It's hard to preview a race at this time of year; as great as the fall classics are, it's simply hard to know who has anything left in the tank. Yes, Paolo Bettini was the mooiste last week, but what will a week of partying do to his stellar form? Same for Fabien Cancellara. And the Vuelta protagonists... this would be week 5 if you're measuring their so-called peak. In the absence of any sure bets, here at least are some quick resources:
The official race site is pretty slick. If you sprecht Deutsch. Still, by hunting around you can learn a thing or two in any language, such as departure times and the names of the organizers. Wikipedia, as always, delivers the history... in short, the race has been around for 92 years, though it's bounced all over the calendar.
The course... from Wiki:
The official race profile shows that this description holds true this year.
The Great Start List Zen Quest continues unabated... Barloworld and Volksbank Vorarlberg join the usual suspects.
The home team used to own this race in the years before shift levers, but the near-total Swiss domination was abruptly halted in 1962 with a Jan Janssen victory, and the next 43 years have only yielded three (!) Swiss winners. Instead, they have been crowded out by winners from almost everywhere else: Spain, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Russia, Canada, Australia... and of course Belgium and Italy. Italians have taken 9 of the last 13 editions. Some fun names in the winners' circle: Bettini (reigning champ, 2x winner), Ekimov (!), Flecha (!!), Museeuw, Fondriest, Rebellin, Frigo, Bartoli, and even Daniele Nardello -- proving that virtually every Italian in the race has a shot.
Notables from CyclingStartLists: the CSC juggernaut will pair home hero Fabien Cancellara with O'Grady, Schleck, Piil, et al., so this may be the first place to look. And of course Bettini. But there's also Moreau, Vino-Paulinho-Kashechkin, Chavanel, Evans, Horner, Hoste, Devolder, Rebellin, Schumacher, Gilbert, Ballan, Loosli (homeboy!), DiLuca, Pozzato, Boogerd, Flecha, and a swarm of supposedly competent T-Mobs, at least until their bombshell press conference happens later today.
We will be here LIVE Sunday morning, in the company of old friends Cycling.TV.