Sure, the Dauphine is pulling out their ace tomorrow with the Ventoux-Galibier-Tourmalet-Alpe d'Huez stage or whatever, but don't forget about the Tour de Suisse, kicking off in Lugano tomorrow morning. I haven't time for a proper preview, but I thought I could at least offer a few quick thoughts on the world's fourth-best stage race as we gear up for more coverage next week.
This weekend's stages will set the tone for much of the rest of the week's action -- namely, how long can Fabian Cancellara keep the lead in his home country's race. Cancellara is supposedly targeting tomorrow's short opening ITT, all of 7.6km, and a Cancellara time trial victory on Swiss soil is something you can set your watch to. Sunday is likely to be uneventful, despite the climb of the Simplonpass in the middle of the stage, where breaks may form but nothing Saxo Bank couldn't eventually chase down in the next 100 km. The real race starts on Monday, a stage featuring several late, small climbs around Schwartzenburg. Here is where teams can gang up on Saxo and force some late splits sufficient to dislodge Cancellara from the lead.
We will delve more into the stage particulars for later next week as we go along, but this year's edition probably doesn't give Cancellara an opening to defend his title, with or without mechanical assistance. A few riders who are probably better suited to the win here:
* Tony Martin: winner of the LA time trial two weeks ago, Martin is primed for a real win after a quiet spring. Germans typically come to the TdS looking for results, and Martin is the kind of guy who shouldn't pass up a chance to win in order to protect his top twenty place at the Tour. That's not really the HTC m.o. anyway.
* Roman Kreuziger: he's been on the same program as Martin, except for the ATOC. So he needs a win as much as anyone. Champion in 2008, Kreuziger may need a day or two to shake off the rust, but he's well suited to the action here.
* Robert Gesink: First time at the TdS, but Gesink (unlike a lot of Tour guys) has chased victory pretty hard in the Dauphine the last two years. Better still, the TdS doesn't eliminate him with the long ITT. Definite contender if he chooses to be.
* Andreas Kloden: Another team sporting a former TdS champion... but Lance's 2001 triumph feels a tad stale. Kloden should get the keys to the car, and however old he may be, last I looked he still knew how to drive.
* Andy Schleck? I dunno, he tends to go lightly before the Tour. Frank is probably more primed for the win, but Frank and the TdS, something just doesn't seem right. What is it... ?
That's just a few guys for the overall; the stages are pretty interesting and the startlist is jam-packed with guys who love winning stages. Stay tuned, we've got a great week in store.