By Shane Stokes in Baden
Former US national champion Fred Rodriguez is one of several riders at the Tour of Switzerland who are expecting to accompany team sprinter extraordinaire Robbie McEwen to the Tour de France next month. Speaking to Cyclingnews before the start of stage one in Baden, Rodriguez explained that they will be using the race to test things out.
"Things are going well," he stated. "I am just beginning my buildup for the Tour de France. This is the first race to test the team and see how we are going with a view to the Tour. So we will try to get a good race in."
"This is basically the same group which did Switzerland and the Tour last year. We are here to support Robbie. Gert Steegmans has been riding really well this year so I think we will have a slightly stronger leadout team [in the Tour]. We are going to play around with it a little and see what kind of combination we can come up with."
McEwen was one of those who got tailed off on the tough finishing circuit climb towards the end of the opening stage. Listed as a fourth category ascent, the steepness of Hertenstein's slopes showed that this rating was deceptive. However the team will try again tomorrow.
July is the big target for McEwen, and Rodriguez says that a victory in Switzerland would give him an important psychological boost prior to the Tour. "You have some big contenders here, such as Tom Boonen and Zabel," he points out. "So we want to show we are ready. It is not just about the Tour, though – Switzerland is a big race in itself, it is a ProTour event. A good result here is important for that reason too."