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Caisse d'Epargne Loaded for TdU

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Eusebio Unzue will be loaded for victory when the Black and Reds show up in Australia at the Tour Down Under next month. The Caisse d'Epargne squad will feature World #1 Alejandro Valverde, Tour-dude-in-waiting Luis Leon Sanchez, and all-round stage racer Jose Ivan Gutierrez. OK, in all likelihood they're there for some training in the sun, but they could be interesting to watch. Gutierrez won't stand out without a time trial, so whatever. LuLu, however, is the 2005 winner and has a couple other top-ten finishes. Not a race for him? Maybe, but cyclists are like sharks: once they get a taste of blood, they don't forget it.

Valverde, meanwhile, will be the star attraction. Will he wind up his sprint for the crowd? We shall see, but stages 3 and 5 both feature climbs which could force a late selection and reduce the size of the sprinting field -- usually gold for Valverde. One odd note: the Murcian star has almost never raced outside Europe. He popped by Cancun last October for a crit. He contested the Hamilton worlds and of course the Beijing Olympics. Way back in his pre-Kelme days he raced in Turkey. And that is it. A bit weird, but there you go.

Photo by Jasper Juinen, Getty Images Sport