Portuguese national champion Manuel Cardoso believes he can capitalise on the limited chances for sprinters in this year's Tour de Romandie, the first stage of which gets underway later today.
The prologue was won yesterday by HTC-Columbia's Marco Pinotti, who will wear the leader's jersey on the 175.6km journey from Porrentruy to Fleurier. It's on this stage that Cardoso sees one of his chances coming.
"All of the stages in Romandie are hard days, but I hope to play a role in the sprints," he said. "I'm still not at my best but I've arrived [in Romandie] at an acceptable level. Spring allergies and quality of the rivals make it hard to prevail in some of the stages but we must try."
The 27-year-old started his season in spectacular fashion at January's Tour Down Under, during which he won the tough third stage to Stirling ahead of Alejandro Valverde and world champion Cadel Evans. And whilst these two riders have been prevalent in the top 10 of many race since then, Cardoso has faded from view somewhat.
That wasn't helped by a crash in the third stage of the Volta ao Algarve, where he fell eight kilometres into the 180km journey to Alto do Malhão. Cardoso will again be pitted against Valverde, although this time round there's a certain Mark Cavendish to contend with in the sprints. The Portuguese rider rode the Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold Race and said that both races have helped him prepare for Romandie.
"There are four stages of the race in the mountains, but there are two possibilities for it to finish in a sprint because they [the climbs] are far from the finish, though of course that depends on the pace on the climbs and if it breaks up the race," said Cardoso, adding, "The team will attempt to be seen and look good overall and win some stages.
"The two classics have helped me to gain experience in this type of event. It is always difficult to judge what these races are like but to do so is necessary to know where there will be accelerations and where it is decided."