total and 9500 meters in variation in altitude.”
In layman’s terms, that a fair bit of climbing – although the peloton will begin with a relatively easy 3.5km prologue time trial in Fribourg on Tuesday.
Subsequent stages will then visit Chaux-de-Fonds, Lucens, Charmey, Morgins and Lausanne, where the race’s final, and perhaps decisive, time trial over a distance of 20.4km will be held.
The hardest day in the mountains will be Saturday’s fourth stage which features climbs over Jaun, du Pillon, the ascent towards Villars and the final climb to Morgins.
Australian Robbie McEwen and Switzerland-based Spaniard Oscar Freire will likely use the race to hone their sprinting legs for the Giro. But the only real chance for the sprinters to steal some limelight from the general classification riders will be in Thursday’s much flatter second stage over 167km which finishes in Lucens.
Cassot added: “This is a course for tough, all-round riders who have some talent. A real stage race that can be appreciated by the contenders for the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.”
Challenging Evans, who last year secured his second consecutive top ten finish in the Tour de France, will be Spain’s Oscar Peirero, who finished runner-up to disgraced winner Floyd Landis in Paris, Russian Denis Menchov, Italian Paolo Salvodelli, Kazakh Andrei Kashechkin and Luxemburger Frank Schleck.
Italian Danilo Di Luca capped a series of solid performances in the latter races of the spring classics by winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday.
by Agence France PresseTour de Romandie, Switzerland, May 1-6Prologue – May 1: Freiburg, 3.5km ITTStage 1, May 2: Freiburg to La Chaux-de-Fonds, 158kmStage 2, May 3: La Chaux-de-Fonds to Lucens, 167kmStage 3, May 4: Moudon to Charmey, 163kmStage 4, May 5: Charmey to Morgins, 156kmStage 5, May 6: Lausanne, 20.4km ITT
Di Luca eyes Giro
Fresh off his Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory, Danilo Di Luca says he’s more confident than ever for his hopes for the Giro d’Italia. Di Luca finished fourth in the 2005 Giro, but faltered last year to finish well off the pace of eventual winner Ivan Basso.
“This is the most important win my career because it was on the most beautiful and prestigious race,” Di Luca said in a team release.
Di Luca will inspect the Zoncolan and Tre Cime di Lavaredo climbs but won’t race again until the May 12 start of the Giro on Sardinia.
Savoldelli to headline Astana
Two-time Giro d’Italia champ Paolo Savoldelli heads up the Astana squad for the upcoming corsa rosa (May 12-June 3). The always consistent 34-year-old Bergamasco will be one of the favorites for overall victory.
Astana for Giro d’ItaliaPaolo SavoldelliEddy MazzoleniSteve MorabitoBenoit JoachimAssan BazayevSergey YakovlevAndrey MizourovDmitry Muravyev